Psychics, Baby Birds, and Trees that Speak Latin: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

3.5 stars

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These days I have a habit of reading YA novels that all seem to blend into one another. They’re not bad, they’re not great, they just happen to sit in that weird three-star middle ground in which over time individual plot details are kind of forgotten. The Raven Boys is like this, and yet it’s not.

Who, What, Where?

Let’s set the scene a bit… The book focuses on five teenagers – four boys and a girl. Blue, the girl, is a member of a family of psychics, who while possessing no actual psychic abilities of her own does act as an amplifier for them and other mystical energies. She also happens to be worried about a prophecy which states if she kisses her true love, he’ll die. Then we have the boys – Gansey, Rowan, Adam, and Noah – students of the illustrious Aglionby academy who just happen to be trying to track down ley lines in the hopes of locating some really old dead guy’s tomb, waking him, and getting a wish granted.  Blue joins her aunt at an old church on St. Mark’s eve, a night on which psychics can see the ghosts of those set to die during the next 12 months. Blue somehow sees Gansey’s ghost and her aunt tells her it’s because either he’s the love of her love or she’s the reason he dies. Drama ensued. And there you have it.

Characters

The characters of The Raven Boys all have distinctive and well-constructed personalities. Each adds a little something different to the story and while they weren’t completely lovable, they’re definitely all very likeable (even Rowan whose personality is designed to set people on edge). This is important as while the story does deal with the group’s investigations into the mystical, much of it actually rests on the interactions between the characters and the things going on in their respective lives, especially the boys e.g. Adam’s troubles at home and future aspirations, Rowan’s family and schooling issues, etc.

Romance

One of the main pet peeves I have with YA novels is insta-love. So many good books in this category have been let down by laziness in developing romantic relationships. I have no idea if this will become a problem later in the series but it wasn’t in this book. Blue has feelings for Adam and vice versa but it’s the kind of gradual and slightly awkward relationship development you’d expect from a couple of teens who haven’t been in a relationship before. It’s believable and not overly annoying (yet). However, trying to avoid spoilers, it’s very easy to see that this (a) won’t last or (b) will turn into a love triangle very soon based on insights Blue gains during the book about Gansey. If so, I hope that either relationship will develop gradually *fingers crossed* but I have serious concerns about the kissing-prophecy angst that’s teased to come.

Plot

In terms of the book’s plot, I liked the idea of it in theory – ley lines, magical energies, ghosts, rituals, etc. but for most of the book I was a little confused. Specific information did come out over time and yet I’m still sitting here feeling slightly hazy on a lot of details. I have to expect that books two-four in the series will add the extra clarification. The first half of the book can be a little slow for those who need big dramatic storylines but for those invested in the characters, it moves along at a nice, relaxed pace. One thing I do wish had packed a little more punch was the story’s climax which felt a little on the flat side, despite the actions of one character which I’m sure will cause tension later on. The group’s overarching goals weren’t fully realised in this book but steps were taken in the right direction so as to show to a degree where the later books are heading. As to how there’s three books worth of plot after this, I’m unsure but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Writing

On the whole, Maggie’s quality of writing is good. It’s third-person, clear, doesn’t overdo the extraneous details and still manages to paint a good picture of events as well as characters’ thoughts. The chapters aren’t ridiculously long – which is good for those who liked defined places to stop reading – and there aren’t so many characters that you find yourself losing track of them all.  My only minor complaint here is that at some points it can take a little bit of time to work out exactly whose perspective a new chapter is being written from. This aside, she has a lovely style which is easy to spend a lazy afternoon with.Divider

Final Verdict: While The Raven Boys won’t be as forgettable as many of the other 3-star YA reads I’ve tackled in recent months, it still lacks the magic spark needed to bump it up to the greatness of a 4.0, particularly when it comes to a memorable and dramatic conclusion.

3.5 Stars

June TBR

When I began my blog, one of my main motivations was the desire to encourage myself to read more and get back on track with old reading habits. So, in pursuit of that I’ve decided to set myself a reading goal of six books this month! In recent months I’ve only really been making it through about two a month, so this is kind of a big deal for me. Fingers crossed I can pull it off.  I’m not allowed to buy any books this month because the TBR pile is getting out of control (but birthday gifts are of course exempt from the rule). Here are the books I’m hoping to be able to cross off that massive TBR list this month:

A Court of Wings and Ruin (Sarah J. Maas)

ACOWAR

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit—and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well. As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords—and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

I’ve actually just finished this as of yesterday afternoon so clearly I’m off to a great start on my goal. My goodness, it was thick (I think I need to aim for something under 500 pages for my next book) but honestly once you hit a major war in a book, it’s pretty difficult to put down.

The Raven Boys (Maggie Stiefvater)

The Raven Boys

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her. His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Gansey is different. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been told by her psychic family that she will kill her true love. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

I’ve heard this is a great book so I’m really excited to give it a go. Hopefully the plot is as good as people have said and I’m left eager to get stuck into the rest of the series. I read a couple of Maggie’s Shiver novels ages ago and the writing was quite lovely. Also, I’ve heard she designed all the stunning covers for this series herself!

The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern)

The Night Circus

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

This has been on my shelf since last year. I keep putting it off for some reason so I definitely think it’s time to get into it this month. Thanks to Beth from Reading Every Night for the reminder in her Standalone Sunday post from the other day.

This Savage Song (V. E. Schwab)

TSS

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

I enjoyed Schwab’s novel Vicious and absolutely loved her Darker Shade of Magic books. With the sequel, Our Dark Duet, coming out this month there’s no better time to get stuck into reading This Savage Song.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows)

GLPPS

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

It’s important to have a little variety amongst all the YA and fantasy going on. I’ve heard lovely things about this particular book. I don’t usually like novels told in letters or messages, diary entries, etc. I’m hoping this will be one of the rare exceptions I come across.

Strange the Dreamer (Laini Taylor)

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The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep

I didn’t fall in love with Daughter of Smoke and Bone the way a lot of other people did so I’m hoping this will be the book that shows me the magic of Laini Taylor. I just couldn’t resist the gorgeous cover! I’ve heard that a couple of people felt this book was extremely overrated and then there were others who thought it was amazing so hopefully I end up falling in the latter camp.

BONUS – If I manage to somehow exceed my own expectations:

The Bone Season Series

The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

I read both The Bone Season and The Mime Order shortly after each was released and loved them. I really, really want to read The Song Rising but unfortunately with the time between book releases, I feel like I’ve forgotten a lot of important details so I’d love to do a re-read of the first two books before tackling book 3. I guess we’ll see what happens.

What books are you planning to hit up this month?


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Top 10 Tuesday: Kick-Ass Female Characters

Today marks the beginning of June, a new season, and the second half of the year. Woo! However, today is also the day that the DC comics’ movie, Wonder Woman, opens in cinemas. This is the first big comic book movie ever to focus on a female protagonist. In other words, it’s a pretty big deal! I’m super excited to see the film and it’s got me thinking about the many other wonderfully strong, brave, determined, and just generally kick-ass women who have their origins on the page. There are so many amazing women that come to mind that limiting my list to 10 is a crime, so for now, here’s fourteen:

Hermione Granger (The Harry Potter Series)

It’s impossible to leave Hermione off any list of this nature. She’s kind, courageous, and incredibly smart. While Harry may have been the chosen one, without Hermione both he and Ron would most certainly have died (many times) over the years, and failed a heap of school assignments along the way. Whether she’s solving riddles, crafting massively complicated potions well beyond her years, or erasing someone’s memory, Hermione is most certainly the best person to have in any magical situation.

Celaena Sardothien (Throne of Glass)

If there’s one thing you can say about Sarah J. Maas, she knows how to write strong, bad-ass women. As a trained assassin, Celaena knows just about every which way to make a person hurt and yet, still takes a great deal of pride in her femininity. When someone can kick your ass wearing a dress and high heels, you know they’re definitely not someone you want to piss off.  Having lost her family and spent several years as a slave, Celaena hasn’t let her suffering slow her down. This is a girl who knows how to best serve revenge: ice cold.

Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)

Katniss goes through quite a bit over the course of her life – the death of her father, extreme poverty and almost starvation, risking a lifetime of slavery to hunt for game, and that’s all before the books even begin! She’s agile, strong, and a wiz with a bow and arrow, but more importantly, she’s not afraid to throw herself into danger to help the people she cares about or fight back against those who prey on the weak. Even through all of her suffering, Katniss never loses her exceptionally kind heart and it’s from this that she draws her enduring strength of character.

Delilah ‘Lila’ Bard (A Darker Shade of Magic)

A thief, a pirate, a magician, is there anything Lila can’t do? Having been on her own for most of her life, Lila has had to keep herself alive on the rough streets of London. An adventurer at heart, Lila is willing to throw herself into new languages, skills, lands, and experiences without so much as batting an eyelash. Where she finds herself at a physical disadvantage, she relies on quick and creative thinking to get out of tough situations. In doing so, she proves that size and strength are no indication of the trials one may overcome and the enemies they can defeat.

Feyre Archeron (A Court of Thorns and Roses)

My most recently discovered kick-ass protagonist. With her varied and powerful magical abilities, strong will, and determination to protect the human race, she most certainly belongs on this list. Feyre isn’t afraid to speak her mind and call someone out when they’re being a prick. She’s also constantly working to better herself and improve her usefulness to others. Most importantly, she can kill a giant worm utilising only some mud and a couple of old broken bones. If that isn’t kick-ass, I don’t know what is.

Lisbeth Salander (The Millennium Series)

Having grown up with an abusive father, been admitted to a psychiatric facility as a teenager, and survived a sexual assault as an adult, Lisbeth’s life is not a happy one and it’s sometimes difficult to understand how she remains as strong as she does. An exceptional hacker with a photographic memory, Lisbeth is intelligent, calculating, and unafraid of personal expression, even where it makes others uncomfortable. No matter how bad the situation, she never stops fighting. As someone who ties up and tattoos her rapist, sets a man on fire, and even survives being buried alive, Lisbeth is most certainly a kick-ass heroine.

Inej Ghafa (Six of Crows)

Inej, or The Wraith, is the right hand woman to thief extraordinaire, Kaz Brekker. Reserved, spiritual, and honest, Inej has the balance and flexibility of an acrobat, and the strength and knife skills of a warrior. Often filling the role of spy, Inej spends much of her time traversing the roof tops of Ketterdam. Kidnapped and sold into prostitution at fourteen, Inej somehow manages to retain an underlying belief in the goodness of others. As someone who is able to move through the night without making a noise, defeat trained assassins, and scale heated metal chutes with only a pair of rubber soled shoes to assist her, Inej is in good company on this list.

Paige Mahoney (The Bone Season)

Paige, also known as the Pale Dreamer, is a member of one of the rarer clairvoyant categories in Scion. She’s powerful enough to enter dreamscapes and push people’s souls out of their bodies. This would be badass on its own but on top of her magical abilities, Paige is also a part of the Seven Seals, one of the more powerful gangs in Scion’s criminal underworld. Her time with such a group has made her very capable of protecting herself, skilled in picking up on small details, and unwilling to give up when the going gets tough.

Clarice Starling (Silence of the Lambs)

Clarice is a student at the FBI academy and determined to prove herself in a field largely dominated by men. Despite her inexperience and extreme discomfort, Clarice constantly throws herself into each stage of the Buffalo Bill investigation. While others doubt her investigative efforts and hunches, it is through careful questioning, reviewing of the evidence, and persistence that Clarice digs up the necessary clues to identify Bill. With no back up and only her side arm to protect her, Clarice takes on Bill in a final showdown, her success resting on quick thinking and smart use of FBI training.

Rose Hathaway (Vampire Academy)

A trained dhampir guardian, Rose is direct, witty, protective, and kicks a lot of ass. Over the course of six books, she decapitates strigoi, overcomes death (repeatedly), fights back against bullies, discovers a way to retrieve her boyfriend’s soul, and travels half way across the world to fulfil a promise. At first a little arrogant, Rose grows and develops, and eventually comes to realise that protecting Moroi isn’t as simple as she’d once thought. She’ll make you laugh, make you cry, and in the end you’ll believe, with a little help from her friends, there’s almost nothing she can’t do.

Kady Grant (The Illuminae Files)

The second hacker on this list, Kady is stubborn, extremely tech savvy, and not afraid to bend the rules from time to time. She’s a bit of a flirt, a little snappy, and likes to go in guns blazing. But when your planet gets attacked, your AI goes psycho, and a zombie outbreak hits your ship, this is the girl you want on your team. She reboots entire computer systems, tracks down even the most secure information, can survive a ship full of murderous infected people, and somehow stays on the good side of the crazy AI. Definite kick-ass protagonist material there.

Irene (The Invisible Library)

Irene is a librarian. An awesome librarian. One who jumps between different universes, fights fey, makes deals with dragons, and solves mysteries with Sherlock Holmes like detectives. She’s level headed, articulate, and yet still able to deliver a beat down to pesky werewolves if need be. Irene is the kind of heroine who will bravely rush in to save a friend but she’ll damn well do her best to plan it out beforehand. If that’s not possible, she’s an expert in improvisation. Plus, you can’t help but love a character with the same appreciation for books as the reader.

Daenerys Targaryen & Arya Stark (A Song of Ice and Fire)

It seemed unfair to pick between these two wonderful female characters. Martin’s women are all well-developed, complicated, and just as strong as the men (in many cases even stronger). Both Dany and Arya have suffered great personal losses and been forced to leave their homes because of them. However, both have also worked extremely hard to reshape themselves into people who can claim what they are due, by force if necessary, and will get revenge for those they have lost. Dany and Arya are determined and resilient characters, and although one may show strength through dragons, and the other a “needle”, each is set to accomplish big things in books to come.


Who are some of your favourite kick-ass heroines?

A Sequel that Definitely Doesn’t Suck: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

4.5 stars

ACOTAR

Well, damn.

All I can really say is: thank you Instagram book fanatics for your unceasing photo uploads of this series. Without you, I wouldn’t have been pressured into giving it a second chance and I would never have gotten to enjoy this absolute gem of a novel. I’ve now read six Sarah J. Maas books and for the first time I can actually see what all the hype is about. ACOTAR was good but forgettable, a fine way to spend an afternoon but not much more. And then, in a shock turn of events, I find that a sequel, A SEQUEL, has managed to surpass its predecessor in basically every single way possible. So yes, I’m extremely late in coming to the party but here are my thoughts on ACOMAF.

Feyre

In ACOTAR Feyre was a reasonably solid character. She did some really stupid things but she had a good heart and an underlying spark that shone through in rare moments. However, I really did want her bravery and strength of character to come out on a more regular basis. For the first half of ACOMAF Feyre’s a little damaged. Okay, very damaged. It’s a believable state of mind after what’s she’s been through. I liked that her past actions weren’t just brushed over (as I often find in YA books) and it was refreshing to see her slowly pull herself out of the hole over the course of the book. She succeeds at just the right time to avoid the reader getting frustrated, and it’s here that she really becomes the character I wanted her to be. At last we can see the girl who managed to trap and kill a giant worm, who was spunky enough to publicly give Rhysand the finger while fighting for her life, and who threw a bone shard at Amarantha without a flinch. Feyre fights to change herself into someone who can stand their ground without fear. She realises that she’s strong and powerful, and deserves to be happy.

You go, girlfriend!

Rhysand

Now this is the male lead we deserved. Rhysand is such an interesting and complex character. Every scene he’s in, he shines. Just when you start to think you understand him, Sarah peels back another layer. He’s witty, smart, and a perfect match for Feyre. In my ACOTAR commentary I said Sarah would have to do a lot of character development for me to get on board this ship. She delivered and more. The number of conversations Feyre and Rhys share throughout the book is almost impossible to count but I never tired of them. Whether they’re verbal sparring, sending each other suggestive, disappearing notes, or sharing their most intimate thoughts, memories and experiences, the chemistry comes off the page in the most wonderful way.

After many years of reading YA fiction, I am over insta-love. So over it. It’s lazy. Points to Sarah for avoiding it. Rhys and Feyre’s relationship develops over a period of about four months and even though that’s still short, the build is so gradual and in depth, it feels extremely natural. By the time they come together, they know each other inside and out – their pasts, personalities, powers, secrets, flaws, everything. These are two people who really do make the other a better person.

I’ve bought my ticket, so let’s hoist the anchor and set sail already. Go ship, go!

The Inner Circle

While our two leads are the main reason behind the book’s success, it’s the side characters that really kick it out of the park. In ACOTAR we only really had Lucien and Alis, both of whom I liked but had nothing on the great cast of characters we find in the Night lands – Cassian, Azriel, Amren, and Morrigan. Each has their own defined and separate personalities which work in harmony with one another. The inner circle plays off each other in wonderful ways which really accentuate the idea of family and provides a few laughs along the way. I’m unable to pick a favourite because I love them all so much, even Amren with her silver eyes and creepy diet.

Prythian

Another fantastic improvement on book one is our exposure to the world of Prythian. ACOMAF introduces us to the wonders of Rhys’s kingdom – the cities, people, and landscapes. It was all extremely well developed and described with loving detail. I can actually understand how people live in Prythian now beyond the walls of an isolated manor house. We also get to see a little bit of the Summer Court and it’s great to see the contrast between the different regions. I hope we get to see more of the world in later books.

Plot

While some may claim otherwise, most of the book is devoted to Feyre and Rhys’s character development and their budding romance. I have no complaints about this. The broader plot, however, is focused on preventing the outbreak of a new faerie-human war. It was entertaining, took the characters to some interesting places, and allowed for some interaction with Feyre’s family. My only real complaint is that the last few chapters, or climax, of the story felt slightly on the rushed side and the two main antagonists almost verged into moustache twirling villain territory – you know the ones. The book ended well though and Sarah’s left herself a lot of wiggle room plot-wise for book three.

Tamlin

Last but not least, Tamlin. A lot of people have been crying over the destruction of Tamlin’s character and yep, that’s pretty much what happens. BUT it’s achieved only by drawing out and bringing attention to pre-existing problems with Tamlin’s character, for example, his possessiveness. I mean, I liked Tamlin in ACOTAR but to be perfectly blunt, he was about as interesting as a wooden board. While his and Feyre’s romance was kind of on the sweet side, I wasn’t about to hit up Tumblr yelling, “I WILL GO DOWN WITH THIS SHIP” any time soon. So, yes, Sarah ruined him but isn’t he much more interesting this way?


Well done, Miss Maas. I can’t wait to get stuck into A Court of Wings and Ruin. However, I might try and take it slower than two days this time.

4.5 stars

‘A Court of Thorns & Roses’ Page-by-Page Commentary, Part 2

Welcome to part two of my commentary on A Court of Thorns and Roses. In other words, the lazy way to write a book review without it actually being lazy at all because it requires so much damn effort. Time to get stuck in:

146: She’s finally going to do some painting! Yay, bonding!

147: Aw Tamlin’s happy. And she’s getting little butterflies. It’s definitely a stark turnaround from ‘he’s a ferocious, dangerous monster’

151: Poor faery. Evil fey woman, whose name I cannot for the life of me remember, cut off his wings.

154: ‘I wouldn’t want to die alone’. Very sweet

157: HA! It’s like Tamlin and Feyre are on a date with Lucien as chaperone.

158: Lucien is chugging wine, such a lush.

160: Wow, murdering your girlfriend and then trying to murder you; Lucien’s family is worse than Feyre’s.

170: Apparently Fey is painting Tamlin now. Paint me like one of your French girls.

172-3: Tamlin’s words caress her bones, what the…? Now he’s kissing her hands and she’s getting warm feelings in her secret places.  He’s kissing her cheek, saying something ambiguous about it not being the right time yet, there will be answers, blah blah blah, and…he’s disappeared. I didn’t realise Tamlin got his dating tips from Tuxedo Mask.

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174: Oh good god, he wrote her some poems. Oh no, and he’s going to read them to her aloud so she won’t struggle reading them. Oh god, the cringe factor. Please make it stop….

175: I just can’t deal.

176: Is it bad that I’m like, phew, we’ve returned to the traumatic family back stories?

184: So, there’s going to be a faerie party. Tamlin: Stay inside all night, for your own protection. Fey: Of course, Tamlin. *five seconds later* Feyre: I should go outside because DRUMS

187: Rapey faeries. Why does Feyre always seem to need rescuing? I mean, she does do her best to fight back but could we have a little variety in conflict here?

188: Ah, enter Rhysand. I remember you. You’re the one everyone makes love heart eyes over.

189: Beautiful, magnificent. Okay Feyre, try not to drop your pants and underwear all at once.

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193: It seems that this whole faerie party thing is a sex rite to rejuvenate crops. I think I vaguely remember how this goes. In one word: raunchy.

196-7: Now I remember why this is categorised as being for older young adult readers. You definitely know it’s older when you find biting, grinding and fantasies about shoving someone’s head between your legs.

202: Fey’s all dressed up for dinner and Lucien’s so keen not to be a third wheel again, he’s leaving smoke puffs behind him like the roadrunner.

216: Severed heads on sticks. Did I pick up Game of Thrones without realising it? Hey, Joffrey, where you at?

218: Lucien gets to take care of the head. Best job ever.

222: He made her want to purr. Ugh. They’re not even together and already they’re that couple that make people want to vom.

224: Another faerie party and there’s wine. What are the odds Fey gets drunk? Also, the idea of Lucien getting Fey to eat the faery equivalent of ‘shrooms is hilarious.

225: Yep, she’s drunk. Poor, Lucien. Life is hard when you have a master who throws you in the reflection pool.

226: Now she’s dancing and Tamlin’s playing the fiddle. Of all things, the fiddle.

227: Tamlin has something better to show her than the dancing. *wiggles eyebrows suggestively*

228: Okay, calm your farm eyebrows. He’s just showing her the will-O’-the-wisps which will forever be linked by my brain to the movie Brave.

229: Their first kiss and Feyre’ like ‘that’s it?’ Awks.

231: Chill with the flirting over breakfast guys, you’re making Lucien uncomfortable, poor baby.

232: You know what, just screw already.

234: Rhysand has decided to visit. And Tamlin is extremely unhappy.

235: Amarantha. So that’s bitchy faerie’s name. Plus, Rhys is kind of an asshole.

237: Oh dear, Rhys just saw Fey’s place setting. It’s about to hit the fan.

238: Wow, Sarah you’ve got some major character work to do on Rhys. Ain’t no way I’m shipping that yet.

244-245: Well this is dramatic. Tamlin’s sending her home and Feyre’s chucking a tanty.

246:..and the mood has changed into um, well, straddling.

247: How the hell is this young adult. Questioning the classification guidelines here MASSIVELY! Like it actually says word for word ‘he slid down between my thighs and feasted on me’. What the…what?!

249: And now she’s actually leaving.

252: Oh great, it’s the cow and the mouse (aka her sisters).

264: So it seems that Nesta knows everything. She’s a smarter cow than I gave her credit for.

265: Nesta tried to rescue her from Prythian. Okay, I may regret calling her a cow.

269: Oh no. Fey did a bad thing, a very bad thing.

273: She’s off to save Tamlin!

278: Finally, Alis is here to give us some actual answers about what’s going on in Faerieland.

280-281: There’s a lot of information to process here and it’s a little hard to take it seriously when every few sentences Alis is shoving turnips and spices into a bag.

282: Amarantha carved out Lucien’s eye with her fingernail. That’s it, that bitch is going down.

283: This is a little too coincidental. Everything magically falling into place just at the right time. Also, Tamlin totally could have toned down the whole ‘Murderers!’ dramatics at the beginning.

286: Why in the world do you keep saying the seven times seven years. Just say forty-nine!

287: There’s a lot of blame going on here considering all Feyre did was fail to say I love you. Big whoop. That’s a lot of pressure on one person to save a whole freaking race from enslavement without even knowing they’re supposed to. And now she’s going to stupidly throw herself into danger with no plan, no weapons, and no clue to save everyone. Damn protagonists.

291: Yeah, I’m with Alis here. You don’t even know if you’ll get the chance to speak to Amarantha, you dumb ass.

294: Oh sure, nowww she realises she’s an idiot and should have got more information before running off into the depths of a bloody cave tunnel network. And because she’s not a ninja, predictably one of Amarantha’s sentries has found her.

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296: And somehow she’s lucky enough to be brought exactly where she needs to go, (BECAUSE PLOT) to Amarantha who apparently isn’t as attractive as expected.

287: Fey: I’ve come to claim the one I love. Honestly, Amarantha, I’d laugh too.

298: Tamlin let some poor other girl get tortured to protect Fey. Well, that was definitely morally ambiguous. I’m not okay with this.

299: Really not okay with this. It’s actually awful.

300: That is some serious revenge. This woman really needs to see someone about her inability to let go of a grudge.

304: Fey made a deal with Amarantha to complete three tasks in exchange for Tamlin and the spell being broken. And now she’s a human punching bag.

306: Yay, Lucien!

308: Amarantha actually spent two weeks torturing Jurian. Like, awfulness aside, how did she not get bored??

309: Rotting corpses on walls. I really need to get the name of Amarantha’s decorator.

310: *snorts* Rhysand, you smooth talker you.

313: Riddle time. I’m not good with long riddles. Where’s Frodo Baggins when you need him?

319: This first challenge reminds me of that scene at the beginning of Return of the Jedi with Luke and the rancor. Except there’s a maze and a giant worm.

323: yes! Go Feyre! Fight back!

324: I love that in all the chaos and being chased by a giant worm, Feyre still makes time to flip off Rhys. Gold.

328: Ha, Rhys was the only one who bet on her actually winning.

329: Oh dear, septicaemia time.

333: I repeat: Rhys is an asshole. Feyre’s growing on me in her ability to tell him to go to hell even through a fever, blood loss, no food, and a massive chunk of cow bone sticking into her arm.

335: Making deals with the devil, Fey. I’m interested to know where this will lead you.

346: Night court faeries are painting Fey’s body. Kinky.

347: Ooo it’s like in the mummy where the man wants to be sure nobody is touching his property.

352: Ugh. It’s the only way I can describe Rhys’s treatment of Feyre. Ugh. Was this entirely necessary Miss Maas?

358: Clare’s body is literally still nailed to the wall. Isn’t the smell bugging people yet?

359: Rhys, you’re a complicated one. I can’t figure you out. But then again, I guess that’s the point, isn’t it?

365: See Feyre, if you’d just accepted Tamlin’s offer about the reading lessons you wouldn’t be in this predicament

368: Why in all hell is Rhys licking tears off her face? What a creeper.

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377: Aw, it’s Tamlin and they’re touching fingertips.

382: Rhys really must not have any friends if he’s come to Fey to bitch and moan. Actually, that doesn’t surprise me.

385: Okay, maybe Rhys isn’t completely awful. Just slightly awful.

389: I forgot how completely crap this last task was.

393: Yep, no idea how she intends to come back from this one.

386: Finally it all comes together, the last little piece.

400: It’s all gone to complete chaos. Very predictably.

404: Oh yeah, you’re in trouble now bitch.

405: That was violent and satisfying.

407: Seems that faeries can show gratitude. One minute you’re dead, the next you’re immortal.

411: one minute you’re feeling guilty over dead faeries, the next you’re undressing Tamlin. I can’t keep up here…

414: ‘Be glad of your human heart, Feyre. Pity those who don’t feel anything at all.’

Woooooo! No more typing as I read! Gosh that was hard work. It’s almost 1 am.

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And I am never, ever doing that again.

Okay, book 2. Love triangle, here I come.

‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ By Sarah J. Mass: A Snarky & Overdue, Page-by-Page Commentary

Lately, I can’t seem to go two taps on Instagram without running into another picture of Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Wings and Ruin. In January 2016, I read the first book in the series A Court of Thorns and Roses. It had an eye catching red cover and I’d already read a couple of Sarah’s Throne of Glass books (they weren’t amazing but were mildly enjoyable). I had higher hopes for an obsession to develop with this one. However, much like her other books I found ACOTAR to be…just OK. It was entertaining, had some likeable characters, but did I feel the all-consuming desire to get my hands on the next one? Nope, not really. So when I heard the third book had come out, I shrugged my shoulders and went about my business. HOWEVER, then came the promotion circuit – the Instagram posts, the posters in shop windows, the e-mails from my favourite bookstore, the blog entries. It was everywhere. I think even if I’d done a Patrick Starr and started living under a rock, someone still would have shoved a copy underneath. So I did it: I bought the next two books. Only thing was, I was now faced with an unexpected problem. I couldn’t remember a single thing about book 1. It was like someone had fiddled around inside my brain, pulled out all relevant information, and plugged the hole with cotton wool. I strained and certain details came back to me – fairies, some Beauty and the Beast influence, a romance, and then…mind blank.

Shit. I was going to have to reread the book.

Ordinarily, I’d read the book, post a review and and be done with it. Let’s be honest though, basically every man, woman, and cat has read this particular novel and it’s been reviewed to death. So instead, just for kicks, I’m going to read it and make commentary on it as I go without worrying about spoilers. How hard could it be (hard, no but tedious yes, as I would soon find out)? Without further ado, here are the beginnings of my rather disjointed thoughts on ACOTAR along with the usual assortment of reaction gifs.

Oh and just to repeat: SPOILERS!!!

3: Hm, a protagonist who is unashamedly not a virgin. That’s a nice refreshing change.

5: Like, five seconds ago you were telling me that faeries are super scary individuals who may or may not be burning villages to the ground and you’re still like, ‘You know what, I’ll kill this one’. It’s not like they’ll consider retaliation or revenge or anything.

10: I’ve read the name Feyre probably a hundred times in my last read through of the book and I’m sorry, but it just refuses to easily roll off the tongue. It sounds like two random noises stuck together by some sort of fantasy name generator.

13: Why do characters in young adult books always have such sucky families? Feyre’s sisters are cows.

14: yep, I repeat: COW

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18: Wow, her sister really is awful. She basically just called her a slut. I mean, sure a hay bale is probably not the nicest place for a romp but whatever floats your boat. Female empowerment and all that. *fist pump*

No more deer for you, Nestra. And while there was likely no way you were getting new boots before, you sure as hell ain’t getting them now!

19: Crap, I just bent a book page.

22: children of the blessed *spits out drink* seriously?

23: Okay guys, we’re throwing the word whore around a lot here. How about we just chill out a bit?

31: Here’s Isaac, Feyre’s sex buddy. I remember him being very unimportant. A summary – Fey: Dude, I’m only here for the rather average sex, Isaac: But I want to talk about my problems because I am so burdened and hard done by.

32: I can’t believe she just gave her sisters money! Come on, that Nesta cow does not deserve new books. Sex with Isaac cannot possibly be that good…

OOOOOO…Here comes Tamlin. Tamlin: I could knock and be civil but why do that when I can kick down the door, roar super dramatically, and yell MURDERERS.

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33: Feyre is trying to work out ways to fight back against Tamlin. Now I’m actually imagining her throwing iron bracelets at him and Tamlin just standing there thinking WTF. Imagine if one of them landed on his tusks – five points to Feyre!

34: Now she’s moved on to considering throwing nails at him. I get it, iron aversion but even then the best case scenario is you hit him in the eye. Let’s be realistic.

35: Feyre: so if someone had hypothetically, accidentally killed your wolfy friend, totally on purpose, with suspicions he was a fairy, what would they do to fix it? But like, hypothetically.

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Okay fine, I did it. On purpose.

37: Tamlin: you just murdered my friend. I therefore invite you to come live in my fey palace with much food and luxury until the end of your days. I think someone needs to explain the concept of punishment.

39: Fey’s really on a murder bender. She’s sitting there thinking, ‘oh, I can slit his throat at a later date and escape’.

46: Feyre, you killed his friend and said it was justified. All he did was put you to sleep for a bit.  Suddenly he’s the bastard. Let’s not call people names here.

So, every time Feyre mentions Tamlin’s claws under his skin, images of Wolverine flash before my eyes. It’s like, Fey, I doubt that’s how his physical anatomy works (I realised later that this literally how his anatomy works – he’s like faerie wolverine).

67: She set a freaking trap. Against Tamlin. The dude who can change himself into a beast with massive claws and teeth the size of steel bars. And Fey thought death by curtains would work out. Hahahahahahaha!

Okay, I need a break. This whole commentary thing is exhausting.

 

Alright, and we’re back. Chapter 8, here we come.

76-77: Well, that’s creepy as hell. Something invisible is breathing down her neck, watching her and she describes it as something that wants to play. I’m getting major The Shining twins flashbacks *shivers*. You know what, yeah, you take that bread knife, Feyre.

79: Oh come on, Fey, now you’re being annoying. ‘Tamlin looking after my family is not the same as me looking after them’. Really?

84: Fey wondering if Lucien can see out the back of his head with his fake eye. Sure, Lucien is clearly the faery version of mad eye moody

85: She’s not the brightest spark, is she? Of course Lucien knows why you want to hang out with him. It’s not like you’re there for the insults and winning smile. Ulterior motives galore.

87: Ooo swearing. People talking like actual people for a change. Where’s the parental patrol? They must be lurking somewhere…

90: More creepy things. Like, I get that Fey is the main character and thus nothing bad will actually happen, plus I’ve read this before but this is still super tense. Thingy wants her to look at it so it can eat her and suck out her bone marrow.

92: Ha, Feyre insinuated that Lucien’s old. He’s super offended. Clearly she added a century too many.

95: Fey, you honestly think your father who can barely walk around a hut somehow made it 2 days through uneven forest, past the wall, and then survived all the crazy murderous faeries to somehow stumble upon the exact estate you now live on. You little idiot.

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96: He’s not wearing warm clothing, not speaking, and leading you into the dark forest, but still she follows. And Tamlin saves her. You should have bloody let her die, Tamlin. She’s clearly got bricks for brains.

98: Oh for Christ’s sake. YES, YOUR PROMISE TO LOOK AFTER YOUR FAMILY IS FULFILLED! STOP GOING ON ABOUT IT BEFORE I TEAR MY HAIR OUT! Go paint a picture or something.

Okay, I need to sleep now. Miss Too-stupid-to-live is getting on my nerves right now.

 

Back to it.

105-106: I’m really seeing the Beauty and the Beast inspiration coming out here

114: A library with wall to wall books. Sounds like my kind of heaven.

117: Feyre thinks she’ll never go North on the island – ha, the irony. I do remember that much at least. You’re going to be hanging out in the north quite a lot soon, Feyre. Tall, dark and sexy will be keeping you company.

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119: She’s very critical of Tamlin. It’s quite unfair really when all he’s done is offer to help her out, show her around, etc. She keeps going on about him being some beast designed to kill things. It’s just a tad harsh.

121: Fey wants to trap a Suriel for information on the fey-human treaty and what’s going on with magic in Prythian. Why do I have a bad feeling about this? Probably because I’ve read this before.

122: Ah sarcasm and hypotheticals. My favourite. You know what, Lucien, you’re alright.

127: So Suriels aren’t likely to be winning any faerie beauty pageants in the foreseeable future. Well, not unless the criteria is black gums, a knobby spine, and corpse eyes.

129: It’s story time! Evil king, throne of bones, death, destruction, betrayal. Fun times

130: Yep, as predicted everything has gone to shit. This is bad. Oh Lucieeeennnn, where you be bro?

131: This is really bad but because she’s survives to star in two more books I’m going to make a wild guess and assume someone comes to rescue her

132:…and it’s Tamlin, right on cue.

137: My god, Feyre said thank you to Tamlin. Is that a flying pig I see outside my window?

And that’s the first third of the book. Hopefully, for those of you who’ve read the books, it made some degree of sense. I’ll post more of my thoughts in the coming weeks.

 

 

Books that Feel like Home

The word ‘home’ is almost impossible to precisely define. Taken literally, it’s the building in which a person lives. But look beyond that, and it’s so much more. To some, it’s the house they grew up in, to others it’s being with a specific person no matter where they are in the world, and then there are other definitions entirely. The best way I can describe it is a feeling – of happiness, safety, comfort. It’s a sense of warm nostalgia.

Books have been an important part of my life since before I could talk. As corny as it sounds, they’re one of the greatest gifts my parents will ever give me. Many of my most treasured memories revolve around books. I may be older, my friendships very much changed, and my fiction tastes vastly evolved, but there are some books that no matter how many times I read them, and how old I get, always give me that strange sensation of coming home. It’s almost like I’ve gone on a round the world trip and have returned to find that nothing’s really changed at all. Time stops, everything else is blocked out (almost like being wrapped in an enormous bundle of cotton wool) and once again I’m met by old friends. Today I’d like to discuss five books and book series that, for me, feel like coming home.

1# Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

Ah, Anne – the fiery read-head with an unrelenting imagination, a tendency towards drama, and dreams of a dress with puffed sleeves. As far as I can remember, the first time I read AoGG I was ten years old. It was a bright orange paperback, thicker than most stories I was used to reading at that age, and purchased through Scholastic book club. From the very beginning, I fell absolutely in love with Prince Edward Island and its inhabitants – Marilla, Matthew, Gilbert, Diana, even Rachel. I never fail to snort in laughter as Anne continues to go from one mishap to the next, accidentally dying her hair green, giving her friend Diana mulled wine instead of cordial, and falling off a roof during a dare. She’s utterly ridiculous at times and yet you can’t help but love her. While Anne does experience a lot of actual misfortune over the years, somehow the story never darkens. They’re comforting reads, child-like in wonder and very refreshing even as Anne moves into adulthood. Plus, Anne and Gilbert are definitely one of the sweetest relationships in literature. I wonder if Montgomery knew her stories would still be bringing such joy to readers over a century later.

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2# Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling

Come on, isn’t this on nine out of ten people’s lists? Like most people, this is one of those series that has been with me through most of my life. I was around six years old at the time my mum first began reading Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone to me. I remember sitting there and being utterly bored out of my mind, wondering why we were reading about a family in the suburbs, the father of which worked in a drill factory. Several pages later, a cat, a wizard in a tall hat, and a giant on a motorcycle showed up, and I was hooked for ever after. Over the years I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read these books and have even done a marathon read in under a week (gosh, the headaches). They’ve brought me joy and laughter, fear (yes, I honestly thought there was a snake in the walls after my first read of Chamber of Secrets), frustration, and sadness. I’ve read them between netball quarters, I’ve travelled the world with them, I’ve bought every bit of merchandise imaginable, and I have loved every single minute of it. I could read these stories over and over again and still be filled with the same sense of wonder and happiness as I did that first time so many years ago.

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3# Song of the Lioness Series, Tamora Pierce

And so we reach Alanna, the second red-headed protagonist on this list. I stumbled across this series on the shelves of the school library during year 5 of primary school. The cover was purple and had an epic looking sword on it. I took it home, sat on the couch and did not get up again until I’d turned the final page. It was the first proper fantasy series I had ever read on my own and is probably where my love of fantasy books began. Alanna’s stories had everything – a strong female character determined to make it in a man’s world, sword fights, mysterious god entities, sorcery, and a love triangle with a handsome prince and a roguish thief. I read as Alanna grew from reckless, stubborn child to strong, respected knight. She was the person ten year old me wanted to be – brave, beautiful, hard-working, and loyal. While I’ve grown up a lot since my first adventure into the world of Tortall, I still can’t help but tear through these books in the blink of an eye every time. Also, I have to admit my excitement upon finally getting the second book as a gift to complete my collection only a couple of years ago was almost embarrassing.

4# The Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger

Number four on my list differs from those before it in two key ways – first, this book is a standalone and second, my appreciation for it began when I was in mid-high school.  A birthday gift from my parents, I was a little suspicious of it at first as I was very much on the young adult novel train at this point withTTW edit no plans of ever getting off. To my shock, it ended up being one of the most wonderful novels I’d ever read. The way the story is written makes me feel as though I have known Clare and Henry their entire lives. I’ve seen them through ups (tea parties on a picnic rug, a wedding, finding the perfect home, and the birth of baby) and such lows (multiple miscarriages, deaths in the family, crippling disability, and the prospect of unavoidable death). Every time I read it I laugh and, even though I know where the story will end, I cry. Not on the inside, like I actually cry. Ugly, Kim Kardashian cry. It’s rare for a book to get this kind of reaction from me but this one really hits you in the feels. Hard. With a wrecking ball. And I keep going back for more.

5# The Mediator Series, Meg Cabot

When I was a ‘tween, Meg Cabot was the ultimate young adult novelist. Her heroines were spunky, strong, and kicked a whole lot of butt. The epitome of this was Susannah Simons, a teenager with the ability to see, touch and talk to ghosts. Her job was to help them move on either through mediation or more forceful means. Suze also happened to have an extremely attractive Spanish ghost called, Jesse, living in her bedroom. Looking back this series wasn’t exactly revolutionary, but it was fun, easy, and just the right level of cheesy (hey, that rhymed!). The characters were fun, occasionally there was a little bit of mystery thrown in to spice things up, and Suze’s witticisms never failed to amuse. Whenever I pick it up, which I’m unashamed to admit I still do on occasion, I’m immediately thirteen again and Cabot is the epitome of great literature.

Which books give you the warm, fuzzy, nostalgic feelings of home?

 

Let’s Talk: Judge a Book by its Cover

Over the years, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been told, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. It’s just one of those classic idioms parents and teachers seem to delight in driving home to children. When considered metaphorically, it’s very sound advice; we should all try to consider hidden beauty, place greater importance on people’s personalities over their appearances, and try to avoid jumping to quick conclusions about things. The world would likely be a much nicer place were we to do so. However, when I think about it literally, this is one piece of advice which really doesn’t work so well in practice. I don’t know about you, but all I ever seem to do is judge books by their covers. Okay, not entirely, the blurb does play a significant role as well as the book’s Goodreads score; but, the truth is: I’m a pushover when it comes to a gorgeous cover.

In the modern world we’re lucky enough to have mountains of books available to us – fiction, non-fiction, short, long, adult, picture, it’s never ending. And much like a spectacular smorgasbord at a breakfast buffet, they’re all laid out for us shelf upon shelf at our local bookstore. We walk the aisles, scan the rows until…pause. Something catches our eye. Is it a brightly coloured spine? A bold, mysterious title? A well-known author? Regardless of the reason, we reach over, slide the book out and rest our eyes upon its cover. What we find there will either send us flipping to the blurb, curious for more, or awkwardly trying to shove it back where we found it and feeling silly we’d ever gone there. While this is definitely the most commonly played out scenario in my book store travels, there’s also the case of the forward facing cover. You know, the one you can’t help but lock onto from several meters away and find yourself drawn towards, people in your way be damned.

Okay, it may sound like I’m placing an exaggerated level of importance on covers here, but ebooks aside,  it’s true, the cover of a story really does mark the beginning of your relationship with it. It’s the mild flirtation, the questionable side eye. It’s what gets you to make your way to the first date, the blurb, in which you get just enough information to work out whether you’d like to see more – could you be compatible? Is this the one? Until finally, you seal the deal and begin the adventure with chapter one. It could all end up being a massive disappointment, promises made and left unfulfilled, but you’ve committed now. And it all started with that first glance.

Clearly I’m not the only one who recognises the value of a great cover, particularly in the social media era. Publishers spend thousands finding the right cover, sometimes even multiple right covers where US vs UK releases are concerned. People post photos of their bookshelves organised in brightly coloured cover rainbows that give even me some serious envy (I attempted my own books according to colour shot above – turned out extremely average, think I’ll leave it to the professionals). Bookstagram accounts show thousands of images of a single, eye-catching cover, influencing tens of thousands of others to run out and buy it (I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Wings and Ruin cover in the last fortnight).  Yet, there’s so much variety in what people consider to be striking – clever, brightly coloured, intriguing, minimalist, shiny, cute, photographic, it’s almost mind boggling in its diversity.

Here are a couple of my favourites:

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They’re all completely different and yet, they’ve each done something right for me. Although, I do have to note that just because I loved these covers, doesn’t mean I’ve also loved every book. Just goes to show that no matter how amazing the cover is, in the end it truly is the inside that counts. But, making people on the train jealous of your awesome looking book cover? Great added bonus.

What are some of your favourite book covers?

Love ash