Baking Time – Double Chocolate Surprise Muffins.

One thing about me that I feel like I haven’t mentioned enough, or at all, it that I love to bake. I have recently been branching out thanks to the Candice Brown Comfort cookbook I received from Christmas. I just want to bake everything in it; I’ve already made a Spanish flavoured savoury tart, Millionaires Shortbread Hearts, Biscotti and a few others.

One thing I’ve never done however, is bake without a recipe. I live by the book while baking aside from a few ingredients changes, but I’ve made buns a million times before, it’s something I grew up doing with my family. So for this basic sponge I didn’t even need to be told what to do, thankfully it all turned out okay. Pretty deliciously okay in fact.

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So what did I do? I knew I wanted to make something chocolatey – I had a craving. So I started with a basic Victoria Sponge mixture. I weighed 3 eggs and added sugar, butter, and self-raising flour to the same value as the eggs. This was something I’d seen my mum do.

Once mixed well together (which took forever because I don’t have an electric mixer, only my poor tired arms), I added a teaspoon of vanilla, two tablespoons of cocoa powder and a tablespoon of milk. I wouldn’t normally include milk but the mixture seemed a little stiff so it was mainly to loosen it.

I then added even more chocolate in the form of half a bar of roughly chopped 70% cocoa dark chocolate that I had got for Christmas. I’m not a big fan of that sort of chocolate alone, but in cakes it’s perfect.

Baking

I scooped 1 tablespoon of mixture into each of the 12 bun cases, because I’d had an idea to take these from basic to a little more exciting. I added a dollop of seedless raspberry jam that I had in the fridge and layered more cake mixture on top to hide it. I have a weakness for chocolate raspberry things, I also add them to the top of my brownies.

They went in at 200 for 20 minutes.

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Of course I had to taste test. And they are lovely, for my first time winging it without a real recipe I’m pretty proud, the raspberry manages to balance that sharpness of the dark chocolate without overpowering or compromising the sponge. I’m not sure they’ll be any left for my flatmates…

This has been a bit of a change from my regular book posts but I do love baking. So while I go enjoy another muffin, I hope you guys enjoyed reading about how I made them :P.
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Love Stephanie.

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Starting The Top Ten Tuesday

I’ve been wanting to get more active on my blog, and within the book reviewing community, one way I thought to do it was get in on a blog meme! So I researched and this one certainly sounds like a fun way to start.
(created by The Broke and the Bookish, continued on by That Artsy Reader Girl)

Books That Have Been On My TBR the Longest and I Still Haven’t Read

Want to read

There. Are. So. Many.

  1. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini – It’s basically classed as a classic by now, I’ve seen so many people say it was apart of their childhood. Just not mine. This series blew past me and it’s been on my Goodreads TBR since I first opened an account. I love dragons and have a feeling I’m missing out. I just haven’t made it to picking it up yet. Will I ever? Who knows.
  2. The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead – I have actually read every other book in this series after getting hooked on the Vampire Academy. I waited for every Bloodlines book to be released with such patience. Maybe my patience just ran out after 5 books and I didn’t rush to get the final one. I’d probably have to do a full series reread before I read this one because I honestly only remember the main plot line. That just seems like a lot of effort when I could be reading new exciting books.
  3.  The Archived by V. E. Schwab – *gasp* I LOVE her books. She is my favourite author and I had this book shelved before I even knew who she was (it’s fate I tell you). Yet even knowing who wrote this series, I still haven’t read them. I want to, these are ones I know I will pick up, but I don’t know when.
  4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – I love sci-fi, yet I’ve never read any classic, beloved novels from the genre. I have this all ready to go on my kindle, I just haven’t. I feel like I would have to seriously been in the mood to read this book and I haven’t yet. Fingers crossed I get there.
  5. Any Virginia Woolf – The people I know love her novels, some just love her. I’ve always felt the need to read at least one of her books, it’s just choosing which one. (Any suggestions?)
  6. The Handmaid’s Tail by Margaret Atwood – The only reason I haven’t read this yet is because I don’t own it. That is easily rectifiable, however other novels always seem to jump ahead.
  7. Grimm’s Fairy Tales – I own a beautiful copy and I’ve read about… 3 of the stories in there. I am ashamed to call myself a fairy tale lover.
  8. Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales – This is a trend.
  9. One Thousand and One Nights – A terrible, terrible trend. Especially when they are this beautiful…
    fairytales
  10. The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman – This is another case of, I read the others but just haven’t got around to picking up the next in the series. I’m starting to realise that I love series but am often terrible at continuing them when I don’t already own them. Unless I’ve been highly anticipating them for ages (Crooked Kingdom, Winter – I could go on).

So these are mine, and now I’ve realised maybe I should move these books up the TBR list and get it over with. What are yours? Do you have any better reasons than my stupid ones for not reading these books?

A Book with Potential – The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

“Once there was a girl who was drawn to wicked things.
Things like forbidden, ancient stories.
It didn’t matter that the old stories killed her mother. It didn’t matter that they’d killed many before her. The girl let the old stories in. She let them in eat away at her heart and turn her wicked.”

TLN

When Asha was a child she told the old forbidden stories to the First Dragon, until he turned on her, burnt her kingdom down and left her scarred for life. Determined to redeem herself in the eyes of her father and her people, Asha has become the Iskari, the fearsome dragon hunter. Yet even though she is one of the most feared people in Firgaard, Asha is still bound in chains, promised to the cruel commandant Jarek who saved her from the dragon’s flame.
There is only one way to free herself and seek revenge, bring back the head of the First Dragon for her father. But something is stopping her at every turn, and with the life of a mysterious slave on the line she must decide what matters the most – her revenge or saving a life. The truth of the world she thought she knew is about to shatter, and Asha must decide if she is ready to let the truth in.

Spoilers below

Sometimes you just need to read a book with dragons in. It doesn’t matter what book it is, as long as it has dragons I’m willing to give it ago. It is one of my many book weaknesses. The Last Namsara is a new release that I hadn’t actually heard about on the internet, I found it in my local Waterstones and quickly added it to my Goodreads (thank goodness for Goodreads because otherwise I’d forget all the amazing books I’m planning to read). They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but with this one the beautiful hardback drew me to it instantly – although I did buy it on Kindle in the end.

A part of me thinks that I am slowly growing out of the YA fantasy genre, this book was good, but not awe-inspiring. The plot was almost one we had seem a million times before; tyrant king, suppressed people, rebellion, forbidden love! It fills out all the criteria for a YA fantasy novel. Yet I’m still willing to read any sequels that come along because the world built behind the generic plot was incredibly interesting and well thought out. The fact that stories are a power, that they are what fuel a dragons fire, is such an unusual concept; it could be used and twisted in so many different ways because that is the power of storytelling. Anything can happen.

One of the best things about this book was the way Ciccarelli told the stories. Some of the old forbidden stories were weaved between chapters, and slowly revealed more about this world and it’s history. I particularly like the idea of the old stories being events that actually shaped their world, rather than legends or folklore, it adds a depth I liked. The random placements of the stories worked well for me because it broke up the plot a little; when things were moving too fast the stories slowed it down, where backstory was missing, the stories filled us in on what came before. I also really liked Ciccarelli’s writing style within these little excerpts, she made them sound like fairy tales, secret fairy tales that we weren’t supposed to know.

In comparison the characters were… okay. Asha was a good character to follow, as the conflict within her was very clear. She was harsh, determined, pretty badass and incredibly loyal to those who had earned it. Although she sometimes felt like a background character in her own story. Her brother was plotting a rebellion without including her until the very end, the villains used her like a pawn (or like a tennis ball, whacking her back and forth for their own amusement) but she wasn’t overly involved with them either. Even her love interest seemed to have other things simmering on the back burner that he didn’t really need to include her in. Asha also seemed to do what the Old One asked far too quickly, though she knew there would be consequences to not obeying Him she didn’t put up too much of fight. To me, she should have done if He was her supposed ‘enemy’ at the beginning of this novel, or she needed a more valid reason to follow what He required of her. Maybe it was her true calling and nature shining through, maybe I’m being too critical and it was the speed at which I read book that made the plot seem far too fast in certain places (yes I’m also talking about the romance, maybe I’m just used to love that grows over the series these days rather than within one book; I love some slow-burn romance).

Characters that did really interest me however, were Dax and Roa and their shaky alliance. I hope that in the next book we are given more focus on these two characters and their motivations. Why did Dax go to the people who imprisoned him to help with a rebellion? What pushed him to want to overthrow his father in the first place? Why is Roa the one her people chose to link to the new king, and why did she agree? I do have more questions but hopefully you get the gist. Also Torwin! It is briefly mentioned how he learnt all his skills, but it still felt like we could have been given more; I was expecting him to turn out to be a spy because of how involved he suddenly was with Dax and the Scrublanders. Alas I was wrong, but he was still an interesting, honest character who I’d love to see more development from throughout the series.

Something else that I would love to have more focus on – the dragons! They were some of the more interesting dragons I have read, with their story hoarding, their loyalty to the Old One, and the way they link with their riders. But they were simply tools used in the characters many escapes. I just wanted more focus on the dragons. I love dragons, and these had an intriguing background story to be told.

Whereas the love story got a lot of the “screen time” within the novel. Thankfully even though the characters seemed to fall for each other pretty quick, in the end I felt there was an equal relationship between the two main characters. If not in the world itself, at least between each other, which was a massive growing point for Asha’s character.

This book was a interesting, fast-paced, well-written YA fantasy that is probably one of the better ones I have read recently. But if this book/series is to make a large splash within this overly populated market, it’s going to need to do something truly spectacular in the next book.

We Are Not Superheroes – Vicious by V. E. Schwab

“The absence of pain led to an absence of fear, and the absence of fear led to a disregard for consequence.”

Vicious

Victor Vale is good at pain, he can take it or he can give it, because he’s an EO; an ExtraOrdinary human. When his college roommate and best friend Eli believes he’s uncovered what it takes to make a superhuman, their friendship begins to crack when they decide to test out his theory and turn themselves into EOs.
After 10 years in prison Victor is finally free, and there is only one thing he’s wants to do. Kill Eli. But Eli has a mission of his own, to wipe out every other EO from the world and rid humanity of their stain. Yet Victor is on his tail, determined to use whatever resource he can find to help him bring down Eli “The Hero” Ever, even if that includes 12-year-old EO Sydney Clarke. Superpowers do not necessarily make you a superhero. Sometimes there are only villains.

Spoilers below

Sometimes I’ve found while reading (and while writing) that when the plot is so full of twists and turns, when it’s so detailed and complex, the characters sometimes lose out on development; it’s the same the other way round too. It’s no secret that I love a good V. E. Schwab book; her writing is masterful. The thing I love about Schwab’s writing is that it never falls short on either sides, and thankfully Vicious is no exception. I’ve made it my mission to get through all her works and I’ve not been disappointed yet.

Basically every character in this novel is a terrible person. Eli is hunting and killing innocent people because they are EOs and he believes them to no longer be human after returning from their near death experiences. This of course is layered in hypocritical behaviour, because he is an EO himself. He believes he is the exception, God’s righteous avenger, a hero. His character is so cleverly written because we known he is a horrible person, but Eli just cannot see it. When he relishes his kills, he manages to pull himself away from the idea that he is just as broken as them, using his faith as a shield against these thoughts. The way Schwab writes from his perspective gives you a glimpse into the villain’s perspective that many books do not give you. He has a reason for his actions, and though this reason is terrible and flawed, you understand why he believes it. He thinks he is good, but he never really has been.

Victor is almost the opposite. He has always known there was something dark in him, even before becoming an EO, but he has a softer side that contrasts this. He’s still a terrible person, relishing in the pain of others, but there is something that Schwab had layered beneath that makes you relate to him more than Eli. Maybe its because we are given more of his perspective, maybe its because Victor believes he is the hard-done-by character in his tale that we believe it too. It’s hard to pinpoint what you should feel, which is what makes it so great to read, it’s grey areas are so grey you can’t tell if you’re a horrible person for wanting either of them to succeed or just going along for the ride.

Even the ‘good’ characters in the novel are still a little on the grey side. Sydney wants Victor to hurt Eli – granted he did try to kill her so I think it’s pretty understandable (in a completely fictional sense mind you). Mitch did commit a crime, but he did it because he was getting arrested for everybody else’s crimes, why not get arrested for his own? His sin was so passive in that sense, and I loved it.

The other stand out thing about this novel is the none linear timeline. We know that Victor has just gotten out of prison and of his desire to kill Eli, yet in the flashbacks they are still best friends. The way Schwab has laid out that novel means that we are not sure of everyone’s motivations until she wants us to know. Bits and pieces of the characters motivation is dotted throughout the novel, you must read to know; it’s a great motivator to continue reading. Although it is not a completely new style of storytelling, I think Schwab handles it fabulously, nothing feels too rushed and you aren’t waiting in too much agony to find out the next juicy piece of information (a part of me thinks that Schwab gains her powers through the agony and angst of her readers, but we return because it’s just that good).

A Darker Shade of Magic still reigns supreme in my heart as my favourite of her novels, but this was a great read and is filled with the things Schwab does well every time, gritty plot, action and a cast full of morally grey people who are always exciting to read about. Although this novel does not feel like it necessarily needs a sequel, I wait for it eagerly.

My 5 Favourites of 2017

Long time no blog, which can only be because I’ve been so busy with deadlines and Christmas that I have not have chance to really pick up a book, never mind write a review about one! Now the year has come to a close, and we’re well into ringing in 2018 I was unable to finish my goal of reading 40 books by the end of the year. I got pretty close though, 38, which I’m still counting as an achievement.

So what we’re my best reads of the year?

  1. A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab 

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I knew this would be on here even before I read the book as the series is one of my favourites. A Darker Shade of Magic has claimed my heart as my current favourite, so thank goodness that Schwab did not disappoint. The book was filled with everything I wanted, development and screen time for every character, action, suspense, adventure, and a perfect round off to the trilogy. Schwab’s writing is so immersive I’ve added Vicious to my TBR as she’s never let me down before. I was gutted to be finishing this trilogy, but have enjoyed it immensely and to prove my love my first book of 2018 is a reread of A Darker Shade of Magic because there is no better way to start off the year.

    2. Heartless by Marissa Meyer

heartless

Meyer knows how to retell a fairy tale; The Lunar Chronicles anyone? But I was not as bothered about this one, Alice in Wonderland is not a story I’ve ever really been interested in. There are a few adaptations that I have enjoyed , but nothing to truly pull me into the world, yet Meyer’s take on the story was wonderful. I’ve always enjoyed reading how villain’s develop, so a take on the Queen of Hearts was refreshing. Although the book is fluffy and cute, with a sweet romance to rot the teeth, it was an overall fun, enjoyable read. The reason it is on this list is because it managed to stay in my head, particularly the characters, and Meyer’s handle of immersing all of the senses. I wanted to eat every single thing she described. Not every read has to be serious and a comment on humanity, sometimes you just need a books to chill with, and this was a perfect choice for that.

   3. Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman 

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This book was such a surprise. I had heard so many good things about it but I was still not sold on it’s method of storytelling. It did take me a while to get to grips with the unique layout of the book but it was totally worth it. I blasted through this book, and it’s sequel, while constantly on the edge of my seat. My love of Science-Fiction has grown this year, so this was the perfect book for me to get my teeth into this summer. There was no way this book wasn’t going to be listed; I’ve been recommending it to anyone and everyone who will listen. I even managed to write a review for it! REVIEW

   4. The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

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It seems like such a long time ago that I started this series, but I didn’t want to rush it and because books are so long I needed to make time to truly dedicate myself to them. This past year I finally manged to finish the trilogy, and The Hero of Ages quickly made its way on to my favourites of the year. Well of Ascension was also read this year but it did not make as big of an impact on me as the concluding novel did. We sped towards the end with high paced action as more secrets about the world were divulged and revealed, and at no point did it feel like a pointless divergence from the main plot. The second books felt like a filler, but this felt like a ending, a book with a purpose. Another good way to wrap up a phenomenal series.

   5. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline 

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I was recommend this book by so many people that eventually I just gave in, and I was not disappointed. It was fun, engaging and unique in comparison to anything else I have read. It is a true piece of 80s nostalgia, while also looking at how we view the internet, and how we often use it to escape and become someone else. I enjoyed following Wade as he pieced together puzzles, I love a good puzzle but I will admit that I would never have figured any of it out thanks to my lack of 80s knowledge; thankfully that meant everything was a surprise. The only problem I had with it was the forced romance/nice guy trope lathered all over the book from the middle onwards. It is a credit to how much I enjoyed it that I was able to ignore this and have the last new book I read in 2017 be such an enjoyable read.

   Honourable Mention –  Dalila by Jason Donald 

saltire

Now this is an unconventional one for me to choose, and for me to have read. It was way out of my comfort zone and something I certainly something I would never have picked up by myself.  I was on a shadow panel for the Saltire Literary Awards this year and it gave me the chance to read six books that I never would have done otherwise. Dalila was my favourite out of them all, it was a heart-wrenching, honest, bleak and hopeful read. It’s about a Kenyan woman seeking asylum in the UK after running from her violent uncle, and how she becomes just as trapped in the system as she was back in her home country. It was a topic I had never really thought about before, and this novel felt like it was handled in such an open honest way it truly affected me. This novel proved to me that I can read outside of my comfort zone and sometimes it might just pay off.

Stories from Space – Wayfarers Series by Becky Chambers

“Do not judge other species by your own social norms”

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The Wayfarer is not the nicest ship in galaxy, nor is it the best, but it’ll do for Rosemary, who needs a fresh start away from a world filled with bad memories. This motley crew is filled with a variety of species, it’s a place she can disappear. It’s a place she might be able to call home. If they survive that long. The crew have just taken on a dangerous job, one with a lot of benefits, but it might just kill them all if it doesn’t go to plan. Through the darkest parts of space they must just learn how to survive, and how to trust each other.
The whole crew has something to hide. Yet it’s hard to keep things under wraps when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere with the same six sapiens… Especially when disaster is on the horizon at every turn.  

You all know the drill, it’s time for the spoiler warning. 

I read the first novel in this series back during my holiday in July, it was the perfect, easy Sci-Fi read for a relaxing break. Although every synopsis of this book makes it seem like this is a fast-paced, action-packed read… it isn’t. Although this isn’t a bad thing. It’s very hard to describe this book without focusing on the danger that hovers over the entire novel. Both novels in fact (although I didn’t expect this going into the second one as I already knew what Becky Chambers was really going for with this series). These novels are more of a social commentary on the futuristic world she has created. It’s focus is the differences and similarities between each species, the differing societies within this mixed universe, and how they all interact. If you want to get really critical, it’s practically an analogy for human beings right now; how much more beautiful the world would be if we all got along despite out differences, just like the diverse crew of the Wayfarer. If you want to get really deep. Nevertheless, it’s just as much fun to read without the critical spectacles and simply enjoy Chambers quality storytelling.

Chamber’s is a master at creating a vast array of species, she makes them all seem so real and believable that these could be real species she’s revealing to us. We just don’t know it. The Aandrisk, Sianat Pair, and Grum that fill the halls of the ship are each given time to explain their culture to Rosemary (and us), without it feeling too much like a diversion from the story. Which is good, because if it’s one thing this novel doesn’t need, it was to go off on long tangents that lost the readers attention.

One thing I am pretty disappointed with is that there wasn’t more of a plot. I like to think of this as Sci-Fi Literary Fiction; it focuses more on the connection of its characters and making important statements about life. This isn’t necessarily a bag thing, I just like a little more action in my Sci-Fi. The ending of the novel truly had me gripped as the hovering, almost invisible threat, came charging to the surface. I’m a sucker for those typical ‘heart-in-your-mouth’ moments, and this novel just didn’t provide.

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For some reason, even though A Closed and Common Orbit was even more character focused, I enjoyed it more. This time Chambers only has two points of view and they jump between time streams, which I really liked. Finding out about Pepper’s backstory was a highlight in this book, I was always more eager for her chapters rather than Lovey’s. Even though at times they were just as slow, Pepper’s story gripped me, I wanted to blast through to the end and see whether she got off the planet. Which of course she did, she was in Lovey’s chapters, that was how lost I got in her chapters.

This novel seemed to have more of a direct focus than it’s predecessor, it really looked at sentient AI’s and whether or not they were the same as other sapiens. A tough question to answer, but it’s hard not to agree with the outcome after going through Lovey and Pepper’s journeys. However, my need for drama was met in this novel, as both points of view had a more constant danger element. Pepper trying to escape the planet she was trapped on, and Lovey’s constant battle with not being found out as a rogue AI. Maybe I just connected with the characters more, but this is definitely my favourite one so far. Although, I did want the wayfarer crew to pop up at least once to keep the connection between the novels. They were mentioned briefly, but this was very clearly a different story. Not a sequel, but a companion.

I did enjoy these books, and I’m certain I’ll pick up the next one. First I may need to figure out if there is one and when it will be released, but I’m assuming that Chambers will be expanding her world with another set of characters. So if you’re looking for a softer Sci-Fi novel, then this series is perfect. It gives you all the tech babble you need, with sweeping characters stories that really try to make you think about the world. Or the universe…

The Place I Live is Beautiful

Reading is happening pretty slowly now I’m in the full swing of my Publishing Masters, which is amazing. I have never felt so nervous and so excited about a career path in my life, there’s so much to think about and it’s only been two months. The reading soon will change however, as I am on a shadow panel for the Saltire Literary Awards, something that celebrates Scottish Literature and I can’t wait to get started on that. My books come tomorrow and I’m so excited. Book mail is the best.
However, I’ve still been managing to get out and about and explore this place I now call home. Seriously, I’ve never lived somewhere as photogenic as Edinburgh. I have yet to see everything, but I have to save something for when friends and family finally come to visit, though I have been enjoy my solo explorations, the company will be nice!
I wanted to share some of my favourite pictures from my time here so far, and maybe a little thought about what I’ve done too.


These are some of the first photo’s I took while here and still with my family. We explored the main part of the city and the castle was practically visible from wherever we went, like a beacon. A constant hill filled view is pretty new to me, what I’m used to is flat, flat, flat. I find I quite like the hills, and the old town is like being thrown into a novel, I could take a picture of the most boring of offices there and it would look like it was filled with magic.

One of the best, and earliest trips I went on was a hike up Arthur’s Seat. I wasn’t quite sure what it was at first, I didn’t even know that the hills I’d been seeing were close enough to the city to actually walk up in a day. Though we didn’t go to the very top (one day I will) we got pretty close and the views are so spectacular it’s definitely worth it.

National Scottish I’ve also only managed to look round one floor of the National Scottish Museum, because the place is huge and there is just so much to look at. I had to include my picture of Mr. T-Rex, who doesn’t love a dinosaur?

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This is Leith Docks, there’s not that much there but it was certainly an adventure!

I also took a solo trip to the Botanic Gardens, accidentally crashed a wedding and took lots of photos of plants. Thankfully the day I went it was beautiful and sunny, only one pouring shower disrupting the peace, but this is Scotland so I could hardly expect anything more. Walking through Stockbridge was also so scenic, it still feel like I walked to a completely different city not just a different section, the place was so much more domestic and peaceful than the hustle and bustle of the city centre. I spent about 4 hours walking that day… I still don’t think my legs have forgiven me (also I like taking pictures of water, can you tell?).

Home VIewMy new home is so beautiful that even the sunset out of my flat view is amazing. I’m so very grateful I get to have this experience and I can’t wait to take my pictures of next adventures.

A Magical Mystery – The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy

“But really, aren’t there bits of magic everywhere we look?’ Dr. Cliffton continues. ‘We’ve just stopped seeing it that way.”

the disappearances

After Aila’s mother dies and her father is shipped off to fight in World War II, she and her little brother are sent to Sterling, where people they’ve never even met seem to hate them. Aila soon realises there is something strange happening in Sterling, she can’t smell anything, the stars are never out, and she can’t see her reflection no matter how hard she looks.
She soon learns that every seven years something disappears, and that the only person to escape Sterling’s terrible fate was her mother. But Aila refuses to believe that she is to blame, and will do anything to find out the truth about the disappearances. And maybe be the one to save the town from it’s terrible fate.

There’s definitely going to be spoilers, hard to talk about this book otherwise! 

This is yet another novel I heard about on YouTube, and it came at just the right time because I was in the mood for a mystery. As always with this type of book it’s better to go in not knowing too much about it; makes the mystery much more tantalising, so that’s what I did.

The Disappearances was a very enjoyable novel, but for some reason it took me so long to finish it. Maybe it’s because I’ve been so busy with university work once again, or maybe it was because parts of this book just seemed to drag. There were long sections of the book where nothing seemed to happen, no progress was being made, we were just going through the motions of Aila’s new life in Sterling. Constant arguments with her brother, Miles, angst filled moments with Will, and worrying about the fact her mother may have been to blame for the curse after all. This pacing issue was disappointing because it was a great book, it could’ve been a 4 star book instead of a 3.5, (a huge difference I know).

The ending of this novel, however, was great. Revelations come on thick and fast, and the team effort to free Sterling was completely heartwarming. I loved the inclusion of Shakespeare in the novel. I love Shakespeare and the way Murphy managed to weave such a clever, almost believable story out of his works was remarkable. It was great to see the way she pulled magic from the pages of Shakespeare and knitted it into her story. It was a unique idea that I truly enjoyed. You could definitely see the research that had gone into this piece of work, and it helped create a great atmosphere for this book.

Although, this may have taken focus off developing characters. It took me quite a while to connect with anyone. Aila was strange, quiet and honestly quite mean to her grieving younger brother. There was just something about her that didn’t let me connect straight away, or ever. She was a good narrator, but I didn’t completely care about whether or not she got her happy ending, not until the very end when she comes to the Cliffton’s rescue and solves the mystery of Sterling. Even though it’s not her alone that solves it. She is all but given the solution which is my only true problem with the ending, yet I can also see that no one who have been able to figure it out without a little help.

Which brings me to the second narrator of this novel. A mysterious character who doesn’t really seem to fit into the plot until you learn who he really is. He’s horrible, devious and twisted, but I really enjoyed reading from his perspective… I wonder what that says about me. Murphy did a very good job of convincing me that he was Juliet’s (Aila’s mother) lover before she left Sterling. Whether or not this was the intention that’s what I pulled from it, until he began to share some memories and I wanted to smack my forehead because I was stupid enough not to see it before. Quite a lot of the book was like this, Murphy was very good at slowly revealing the mysteries of this small town. It’s the main thing that kept me reading.

I was really intrigued when I first picked this novel up that it was set in World War II, I’m not an avid reader of that era but I was looking forward to a change. I know for many people this worked, yet for me it didn’t. This is purely because it didn’t feel like the time period it was supposed to. There was nothing there for me to connect with that time, aside from her father conveniently going to war, there was nothing to indicate the period. Stick one iPhone in the book and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Maybe I’d feel differently if I read it again, but for now I didn’t get a feel of the time period at all.

Overall this book was very enjoyable, and many things were handled well, it was also beautifully written with a great concept. A Shakespeare Curse? Love it. Every damn time. Yet there was so much more that could’ve been done with this book to make it the success I wanted it to be, but I wouldn’t rule out reading it again, not just yet.

Popular YA Books I Will Never Read

A controversial topic to get me back into book blogging! I love watching these sorts of videos on Youtube, because like I said in a previous post, it’s just nice to see that there is someone out there who agrees with you when it feel like everyone else is falling at the feet of these books. The metaphorical feet… obviously.

1. The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

City_of_Bones  I feel like this could cause a lot of issues with some people as I know that this is such a well loved books series, but I have never been interested. I’ve heard very mixed things about this series, it’s like marmite, some love it, some hate it, yet I can’t get passed the reviews that take a more negative stance on this series. I also know a few of the plot lines to this book – I’m not gonna lie I watched the TV show – and I know that there would be a few plot points that would annoy the hell out of me. Clary and Jace being “siblings”, the whole typical “my nerdy best friend loves me but I pretend not to notice”, which doesn’t seem healthy to me and so many others. The plot itself seems good, I know it differs from the show but the basic premise seems the same, but I wouldn’t be able to get ignore the obvious YA tropes being used in abundance, and not the good ones. I’m sick of love triangles and messy relationships, give me something healthy thanks.

2. Most of John Green’s Books

Looking for alaskaJohn Green’s books have a bit of a cult following, people rave and rave about them, yet I don’t get the hype. I have read Fault in Our Stars, which I did enjoy overall, it was a good book. I also read Paper Towns which was… less good. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to get along with his writing style. Not that it’s bad, it’s just a little philosophical for me, the metaphors and deep meaningful quotes are too much at once. He also has a tendency to write “manic pixie dream girls” – at least that’s what I got from Paper Towns and the portion of Looking for Alaska that I managed to read before I put it down. They don’t seem real, and the boys who love them don’t let us see any of their flaws. I just don’t want to read more of this, I love a cute love story/coming of age tale as much as the next person, but these are just not my cup of tea. Which is why I won’t be picking up anymore.

3. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park  The reason I won’t be picking up this book is pretty similar to the reason I don’t want to read anymore John Green. I read Fangirl, liked it fine, parts annoyed me, but overall it was easy to read and okay. I didn’t stay thinking about it days after like I do with most books, it was just okay. However it’s not Rowell’s writing that irritates me or her characters, this time I’m just not fussed. These days if I’m reading contemporary it has to have something to hook me in (When Dimple Met Rishi seemed so original because I had never read anything based around Indian culture). Eleanor & Park just doesn’t appeal to me, I’m not bothered if I do or don’t read it, I don’t feel anything about it.

4. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

THe RAven Cycle You know when a book series is over hyped? Everyone is talking about it, loving it, waiting eagerly for the next instalment, and sometimes you just don’t read it because nothing can be that good? That you just don’t want to read it just because it was talked about too much? That is me with this series. I don’t have any particular reason as to why I know I won’t read it. I read The Wolves or Mercy Falls and it was good, but I just won’t be reading this series. Even if I am curious to whether Pynch ends up together, or if Blue finally kisses Gansey and kills him. People blog about this book A LOT, so much so that I actually feel like I don’t need to. So I won’t.

5. Queen of Shadows by Sarah. J. Maas 

QoS Is this cheating to include this book? I have read the three others before this one but I just know that this is where I will stop. I could rant about this series for years, the first few books were just so good, that I felt let down by Heir of Fire, completely disappointed. Which I know is controversial because there is a huge fanbase for these books and people treat them like the pinnacle of fantasy. Though they really aren’t, Maas is good, I love Court of Thorns and Roses, but she’s not my top fantasy author. One reason I won’t be picking this up is because I feel like the characters completely changed from one book to another. They weren’t the same people anymore. “It’s called character growth” I hear you cry, yes well there is a difference to me between having your character grow, and completely change. There are parts of yourself that you just can’t lose, and that to me is what Maas’s characters have done in this series.  I just won’t be picking up anymore of this series, not even Tower of Dawn even though I loved Chaol.

Got a reason why I should change my mind about any of these books? Let me know! On that controversial note I shall finish, even though there is probably many others that I could add to this list. Until the next time!

I’m Going Back to University!

Hello! So, I don’t normally post about my personal life on here but something big is coming up in my life and I got inspired. I’m going back to university to do a Master’s Degree! Specifically a Publishing Masters; watch out world, if this all works out I’ll be involved with books like never before.

But before all that I’ve begun the long process of collecting everything I’ll need to once again live without my parents. I’m literally being transported back four years, except this time I already had most of my stuff ready because I kept most of my old stuff from my undergrad.

Though a Master’s degree is completely different from undergrad, I’ve found that there are only a few differences when preparing to once again move away from home and jump into education.

  • Funding it yourself – unlike before this time I’ve had to save like crazy, there’s isn’t the same loan scheme as there is for undergrad. You used to have to save to pay for both your accommodation AND course fees by yourself, yet luckily for me Britain now has a Master’s loan scheme in place. Meaning I could request up to £10,280, which makes a massive difference as it manages to cover both my fees and living. Another bonus to this is you pay it back much like the undergrad loan, a percentage is taken from your wage when you start earning £21,000+ on top of what you will already pay for your previous loan. A little daunting, but for someone like me, utterly worth it. Or I hope so.
  • Finding Accommodation – Again, it is not a given that new Master’s students will jump into student accommodation, I am a fully fledged adult now (apparently) and it is my responsibility to come up with my own place to stay. However since I’m moving so far away, I am going into the accommodation provided, thankfully they have one aimed at Postgrads with longer tenancies. I didn’t really have the same experience of a proper uni flat in my first year, so maybe this is an experience I need. As long as I don’t get stuck with party crazy freshers, since I am there to advance myself into a career, so people like me would be appreciated because I desperately need to make some friends while there.
  • A More Practical Course – This is something that actually drew me to the course. It boasted of being hands on and practical, gaining skills which you will be actively able to use in the Publishing world. A bonus for a girl who hasn’t had much opportunity to gain experience in this industry. It is, however, going to be so different from my Literature and Creative Writing undergrad. I hope I will survive it. These are also people who have chosen to do this, they want more education, they are paying for this, so I imagine that everyone will be more focused and driven to learn everything they can. Including me.
  • I Know What I Need –  I’ve lived by myself before, so I know exactly what I need to move away, unlike last time where I relied on my sister’s knowledge. You have no idea how much I want to buy a mixing bowl, because I went without one last time and had to borrow my friends anytime I wanted to bake (which was frequently). Also! Always take more than one plate and bowl, it’s not only practical for guests, but also because sometimes you just forget to wash up and it’s nice to have a clean one in the cupboard when that cereal bowl is still stewing in the sink.
  • I Have to Use a Building Laundry Room, Thingy –  I was lucky in my houses during university, they all had a private washing machine, it’s totally different this time as where I’m going I have to use the building laundry room and pay for the use of one. This means that I’m going to invest in a piggy bank, purely for all my loose change so I can always wash my clothes. It’s just good sense.

As of right now those are literally the only things I know that are different. It feels just like it did before, except this time I’m going over 200 miles away, without a best friend beside me. SO much has changed in the past year for me, some good some bad, and a lot has happened even though it seems like barely anything did. Nevertheless, I’m ready to go and be a more independent person. I can feel the urge to fly the nest growing, even though I’m terrified of being well and truly alone in a new city, bigger and busier than I’ve ever lived in. Yet, I know that it will all be worth it if I finally get a job I’m passionate about.

T-minus 25 days and counting!