Gather The Daughters – Jennie Melamed

35066549.jpgFirst things first, this book is absolutely brilliant.

Perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, this is the story of an isolated island cult where girls live as wives-in-training, knowledge of the world outside is kept to a minimum, and men rule everything. Girls must obey and serve their fathers, until their summer of fruition when they must marry and have children. But what happens when inquisitive minds start to question this way of life? Some secrets simply cannot be kept forever.

When I first started this book, I really wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. The subject matter was rather intense and creepy, and I didn’t particularly like the writing style (different points-of-view, all present tense). However, after the first few chapters I was completely and utterly drawn in, and the style really fit the book. Jennie Melamed’s narrative voice is very strong, while the concept is both fascinating and dreadful. It was similar to The Handmaid’s Tale in the sense that it is a story of female oppression and uprising, but on a very different and original thread. It actually wasn’t really what I was expecting at all, and all the better for it.

It should be noted that the book might need some trigger warnings: the entire concept is based on child abuse, domestic abuse, sexual abuse and incest, but this is all implied rather than explicitly referred to. There are no graphic descriptions and the reader is required to fill in the blanks themselves (which can be considered to be better or worse depending on your imagination).

As you may have guessed, some of the implied content is fairly horrific (at least to those of us living comfortable lives in the western world). But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Some parts of the story are fun and uplifting, and the characters are fantastic. I LOVED that this story is told from the point-of-view of the young girls, rather than their mothers, and getting to read the story from the point of multiple girls allowed a full and rounded view of the situation.

My single criticism is that the ending is very unsatisfactory, but it is actually a perfectly apt end to this novel. 5 stars. A must-read.

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

Goodreads | Amazon

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T5W – Classes Based on Books/Characters

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Thoughts on Tomes. (You can find the Goodreads group for it here) This week’s topic is Classes Based on Books or Characters. The idea here is that we make up classes based on characters’ skills or books (not to go for easy and obvious options like Harry Potter). So here are my Top 5 classes I’d like to take…

  1. Apocalypse Survival (Defender by G X Todd) – Lacey and Pilgrim get by surprisingly well in a post-apocalyptic world full of murderers and thieves, so I think they’d be pretty good teachers for a class based on how to survive an apocalypse. Which is obviously something we should all be prepared for… Image result for apocalypse
  2. Gods of the World (American Gods by Neil Gaiman) – Neil Gaiman introduced us to a lot of gods from different cultures in American Gods and I would love to know more about all of them, as well as the ones who feature in his Norse Mythology and any others from around the world. Image result for american gods
  3. Immortal Activities (Twilight by Stephanie Meyer) – Vampires are immortal (obviously) which means they have a lot of time to kill. Besides falling in love with an excessively annoying human, Edward had a lot of skills. This class would be focussed on the best ways to use your time if you live forever. Image result for edward cullen
  4. Mythical Jewellery 101 (The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein) – Pretty sure Frodo, Bilbo and Gandalf could give us a detailed lesson on magical, mythical and cursed jewellery. Their main piece of advice would probably be STAY AWAY. Image result for the one ring
  5. How to Handle Alternative Universes (Dark Matter by Blake Crouch) – On the off-chance that one might wake up in an alternate universe and not know how to get back home, this would be a very handy class to take. Image result for alternate universes

The Leftover – Brooke Williams

34448511.jpgMolly is due to compete in a local reality TV show called The Leftover, but when she discovers she’s pregnant, she has to pull out and persuades her shy sister, Megan, to participate in her place. Megan is a reluctant competitor, but will do anything for her sister, so she pushes her fears to the side and takes the plunge. She expects not to make it past the first round of eliminations, but Megan has more skill and determination than even she believes. Can she make it to the end, to become the Leftover? And what will she find along the way?

The Leftover is a slightly unconventional romance novel, in that the reality TV setting and Megan’s personal journey take precedence over the romantic aspects. The story is, simply, delightful. The TV challenge aspect is well thought-out and not overdone, while the romance is sweet and enjoyable. The characters are a mixed bag of likeable heroes and hateable villains, and all of them are quite realistic. They each have the unique personality traits you’d expect to see on a survival TV show, and it is easy to form quick bonds with (most of) them.

Megan herself is a great lead character. She is shy and insecure but not wimpy or annoying, and entirely believable. She has a determination to do well and make herself proud, that shows real character growth and makes her completely likeable. Cane, Megan’s romantic interest, is also a likeable and somewhat realistic character. Although he’s gorgeous and she’s, well, average, their attraction to each other is explained in understandable terms which stop it becoming farfetched and entirely unlikely. Despite not being the most beautiful girl in the world, Megan is spunky, witty and intelligent, making her undeniably attractive, and a true heroine.

Chick-lit romances can be frothy and superficial at the best of times, but The Leftover has some real depth and a genuinely enjoyable story. The on-off nature of Megan and Cane’s relationship did start to get tedious towards the end, but with the overarching focus being on Megan’s position in the competition, this was easy to overlook.

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

Goodreads | Amazon

T5W: Favourite Bromances

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Thoughts on Tomes. (You can find the Goodreads group for it here) This week’s topic is Favourite Bromances! A bromance = platonic relationship between two characters who identify as male. So here are some of my faves…

  1. Frodo and Sam, The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein – Their friendship was truly put to the test on their journey to Mount Doom, but Sam stuck by Frodo all the way and they came out still friends. sam the lord of the rings frodo fellowship of the ring elise GIF
  2. Merry and Pippin, also The Lord of the Rings – These two are adorable and I love them. Their friendship really is more like brothers. the lord of the rings gandalf merry return of the king pippin GIF
  3. Jean-Luc and Vic in London Belongs to Us by Sara Manning – These two are so alike that everyone thinks they’re twins (they’re actually cousins) and they’re hilarious and sweet and bounce off each other brilliantly.26177619.jpg
  4. Back to The Lord of the Rings with Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn – This is the ultimate bro-triangle. No arguments. gandalf aragorn elise legolas gimli GIF
  5. Jace and Alec in The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare – Although Jace actually lets Alec down over and over again, prioritising girls and his confusing parental relationships over his parabatai, Alec never lets go of his connection to Jace. And that’s some serious commitment. shadowhunters isabelle lightwood clary fray alec lightwood jace wayland GIF

    What are your favourite book bromances? Let me know!

The Waking Land – Callie Bates

34610036Fourteen years ago, Elanna was kidnapped by King Antoine and held hostage in order to put down her father’s rebellion. Now 20, Elanna stands accused of King Antione’s murder and finds herself taken prisoner once again, this time by her father’s men. “Rescued” to be made into the figurehead of her father’s rebellion, Elanna must come to terms with her internal struggle and choose whose side she’s on, because only she possesses the power to wake the land.

As far as fantasy novels go, The Waking Land isn’t bad. Nor is it brilliant. Elanna is a strong heroine with a lot of personality, while her inner turmoil – being split between her true people and the people who raised her – is an unusual and enjoyable feature of the story. I also liked a lot of the other characters: Jahan and Finn are both good romantic heroes, and Rhia, Sophy and Victoire are marvellous characters. I also really liked the Butcher (although I’m not completely sure we’re supposed to).

However, characters aside, the story was quite weak. Overall, the premise is good and there are a lot of positive aspects, but these weren’t brought together very well. Many parts of the story read as though the author came up with an idea she liked, and just threw it in without properly integrating it into the story.

The Waking Land is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover (although that is something I admit I do regularly). The cover is absolutely stunning while the story inside is enjoyable but weak. With so many other fantasy series on offer, I wouldn’t recommend wasting your time on this one (unless you really want it on your shelf, which I understand).

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

Goodreads | Amazon

T5W – Books From Before You Joined The Online Book Community

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Thoughts on Tomes. (You can find the Goodreads group for it here) This week’s topic is Favourite Books From Before You Joined The Online Book Community. For me, this means my favourite books from before starting my blog and joining Goodreads. Here we go!

  1. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman – I gush about this book every time anyone asks me about my favourites, so I won’t say too much now. It’s a work of absolute genius. Just read it.good-omens-2
  2. The Call of the Wild by Jack London – I’ve loved this book since I was (quite) little. I think it might be the only book I’ve ever enjoyed written from the point-of-view of an animal, and Buck is still one of my favourite book-animals. This book has so much depth as well as drama and excitement.call-wild-jack-london-paperback-cover-art
  3. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – I was attracted to this book for obvious reasons (in case you hadn’t realised, my name is Ella) and I do usually enjoy almost any fairytale retelling. This one was particularly good. Do not let the film put you off – I hated it. Anne Hathaway was a terrible casting choice and they changed the story so much! The book is well worth a read.858361
  4. Angelfall by Susan Ee – My favourite paranormal YA book ever. I loved Twilight, The Mortal Instruments and The Hunger Games, but Angelfall takes the crown in my opinion. The heroine is sassy and loveable, the hero isn’t abusive and the side characters are a delight, but because it’s never been made into a film it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.15863832.jpg
  5. The Woodcutter by Kate Danley – This is a blend of fairytales, told from the point-of-view of a minor but integral character: the woodcutter. It’s complicated but well thought out, and one of the best works of imagination I’ve read.16128504

A few of these are childhood favourites and, to be honest, since joining the online book community my favourites haven’t changed very much. What are your favourite books (from before or since finding your way onto WordPress)?

Liebster Award

I’ve been very kindly nominated for this award by the lovely Darque Dreamer Reads – her blog is beautiful so go check it out.

This is a fun award because we all get to learn some new things about each other and spread the blogger-love.

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The Rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Give 11 random facts about you.
  3. Answer the 11 questions they gave you.
  4. Nominate 11 blogs.
  5. Give them 11 questions to answer.

11 Random Facts About Me:

  1. I have never broken a bone.
  2. If I could, I would eat pizza and garlic bread every single day.
  3. I love the idea of physical books, and having them on my shelves, but I actually find reading easier on my kindle.
  4. I reallyreallyreally want to work in publishing.
  5. I’m slowly collecting and playing the Lego video games, but I only have a PS3 so options are limited.
  6. I have vitiligo.
  7. There are 36 physical books on my shelves that I haven’t read yet.
  8. I have a mild obsession with giraffes.
  9. I am in Gryffindor.
  10. My favourite colour is green.
  11. My favourite chore is doing the laundry.

Questions From Darque Dreamer Reads:

  1. Have you read a book with a perfect ending?
    I’m not sure perfect is the word in the sense that it was actually a very distressing ending, but the ending of The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell was perfectly horrifying.
  2. Does your favorite movie have a perfect ending?
    My favourite movie is Sucker Punch. The ending actually isn’t perfect in my opinion but does draw the story to a close effectively.
  3. Why did you start your blog?
    I just stumbled across some book blogs one day and thought they were a marvellous idea. If other people could do this, why shouldn’t I? (And I’m glad I did).
  4. Do you have a follower goal in mind?
    Ideally I’d love to have a huge following, but it’s not that important to me. I blog for myself and to review books – if people want to follow my blog that’s just a bonus.
  5. What advice would you give to your beginner blog self?
    Interact more with other bloggers! Make the time to go and read other people’s posts. How can you expect anyone to read your reviews if you don’t read theirs?
  6. Where is the best place you have visited?
    THIS IS SO HARD. I’ve been to some really amazing places: Italy, Paris, Costa Rica… but I also love places like London, and Disneyland is very special.
  7. Who is the most inspirational person in your life?
    Probably my mum.
  8. What is your favorite book or movie genre?
    Book = Fantasy. Movie = maybe Indie/Fantasy
  9. If you could write yourself in to a book or movie, which one would you be a character in?
    An obvious choice, but Harry Potter. Who wouldn’t want to go to Hogwarts?
  10. Do you like going to concerts?
    I like some concerts. I went to see McBusted most recently and that was absolutely fantastic, but I don’t really like crowds so it depends on the type of music and whether I think the performance would be worth seeing. Anything likely to have mosh pits is an absolute no.
  11. What is one food you absolutely hate?
    Mushrooms. Ughughugh nope I can’t.

My Questions:

  1. What was your first favourite book?
  2. Do you prefer series or standalones?
  3. What do you find hardest about blogging?
  4. If you could have any pet, what would you choose?
  5. What was the last movie you saw at the cinema? Did you enjoy it?
  6. What book should everyone read?
  7. Other than books, what is something you’re passionate about?
  8. Can you play any instruments?
  9. What’s your favourite book/movie quote?
  10. Best movie soundtrack?
  11. What is the best book you’ve read in 2017 so far?

I Nominate:

Always Trust in Books | Snazzy Books | Book Hooked Nook | The Wanderlust Reader | Boston Book Reader | That Book Gal | Linda’s Little Library

T5W – Characters’ Fitness Routines You Want

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Thoughts on Tomes. (You can find the Goodreads group for it here) This week’s topic is Characters’ Fitness Routines You Want. Fortunately, this is open to interpretation: it can be any kind of ‘fitness’. That means fit and healthy characters, or ones whose routines involve a decent amount of food. I suspect that my list will include more of the latter*…

*Update: It turns out characters who stuff their faces with cake and pizza at every opportunity are pretty rare in the books I read.

  1. All of the gods in Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman – As gods, this bunch are blessed with beauty and grace, and are muscular and powerful (think Thor), and yet they have regular feasts and eat and drink an insane amount (again, Thor). I would like their fitness regime because they don’t really do a lot, but stay beautiful and healthy through god-power. Which would be ideal.30809689
  2. Mma Ramotswe in The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall-Smith – Mma Ramotswe has no fitness regime (other than drinking tea), and instead prides herself on her traditional build. I love this view that big is beautiful (although she does do a fair bit of skinny-shame which I don’t agree with). 816167.jpg
  3. The Shadowhunters in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare – The Shadowhunters (i.e. Jace, Clary and the others) train every day. This keeps them in peak physical condition, but it’s more than just a work out. The exercise their minds as well and improve their skills, doing something they love with their friends which makes it fun rather than just hard work. 256683.jpg
  4. Lula in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich – Lula runs around all over the place helping Stephanie catch criminals, and then chows down on pizza, fried chicken and copious amounts of doughnuts. She’s proud of her figure and maintains her fitness as she wants, regardless of what anyone else might think.6853

Okay, try as I might, I can’t come up with a fifth character whose fitness routine I’d want. To be honest, it’s not something I take much notice of when I read. So there’s my Top 4 instead!

Are there any obvious ones I’ve missed out? What characters’ fitness routines would you want?

All That’s Left to Tell – Daniel Lowe

35056167This is a difficult book to sum-up, but I’ll do my best!

Marc Laurent, having been taken hostage in Pakistan, receives a visitor every night. He is bound and blindfolded, and then a woman named Josephine comes to question him. To begin with, she only wants to know who to contact to ransom him, but soon her questions become more difficult, more probing, as she asks why he didn’t go home for his daughter, Claire’s, funeral. Josephine begins to tell Marc a story about his daughter’s life had she not been killed, and in turn Marc starts to tell his own stories about Claire’s life. As truth and fantasy become so mixed that Marc can no longer tell which is real, a father and daughter start finding ways to understand each other again.

All That’s Left to Tell is a compelling slow-burner, and truly fascinating. Like Marc, I found myself utterly pulled in by Josephine’s stories, and desperate to find out what happened to Claire despite knowing it wasn’t real. There are stories within stories and trying to work out which were true and decipher the meaning behind Josephine’s story-telling was both fun and frustrating.

Not knowing which parts were real and which were made-up made this book a unique read: mysterious, engaging and unlike anything I’ve read before. It is skilfully written and completely engrossing, despite the plot not being very eventful or exciting. I highly recommend it.

Goodreads | Amazon

Last Seen Alive – Claire Douglas

34204310In Claire Douglas’ gripping new thriller, secrets and lies begin to tear up the lives of Libby Hall and her husband, Jamie. Following a fire and a tragic miscarriage, Libby and Jamie receive a note asking for them to do a house swap by a couple needing to be near a hospital for the sake of their daughter. The timing couldn’t be better, so Libby and Jamie agree to exchange their flat in Bath for a secluded house in Cornwall. But when they reach their temporary home, Libby can’t shake the feeling that they’re not entirely alone. Their marriage is about to put through the wringer as Jamie learns that some secrets are better shared, and Libby’s past threatens to catch up with her.

Last Seen Alive drew me in on the very first page. I’d previously read and loved Douglas’ Local Girl Missing, so had high hopes and was not at all disappointed. The story progresses slowly but, instead of being boring, this gently builds up the tension to unbearable levels. You know something is coming, but it is impossible to guess what.

I liked Libby. She clearly has problems, but these are revealed quite slowly which allows time to develop a connection with her, which stops her paranoia and insecurities from becoming annoying. It is obvious that there problems have stemmed from something in her past – even if we don’t know what – rather than her just being a wimpy character.

Every aspect of the story is engaging and intriguing. There’s a big twist (which I totally did not see coming) and it’s a good’un. Shocking and unpredictable, but makes complete sense. And that ending! (Read it and you’ll understand).

Many thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy to review!

Goodreads | Amazon