I am a huge lover of autumn. I’m a sucker for a cosy knit, cinnamon, soups, and falling leaves. My favourite colour is also mustard yellow (and green), so autumn just speaks to my soul. So when four of my favourite instagrammers, three of whom are also my favourite YouTubers (one isn’t on there, otherwise I bet they’d be a favourite too), announced that they were doing an autumnal themed readathon…I was in!
These are the books that I read and chat about in my vlog:
Hex Appeal – Kate Johnson*
The Girls Who Disappeared- Claire Douglas*
Her Majesty’s Royal Coven – Juno Dawson
All the White Spaces – Ally Wilkes
Powers of Darkness – Valdimar Ásmundsson
If you have seen any of my previous vlogs, you may notice that these were not the five books that I’d planned to read. I swapped two and I regret nothing!
I love a themed readathon and finishing these books left me feeling very accomplished. However, next time I will try to avoid picking multiple 400 page books because I was concerned that I may not get them all finished.
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.
If you look hard enough at old photographs, we’re there in the background: healers in the trenches; Suffragettes; Bletchley Park oracles; land girls and resistance fighters. Why is it we help in times of crisis? We have a gift. We are stronger than Mundanes, plain and simple.
At the dawn of their adolescence, on the eve of the summer solstice, four young girls–Helena, Leonie, Niamh and Elle–took the oath to join Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, established by Queen Elizabeth I as a covert government department. Now, decades later, the witch community is still reeling from a civil war and Helena is now the reigning High Priestess of the organization. Yet Helena is the only one of her friend group still enmeshed in the stale bureaucracy of HMRC. Elle is trying to pretend she’s a normal housewife, and Niamh has become a country vet, using her powers to heal sick animals. In what Helena perceives as the deepest betrayal, Leonie has defected to start her own more inclusive and intersectional coven, Diaspora. And now Helena has a bigger problem. A young warlock of extraordinary capabilities has been captured by authorities and seems to threaten the very existence of HMRC. With conflicting beliefs over the best course of action, the four friends must decide where their loyalties lie: with preserving tradition, or doing what is right.
This was ok. I must admit that this book was a little different to what I was expecting. I was looking forward to a story about a group of school friends being reunited and finding that their friendship is different now. I kind of got that. However, this book was mainly about a prophesied child witch and witchy politics. So, while it was still an enjoyable enough read, it wasn’t what I was expecting.
I kept forgetting there were four adult women characters. Helena felt distinct from the other main characters because she was a big old TERF and a Tory. But Niamh, Elle, and Leonie felt interchangeable and I kept getting confused about which one was which.
I hated the amount of POV given to Helena. I would have understood if this intended to humanise or to explain why she felt the way that she did but it didn’t. She was a pantomime villain of a character so it was already clear that she was an awful person. The sections devoted to her character just reinforced it and didn’t really add anything.
I cannot understand why a group of friends wouldn’t tell their friend that their partner was cheating on them. That’s definitely breaking a rule of friendship.
This was my first of Juno Dawson’s books and I believe this was her first piece of adult fiction. This didn’t feel like adult fiction though, it felt like YA. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I enjoy reading YA. I just was looking forward to some adult fiction. The book focused perhaps 1/3 of the plot on the group of kids which I wasn’t expecting and honestly I didn’t feel like reading a book about teenage witches. I wanted a story about adult witches and all the drama that comes with childhood friendships all grown up. I didn’t enjoy the teenage dramas and found all of the youths (bar Theo) to just be so whiny. Snow was especially annoying. Her last appearance in the book was just ridiculous. She’s old enough to understand what happened.
The last chapter is the reason that I bumped this book up from a 2.5 to a 3. The last chapter was amazing and I’m so disappointed that the rest of the book wasn’t just like that.
This was the first book in a trilogy and I don’t think I’ll read the next two books but I will look at the spoiler reviews because I have a theory. I just don’t really want to continue with the series but I may check out some of Juno Dawson’s YA books.
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.
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!
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!
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.
In the burgeoning industrial city of Glasgow in 1817 Jean Campbell – a young, Deaf woman – is witnessed throwing a child into the River Clyde from the Old Bridge.
No evidence is yielded from the river. Unable to communicate with their silent prisoner, the authorities move Jean to the decaying Edinburgh Tolbooth in order to prise the story from her. The High Court calls in Robert Kinniburgh, a talented teacher from the Deaf & Dumb Institution, in the hope that he will interpret for them and determine if Jean is fit for trial. If found guilty she faces one of two fates; death by hanging or incarceration in an insane asylum.
Through a process of trial and error, Robert and Jean manage to find a rudimentary way of communicating with each other. As Robert gains her trust, Jean confides in him, and Robert begins to uncover the truth, moving uneasily from interpreter to investigator, determined to clear her name before it is too late.
Based on a landmark case in Scottish legal history Hear No Evil is a richly atmospheric exploration of nineteenth-century Edinburgh and Glasgow at a time when progress was only on the horizon. A time that for some who were silenced could mean paying the greatest price.
This was a work of historical fiction based on a real case. After reading this book, I wanted to find out more about Jean but there really wasn’t a lot to find. So I really liked that the author had sort of given Jean their story even though I knew that only the bare bones of the story were true.
I found Jean to be such a brave character. She was a poor woman in the early 19th century who had fallen in love with a catholic man. One of these factors alone would have been enough to have made her life more difficult but she was also deaf and didn’t communicate verbally. So her life was extremely tough. Even when facing the gallows or the asylum, her bravery remained.
I felt so sympathetic towards Jean. She needed to tell her story of what happened but was scared but also struggling to get the words across.
Robert was as kind and patient a character as could be expected based on the time period. He was extremely prejudiced against Jean (who lived with a man she wasn’t married to), while I knew that was of the time, it annoyed me as I wanted more from Robert. I liked that he was very passionate about teaching people sign language and spent a lot of time explaining that deafness did not impact intelligence.
hen my sister lost her hearing, I saw how difficult it could be for her to communicate at times. How frustrated she would get. So this book really did break my wee heart.
Some of the parts of this book that annoyed me were more a credit to the author for conveying the attitudes of the time towards women and poor people. It was so infuriating to feel like the baddie could get away with it just because of their position in life.
I felt that this book really embodied the atmosphere of the early 19th century. The poverty, the misery, the acceptance that things may never get better. This was a very somewhat depressing book but I really did enjoy it.
In a dead-beat coastal town in North East Scotland, seventeen-year-old Malky Campbell is desperate to help his pregnant and heroin addicted girlfriend.
DI Stark, a middle-aged detective, alarmed by the rise of teenage crime in Port Cawdor, uncovers the operations of a county line gang that are flooding the area with drugs and engaging in a vicious turf war with a local family.
Malky has just started working on his family’s trawler with his cousin Johnny, when their boat pulls up Johnny’s brother in its nets. The rest of the crew, the tightly-knit community and the police start to suspect that the cousins are responsible for his death.
With his brother dead, Johnny inherits the family trawler, which he plans to use to smuggle drugs into the country for the county line gang, giving him enough money to start a new life.
What’s that? I’m back again chatting about reading some enjoyable Scottish fiction. You know it! I was lucky enough to receive a wee copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, seeing as I had this book in my Waterstones wish list, I couldn’t resist!
There were two main reasons that I wanted to read this book: 1. it was set in a wee fishing village in the North East of Scotland and I live in the North East of Scotland. I was excited to read something set nearish to Aberdeen. 2. This book was long listed for the McIlvanney award (this is almost a guarantee to me of a good time).
I enjoyed this immensely! I would, however, like to point out that Aberdeen has been plagued by some pretty heavy haar since I started reading this book…coincidence? This very much enhanced the ominous vibes of the book.
The majority of this book took place during the summer break. Malky had finished high school and was trying to just work out what he was going to do. He seemed torn between his family expectations and jealousy of his peers who were heading to uni. He was lost and not sure where to go or what to do.
I really felt sorry for Malky who was just a wee guy that had been drawn into a whole bunch of trouble with no way out. He looked up to his cousins who were involved in some illegal antics and his mum just wanted the best for him. A future different to theirs.
I really liked the inspector who was struggling to find the right balance between being an inspector and being a father. He felt a bit mischievous in the way that he went sleuthing, he seemed like a nice guy. I really enjoyed the way that the lives of the characters were interwoven.
This book switched narratives between Malky (and the boat and illegal antics) and DI Stark (the person trying to stop the illegal antics). I really enjoy a multi POV tale. The writing style really brought home the sort of hopelessness of the characters who lived in a place that had basically lost their industry.
I loved that the reveal of what had happened came so early. Here I was, with my suspicions, then around 50% I got the reveal. At that point, it all went wild! The pacing that had been nice and gentle suddenly amped up and I was hooked!
I did have to get my map out for some of the travelling parts because I lost my bearings. I enjoyed witnessing bad decision after bad decision being made. The non-police characters just felt tragic with no choices left to them but the wrong choices.
This was not an uplifting or joyful read by any means but I knew that before going in and I did appreciate the ambiguous ending. I’m very grateful for my copy of the book and am excited to add it to my Scottish fiction bookcase! The haar can go away now, I’ve finished the book and no longer need the creepy on theme weather.
August’s Reading Scottish Wrap Up is my round up of all the Scottish literature read this month and this month feels a little less successful when compared to previous months. I feel this way as I read fewer books this month overall.
With my Scottish books, I had two books that were also one book which was confusing. Two different stories but in one physical book that you had to flip upside down to read the other story. So I count this as one but could it be two? Goodreads thought so but I disagreed. I also had a DNF which feels a little bit like a fail. However, I still found some excellent reads and it really is a good thing to put down a book that isn’t working.
Books included in this week’s vlog are:
Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan
Xstabeth/The Towers, The Fields, The Transmitters- David Keenan