Bookish Ramblings presents: My Top 5 reads of the year

2017 has been an interesting year for me in terms of reading, for about 2 years my reading was all done via kindle and was exclusively indie.  That all changed in May of this year when I picked up A Court of Thorns and Roses and realised that there was a whole wealth of traditionally published books that had passed me by and I have spent half the year falling back in love with print books and discovering a number of awesome new authors.  Below is therefore is a selection of my favourite books/book series that I have read in 2017 (not all are 2017 releases) which brings together my discovery of new traditionally published authors and my love of Indie publishing.

Where better to start than in January where I read the conclusion of the Treemakers Trilogy by Christina L Rozelle, The Seekers Keys. This was a standout series for me, it really triggered back my love for YA fantasy/dystopia and whilst this series contained a lot of mature themes it was very much true to its roots.  I do credit it as a series which really pushed me forward with this blog and fully engrossing me back into these types of books.  I loved the way that it inspired utter terror in it’s pages at what the characters had to go through, wanting to turn the page again but not wanting to at the same time.  Truly uniquely terrifying characters and also stepping up the expectation for all female protagonists to come, it’s a series that had me hanging on every page.  Because it would be unfair to give you a review for book three, i’ll start you off here with book 1.

After having it on my kindle since release in 2016 I finally got round to reading 7 by the Federation of the Ferocious Five, which is comprised of Jo Michaels, Tia Silverthorne Bach, Nichole Green, Kelly Risser and Casey L Bond.  It was a completely new take on the 7 deadly sins, through the reincarnation of the same man, Thomas, throughout history and being faced with choices which strike a familiarity with the sins.  This was a book which had me thinking long after I had finished and challenged me as a reviewer to really put into words the emotions it left me with.  You can check out my eventual review here

Then in May I ventured out of my indie zone and into the world of ACOTAR, at this point I have to give massive thanks to Rebecca Gibson for tuning me into this series.  I wanted a paperback to take with me camping as I would have little resource to charge my kindle and despite the camping being not so fun I was utterly captivated by Feyre and her unlikely induction to the realm of the Fae.  I read all 3 of the books currently out this year, book 2 “A Court of Mist and Fury” being my favourite.  To say the series left me an emotional wreck is an understatement.  It is a series that transcended simple fantasy and dealt with so many issues that are usually either brushed under the carpet or even romanticised when the reality is far from it.  Whilst I didn’t review the books individually I did post about the series as a whole, summing up what made it great for me and you can see it here if you haven’t already.

One of my biggest surprises of the year from my Indie catalogue was Love Lies and Hocus Pocus: The Lily Singer Adventures by Lydia Sherrer.  I had read her short story “Hope” much earlier and loved it’s unique take on the apocalypse seen from the side of immortals.  The original covers for this series however were lovely illustrations but a little cartoonish which made me think they were for a younger YA audience.  I was so wrong!  Everything about these stories was just fabulous, the layout of the books with unique and darker interlude sections really stood out.  Lily herself becoming a deeply complex character facing many challengers and tests of loyalty set to a background of discovery.   There is a great twist on the traditional witch/wizard viewpoint, which like everything in this series, is explained beautifully and without condescension.  It’s a fabulously built world and one that I can’t wait to return to!  My reviews for all 4 books and the novella are all available on this blog.

The final book that blew me away this year returns me to the traditionally published world with Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.  I got off to a shaky start with this author as I started off reading her DC Icons take on Wonderwoman which wasn’t my cup of tea but thanks again to the lovely Rebecca Gibson I picked up Six of Crows and honestly could not put it down! I was reading snatches here and there wherever I could.  Imagine Oceans Eleven in a fantasy world but then times it by 10, it was THAT GOOD, you can read my ridiculously gushy review of it here

So there you go!  I’m hoping that whether you are a fan of either Indie or Trad published there will be something here for you or I have inspired you to try something new.  I have loved so many books this year but I wanted to condense it down to just 5 otherwise you would be here all week!  Check back soon as I will be talking about my most anticipated reads for 2018 and I would love to know if any of them are on your lists!

Review of Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder is a cyborg, looked down on by society and that’s by the one’s who can even bring themselves to look at her.  A gifted mechanic, she spends her days as a ward of her widowed stepmother in a market booth, mending communications systems and other devices – ipads of the future.  The Lunar Chronicles are set in a future where the world has come out of it’s 4th world war, the planet is battle scared and it’s people are battling Letumosis; a plague with no cure.  On an otherwise seemingly normal day, 2 things happen in Cinder’s life that will start her down a dangerous path.  Firstly a visit from a disguised Prince Kai, searching her out to fix his broken droid and secondly another market worker being struck with the plague.  Rather than sit out the quarantine, Cinder makes off from the market with the prince’s android in tow, a decision which has far reaching consequences for those that Cinder then comes into contact with.   A series of events then start unravelling everything that Cinder has ever known about herself and what she thought her future held, can she make it to the ball on time and get to the charming prince?

The Lunar Chronicles is a series that I have had my eye on for ages, so on a whim I picked it up from the bookshop and I am so glad I did.  Far from a traditional reimagining of the Cinderella tale, this does have a few nods to the source material, some glaring and others more subtle, but is very much it’s own unique story.  I could not put it down, it was an light and easy read for me, a ton of content but non of it weighty or overly complicated, which many parts of the story could have been.  It’s a world full of strong characters and in this instance I felt a pang of sympathy for the “wicked” stepmother, although it’s clear that the big bad in this incarnation is the Lunar Queen Levana rather than Cinders adopted family.

I was hoping that Cinders story would be wrapped up in this episode but it becomes clear that hers will be an overarching story in how these books play out, so I’m off to get Scarlett (book 2) as soon as i’m able.  This is a perfectly paced story with lots of twists and foundations being laid for future books in the series, characters that you will love and hate and heart stopping moments that will keep you turning page after page.


Review of the Frivolity Fairies by Jo Michaels

The Frivolity Fairies is a gorgeous festive short story from Jo Michaels.  The Frivolity Fairies are based in a Christmas Eve bedtime story, cheeky fairies who convince little ones that they can get up to all kinds of mischief without consequence, because they can put everything right again by morning! When morning comes however, the children are never to be seen again…..

When “Shirley” receives her own visit she takes the opportunity to find out once and for all what happens to the children as morning arrives and sets about a deliberate ruse and enlisting help from unlikely sources. 

In a tale that reminds us of the importance of believing in fairies it gives another take on the magic of Christmas and how acting on your own needs above others has consequence.  There is light though in that by acting selflessly things can be put right and even have something extra in return.  This is a short story and a quick read, but it really is perfect to read this Christmas eve if you fancy a change from the traditional Christmas bedtime stories.  And it’s free to download too!

Review of Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Brekker is back and with more fiendish frivolity from the barrel.  Still trying to recover from the disastrous end to the Ice Court job, little does Kaz know how deep the deception went and how much he is going to have to unravel to even begin to salvage what he started.  Kaz maybe clever but he is far from the only clever man in Ketterdam.  He is going to have to work even harder than ever before to try and recapture what he is owed, but with Inej captured, Nina battling an addiction with parem, Wylan tailored to the wrong face and Jesper now forced to confront his past, how easy will that be?

Crooked Kingdom is a longer book than Six of Crows yet the action takes place mainly over a matter of days, the multiple POV’s stretching the tortuously epic and heart thumping twists across the pages.  It still has that immense page turning captivation that was within Six of Crows, but it just lacked that extra sense of excitement along with it.  They are both books of equal joy but I think book 1 just pips it, but only just. In typical Kaz Brekker style there are twists and swindles and multiple cons that would given Danny Ocean on his best day a run for his money.  I love a story that keeps me questioning myself and hanging on a thread as to the outcome, and Crooked Kingdom gave this to me in spades.

I don’t know what is wrong with me of late in the emotions stake, but this book again reduced me to tears, the short but intense bursts of connectivity with the characters overwhelmed me.  Multiple POV’s in books is a risk and I have been drowned by them in books in the past but Leigh Bardugo manages to completely avoid this.  Despite every player being forced to battle for chapter time, I felt utterly part of them and their story, sharing their joys and sadness as they peaked and troughed through the words.   

The only thing that I didn’t enjoy about this concluding part of the duology was entirely down to the publisher.  I read the paperback of this book and found that the text was just so hard to read.  The margins were so tight, the text was disappearing into the gutter and hiding under my thumbs as I was reading.  I hate having to bend back spines on paperbacks which made this even more of an arduous task, I get that more text on a page means fewer pages and lower print costs but this made it such a hard read at times, sort it out Indigo!!  This is the first Duology that I have read and I have to say this is now my favourite book series style, all of the action and none of the filler – I hope that more writers/publishers take this forward in the future.

Would I love more from Kaz and the Dregs? Of course!  However, unlike a TV show that jumps the shark I am glad that the world of Ketterdam has been left the way it has and I look forward immensely to the next original world created by Bardugo.

Bookish Ramblings part 17 – Holidays are coming!

This week I have been spending the Christmas money that I hope I will be getting.  As if Christmas shopping for everyone wasn’t enough to sate my shopping needs! After my disappointment with my Funko in my fairyloot box I needed to put things right.  As my daughter now has that one I have funko loss so treated myself to one that had been idling in my amazon cart for weeks.  I adore Labyrinth and one of my favourite parts is when Sarah has the conversation with worm as she’s trying to get into the Labyrinth itself, Funko have issued a Sarah pop with the worm included, so I’m so happy that this is going to be with me in the new year.  I know it’s not a bookish pop but hey, that didn’t work out quite so well last time….

Have any of you heard of Ink and Wonder designs?  They are based in Australia but they do the most amazing bookish items, they are most famous of for their Woodmark bookmarks, one of my favourite designs involves a quote from ACOMAF “To the stars who listen and the dreams that are answered” This has been out of stock for so long and it eventually went up for pre-order again earlier in the week, she also does gorgeous maps of Prythian which I am hoping to get when they come back into stock next year.

Finally, I was gutted to have missed out on the Christmas at Hogwarts December box from Book and Nook, this contained a number of Harry Potter themed candles but it sold out so quickly, which given the theme was kind of to be expected.  This week they released their January Winter Wonderland box for pre-order and when I saw that it contained items around Six of Crows, Narnia and His Dark Materials I knew I had to go for it, again I’m hoping that this will arrive in January and in some ways it’s probably a better box to get as it spans a few books rather than one series which can only spell good things for my bookstagram in the new year!

Now that I have spent my way into a black hole I am going to sit back and await my goodies, after all January is usually a little dismal when all the excitement of Christmas and New year has died down, it will almost feel like Christmas has kept going!

One of my main tasks for next week is to get all the Christmas presents wrapped and I have a few quiet hours to myself to do this before I go and watch the new Star Wars with Mr Playground.  Now usually a few spare hours to myself involves reading but I have a task to do, so I have been considering being able to do two things at once and trying Audible.  Amazon have an offer for prime members at the moment for an extended free trial and I’m wondering if it’s worth giving a go?  I enjoyed the abridged version of The Book of Dust that was on BBC Radio 4 a couple of months ago so but that was only a couple of hours of listening.  Do any of you listen to Audiobooks, do you think they are worth it?

I’ll be back soon with some special posts looking back at my favourite books of the year and also those that I am most excited for coming in 2018!

Bookish Ramblings Part 16 – December “Oh so Regal” Fairyloot unboxing

Yesterday, a little earlier than expected, my December “Oh so Regal” Fairyloot box arrived! I was excited for this as it was my “birthday box” and they had previously released that a Funko Pop was going to be part of this box too. When I opened my box however, I was immediately struck with disappointment as my bookish pop was Simba from the Lion King.  Now don’t get me wrong he is a super cute little fella and I love the Lion King but he was not at all what I was expecting from the artwork released with the theme. There were 6 randomly available pops and the others up for grabs were Rapunzel, Ariel, Jasmine, Tiana and Pocahontas.  We already have a Rapunzel so I was glad not to have a duplicate but can Simba really be classed as a bookish item?  The Lion King is not based in fairy tale and was written specifically by Disney themselves for the film.  Fairyloot state that their boxes will contain “Bookish Items” and I think that they have failed with this on this occasion.  I have a bookish box with a regal film item in it 😦   He sadly didn’t look right on my bookshelf but has found a good home in my daughters pop collection 🙂

Anyway, on to the next items!  The other randomly selected item which came in the box was an Exclusive Prince Candle from A Court of Candles Mine was the Aladdin version which smells of Egyptian Amber and Treasure, it actually smells divine!  The other options available were Prince Eric, Prince Charming and Prince Adam (AKA Beast).  A notebook was included this time and contains a quote from the Red Queen “To look powerful is to be powerful” I have never read this book but the artwork on the front is fantastic and by Stella’s Bookish Art. There was next a zip up pouch by Miss Phi featuring a quote from Shakespeare “Virtuous and Fair, Royal and Gracious” This is a lovely little bag and would be great for me to keep my make-up items up together in in my hand bag.  The final, and I think my favourite of the bookish items in my box is a “Books Rule” keychain by Fiction Tea Designs I’m thinking of the moment of where best to use it, I have a ton of keys on my set and I don’t want it to get scratched up from everyday use, but I will definitely be using it somewhere!

Finally the book…. This month’s book is Everless by Sarah Holland, which again like last months book I was hoping it would be. The cover is beautiful and the hard cover itself is in red which is unusual and fantastic. I’m hoping to start reading this after Christmas as I am still catching up with reading my Birthday book haul!

So all in all not as awesome an experience as last months box, I think if I had had a bookish funko then I would have been ecstatic but I guess that’s the risk you take with a box full of secret items. Next months we are promised items including ACOTAR so hopefully my faith in fairyloot will be restored.

Type X Cover Reveal with M.A. Phipps

Title: Type X
Author: M.A. Phipps
Genre: YA Dystopian Thriller
Cover Designer: Nathalia Suellen
Editor: Catherine Stovall (CLS Editing)

Blurb: No matter what I do, no matter what steps I take to avoid it,
I’m always playing right into somebody’s hand.
Playing the role I was destined for.
Two years have passed since her willing return to the DSD, and Wynter Reeves is no longer the timid girl who only wanted to blend in. Strong, confident, and in control of her once debilitating powers, the world trembles at her feet while news of what she’s capable of spreads like fire among the State’s enemies. As the death toll rises and Dr. Richter further warps her into a weapon of war, Wynter is forced to embrace the daunting reality of what she’s become. With the remnants of her humanity hanging on by a shoestring, she must choose between the one sacrifice that could lead to her salvation or the dark path of destruction from which there can be no return.
Torn between two sides of a war she never asked for, will Wynter find her freedom, or will she be doomed to remain a monster forever?
M. A. PHIPPS is an American author who resides near the ocean in picturesque Cornwall with her husband, daughter, and their Jack Russell, Milo. A lover of the written word, it has always been her dream to become a published author, and it is her hope to expand into multiple genres of fiction. When she isn’t writing, you can find her counting down the days until the new season of Game of Thrones.
Author Links:
Buy Links for Ultraxenopia: Amazon:

Bookish ramblings part 15 – traversing the waters of Netgalley

So today i’m talking Netgalley – not in a bad way, more in a “Gaynor stumbles cluelessly into things again” kind of a way.  For a long time since I started blogging Netgalley wasn’t on my radar, but one day an author (who I had ARC reviewed for in the past) asked me to review book 2 in her trilogy and told me it was on Netgalley for request.  Off I trundled to look up Netgalley and sign up.  I requested her book only to be denied a copy by her publisher; great. Whilst her publisher were apologetic when I contacted them the damage had been done and I could no longer request a copy again.  Off to a bad start.   As I had only signed up for that book my account sat idling away for a while until another review opportunity came my way, which worked well.  Score 1.

The other week I mentioned that I would be trying to make better use of Netgalley as a review platform, and as with all things I appreciated that this would take time to build a rapport with but then I was knee jerk scare mongered by another blogger.  Apparently Netgalley had closed its doors to the smaller bloggers in their view. You could only wish for books not request them.  What I discovered however could not be further from the truth, there are still plenty of books available for request but if you’re looking for the big name, trad published new releases you’re likely to be out of luck – shocker.  So why the post today from me?  Well as a result of my knee jerk reaction I found myself desperate to be part of the Netgalley world which one blogger said I couldn’t be part of any more (Disclaimer – I may have had some wine) and I found myself amazed to find myself able to immediately be approved for a Sci-fi book from Bloomsbury Publishers – WOW I thought.  So what I ended up with was a re-release of a 1975 sci-fi novel (which was highly acclaimed at the time) which had had a revamp.  So bad restart alert; this very much read like a 1975 novel, strong female characters were no-where to be found and it was very much 1975 USA v Russia and lots of men sitting around talking and smoking cigars.  I was desperate to maintain blog integrity but had to succumb to a DNF today.  This has no doubt hurt my rating, but I continue.

After submitting my DNF review I requested again, only to (surprise) be rejected.  But this is ok, I feel it shows integrity to be honest about not liking a book but being kind with it – which I was.  Having spent years involved with Indie Publishing I know how much hard work goes into a release and how easy it is for keyboard warriors to tear that down.  I have never given a 1* review and only once given a 2* (but that was with constructive feedback).  In my view an author deserves at least 3* for going through the sweat and tears of getting to the publish point in the first place!

Going back to my first paragraph however, it seems that I could have done a lot more with Netgalley to get myself out there, for instance I hadn’t linked my blog to my account, my profile picture was blank etc so now I have tried again, and I will keep trying!   When I first became involved in the publishing world I was part of massive groups known as Street Teams but now I have branched out on my own with this blog I feel that I am feeling my way around blindly, progress is slow but I’m getting there.  I have mastered many social media platforms and I will get there with Netgalley.  Twitter however remains my nemesis……………

The Last Hour Release Blitz with Tara Brown

Title: The Last Hour
Author: Tara Brown
Genre: YA Dystopian
From the trees, I can smell them—smell their fear.
They’re scared as they scurry like animals.
They look different now.
Clothes are ripped.
Hair is dirty.
It’s not them I’m watching for.
They don’t know it, but I’m watching over them.
They move silently, not making noise.
It’s a different world.
Everything is quiet.
The prey moves differently here.
The others listen—always listening.
Silence was survival.
But what are we all surviving for?
I believe growing up in a really small town gives a person a little advantage when it comes to the imagination. You need one or you go mad.
Needless to say, mine saved me. After it got me into trouble first, that is. That’s the problem with a vivid imagination, all the lies you tell.
I am happily married with two daughters.
I have two giant dogs, two savage cats, and a penchant for a glass of red.
Also, I drag my bread through the sauce. I can’t help myself, bread is life.
According to my age, I am meant to be a responsible adult, but it isn’t going well at all. I would still head off to Hogwarts tomorrow and I suspect there isn’t a single wardrobe I haven’t crept into, hoping to find the door to Narnia. And don’t even get me started on the King’s Road, I get lost.
Fortunately, I am an international bestseller so I have wormed my way into a quirky or eccentric category.
Thank God for that.
I am represented by Natalie Lakosil from the Bradford Literary Agency and am published traditionally with Montlake Romance.
Buy Links:
The Seventh Day:
The Last Hour:

Review of Utterances by Jo Michaels

Simone is not your typical teenager. When others around her are out clothes shopping and partying and thinking about boys, Simone is caring for her terminally ill mother. With literally nothing more to be done, Simone takes to reading fairy tales to her mother at her bedside from a dusty old book she found at the back of a second hand book store. However, the book is not what it seems and it magically brings healing words to it’s hitherto blank pages, creating nothing short of a miracle. The best things in life however are not always for free and magic often has creative ways of redressing the balance.

Whilst Simone starts to rebuild her life with her mother and her social life along with it, the book still holds a strange sway over her. Simone must therefore finely balance the new friendships she creates alongside of trying to convince them that she is not crazy and that there really is a good reason why she won’t let the strange book out of her sight. Her life finally has everything great going on friends, family, a job, and now a too good to be true boyfriend in the form of Tristan. However, as Simone falls farther into the thrall of the book, Utterances becomes a heartbreaking tale of selfishness and selflessness as her friends and family struggle to come to terms with the choices she makes.

Utterances is pitched as a New Adult Fantasy, but what you get is an utterly thought provoking read that will have you questioning and second guessing yourself throughout and long after. Simone is beautifully naive and the perfect person to have picked up the book, still filled with enough innocence to believe in its magic but with enough maturity to know that she is making the right decisions….or not…. I want to say so much more about her and my own thoughts about her journey but it’s just all going to be sailing too close to a spoiler. I’m still thinking about it now and finished 2 days ago!  Utterances will throw you curveballs, it had me laughing at the awesomeness of her friend Lilian, crying at the tough conversations that needed to be had along the way and then getting you right in the gut (you’ll know when you get to it) just when you think you have it pegged. It will have you desperate to start each new chapter and like the magic book itself it will keep pulling you back until you reach the very last page, unable to put it down.