Book Review: The Glass Woman

The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea | View on Amazon | View on The Book Depository

The first book of 2022! I know I’m a bit behind on my reading goal, but life is super crazy with uni work right now. I’m hoping that after I graduate, I’ll have more time to dedicate to reading and can catch up a bit!

Well, this was certainly an interesting read. It’s a historical novel set in Iceland, where Rósa marries a total stranger from another village in order to provide for her sick mother. Jón, her new husband, has recently lost his wife; though the specifics of this are unknown. There are rumours amongst his village regarding her fate, but when Rósa tries to speak to him about it, he refuses to answer. He becomes angry easily and remains incredibly distant. He does not let Rósa go to the village often, or have company at their home. He also forbids her from going up to the loft, where Rósa hears strange noises at night.

From the start, there is a foreboding, eerie atmosphere. There are some shifts in the narrative between Jón and Rósa, but most of the novel is told from Rósa’s perspective. Jón’s chapters sometimes jump about temporally, which isn’t always made clear, so can be a little confusing. But his parts are incredibly interesting in that we slowly learn more about him, his childhood, and his relationship with his late wife, Anna.

There are lots of disturbing moments in this book, and lots of mystery. The time period was fraught with oppression and it is clear throughout this book. Rósa, although incredibly unhappy, remains dedicated to playing the role of a good wife; even while she is trying to discover why Jón is so distant, what happened to Anna, and why the loft is locked.

I found the second half of the book to be especially exciting and intriguing. We begin to get the answers we wanted throughout the book, and we get a very bittersweet ending. (It really is as bittersweet as it could get.) Rósa’s character has been criticised by other readers, and I certainly see why; although she occasionally stands up for herself a little later in the book, most of the time she is incredibly meek and timid. She stammers repeatedly and obeys almost every order she’s given. Of course, she is just trying to placate her husband and act the part of a quiet, submissive woman and wife, but it is quite infuriating to read at times.

Thank you to the author/publisher for providing me the opportunity to read and review this book

There’s a lot of imagery and metaphor throughout this book, and a kind of lyrical, dark fairytale feel. Overall, I really enjoyed it, particularly the second half. 4 stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Book Review: Destination Anywhere

Destination Anywhere by Sara Barnard | View on Amazon | View on Book Depository

I love Sara Barnard’s writing so had no doubt I would enjoy this to some degree. However, it’s not my usual style; yes, I love YA, and I love travel, but I usually like a bit more of a mystery or thriller aspect to my books. I don’t particularly like romance, and this does have some aspects of romance in it, but is not centred around it which I definitely appreciated.

First of all, I have to say I related to Peyton in a few ways. No, I never experienced exactly what she did (I’ll avoid spoilers, but it was certainly dramatic). But I get the feeling of needing to run away, to start over. I also understand her struggle of finding friends, of wanting to fit in and be liked; it’s really quite sad how it all backfired on her. And of course, no 17-year-old should really drop out of school and run away from home, but I’m sure a lot of us had times when we were tempted, right?

The journey that Peyton undertakes is quite wonderful. It made me want to travel more myself. At times, Peyton did get emotional and overwhelmed, and I don’t blame her. It wasn’t a holiday. She had literally run away. But she managed to enjoy herself, meet some wonderful people, and even patch things up with her family who were halfway around the world from her. (Plus, meeting some family that’s not so far away, for the very first time.)

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Thank you to the author/publisher for providing me the opportunity to read and review this book

It was a pretty feel-good book overall, despite the rather emotional and traumatic backstory. Peyton was certainly a flawed character, as every single one of us is. That made it so much easier to like her and relate to her. It was really easy to read and just enjoyable. 5 stars, though I wouldn’t quite put it on my ‘favourites’ list.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Book Review: Body of Stars

Body of Stars by Laura Maylene Walter | View on Amazon | View on Book Depository

So apparently I read this back in May. How time flies!

I love anything to do with stars, the night sky, galaxies, constellations and so on, so naturally, I was drawn to this book instantly. I had no idea how much I would fall in love with it! It’s beautifully written, addressing such potent topics while still being enjoyable, and has a fantastic sense of mysticality and magic realism alongside a torrent of emotion. It’s a coming-of-age story with a strong feminist core that I think readers of varying ages can appreciate. It’s not actually about stars exactly, but rather the constellations of marks that females have across their bodies that can give insight into what one’s future holds. All girls go through a ‘changeling’ period when they gain they adult markings. For this time, the girls have a sort of ethereal glow about them that draws others in. Many girls look forward to this time, but it can be extremely dangerous.
The book follows one particular girl, Celeste. She sees older girls becoming changelings, and often going missing. Then when they return, no longer in their changeling phase, they often can’t remember a thing. Walter avoids any explicit details of what happens to these girls, but it’s not hard to piece together. When they return, there is a huge amount of stigma around these ‘taken’ girls, and they are always blamed for what happened to them, rather than the men who actually abducted and abused them. Sound familiar? Yeah.

As I mentioned above, there is a lot of relevance in this book in regards to misogyny in society. Not just the blame on the taken girls, but also the amount of strange rules women and girls have to abide by, including showing their new marks to their fathers. In fact, the girls’ bodies in this book are hardly their own; their marks must be regularly documented and interpreted.

There are also some key moments in Celeste’s personal life. For one, her brother, Miles, has always been fascinated by the markings on his sister’s skin. Boys don’t get markings; they’re also unable to pursue the career of interpreting, which is what Miles dreams of. When Celeste changes into her adult markings, Miles is desperate to see them, but Celeste refuses. She hides her marks from everyone; the stars on her skin have revealed a terrible truth that she is not ready to face.

Thank you to the author/publisher for providing me the opportunity to read and review this book

There’s so much more to this book than what I’ve written, though. There are girls who’d dreams are dashed by the abuse they suffered; girls who are raising children when they are hardly more than children themselves; there are even girls who are ‘fated’ to be taken. But I won’t get into all that.

If you can’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Even though I know the plot, I think it’s one of those books I’d happily reread. It’s definitely on my favourites list for 2021 – 5 stars!

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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Most Anticipated Books Releasing in the First Half of 2022

I recently discovered Top Ten Tuesday thanks to ChonkyBooks and decided it would be fun to join in! If you’re interested in taking part yourself, please do take a look at the host’s post here, which includes the upcoming topics.

This week, as the title suggests, is about the books being released in the next six months that I’m most excited about. As you may know, I’m aiming to focus on my existing book collection this year – getting through it, not adding to it! That said, there are some new books that have caught my eye; many are books I’ve found via NetGalley and will hopefully be reviewing in the coming months. Here’s my top ten anticipated books for the next six months, in no particular order:

They by Kay Dick

Described as a rediscovered dystopian gem,” They has been lost for over forty years. In February 2022, it is being re-released, featuring an introduction from Carmen Maria Machado. It’s a dystopian classic set in Britain, where artists of all kinds are prosecuted for their art, and culture and individual expression eradicated. But of course, there are always those who resist.

The Book of Sand by Theo Clare

Coming in just a matter of days, The Book of Sand is a sci-fi/fantasy novel by the late Theo Clare (or Mo Hayder, crime writer). It’s a story of survival, where two stories blend into one. It’s highly anticipated by fans of Mo Hayder’s previous work, as well as by new readers like me! It’s a pretty hefty book, which especially appeals to me but may put some other readers off.

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

How High We Go in the Dark is supposedly appealing to fans of Cloud Atlas and Station Eleven. It’s set in a not-so-distant future where an “Arctic Plague” is spreading around the world. It’s been described as both tender and harrowing, and includes a lot of death. Above all, the book relays a sense of hope, reiterating the strength and resilience of humanity. It’s due to be released later this month.

Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka

Fans of true crime may be interested in this next book, Notes on an Execution, by the author of Girl in Snow, coming in February. It tells the story of serial killer Ansel Packer, awaiting his execution, but not through his own words; instead, we learn about his life through an array of different women who knew him. This includes his mother, his wife’s twin sister, and the detective on his case. It’s an emotional and powerful novel that I’m definitely intrigued about.

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

The author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel is back with this unique historical sci-fi novel, Sea of Tranquility. It investigates parallel worlds and time-travel, and supposedly “captures the reality of our current moment.” It’s due for publication at the end of April this year. I’m certainly very intrigued by the concept and look forward to reading it!

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

The first instalment of the fantasy duology by Sue Lynn Tan, Daughter of the Moon Goddess, is due for publication on January 20th. The cover and title definitely captured my attention, and I do love a boook inspired by legend. It involves magic, disguise, betrayal and romance – honestly, what more could you ask for?

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

The cover of The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is just gorgeous. I’d buy it based on that alone (blasphemy, I know). But the book also includes a Sea God, a Spirit Realm, and a girl’s journey to save her brother which all appeals to me so much! Magic, demons, gods, and familial love? Described as “a magical feminist retelling of a classic Korean legend“? Sign me up! It’s also due for publication toward the end of February.

Tell Me an Ending by Jo Harkin

The concept of this book, Tell Me an Ending, is absolutely fascinating. Imagine being told that you had chosen to remove a painful or traumatic memory at some point in the past – and further, that you’ve now got the chance to get it back? That’s what the characters in this book are dealing with; deciding whether to reclaim their forgotton trauma, or leave those memories unknown forever. This will be released in May, and I’m really excited for it!

Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May

While I’m not the biggest fan of historical fiction nor romance, this book still appeals to me. Wild and Wicked Things is set after the First World War, in a world of magic and witchcraft. It’s meant to be very Great Gatsby-esque, and features LGBTQ+ romance. If you’re interested in this, it should be hitting shelves on March 29th.

Only a Monster by Vanessa Len

My final pick features another beautiful cover. It’s a YA fantasy novel, because I may be 22 but I’m still a massive fan of YA books (let’s be real, who isn’t?). 16-year-old Joan is sent to London for the summer, which sounds wonderful. But it turns out her family aren’t quite as they seem, and the cute boy she meets isn’t on her side. This will be available by the end of February.

So there you have it! Ten books I’m looking forward to in the next six months. What do you guys have on your lists? Comment below if you like the look of any of the books on my list, or if there are others that I didn’t include that you’re particularly excited for! And keep an eye out for any reviews I post over the next few months – hopefully I’ll be reading some of these new releases!

Book Review: A Conventicle of Magpies

A Conventicle of Magpies by L.M.R. Clarke | View on Amazon | View on Book Depository

This was an interesting read. I had quite mixed feelings about it, honestly, but overall I liked it. It’s kind of a clash of various genres in my opinion, and is a little different to what I’d usually go for. The plot is kind of complicated to describe but it involves a group of girls called the Conventicle of Magpies, an equivalent male group called The Shadow of Jaguars, and a longstanding feud between the Avanish people and the native Saosuiasei. The main character, a Magpie who goes by the name of Rook, is also trying to figure out who the mysterious murderer is that’s going around and killing Saosuiasei people, known as Billy Drainer. Oh, and some people have magical abilities, too, including Rook. Magic burns through blood, so some people even inject blood for extra power.

Inequality is a big theme throughout, and a horrific Avanish plan is uncovered exploiting the Saosuiasei for their blood. Rook has to go undercover, and a group of Magpies even breaks into the high-security prison where the worst criminals are kept. I’m probably not doing any of this justice, but hopefully you get the gist of some of the story.

Something particularly good about this is Rook’s best friend, a woman going by the name of Kestrel. She’s actually transgender, which would have been rather uncommon during the time period the book is set in. Rook is really protective of her, and the whole Conventicle of Magpies is wonderfully accepting. Her character was great in so many ways; she’s tall and large, but she giggles about boys and wears heels and makeup all the time (which Rook could never understand doing).

Another character of interest is a boy called Pit, who Rook was very close with. He’s half Avanish, and when he decided to work for the Avanish police (or the ‘Filth’) Rook pretty much cut all ties with him. Rook has to decide whether she can trust him anymore, or if he is truly one of them.

Thank you to the author/publisher for providing me the opportunity to read and review this book

My main criticism of this book was that the dialogue seemed rather clunky and awkward, and the book was just a little slow going at times for me. But it was unique and interesting and I still enjoyed reading it. There are some very poignant themes, there’s action, there’s mystery, and there’s emotion. 4 stars!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Book Review: Goodnight Beautiful

Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy | View on Amazon | View on Book Depository

Another review of a book I read back in April last year… Oops.

If you like a book full of twists and multiple narratives, this is the book for you. But if you’re a psychology student like me (or a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist) and are fed up with how the field is portrayed in media, I should warn you that aspects of this book might irritate you a bit.

So this is a kind of mystery, thriller novel where Dr Sam Statler suddenly goes missing. He has recently moved to a small town with his wife, Annie. Through multiple narrative viewpoints and from different time points, we as the reader begin to piece the story together and try to understand what has happened to Sam. As I said, it is very twisty, and there are definitely some elements that surprised me. I have seen some other reviewers criticise this book for relying too heavily on the twists, which I do understand. But I enjoyed it overall and appreciated how clever it was.

The portrayal of the psychiatric profession in this book did get a little under my skin. I won’t discuss it too much so as to avoid spoilers, but the ending just didn’t sit right with me. It was just too farfetched, I think. I don’t know, maybe I’m being picky.

Thank you to the author/publisher for providing me the opportunity to read and review this book

So overall, I did enjoy this book and did not see a lot of the twists and turns coming. Now I’ve read it once, I don’t know how much I’d enjoy it a second time round. 4 or maybe just about 4.5 stars.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Book Review: Dark Lullaby

Dark Lullaby by Polly Ho-Yen

I cannot believe I finished reading this book 8 months ago. I have fallen so behind on my reviews…

This book surprised me with how good it was. Not that I was expecting it to be bad, but I just didn’t think I’d like it quite as much as I did. I truly found myself wanting to read on and struggling to put it down, and I got so emotionally invested. And it was actually pretty plausible, which is kind of scary.

It focuses on a woman called Kit. It’s set in a world where a massive proportion of the human population is infertile and unable to conceive children naturally. Because of this, the few that are able to have children, through a process called induction, are monitored extremely closely and judged by very high standards. If parents don’t meet these standards, they risk having their child(ren) ‘extracted’. The narrative shifts between past and present quite frequently, and we slowly uncover more of Kit’s story; she’s a mother herself, and has experienced this strict parental monitoring in the most horrific ways. While fighting for her daughter, Kit uncovers some terrible secrets about the entire system. She has to decide just how far she’ll go for her child.

The reason I wasn’t entirely sure I’d enjoy this all that much is that I’m not the most maternal of people. I’m really not the kind of girl who’s always dreamed of having kids and being a mother. But this book really got to me at times. Not only did I feel awful for Kit for losing her daughter, not to mention all the other parents who have suffered the same loss, but Kit’s other relationships are strained as a result. And the inequality of the entire system, the concept itself… It’s messed up. But it’s not really that far-fetched if you think about it, which is the scariest bit of all.

Thank you to the author/publisher for providing me the opportunity to read and review this book

I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it. However, now that I’ve read it once and know some of the exciting twists, I’m not sure I’d enjoy it quite so much. Maybe I’ll try reading it again someday and see. 4.5 stars!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

New Blog – Reading for Charity!

Hello everyone! I hope you’re all having a wonderful Christmas time. First, I’d like to quickly apologise for my recent and rather sudden absence. It’s been a crazy time, what with Covid and uni; I’m now in the third and final year of my undergraduate degree and it is pretty full-on. But one of my resolutions for 2022 is to give this blog (and all my social media accounts) more love.

What I’m really here to talk about today, though, is the launch of my new blog: Reading for Charity. It is exactly what it sounds like – a fundraising project I’ve set up where I read as many books as I can in order to raise money for various charities. All you have to do to support your chosen charity is pledge as much or as little money as you want per book; you don’t even have to pay anything until 2022 is over! The ultimate goal is to reach 100 books, but a more realistic total is about 50. So bear that in mind when making your pledge; if you pledge £1 per book, you could be donating up to £100 at the end of the year.

Throughout the year, I’ll be updating you guys regularly on my progress. I’ll also give you the chance to get involved in picking what books I read, and I’ll write reviews for most (if not all) of the books I read. I’m also going to be taking part in different StoryGraph challenges and would love for you guys to join me! I am truly so excited about this project and really hope you can help support me – even if you can’t pay anything, just telling your friends or sharing some of my posts on social media would be a huge help!

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

Book Review: The Salt Messages

The Salt Messages by Rick Strater

I want to clarify that I am not religious. Like, at all. I kind of wish I was, but I’m not.

This book is, by definition, Christian fiction. But it didn’t feel too… I don’t know, pushy? It wasn’t some story preaching about religion and trying to convert everyone. The story was simply really positive – about not judging people, not assuming anything about strangers, treating everyone with kindness. It all starts with the main character, referred to as Tom, hearing a voice. And then he’s meeting people that he couldn’t possibly be meeting, and being taught all these valuable lessons about life. I guess it could come across as a bit cliche, but honestly, it’s just a really good life lesson, isn’t it? You don’t know what people are going through. When you say something rude or unkind to a stranger, you have no idea how that might affect them.

Thank you to the author/publisher for providing me the opportunity to read and review this book

I’d also like to say that where God is spoken about, it’s very ambiguous. It’s not a clear-cut definition or anything; it doesn’t push any specific belief on the reader. It’s all left very open-ended, which I personally really appreciated.
Overall, the book was just well written and easy to read. It’s quite short, but that’s not a bad thing. While it’s generally not the kind of thing I’d go for, I actually did rather like it. 4 stars!

Rating: 4 out of 5.