Saturday, 3 October 2015

After You

After You is the sequel to Me Before You and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book.

Lou made a promise to Will, a promise to live. Yet after a couple of years’ travelling, she’s living in a barely furnished flat and working in an airport bar, watching the world around her move on. It’s not the life Will imagined for her. Then a teenage girl walks into her life, with something to tell her. She gives Lou a new found responsibility. Or perhaps just another excuse not to grab a new life with both hands…

Perhaps all freedom - physical, personal - only came at the cost of somebody or something else.

Unlike the thousands that begged for a sequel, I was content (happy is not the right word to use) with Lou and Will’s story ending. I was a bit sceptical when I heard about After You but of course I had to read it. I don’t think anything can quite capture the magic and raw emotion of Me Before You, but I did enjoy revisiting the characters.

The plot is a bit meandering but it follows Lou a few years on when people are starting to think she should be moving on. It looks at ongoing grief from different angles, from Will’s family to those she meets in her grief counselling group. It’s not about the immediate, strong emotions, but living with a loss, that will never completely leave you, long term. It only slightly touches on the impact of being involved with an assisted suicide.

There was a peculiar scent to grief. It smelt of damp, imperfectly ventilated church halls and poor-quality teabags. It smelt of meals for one and stale cigarettes, smoked hunched against the cold. It smelt of spritzed hair and armpits, little practical victories against a morass of despair.

The introduction of Lily was useful to allow Lou to revisit her memories, put her back in touch with Will’s family and also learn a little more about him. Despite being told to live by Will, Lou is still struggling to live her life to the full. Her fear of change is keeping her in a dead end job, anxiety keeping her in something that pays the bills at least, rather than venturing out into the unknown. Lou’s a fantastic character that I think many readers can relate to.

There were unexpected moments when I was reading and would just tear up over little things. It makes you wonder if you can grieve for fictional characters. There’s plenty of evidence which suggests we temporarily experience genuine emotions as we feel what characters feel, at least in a good book. So many of us were broken by the ending of Me Before You after all.

My name would be tied to his for as long as there were pixels and a screen. People would form judgements about me, based on the most cursory knowledge - or sometimes no knowledge at all - and there was nothing I could do about it.

Lou’s mum’s discovery of feminism didn’t seem connected to the rest of the story and appeared to be more for comic effect than to make a valid point. She has been living in a traditional wife and mother role all her life; how do you deal with a husband you love that just can’t accept the change? Mr Clark gets the raw deal out of his portrayal and I think it’s a subject that deserved something more than just being an aside.

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Also reviewed @ Random Things Through My Letterbox | So many books, so little time

Book Source: Purchased

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Month That Was... September 2015

+ International Giveaway

I survived camping in Cornwall! Not only was my data signal a bit rubbish in the campsite but the USB car charger blew a fuse and we really had to ration phone useage. Which turned out to be really quite pleasant. It's nice to get away from it all now and then. I also had a camera battery failure, so didn't take many proper photos, but here's a few taken around St. Agnes where we stayed. You can also view more of my photos on Instagram.

I never read as much as I imagine I will on holiday, but I got through a reasonable 9 books last month, and a few of them were long 'uns. Whilst there were plenty of enjoyable reads, nothing was particularly stellar and there were a couple of disappointments. I did enjoy the sequel to Me Before You, although my review hasn't made it onto the blog yet.

The winner of last month's giveaway still hasn't come forward. If your name is Heather and you entered last month, check your spam or get in touch so I can send you your prize (obviously I'll need to verify your email address). If you fancy winning one of the books pictured below, keep on scrolling to enter via Rafflecopter. You don't need to do the additional entries, but it really helps in tracking you down if you don't get my email...

I'll be attending GollanczFest in October, so let me know if you're going. As it's the same weekend as Dewey's Readathon, this will be the first time in ages I won't be taking part but I hope to squish in a bit of unofficial cheerleading. It's also the Isle of Wight lit fest that weekend (I know!) but I doubt I'll make it to anything on the island.

Here's what made it onto the blog...

Book of the Month:
Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas


Wednesday, 30 September 2015


School was a scary enough place to be stranded during the Christmas holidays without some starey-eyed imp like Regan banging on about man-eaters and things that go rawr in the woods.

Nash’s brother is missing in the depths of Columbia. With her parents away that means she’s left at Bathory School for Girls over the Christmas holidays. She’s worried about her brother but she doesn’t mind school so much, she’s eagerly awaiting the announcement that she’ll be made the next Head Girl. Yet the nearby town is alive with rumours of an attack. The Beast of Bathory has killed once more! Is this just wild imagination, or is there something out there on the moors, waiting to pick them off one by one?

I love a good boarding school setting and the addition of a Beast of Dartmoor style myth made Monster sound right up my street. Out of all of Britain’s myths, the one I’m mostly likely to believe is that there’s big cats living wild on some of our moors. I found it an easy and perfectly enjoyable read but it just didn’t excel at anything.

It was a little lacking in tension and wasn’t particularly scary. It takes a long time to get going, setting up the reason for Nash being left at school over Christmas and introducing the cast. Yet this time isn’t really spent building up suspicion. I felt her brother’s disappearance should have had more relevance. It was quite built up to be just used as the reason for her being there.

The place is fundamentally flawed. Why else would we be allowed up on this very old, probably very unsafe roof, to scrub tiles? No one gives a crap about Health and Safety here do they? No one gives a crap about us.

Throughout the text different characters are described as being monsters, showing there are different ways to be one. People can be worse than any beast lurking in the darkness. However this wasn’t really expanded upon. Nash has these moments where her rage overtakes her but there’s just no follow-up. I’m not sure if the ending was leading up to a sequel but I very much wanted it to be a standalone, with all the threads considered, if not tied up.

I liked the Devon setting. Bathory is a fictional place but it is clearly modelled on the type of small tourist town on the edges of Dartmoor. There’s not a lot to do out of season and they thrive on the legends of the area. I’m not entirely sure Nash’s date was required for the plot but I actually really enjoyed reading about the town.

Monster is published by MIRA Ink and is available now in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Also reviewed @ Cosying Up With Books | A Dream of Books

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England

An Englishman had the right to marry a courtesan, calamitously impersonate petty officials, vomit at table, indulge as much solitary vice as he pleased, and spend as much cash as he liked.

Think lunatic asylum and the words will instantly conjure up an image of a Victorian institution with mad-doctors and deranged patients in straight-jackets. This book, pieced together from correspondence and court reports of the time, tells the story of how the asylums got their image today. Mad-doctors indeed, this was just what Victorians called doctors who dealt with the mentally ill; they were also referred to as alienists. Neither term elicits confidence of the profession from a modern mind-set.

I found the subject matter fascinating however it did get a little repetitive. Each chapter deals with a case study, most of which share some similarities, and the writing is quite dense. Yet the historical detail, and unwillingness of Sarah Wise to embroider the truth with modern sensibilities, drives home that fact is stranger than fiction. Some of these plots would be laughed at in a modern day novel, yet these cases did actually happen.

It does dispel the myth that Victorian women were more likely to be locked away than men. Figures are actually quite even between the sexes. One of the cases does highlight how the female plight was given more coverage in the press, with one victim making the most of her publicity skills to further the feminist cause. Fiction writers found a female lunatic was much more popular with their readers than a man wrongly confined. Yes, hysteria was coined to refer to “excitable” women but men were at greater risk of being locked away for their money.

The reoccurring theme from both the male and female cases was the fact that the family were after something and the easiest way to get it was to declare their relative insane. There was huge injustice in these cases, where wrongful incarceration was charged to the victims’ accounts. The law just wasn’t on the accused side. Whilst there is a huge list of things that you could be declared insane for doing, it seemed they were usually just an excuse.

It was morally right, argued Conolly, that society be helped to become more pleasant and more decent by the removal of its upsetting and disgusting elements and those who did not know right from wrong.

There was one case that stood out as different to me, the case where a mother was trying to free her daughters from what I can only call a cult. The lunacy laws were her only tool and I felt sympathy for her. They might have had the right to believe in whatever religious nonsense they liked but there was a distinct whiff of brainwashing to it. It's probably still a grey-area in law, when does something go from harmless to needing state intervention?

The cases are in roughly chronological order and they do show how public and legal attitudes shifted over the years. There’s also a few places which refer to them literature of the time, most prominently Jane Eyre and The Woman in White and Charles Dickens crops up repeatedly in his role as journalist, publisher and friend to many of the men involved. It seems Victorian society was a small world indeed.

Some of it is uncomfortable reading. It it wasn't bad enough to have your liberty taken away, many also had their dignity removed. Whilst some mad-doctors believed a nice, calming stay in the country away from family would help matters, many also believed in restraint and punishment. I would recommend this as research for anyone using a Victorian asylum in their writing, although I think reading it in one go for entertainment isn't such a good idea.

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Book Source: Purchased

Sunday, 27 September 2015


September has seen the start of 2016 releases trickling in. I guess for a lot of publishers the pre-Christmas period is all biographies and cookbooks, so the next batch of fiction will be the new year. Gives us time to take a breather at least!

You may be surprised to hear I've bought, read and reviewed some of these in the space of a few weeks. Links to my reviews of Queen of Shadows, Asking For It and Everything, Everything below. I'll be starting After You after I post this, but let me know if I should bump any of the others up the TBR.

For review:

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard (Tor)
Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (Bloomsbury)
When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow by Dan Rhodes (Aadvark Bureau)
Cloud 9 by Alex Campbell (Hot Key Books)
When I Was Me by Hilary Freeman (Hot Key Books)
The Drowning Lesson by Jane Shemilt (Penguin)*
Black Mass by Dick Lehr + Gerard O'Neill (Canongate)*


The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
After You by Jojo Moyes
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Asking For It by Louise O'Neill

*Unsolicited titles

Thursday, 24 September 2015

The Copper Promise

Wydrin of Crosshaven, a.k.a. The Copper Cat, and her companion Sir Sebastian, formerly of the Knights of Isu, have a job to do. They have been hired by the withered Lord Frith to go exploring the caverns beneath the Citadel; a dangerous job but he promises good coin. Little do they know what they could awaken down there, nor what Lord Frith is really after.

The word 'nightmare' occurred to the Thirty Third although she wasn't entirely sure what it meant.

Originally published as four novellas, The Copper Promise retains an episodic feel. There is an overall story arc but each stage of their adventure feels slightly partitioned. It's a good, fun read, even with the pacing niggles. There are dragons, near-death experiences, lost magic and plots aplenty.

It’s more about the adventures than character development. There are little glimpses into the inner turmoil beyond their facades, but they could have been fleshed out so much more. I hesitate to call it a romance, but when someone announces they feel a certain way about another, you would have hoped to have some sort of build-up. Instead, there's just not-so-subtle comments about their appearance. Maybe adventurers just have repressed emotions that they find difficult to share.

The written word is powerful precisely because anyone can use it. We learn the words and find great meaning in them, even if we lack the raw power of the mages to work spells.

Having said that I loved the brood army and their slow transition from killing machines to individuals. I would have read a whole book from their perspective. There are some lovely little observations about words in their chapters, a few of which are echoed in Frith’s. Words are powerful things, they give us identity and power, if chosen wisely.

I did like the characters by the end, it was small things that endeared them to me but also their loyalty and friendship, despite them not showing it emotionally. Their actions speak louder than their words.

The Copper Promise is published by Headline and is available now in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Also reviewed @ A Fantastical Librarian

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Top Ten: Autumn TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Autumn's great for cosying up with familiar characters and the odd spooky book as we approach Halloween. It's also that time of year where I start to look over my TBR and lists of books I should read this year... Yeah, not so much progress made there! Let me know if you've read any of these.

After You by Jojo Moyes

I'm a little wary of a sequel, but early murmurings are sounding positive and how could I not? Me Before You ripped my heart out, I want to know she's doing OK. Plus I have loved all of Jojo's books I've read so far.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

I bought a lovely special edition so I should really read it rather than just look at it right?

The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett

So many people rushed to read this but that just means it's all over sooner. *sniff* I do still have Raising Steam left to read from Discworld but I'm looking forward to visiting Tiffany again first. I got a fancy, sparkly edition, which means I have to have an opportunity to read it without ruining it.

The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward

Just seems like a fun read. As the nights draw in we need some fun.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

I nominated this for book group so that I would definitely read it and then it ended up being chosen the month I was in America. It's another book I bought a special edition of, think this is becoming a theme...

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

My lovely boyfriend bought me this when I needed cheering up months ago. I imagine reading it will make the gift more worthwhile. Oh yeah, I think it's a special edition too...

A Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire

Not that I have guilty pleasures as there's no guilt here, but October Daye is one of the few urban fantasy series I have kept up with. Every now and then I feel like trying to get back into some others. Maybe 2016 will be the year of series.

Chimera by Mira Grant

Symbiont wasn't quite as good as Parasite but I really like Seanan's characters and narrative voice so I find her books kind of comfort reads even if the subject matter isn't rosy.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

I think this will be my Halloween read for this year.

Monster by by C.J. Skuse

It sounds like a good book for Halloween but is set over Christmas. It's out this month though, so I'll allow the C-word to sneak in early.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Queen of Shadows

Queen of Shadows in the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

It was ancient, and cruel, and paced in the shadows leashing his mind. It was not of this world, and had been brought here to fill him with its primordial cold.

I don’t think this series needs much introduction. If you’ve not read Throne of Glass yet, go and get yourself a copy now. I think it has been the driving force in more and more accessible epic fantasy for those who are wary of grimdark. Since its initial arrival on the scene, we’ve seen more and more otherworld fantasy with lead female characters who are more than just queens and daughters and victims.

Aelin, formerly Celaena Sardothien, has come a long way since we first met her in the mines of Endovier. She has unleashed her magic in the lands beyond the King’s reach but must return to Rifthold where magic is still trapped. There is one man who claims to know how to free it, the downside that it is Chaol, once her love but an irreparable chasm now exists between them. If he thinks her a monster without her powers, what could she be capable of with them?

I liked the darker side of this instalment. Previously left with a cliffhanger ending, we know that Dorian is suffering a fate worth than death, trapped in his own body. The Valg are a sinister enemy, and those who invite them into their hosts are despicable. Not to mention some of the horrors that occur in the depths of Morath.

I managed to read Heir of Fire without quite grasping that the Ironteeth witches are the enemy. I was so caught up in Manon and Abraxos’ personal story arc, I never placed them in the world as a whole. So the witches are working for Duke Perrington, who is up to some dark and evil plans with the Valg. Manon is only following orders but she is starting to question some of the things they do. Manon is such a strong and complex character, I hope she plays a big part in the future to come.

I wasn’t so keen on the romance aspect this time. The storyline has rather burnt bridges with Chaol, which is disappointing but I accept that characters don’t always end up with the ones we want them to. Given their hostility to each other, romantic reconciliation will be a bit of a stretch. There was an excessive amount of territorial posturing from Rowan and Aedion, which bored me a little. Aelin doesn’t need possessive men to look after her and it made her seem like an object to be fought over.

There’s no cliffhanger this time. It felt like a conclusion of sorts, but there’s plenty left to explore in this world, and certainly more challenges to come.

Queen of Shadows is published by Bloomsbury and is available now in paperback and ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Also reviewed @ Tea in the Treetops

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.