Reviews, Scottish Reads, Vlogs

The Witch and the Tsar and Raising the Alarm

My festive Vlog with full reviews

I’ve made a start on my Christmas film bingo board and checked off my first prompt. I’m feeling very accomplished! I finished the prompt for White Christmas which was a book featuring snow on the cover. For this prompt I chose The Witch and The Tsar by Olesya Salknikova Gilmore.

I also managed to squeeze in a wee novella and picked up Raising the Alarm by Nicki Bell which was short and sweet. I have preordered the second book in this series and I’m so excited about it!

So far, my plan to read at least 9 books by Christmas is going well. I hope these aren’t m famous last words!

Book Recommendation of the Month, Reviews, Scottish Reads

Wendy and Me

Wendy is nineteen and living alone.
All she wants is to drive the 255 bus around Uddingston with her regulars on board, remember to buy milk when it runs out and to just be ok. After her mum passed away, there’s no one to remind Wendy to eat, what to do each day and most importantly to love herself. Every week Wendy proudly shows her social worker Saanvi the progress she’s made, like the coasters she bought to spruce up the place, even if she does forget to offer her a cup of tea.

But Wendy is ready to put herself out there and really live.
She joins a writer’s group to share stories she writes including the one about a bullied schoolboy who goes to Mars. The other writers are total amateurs, unlike Diane Weston – a famous local author who likes and sometimes even comments on Wendy’s tweets.

Everything changes on a rainy day when Wendy meets Ginger.
A teenager with flaming orange hair, Ginger’s so brave she’s wearing a coat that isn’t even waterproof. For the first time, Wendy has a real best friend. But as they begin the summer of their lives, Wendy wonders if her life would be simpler if she hadn’t met Ginger. And that’s before she realises just how much of a mess Ginger is about to get them in…

I was so excited to pick up this book as it came to me with high recommendations, from people who with similar reading tastes, so I was a keen bean going in. From page 1, I was hooked. The book opened with Wendy, the protagonist, in prison. Then goes back in time to detail the events that ended with her being arrested. I thought that was so smart because I was reading the book trying to work out what she did. There were loads of little red herrings and I just found myself jumping to conclusions and just compelled to keep reading.

I absolutely loved Wendy as a character! I just loved her. She felt so realistic. She was a young woman who had lost her mother, her mother was her entire support network, so she was just lost! Ginger entered her life like a whirlwind and while Wendy wondered what would have happened if she didn’t form a friendship with her, you could see how much she cared about her. I really enjoyed the friendship between Ginger and Wendy. Two wee souls that just needed a pal. Ginger was young and at times felt…young! I kept forgetting she was only 15 and getting annoyed that she didn’t seem to understand Wendy’s obligations because in spite of their similarities, they were at different places in their lives.

I really enjoy books that feel like a slice of life. Wendy felt real. Ginger felt real. The pretentious writing club felt real. My wee heart broke while reading this as I just fell so in love with the characters that I wanted only good things for them and kept worrying that perhaps something bad may happen…because it’s a book and a twist is always coming.

I feel like the relationship (for lack of a better word, although ‘interaction’ is probably a better choice of word) between Wendy and Diane was really well described. It escalated so quickly! Only after finishing the book did I think about how creepy it was from the beginning. Both characters were so lovely but their entire interaction was rather terrifying!

I absolutely adored this book! It made me feel and I just loved the characters so much! This was my bookclub pick and I’m so excited to be able to chat about this book for days to come.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Library of the Dead

When a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, young Ropa investigates. She’ll need to call on Zimbabwean magic as well as her Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. But as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?

When ghosts talk, she will listen…

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children–leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.

She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan…), discovering an occult library and a taste for hidden magic. She’ll also experience dark times. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets, and Ropa’s gonna hunt them all down.

This book was a recommendation but I can’t remember from whom. So, huge thanks to whoever recommended this to me because I loved it and I’m excited to get the second book in this series. I’m currently on a library waiting list for it.

I absolutely loved the world building in this book. It was Edinburgh but not as we know it. The world is very much a fantastical version of ours and was somewhat medieval with bandits on every corner and a fierce loyalty to the king.

Ropa was a very interesting main character. On the outside she was tough and independent and couldn’t be swayed by emotion. On the inside, she was warm and caring and just loved her family. I really enjoyed her interaction with her granny and sister. Classic little sister always swiping her mobile phone.

Ropa speaking with the dead was so interesting. I don’t know if I believe in ghosts and spirits but I don’t want to annoy them by saying I don’t. I enjoyed the way she used her skills for speaking with ghosts as a way to make a living. The moment she refused to work for free, I knew the book was going to get even more exciting!

Something or someone had been stealing children and draining their youth, leaving them as empty husks. Nobody was looking into this so it fell to Ropa to investigate using the skills she had from being able to communicate with the other side.

This was like a fairytale. One of the creepy ones but I liked that. I loved the creepy house which was not made of gingerbread but was just as terrifying!

I would have liked a little bit more of the library. I did get to read a little about the library but it was so barely mentioned that I was a little confused about it being the title of the book to then basically be ignored. This book is the start of a series so maybe the library will feature more in future stories and I will happily read those.

I loved the way that this book mixed Scottish folklore with Zimbabwean magic. I found that to be so interesting. I love when books give me a little bit of magic and myth that I didn’t know.

Reviews, Vlogs

A Week of Murder Mysteries

I have been in a reading slump. This explains the lack of reviews being posted, I’ve just been struggling to concentrate and actually read.

This week I’m feeling like I might be on the upswing and I’m trying not to get too giddy…but I’m a little giddy about it!

I decided to give myself a whole week of reading murder mysteries, since those are some of my favourite books. Even if I got through just one book, I felt like this was a guarantee of a good week of reading. So that’s what happened, I read murder mysteries for a whole week and I had a great time!

I also managed to read more than one book which really was fantastic!

I’m absolutely delighted at being able to actually make vlog this week
Reviews

An Act of Foul Play

November 1911. Lady Emily Hardcastle is celebrating her birthday by seeing a play at the Duke’s Theatre in Bristol with her maid and confidante, the inimitable Flo. Act One is a triumph. Then Act Two opens with a body on stage—a real one. One of the cast has been brutally murdered during the interval.

When other matters get in the way of Inspector Sunderland overseeing the case himself, he asks the ever-resourceful Lady H to keep a watchful eye on the suspects—and his police colleagues. Rustling up some cunning disguises of their own, she and Flo are soon in deep cover among the cast and crew, pulling back the curtain on some shocking secrets and rivalries…

The problem is, everyone seems to have a motive, and everyone seems to have an alibi…In this locked-room mystery in which nothing is as it seems, the amateur sleuths need to put on the performances of their lives if they’re to stand a chance of shining a spotlight on the truth…

I love the Lady Hardcastle series so imagine my joy at being able to get my wee mitts on a copy of the newest instalment on NetGalley! This book whizzed to the front of my tbr queue.

I thought that this book was just so fun! Yes it was a murder mystery but it was a very light and fluffy one. While this is book 9 of an existing series, I strongly feel like this book could work as a standalone. Anything you need to know about the characters has been included. I do enjoy that in a series, where it doesn’t matter if you remember the previous editions.

The double act of Lady Hardcastle and Flo (who I decided long ago was her lover and I’m going with this) was just so fun. I love their dynamic and the way that the interact with each other. It’s such a caring partnership that they have and you can tell how much they care about each other. In this book, Flo’s twin sister arrives for a visit and some identical twin high jinx ensued.

The theatre troupe was jam packed with suspects which is something that I want from a murder mystery. I want options for my suspects! It felt like everyone had a motive and I really enjoyed trying to put the case together. I did guess the murderer and motive though. I feel that there was one chapter that made it so obvious who the villain of the story was. That was a little disappointing because I’d been really enjoying the book up until then. I did enjoy the sheer volume of motives supplied, the theatre troupe was so interesting. I loved the drama of their relationships!

There was a wee side quest of Lady Hardcastle and Flo which was just as fun as their big theatre case. Although this one got me in the feels a little.

This was a quick and enjoyable read and I’m still very much into this series. Huge thank you to NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Reviews, Vlogs

Finding a New Favourite and Book Haul

This month has not been a good reading month for me so far. I’m in a slump! I’ve read very little compared to previous months and just haven’t been enjoying the books I’d chosen.

Well this week I may have reached a turning point as I not only was able to finish a book…but I also found a new favourite! Needless to say, I am delighted

My reading vlog

I also had a very mini book haul. Clearly I’m ignoring my self imposed book buying ban. But if I can’t read the books, I might as well buy them. That’s flawless logic!

Reviews

A Suspension of Mercy

Sydney Bartleby has killed his wife, Alicia—at least he has thought about it, compulsively, over and over again, plotting schemes, designing escapes, forging alibis. Of course he has; he’s a mystery-script writer. But when Alicia takes a long, unannounced vacation, Sydney seizes the opportunity to perfect his artistic method.

I bought this book on a whim! I was buying some books and had budgeted a certain amount to spend that day and still had budget left for one more book purchase, so I picked this one up as it sounded very interesting and I love a murder mystery! I later learned that this author also wrote Strangers on a Train. I remember reading Strangers on a Train, when I was possibly too young to be reading Strangers on a Train, and really enjoying it. So I was very excited to read it. I do wish that I hadn’t known that it was the same author as I maybe had higher expectations but I did still enjoy it.

Every character in this book was awful. All of them. Even the nice, wee old lady neighbour. I can’t remember the last time I read a book where everyone was terrible, there’s usually someone to root for. Someone to support but not in this book. It was actually quite therapeutic being able to just get all my venom out towards these characters (I’m not particularly venomous but it was nice).

Sydney was an ass. Just an ass. He was selfish, he was ignorant, obnoxious, abusive…he was so easy to hate. He was so focussed on having his scripts accepted for tv that he was utterly neglectful of the mere existence of others. He clearly hated his wife despite only being married for a very short length of time.

Alicia was also a terrible person but to a far lesser extent than Sydney. She was cruel and manipulative. Almost a perfect pairing but still, she deserved better than Sydney who deserved nobody.

I really enjoyed the plot of Alicia just disappearing. It felt realistic that Sydney wouldn’t worry or show any concern at all and just enjoy living as a bachelor. Did I mention that he was an ass? He got himself into sticky situations by trying to be clever. He acted like he was the smartest person in the room and this was his downfall as he got caught up in his web of lies. He looked so guilty! However, he was so focussed on his writing that he didn’t even realise how much trouble he was in.

This was a tough book to rate because I really enjoyed the plot but I hated the characters. I didn’t care whether Sydney did it or not because he’s a character and not a real person. If he were real then I’d definitely want him to receive fair treatment and justice. But this was fiction so I was ok with not caring whether he was actually guilty or not.

The last third of this book was utterly ridiculous. It just went too far and was completely unbelievable. I didn’t really enjoy the ending as I felt like it was tied up so quickly which just seemed to easy. It was an overall enjoyable book (although there are some extremely dated terms due to the age of the book) but the ending ruined it for me. I’m still keen to see how I get on with some of the author’s other works though!

Reviews, Scottish Reads

The Gloaming

Mara’s island is one of stories and magic. She knows she’ll eventually end her days atop the cliff, turned to stone and gazing out at the horizon like all the villagers that went before her, drawn by the otherworldly call of the sea. Her whole family will be there too, even her brother Bee and her sister Islay.

But the island and the sea do what they want, and when they claim a price from her family, Mara’s world changes forever.

As years pass and Mara grows into herself and her scars, a chance meeting with the magnetic Pearl brings magic to life once more in ways that Mara never thought possible, in a story that she never would have dreamed for herself before.

I couldn’t resist picking up another Kirsty Logan book!

I listened to this via audiobook and I think that was a perfect choice for this book. The writing was just gorgeous! It was dreamy and like a fairytale.

I loved the world building. This was set during modern times but the island was filled with magic and folklore which made it feel otherworldly.

The island itself felt like a character. It had human characteristics. I really enjoyed that. I did enjoy the human characters too. They weren’t all likeable, they were flawed but they were enjoyable to read about.

I think my favourite character was Pearl. Pearl had shown up on the island as somewhat of an outsider, fallen in love and started a new life. The life that she and Mara would build was so exciting and unusual.

Actually, Islay might have been my favourite character. She was ambitious and dreamed of life away from the island. She was also abrasive and rude. I did quite enjoy her interactions with Pearl who was trying so hard to impress and Islay was having none of it.

The book flipped back and forward between modern day, Mara’s childhood, and the early days of her parents’ relationship. I loved reading about the relationship between her parents, the boxer and the ballerina. It was just so sweet.

The main subject of this book was grief. The family were trying to cope with their own loss and it was affecting them all differently. I loved the way that when it came time to die, the islanders climbed to the top of the cliff where they would be turned into stone. They became statues. I thought that was quite comforting to be able to see their form.

In between the main body of this book, folklore elements were sprinkled. The book included selkies and mermaids. I love the story of the selkies! Selkies who took the form of seals but could shed their coats and take the form of a human. If their coat was stolen, they would be trapped in human form forever. An utterly heartbreaking myth!

I’d love to know if the island was alone in being magical or if the rest of the world had the name otherworldly vibes.

This is now my fourth book by this author and it’s safe to say that they are a firm favourite of mine. I’ve never been disappointed!

Reviews, Vlogs

Reading Spooky Books

I was either super smart or super silly as I decided to spend a week reading a seasonal read every day. Seven spooky or at least, Halloween-esque books! Anything scary, spooky, creepy, or vaguely Halloween themed was eligible for this self imposed challenge.

I also went on a wee book haul that I couldn’t resist! In my defence, the majority of the books were holiday purchases but I can easily find an excuse for breaking my book buying ban. I was doing so well!

My vlog

Books included in this blog are:

Carmilla by Sheridan le Fanu

Cutthroat Cupcakes byCate Lawley

Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice

A Pale Box on the Distant Shore by P.J. Nwosu *

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

The Final Girls Support Group by Grady Hendrix

How to Kill Men and Get Away With It by Katy Brent

*gifted

Reviews

The Final Girl Support Group

In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?

Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized–someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.

I was so intrigued by this book. I’m a huge fan of films like Scream, Halloween, and Friday the 13th. I suppose they’re slasher films but as a total wuss, I do Google all the spoilers first. I refuse to get caught out by a jump scare. This book definitely appealed to my love of slasher films!

I really enjoyed all of the main characters. They each had their own coping mechanisms, they did what they needed to in order to go on after surviving their individual massacres. They felt well rounded and felt like real characters. I loved that while they drove each other up the wall, they loved and cared for each other. I didn’t expect found family joy but I got it. A pleasant surprise! I absolutely loved the way that the character names nodded towards the characters/actors of the Final Girls of so many enjoyable scary film series. This was such a nice touch.

This book was super fast paced and so easy to consume! When the book reached just after halfway, the pace picked up even more and it was just pure excitement and danger.

I absolutely loved the first and last 45%…but the middle 10% I hated. I hated the middle so much that I genuinely considered giving up on the book entirely. I was encouraged to continue and I’m really glad that I did. Although I’d recommend skipping all of the chapters in the police station to anyone going in. I just think the book would be fantastic without those chapters.

Due to the nature of this genre, there were a lot of moments of violence. I didn’t find the violence to be too gratuitous or gory. I’m really not one for blood and gore and I feel like this book gave just the right amount of gore while remaining in the spirit of the source material.

This just felt like reading a scary movie. It was full of twists and turns and I just did not see the reveals coming. I was so sure that I knew who the baddie was, I was certain! I was also wrong, wrong, wrong. When the reveal came I audibly gasped!

I have seen a few reviews where people were unhappy with the ending of this book but I loved it. It felt like the perfect ending to this book.

This was my third book by this author so I’m feeling pretty confident about reading more books by Grady Hendrix as I’ve enjoyed each of their books that I’ve read so far.