Friday, 14 September 2018

My Favourite Fictional Schools

It's that time of year again, back to school season. Whether you're going back to school as a student or teacher or your school days are long behind you, I thought that today it would be fun to reflect on some of my favourite fictional schools. Because whether you hate school or love it I think we can all agree that there are some fictional schools we'd all love to attend.

Deepdean from Murder Most Unladylike 

I was one of those children who always wanted to go to an all-girls boarding school and Deepdean - the school that our main characters Hazel and Daisy attend in the Murder Most Unladylike series - takes me right back to those days. Okay, so people get murdered on the regular but that just adds to the creepy historical boarding school allure don't you think? Whether it's exploring the school solving crimes or having a bun break with Hazel, Deepdean is a school I'd love to attend.

Aglionby Academy from The Raven Boys 

Next on the list is Aglionby Academy and thus my fascination with old buildings and boarding school continues. Like Blue, I'm totally enchanted by The Raven Boys and I'd love to attend a Latin class or two in Borden House. The Raven Boys is so atmospheric and perfect for fall reading.

The Red Church from Nevernight

The Red Church is not a school for the faint of heart gentlefriends, for The Red Church is a school that trains the most feared cult of assassins. That being said, it’s by far one of my favourite schools on this list. It won major points for its library, a metropolis for "dead books" including all the unfinished books out there in the world that have been abandoned by their authors. I was in my element exploring The Library of Niah with our main character Mia, let’s just say it puts the Beauty and the Beast one to shame.

Watford from Carry On

If you love Harry Potter (especially the fanfic based on this world) you will love Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Watford is a school for magicians and has some serious Hogwarts vibes. If you like stories about chosen ones, magic and have always considered yourself a Drarry shipper this is the back to school read for you!

The School of America In Paris from Anna and the French Kiss

If you're more of a contemporary reader I'd highly recommend heading back to school with Anna and the French Kiss. The School of America In Paris is exactly as its name suggests. Going to a boarding school in Paris has been my dream since reading and watching Madeline as a little girl and this book brought that all back to me! Autumn is the perfect season to explore Paris and having Étienne St. Clair as your lab partner and tour guide makes the experience even better.

St. Vladimir's Academy from Vampire Academy 

This is an oldie but a goodie. Vampire Academy is one of the books that made me rediscover my love for YA back in the day and this series still has such a big place in my heart. St. Vladimir's Academy is a school for vampires where half human half vampires are trained to protect Moroi - the royal vampires in this world. This series is seriously addictive, so much fun and honestly stands the test of time now that vampires aren't the in thing anymore. Just don't judge this one on its movie okay? I promise the books are better.

Hogwarts from Harry Potter 

Obviously, I couldn't list my favourite fictional schools without including Hogwarts. Like so many people who love this series Hogwarts is my home and every September I get nostalgic to hop on the Hogwarts Express and read this series all over again. If for some reason you've never read Harry Potter but have been meaning to this is the perfect time of year to do so. From getting sorted into your house, to dinner in the Great Hall, to exploring the castle grounds Hogwarts is hands down the school we'd all love to attend and is one we'd all go to willingly no matter our age.

If you've started back at school I hope you have a wonderful year! 
I'd love to know, what’s your favourite fictional school?

Thursday, 30 August 2018

6 Books I Want to Read Before the End of the Year

With September and the final part of the year fast approaching I got to thinking about all of the books still on my TBR that I want to read before the end of the year, so today I wanted to highlight the six at the very top of my TBR because your girl always loves a list and if I put it out into the world I'm way more likely to actually get around to reading them!

Strange the Dreamer is a book that I've been desperate to read ever since it was first released last year and for some reason or another just haven't gotten around to. With the final part of this series Muse of Nightmares out really soon, now seems like the perfect time to read this duology back to back and soak up all of the beautiful Laini Taylor words all at once.

Sci-Fi is a genre that has been very neglected by me over the past couple of years and This Mortal Coil is a book from that genre that I've heard nothing but good things about. This sounds like a fresh new spin on zombie books and also looks at genetic modification a subject that I find so fascinating. I have a feeling I'm going to love this one and am itching to pick it up soon!

The release of the final book in the Throne of Glass series Kingdom of Ash is just around the corner and I've heard that Tower of Dawn is required reading before the final book. I'm currently reading it now and despite a huge 600+ page book from Chaol's point of view seeming really daunting at first, I'm surprised by how much I'm enjoying it!

Sky in the Deep is a 2018 debut that I've heard nothing but good things about from everyone who has read it this year. This is set during the winter months so I've specifically been saving it for cooler weather and I'm so excited to get to it over the next few months, all snuggled up under a blanket with a candle burning!

THUG has been on my radar for the longest time and I still haven't gotten around to it! I think I'm a bit intimidated by how good it's supposed to be. The movie adaptation is being released this October and the trailer looks awesome so I'm making it my goal to read it before then so I can go and support this important story in the cinema.

Scythe is such a well loved book that everybody seems to have read this year but me. The world sounds so fascinating, population control is another subject that I just find endlessly interesting and the idea of scythes already just blows my mind! I'm so so excited for this one and think it'll make a great Halloween read!

 Have you read any of these books? 
What books do you want to read before the end of the year?

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Blog Tour: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

Hello everyone! Today is my stop on the Pieces of Her blog tour and I'm thrilled to be hosting a Q&A with Karin Slaughter. I'm a huge fan of this author so it's honestly such an honor to have her on the blog. Read on for Karin's thoughts on literary success, writing inspiration and what she likes to read when she's not writing.

What is your favourite underappreciated novel? 
I tend to read a lot of popular fiction. I could go back to GONE WITH THE WIND—it was definitely appreciated in its time, but I don’t think as much now, because it was such a cultural movement, and the movie has overshadowed it. In the book Scarlett is much more nuanced, she has a lot more marriages and a lot more children. And also, just as a time capsule for going back to the Lost Cause. There’s a solid explanation for what you see happening not just in the South, but in the country, regarding the Civil War. Even Kanye West saying “slavery was a choice.” You can find roots for that in works like GONE WITH THE WIND. This idea of the noble confederate, when in fact that wasn’t it at all, right? As a piece of history, it’s interesting, but also as a foundation for what later became a movement. But then you also have a really freaking good story.

What does literary success look like to you? 
To me, it means I get to write the stories I want to write. I’ve never been censored, my editor Kate Elton has always trusted me and believed in what I was doing. I think sometimes editors might publish a book they’re not actually so excited about, and Kate is always excited about all kinds of books, whether it’s rereading Daphne du Maurier, or reading my stuff, or Eleanor Oliphant, or whatever. She loves popular fiction. And I think sometimes people don’t embrace that. They don’t accept their love of popular fiction because they think they have to be this way, or that way. So success to me is basically, I get the write exactly what I want to write, and that’s given me the confidence to write things like PIECES OF HER, because it’s a little different, but I feel like my publishers will support me.

Your novels are so character driven. Where do you draw your inspiration? Do people in your day-to-day life ever see themselves reflected in your books?
I don’t think anyone ever really sees themselves in my books. Even if I take pieces of them, sort of like when you hear your voice on a voicemail and you’re like “where’s my sultry voice? Who’s this twelve year old?” I learned that lesson pretty early on because I did put one of my neighbors, growing up, in my first book. And she was really mean—I can say this because she’s dead now—she was this old lady who lived on the corner. We had really big lots that the houses were on because we were in a country setting. It was much faster to go home through her yard, and she wouldn’t let us, she’d turn the hose on us. And so there were certain things she did and said, if you heard them, you’d say, “Oh that’s Miss So-And-So.” I put those characteristics in the book. And at one of my first signings, this woman, she was there. She came up, and said “I know who that character is…” And I was thinking “Oh, crap.” And she goes, “It’s Mrs. So-And-So down the street!” And I was like, “Yes ma’am, please don’t tell her.” So, I think there are things that other people see in you that you don’t see in yourself. I don’t think any person sees another person the exact same way. There are all different kinds of shades. My sister really liked her—probably because I was kind of tubby and I couldn’t move fast so I always got wet. I learned really early on, don’t worry about putting people in the book. In this book in particular, I really wanted to write about how things have changed for women. If you look at Laura’s generation of women, which isn’t that far off from my generation of women, there weren’t a lot of options for what you were going to do with your life. You’d get married, have kids, maybe you would have a job. Maybe you might have a career but it would be nursing or teaching or one of those womanly types of jobs, but your focus would be your children of course. And then you look at what Andy is looking at, and in some way she’s at a stalemate because she has so much choice. She could be a doctor, a lawyer, an astronaut, anything. In a way, Laura was paralyzed by her limited choices, and now Andy is paralyzed by having too many choices. That was something I wanted to write about, and I think women in their 30s today are like women in their 20s when I was growing up. There’s sort of this 10 year soft-landing that young women get, and young men, that we didn’t get before. I remember very clearly when I graduated from high school, my dad was so proud of me, and he took me aside and said “I’m so proud, you can do anything you want. You just can’t move back home.” It would have been a stigma to move back home. It would have been a failure. And it’s interesting because I travel a lot, and when I was in France, or Denmark, or whatever, every place I’ve gone to has a phrase for “helicopter parents.” In Denmark it’s called “curling parents”—like the Olympic sport of curling where the move the broom ahead of the puck so it has an easier way to go. And I think it’s a 20th century phenomenon—not necessarily socioeconomic. I think there’s a desire for all parents to want their kids lives to be easier, and do what they can. Some people have more resources.

What are your favourite books and movies? Are you usually drawn to thrillers, or do you stay away from them when you’re writing? 
I read all kinds of stuff. I can’t read when I’m writing because I need to focus on my story and I don’t want to read something else, and suddenly I’m writing like someone else. It’s very important to me that my writing has a voice and I don’t want anything to clutter that up. But I do read magazines and blogs and look at cat pictures; I just can’t read books. I love historical fiction. I’ve been reading a lot about that lately. I’ve been reading about reconstruction; I read this really fascinating book called MASTERLESS MEN about the South during the time of the Civil War. And people who go on my Goodreads will probably think “what the hell?” But I do love reading crime novels—Lisa Garners, Lisa Unger, Sara Blaedel, Lee Child, the usual suspects. I don’t like slasher movies because they scare me. The stupider they are, the more terrified I’ll be. You know, the person’s standing and talking to someone and then someone else goes up behind them, that freaks me out. But I love SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and subtle scary movies. I don’t like anything with demons and Satan because I was raised to be terrified of those things, and no matter what I do I’m always worried about that. It’s in my blood. My favorite movie of all time is called CLAY PIGEONS. It’s very dark and funny and fantastic.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

Friday, 17 August 2018

Review for The Corset by Laura Purcell

The Corset by Laura Purcell 
Publisher: Raven Books
Release: 20th September 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction, Gothic Fiction
Source: Proof copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Is prisoner Ruth Butterham mad or a murderer? Victim or villain? 

Dorothea and Ruth. Prison visitor and prisoner. Powerful and powerless. Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.

When Dorothea's charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted with the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person's skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.

The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations - of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses - will shake Dorothea's belief in rationality, and the power of redemption.

Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer?"

In a Victorian prison for women, teenager Ruth Butterham is awaiting execution for the most peculiar of crimes. Ruth claims she can kill with intent through her sewing, cursing her pieces as she stitches so that the wearer of her garments meets an untimely death. Is Ruth really a murderer or just mad? As Dorothea Truelove, an eccentric young heiress with a morbid fascination for murder sits with Ruth day after day and listens to her story unfold she begins to question everything she thought she knew about science, fate and those who kill.

I fell in love with Laura Purcell’s writing last year when I read her debut novel The Silent Companions and was highly anticipating her follow up The Corset. Purcell has a real talent for writing about the strange and the macabre, her books have such an unsettling atmosphere about them. When you’re reading a Laura Purcell book you get so caught up in the uneasy sensation of wrongness that makes her novels so deliciously dark and impossible to put down.

The book is told in a dual narrative between Ruth and Dorothea with Ruth’s chapters relaying her past, and Dorothea’s reflecting on Ruth’s case. I must admit that although the dual narrative worked well I much preferred Ruth’s chapters and was always impatient to get back to her story. I came to care deeply about Ruth in a way I wasn’t anticipating. Her past is horrifying to read about, and I so badly wanted to wrap her up in cotton wool and get justice for her.

Whilst The Silent Companions was spooky The Corset is a different sort of read and feels more disturbing than scary compared to its predecessor. However, both books have the same unique paranormal element to them that makes them stand out against your typical gothic horror stories. The Corset looks at the idea of curses, intention and magical thinking asking the question can we really hurt others with our thoughts alone? It’s a question I puzzled over whilst reading Ruth’s story right up to the final page.

The Corset is an absolute blighter of a book that’s screaming to be adapted into a BBC series. The brooding atmosphere, nuanced characters and lingering sense of dread is gripping stuff and perfect for autumn reading. Laura Purcell is the queen of gothic chillers and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Review for Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Girl Made of Stars 
by Ashley Herring Blake 
Publisher: HMH Books
Release: 15th May 2018
Genre: YA, Contemporary, LGBT+
Source: ARC gifted from a friend

""I need Owen to explain this. Because yes, I do know that Owen would never do that, but I also know Hannah would never lie about something like that." 

Mara and Owen are about as close as twins can get. So when Mara's friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn't know what to think. Can the brother she loves really be guilty of such a violent crime? Torn between the family she loves and her own sense of right and wrong, Mara is feeling lost, and it doesn't help that things have been strained with her ex-girlfriend and best friend since childhood, Charlie. 

As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie navigate this new terrain, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits in her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault." 

Mara's just trying to get through her break up with her ex-girlfriend Charlie and write for her school's feminist newspaper when her world comes crashing down around her. Mara's twin brother and rock Owen has been accused of rape. The victim? Her best friend Hannah. Mara knows that Owen would never, could never, do such a thing. But she also knows Hannah and she would never lie about something like that. As Mara tries to navigate this new world and make sense of what happened that night memories of her own concealed trauma come back to her and Mara is finally forced to confront her own truth.

Girl Made of Stars was one of my most anticipated books of 2018, the impossible situation Mara finds herself in felt like such a timely and important subject matter that I was so ready for and despite such high expectations this book did not let me down at all. I'm not sure I have the words to eloquently articulate how much I loved this book. It was everything I needed a book about victim blaming and female solidarity to be.

One of the aspects I loved about this book is that Mara and her mother both identify as feminists, yet they still desperately wanted to believe Owen's version of events. One of the most important messages this book holds is what a grey area rape can be. Men we love and respect can rape, people in relationships can be raped, women who have had sex with their attacker before can be raped and when those women step forward with their stories they deserve to be believed and supported in ways that the legal system and society is not doing right now. I loved the message at the heart of this story on the importance of believing women, even when it's easier not to.

There is so much diversity in this book which I always appreciate, and I loved the complicated relationship Mara had with her ex-girlfriend Charlie and her own sexuality. Another thing this book does so well is show the after effects of abuse and the trauma that follows. It's something I could personally relate to and my heart broke reading about these girls, their broken parts and their inner strength. I loved how Ashley Herring Blake didn't shy away from the harsh truths of rape culture. This book holds no easy answers, but it does offer hope and show that there is life after abuse. Girl Made of Stars is a truly beautiful yet heartbreakingly important read that I can't recommend enough.

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