‘Stardust’ by Neil Gaiman

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I don’t know what took me so long to pick up a book by Neil Gaiman, I loved the episode of Doctor Who that he wrote (‘The Doctor’s Wife’) and the film Coraline. Embarassingly for someone who advocates the reading of a book over seeing the movie I had no idea that Stardust was originally a book so when I saw it I had to pick it up.

In the sleepy English countryside at the dawn of the Victorian era, life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall. Young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester, but Victoria is as cold and distant as the star she and Tristran see fall from the sky one evening. For the prize of Victoria’s hand, Tristran vows to retrieve the star for his beloved. It is an oath that sends the lovelorn swain over the town’s ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining…

- Blurb  from ‘Stardust’

I wasn’t much of a fan of the film, from what I can remember anyway, but the book is definitely better. I’d put this in the category of fairy tales for adults, but the world beyond the wall really reminds me of that in Holly Black’s Modern Faerie Tales young adult series. The mix of humour, grisly realism and romance mesh into a fully absorbing and beautifully written tale that never verges in to cliched. The book is quite a short and easy read (194 pages) and kept me entranced for the whole time I was reading, there isn’t a climax as such but the ending ties everything up in a very satisfying way. After reading this I am really excited to read more by Neil Gaiman, I already have American Gods sitting on my To Be Read shelf!

I would recommend ‘Stardust‘ if you enjoy books with beautiful prose, romance, humour and that feel like the author is giving you a sneaky wink.

To Buy, Borrow or Bin?: Buy!

Rating: starstarstar

Favourite Quote: ‘She says nothing at all, but simply stares upward into the dark sky and watches, with sad eyes, the slow dance of the infinite stars.’ (P.176)


‘Valiant’ by Holly Black

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Valiant is book 2 of 3 in a series by Holly Black called Modern Faerie Tales, while the books are all connected this could be read as a stand alone novel. A long time ago, about 2004/5, I read the first book in the series called Tithe. I remember really loving it but that it also gave me serious shivers up my spine! Tithe and Valiant both lean more towards the ‘adult’ half of the young adult genre in some of their themes so if you aren’t comfortable with that I’d approach with caution.

This book is supposed to be a modern ‘Beauty and the Beast’ type story, the themes are definitely there and I think it achieves this well without getting too bogged down in the details.

When 17-year-old Valerie Russell runs away to New York City, she’s trying to escape a life that has utterly betrayed her. Sporting a new identity, she takes up with a gang of squatters who live in the city’s labyrinthine subway system. But there’s something eerily beguiling about Val’s new friends. Impulsive Lolli talks of monsters in the subway tunnels they call home and shoots up a shimmery amber-coloured powder that makes the shadows around her dance. Severe Luis claims he can make deals with creatures that no one else can see. And then there’s Luis’s brother, Dave, who makes the mistake of letting Val tag along as he makes a delivery to a woman who turns out to have goat hooves instead of feet. When a bewildered Val allows Lolli to talk her into tracking down the hidden lair of the creature for whom Luis and Dave have been working, Val finds herself bound into service by a troll named Ravus. He is as hideous as he is honourable, and as Val grows to know him, she finds herself torn between affection for him – and fear of what her new friends are becoming because of him.

- The really long blurb from ‘Valiant’

What I love about this book, and Tithe too, is Holly Black’s ability to write about teen issues like sex and drug abuse without being patronising or preachy. Her honest approach to the things many teens deal with is seriously refreshing, there are far too many books out there that aren’t nearly so candid when it comes to these kinds of real life situations that are neither glamourous nor ideal. I was also so happy that revisiting this series after so long, and with such fond memories of Tithe, it did not disappoint. I was just as enthralled by this world as I was the first time, and still equally as creeped out despite being 9 years older now! Valiant gave me quite a few shivers down my spine and definitely made me feel disturbed and uneasy thanks to Holly Black’s amazing prose. I got quite invested in the central romance of the novel too, to my surprise, I was really rooting for them by the end!

The third book in this series, Ironside, arrived in the post today and I’m so excited to read it!

I recommend ‘Valiant’, in fact the whole Modern Faerie Tales series, if you enjoy fantasy, fairy tales and shivers down your spine.

To Buy, Borrow or Bin?: Buy!

Rating: starstarstarstar

Favourite Quote: About humans – ‘Gone in one faerie sigh’ (P.176)


My Favourite BookTubers

While I love reading written reviews of books on blogs and Goodreads, sometimes I just want to watch something. I’m really nosy and I love bookshelf tour videos and book hauls in addition to the traditional book reviews! Whenever I need a good dose of booktastic videos I turn to YouTube, specifically the lovely people below.

Note – These are not in any particular order, and if you have any favourite BookTubers let me know in the comments, I’d love to go subscribe!

Hi. My name is Sanne. I’m a 23-year old graduate with an MA in English translation and literature. At the end of 2012 I moved from the Netherlands (where I was born) to London, where I’m currently looking for work. On this channel I post book reviews, travel videos and vlogs.

- Sanne’s  ‘About Me’ on YouTube

Booksandquills was one of the first BookTubers I subscribed to, I love her channel’s mix of book reviews, hauls and occasional random vlogs. She gives fantastic descriptions of books she has read and never fails to get me excited about reading, I could quite easily blame at least 50% of my Amazon purchases on her videos!

Other places to find Sanne: Goodreads, Tumblr, Blog and Twitter

One of the most interesting things I find about this channel is that every month there is a different theme (January’s is Dystopia!) and Pricilla reads about 3 or 4 books that fall in to that theme, usually including at least one classic and one young adult novel. The production quality of these videos is really high and I love how enthusiastic she is about reading!

Other places to find Pricilla: GoodreadsTumblr and Twitter

For some reason guy BookTubers seem few and far between, if they were all like Harry I would love it if there were more! Videos are uploaded regularly, at one every week usually, and are a mixture of book hauls, reviews and general updates. I could listen to Harry talk about books all day, it’s actually really refreshing to get a guy’s perspective considering the lack of it on YouTube. The books he reads tend to be young adult and current novels.

Other places to find Harry: GoodreadsTumblr and Twitter

I subscribed to LittleBookOwl at first because of her voice, I know that sounds really weird but it is so soothing and easy to listen to! Catriona posts regular book hauls, book reviews and bookshelf tours and every video I watch I come out with a list of books I want to buy. The genres tend to lean towards young adult, especially fantasy, which I have a bit of a weakness for! I know I can rely on recommendations from this channel because whenever I have already read one of the books Catriona reviews I usually agree with her opinion.

Other places to find Catriona: GoodreadsTumblrBlog and Twitter

Hi! My name is Kat. I love books, coffee, Korean dramas, and the internet. I want to tell great stories, travel the world, and have fantastic adventures. I’m a gamer, a Nerdfighter, a Whedonite, and a Whovian. I put up three videos a week, sometimes more if I’m feeling vloggy!

Kat’s ‘About Me’ on YouTube

My favourite thing about Kat is her energy, it is seriously contagious and you can tell she likes her coffee (same here!). As well as the usual hauls and reviews Kat has some really interesting vlogs on writing, her recent ‘Factors of a Great Novel’ series of videos really intrigued me despite the fact that I rarely write. Kat writes young adult fantasy books in her spare time, I’d really love to read one of them one day!

Other places to find Kat: GoodreadsTumblrBlog and Twitter

And while we’re at it, other places to find me: GoodreadsTumblr, and Twitter :)


‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern

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The Night Circus‘ is a perfect example of why I always try my best to read to the end of a book even if it hasn’t immediately captured my imagination, I very rarely don’t finish a book.

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

The black sign, painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, reads:

Opens at Nightfall

Closes at Dawn

As the sun disappears beyond the horizon, all over the tents small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears.

Le Cirque des Rêves

The Circus of Dreams.

Now the circus is open.

Now you may enter.

- Synopsis from Amazon

From what I gather, this book is a bit of a ‘you love it or you hate it’ kind of deal. For me it was a strange mixture of both, it wasn’t until I was about a third of the way in (Page 220 if we are going to be exact about it) that I really started to feel properly immersed and invested in this story, and I was really starting to lose hope. I was not feeling any real attachment to the characters or the storyline, which was causing this to feel like a bit of a chore to read to be honest, the only thing that kept me going was the incredible setting of the novel and gorgeous prose. The descriptions of the Les Cirque des Rêves are beautiful and captivating, I would love to visit even for an hour!

I think my main struggle with this book is the style of the third person narrative, it made it very difficult for me to feel any sort of emotional connection with the characters as well as making me feel very detached from the story itself. That said, by the time I reached that end of this book I was hooked, it is beautifully written and actually had me longing for a trip to a magical dream-like circus! I’ve given this three stars purely due to the struggle I had with the first part of the book, but that may just be a personal issue with the style of writing.

I would recommend ‘The Night Circus‘ if you enjoy dark and enchanting worlds, magic, mystery and a unique love story.

To Buy, Borrow or Bin?: Borrow, then buy if you love it! (I’m glad I took the risk)

Rating: starstarstar

Favourite Quote: ‘”Because I do not wish to know,” he says.”I prefer to remain unenlightened, to better appreciate the dark.”‘ (Pg. 230)


New Books!

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Valiant – Holly Black, The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern, The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey, Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn, The Happy Prince and Other Tales - Oscar Wilde

I know, I know, as if I needed more books right? Well this was the result of a late night Amazon binge, I swear that widget on my Amazon page that says ‘Why don’t you treat yourself to something?’ and then shows things from my wishlist is my bank balance’s worst enemy!

I’m excited to read all of these, Valiant I got because I read Tithe by Holly Black absolutely ages ago and loved it, I had no idea there were more! Clearly I have been out of the loop. The next three, The Night Circus, The Snow Child and Gone Girl, are all ones I got because of the sheer volume of recommendations on Goodreads . Not just Goodreads actually, all over the place! Finally The Happy Prince and Other Tales, I know this is a childrens book, and it is only going to take me about 15 minutes to read (seriously, it’s only 60 pages of large type). I love Oscar Wilde, and when someone I know said these stories were beautiful I had to give them a read!

Have you read any of these books? Have you bought any new books lately? Do you have late night Amazon binges? (Please tell me I’m not alone…)


‘A Game of Thrones’ by George R. R. Martin

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First things first, this is an adult book, with adult themes. It’s also huge, so if you aren’t old enough to lift it in one hand it’s best you don’t read it!

I think I was quite lucky when it came to reading this, I have seen the TV series from HBO but I watched it quite a while ago, so while I remember enough to put faces to names I don’t remember enough to make the book boring. My friend is having some difficulty keeping track of the characters and I really think being able to picture faces helped me with this!

This book is pretty big, especially if you like to carry your books with you (guilty!), and it can look a bit intimidating to some, but I honestly think it is worth the time it takes to read. Also, if you read this you will start saying ‘Winter is coming’ whenever it starts to snow, just so you know…

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must… and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty. The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne. (Synopsis from the book)

I enjoyed this book so much, I could barely put it down, it got to the point where I wanted to ring in sick to work just so I could keep reading! Mr Martin does a fantastic job of creating a world that is immersing, fascinating and never dull. Well, almost never dull. Each chapter in the book is titled with a characters name depending on whose point of view of events we are reading and I must confess, every time I saw a chapter titled Sansa I just wanted to flick ahead, they were the only parts of the book that took all my determination to get through.

I think one of the things that makes this book stand out is the way that every character is flawed, there is no perfect lead that can do no wrong, every single one of them has their secrets and does things that will make you shake your head in exasperation or annoyance. While that may annoy some I personally find it makes the characters of the novel seem a lot more like people, you grow to love them despite their mistakes. I often found myself switching loyalties while reading, from the dutiful and honourable Starks, to the witty and clever Tyrion Lannister and then to the exiled Daenerys Targaryen and then back round again with many inbetween. I fear if I was a character in this book I would be as changeable, cunning and disloyal as Littlefinger!

This book, like it’s characters, has it’s flaws, and like the characters I love it all the more for it. A word of warning though, don’t let yourself get too attached, Mr Martin is not afraid to kill off any of them and you may find yourself devastated if you have thrown your favour in with the losing side!

I would recommend ‘A Game Of Thrones‘ if you enjoy fantasy, incredibly detailed worlds and a plot full of so many twists, turns, mysteries and intrigue it makes your head spin!

To Buy, Borrow or Bin?: Buy!

Rating: starstarstarstar

Favourite Quote: From the book: ‘A craven can be as brave as any man, when there is nothing to fear. And we all do our duty, when there is no cost to it. How easy it seems then, to walk to path of honor. Yet soon or late in every man’s life comes a day when it is not easy, a day when he must choose.’

From the TV Series: ‘There is only one god, and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: ‘Not today’”


I Best Get Reading…

TBR Jan

Row 1: American Psycho – Brett Easton Ellis, The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon , Dracula – Bram Stoker, The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde, The War of the Worlds – H. G. Wells, The Horologicon – Mark Forsyth

Row 2: Oscar’s Books – Thomas Wright, Les Miserables - Victor Hugo, Dearly Devoted Dexter - Jeff Lindsay, Beautiful Creatures - Kami Garcia, City of Bones - Cassandra Clare, American Gods – Neil Gaiman

Row 3: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance With Dragons – George R. R. Martin, City of Secrets - Mary Hoffman

Row 4: Les Liaisons Dangereuses – Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, When I Was Five I Killed Myself – Howard Buten, The Fry Chronicles – Stephen Fry, The Defence of the Realm; The Authorized History of MI5 – Christopher Andrew, The Complete Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle, A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking

So this is what I have sitting waiting for me on my to read shelf, I don’t think I need to buy any more books for a little while but I already know I will! I think the selection is pretty varied, I struggle every time I finish a book to figure out what I want to read next though, any recommendations or suggestions are definitely welcome! I’m currently reading A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, look me up on Goodreads to see my progress!

Do you have a to read shelf? Or do you prefer to wait until you finish your current book before buying a new one?


‘The Fault In Our Stars’ by John Green

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Ok, a small disclaimer-type-thing before I start this, I watch the VlogBrothers channel on YouTube and therefore am not necessarily unbiased when it comes to John Green, that said this will be an honest review. I am also aware that this book has probably been reviewed a million times so I am more than likely just adding to the roar!

I was nervous about reading this book to be honest, I had heard so many good things about it and I love John Green’s videos so much that I was quite concerned it may not live up to the hype I had created for it in my head (do you ever get that? Or is it just me?!). I had previously read Looking For Alaska and while I enjoyed it I wasn’t truly blown away by it, The Fault In Our Stars blew me away.

Sixteen year old Hazel has cancer, and her diagnosis is terminal despite a medical miracle that has shrunk her tumours. For Hazel there doesn’t seem to be much left to be excited about. Until she meets Augustus Waters at the Cancer Kid Support Group her mom makes her attend in an attempt to stop her being depressed. What follows is a funny, romantic and devastating exploration of what it means to be alive and in love.

I loved this book, I couldn’t put it down and finished it in about a day. I am not going to lie either, I cried so hard at the end. For approximately the last 100 pages I was desperately trying to read through tears that wouldn’t stop, and to put that in perspective I have only ever cried at one other book ever. The sarcastic and witty humour, intelligent references, hopeful outlook and intriguing questions on life and how the value of it is determined made me fall in love with this book despite the tearful ending. While at times I did struggle with how implausible things were this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel which is why I haven’t made it lose a star.

I’m actually really glad to hear that this book is being made in to a film despite normally being of the opinion that books should be left as books and Hollywood should stop stealing plots! I may have to take a jumbo box of tissues in to the cinema with me though…

I would definitely recommend ‘The Fault in Our Stars‘ if you enjoy books that make you think, cry, learn, and that rip out your heart but somehow leave it more whole than it was to begin with.

To Buy, Borrow or Bin?: Buy!

Rating: starstarstarstarstar

Favourite Quote: ‘Oh, I wouldn’t mind, Hazel Grace. It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.’ (P.176) I can’t choose just one so…

‘You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.’ (P.260)


‘Warm Bodies’ by Isaac Marion

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I feel like I need to admit before I start this review – Zombies aren’t normally my thing. I’m not anti-horror but I don’t get as much of a kick out of it as others I know! That said, this isn’t your typical zombie novel…

I first decided to read this book after seeing the trailer for the film adaptation and the premise, a zombie book told from the point of view of a zombie, intrigued me. As I prefer to read the book before seeing the film with this sort of thing in to the Amazon WishList it went and I am very glad I took the chance.

R is a zombie, he lives in an airport and is remarkably well preserved considering he’s dead. The novel is set in a future where the people of earth have been split in to the living and the dead, except in this world the dead still stagger around rather than quietly lying in their graves like good corpses. We learn that R is a little different to his undead comrades, he has dreams, but that doesn’t change his habit of eating people. That is until he meets Julie, a living girl he decides to save instead of eat, and then everything starts to change.

I really enjoyed this book, the unique point of view and well-written prose made it a fascinating and surprising read. I’m not normally one for ‘love conquers all’ story lines, I personally find them a little unbelievable and cliche (call me cynical!),  but despite this I found myself rooting for R in a way I never thought I would. The element of humour in the novel stops everything from getting too ‘heavy’ but I feel like there could have been more exploration of the ‘what it means to be human’ theme running through the book, however as this is more of a young adult novel I forgave that easily.

Overall I’d recommend ‘Warm Bodies’ to anyone with a love of dystopian fiction, a fondness for zombies or a weakness for unconventional love stories, and don’t be put off if you don’t normally like horror themes! Have you read this book? Looking forward to the film? Love it, hate it, indifferent? Let me know in the comments!

To Buy, Borrow or Bin?: Buy!

Rating: starstarstarstarstar

Favourite Quote: ‘It doesn’t matter. We are where we are, however we got here. What matters is where we go next.’ (P. 86)


‘The Etymologicon’ by Mark Forsyth

I was given ‘The Etymologicon’ by Mark Forsyth as a Christmas gift from my brother (after sending him the Amazon link of course!) in a set of 2 of his books called the Gemel Edition, which contains this one and his newest book ‘The Horologicon’. The cover states it is ‘A circular stroll through the hidden connections of the English Language’ and really I can’t give a better description than that! For more about Mark Forsyth you can visit his blog called The Inky Fool.

I was unsure what to expect when I started to read this book as my interest in words is amateur at best, and I find reference books can bore me quickly if they are too full of dense language and technical terms that can alienate even the most enthusiastic reader. Luckily I needn’t have worried, the book is full of light humour and rambles from word to word with what would seem at first as very random connections in a way that keeps you engaged throughout. From how Starbucks relates to a small stream in Yorkshire to why tanks were nearly toilets this book is a fascinating and funny start for anyone interested in the English language and where words come from, especially those that enjoy trivia they can drop in to conversations.

Buy, Borrow or Bin?: Buy!

Rating: starstarstarstarstar

Favourite Quote: ‘A man, a plan, a canal: Panama’ (P. 186) – I have a bad habit of not reading footnotes in books but this gem of a palindrome has made me glad I’m trying to kick it!


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