The Book People Haul: Historical Fiction and Audiobooks!

I’m currently at YALC which is amazing and completely exhausting so I thought I’d just do a quick post showing you my recent haul from The Book People. I’ve talked about them over and over because they’re a really great company. Low prices, consistently excellent deals and absolutely lovely customer service. So here’s what I ordered…

And more pictures because I cannot get over that cover…

The book that started this whole haul was Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by Alison Weir. The one I reviewed last Saturday and loved. I knew I wanted a finished hardcover copy and it was the same price as it was on Amazon so guilt-free! But to hit that over £25 free delivery, I had to buy more books, right? Right. Book buyer logic.
The Cousins’ War series by Philippa Gregory has been on my radar since I first started book blogging but I never really felt like historical fiction was my jam. However, since book blogging I’ve had some good experiences with the genre. The Crimson Ribbon and The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements were both great reads and, and I cannot stress this enough, Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by Alison Weir blew my mind.

And the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams has been on my Spring and Summer TBR but I haven’t got around to it yet. So when I saw the audiobooks narrated by Stephen Fry and Martin Freeman I had a brainwave. I’d read/ listen along with the friend I introduced to Harry Potter! Boom! Over £25 so free shipping and technically 12 books.

Aaaand there will probably be a YALC haul coming up soon too. Don’t judge me! It’s a book lovers dream here.

What books have you been buying lately?
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Book Review: Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by Alison Weir!

How do you get me excited about a new series? Promise six books in six years, each detailing the entire life of one of Henry VIII’s six wives. That’s how Alison Weir has grabbed me hook, line and sinker. Starting with a 600 page account on the wife who he was married to the longest, and changed religion in the UK forever to divorce, Katherine of Aragon.

A Spanish princess. Raised to be modest, obedient and devout. Destined to be an English Queen.

Six weeks from home across treacherous seas, everything is different: the language, the food, the weather. And for her there is no comfort in any of it. At sixteen years-old, Catalina is alone among strangers.

She misses her mother. She mourns her lost brother.
She cannot trust even those assigned to her protection.

So I bought a finished copy of this book, in hardback, despite owning a proof copy because I loved this book so much. I am so excited for this series. The idea of the six hardcopies lined up is the definition of shelf porn, and I wanted to support it in any way I could. I’ve only bought one other book that I own a proof of before and that was Conquest by Jennifer Ridyard and John Connolly, and I never shut up about that book. This is going to be the same kind of thing. 

While most fictional versions of Henry VIII and his wives only tell the story of the wife when they’re married to him, this starts with a sixteen year old Catalina and ends with her death. All the books I’ve read/ shows and movies I’ve watched about the era always move the focus onto the next wife as soon as they pass out of Henry’s favour. I found myself learning so much about pre-and-post-Henry Katherine despite previously thinking I was knowledgable about the Tudors. I loved this aspect because lets face it, Henry’s wives are a heck of a lot more interesting then Henry himself. 

And yes, I say that I was learning because Alison Weir is a historian, has written history books and this is historical fiction based on intense research and the newer theories about Katherine with letters written out verbatim. This was very clearly based in fact. And I will say that while Alison Weir is a very talented historical fiction writer who made reading this six hundred page mammoth a delight, there was only five or six times the writing really stood out as great, rather than just pleasurably readable.

But what I loved most was that it wasn’t unbiased and it wasn’t omniscient. It was Katherine knowing what little she was told and feeling the way she felt. Her villain was Anne Boleyn, and while reading, I disliked her too! But I know that the next book from Anne’s point of view will see Katherine as getting in the way of what she wants. Reading is all about perspective and empathy, and I can’t wait to see how I feel when I read about the same time and the same events from the other side. That book cannot come out soon enough. Can you tell I’m excited? I’m so excited.

In the end, I cried over someone who has been dead for 500 years when I reached the last few pages of this book. I’m not religious, but I hope Katherine got something for her devout faith. She was a true Queen in every sense.

“And tell the King that I am ready to obey him in everything save for the obedience I owe to two higher powers- God and my conscience.”

Will you be picking this book up? (You should.)
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Currently Reading #2

It’s that time again where I show you what I’m currently reading and talk about it a little. This is just a relaxed post in case you were remotely interested in my reading habits! I posted #1 about a month ago and those books are still on my ‘Currently Reading’ on Goodreads but I’m not actively picking them up every day like…

The Harper Connelly omnibus! Honestly, after finishing The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola, I needed something contemporary/ paranormal and something I reliably knew that I would enjoy. I haven’t read one of the books in this omnibus since April but I could jump back in no problem. That’s just the kind of writer that Charlaine Harris is. I love her. I’m on the third of the four books; An Ice Cold Grave and I think it’s my favourite so far.

And The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. Yes, the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy that was in my ‘Eventually’ TBR. Apparently, eventually was three months later. I’m not totally sold on it so far though, I’m like 150 pages in and even though it is really easy to read (it’s Middle Grade after all), I just feel like barely anything has happened even with the whole- men can hear thoughts, women are dead thing. Has anyone else read this? Is it worth persevering?

So that’s what I’m currently reading! What about you?
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Book Review: The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola!

I seem to be reviewing books where eyes are the main theme lately. First, Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, and now The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola! Maybe it’s my subconscious telling me I need to go visit my optician. Luckily, I can see well enough to read and here’s what I thought of this new release…

Set in London in 1837, Anna Mazzola’s The Unseeing is the story of Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding. 

After Sarah petitions for mercy, Edmund Fleetwood is appointed to investigate and consider whether justice has been done. Idealistic, but struggling with his own demons, Edmund is determined to seek out the truth. Yet Sarah refuses to help him, neither lying nor adding anything to the evidence gathered in court. Edmund knows she’s hiding something, but needs to discover just why she’s maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone would willingly go to their own death?

The Unseeing took me about a week to read, and not just because Pokémon GO has been taking over my life. This book completely beat down my goal of 1000 pages a week because I found myself reading it in short chunks. The problem is dual narrative, it’s rare that I can really connect with a character when the chapters are just ten or twenty pages. Both characters were fascinating, I just wanted to spend longer with them and delve into their point of view for longer before moving on. 

And yet, because of the actual storyline, the plot felt padded out. On page 298/360 it says; ‘It was not over. It had only just begun.’ and I noted this down to see if I would agree later on. I did. The pace picked up, more happened and it felt like a trotting horse just saw a rabbit it wanted to catch. I personally enjoyed the last 60 pages more than the first 300 because it felt like more was actually happening. 

Despite the issues with pacing, I did really want to know what happened and the slow feeding of hints into what happened kept me interested. The thread of intrigue when it came to eyeballs was cleverly done and really brought the past and present in the story together. From the cover I expected something creepy, but it turns out history was scary enough.

Anna Mazzola makes it easy to see how a woman in the 1800s can find herself in a less then ideal situation. The past was horrible and the way women were treated was just disgusting. Sarah’s devotion to her son had my heart, and I was routing for George the whole way through. Sarah cared about him, and I ended up caring too. I’d definitely read a sequel to find out how he’s doing. 

This fictionalised account of the trial of Sarah Gale is definitely more fiction than fact. The character of Edmund is completely fictional, as is her sister and what is concluded to happen. Taking the story with a grain of salt wouldn’t be enough, best bring the whole salt shaker. But if you’re interested in the Edgware Road Murder, you might want to check out this version of events. You might just be convinced.

The Unseeing is out now and you can get a copy here!

“‘It’s a funny expression, isn’t it: “fallen woman’? As if women fall by themselves, by accident.’ He voice was sharp. ‘Most, I think, are pushed’.”

Will you be picking up this book?

*I was sent this book to review as part of The Unseeing blog tour!

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My 6 Reading Goals for 2016: 6 Months to Go!

I posted up my 6 Reading Goals for 2016 in January and thought I’d do a little mid-year check in now that it’s July! I think it’s important to re-visit goals because it’s easy to not be able to see the forest for the trees. When you’re just picking up book after book you don’t always remember that you wanted to read classics, or non-fiction, or whatever. So here are my goals and how I’m doing!

1. Read a couple Non-Fiction books! 
Three! Boom! So far I’ve read Green River Killer, a graphic novel but a non-fiction one so I’m counting it, I struggled through Hot Feminist by Polly Vernon and I rolled my eyes repeatedly at Fredrick Nietzsche’s Aphorisms on Love and Hate. And, y’know, university work is non-fiction. Overall it hasn’t been a totally positive experience so I’m not actively looking for non-fiction reads this side of the year.

2. Read a book over 600 Pages!
Does 597 pages count? Because I think it should. Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by Alison Weir blew me away and I know I owe a full review on it but I seriously can’t get my head around how much I loved it. Even though it took me a month to read. Probably because of the 597 pages. Plus, according to Goodreads the 20 hour audiobook of American Gods by Neil Gaiman translates into 635 pages?
I’m not sure if I feel this goal is completed but I won’t feel bad at the end of the year if this is it.

3. Read a couple classics!
The only classic I’ve read was my required reading of Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe. My plan to read Catch-22, 1984 or Brave New World hasn’t happened- yet!

4. Get rid of some books!
Nope. Not even close. I have swapped a couple on Read it, Swap it and sold a few on eBay but my TBR remains ridiculous.

5. Complete some of the unfinished series on my shelf!
Whelp. Apparently my goal was to halve the amount of unfinished series on my shelf! Well I finished one; the Red Rising trilogy. I’ve caught up with another; the Kathryn Dance books by Jeffery Deaver. I’ve been continuing on with the Kitty Norville books by Carrie Vaughn. However, I’ve also started three new series; the Lux series by Jennifer L Armentrout, the Harper Connolly Omnibus by Charlaine Harris and I’m currently reading the first Chaos Walking book by Patrick Ness that you might remember from my ‘Eventually’ TBR. In short, I’m failing at this goal.

6. Read 16 books!
Done! I’m at 33 so far which actually isn’t that great for me. I read 80 books last year and I was kind of hoping to keep that up. Unfortunately, degree work and classes and all sorts of other nonsense does not a lot of reading time make.

Did you have any 2016 Reading Goals? How are you doing?
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Book Review: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena!

It’s a story we’ve all seen in the news, and at times the plot definitely felt a little too close to a certain missing little girl, but The Couple Next Door took me on a rollercoaster that I didn’t stumble off until the back cover. The truth was concealed under layers and layers of manipulation and confusion, that peeling back that last page felt ever so slightly anti-climactic. 

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena!

You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.
Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.
Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.
You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

This book was very plot driven, and by that I mean the story felt like it was going from plot point to plot point and ticking them off as it went. I can imagine that each twist and turn in the story was very carefully mapped out before writing, and even if it wasn’t, that’s how it read. It was fun! I didn’t see where it was going and it kept me up well into the night when I wanted to know just whodunit, but there’s a reason that plot driven books are sometimes lacking…

The characters fell flat for me. I just didn’t believe some of the things that were happening because, although I know that people do bad and stupid things all the time, they normally have better reasoning then those in this book had. If this was a movie, it would be badly acted because you wouldn’t believe the actors knew why they were doing what they were doing.

The writing was easy enough. There was nothing extraordinary and only two sentences that I sticky-noted because I liked the way they read more than average. But that’s just what the majority of this book was- average, which isn’t bad for a debut! It was fast, and readable, which is what you’re looking for in a thriller. 

In the end, it has been a couple months since I read The Couple Next Door and it’s a good thing I left myself notes because this was not a story that has stayed with me. If you’re looking for a beach read then look no further, but this is very much a three star book for me, I liked it while reading but I wouldn’t pick it up again.

Want to nab a copy? You can pre-order it here for its Thursday release!

Marco feels like a minor actor in a drama with some key players; it’s a feeling he often gets when Anne’s parents are in the room. Even now, in the role of Father of the Kidnapped Baby, he feels shoved offstage…

Will you be picking this up?
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5 Things to Watch on Amazon Instant Video!

A couple months ago I talked about 5 Things I Love about Amazon Instant Video, and I’ve done a couple lists about things to watch on Netflix (here and here) so I felt like doing the same for Amazon! I always find myself struggling to narrow these posts down so there might be another one soon. My Amazon watchlist is packed. But here’s 5 things you might want to check out on Amazon…

1. The Interestings / The Last Tycoon 
It’s Amazon Pilot season! I think? They seem to have these every couple months. This is where they put out a few pilots, (two dramas and four kids shows currently) you watch them and fill out a little questionnaire if you’re so inclined about what you liked/ loathed/ want to see more of. Interestingly, both dramas this time around are based on books!
The Interestings is based on the book by Meg Wolitzer and is a multi-decade look at a group of friends. And The Last Tycoon is based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald book and has Matt Bomer and Kelsey Grammar. It’s almost enough for me to pass by the grossness of F. Scott Fitzgerald as a person.

I’m a little all or nothing when it comes to reality TV. I love Jersey Shore, I hate Geordie Shore. I love the Great British Bake Off, I hate Cupcake Wars. UnREAL is different in that it’s a fictional show based behind the scenes of one of those dating competition shows. It’s fascinating. All the manipulation of candidates, all the drama, all the background things we don’t see, and great flawed characters that you just love to hate!

3. The Walking Dead (and Fear The Walking Dead)
Didn’t think I’d miss a chance to plug the show I love, did you? Season 1 to 5 of The Walking Dead is on Amazon Instant Video and that is quite a marathon. Unfortunately, watching it back-to-back makes the continuity issues blindingly obvious (the walkers using rocks and turning doorknobs, anyone?) but you’ll never be bored. And when you watch, you can always tweet me about it because I never miss a chance to talk zombies.
Fear The Walking Dead is a pretty nice prequel too, featuring a vaguely familiar face for you Harry Potter fans.

4. Crossing Lines
It’s rare that I get truly sad over an overlooked show. Fringe, Falling Skies, Death in Paradise, they all deserve more attention but none compare to the silence that seems to surround Crossing Lines. The official twitter only has 5500+ followers and hasn’t tweeted since 2013. Am I missing something?
It’s basically a cop show. Except, it’s set all over Europe in a cross-borders investigation team. Paris, Prague, London, Luxembourg, it’s all covered. It actually really interests me that this team doesn’t actually exist in the real world because it’s so easy to get around Europe with a European passport. This is obviously wonderful but if you committed crimes in several different countries, nobody is specifically looking out for those patterns.
If anything, watch for my favourite actor/ shameless crush Tom Wlaschiha, also in Game of Thrones and always handsome.

5. Empire
Here’s the thing about TV, it’s really white. I could probably count the POC in the last four shows I mentioned on my fingers. But Empire is about an African American family who run a music company, it has an almost entirely POC cast and an incredibly important LGBT+ storyline. It’s refreshing. And even underneath all that, it’s a really good watch. If you watch one thing on this list, it should be this and yes, this takes priority over The Walking Dead. I’ve been bopping along to the soundtrack while I wrote this post and I’m not even a music person.
Also, Taraji Henson is on it and she is a queen.

What have you been watching lately?
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Books I Read in June!

June was a half-and-half month. Half was eh, but then I challenged myself to read 1000 pages a week and after that it was go-go-go! I am yet to have a 1000 page week but 750 ain’t bad. Especially when it’s a mix of historical fiction and a choose-your-adventure book. Those are not easy reads!

Aphorisms on Love and Hate by Friedrich Nietzsche
I loved that Little Miss Sunshine movie when I was younger, and I always remembered that the teenage boy read Nietzsche but beyond that- I really didn’t know much about him.
Obviously it’s hard to get an overview of an entire philosophical way of thinking in just 50 pages but from what I can gather, Nietzsche was a reeeeeal douche.

Kitty Raises Hell by Carrie Vaughn
It’s been just under two years since I last read a Kitty Norville book, despite the last ending on a cliffhanger, so I was a little out of sorts when I started Kitty Raises Hell. Trying to remember who everyone was, why they were doing things, and anything that wasn’t major can be a little tricky with a break that long.
Despite that, I enjoyed it. It wasn’t my favourite storyline but rejoining this world was like sinking into a hot bath. Comforting and maybe a bit bland. However, that didn’t last past this book…
The supernatural world was like an onion. You peel back the layers, only to find more layers, on and on, hopelessly trying to reach the mysterious core. Then you start crying.

Kitty’s House of Horrors by Carrie Vaughn
Holy moly, this book was good. What surprised me was that I started this series because of my love for radio shows, but this was probably my favourite of the series and didn’t feature that much. Instead, it was Kitty on a reality show. And of course, people start dying.
Reality shows are my kryptonite, I’ll watch an episode of Jersey Shore with a bowl of popcorn any evening. But who needs Jersey Shore when you have this book? I read it in a day. I haven’t done that in ages. The action was fast-paced, the characters were believable and the whole story was smaller than the usual couple book arcs this series has, so it was self-contained and easy to read. If you’re reading this series and thinking about giving up, this book might just change your mind.
“-You know why horror-movie characters always get killed? Because they’ve never seen horror movies. They don’t know how it works. Right? But we do. So no one go into the basement alone. No one go screaming off into the woods alone. No one have sex.”

Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Did I actually read a book on my TBR? I did! Like I mentioned in that post, I’ve actually been given the opportunity to meet Jennifer L. Armentrout and I figured I should read the book of hers that I have before I do. I started writing out a mini review, but I have so much to say about this book that it needs a full one.
If anything, his expression took on a mask of grudging acceptance, probably how I looked when I had to give a book I’d been excited about a less than stellar review.

Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? by Max Brallier
Another one off my TBR! I’ll be doing a full review soon in anticipation of the companion book coming out in August.

If You Go Away by Adele Parks*
Full review here!

What did you read in June?
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