First Line Friday – 10th July

Welcome to my First Line Friday! This is my first time trying this book meme hosted by Wondering Words. Can you guess what book these opening lines are from?

The Rules

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

The Opening Line

He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air.

See the source image

Any guesses?

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Hint: It was published ten years ago this year

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See the source image

Still not sure? It was written by James Dashner

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This Week’s First Line Was From

Name: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Published: 2010 (Makes me feel very old)

Synopsis: When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he’s not alone. He’s surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade – a walled encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible stone maze.

Like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they came to be there – or what’s happened to the world outside. All they know is that every morning when the walls slide back, they will risk everything – even the Grievers, half-machine, half-animal horror that patrol its corridors, to try and find out

Rating: 5 out of 5.

There you go! Did you guess correctly? Have you read this book? Like and let me know in the comments.

‘The School For Good and Evil’ Book Tag

I’m currently rereading ‘The School for Good and Evil’ series. It’s taking a while (click here for the adult references I found whilst reading it. There’s actually quite a few…) I found this tag and thought it looked great to give a go! If I haven’t tagged you, please feel free to just give it a go.

The Rules

  • Link to the original tag’s creator: Sabrina @ Notes From a Paper Plane Nomad! (I’m also using her graphics, they’re so great!)
  • Thank whoever tagged you and link back to their post!
  • Pick a book that fits each prompt.
  • Tag whoever, as many or as few as you like!
  • Post these rules and list of prompts in your tag post.

The Books

Eden by Joanna Nadin

Have you ever found a brilliant book from the most random place? A big thanks to that one Oxfam I found on holiday (I didn’t pack nearly enough books)! ‘Eden’ looked like a total charity shop find, but it was actually so good. The plot twists had me screaming.

Click HERE for my review

The Flawed Series by Cecelia Ahern

I absolutely love this duology. Everyone should read it – it’s got a great plot but also a great message, which is often quite rare. I loved the dystopian setting and the fact that it actually had a plot! whilst still having a really strong message.

Click HERE for my review

They Both Die At the End by Adam Silvera

Adam Silvera has recently become one of my favourite authors. And this book! It’s such a great concept, poignant and really, really beautiful. And sad – can you guess why?

Click HERE for my review

One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

I don’t really read many of the sort of books with a nerdy/bookish group (the sort whose character development is getting a boyfriend) but I guess One Of Us Is Lying counts? This was one of my favourite YA books for years, and I remember loving how Bronwyn, Addy and Maeve got closer over the course of the series.

Click HERE for my review

The Surface Breaks: a reimagining of The Little Mermaid (Paperback)

The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

This retelling of the Little Mermaid was surprisingly dark! I really liked how the author addressed the less talked about aspects of the little mermaid in this surprisingly feisty and feminist retelling.

Click HERE for my review

Extraordinary Cases of Sherlock Holmes Anthology - Linden Tree Books

Sherlock Holmes Anthology by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I really don’t read that many anthologies; Sherlock was the only one I could think of ( Well, it was this or my Tracy Beaker collection). Who doesn’t love a bit of Conan Doyle with a nice cuppa tea?

Click HERE for my review

Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy) [Assorted Cover image]: Amazon.co ...

The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo

The Darkling. I don’t think any other villain has had me so conflicted. I eventually settled on damning him for all eternity for Crimes Against Literature with that ridiculous name – I guess it never really was a surprise he was evil!

Click HERE for my review of this book

What If It's Us: Amazon.co.uk: Silvera, Adam, Albertalli, Becky ...

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertelli and Adam Silvera

I was so excited that some of my favourite authors were collaborating on this. It’s just such a happy read – and the amount of Broadway references in it is PHENOMINAL.

Click HERE for my review

Jane Eyre | Faber & Faber

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I was really excited to see if this book lived up to its massive hype, but sadly I really didn’t enjoy it. I don’t know if I just wasn’t in the right mood (although my mood did change quite a bit in the 3 WEEKS it took me to read the first half) but I ended up just giving up on it. It didn’t help that half of it was in french.

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

I was so scared for this book. I had waited for so long for it, and I just wanted them to be happy. But nooooo! Fingers crossed for the third book?

Click HERE for my review of this book

I Nominate

Simply A Book Drunkard

Book Bunnies

Amelies Book Reviews

Wacky Words

Arisutocrat

Sherlockian Booklover

Book Recommendations For Kids

Books On A Dragon

A Dance With Books

Confessions Of A Book Lover

The Savvy Reader

Gideon the Ninth

Name: Gideon the Ninth

Author: Tamsyn Muir

Published: 2019

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead

It’s been a long week with this incredibly long book. I can’t wait to review it and ditch it. The worst part was it isn’t even that thick, there’s just so many words on each page. I also I didn’t know what every other one meant.

So, overall opinions? I’m struggling a bit here. Gideon the Ninth is set in the COOLEST place and was one of the most plot twisty (that’s a word now) books I’ve ever read. However, there were – more than – a few points where I got kinda bored. However, I figured this should be a more positive review because I remembered some redeeming points; also because sadly not every review can be a roast. Just most.

Redeeming Factor #1 The Characters

This had to be number one. Gideon was the perfect flawed character, I loved it. Her romance was great too; it was pretty blunt from the beginning who the author wanted you to ship her with (they had nicknames for each other) but it worked. Aside from Gideon, Harrowhark was great, even if she didn’t have the most conventional name. Although I guess when you’re the head necromancer at the House Of The Gothy Nuns your name isn’t going to be Jane. Actually, most of the characters had pretty interesting names. These were my favourites:

  • Princess Corona. You read that right! The first time she was introduced I literally started screaming (it didn’t seem like a particularly Good Omen). Apparently, it’s short for ‘Coronabeth’, which I guess is better than calling your kid COVID 19. That’s just child cruelty.
  • Lord Priamhark. This sounds hilariously similar to the shop where I’m going to spend my entire weekend…
  • Lord Septimus of the Seventh. At first it really annoyed me how unoriginal it is to have characters called Octakision the Eight and Triceratops the third ect. But it actually helped to remember who was who (there were over 15 main characters all with names like Palamedes and Pelleamena and Protesilaus).

Redeeming Factor #2 The Plot

Like I said before, the plot twists in Gideon the Ninth were phenomenal. The first half wasn’t the best. It wasn’t bad… it just wasn’t really good. Things progressed after everyone started to die (naturally) and the Big Reveal was so great.

Before this book, the closest I’d got to necromancy was Stephenie Meyers’ The Host so I really wasn’t that clued up with the technicalities of raising the dead. I kept expecting the author to stop and explain how necromancy works but you were expected to just figure it out yourself. I’ve just about mastered what ‘thananergy’ is, but it’s safe to say that my ex-hamster is safe in the grave. However, I thought Gideon the Ninth was a million times better than The Host (Are you surprised?) and the setting just pulled it off. Undead necromancers exploring a gothic mansion in futuristic space? What’s not to like?

What Is Not To Like

I do have a few points. First of all, I think that swears can often make or break a book. Yeah, sometimes having the main character curse can make them more relatable and dOwN WiTh tHe KiDs, but personally, I think swears should only be used in dialogue or if your book is in first person. Not to describe the setting in a pretty serious book from the third person. Basically, Tamsyn Muir, clusterf**k is not a good adjective.

Secondly, one of the reasons I got Gideon the Ninth was because I wanted to see if the raving reviews on the cover followed through. I’m still pretty sceptical. One promised that ‘The author is clearly insane’ which I was disappointed to see little evidence of. Another claimed Gideon the Ninth was ‘Punchy, crunchy and gooey’ which, looking back, doesn’t actually mean anything. I quite literally googled the reviewers to check they weren’t all the author’s cousins – but it seems they are all quite highly regarded authors I’ve just never heard of. Convenient.

Redeeming Factor #3 The Cover

Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb Trilogy) (Locked Tomb Trilogy, 2 ...

The other thing that pulled me to the book was that cover. Oh My God. The front of the next book in the series comes out on the 20th August (only a year later) and I think I might have to get it just to see that dust jacket in real life. Even if her use of curses could be improved, Tamsyn Muir sure has good covers.

So. I thought Gideon the Ninth was a pretty good book, redeemed by its ending, surprisingly funny style and quirky setting. Whilst I thought there could have been less description of how the ‘moonlight glinted off the bloody axe’ and more actual axe-wielding, I did enjoy this book despite it’s unnecessary amount of pages (I think I’ve reflected its sheer volume in the size of this post. Sorry.). Some passages of the book were solid 2 stars, whist in others I was grinning so hard and cheerfully telling the strangers around me what a great book this was. I apologise again to the lady in the park. You know who you are.

Adult References You Missed in ‘The School for Good and Evil’

‘The School for Good and Evil’ by Somain Chainani. That Never ending series. Most of its reviews agree it’s aimed at primary schoolers, but I’m not sure. Read on for the adult references you missed reading the series as a kid.

The School for Good and Evil

The original! The first book in this (admittedly infinite) series tells the tale of Sophie and Agatha – two best friends, despite their different appearances. Sophie, the blonde princess, dreams of being kidnapped (um, okay?) by the mysterious School Master and whisked away to the School of Good. Her bestie Agatha has black, greasy hair (this is thoroughly reiterated) but when the two girls get taken, she goes to the School for Good and Sophie to Evil. Shock! Horror! A princess who isn’t blonde! This book really is breaking boundaries.

What ensues is can only be called chaos with the princess forced to eat gRuEl and the introvert to make friends with the popular kids – until Sophie snaps, ends up tortured in the dungeons before murdering her captor. Ah yes, what a lovely series for 10 year olds! Surely it can’t get worse…

Sophie decides the only way she can get home is to make out the fittest guy in the school (sounds suspiciously like she just wants a kiss) but he falls in love with Agatha! Admittedly, I did actually enjoy this bit, especially as its the only part of the series where Tedros doesn’t act like an idiot. After her rejection, Sophie decides to go one step further than the friendzone and murder Tedros (I mean, I’ve seen worse break ups) but Agatha wants to keep her boyfriend. With the power of self love and friendship, Agatha eventually makes up with Sophie, then makes out a bit with Sophie before they are magically transported home.

Please remember that they are 12.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A World Without Princes

Book 2! The author’s run out of money so it looks like we’re back in Galvadon! This time, when Sophie and Agatha return after some painful moments in Ye Olde Village, the schools are no longer Co-Ed. The School for Good is now the School for Girls: the ultimate mix of Malory Towers the set of Descendants and an army bootcamp, run by the mysterious new Dean (spot a trend yet?). The school celebrates Sophie and Agatha’s ‘friendship’, the books switching between insisting it’s only that and 10ft tapestries of the girls’ kiss over the walls. I would have much preferred them to just be written as a couple. Lesbians exist! Get over yourself!

Things get interesting when Agatha tries to visit her boyfriend (the thirteen year old running the Boy’s School) in disguise. She walks the thin line between brave and stupid as she voluntarily enters a castle run by unwashed adolescents. I vote stupidity. Later, Sophie tries to enter as well with the help of the coven – the BEST people in the whole series – and a gender changing potion. Impressively, the author manages to describe this process without once mentioning any changes down there. One there, Sophie teams up with Tedros, who eventually tries to kiss her whilst she’s still a boy. This is never mentioned again.

It also comes to light that one of the students at the girl’s school was biologically a boy and used that potion to change. My heart broke during their last words (because of course they died) when they’re describing how hard it was for them to be accepted. Can we PLEASE just have an outwardly gender fluid character without all of this ‘toning down’ crap for younger audiences?

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A World Without Princes

The last book of the series this post! Agatha and Sophie are back in the exhilarating conclusion Book 3 where everything ends is momentarily stalled. Because we’re running out of plot, apparently the sun rising now depends on these teenagers – didn’t we mention before? No pressure there ( they’re age 14 in this book). Since Book 2, Agatha and Tedros are struggling with domestic life back in her home town and Sophie is unhappy in love. In fact, if you took out the magical school, this could be a really moving series that explores friendship, gender and love. BUT NO IT’S FOR 10 YEAR OLDS, BACK TO THE OGRES!

There are many problems with Sophie’s new boyfriend. Aside form being eViL and a part-time mutant ninja turtle, Raphal is controlling, kind of abusive and used to be her headteacher. There’s also the small matter of him being thousands of years old; possibly having an affair with her best friend (sister?) ‘s mum… who is kind of her mum… so he’s like her mum’s ex? Her step dad? I’m confused too. As usual, there’s a lot of messing around: whether Sophie’s Good or not; whether Agatha’s good enough for Tedros; whether the coven are the only competent characters (they are). Although, those three witches are called a ‘threesome’ way too many times for a kid’s book.

The author seemed to have run out of fairytales by now because suddenly we’ve got Peter Pan chatting up Merlin and the Queen of Hearts – although you have to love that wizard. Later on, Tedros looses the ability to call his girlfriend anything other than ‘princess’ (misogynistic or what?) to the extent that Agatha might ditch him for Sophie. I QUOTE: ‘The two of them were giggling and bickering like teenagers in love’. Either make your mind up or learn what a simile is. However, I do love this series, no matter how many plot holes it has (it puts J.K Rowling to shame). I love the characters, the setting, and I’m scarily often quite proud of myself for figuring out a plot before I remember, this is a series for 10 year olds.

Right?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Books I’m Too Chicken To Read

I like to think that I’m kind of tough when it comes to horror, but there are a few that are never happening. This was inspired by the tag for this week’s #TopTenTuesday, a book meme held over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Are there any books that you’re too chicken to read? Or have you read some of these and think I can get over myself? Please like and let me know in the comments!

The Haunting of Hill House (Movie Tie-In) by Shirley Jackson ...

1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

My excuse to not read this one is so I don’t spoil the series… but I think we all know I’m never doing either. I am intrigued what happens though – I’m naively asking what the worst a house could do is. Force you to step on lego?

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2. The House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

Who knew houses could be so terrifying? I have heard there is a cult following surrounding this book, which is very interesting, but according to BuzzFeed it is one of the most terrifying books ever to have been written. So maybe not. But then again, I am taking advice from BuzzFeed…

However, I have seen photos of some of the pages in this book and my neck hurt enough from the weird angles I had to strain to try and read those without suffering through 700 more pages!

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Pet Sematary: Amazon.co.uk: King, Stephen: 9781982115982: Books

3. Pet Sematary

Both the film and the book are NEVER happening. I did wonder how reincarnated hamsters could be so scary, but after watching the trailer I can safely say that Nibbles is better off staying in the ground.

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Frozen Charlotte (Frozen Charlotte, #1)

4. Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

I actually started this one a few years back, but I had to stop. It follows Sophie, who visits her cousins at an abandoned school. They’re all scarred, strange, and have a weird obsession with an old box of dolls. (Whilst that may not seem that bad, trust me. IT’S BAD.) I think dolls are overdone, but it worked, especially for a Young Adult horror.

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5. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

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Another Shirley Jackson! This book was literally all Libby in Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven (click here for my review) read. Now, I love reading and listening to the same stuff as my favourite characters but I draw the line at a blurb where every other review proclaimed it as ‘psychologically chilling’. I’m a wimp. (Also, I really didn’t like Libby so its fine).

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Review: Naomi's Room & The Silence of Ghosts, by Jonathan Aycliffe ...

6. Naomi’s Room by Jonathon Aycliffe

‘This haunting psychological masterpiece is guaranteed to make you sink into untold depths of teeth shaking terror.’

Maybe not? The concept doesn’t look the scariest but I find horrors based on real life issues worse, to be honest. At least you know that killer clowns aren’t likely to be hiding in nearby sewers…

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7. The Troop by Nick Cutter

The Troop Cutter hardback.jpg

The plot of this one looks a bit too close to home. It’s the story of a group of Boy Scouts (whose leader is a serial killer. Obviously.) whose camp is invaded by a parasite. Might wait until COVID is long gone until I attempt it? I’m so interested to see what happens – but I think I might just keep my sanity and look up the plot.

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8. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

The Exorcist - William Peter Blatty - Hardcover

I love how ‘The Exorcist’ was released in the 70’s but is still going strong. I’ve definitely written off the film, but I am interested to see if the book is as bad as everyone says? Although I suppose if everyone agrees there may be some truth behind it…

That’s the thing about horror books. I’m always fascinated to see if theyre actually as ‘mind-warping’ as the blurb proclaims. But normally they are and it’s too late.

dUn DuN dUnNnNnnN

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I know that there is only 8 books here for a Top Ten Tuesday, but I’m running the risk of posting it on a Wednesday if I add any more. So, enjoy my list and I’d love to hear any more suggestions 🙂

I’ve never read a book with such a ‘The Smiths’ vibe

Do you ever find a song that just sums up a book?

Not always. But sometimes it just clicks, in fact I try and put a song on all my reviews but its often quite hard! A few months ago, I read All the Places I’ve Cried in Public and there was a lot of songs that came to mind. (Admittedly most of them by The Smiths or Louis Capaldi. This book made me cry a lot – although mostly in private). I enjoyed the book but I honestly wasn’t prepared for what it was about. The title and almost cartoony cover really didn’t hint at it’s plot – the haunting story of an older teen who is manipulated and abused by her boyfriend. It was my first read of Holly Bourne, and whilst I really liked her style, I think a lot of her books are about similar themes. Maybe some for after the global pandemic? (Although I really want to read Am I Normal Yet?).

Anyway. Here’s the playlist I made; I had to screenshot it from my Spotify account. Have you read this book? Or got any other ideas for songs the playlist (also if you’ve done a book playlist on any other book put a link in the comment. I’d love to see some others).

Am I the only person who hated this book?

Name: Every Day

Author: David Levithan

Published: 2012

Song: Nightswimming by REM

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.
There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone A wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

I think I’m part of the small percentage who really disliked this book.

I’ve been trying to find others who share my view, but all I can find is beaming reviews – which, to some extent, I agree with. The concept behind ‘Every Day’ was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time – it follows A, who wakes up in a different body everyday (I wonder where David Levithan got the title from?!). A does question his gender throughout the book, but the blurb refers to him as male so I will too. I felt like there was so much Levithan could have done with this idea, but instead of an epic journey confronting human nature, I just trudged through 350 pages of overly detailed Young Adult romance-rubbish.

Maybe a bit harsh? Sorry. ‘Romance’ might be too extreme for the creepy relationship between A and Rhiannon. The book opens with A in Rhiannon’s boyfriend’s body; he then meets her and instantly falls in lurrvee. He was dreaming about marrying her by page 20. In various different ways, she tells him to leave her alone and yet time and time again he finds her. However, luckily, she eventually returns his feelings (that’s really not a spoiler) although I’m not really sure why. Both of them had little in the way of personalities, all I could pick up was that Rhiannon was a bit homophobic. Although A did try and kiss her in a girl’s boy. And she did say tht she was straight. That side of the book was interesting.

Every Day did cover various issues including depression, drugs, suicide and gender. I read a review of the book that said it felt as if the author was just trying to tick off all major issues, but personally I thought that this side was written well. What do you think?

This book is a film! I thought this was honestly so funny… because A is in a different body every day. How would that work? Basically the only consistent character in the story was Rhiannon, so would it literally just be her at the premier? (She’s also be kissing a lot of different people 😉 )

Another thing I liked about the book was it’s side plot – one of the bodies A was in believed he had been possessed by the devil (I think I would too to be honest) and he enlists the help of an evil vicar who might know more about what A is going through than he lets on….


It felt almost Twilight-esque in that it was just randomly thrown to pad out the make-out sessions. I guess this subplot was kind of refreshingly unexpected. But before we could learn literally anything about the vicar, the book ended! There is a sequel but I’m honestly not sure I could take any more of A and Rhiannon. Interestingly, Levithan also wrote another book in the series that just seems to be the plot of Every Day but from Rhiannon’s pov – kind of like the new twilight book Midnight Sun (I’m seeing a lot of similarities between this and Twilight. Guess Stephanie Myers isn’t the only author running out of money…)

Soooo, baisically Every Day wasn’t the best. A wasn’t even that likeable and I thought that his and Rhiannon’s love was unrealistic. The book did cover a lot of prevalent issues – I think a lot of his books do – and I liked how each body had a message. Swapping bodies every day is a clever idea but personally I thought it was let down by the characters. However, it was easy to read? Let me know if you’ve read this and what you thought – I need some help!

Have you read this book? Got any recommendations or book memes that I should try? Please like and let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.

Six For Sunday: Favourite LGBTQ+ Characters

I recently found this tag (and I’m honestly running out of inspiration) so I thought I might give it a try! It was created in June 2017 by Steph over at A Little But A Lot, and each week is a different topic. For June, it’s all about Pride and this week’s topic is your favourite LGBTQ+ characters…

What If It's Us (What If It's Us, #1) by Becky Albertalli
  1. Arthur from What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

His Broadway knowledge is amazing. As is his personality and hotdog ties.

CLICK HERE FOR MY REVIEW OF THIS BOOK

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2. Jesper from the Six of Crows duologyby Leigh Bardugo

I am ever in is debt for his comic relief throughout the series. (Plus him and Wylan are extremely cute).

CLICK HERE FOR MY REVIEW OF THIS BOOK

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My Brother's Name is Jessica by [John Boyne]

3. Jessica from My Brother‘ s Name is Jessica by John Boyne

This book is honestly so beautiful.

CLICK HERE OR MY REVIEW OF THIS BOOK.

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4. Baz from Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

One of my all time favourite characters.

( “Go ahead and shoot me. This isn’t my favourite shirt“. Need I say more?)

CLICK HERE FOR MY REVIEW OF THIS BOOK.

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5. Leah from the Simonverse by Becky Albertalli

Leah is amazing – and she’s in a band! She plays the drums! Her taste in music is awesome! Leah is amazing!

CLICK HERE FOR MY REVIEW OF THIS BOOK.

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6. Julius from Arctic Zoo by Robert Muchamore

Arctic Zoo eBook: Muchamore, Robert: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

He deserved so much moreee (I am never forgiving Robert Muchamore for this book).

CLICK HERE FOR MY REVIEW OF THIS BOOK

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Who are your favourite LGTBQ+ characters? Please like and let me know in the comments!

MINI REVIEW: Down Under

This is my 50th post! Thankyou to everyone who has supported me over the last few years, all your comments and love means the world to me 🙂

Travel literature is not normally my scene.

See the source image

But lockdown has us all doing things out of our comfort zone – be it having our hair cut by parents or running out of books published in this decade. But everything is working out okay because I have successfully warded off my mother so far – and because this book was pretty good!

Discovered in a box in the attic, Bill Bryson’s ‘Down Under’ was a pretty exciting find. I’ve always wanted to go to Australia and seeing as most flights have vbeen cancelled for the foreseeable future, why not travel there in a book?

I’m not entirely sure I want to visit anymore.

It wasn’t that Bryson didn’t paint the continent in a good light, it’s just that I’ve recently learnt exactly how many things can kill you in Australia. It’s terrifying. I knew there were a lot of sharks, but I have a newfound respect for all the Australians who haven’t been eaten alive by giant spiders (yet).

Normally, I’d be reviewing the plot points of this book but… I mean, there wasn’t a plot? It was just Bill Bryson wandering around making (admittedly hilarious) observations about the landscape and hotels and these tiny towns.

But this was a surprisingly interesting book (even the lists of deadly animals on every other page were interesting, just too frequent for my liking). Did you know that some Australian schools have catchment areas double the size of France? This is a massive country.

(This photo was one of the most terrifying I could find of said Australian animals).

Sooooo. ‘Down Under’ was hilarious, full of interesting facts but it took SO LONG to read. I don’t even know why, it wasn’t that long. I guess there was just so many jokes and quips on every page, it took forever. It was also pretty interesting to see what Australia was like when the book was published compared to now – although because it was from the 90s there was a lot less mention of Aboriginal culture than there might have been if the book was more recent. Like I said: interesting!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Starless Sea

Name: The Starless Sea

Author: Erin Morgenstein

Published: 2019

Song: The Man Who Sold the World by David Bowie (or Nirvana?)

Are you lost or are you exploring?

When Zachary Rawlins stumbles across a strange book hidden in his university library it leads him on a quest unlike any other. Its pages entrance him with their tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities and nameless acolytes, but they also contain something impossible: a recollection from his own childhood.

Determined to solve the puzzle of the book, Zachary follows the clues he finds on the cover – a bee, a key and a sword. They guide him to a masquerade ball, to a dangerous secret club, and finally through a magical doorway created by the fierce and mysterious Mirabel. This door leads to a subterranean labyrinth filled with stories, hidden far beneath the surface of the earth.

When the labyrinth is threatened, Zachary must race with Mirabel, and Dorian, a handsome barefoot man with shifting alliances, through its twisting tunnels and crowded ballrooms, searching for the end of his story.

This book that walks the thin line between sensational and just a bit weird – and for the majority, I wasn’t sure which side it strayed.

The Starless Sea is set in my dream location – a young man called Zachary discovers a secret infinite library underground. With endless amounts of books. And a Kitchen that will prepare whatever food you want. Forget about Narnia, this is what I want in the back of my wardrobe! Erin Morgenstern has such a beautiful style that sometimes I would forget that that’s literally all the plot was – a grown man wandering around a mad library.

Or is plot the right word?

There were hundreds of storylines in the book, but not really a main PLOT. Each chapter was separated by a passage of a different made-up story – and it was 500 pages long. That’s a lot of stories! It got to a point where almost every chapter was ending on a cliffhanger; I had to endure an admittedly very nice, but very LONG description of the moon before I could discover if someone had died. Whilst a few tied together eventually (in a ‘Oh wait, we have to include this’ sort of way) so many of these, arguably very beautiful, stories seemed extremely random. I got the impression that I could read the book again and again and pick up different references each time. However, that would take at least a few years and I really don’t have that sort of time.

By the end of the book, I had lost track of all the stories (something I think was intended) which created a strange sense of an overwhelming amount of characters and tales – which was how Zachary described being in this infinite library. It was quite clever.

So, I’ve seen films that acknowledge themselves as films, an alarming amount of pantos where the characters accept themselves only existing for the shows, but never a book that acknowledges itself to be a book. Apart from the occasional wHaT iF tHiS iS alL a sToRy, I’ve just never seen it before. However, Zachary reads the books between the chapters with you, even that beautiful cover looks as if it’s a collection of books and, when it was nearing the end, certain characters began to say that it was the end too. It’s hard to explain. You’ll just have to read it!

“But the world is strange and endings are not truly endings no matter how the stars might wish it so.”

– Erin Morgenstein, The Starless Sea

TALK ABOUT A ROLLERCOASTER OF EMOTIONS. This book is the Smiler of fantasy novels. Reading this book involved a fair share of screaming, laughing and smiling through tears – I may have become slightly too invested in some of the characters. Preferably, there would be a bit more focus on developing Zachary’s personality (and his reason for staying in this weird library. Or for falling in love with someone he had never even held a full conversation with) but it was brilliant all the same.

I read this book at the same time as my friend; which was a really cool experience to have someone going through the same kind of emotions as you and discussing what you thought would happen. There was a lot to discuss. From the plot to all the characters and Morgenstern’s beautiful description, I couldn’t (can’t) get enough.

I loved the world building, characters and plot; whilst I’m not entirely satisfied with the final ending, this was an amazing book. I hovered over 3 stars (and honestly 6 if that was an option) but I think it’s a solid 4.5. I’ve got The Night Circus by the same author in my Book Deposit basket and I can’t wait to read it! Fingers crossed it’s as beautiful as The Starless Sea.