Reviews, Scottish Reads

Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Weird Sisters

Fifty-something librarian Shona is a proud former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, but has a deep loathing for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name. Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist and musician, Shona is selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for a crucial mission involving Macbeth, the Weird Sisters and a black cat.

Unsure which version of history she’s in, Shona tries to figure out who she’s here to save. But between playing the Fool and being turned into a mouse, things don’t always go her way. Shona’s expertise in martial arts is out to the test as family tensions rise and fingers are pointed to Murder. Can Shona unravel the mystery in time to complete her mission?

… Never underestimate a librarian!

This is the third book in the Miss Blaine’s Prefect series. I absolutely loved the second book so my expectations of this third instalment were high! I can happily report that my expectations were exceeded. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.

While this is part of a series, the books can easily be read as standalone novels. All you need to know is that Shona gets sent back in time to correct moments in history and hilarity ensues.

I really enjoyed Shona as a character. She’s so intelligent but she has no common sense or risk awareness which leads to her ending up in some pretty awkward situations. I really enjoyed all of the characters in this book, I loved Duncan and the Hectate the most though.

I have never read Macbeth but do know the basic plot (mainly from Terry Pratchett and The Simpsons). I didn’t feel like that was required reading as the story filled in any gaps.

Neighbour Cat approved

There were a lot of things going on in this book so multiple plots going on. It was easy to keep up with the various plots though as they involved different people and it was very clear what were and weren’t related.

Like with the previous books, this book had a lot of references to historical events. Not just 11th century Scotland but lots of little historical nuggets which I really enjoyed.

This book was utterly hilarious and I laughed so much while reading this. I laughed a lot at the silly situations that Shona ended up in. I also laughed heartily at the terrible jokes within this book. Shona was mistaken for being a fool and with that, came many terrible jokes. However, since the audience of 11th century had never heard these jokes, their reactions made the jokes really funny.

This book was very moreish and I didn’t want to put it down…so I didn’t. I finished it in one day and I regret nothing. Sometimes you just don’t want to stop reading a book and time allows to keep going.

I really enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend the series. This is possibly my favourite book in the series but closely followed by The Vampire Menace. I received this book as an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Scottish Reads, Vlogs

Reading Scottish-March Wrap Up

Hello and welcome to my Reading Scottish Wrap Up for March. It’s been another good month of reading and I got through 4 books by Scottish authors- including a long awaited recommended read and two previously enjoyed authors

Rizzio- Denise Mina
The Young Team- Graeme Armstrong
Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz- Ely Percy
Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Weird Sisters- Olga Wojtas*

*gifted

I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these! Or if you’ve enjoyed any other Scottish fiction
💕

Reading Scottish- March Wrap Up
Reviews, Scottish Reads

Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz

Enter Vicky Romeo: lover, actor, bullshitter. Romeo is a slick, serial heartbreaker who is determined to land the lead in an all-women rendition of The Importance of Being Earnest. She thinks she has life figured out, but then she falls in love…

Enter Julie Turner aka Joolz: sexy, sarcastic, femme fatale and a cheerleader to boot. Stamping on hearts and traditional stereotypes she plays girls like Vicky Romeo at their own game.

Set in Glasgow in 2001, our heroines and their cohorts take on the world one incredibly gay step at a time.

I picked this book up when I was in Category Is Books, in Glasgow, at the start of the month. I’m still basking in the pride of reading a book in the month that I bought it. This has very much been the month for it but I have no faith in my ability to keep that up. I absolutely adored this book, I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads but it would have been 4.5 if Goodreads allowed halves.

This book was prefaced by a statement from the author who said that the book was written in 2001 which is the year that it was set. The attitudes and terminology used are that of the scene at the time and the book would have been totally different were it written today. I appreciated this because otherwise I’d have probably been a bit put off by some of the attitudes. As this book was about a community that I wasn’t part of in 2001, I’m taking the author’s word.

I absolutely loved that this was a story about a romance between Vicky Romeo and Julia Turner as I loved the nod towards Romeo and Juliet. While there is drama in this book, it’s very much not a rewrite of Romeo and Juliet. It was very much it’s own romance. It was a quite sweet romance which I really enjoyed.

At first I didn’t really like either of the main characters. I thought that Vicky Romeo was arrogant and reminded me so much of an old flatmate who used to boast about never being turned down by a romantic partner…and then one time they were and they were a wreck as they’d never faced rejection. However as the book went on, I could see through their shell and she was a sweetheart who just wanted to love and be loved and really wasn’t as confident as they appeared. Joolz annoyed me at first as they seemed to be playing games with Vicky despite saying they weren’t their type. There was a great deal of her being hot one moment and blanking her the next. Although I had to remind myself that these characters were 20/21 .

I really liked the strong parental role models in this book. I loved Mama Romeo and Sam! There were a lot of side characters that I did get a bit confused with. I enjoyed Kat but I didn’t like the other flatmate.

There were a few twists and turns in this book that I just did not see coming. They were very well done and really helped to make the characters feel real. I feel like I could have been friends with these people, I’d have gone to see their play!

I absolutely loved the setting of 2001 Glasgow. I loved the references to Nokia phones and a whole bunch of scenes in an Internet cafe. It was very nostalgic in places.

This was my second book by Ely Percy and it won’t be my last. I’m adding them to my autobuy author list! I’m so glad that I didn’t wait too long to read this book because I really did enjoy it.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

The Young Team

2005. Glasgow is named Europe’s Murder Capital, driven by a violent territorial gang and knife culture. In the housing schemes of adjacent Lanarkshire, Scotland’s former industrial heartland, wee boys become postcode warriors.

2004. Azzy Williams joins the Young Team [YTP]. A brutal gang conflict with their deadly rivals, the Young Toi [YTB] begins.

2012. Azzy dreams of another life. He faces his toughest fight of all – the fight for a different future.

Expect Buckfast. Expect bravado. Expect street philosophy. Expect rave culture. Expect anxiety. Expect addiction. Expect a serious facial injury every six hours. Expect murder.

Hope for a way out.

I had been wanting to read this book for a while and I’m so glad I managed to make time for it. I absolutely devoured this book and gave it 5 shiny stars!

This book was split into multiple sections which covered 3 main periods of Azzy’s life: Joining the gang, becoming an adult, and thinking about the future. The book started with Azzy being a young teenager who had been drawn into gang life. He was only 14 and it was totally expected that he would join a gang. It was so much more than a gang though, it was friendship and found family. His youth involved a lot of drinking, casual drug use, and violence. As he grew up, the violence between Azzy’s gang and the rival gang continued. With Azzy being older he became more involved in the beef between the gangs. The violence and the risks increased. The final part saw Azzy considering their future and what role the gang would take in this.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book, they felt so real. I found myself really worrying when the kids went off to fight. I actually spent so much of the book waiting for more bad things to happen. I laughed during parts of this book and I cried too. The protagonist, Azzy, was a flawed character but I liked him. He was a fiercely loyal person but he made some bad choices. I absolutely loved his mum and cousin who just wanted him to be safe.

This book really showed how easily Azzy was swept into gang culture. It felt like a normal thing for him to be part of a gang. The book included facts about gang culture in Scotland which helped to bring the story to life. Gang culture wasn’t something I knew a great deal about and this book really opened my eyes to something that was and is something that is still a huge issue in Scotland. The book also included references to drug culture and how that tied into gang life.

This book was set in Airdrie in the West of Scotland and was written all in the vernacular. You don’t need to be Scottish to be able to enjoy this book as it’s pronounced phonetically. I think that this could make an absolutely amending audiobook!

This book was eye opening and full of violence but it was so much more than that. It was a story about trying to fit in, loyalty and friendship, and growing up. There were some really heartwarming parts of this book and I am so glad that I read this! I highly recommend this book!

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Rizzio

On the evening of March 9th, 1566, David Rizzio, the private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots, was brutally murdered. Dragged from the chamber of the heavily pregnant Mary, Rizzio was stabbed fifty six times by a party of assassins. This breathtakingly tense novella dramatises the events that led up to that night, telling the infamous story as it has never been told before.

A dark tale of sex, secrets and lies, Rizzio looks at a shocking historical murder through a modern lens—and explores the lengths that men and women will go to in their search for love and power.

This was my first Denise Mina book and what an introduction it was. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I gave it 4 stars and it’s a high 4, like a 4 and a half.

In primary school, my classmates and I were mildly obsessed with learning about the Scottish Royal Family. When I saw that this book was about Mary, Queen of Scot’s’ best pal Rizzio, I knew I wanted to read it.

The murder of Rizzio was something that I did know about (because of all off my childhood research) and I really enjoyed a book that delved into what happened. I kept forgetting that this book was fiction! The book was peppered with facts that had previously been well documented and that made me forget that I was reading a novel.

I loved the character arc given to Mary. She was so strong and brave. Even when she felt like she had nobody on her side, she didn’t show any sign of weakness. She was truly a queen. Lord Darnley was a drunk, a daddy’s boy who had no thoughts of his own, and a follower. He believed that he was entitled to be king based solely on him being a man. I thought that the characters were written beautifully! They felt real. Obviously they were real people but they felt familiar. It almost read like an episode of Real Housewives of …the Renaissance. I felt so angry towards Darnley and it’s always impressive when an author can make you feel so passionately about a character.

The imagery of this book was amazing. I really felt like I could imagine the castle. It’s a castle that I have only the vaguest of memories of but it really came alive! The perks of growing up in the Scottish Borders was that we had so many historical buildings nearby and got to visit a lot of cool places. This may have fuelled my primary school obsession with the Scottish Royals.

This book was a novella so it was super short and was easily consumed in one sitting. I read this in two sittings though because I had to travel and didn’t want to take a partially read book with me as I knew it was too short to last the journey so I put it aside for later.

I think that this was an excellent introduction to this very well known Scottish author. This definitely won’t be the last book that I read by this author as I’m so keen to find more goodies. Also, on the day that I started reading this book, I went to Glasgow and Denise Mina cycled past me on Sauchiehall Street (she was wearing a glorious green cardigan). That seemed like some sort of sign that I was going to enjoy this book and I really did!

Scottish Reads, Vlogs

Reading Scottish February Wrap Up

What another excellent reading month! I’ve been trying to read more books by Scottish authors and this month I read 4 books by Scottish authors. I read two books by authors I’d previously read before (one I enjoyed and one I didn’t overly enjoy), I read a classic, and a highly anticipated read.

Below I’ve popped a small summary of my feelings towards each of the books and my vlog is right at the bottom. I go into more detail in the vlog, including star ratings

This month I read:

The Panopticon- Jenni Fagan

After reading Luckenbooth I was really looking forward to reading another book by Jenni Fagan. This book had been highly recommended to me but I found it to be really distressing and upsetting to read. Not for me but I do still enjoy the author.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie- Muriel Spark

I was excited to read this Scottish Classic and it was a wonderful book. It really highlighted the important role that teachers can play in a young person’s life, not always positive. The format of this book was excellent as I enjoyed the time jumps.

Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace- Olga Wojtas

I had read the last book in this series and I didn’t enjoy it too much. I decided to give the series a second whirl and I really enjoyed the second book in this series. It was silly and fun and just what I needed.

A Glasgow Kiss- Sophie Gravia

I’d put this book aside with the intention of reading it in February. I found this book to be laugh out loud hilarious and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I laughed til my face hurt!

Reading Scottish vlog

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace

The intrepid librarian Shona McMonagle, erstwhile Marcia Blaine Academy prefect and an accomplished linguist and martial artist, finds herself in an isolated French mountain village, Sans-Soleil, which has no sunlight because of its topography. It’s reeling from a spate of unexplained deaths, and Shona has once again travelled back in time to help out.

Forging an uneasy alliance with newly widowed Madeleine, Shona is soon drawn into a full-blown vampire hunt, involving several notable villagers, the world-renowned soprano Mary Garden – and even Count Dracula himself. Will Shona solve the mystery, secure justice for the murder victims and make it through a deathly denouement in the hall of mirrors to return to present-day Morningside Library?

I read the first book in this series a few months ago and it was ok but I felt like I didn’t get it. Like I was missing something. I saw that the second book in the series, this one, promised vampires so knew that I just had to read it. However, I decided to read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie since it was referenced quite a bit in the first book, as I hoped that this would enhance my enjoyment. So I don’t know if it was the reading of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, the presence of a vampire, or something else but I enjoyed this book so much more than Miss Blaine’s Prefect and The Golden Samovar. I actually couldn’t put this book down and gave it 4 stars and instantly looked for the next instalment of the series.

I really felt like I got to know Shona in this book. She was intelligent, confident, charismatic, and fearless. Yet she had absolutely zero common sense or regard for her safety. In the last book, that annoyed me but I get that this was part of her character. I accepted that the main character was going to get themselves into situations that could have been avoided by just thinking for…maybe 3 seconds. I think that coming to terms with the oblivious nature of the main character enhanced my enjoyment of this book.

In addition to Shona, she almost had a sidekick in Madeleine who was a widow that refused to believe that her husband had died. Madeleine was very similar to Shona in some ways as she was intelligent and a musical maestro. Although the main difference between the two was that Madeleine had a sense of self preservation and didn’t go around taking risks without taking precautions. I really enjoyed these two characters butting heads but learning to work together.

I also loved the two Aberdeen/Aberdeenshire references with references to Slains Castle and to Mary Garden. As I live in Aberdeen I get quite excited when there are references to Aberdeenshire.

This book was utterly hilarious! I found myself belly laughing at points. The plot included a vampire, cheese, and the French countryside which are all things that I enjoy in life (despite my lactose intolerance and fear of blood). There were so many just bizarre things that happened in this book; milk hoarding, vicious pigs, suspicious seeming officials, and missing corpses.

I had absolutely no idea how this book was going to end. I didn’t want to put it down as every time I told myself “put the book down at the end of the chapter”, something bonkers would happen so I’d have to keep reading. My experience of reading this book was just so enjoyable and I had such a smile on my face. The twists were just excellent and unexpected.

While this was the second book in a series, this book could work brilliantly as a standalone as Shona’s character was shown really well. The first chapter really laid the foundation of the premise of Miss Blaine and what was expected from her prefects. I already have a friend I plan to loan this book to as I think they’ll love it too.

The next book in this series comes out soon and I’m so excited read the next adventure of Shona. I’ve absolutely no idea what she’s going to get up to next or who is going to save her next. I’m really happy to have a new series that I’m looking forward to continuing with…and ignoring my ever expanding list of active series.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

At the staid Marcia Blaine School for Girls in Edinburgh, Scotland, teacher extraordinaire Miss Jean Brodie is unmistakably, and outspokenly, in her prime. She is passionate in the application of her unorthodox teaching methods and strives to bring out the best in each one of her students. Determined to instill in them independence, passion, and ambition, Miss Brodie advises them, “Safety does not come first. Goodness, Truth, and Beauty come first. Follow me.” And they do–but one of them will betray her

I finally got around to reading this Scottish Classic! I had heard a lot about this book when I was in high school as one of the other English classes was studying it but after that point, I must admit that I never thought about it again for years and years. I suppose I was too scarred from having to read Sunset Song that I felt a bit wary about reading another High School approved Scottish Classic. I read a different book a few months ago that referenced this book so heavily that I couldn’t stop thinking about giving it a read. I’m so happy that I did because this book was so enjoyable and I ended up giving it 4 stars!

The format of this book was really unusual as during the chapter there were multiple jumps through time. An event or conversation would happen and the next paragraph would be a jump in time to describe the repercussions of the event/conversation. I really liked this format as it kept the story flowing. I’m so used to books that wait until the next chapter to change the setting but I would be keen to read more books in this format.

I think I was expecting Miss Jean Brodie to be a sort of Dead Poets’ Society sort of teacher but she really wasn’t. Miss Jean Brodie was in the prime of her life and wasn’t scared to talk about it. I felt so bad for the pupils who were having their academic futures impacted by their teacher who used them as her confidantes. Miss Brodie had her favourites, The Brodie Set, and they would socialise and have preferential treatment in class. Miss Brodie really had a lot of passion and opinions and was very much trying to mould her favourites into almost little versions of her. To make them believe her beliefs, sometimes to their detriment. I think that this book would be a brilliant read for any age, I know that young me would have enjoyed the special relationship between The Brodie Set as well as their relationship with their teacher. Adult me enjoyed this also but noticed that the relationship was very inappropriate, child me probably wouldn’t have.

The entire book seemed to be told from the point of view of an omnipotent narrator. I thought that this worked really well. There were quite a few plots happening that the book sort of needed either an omnipotent narrator or multiple points of view as otherwise it would be difficult to include so many things that were important.

This book was set in Edinburgh and in the really nice part of Edinburgh. Edinburgh is such a lovely city but there’s so much more to it than the fancy schools and beautiful buildings. This book actually included references to the differences between Old and New Town as it included some of the poverty affected occupants of Edinburgh. This was brought in as sort of raising awareness to The Brodie Set of poverty and just how lucky they were.

Miss Brodie made a very big mistake which had terrible results. They were betrayed by one of The Brodie Set and the book kept me guessing with regards to who it was that betrayed her. She suspected them all and it was quite sad in parts. At the same time it showed how much her lessons had impacted the girls as they told the truth which she had told them that they must always do.

I enjoyed this book a great deal and would definitely read more books by Muriel Spark. I’m not sure which book I will pick next but I do know that there will be a next read.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

A Glasgow Kiss

There’s nothing romantic about dating…

A Glasgow Kiss [n.]
A headbutt or a strike with the head to someone’s sensitive area

Meet Zara Smith: 29, single and muddling her way through life as a trainee nurse in Glasgow. With 30 fast approaching, she’s determined to do whatever it takes to find love – or at least someone to sext! Cheered on by best friends Ashley and Raj, Zara embarks on a string of dating escapades that are as hilarious as they are disastrous. From online dating to blind dates, hometown hook-ups to flirty bartenders, nothing is off limits.

But when Dr Tom Adams, aka Sugar Daddy, shows interest, it’s a game-changing moment. Zara has had a crush on Tom since her very first day at the aesthetics clinic she works at part-time. As things heat up between them, Zara can’t help but wonder: is this it? Or is it another disaster waiting to happen?

I bought this book a few months ago and put it aside for February. My thought process was that it was a romance/erotic novel and that seemed like a February thing. I am so sad that I put this book aside as opposed to reading it straight away because this was definitely a 5 star read! I laughed, I cried, I laughed some more.

I genuinely cackled while reading this book, it was absolutely hilarious! I kept disturbing my boyfriend as I felt compelled to give him a dramatic reading of some of my favourite passages- The bit with Zara’s mother and the vampire bit each received quite the round of applause. I think that this book included a lot of concerns with modern dating. Some of the interactions were so funny that I found myself crying with laughter but in spite of that, I found this book to be very realistic!

At the start of the book I actually saw a lot of early 20 something me in Zara. Desperate to be loved and ending up with a wrongun (I found my lobster in my late 20s). Zara gave her heart quickly and often ended up getting hurt. I quickly stopped relating to Zara as otherwise we were pretty different but so many of her actions reminded me of stories that my friends told me about their dating lives! I loved her friendship with her childhood best friend and her boss who was pretty much Boss Goals.

If you’re offended by swearing, especially by the c-word (which is also a term of endearment in Scotland) then be aware that there’s a fair bitty of swearing in this book which I found to be very authentic. There were times in this book where the only realistic reaction was to swear. I’m looking at you, Mark. The interactions with him set the tone for the rest of the book and I loved it!

My old uni got a mention and so did my old gym! Little thing like this are the reason I love Scottish fiction so very much! I don’t know if I’d have loved it quite as much if it wasn’t set somewhere that I’d previously lived because the familiarity of the setting really gave me fun nostalgic vibes. It would definitely have been at least a 4 star read if the setting were different but the setting is what pushed this book into the 5 star category for me.

While this was a hilarious wee read, it also had some pretty strong themes of finding what makes you happy, believing in yourself, and the power of friendship. This book gave me way more than it promised! Yes, I managed to overthink a fun erotic novel! I loved this book and will be keeping an eye out for any more books by this author because I am always happy to read some hilarious erotica/romance!

Scottish Reads, Vlogs

Reading Scottish January Wrap Up

I’m very excited to introduce my Reading Scottish January wrap up. It felt like January was never going to end but here I am doing my first Reading Scottish wrap up of the year!

This month I read another 4 books by Scottish authors. I haven’t been aiming to read four books a month but seeing as this is the third month that I’ve read four…maybe I will aim for this amount over the coming months.

I raised my pinkie finger to detract from the bruise on my middle finger nail but it’s the thing I zone into

I felt like my picks for January were a bit wider a variety that the last few months; I had a reread, 2 contemporary fiction, and a middle grade. Even though I read two contemporary fiction novels, they couldn’t have been more different so I really felt like a had a nice selection.

Here is my vlog for this months Reading Scottish Wrap Up where I talk about each book individually. If you just fancy a wee summary, I’ve popped details of the books that I read below the vlog.

My Reading Scottish vlog where I talk about my reads

Here’s a summary of what I read this month:

Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan. This was my reread, I last read this in November and suspected that I’d missed some key plot points. On the second read through I noticed huge plot points and I definitely missed a whole bunch of key points. I got so much out of my second read and will be giving this another read in the future. I gave 4 Stars to this book.

Scabby Queen by Kristin Innes. This was my bookclub book for my real life book club. I enjoyed this book despite not liking the main character. This was a dark and gritty look at real life struggles. I also gave this book 4 Stars as I enjoyed it despite it taking me so far from my comfort zone.

The Second Worst Restaurant in France by Alexander McCall Smith. This book was fine, it was light and silly. However I feel like very little actually happened and I think I should have chosen a different book as my first Alexander McCall Smith book. I gave this book 3 Stars.

Secrets of the Last Merfolk by Lindsay Littleson. This was my middle grade read and it was heartwarming and a lovely story about friendship and doing the right thing. This book left me feeling warm and fuzzy which was something I very much needed! I gave this book 4 Stars.

I’ve already chosen 2 of my February reads- one a contemporary romance and one a fantasy adventure. I’m really excited to see what next month holds!