Snow, Glass, Apples – Neil Gaiman & Colleen Doran

45303582._SY475_.jpgSnow, Glass, Apples is a magical fantasy retelling of Snow White, in which a not-so-evil queen attempts to rid the world of her monstrous step-daughter.

This a dark and twisted retelling, very different from the classic fairy tale. In this version, Snow White is a blood-sucking creature who causes the death of her own father and terrifies the young queen into taking drastic measures to be rid of her. It contains many elements of the original fairy tale, following the same general plot, but with a totally different, much more chilling vibe.

Despite being a fairy tale, this book is definitely not appropriate for younger readers. There is explicit content, both sexual and violent, that make it very adult.

Colleen Doran’s illustrations are stunning. They’re detailed and beautiful and complement the story brilliantly. Even if you’re not usually a fan of graphic novels, there is no denying the beauty of this one.

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Notes on a Nervous Planet – Matt Haig

37797266._SX318_People have never been more connected, yet many of us feel alone. We worry about everything, from politics to celebrity to body image. How can we stay sane in a world filled with so much that makes us mad? In Notes on a Nervous Planet, Matt Haig takes a look at how to stay happy and human in the 21st century.

This book is good. It makes you think, and every aspect is relatable. But I did find it a little bit boring. Some chapters are a bit repetitive, and it’s a lot of the same thing.

I have also seen in other reviews that, for some people, this book made them feel less alone. That’s fantastic, obviously, but for me, it kind of made me feel like I was being told off at times. When it was late at night and I was reading instead of sleeping, I would come across a chapter telling me I should switch off and sleep more. While the information and instruction in this book isn’t wrong, it was a bit like getting a lecture and wasn’t an entirely enjoyable reading experience all the time.

I did really like the general disorganisation of the book (each chapter appears to have been written and added as and when the author thought of it – which works really well) and the writing style. It’s also brilliant how open Haig is about his own experiences with depression.

Overall, Notes on a Nervous Planet is a relevant and insightful commentary on modern life. It’s definitely worth a read, just maybe don’t read it all in one go.

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Spit and Song – Travis M. Riddle

48516172._SY475_Kali is a merchant who longs to travel the world, trading good and seeing the sights. Puk is a musician with a drug addiction who has hit rock-bottom and finds himself stranded in an unfamiliar city with no way back home. A chance meeting and an illicit job opportunity bring the unlikely pair together on an epic journey that could change both their lives.

As usual, I am blown away by Travis’ originality. The creatures in this book are like nothing I’ve seen before. Set in the same world as Balam, Spring, there are one or two familiar species, but also many more completely new and unique ones. The world-building, scenes and characters and all brilliantly developed, so the entire thing is very easy to picture while reading.

The plot is a little bit slow-paced, but this isn’t a bad thing. The story focuses much more on the journey Kali and Puk embark on, rather than their destination. They spend a fair amount of time making plans and preparations, discussing their ambitions in life and singing songs. However, there are still some pretty action-packed parts along the way.

The characters are brilliant. I loved Puk – he was rude and sarcastic but extremely likeable, while Kali had a good amount of attitude as well. My favourite character by far, though, was Voya the ujath.

The only thing I didn’t really need was all the very detailed descriptions of the different food items the characters consumed throughout the book. These were just a little distracting and unnecessary to me but, that being said, it was wonderful to see just how much thought the author had put into every element of the story.

Lastly, how stunning is that cover? And look out for me in the acknowledgements!

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

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Ghost Stories: Classic Tales of Horror and Suspense – Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger

40554543Ghost Stories: Classic Tales of Horror and Suspense is an anthology of lesser-known stories from literary masters, including the likes of Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe and many more. Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger have collected these stories and set them in historical context, with an explanation of the significance of ghosts in literary fiction over the past two hundred years,

It should be noted that the stories in this collection are truly classic ghost stories: They are short, atmospheric tales of ghostly and spiritual encounters – definitely NOT modern horror. They aren’t gory or shocking, and in my opinion aren’t exactly scary, but they are creepy and rather spine-tingling.

To be honest, I didn’t enjoy every story. The writing quality of a couple of them was surprisingly questionable considering who the authors are, and one or two (particularly The Family Portraits by Johann August Apel) really dragged on despite being so short. Also, some of them are pretty old, which obviously isn’t a bad thing in itself, but this meant that the language used was sometimes quite difficult to follow.

My favourite stories were definitely The Signalman by Dickens which was the one I found the scariest and probably the best-written, and Sweet William’s Ghost which is actually a classic ballad.

I enjoyed the opening essay on ghost stories in literature, and the contextual description at the beginning of each story. This book is a definite must-read for lovers or ghost stories and classic paranormal fiction.

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

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Imaginary Friend – Stephen Chbosky

46131509._SY475_Determined to improve life for her son, Christopher, Kate Reese flees an abusive relationship and starts over in the town of Mill Grove. It seems like a safe and idyllic town, until Christopher vanishes for six days. When he emerges from the woods at the edge of town, he is unharmed but different. Before, he struggled at school, now he’s one of the brightest kids there. Now, he speaks to an imaginary friend who gives him a mission he must complete by Christmas. Now, Christopher is wrapped up in a war between good and evil where he has a vital role to play.

This book is much more than just a horror. It covers family, friendship, community and good and evil. It is chilling and full of twists, as well as being surprisingly heartwarming. Honestly, how Stephen Chbosky went from Perks of Being a Wallflower to this is beyond me. Imaginary Friend is truly creepy and haunting, with an exciting and atmospheric plot – a far cry from the emotional angst of Perks.

My biggest piece of criticism would be that it is quite a bit longer than it needed to be. Some aspects of the story are very repetitive (Christopher seemed to spend an awful lot of time actively seeking out the Hissing Lady, finding her, and then running away. Like, why are you looking for her if you’re just going to run away?) Although I did love this book, I definitely think it could have benefited from having a few chapters cut. The unnecessary length and repetitiveness unfortunately got in to way of this being a five (or even four) star book.

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

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A Second Chance – Jodi Taylor

35150831In Book #3 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s, time-travelling historian Max travels to 17th Century Cambridge to meet Sir Isaac Newton, the Trojan War, and the Battle of Agincourt.

I enjoyed the first half of this book a lot. Max’s trip to Cambridge to see Newton was as hectic and funny as ever, while the Troy adventure was detailed and (although maybe not historically accurate) really interesting. Some of it was a little bit heavy going (the Greeks did massacre the Trojans, after all), but generally not too difficult to read and added a good level of seriousness to an otherwise light and entertaining story.

However, about halfway through the book, the plot takes quite a surprising turn and the rest of the story focuses much more on some of the ongoing relationships of the series. I actually thought some of the author’s decisions were pretty lazy in terms of plot development, until things played out further and her plans became a bit clearer. Although I could accept that she had things play out a certain way for a reason – not just laziness – I’m not totally sure I liked what she did with the story.

The Chronicles of St Mary’s are still decent, funny and worth giving a go, but I hope Book #4 is better than this because there are too many of them to keep reading if they’re only going to be mediocre.

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I Go Quiet – David Ouimet

45894175._SX318_In this magical, slightly haunting picture book, a young girl struggles to communicate with other people and make herself heard. Feeling separate from the world around her, the girl stays silent, using books to escape and develop her imagination until she realises that when she is ready to be heard, she will find her voice.

I Go Quiet is really beautiful. The story and the message it carries is wonderful, while the illustrations are stunning. It’s honestly one of the most visually pleasing books I’ve read; I absolutely love the way the words are incorporated into the images instead of simply being added as straightforward captions.

The only thing I wasn’t too sure about is the target age-group of this book. It gives a brilliant message for young children, and the picture-book style with such a small amount of text suggests quite a young audience. However, it’s pretty dark and I don’t know how appropriate it would be for very young readers.

Whatever the intended readership may be, I (at 24 years old for a couple more months) thoroughly enjoyed it.

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

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October TBR

It’s October, which means it’s the start of the season of snuggling down in front of the fire in cosy pyjamas with a good book. And most importantly for this month, a spooky, Halloween appropriate book.

I’ve tried not to be too overly ambitious with my TBR list for this month, but I doubt I’ll finish all of them. So, these are the books I’ll be choosing from this October:

Survivors by G X Todd

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Ghost Stories: Classic Tales of Horror and Suspense by Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger

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Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

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We Call it Monster by Lachlan Walter

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Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker

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I’ll Find You by Liz Lawler

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Cold Storage by David Koepp

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Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

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Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo

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Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

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Have you read any of these?What are you reading this October? Will you be tailoring your TBR to the season?

In at the Deep End – Kate Davies

42089727._SY475_.jpgJulia hasn’t had sex in three years, and she’s about to learn that she’s been looking for love in all the wrong places. Embarking on an eye-opening journey into lesbianism, Julia opens herself up to some brand new and pretty niche experiences, including an LGBT swing dance class, raves, conceptual art shows, polygamy, S&M and sex clubs. She has well and truly jumped in at the deep end.

On the surface, this book really doesn’t sound that great, but something about it had me completely hooked.

There is a tonne of sex. It’s frank and filthy, but in a very direct, explanatory kind of way. The sexual activities throughout the story are pretty detailed (including strap-on dildos, fisting, etc) but not erotic at all. This book is filled with pure filth, but it isn’t designed to turn you on – which makes it remarkably readable (even for someone quite prudish like me).

While about 70% of the book is filled with sexual content, Julia spends at least 20% of it crying. In at the Deep End is surprisingly emotional, with some great characters who I found myself really caring about.

Julia herself is a great lead character. She’s witty, likeable – despite her denial and poor taste in girlfriends – and very real, and there’s a full cast of fantastic secondary characters, like Julia’s swing-dance friends and her WWII-veteran pen-pal. My personal favourite was her therapist, who absolutely should not be qualified to do that job but was brilliant nonetheless.

This book is a brilliantly written, straight-talking, up-front and funny read which I enjoyed way more than I expected to.

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

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Ask Again, Yes – Mary Beth Keane

43666435._SY475_.jpgThis is the story of two neighbouring families, the friendship between their children, and a tragedy that tears them apart. Kate and Peter live next door to each other and were born six months apart. They are best friends, but their families just don’t get on. One horrific night, their bond is pushed past its limits. But can they move on from the events of the past when they meet again, years later?

Books of this genre aren’t rare. They’re full of drama and explore the darker side of family, but what makes this one stand out if that the catalytic event is truly shocking, while the fall-out is well considered and realistic. Issues around mental health and alcoholism are quite well (though not very sympathetically) explored, and suicide and sexual abuse are touched upon. Quite a lot of ground is covered, but it failed to keep my interest throughout.

Firstly, I would say that the pacing isn’t brilliant. The early portions of the book progress very slowly, and then things pick up speed as things start to happen later on. Because of this, the beginning of the story dragged a little and the end portions felt a bit rushed.

I did like the exploration of Peter and Kate’s marriage, and Kate’s commitment to Peter despite his problems driving her away and her family telling her to leave him. However, very little else stood out to me.

I would recommend Ask Again, Yes to fans of dark domestic dramas. The characters are well developed and their relationships are interesting, but I would steer clear if this isn’t your genre.

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

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