Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Top Ten (OK Twelve) Books of 2017!!!

Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and you can find a full list of past and future topics here. This was a really daunting topic to me! How am I supposed to pick just 10 favourites?? But I did my best and these are 12 books that really stood out to me in 2017!

Dating Sarah Cooper
Dating Sarah Cooper
Possibly one of my new favourite books ever. I've already read it three times this year and I'm pretty sure I'll be reading it again and again in the future. It's short and sweet and so, so good. I also made Vera @ Regal Critiques read it and you can check out her review of it here

The Smoke Hunter
The Smoke Hunter
My first favourite book of the year. I received an ARC of this and my review is up here. Ann also then kindly got me a finished copy for my birthday so again this is a book I've already re-read! Think, Lara Croft meets Suffragettes with a swoony romance.

The Comfort of Secrets 
The Comfort of Secrets (Sweet Lake #2)
Ever since reading Sweet Lake (earlier this year as well), I've been a huge fan of Christine Nolfi's writing. This is the second book in that series and I loved it even more than the first. You can check out my reviews of both books here and here.

Daughter of the Burning City 
Daughter of the Burning City
This was on my TBR since it was first announced because anything to do with circuses or carnivals or anything remotely similar is right up my street! And this did not disappoint. My review of this is pretty gushy!

Crimson and Bone
Crimson and Bone
Marina Fiorato is possibly my favourite historical fiction writer and this is definitely my favourite of her books. It was dark and creepy and the characters and locations felt so real! Actually writing about it now makes me want to experience it again so badly! Again - review here!

Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
Devil in Spring (The Ravenels, #3)
Hands down my favourite romance writer, and this is my favourite of her books (to date - she keeps getting better). I love the tie-in to Devil in Winter which was my previous favourite of her books. And the characters were so lovable.

My Lady Jane
My Lady Jane (The Lady Janies, #1)
I'd heard mixed things so I was initially nervous but oh my god this was so funny! The characters were perfect, the fantasy was incredible and the humour and romance were so on point. I can't wait for the rest of the Jane books to come out!!

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Guide, #1)
Another of my most anticipated releases of 2017 that definitely didn't let me down! Monty was fantastic, Percy was the absolute sweetest and Felicity - I am so looking forward to her book!!

Under Rose-Tainted Skies
Under Rose-Tainted Skies
Probably the best depiction of anxiety and agoraphobia I have ever read. I have both so was worried this would be triggering but actually felt super comforted reading about somebody in a similar situation to me!

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
I took one of those "what book should you read next" quizzes and got this. Out of sheer curiosity I ordered it and ended up adoring it! I am crazy about the sisters and their home and the ending was one of the best I have ever read!

After the Fire
After the Fire
I met Will Hill at YALC after reading this book (and fangirled a little). He was super lovely. And his book is incredible! I read this as it was part of the Zoella Book Club and it was my favourite of the books in that set!

Tiny Pretty Things
Tiny Pretty Things (Tiny Pretty Things, #1)
I describe this as the most Slytherin book I have ever read. And as a Slytherin that is a pretty high compliment. It was twisted and ambitious. All of the characters were somewhat unlikable which only made me like them more. 

Monday, 11 December 2017

Monday Highlights #35

The idea is to just link your favourite blog post from the past week (for example a post you're very proud of or just had a lot of fun making) and then I, and hopefully others, can discover new blogs to follow and interact with and discover more posts from blogs we may already follow!  

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Sunday Post 10th December 2017

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted at Caffeinated Book Reviewer, it's a chance to post a recap on the past week, show the books we have received and share what we plan for the coming week. Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews and Reading Reality and the aim is to show our newest books and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops or downloaded on to their e-reader.

Last Week on the Blog:

Books We Got This Week:

Star Wars: AhsokaThe Glass Sentence (The Mapmakers Trilogy, #1)Unearthed (Unearthed, #1)
Star Wars Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston: This and The Glass Sentence were both sent to me by Vera @ Regal Critiques who is just the best! I've been wanting this book for a while. I love Star Wars but know next to nothing about Ahsoka (although she is apparently my Mum's favourite character) so I am excited to read this!
The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove: I've wanted this for so long and can't understand why I never bought it for myself but I have it now and I'm so pumped for it!! Its an absolutely stunning hardcover and it's compared to Philip Pullman so win win!
Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner: I was resigned to waiting for the January release date of this in the UK. But then Book Depository had it available in paperback from Australia and I've never ordered something so fast! It's only a month earlier than expected but it's exciting for me! 

Reading Update:

Keep Me Safe (Seal Island #1)EleganceThe DebutanteThe Perfume Collector
Keep Me Safe by Daniela Sacerdoti: 4.5 stars, Full review for this coming soon. This was emotional and heartwarming and made me believe so much. 
Elegance/The Debutante/The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro: 3 stars, See how lazy I'm getting? This isn't even a series and I'm reviewing them altogether. BUT I basically have the same thoughts about all three which was that they were elegant and surprising but not as absorbing as I wanted. The Perfume Collector was probably my favourite of the three.
High RisingIn the Name of Love (Florence Love #2)
High Rising by Angela Thirkell: 4 stars, This was charming and funny in a very old fashioned Nancy Mitford-esque way. I really enjoyed it and will probably read more of the series when I can.
In the Name of Love by Louise Lee: 4.5 stars, SO fun. Also gave me major wander-lust. I miss Italy and want to go back there soon so it was super satisfying to read about. Florence was such a wonderful character.

Next Week on the Blog:

  • Monday Highlights #35
  • Top Ten Books of 2017
  • Clare Reviews: The Dragons Legacy by Deborah A. Wolf
  • Clare Reviews: Keep Me Safe by Daniela Sacerdoti

Friday, 8 December 2017

Clare Reviews: The Irregular by H.B. Lyle

The Irregular: A Different Class of SpyTitle: The Irregular
Author: H.B. Lyle
Format: Hardback
Source: Received for an honest review
Pages: 277
Rating: 3/5
Blurb: London 1909: The British Empire seems invulnerable. But Captain Vernon Kell, head of counter-intelligence at the War Office, knows better. In Russia, revolution; in Germany, an arms race; in London, the streets are alive with foreign terrorists. Kell wants to set up a Secret Service, but to convince his political masters he needs proof of a threat - and to find that, he needs an agent he can trust. The playing fields of Eton may produce good officers, but not men who can work undercover in a munitions factory that appears to be leaking secrets to the Germans.
Kell needs Wiggins. Trained as a child by Kell's old friend Sherlock Holmes - he led a gang of urchin investigators known as the Baker Street Irregulars - Wiggins is an ex-soldier with an expert line in deduction and the cunning of a born street fighter. 'The best', says Holmes.
Wiggins turns down the job - he 'don't do official'. But when his best friend is killed by Russian anarchists, Wiggins sees that the role of secret agent could take him towards his sworn revenge.
Tracking the Russian gang, Wiggins meets a mysterious beauty called Bela, who saves his life. Working for Kell, he begins to unravel a conspiracy that reaches far beyond the munitions factory.

What Worked:

The concept of a Baker Street Boy all grown up was obviously a big draw for me! And I did really enjoy Wiggins' character for the most part. Holmes himself even makes a brief appearance which was interesting.
Bela was a side character I really enjoyed. I loved her whole story and background. She was interesting from the moment she first appeared and the more I learned about her, the more I loved her.
London. I was born in London and grew up there (though I now live in Sunny Devon) so I love when books properly represent London, the grittiness and the greatness. And that was definitely so here. London felt very well realised which was a joy to read.
The mysteries were compelling although at times didn't fully grab my attention. And yeah, mysteries. Which didn't super work for me.

What Didn't Work:
As I said there were two mysteries running alongside each other. Sometimes I love this. Here I did not. I kept getting the two mysteries confused (which may be my own stupidity) and would sometimes forget which one Wiggins was investigating at any one time. The problem was that the antagonists and the method of investigation were just too similar and it was easy for my mind to slip.
I didn't like the majority of the characters. Wiggins and Bela were good but I often found myself frustrated or bored with the rest of the characters. Kell especially wasn't my cup of tea (although his wife was pretty awesome actually).
The writing style bugged me a lot. The story often slipped into the past with no warning so it would sometimes take me a paragraph or two to realise that actually we were reading about child-Wiggins now. Part of this was due to the fact there was no break between current-Wiggins and past-Wiggins but part of it was because there wasn't much differentiation in character either. They thought and acted the same. 

Overall Thoughts:
This wasn't an outstanding read and I doubt I will be re-reading it but I may pick up future books in the series depending on their plot. I do think this is a book that deserves to be mentioned more and it shows promise for the future but it didn't quite work for me. 

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Clare Reviews: Close to Me by Amanda Reynolds

Close To MeTitle: Close to Me
Author: Amanda Reynolds
Format: Paperback
Source: Received for an honest review
Pages: 384
Rating: 4/5
Blurb: She can't remember the last year. Her husband wants to keep it that way.
When Jo Harding falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in hospital with partial amnesia-she's lost a whole year of memories. A lot can happen in a year. Was Jo having an affair? Lying to her family? Starting a new life?
She can't remember what she did-or what happened the night she fell. But she's beginning to realise she might not be as good a wife and mother as she thought.

There were aspects of Close to Me that I really liked. The memory loss plot-line is always a draw for me. I have memory loss and I thought Reynolds did it really well. The sense of frustration and helplessness at having to depend on other people's accounts or photographs to know what happened. Jo wasn't always my favourite character - I wanted her to be tougher - but she was at her most likable when she stood up to anyone trying to hide the past from her.

In Close to Me we have a host of truly unlikable side characters. Rob, of course, is the main one. There is a real sense of unease around him from the start - he seems so controlling, trying even to control the truth and as the book goes on I just hated him more and more. There are times when he seems like a nice enough person but then he'd do or say something that made me so mad!! (Feminism is GOOD, and people who complain about it are going right on my bad side). All the characters were fairly nuanced though. Thomas was sometimes on the right moral side and (more often) really, really not. He struck me as the sort of person who likes to say what's right and tell other people they're wrong but is actually a pretty mean guy. Sash and Fin were a bit bland if I'm honest. They didn't appear in the story much and never had much of an impact on the overall plot so I sometimes forgot they even existed.

The plot was... ok. Honestly I am the sort of thriller reader who wants to be surprised at least a few times during the book. And that just didn't happen here. So much of the truth can be inferred or guessed very early on. Jo's memory loss doesn't even pose much of an issue here because, aside from her slight instincts or remembrances, we also get alternating chapters set before she lost her memory. Whilst these don't reveal everything and often leave much open to interpretation, they do provide enough of a hint that you will have figured out the ending (or is that beginning?) by the halfway point. 

So this isn't the sort of thriller you read to be surprised. But if you want something a little quieter with some realistic grey characters then maybe give this a chance. I'll be keeping an eye out for whatever Amanda Reynolds may write next! 

Monday, 4 December 2017

Monday Highlights #34

The idea is to just link your favourite blog post from the past week (for example a post you're very proud of or just had a lot of fun making) and then I, and hopefully others, can discover new blogs to follow and interact with and discover more posts from blogs we may already follow! 

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Sunday Post 3rd December 2017

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted at Caffeinated Book Reviewer, it's a chance to post a recap on the past week, show the books we have received and share what we plan for the coming week. Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews and Reading Reality and the aim is to show our newest books and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops or downloaded on to their e-reader.

Last Week on the Blog: 

  • Monday Highlights #33
  • Top Ten Books On My Winter TBR
  • Top 5 Authors Whose Writing Talent I Want
  • Clare Reviews: The Mountain by Luca D'Andrea
  • Clare's November Wrap Up and December TBR

Books I Got This Week:

The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy, #1)Artemis
The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty: This is a 2018 book I am really looking forward to so I'm excited to have received it!!
Artemis by Andy Weir: I loved The Martian but was tentative about this. I'm glad it was in a subscription box because it means I never had to make the decision! Since receiving it I've heard some great things!

Reading Update:

Ask the PassengersPlease Ignore Vera DietzThe Irregular: A Different Class of SpyThe Dragon’s Legacy (The Dragon's Legacy, #1)
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King: 4.5 stars, This was every bit as great as people have told me it was! I mentioned it in my wrap up if you want to see more of my thoughts (this applies to all of these I think).
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King: 4 stars, Not quite as amazing as Ask the Passengers but still very enjoyable and emotional!
The Irregular by H.B. Lyle: 3 stars, Will have a full review up for this soon. It was a good mystery but not outstanding and I did have a few problems with it.
The Dragon's Legacy by Deborah A. Wolf: 4.5 stars, A really promising start to a fantasy series! I will have a review up for this soon as well! 

Next Week on the Blog:

  • Monday Highlights #34
  • Top Ten Bookish Settings I Would Love to Visit
  • Clare Reviews: Close to Me by Amanda Reynolds
  • Clare Reviews: The Irregular by H.B. Lyle

Friday, 1 December 2017

Clare's November Wrap Up and December TBR

November Wrap Up:

I had a really good reading month in November and managed to catch up on my Goodreads goal. I did have a few disappointing books but also a lot of books that blew me away so it balances out!
Nemesis (Nemesis #1)Windwitch (The Witchlands, #2)Bright Smoke, Cold Fire (Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, #1)Blackhearts (Blackhearts, #1)
23. Nemesis by Anna Banks: This is one of those books that just wasn't for me. The plot and the world-building felt lacklustre and I could not get behind the romance at all. 
22. Windwitch by Susan Dennard: I enjoyed this much less than the first book Truthwitch. It was more a filler book than anything falling victim to the second-book-curse. Hopefully the third book will get back on track.
21. Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge: I loved Hodge's first two novels so I was a bit surprised by how all over the place this felt. The plot and the world were never very clearly developed and the characters were either forgettable or unlikable.
20. Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman: Enjoyable. Not always historically accurate which bugged the history nerd in me but the story itself was good and the characters were very much in the grey so I would be intrigued enough to continue the story.
Florence Grace: The Richard & Judy bestselling authorHeartlessOur Own Private UniverseRinger (Replica, #2)
19. Florence Grace by Tracy Rees: This is the second of Rees's books published and the second I've read. I enjoyed Amy Snow a lot more. This was still atmospheric and the characters were great but I wasn't as connected with the plot.
18. Heartless by Marissa Meyer: Part of my reaction to this was knowing the ending before it started. Which I should have been prepared for. I love Alice in Wonderland so I knew exactly where this was headed. But it meant I never got attached to Jest or invested in the romance which so much of the story was built on.
17. Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley: A good contemporary with great characters. Another one where I preferred another of the author's books. I liked the depiction of being LGBTQ whilst in a very religious community but I think Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit was so great that I was constantly comparing the two!
16. Ringer by Lauren Oliver: A good sequel to Replica although not really needed I don't think. Replica worked well enough as a standalone that whilst reading this I constantly wished the story had just wrapped up nicely already. Still it was a good story. 
The Irregular: A Different Class of SpyThe Seafarer's KissThe Glittering Court (The Glittering Court, #1)The Empress (The Diabolic #2)
15. The Irregular by H.B. Lyle: I will have a full review of this up soon. I liked some aspects of it and disliked others which made it a hard review to write. Overall though it was a good spy novel.
14. The Seafarer's Kiss by Julia Ember: This was a slightly disappointing one for me in some ways. I didn't like the romance at all. However I loved the politics of the merpeople and I loved that Loki was given the correct pronouns and I loved the character development.
13. The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead: This was fun and mostly light-hearted. I don't think it needed to be a fantasy novel. It was so blatantly using the politics and religions of England and America that it would have made just as much sense without the fantasy added on and would have been better almost as a frontier novel.
12. The Empress by S.J. Kincaid: I love this series. This wasn't quite up to the standard of the first book (second-book-curse strikes again) but I'm so excited to see where the series is going and how this will all wrap up!!
Please Ignore Vera DietzClose To MeAsk the PassengersGenuine Fraud
11. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King: This was emotional and dark but with plenty of snarky with thrown in to make it a fast and enjoyable read. 
10. Close to Me by Amanda Reynolds: This was a good thriller although not as twisty as I would have liked. I will have a full review up for this very soon.
9. Ask the Passengers by A.S. King: This was as good as I've always been told it was. Loved the characters, adored the conversation about consent and discussions around labelling yourself/being labelled and how you choose to come out.
8. Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart: I really enjoyed this. It was very dark and very twisted and so much fun. The main character was deeply unlikable in the best possible way. 
Truthwitch (The Witchlands, #1)Replica (Replica, #1)Annie on My MindAs I Descended
7. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard: This was a fun start to the series. Loved Safi and Iseult and Aeduan. Like I mentioned, I didn't like the second book but this series still has so much promise and I am interested to see what happens next! 
6. Replica by Lauren Oliver: The format of this worked so, so well. I read it flipping from one side to the other every chapter and the chapters led really well into each other. 
5. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden: I can't believe I haven't read this book before now. It was really good although emotional and at times hard to read. I loved that it had a happy ending though.
4. As I Descended by Robin Talley: Macbeth but LGBT and diverse and it was a lot of fun. So dark and if you love retellings I definitely recommend it. I read this before Our Private Universe which dampened my enthusiasm for the latter a bit and I really hope Robin Talley writes another book like this soon because it was great!
The MountainBefore the Devil Breaks YouThe Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic (Grisha Verse, #0.5, #2.5, #2.6)
3. The Mountain by Luca D'Andrea: My review for this went up yesterday. I loved it. I desperately want to read more by D'Andrea. Check out my review to learn why. 
2. Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray: Libba Bray is just incredible. I need, need, need, to know how this all resolves and it kills me thinking of how long I'll have to wait for the next book!
1. The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo: SO beautiful. Honestly just, the illustrations were gorgeous, the stories were enchanting. I loved this so much. 

December TBR:

Keep Me SafeIn the Name of Love (Florence Love #2)Accidentally on Purpose (Heartbreaker Bay, #3)Chasing Christmas Eve (Heartbreaker Bay, #4)
I posted this week about the ten books on my winter TBR so I don't want to repeat myself. Instead these are the books I aim to read and review in December! I love December, it's my favourite month of the year and I'm so excited for all the books I'll read.