Book Review | A Spoonful of Murder by Robin Stevens

34609221Hazel and Daisy have left England and set out to Hong Kong for the mourning period of Hazel’s grandfather who passed away. When they arrive, Hazel just looks forward to spending time with her family and her father in particular. But when they reach her home, she has a very nasty surprise. Before she can even get over this, tragedy strikes, not once, but twice. With criminal gangs, new maids they’re not sure they can trust, and a wholly different culture to what the Honourable Daisy Wells is used to, this might be the Detective Society’s most challenging case yet. 

I absolutely LOVE the Wells and Wong series. It’s such a brilliant series, and in all honesty, it just keeps on getting better.

This one takes place in Hong Kong, which is a place I’ve never been to myself, and I loved learning about the different culture. Stevens has researched very thoroughly, and she took a research trip there herself, so I feel like what she says can be trusted. It felt like I could see and hear Hong Kong, and the descriptions were so rich, as per!

I don’t want to say too much about the case itself, (spoilers!) but I thoroughly enjoyed the entire thing. The stakes in this one seemed to be very much higher than what they used to be, and how Stevens will top this I do not know! (She will find a way.) I didn’t work it out long before Hazel and Daisy themselves, so it was a case that had me guessing all the way through as well.

Basically, I just loved this book. Hazel and Daisy are two of my favourite literary heroines, and Robin Stevens honestly just keeps on getting better. I thought that the ending might have been a bit of a cop-out, but to be honest, it’s the best ending that there could be in order to finish the book appropriately. Overall? It was brilliant, and I would highly recommend this book and all of the others in the series.

Rating: 5/5

Source: bought from Amazon


Book Review | Women & Power by Mary Beard

36313514“You can’t easily fit women into a structure that is already coded as male; you have to change the structure.”

Mary Beard analyses women and the power of our world, and how we have been accosted from power for centuries. With her dry wit and her vast knowledge, this really was an enjoyable read.

This tiny book – a “manifesto” [although I wouldn’t necessarily say this is a manifesto – more on that later] – is based from two lectures Beard gave. One is from 2014, and is entitled The Public Voice of Women, and the second is from 2017, entitled Women in Power; this obviously came just after the US 2016 presidential election. Beard brings her personal experiences from Twitter trolls and her life as a historian to her essays too.

I thought that the analyses that Beard gave were really interesting, but if I had to criticise this book, I would say that it was far too short. Whilst I understand that Beard has taken her chapters from previous lectures, I feel like there is enough material for a book the size of SPQR, one of her previous novels which is 400-500 pages long. At 97 pages long, this just seemed far too short; I hope that a further book will be made out of this, although I understand why Mary Beard and the publishers (I think this is in some sort of lecture series??) wanted this book out now in this current time.

I also feel like this isn’t a manifesto. This isn’t a call to arms – these are informative, exploratory lectures, whereas a manifesto is a public declaration of a policy and a person’s aims. The information included in Women & Power may become a manifesto, but currently, as it stands, it isn’t quite there yet.

Overall, despite what I’ve said, I thoroughly enjoyed Women & Power. It’s given me a lot to think about and I think it’s something that will become the focus of essays that I might write in the future. I understand why it’s short, and I think it does pack a lot into a little, but I do think that Mary Beard could really enrich the material and turn this into a really lovely piece.

Rating: 4/5

Source: Bought from Waterstone’s

Book Review | Cream Buns and Crime by Robin Stevens

31850657In this book of short stories, recipes, and handy facts and tips, Hazel, Daisy, Alexander, and even Beanie take us through more detectiveness in this collection.

Cream Buns and Crime isn’t my usual kind of book, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! It’s a collection of all sorts, and I had a really good time reading it.

Whilst the stories aren’t necessarily as high stake as in the novels, but they’re just as interesting! We have Hazel and Daisy’s first mystery; the story of the Deepdean Vampire (which since I first heard the title of this story I wanted to read); Alexander and George’s first story; and a story written from Beanie’s viewpoint as well!

The stories were just as enticing. I actually dropped this a star because I think it could have just been a book of short stories – I wish that there had been more of them.

I really liked all of the extra info in this. I found it really interesting to see some of the things behind Robin Stevens’ thoughts on how she wrote the books, and the literature that went into the novels. I definitely have some new mystery novels put onto my list!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I think it’s a fun companion to the novels, although I don’t really have a lot to say about this considering I don’t usually review books like this! I can say that it has NO SPOILERS for the series, so you’re free to read this (apart from the quiz at the end!) at any point when you’re reading the books. However, I’d definitely recommend reading it later on in the series; it’s “set” in 1936 (some of the stories are different years, hence I say “set”), or about then, so Hazel and Daisy are for the most part already established detectives.

If you pick this up, I would recommend reading it after all of the books; or at least after books 1-4! And of course, I always recommend the Wells & Wong books.

Rating: 4/5

Source: Amazon

Book Review | Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

33784373After the tragic events that occurred in London, Audrey Rose and Thomas have travelled to Romania to attend a prestigious medical school. Love is brewing, Audrey Rose and Thomas are finally able to learn together; but death has followed them everywhere. With bodies turning up drained of blood, Audrey Rose is wondering if the rumours are true: that Dracula has arisen from the dead… 

I. loved. this. book.

After ripping (heh) through Maniscalco’s first book, Stalking Jack the Ripper, I knew that I was going to love this one. I wouldn’t say that it is better than Jack, and although I think that I actually preferred that one, this certainly does not suffer from second book syndrome.

Why did I enjoy book 1 more? Well, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I think it’s the excitement. Audrey Rose was suffering a great deal throughout this book, battling depression and grief, and I feel like she didn’t have this weight in book 1. This is no criticism to the author, because it gave a different feel to the book and gave scope for so much character development. It just gave a very different tone to the book, but I liked this far darker version. I think I would like to reread both back to back and come back to this part of my review in the future!

So let’s start with the plot. Whilst I guessed the murderer right at the beginning, I was actually left questioning my decision the entire way through, and that’s what you need in a murder mystery novel. Maniscalco throws in so many red herrings and new ideas that you really are left guessing. She dug up an old myth, and I felt like it was really fascinating how she interweaves history and turns it into this incredible book.

The characters are, of course, brilliant. Audrey Rose and Thomas – ugh, can they just get married and have cute babies already?! I loved the diversity that Maniscalco managed to incorporate despite the time period it is in. I thought that Audrey Rose’s reaction was quite appropriate too – I thought she might have been more shocked, considering lesbianism in the 1800s wasn’t exactly able to be as open as it is nowadays, but she stayed completely true to her character in her response to it.

I think that’s something I really like about Kerri Maniscalco’s writing – her consistently. I find that some writers really exemplify their characters after they find what streaks readers enjoy, but she has managed to mingle character development and consistency throughout both of the novels.

I also liked how there wasn’t a huge jump between books #1 and #2. I feel like, again, this can be a huge mistake some writers make, especially when it’s a book following a debut, and also when lots of readers have had a lot of time between two books. I took a while to find my feet again in Hunting Prince Dracula, but I think that that’s partly because it’s been a year (??) since I read book 1.

Maniscalco set us up brilliantly for book 2, though. The setting was so delicious! I cannot explain how much I loved the setting for this book. It was chosen so well, and I feel like it really helped the book along and to be far more creepy than it could have been!

Overall, these are incredible books and I highly, highly recommend them. I zipped through both of them, and I cannot wait for book 3! I’m excited to see what mystery Maniscalco aims to write about next. I think that it’s a really great concept for a book series – unsolved mysteries that are explored by a really plucky, strong female character.

Rating: 4.5/5

Source: bought from Wordery

Book Review | The Tinderbox by Hans Christian Anderson

Image result for the tinderbox lbcAnderson’s bittersweet fairy tales propelled their troubled author to international fame and revolutionised children’s writing. – blurb.

Certainly, this book was unexpected. One thing that completely stuck out to me about The Tinderbox and all of the other stories were how personal they are. I felt as I was reading them that I was actually just a little kid in bed being told a story by my dad.

I have actually read retellings of three of the stories in this collection without ever knowing they were by Hans Christian Anderson, and I feel like reading the originals was like finding another little present under the tree the day after Christmas and discovering that it’s for you.

Anderson was a brilliant storyteller, and I feel like this collection really shows off his repertoire. I would dearly love to read more of his stories. They really speak to me, and I feel like I am really drawn into the world, even when the stories are only, say, a couple of hundred words long.

My favourite story in this collection was definitely The Nightingale, the fifth story. It was a story I had never heard before, and yet it was the one that I loved the most! It was a really beautiful story. I think something that differs Anderson from the Grimm brothers was that there are some actual happy endings in Anderson’s stories. In The Nightingale, the ‘bad guy’ doesn’t get their comeuppance, but rather is treated with kindness and respect by the otherwise disregarded nightingale, and I think that this says so much about Anderson as a person. There is so much social commentary just in these little stories, and they really affect you as a reader in just a handful of words.

“Now you see, that was a real story!” – The Princess on the Pea, Hans Christan Anderson

The stories in this collection are: The Tinderbox, Little Claus and Big Claus, The Princess on the Pea, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, The Nightingale, and The Red Shoes.

The Tinderbox is #23 in the Little Black Classic collection.

Rating: 4.5/5

Source: bought on Amazon

Book Review | The Crown by Kiera Cass

26150713In the final installment of the Selection series, Eadlyn has her own Selection to manage, as well as the unsettlement in her kingdom. With her twin having eloped, her mother desperately ill and her father by the bedside, Eadlyn has a lot to manage just on her own. 

Oh. My. Days.

I DNF’d this book, and I hardly ever DNF books. I think this is the first book I’ve DNF’d all year, and I’ve read over one hundred books. Argh.

The original trilogy was actually pretty great. But then this duology (or books 4 and 5, depending on which way you look at it) came along, and… it sucked. I’m sorry! But it sucked.

I really dislike Eadlyn. She was spoilt and really extreme- she’s either all in, or there’s nothing there at all. I didn’t feel anything in the Heir, apart from a desperate need to save some of the poor Selected boys from their time in the Palace. Aside from disliking Eadlyn, the characters of America and Maxon have completely changed! All right, so America is ill and Maxon loves her, but Maxon also loves his country, so would he really just abandon it with a snap of his fingers? (Answer: no.)

These books just felt like Kiera Cass was trying to drag the books out, kicking and screaming. I think they should have ended after The One, perhaps with a small novella/epilogue to show what happened. (Oh wait. We had that…)

So… I totally DNF’d this, and looked up the plot of what happened online. I was satisfied that Eadlyn ended up with my favourite character, but other than that I was WTF-ing when I read the summary, so I’m glad I didn’t finish the book otherwise I may have thrown the book across the room, which would have been a bit of a bummer as it was on my phone, and I’m kind of attached to that.

And… that’s my rather angry review. If you haven’t started this series, I would suggest reading the original three books, and then if you really want to, trying the last two. But to be honest, just look up the plots on Wikipedia.

Rating: 1/5 (DNF)

Source: borrowed an eBook from my library


Book Review | The Night is Darkening Round Me by Emily Brontë

24874353A collection of some of Emily Brontë’s most emotive and incredible poems. 

This poetry collection was a really incredible thing to read in the morning! The night is darkening round me is actually one of my favourite poems, so to have it in a book on my shelf finally is awesome!

Most of these poems are about death and depression, and I think for a little collection like this I would have liked more variety because she wrote some really beautiful poems about nature and not all of them are dark! I also would have liked all of them named or none of the named, but that’s just my personal preference!

The collection is really emotive. I really connected to Emily through some of the words that she wrote, and I think that it’s incredible what she has left behind. I actually annotated the book at one point, and wrote something along the lines of, “When she wrote these, did she know that in hundreds of years in the future someone would be reading them?”

All of the Brontë’s are awesome writers, and I love having a collection of Emily’s poems – now it’s time to move onto some of the other sisters! (Oh, and it’s contested that one of the poems in this minute collection might be Charlotte’s, which was a really interesting observation. I like that people obviously selected these poems, as opposed to just chucking them between two black and white covers.)

The Night is Darkening Round Me is #63 in the Little Black Classics collection. 

Rating: 4/5

Source: bought at a store. Perhaps Jarrolds?

Book Review | Knots and Crosses (Rebus #1) by Ian Rankin

118828Haunted by his past, John Rebus has been in the police force almost since leaving the brutal SAS. He’s worked in Edinburgh for years, and everything’s been mostly quiet of late – until two girls are abducted, and later found dead. Rebus finds himself thrown into the case, but do they hit much closer to home? And what about the mysterious letters that keep finding their way to him? 

This, as you will have seen by the title to this post, is the first in the Inspector Rebus series by Ian Rankin. My grandma let me borrow the first one (and, for some reason, the 14th? I think those are the only ones she has, although I do want to read these in order!) and I read it in just one day!  Continue reading

Book Review | Basic Witches by Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman

How to summon success, banish drama, and raise hell with your coven. 

Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman introduce you to witchcraft for the modern witch in this handy little guide. From everything to finding your colours, banishing toxic friendships, and how to handle truly terrible Tinder dates, the girls show you how you can be a badass witch in the modern era with spells, rituals, and just a whole lot of empowerment. 

I’ve recently become really interested in witchcraft, so this book has come at the perfect time for me! It’s a really simple, and plain gorgeous, little guide to the modern witch.  Continue reading

Book Review | Come Close by Sappho

24874364Beautiful, lyrical poems about love, sexuality, Greece and the Gods. Sappho lived c.630-570 BCE on Lesbos in Ancient Greece. 

Little Black Classics celebrate the range of Penguin Classics; 80 books for Penguin’s 80th birthday! Come Close is LBC #74. 

Sappho is truly one of my favourite poets. People scoff at me for enjoying her poetry and even just talking about it, but try reading this collection and then come to talk to me! Lots of people just think of Sappho as “that lesbian Greek poet with no complete poems” (all of these are true!), but she’s also so much more.

Many of Sappho’s poems were lost to history. A lot have been collected from vases and pottery, but I really love how it’s not complete. I feel like the fact that it isn’t complete actually tells us a lot more! We can invent around it, and, thankfully, the parts which have survived are just beautiful. 

Sappho writes about family, relationships, the gods, and even Troy! I never knew that she wrote about Troy, so having a chapter in this book about Troy was a real pleasant surprise, and I really enjoyed it. The Trojan War is one of my favourite truth-myths, so having it written about by another poet was really pleasing.

I love Sappho, and I also love the Penguin Little Black Classics. I really, really recommend this book (it’s only 80p!) and hope you enjoy some new Ancient Greek poetry.

You can check out my collection of Little Black Classics here!