Bookish Ramblings: September Wrap up!

With the end of September comes the end of one of the toughest blogging months for me, I’ve often felt uninspired to blog and articulate my feelings into reviews. In the middle of September I took the decision to try and do #blogtober where the idea is that I post a blog post every day. I then directed my efforts into scheduling posts for October and I my blogging for this month definitely suffered because of it. I’m hoping that having #blogtober to do will help me focus on getting my views back up and inspire me back into writing posts!

My 5 Star reads
My 4 Star Reads
My 3 Star Reads

What else has been happening this month?

This month Biba got her first rep box for We Read Box, you can find an unboxing here on the blog just a couple of posts back! She loved her first box and if you have middle grade readers and in the UK this box is perfect! I also went my first month subscription box free, and do you know what, I really didn’t miss it. I saw an unboxing of fairyloot and honestly knew I would have felt meh with it. I did get the Illumicrate book only option this month and honestly, I’m not that happy. The book is nice and all and the stencilled edge is pretty but I ended up paying £17.99 plus postage for a £12.99 book, the stencilled edge wasn’t worth that much extra in my view. I’m going to keep it until November and then I’ll think again, as Waterstones has really stepped up their special edition game! I also finally booked my 40th Birthday trip with Mr Paperbacks to Edinburgh in December – I’m more than a little excited!

Looking Ahead

So as I mentioned at the start I’m taking part in #blogtober which feels more of a ginormous undertaking now that I know it starts tomorrow. At the moment I’m trying to work out if me and Biba can make it to MCM ComicCon or not, in a very dull real life moment we need to get the washing machine fixed which kind of takes priority. I’m looking to try and keep an even balance between review reads and me reads and I’m actually making better progress through my existing tbr than I thought – when I was sat outside the littlest paperbacks door in the middle of the night last night I discovered I had just 35 unread books on my kindle which is around half I thought I had!

Keep an eye out for my October TBR post tomorrow and just get in touch if you want to read along with me!

Unboxing the September “You are Enough” We Read Box

Earlier in the year Biba and I found out about a Kickstarter campaign for a new UK based middle grade book box which is for ages 8-12. There was nothing like it available in the UK at the time (we previously had Owlcrate Jr shipped from the US at great cost) so we jumped at the chance and pledged support. Whilst the kickstarter campaign didn’t reach it’s goal, its creators were committed to producing this box for September and November at least and when a call for reps was put out on Instagram, Biba was desperate to apply! We were so happy when she got selected and even happier when we saw the amazing contents of the box! If you wanted to see our live unboxing it’s currently pinned to my story highlights on Instagram.

The book this month is The Boy with the Butterfly Mind by Victoria Williamson. It’s a contemporary story set in Scotland that explores blended families, ADHD, and self acceptance. The box edition is a gorgeous hardback, with beautiful decorative end papers and a bookplate signed by the author! Its a beautiful book, vibrantly orange and with a stunning butterfly theme, it’s really eye catching. To match in with the book there was a ribbon bookmark from Literary Galaxy and features charms at each end inspired by the two main characters in the book. It’s such a pretty bookmark and the first ribbon bookmark that Biba has ever had. There is also the enamel pin – we are huge pin collectors – which is amazing and designed by Nutmeg and Arlo with the wonderful motto of “you are more than enough” it features a locking pin back too, which is genius as we’re always worried about losing our pins when we wear them out and about. We’re looking forward to seeing the exclusive video from the author introducing the book, this is a totally unique idea and brilliant that there is this extra dimension to the box.

There are some really practical items this month too and they are perfect for back to school! A fantastic pair of quote pencils from Night Navy with a unique take on an old saying “practice makes progress” and the motto which we all should live by “it’s OK to be different” these are pre-sharpened and ready to go! Which is handy because there is a fabulous notebook (or doodle pad as Biba likes to call it) for her to “capture her thoughts” in. We love the image on the front of this book which was designed by the We Read Box creators themselves, it’s 3D element is stunning! Additional items this month were a Jelly wrist band with a fantastic orange and black marble effect with the phrase “Phoenix Rising” to remind us that we can get back up and start again and a twist and lock block fidget toy. These are used by children with ADHD and again fits in totally with the book this month, Biba loves this and couldn’t put it down during our unboxing!

The commitment to the theme this month is brilliant, all the items are useful and we loved how the items linked in with the book in different ways. As a parent of a child just starting to have insecurities about herself, I found the messages and motto’s contained inspiring and the pin will be worn frequently and will be a reminder to her and her friends that they don’t need to feel insecure. Whilst Biba loved all the items (even down to the sparkly organza bag the bookmark came in) her favourites were the book, the bookmark and the pin because she is such a fan of butterflies

Biba’s review: I love the idea of the butterflies as they are very colourful and they made the whole box look very bright. I really enjoyed the box and I liked all of it, there wasn’t a single thing I didn’t like. I’m excited to see the author video and the book sounds like it is full of very big ideas.

We Read Box are committed to making their products and packaging as eco friendly as possible, the boxes are from recycled card with paper packing and the books themselves are not plastic wrapped. They work with local businesses where possible to limit the carbon footprint of the boxes. If you love the look of this box you can still get the September box on the We Read Box website (while stocks last) at and also pre-order the November box (see below.) Boxes are just £27 including postage (yes, really!) within the UK!

The November theme is “Natural Magic” and contains not one, but two books! There will be a double sided bookmark, an exclusive enamel pin, an activity book and a large item designed by Elvenwick Candles (although it’s not a candle!) we’re so excited about the theme and based on this box, it’s definitely going to be worth the wait!

Thank you so much to Kirsty and Stacey for gifting this box to Biba, all opinions on the box and items are our own and have not been influenced by receiving the box for free.

Review of Battle Ground by Rachel Churcher

Sixteen-year-old Bex Ellman has been drafted into an army she doesn’t support and a cause she doesn’t believe in. Her plan is to keep her head down, and keep herself and her friends safe – until she witnesses an atrocity she can’t ignore, and a government conspiracy that threatens lives all over the UK. With her loyalties challenged, Bex must decide who to fight for – and who to leave behind.

The Battle Ground series is set in a dystopian near-future UK, after Brexit and Scottish independence.

Battle Ground is a story that immediately resonated with me as a huge fan of Dystopia and especially to have one in an UK, near future setting ticked so many boxes. To start with I was so happy that the Author had put a pronunciation guide at the FRONT of the book, so often these are at the end and then I find out I’ve been saying something wrong in my head for hundreds of pages!  With the UK on the verge of martial law everything feels very bleak, empty and cold. The very stark “them and us” feel apparent from the opening pages as we get drips and drops of information which starts to paint a picture of where we are at and with a bombshell that the UK has returned to the death penalty the reader is under no illusion that things are far from well.

Bex is a great protagonist and ticks very few of the YA heroine tick boxes, she not all about running into danger without a backward glance for others, she seldom if ever mentions her appearance, if only to lament her “front line barbie” moniker, and it’s not about catching the eye of a cute boy. Bex has a strong morality and a curiosity about what is going on and it’s amazing to have a book where a romantic element isn’t the ultimate goal. She questions and is open to suggestion that there has to be some way of making things better.

With chapters heavy on military training, I liked how the author took the time to remind us that Bex is still very much a child underneath. The passages where we return to the school setting and her finding joy in the simpler things, the mundane such as homework really brought home her plight and those of the others. It’s one of many frightening near life scenarios that we are shown in this tale, children “enlisted” giving them little to no choice or say in the matter, made horribly parallel scenario to the drafting of the first and second world wars. The whole training camp had an uncomfortable feel with very little sympathy, but plenty of brainwashing and propaganda feeding. The concept of forcing the humanity out of the children, encouraging them to abandon anyone other than themselves, is a distressing idea. The indication that caring for someone is somehow obtuse in an environment that breeds disassociation from what they may have to do as part of the “greater good” all whilst putting on a good show for the camera’s, is one of many difficult topics the author covers and it is done incredibly well.

Whilst the start is a teeny tiny bit slow with the recruitment and training aspect, it’s still captivating and knowing that these are rapid release books means that there will be pay off from establishing the world building in this book. I did find that I struggled with how quickly Bex gained the military prowess displayed towards the closing chapters but then adrenaline probably speaks for a lot, but it was the only time that I felt the story stepped outside of what could actually happen.

There are obvious connotations with the current political climate, which is clear when reading the blurb – whichever side of the fence you are on, this book isn’t preaching about that, it’s putting across a scenario and a pretty great one at that. The story contains enough of current and recent affairs to give it a realistic turn without specifying enough to date it in future, especially with the imaginative combination of guns and armour which had an almost sci-fi feel at times. This coupled with the weaponry makes it feel like it might not be quite just around the corner, but in these uncertain times, who knows.

I’m very much looking forward to book 2 and give book one a very strong 4*

Review of We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.
Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.
Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.
War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

If ever there was a book of 2 halves for me it is We Hunt the Flame, I was so excited for this book, it was truly everywhere I looked on Instagram, Book Twitter and book events – I got my copy as an early release at Yalc 2 days before my request was granted on Netgalley. I went into it blind, captivated about the excitement surrounding it, I really wish I had looked at some reviews first. The thing is, I can see why so many people love it and it had huge potential to be so much more for me, but in the end I can say that it was just okay.

I’ll start with what I enjoyed though! I loved the star embossing on the title font for the cover, it’s a subtle thing but it really is quite beautiful to look at. The world building is pretty good, considering the author gave herself pretty bleak environments to work with. From frozen wastes to the arid desert, it’s no wonder that many feel the journey is one Zafira may not return from, the story does have bursts of colour though in places and these do thankfully appear enough to break up the otherwise dull surrounding, be it through dreams or flashback, they help to keep the pages turning. The mystery of the Arz was one I was really intrigued about, I was fascinated by it’s creation and how it claimed people in the way it did, the way it linked into the detailed back story was one of my favourite parts of book.  I loved the little bits of history and most certainly the mythology around The Sisters and how magic was lost to the land. The Silver Witch was one of the most intriguing characters, turning up like Mother Aughra giving cryptic clues and not always helpful advice, her story arc is great. I also have to say that I adored Altair and for me he carried much of the story with his snarky quips and banter, he and Kifah are kinda sweet too in a shy way. His development is fantastic and I lost count of the bombshells dropping around him, I really hope he gets more of an opportunity to shine through later in the series, because truly, Nasir didn’t really cut it for me.

Honestly though, I found I struggled to really care much about what was happening for the most part and I struggled to connect with nearly all of the characters. I truly became very confused with the names, everyone has their actual name, a nickname, a mystical name, a pet name – I often found myself utterly mystified with who was talking. I’m still not sure when Kifah turned up, but for a good while I didn’t even realise she was an actual separate character. The journey felt very repetitive too, it was like every other chapter had to be punctuated with a fight with the Ifrit, in some ruins, partially reclaimed by the desert, like we were in some old school console game where the simple programming replayed the same fight but just in a different place. I also struggled to read the tiny font which didn’t endear me to keep picking it back up, especially at nearly 500 pages which is somewhat unheard of for a debut title. There was plenty that could have been edited out, with a handful of redundant characters and plenty of plot that was just pure exposition – it could have easily shaved a good couple of hundred pages and probably been a much better read for it.

Ultimately, this just about scrapes into a 3 star because the 10% of characters I liked rescued it for me as well as some jaw to the floor reveals which just about kept me turning the pages. I appreciate that there may have been plenty of leg work setting up the world building for the next book, but I’m probably not going to continue with the series or at least I will properly consider reviews before taking the plunge again.


Review of the Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

Welcome to the Kingdom… where ‘Happily Ever After’ isn’t just a promise, but a rule.
Glimmering like a jewel behind its gateway, The Kingdom™ is an immersive fantasy theme park where guests soar on virtual dragons, castles loom like giants, and bioengineered species―formerly extinct―roam free.
Ana is one of seven Fantasists, beautiful “princesses” engineered to make dreams come true. When she meets park employee Owen, Ana begins to experience emotions beyond her programming including, for the first time… love.
But the fairytale becomes a nightmare when Ana is accused of murdering Owen, igniting the trial of the century. Through courtroom testimony, interviews, and Ana’s memories of Owen, emerges a tale of love, lies, and cruelty―and what it truly means to be human.

I went into The Kingdom with high hopes, there was a lot going for it and it was sold to me on the basis that it was a dystopian (not really true) with a strong Westworld feel (totally true). I was immediately struck by the strong narrative style in that we are in both real time and the countdown to where we are at. I loved the decision for Ana to be the narrator with the occasional punctuation of court documents, interview transcripts and testimonies. Her innocence and wonder at the world and all that was happening around and within it made for an easy read. Thats not to say that it’s written like a children’s book but her view of the world and her way of describing her surroundings with detail and wonder really helped pull me into the story.

It’s also smooth read because of the countdown aspect which drives the story forward, it’s clear that there is more going on than meets the eye and having the story unfold little by little in this way was great. The world of The Kingdom feels very much how I think Disneyland may be, however the human staff members dressing up as Disney princesses would be replaced by mechanical beings with human skin – wow that sounds creepy when written down. This does however lead on to the deep mistrust parents seem to have of the Fantasists, whereas the child visitors are clearly awestruck by them, their lack of any real humanity coupled with their technological minds leads to a number of questions from parents.  The roles of the fantasists do feel almost childlike with an outward facade of innocence, but they are constantly working and battling against one another for the top spots; one of the more troubling aspects of this story is that visitors have an App where they get to rate the fantasists out of 10 on a number of different attributes – scarily, one of those being obedience. I suppose that is where the dystopian aspect appears, but asking a child to rate on the obedience of another being sat really uncomfortably with me.

I would have loved to have seen more of the court room drama aspect of the story though, with the blurb citing that we are in “the trial of the century” the balance wasn’t there as much as I would have liked as these snippits really made the story. The addition of the “evidential photo’s” really didn’t work for me as I found they were too stark and made me feel like I wasn’t reading fiction any more. This was a shame because the combination of court documents, emails, interviews and story worked amazingly well. I have to admit as the story went along I thought this was a standalone and the ending didn’t work for me quite as well as it could have done because it wasn’t all wrapped up –  not a failing of the writer but it went in a direction that I wasn’t expecting.

The Kingdom is a fairly short read but it’s edited to perfection and captures that all too rare balance of being succinct without going over the top with descriptions or leaving too much to the imagination. The world was both terrifying at times and also a place that I would love to go and visit, it really is a book of stark contrasts. If you’re a fan of the new Westworld series (before it had an existential crisis) then you will love the Kingdom!


Unboxing the Geeky Clean Halloween Collection!

As many of you know I am incredibly lucky to be part of the Geeky Clean affiliate team and up until now mine and Biba’s unboxings have been on Instagram but I wanted to share the love with you guys too! Geeky Clean are a small business focusing on Self Care whilst being 100% ethical. All their products are vegan, cruelty free and plastic free (even their packing materials!) their “plastic” is in fact plant based and totally biodegradable. If that isn’t enough to make you want to check them out then carry on reading to see everything in their latest collection!

“Hey Georgie” Bath Bomb – Candy Floss scented £4

Totally creepy and totally amazing, this Pennywise inspired bathbomb is one not to miss for any horror and halloween fan. They are beautifully hand decorated and the candy floss scent isn’t overpoweringly sweet but still a nice touch on the trick or treat theme.

“Candy Skull” Bath Bomb – Autumn Leaves scented £4.50

This is one weighty bathbomb! I love the colour combination of the blue and neon pink, again they are hand decorated and finished to a high standard. The autumn leaves fragrance is made up from ylang ylang, sandalwood and patchouli and honestly has totally captured the fragrance of kicking up a big pile of leaves!

“Flaming Murder” Bath Bomb – Hot Chocolate Scented £4.50

Another huge bathbomb and the epitome of indulgence! The red and orange marbling effect is gorgeous with a ton of gold bio sparkles and topped off with a wonderful chocolate fragrance, this is probably going to be the first one in the bath!

“Brain Slug” Sugar Scrub Soap and Soap Bar – Spiced Candy Apple £5.50

Nothing short of genius, this is an amazing combination and great value too. A good dose of pale green sugar scrubs (which are always full of exfoliating sugar) topped with a wonderfully quirky pink brain mini soap. Both scented with the same spiced apple fragrance, this has to be one of my most favourite designs ever!

“Bubbly Blob” Shower Jelly Soap – Snow Fae Scented £3.50

We’re recent converts to shower jellies, these Geeky Clean versions come in a handy tin so when you’ve finished your shower it fits neatly back inside again! Mega wobbly and sprinkled with silver bio glitter, the fragrance reminds me of a bag of jelly sweets and is a wonderful teal colour, Biba loves this and I don’t think it will be mine for long!

“Wake Up Spooky” Shower Steamers – Blood Orange Scented £4.50

These shower steamers are super citrusy, Biba says they smell like lemon drizzle cake! but the orange totally comes through for me. These come in a pack of 3 and are again hand painted with a unique design like blood spatter, or an ink blot test for those budding serieal killers among us. These are a good chunky size so will last for those long and languid showers too!

“Spooks and Soaps” Soap – Spiced Cider scented £4

These cute and quirky little soaps come in a pack of 2, ours had a green autumn leaf and an orange pumpkin but the packs look to be random as their website shows a witch design too! These soaps are a perfect travel size and also great if you don’t want the larger sized soap tins. The fragrance is subtle and the soaps have a soft and moisturising feel – did you know that all Geeky Clean soaps are SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) free? Well, now you do!

“Pumpkin Spice of Life” Candle – Pumpkin Spice, Vanilla and Cinnamon scented £8

No Geeky clean collection would be complete without a signature candle! All Geeky Clean candles are hand poured and made with soy wax. The colour of the candle is 100% spot on and the fragrance is beyond amazing – I’ve had the tin open all day and even without burning my house smells like pumpkin pie! These candle tins always burn evenly and last for ages.

So there you have it! Another amazing collection from Geeky Clean full of great ideas and imaginative takes on the theme as usual. I hope that you will want to try out some of their fab products and you can also save an additional 10% by using my code Paperbacksandpinot10 at checkout! You can also pay a visit to my instagram and checkout my story highlights to see a live unboxing of the range too, where to be honest you’ll get a better look at the colours as no matter where I went inside or out today I just couldn’t get the right light for photos!



Review of Relics by Tim Lebbon

There’s an underground black market for arcane things. Akin to the trade in rhino horns or tigers’ bones, this group trafficks in mummified satyrs, gryphons’ claws, and more. 
When Angela Gough’s lover Vince goes missing, she sets out to find him whatever the risk. She learns that he was employed by the infamous London crime lord Frederick Meloy, providing bizarre objects beyond imagining. Descending into the city’s underbelly, she uncovers a deadly side to the black market. It might have claimed Vince, and Angela may be next. 

I was contacted by the publisher, Titan Books, to review book 3 in this series which sounded amazing, they then very kindly sent me the first 2 books in the series to bring me up to speed and Relics is the first. Having only read the press release for book 3, I went into Relics completely blind which I do like doing from time to time, I was really surprised by this story as much of it was not as it seemed and it is far from a by numbers missing persons style case.

Relics brings magical realism to a whole new level I really enjoyed how it brought mysticism and mythical creatures and objects to the fore in a way I hadn’t imagined before. The imagery is intense in places, and I have to admit that some of it has stayed with me – I don’t tend to read horror for this reason and I didn’t expect it in this urban fantasy. However, the horror and gore elements didn’t overtake the story though thankfully, but fox lovers should brace themselves.  Tim Lebbon does an amazing job of conveying terror and doesn’t shy away from the details which are technicolor in this tale. It pretty detailed in its world building and we get a lot of explanation as to how things come to be and how collectors and collections have come to prominence.

Honestly I would have loved the story to have focused more on Vince, he’s infinitely the more interesting character of the 2 protagonists and I think that’s a lot of where the story fell down at times as I really struggled to identify with Angela as a character.  I just didn’t find her very likeable and so didn’t really feel drawn into caring when she was in mortal danger. However, that isn’t true of all the characters and there were some scenes that I felt completely drawn in to as there are several characters to find a lot to love about, no Nymph shenanigens included. The big bads worked in a monster of the week way, I get the feeling that each of the stories will bring a new foe and each will have their weaknesses to find

Strangely, it was the epilogue that really sold the story for me, I love an epilogue at the best of times but this totally set up how the next in the series comes about whilst cleverly avoiding the “admin” style of chapters that it would have taken to get there. Its actually made me feel pretty excited to continue the series as it’s breaking free of the constraints Relics placed itself under. Ultimately I found Relics to be a staging novel, setting things up for future books in the series, a scene setter if you like. Whilst the world building is rock solid the story underneath wasn’t quite what I was expecting but I’m hoping that the page turning intrigue of the epilogue is a sign of things to come because this is shaping up to a series that could achieve great things!


Review of Sanctuary by V.V. James

The small Connecticut town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback.

Daniel’s death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper is the daughter of a witch – and she was there when he died.

Then the rumours start. When Harper insists Dan was guilty of a terrible act, the town turns on her. So was his death an accident, revenge – or something even darker?

As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching . . us

Sanctuary is a book that wasn’t even on my radar, but a couple of months ago everywhere I turned it was there! Either as a recommendation from a friend or on instagram, plenty were talking it up a storm and with good reason.  it’s a contemporary setting which isn’t my usual preference but with a witchy storyline and a  “The Craft” vibe I went into it really hoping that it lived up to the hype. Truly it did, and then some.

What isn’t clear from the blurb is the huge Witchcraft element that’s involved, almost a parallel universe where witches are out in the open, they are regulated and monitored and allowed to practice under guidelines. I found this utterly fascinating and the level of research and detail really brought so much more vibrancy to the story. It was a great anchor for the book to have and everything surrounded it and interlocked with it brilliantly.

It’s a book that highlights and deals sensitively with, actually, a massive range of issues. It one for both YA and adult readers in my view as the high school element is actually pretty minor and the story balances well between the children and the adults. V.V. James gives a handy outline of the players at the start of the book, which was great as there are a lot, but I admit I didn’t really take them all in in the beginning. It took me a while to remember who everyone was at each POV switch initially. But multiple POV’s are my favourite and we glean so much from this perspective, emotions are running so high that it would have been difficult to properly convey the feeling without it.  Sanctuary is an exceptional exercise in inclusivity and because this is a book that does amazingly with representation in relationships and gender, it then makes the small minded bigotry of the town within the story stand out all the more. It’s also deep down a mystery book and whilst you may say that is obvious by the fact there is a crime to solve, it truly went so much deeper than that, everyone’s secrets and lies so utterly entrenched with one another’s each page felt like another petal being pulled away.

The characterisations were fantastic, I think that there wasn’t a single main player that I didn’t get a feel for. Sarah being the only witch in a small town, historically at the forefront of witch trials, dealing with a giftless daughter was one I felt huge empathy with. Always wanting magic to be the right answer and wanting her gift to help her friends and the town when more traditional means fail. Abigail’s portrayal of grief was exceptional and I have to say that out of all the tough topics in this book, it was Abigail’s reaction to her loss which got to me the most, the desperate need to place blame over getting answers was devastating in places. Finally Maggie, the investigator, had such an amazingly open mind and her discoveries and ability to deal with all of the sudden tangents and about turns of her investigation helped to make this such a page turning read.

I realise that I haven’t spoken in depth about the storyline itself in this review but honestly I don’t think I can without even mild spoilers because anything will give the game away. Ultimately this is an unstoppable read, with short punchy chapters which make putting it down near impossible. I saw none of the turns coming and my jaw was on the floor and tears were in my eyes. Sanctuary cast the best kind of spell on me and i’m definitely going to be reading more from this author as her writing style is amazing!


Six for Sunday: Books set in Schools

I’ve been so ridiculously tired of late I have been really struggling with blogging. It’s taking forever to read, I can’t find the words for reviews, I have no inspiration for instagram pics and I just want to sleep but young master paperbacks won’t have that! So I’m going to try and pick up with #sixforsunday again today, and considering how much YA I read, I found this surprisingly difficult!

Harry Potter

Surely this is the ultimate school based read?

Red Rising

I have to be uber cautious here because Red Rising is truly one of those WTF at every turn kind of a book. When Darrow enters the Institute he really has absolutely no idea what is about to hit him – makes Battle Royale look like a summer holiday!


One of my favourite Roald Dahl books (who am I kidding I love them all) as a little girl who spent most of her school holidays at the library, not because my parents were like the Wormwoods I must add, I loved that this was a story about such a bookish girl, of course all her additional powers made it all the better – and of course I wanted my teacher to be Miss Honey, thankfully no Trunchball’s when I was at school!

Mallory Towers

I’m going to put this in as a trip down memory lane, when I read these growing up they were my favourite stories, I was always waiting for another in the series to have been returned on the library shelf. I found the adventures exciting and they made me long for a boarding school lifestyle.  However when I read one with my daughter last year they weren’t all I hoped they would be. Enid Blyton’s writing is certainly very dated and even though I think there has been an element of rewriting for modern times they are still quite hard to read with a strong “girls know your place” element


One of my favourite reads of last year, Spensa’s story is one that I can’t wait to return to when Starsight comes out in a few months. From the anxiety of her testing phase to get into the academy to her time learning all there is to need about being part of Skyward Flight this was classroom at it’s finest – yes it was pretty trope filled with the nature of the characters but I found that endearing and loved them all!

The Austere Academy

I love everything about “A Series of Unfortunate Events” but the Austere Academy is one of my favourites – I love Carmelita Spats, she is almost as vile as Count Olaf, Vice Principle Nero is hideous and the Orphan Shack just painful to read. What really makes this book stand out in the series though is the appearance of the Quagmire Triplets and represents a real step up in the siblings story.


Review of Fortuna Sworn by K.J. Sutton

Fortuna Sworn is the last of her kind. 
Her brother disappeared two years ago, leaving her with no family or species to speak of. She hides among humans, spending her days working at a bar and her nights searching for him. The bleak pattern goes on and on… until she catches the eye of a powerful faerie. 
He makes no attempt to hide that he desires Fortuna. And in exchange for her, he offers something irresistible. So Fortuna reluctantly leaves her safe existence behind to step back into a world of creatures and power. 
It soon becomes clear that she may not have bargained with her heart, but her very life.

Be cruel to yourself. Spare no pain. Do this again and again until one day you find yourself immune to it and the fear no longer controls you.

Firstly, huge thanks to K.J Sutton for reaching out to me to review this book! Paranormal Romance is a genre that I come back to time to time, I’m not a huge romance reader but when the surrounding world sounds interesting to me then I’ll take the plunge, this was definitely the case with Fortuna Sworn. I was immediately intrigued about Fortuna being the last of her kind. Nightmares are an entirely new paranormal entity to me and I loved learning about her and how her powers worked, the opening chapter telling you all you need to know about her in glorious detail, it definitely was a great and slightly terrifying opener. If Nightmare’s are new to you (they may be to everyone, as they could be a new construct by the author lol) they will certainly be one to look out for again!

Although the blurb suggests a more urban fantasy feel, this soon becomes full on fantasy which I love – I got strong ACOTAR vibes from it too.  The world building is mainly confined to the unseelie court, everywhere feels very dark and earthy and a little bleak at times. Torch lit hallways, myriad tunnels and decadent communal areas which encapsulate all you would expect from a Fae realm. This darkness did help to really focus on the sharpness of the beautiful colours of the dreamscape and also Fortuna’s gorgeous gowns.  I do like a dreamscape element and it brought a balance to the story in colour as well as tone, they are Fortuna’s safe space and hold one of the best plot twists. There is plenty of intrigue and hidden plots and never has the term “Never Trust a Fairy” felt so true! The trials and subsequent fallout represent my favourite parts of the story. There are some fantastic ideas which are executed really well, one being utterly heartbreaking. While the background of the trials has a familiarity these stand out well against others.

Character wise, there are certainly enough to please every reader. Fortuna is pretty fearless and a character that is easy to get along with, I found that she represented the “running into danger without considering anyone else” trope quite heavily though and that irked me a bit in the end.  Collith, I just can’t peg at the moment and using the ACOTAR analogy again, i’m not sure if he’s a Rhysand or a Tamlin, I certainly think there is much more to him and I often found myself questioning just how much power his position affords him as he makes some questionable choices. There is also the mystery of Oliver, who’s been with Fortuna throughout her dreams. My personal favourite? Laurie! He felt like a sinister Cinna from The Huger Games! I loved how he always appeared at the opportune time, full of cryptic and borderline helpful comments and of course dressing Fortuna for all she undertakes. There is a delicious droplet of detail snuck into the book too which shows that he is one to watch. The only thing about the characters that worry’s me personally is that this has the potential to become a become a RH story, but I could be reading too much into that!

As readers we have our own set of likes and dislikes and one of my greatest pet peeves is forcing a reader to read in an accent, I’m fine with a little accent here and there as a sign post but all out phonectic layout is a big no for me. One particular character appeared to have a Northern Irish heritage, but having to read Loike and Noight instead of Like and Night just reminded me of the “ride sally ride” scene from The Commitments. But that’s my foible and others may be fine with it, but it utterly pulled me from the story sadly.

As a wrap up Fortuna Sworn is an enjoyable read with some really great elements and stand out moments, the pacing wasn’t quite there for me between those parts and it’s pretty trope-tastic, but that’s a personal taste thing anyway. There are a lot of plates left spinning and not much closure, but the building blocks have been firmly laid for what comes next and there is certainly the hint of amazing things to come. The characters are ones I would like to return to depending on how the romance plays out.