Did You See Melody? | Sophie Hannah | Review

Friday, 18 August 2017

Late at night, exhausted and desperate, Cara Burrows lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied by a man and a teenage girl: Melody Chapa, the most famous murder victim in the country.

Cara Burrows has left a note for her husband and two children with the date that she'll be back home. She hasn't told them that she is flying to America. She hasn't told them about the five star spa resort she has secretly booked herself into. She hasn't told them why she's gone. She just needs some time alone, to think. When she finally arrives at the resort, tired and phone-less in the middle of the night, the last thing she expects to find are two people already in her hotel room.

A simple mistake made by the resort's receptionist sees Cara soon embroiled in a situation she can hardly begin to understand, at the centre of which is America's most famous murder victim, who Cara is sure is the same girl she saw in her hotel room on that first night. Could Melody Chapa still be alive? And if she is, then how did her parents end up serving life sentences for her murder? The chances of an English tourist happening to see the supposed dead girl entirely by accident may seem pretty slim but Cara isn't the only guest who thinks she's seen Melody at Swallowtail Resort.

With a possible murder and a definitely dangerous secret at the heart of it, Did You See Melody? walks an interesting line in terms of tone. Hannah balances the suspense filled plot with unexpected humour, which at times had me snorting in front of my eReader. It's an enjoyable novel, certainly, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you hooked from almost the very beginning. We don't begin with the mystery straight away but first take a little while to set up Cara's reasons for leaving her family to travel alone to America (something that maybe feels a bit of an overreaction as things become clearer), but once Cara begins her investigation into the famous murder of Melody Chapa the novel really gets its legs.

Cara, not being a local, doesn't know anything about the Melody Chapa case so the reader gets to discover the specifics slowly, as Cara does, through articles and TV transcripts. Some readers may find these intrusive to the story but I felt they came in at the right moments, telling Melody's story - at least, the version everyone knows of it - alongside Cara's. The only problem is that at times I began to feel as though Cara was little more than a device intended to react to Melody's story and nothing more. Until about midway through the novel anyway.

Then we begin the twists and turns that I suppose make this a psychological thriller. Personally, I didn't find much of it particularly thrilling. In my opinion the strength of this novel lies not necessarily with Cara's story, or even with Melody's, but with those of the surrounding characters: the outspoken hotel guest who involves herself in the mystery, determined to find the truth, and the famous criminal commentator who single-handedly twisted the whole of America to her way of thinking with her TV show during Melody's original murder trail. Did You See Melody? is an enjoyable read and as a funny and over-the-top take down of 'trial by media' it works. I'm just not entirely sold on the thriller part.

Maresi | Maria Turtschaninoff | Review

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Maresi, the first book in the Red Abbey Chronicles, has been waiting on my bookshelf for far too long. Following my resolution to read some of the more neglected works in my life, I decided to get started on it. I devoured this evocative work in a day and am eagerly awaiting the chance to read the rest in the series.

This book follows Maresi, a novice at the Red Abbey. On a secluded island, young women like herself learn far more than they ever could at home. Under the tutelage of the Sisters, they learn about medicine, history, languages, architecture and any number of other things. It is a sacred place, where men are banned. And then Jai arrives, pursued by men who will stop at nothing to get her back. The abbey is suddenly under threat.

Maresi is a novel of sisterhood and female friendship, with plenty of feminism woven in it. It is a harrowing tale of survival. Throughout it, is magic and wonder, which hooks you and draws you into the tale. The fantasy elements were definitely my favourite part of the book, little gems found within the vast descriptions of everyday life at the Abbey. Between the island’s strange defences and the hidden histories of the Red Abbey, I’m far too curious about discovering the secrets in the rest of this series.

Ultimately, this was enchanting fantasy that left you thinking for a long time after you read the final page. It is one that I would wholeheartedly recommend, whether you are a fan of feminist or fantasy literature.

Get Involved | Around The World With Blogger's Bookshelf!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue | Mackenzi Lee | Review

Friday, 11 August 2017

Image from Goodreads

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men. 
But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and travelling companion, Percy. 
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores. - Goodreads

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee was seriously one of my favourite books of the year so far (and probably still will be come the end of 2017). It was such a fun read and I found myself wanting to re-read it as soon as I put it down.

Monty, Percy and Felicity are headed off around Europe for what we might call their big O.E. (overseas experience), or their gap year, and while it seems like a jolly idea, things don't go they way Monty planned.

“We are not broken things, neither of us. We are cracked pottery mended with laquer and flakes of gold, whole as we are, complete unto each other. Complete and worthy and so very loved.” 

Monty longs for their year-long trip to be one of bonding and exciting adventures around the Continent before Percy is shipped off to college in another country, and Monty has to start being in charge of the family estate. Felicity is meant to be stopping her trip when they get to Paris so she can begin life as a proper young lady, but all she wants to do is go to university and become a woman of medicine.

When Monty does something rash (which actually happens on most pages of the book), the trio find themselves on a wild goose chase around Europe with a stolen artefact, meeting strange people, searching for miraculous cures, being attacked by highwaymen and joining a crew of pirates.

'That can't possibly happen all in one book' you say. Well, my friends. It can. We follow book-nerd Felicity as she overcomes womanly stereotypes, Percy as he deals with issues and bouts of discrimination over his race, and Monty has he falls more and more hopelessly in love with his best friend.

Beautifully written, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue is a tale of friendship, of loyalty, of love, of family, of adventures to be had, and fights to be fought. It's 18th century Europe, it's pirates and highwaymen, it's upper class pomp and prestige, it's hilarious and witty, alarming and exciting, and beautiful and sweet all rolled into one.

As you can tell, I really loved this book, and I recommended picking it up if you're into your YA novels (period, or otherwise).

Bookish Links #32

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

1. Summer Reads - we recently shared some of our top summer reads but of course you can never have enough good books to read. We loved this post from Alice & Lois with some great recommendations!

2. ...& Even More Summer Reads! - Estee also shared an amazing list of recommendations for the summer months with even more titles to add to your TBR!

3. Your Very Own Book Club - we loved Beth's post sharing her top book club picks inspired by WHSmith's Zoella book club. Which books would you choose for your own book club?

4. One For The Potterheads - if you feel like treating yourself or your favourite Harry Potter fan to something special check out Anjali's roundup of Potter-themed subscription boxes - so many great options!

5. Library Wanderlust - this post is full of ten incredibly beautiful libraries dotted across the globe. Which one would you most like to visit?

6. Best Of Booktube - over at Book Riot Christina shared a list of amazing booktubers we should all be subscribed to. If you have any favourites to add to the list please share them with us in the comments section below!

7. Fancy A Little DIY? - how pretty is this ombre bookshelf DIY from Brit + Co? We think this could be the perfect weekend project!

8. Illustrated Books - for our final link this month we wanted to share Ella's series of beautiful illustrations based on the books shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. Which one is your favourite?

If you've read or written an interesting bookish article you think our readers would enjoy please let us know - it may be featured in a future post!    

Skyfarer | Joseph Brassey | Review

Monday, 7 August 2017

*Image and book provided by NetGalley for an honest review.


Aimee de Laurent is a freshly graduated apprentice from the Academy of Mystic Sciences and she's signed up to learn under Harkon Bright, despite rumors about his unusual ship, the Elysium, and her crew. When her very first attempt to send the ship to their destination goes wrong, the crew finds themselves going up against The Eternal Order and one if its star knights, Lord Azrael, in a race to find a jewel that can show you where whatever treasure you're looking for can be found.


This book was a delightful experience. The cast of characters are my kind of do-good rogues (they'll do good things, but they'll take payment for doing so). Every character is a character and that's why they work so well together. I'll admit, I'm looking forward to more books in this series so I can get to know them better. I really appreciated that Brassey didn't throw in a love story. This book was all about setting up the world and its characters and he did a great job of it.

The story was predictable, but it was still quite charming. There were a lot of things the you could see coming, but the characters were still worth investing in and the full story was a fun ride. What's more is the world this book takes place in. So many possibilities, so many new and interesting things to learn about (seriously, one world has dragons!) and, most intriguingly, potentially a new species of sentient, evil beings. 

That reminds me, there were a couple of scenes that were a little too much for me, violence wise. Nothing strongly graphic in its description or presentation but still, be a little wary.

Another reason I'm looking forward to the next book is to learn more about this amazing world where magic and technology work together almost seamlessly. One of the reasons I love science fiction so much is the technology. This fantasy book has given me a look at some new, wonderful mechanics that are magic based and I want to know more! 

I really think this would be a good book for sci-fi fans who are interested in dipping their toe into fantasy. Or for fans of space fantasy who are fans of rogue-like characters.

The Graces | Laure Eve | Review

Friday, 4 August 2017

Everyone said the Graces were witches.

Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on?

River is the new girl in her small seaside town. She spends her lunchtimes alone in the library, and has yet to make any friends at her new school, but she doesn't care. The only friends she wants are the Graces. The whole town is obsessed with the beautiful, rich, mysterious family. The rumour is that they're all witches, after all. Everyone at school longs to be friends with Summer, Fenrin, and Thalia but River is determined she will be. She finds it a little hard to believe when it works, Summer Grace choosing her of all people to spend her time with, and Summer's brother and sister following suit. 

Before long River finds herself in the envied position of being the only outsider in the Graces' inner circle. But there are reasons the Graces keep their distance from everyone else in the town. The stronger their friendship becomes, the deeper River falls in love with the Grace children and they with her, the more fragile River's place in their world starts to feel. After all, River is hiding a few secrets of her own and friendship isn't the only thing River wants from the Graces...

Mysterious, witchy, and deliciously dark, The Graces is a story about friendship, self discovery, and obsession. 

Teenage friendships are often build on a small kind of obsession: wanting to spend time only with each other, texting 24/7, feeling like a limb has been cut off any time your best friend misses a day of school. The very nature of teenage friendship tends to involve a sort of clinging onto each other for dear life, just to make being a teenager more bearable. Laure Eve takes that a step further with River and the Graces, showing the reader a relationship between teenagers who absolutely love each other, but who know in a very real way there is an underlying possibility of darkness to that sort of need and how quickly it can turn into desperation.

River worships the Graces, her obsession always an undercurrent in her relationship with them. Above all she has a desire to prove that she is like them, that they share something mysterious and different, that they need each other. It's a story that starts with a crush and a desire to fit in on River's own terms but slowly becomes something more unsettling, full of secrets and magic. River needs to know if the Graces really are witches, if the rumours around the town are true. But what does it mean for her if the rumours are true? What does it mean for their friendship if they aren't?

Even in the moments where River and the Graces are just being teenagers, enjoying each other's company, having the kind of evenings we cherish from our youth if we had them, or wish that we had had if we didn't, Eve's prose feels charged with potential for things to go horribly wrong and a burning necessity for them not to. This is a story that will make your stomach twist and your heart stop. It will absorb you and obsess you. From the very first page, every moment I wasn't reading The Graces I was thinking about it. There is magic of more than one kind in this book.

Features | I met my Goodreads goal - what's next?

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

This year, I decided to try a Goodreads challenge for the first time. I’d seen plenty about them on Twitter but always thought that I wouldn’t have time to balance a reading challenge and a degree. 2017, however, would be different, I promised myself.

I set myself the challenge of reading 26 books this year. Since I was in the midst of the final year of my degree, that sounded fair. I would need to average a book every two weeks, which seemed doable, even with deadlines and exams to wrangle. It would still be a challenge, but one I could hopefully meet.

It seems that I severely underestimated myself.

As of July 2017, I have read 48 books this year, according to my Goodreads account. That’s almost twice what I thought I would struggle to achieve in a year. Some of them are novellas or poetry or things I had to read for class but it still counts. I more than achieved my reading challenge for the year in just after six months.

So what next?

Of course I could just extend that goal. I could see if I could hit 60 or 70 books. Maybe even 100. But I think I’m just curious to see how many I would naturally read in a year, rather than pushing myself to hit a number just because. Clearly, my guesses about how much I read are wildly off.

Instead, I’ve set myself a few mini goals to focus on in the months ahead. I’m not sure if I’ll hit them all but I’m looking forward to having something to guide my reading with:

  1. Stop buying books. Seriously, I need to ease up on this for a little while. For the sake of both my bookshelves AND my bank balance, I’m going to try to rein in my book buying for a couple of months.
  2. Read books I already have. Linked to the first goal, I need to start reading some of the books I already own. I’ve just moved house and all my books are finally in one place again, which means that I can see just how many are sitting unread right now. I’m almost ashamed, if I wasn’t quite so excited to read them!
  3. Re-read the Harry Potter series. It’s time.
  4. Finish reading the Lord of the Rings series. I’ve only read book one, but I’m keen to finish this series as soon as I can.
  5. Focus on non-fiction. I could barely manage to read non-fiction during my degree which means that there are quite a few sitting pretty on my shelves waiting for me to dive in.