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!

Scottish Reads, Vlogs

Reading Scottish- November Wrap Up

This month I have been in a bit of a reading slump. In spite of this, I still managed to read three books by Scottish authors. I’m absolutely delighted as I also thoroughly enjoyed each of my Scottish reads this month.

My wee Scottish vlog

I think that these three books could all become firm favourites and that’s more than I could have hoped for! I’m now extra excited to see what next month brings!

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, 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!

Scottish Reads, Vlogs

Reading Scottish – October Wrap Up

As is standard, I’ve read some Scottish fiction and I’m here to chat about it. October was a very productive month for me and Scottish fiction and I read 5 books by Scottish authors. Two of these books were put aside especially for October because they felt spooky.

My Vlog

This month I read mentioned:

There’s Only One Danny Garvey – David F Ross

Things We Say in the Dark – Kirsty Logan

The Sinister Cabaret – John Herdman*

Hex – Jenni Fagan

Edge of the Grave – Robbie Morrison

*gifted

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Hex

IT’S THE 4TH OF DECEMBER 1591.
On this, the last night of her life, in a prison cell several floors below Edinburgh’s High Street, convicted witch Geillis Duncan receives a mysterious visitor – Iris, who says she comes from a future where women are still persecuted for who they are and what they believe.

As the hours pass and dawn approaches, Geillis recounts the circumstances of her arrest, brutal torture, confession and trial, while Iris offers support, solace – and the tantalising prospect of escape.

I have previously read two books by Jenni Fagan- I really enjoyed Luckenbooth but I didn’t overly enjoy The Panopticon. So I wasn’t too sure whether I was going to enjoy this or not. I had received so many recommendations from friends so I was excited but also apprehensive. Well, this book goes into the pile of ‘books I really enjoyed’, I may go as far as to say that I loved this. I think I did.

This was such a short book. A teeny, tiny novella of around 100 pages but it still packed such a punch! I was almost overwhelmed by emotions. I sobbed pretty constantly for the last 20 pages or so.

I really enjoyed the characters of Geillis and Iris. I feel like I really got to know Geillis, she was a young woman who helped people. She made the mistake of drawing attention from the wrong person and then found herself convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death. She was such an endearing character and I just found myself really warming towards her. She was such a sympathetic yet strong character. Iris was a modern woman but another tragic soul. I would have enjoyed getting to know her a little bit more but there is a limit to what can fit in a wee novella.

I really enjoyed the mystical elements of this book. I enjoyed the magic and the use of magic in this story.

I loved the way that the two women bonded in such a short amount of time. I loved their relationship and the way that they brought each other comfort in a time of great need.

Despite knowing that this book was set the night before Geillis was to be put to death, I just found the ending to just break my heart. I am always seeking a happy ending and I suppose I hoped for one from this book despite being aware enough of the last to know that I was maybe setting myself up for disappointment.

I found the descriptions of the torture that Geillis suffered to be really upsetting to read. This book was so well researched and the factual elements just made me so angry that they ever happened.

I just through that this was such an emotional book. It showed that while separated by centuries, the women faced similar struggles and as a society we haven’t really moved as we perhaps like to think we have. This really made me think and feel.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

The Sinister Cabaret

An Edinburgh advocate undergoes an interior experience of humiliation and terror, totally losing his way in a surreal Scottish Highland adventure.

John Herdman’s classic tale of Jungian mania is brought to you in this new edition, introduced by the author.

Douglas Humbie, leaving behind his career and his wife in Edinburgh, heads north to familiar places for a short break. Unfortunately, the familiar places have become unfamiliar and even hostile.

Each setting, each character, each event is an unsettling side-step away from normality in a dark, brooding surreal landscape that has Douglas fleeing manically around the country and the reader deeply uneasy. Fearing that his wife has been abducted, he seeks out MacNucator, a private detective, to find her.

Meanwhile the Sinister Cabaret of the title, led by the strange and unfathomable Mr Motion, pursues him relentlessly.

I was so excited to get my wee paws on this book, it sounded delightfully bizarre and that’s what I look for in a book. I can confirm that my expectations regarding the sheet strangeness of this book were met.

This book was…odd. So odd. It was one of those books where it didn’t make sense to try to work out why things were happening, I just had to accept that they were and go with it. It felt like a fever dream!

The book was set into three distinct parts which followed the classic format of setting the scene, building the excitement, and climax. each part had multiple very short chapters which I feel really helped this book to feel quick paced. The pacing was really fast, it almost felt a little manic at times which worked well with the subject

Poor Douglas faced one unpleasant experience after another. He was being haunted by The Sinister Cabaret, hosted by the talented mimic Motion. Their performances that felt intended to torment him and him alone. When the cabaret weren’t performing, Motion would suddenly pop having been impersonating someone else much to Douglas’s ignorance. I loved waiting for Motion to show up and enjoyed trying to guess which character he would turn out to be. I felt that I couldn’t trust anyone to be who they claimed to be.

Douglas met some odd characters along the way as he traipsed across The Highlands, some were Motion and others were not. However, most of them were strange in one way or another.

The book threw in some flashbacks for Douglas as he reminisced on his past, both as a child and as a younger man. Suddenly he’d find those features or characters of the past in modern day.

This was full of twists and turns, strange occurrences, it was unpredictable and just batty. I thoroughly enjoyed it! It was so unusual, in a good way.

I couldn’t work out if it was all really happening or if Douglas was having a breakdown or a nightmare. I think that this was part of the charm, the not knowing.

The ending of this book was very pleasing! I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Scottish Reads, Vlogs

Reading Scottish – Bloody Scotland Debut Fiction

This month, my Scottish reads were a bit different because I had a theme. A wee while ago, Bloody Scotland announced the shortlist for the debut Scottish crime fiction novel of 2022. I decided that I wanted to read them all and see if I could predict the winner!

I try to predict the winner🔮

This month I read:

Hear No Evil by Sarah Smith

The Wolf Hunters by Amanda Mitchison

Welcome to Cooper by Tariq Ashkanani

The Girl, The Crow, The Writer, and The Fighter by George Paterson

Meantime by Frankie Boyle

While these books were all Scottish crime novels, they were all so different. This was such an enjoyable reading experience and I’m so excited to see what these authors do next.

Huge congratulations to the winner and all the nominees!

The nominees
Scottish Reads

Meantime

Glasgow, 2015. When Valium addict Felix McAveety’s best friend Marina is found murdered in the local park, he goes looking for answers to questions that he quickly forgets. In a haze of uppers, hallucinogens, and diazepam, Felix enlists the help of a brilliant but mercurial GP; a bright young trade unionist; a failing screenwriter; semi-celebrity crime novelist Jane Pickford; and his crisis fuelled downstairs neighbour Donnie.

Their investigation sends them on a bewildering expedition that takes in Scottish radical politics, Artificial Intelligence, cults, secret agents, smugglers and vegan record shops.

This is the third book that I’ve read this year that had been written by a Scottish comedian that I enjoy. As with the others, I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I really do enjoy Frankie Boyle’s comedy and found him to be a natural storyteller, so I was hoping that this would translate to his writing and I believe that it did.

I really enjoyed the setting of this book as 2015 really was a very emotional time in Scotland. We really were split with some people gloating and some broken hearted. It was quite sad reliving it and realising how little had changed since then. I think that the feelings of the time really were captured in the writing.

I didn’t necessarily like Felix as a character but I enjoyed him. He was a tragic wee soul. I liked the ragtag group that took the lead in the story. A group of people who would not usually be pals but it worked. I found myself caring so much for all of them!

I found that this book made me laugh and cry and everything in between. The utter insanity of the ceilidh, complete with Cthulhu inspired Burns’ poetry was something I didn’t know that I needed in my life.

I really enjoyed the concept of someone who has no skills in sleuthing just becoming a sleuth in order to find out what happened to his friend. Felix really wasn’t a talented sleuthed but his friends helped him along the way and he really did find out loads, way more than I’d expected.

I loved the volume of red herrings. I was kept guessing throughout the book and I really didn’t see any of the twists coming. And they did come, there were so many twists and turns. I think that the hints were there, had i been taking notes of the clues then maybe they wouldn’t have been so surprising but there were so many nuggets peppered throughout the book that it was so tricky to see what was relevant and what was distraction.

This was not the sort of book that I could just pick up for a wee half hour read, I wanted to consume it. I needed to read it with no distractions as so much was happening that I needed to concentrate.

There were some periods where I wondered if the events described were even taking place. Felix was taking so many drugs that I started to doubt whether it was real (real in the book). I found this added an extra element of enjoyment as I was wondering if he was about to wake up and I’d find out that it had all been a dream or something.

This was a truly excellent debut crime fiction novel and I can’t wait to see what Frankie Boyle writes next.