First Lines Friday – 17 January

Yayaya, HAPPY FRIYAY, book lovers and friends 😍We’re back with another First Lines Friday! This is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? Here are THE RULES:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

First lines:

“Ask me to spin the finest yarn or thread, and I can do it faster than any man–even with my eyes closed. Yet ask me to tell a lie, and I will stumble and falter to think of one.
I have never had a talent for spinning tales.”

Do you recognize the book these first lines come from?

Continue reading “First Lines Friday – 17 January”

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones – #BookReview

Goodreads: The Bone Houses
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror
Panda Rating:

Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.

The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?

Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves.

I was expecting to be terrified reading this ‘historical fantasy horror’, especially considering the title and it’s basically about zombies, but it had just the right amount of spook that even a chicken like me could read it alone at night! What a treat of a read this was 😍 Even before picking it up, I knew I’d enjoy it but I didn’t expect to not want to leave it for even a second!

“The anticipation of the loss hurts nearly as much as the loss itself. You find yourself trying to hold on to every detail, because you’ll never have them again.”

The writing was simple, atmospheric and the story read a little bit like a fairytale. I liked how things were so simply but vividly described but mostly I loved the magic in the story. It’s woven through so naturally it was almost difficult to picture the world differently. Although this is a fantasy, I was wondering what country inspired the story, and it’s Welsh folklore/mythology! I haven’t read anything Welsh inspired before (at least not to my knowledge) so that was pretty cool. The plot was fast paced and well paced. There were some ‘quieter’ moments towards the end of the book, but it didn’t slow the story down. There wasn’t much surprising in the plot though–it was quite linear which made it easy to predict what would happen in the end, but that’s OK. There were still some unique elements to the story that made it enjoyable!

What really made the story for me were the characters. Ryn is incredibly fierce, loyal and stubborn. She has a temper that gets the best of her at times, and while she does make some stupid decisions without thinking of the consequences, you can’t help but love her anyway. She’s hanging on to the past in the hopes that one day her father will return and it broke my heart a little bit. She’s the character that makes you feel safe and like everything’s going to be okay because they’re around. We don’t learn or spend a lot of time with her siblings but I loved Ceri! She’s a bright light in a dark story and her bubbly personality and love for baking and animals had me smiling from ear-to-ear.

“She was half a wild creature that loved a graveyard, the first taste of misty night air, and the heft of a shovel. She knew how things died. And in her darkest moments, she feared she did not know how to live.”

Then we have Ellis, the mapmaker who comes into town. Little is known about him at first, but it was pretty easy to figure out his story as we learn more about the curse. I loved Ellis’ character a lot! He had a certain innocence about him that stemmed from his questions about his past but he also had some great dry/sarcastic humor! I even liked the romance that bloomed! It’s progression felt natural and I liked the easy banter that flowed between them. Although they’re opposites in so many respects, they share a keen understanding in their loneliness, losses and grief, and as such complemented each other quite well. Opposites definitely attracted here!

Also, did I mention the amazing goat yet?! Because it definitely might have stolen the show! I loved it as much as everyone told me I would and I know that sounds weird AF but trust me, when you read this, you’ll love the goat too! I pre-ordered the book just so I could get that extra story about the goat! Overall, I’m so glad that I finally read this book. I enjoyed so much about it and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a fantastical zombie fairytale-esque story that’s just a little on the spooky side!

Have you read The Wicked King or is it on your TBR?

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule – #BookReview

Goodreads: The Stranger Beside Me
Genre: True Crime, Non-fiction
Panda Rating:

Utterly unique in its astonishing intimacy, as jarringly frightening as when it first appeared, Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me defies our expectation that we would surely know if a monster lived among us, worked alongside of us, appeared as one of us. With a slow chill that intensifies with each heart-pounding page, Rule describes her dawning awareness that Ted Bundy, her sensitive coworker on a crisis hotline, was one of the most prolific serial killers in America. He would confess to killing at least thirty-six young women from coast to coast, and was eventually executed for three of those cases. Drawing from their correspondence that endured until shortly before Bundy’s death, and striking a seamless balance between her deeply personal perspective and her role as a crime reporter on the hunt for a savage serial killer — the brilliant and charismatic Bundy, the man she thought she knew — Rule changed the course of true-crime literature with this unforgettable chronicle.

Where do I even start in reviewing a book like this? My mind is still trying to process everything that I’ve read. Plus, I’ve just stumbled down an Ann Rule-Ted Bundy-Carol Ann Boone wormhole and after watching an interview of Bundy on YouTube (why did I do that?) I’m still not sure I’ve been fully spit back out yet. I’m covered in full-body chills and it’s a sweltering 35℃ right now!

“And, like all the others, I have been manipulated to suit Ted’s needs. I don’t feel particularly embarrassed or resentful about that. I was one of many, all of us intelligent, compassionate people who had no real comprehension of what possessed him, what drove him obsessively.”

I’m not usually a non-fiction reader but this book has been on my radar for several years now. I don’t know when I first learned about Ted Bundy and I’m pretty sure that the majority of people in my circles wouldn’t know who he is or at most his name might ring a bell. I knew he was good looking and charming but I never knew the details of when, where and how he operated. I never knew how much of a sociopath he was. I didn’t know how he was caught and for what he was actually convicted of. This book answered so many questions I didn’t know I had about him, but it also left me with more questions about his psyche too.

I can’t even fathom what it took Ann Rule to write this book. I know I just read it but I’m still not sure anyone will ever really understand what it’s like to write a detailed account of cruel and violent murders perpetrated by someone who you (thought you) knew so well. Someone who you were close to; someone whose connection with you was formed based on the loss of your brother; someone whose persona you knew to be so different to how others described him. It makes you think: how is it possible to judge a character so wrongly? Based on what Rule shared in this book, it’s not that difficult to understand when it comes to Bundy because he had so many sides to him it was almost impossible to know which was the REAL one, even at the end.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Bundy was a deeply disturbed individual. What he did was… I don’t even have the words for how angry and beyond disgusted it makes me feel to think about what he did and what he got away with so easily and for so long! Ted Bundy was a man with chameleon-like good looks, with a bright mind and endless charm, and I think what really got to me while reading this is how Rule managed to somehow… humanize him? Even though it took a long time for her to come to terms with his guilt, she didn’t excuse or try to justify what he did and I honestly don’t think she intentionally tried to make readers feel sympathetic towards someone as deplorable as him. And yet you can’t help but feel a little mournful(?) of the waste of life (all around) and how differently things could’ve turned out for him (and others like him) if his childhood was better… I know that’s an oversimplification and perhaps it was inevitable for him to turn out this way, it maybe would’ve taken him longer, but you can’t help envisioning him as the person that Rule initially described him as. Just to be clear, this isn’t me sympathizing or feeling sorry for him — no way! — this book just took me (emotionally) by surprise.

“According to the FBI information and several reporters who were deluging the Pensacola detectives with calls, they had caught a man suspected of thirty-six murders, a figure they found hard to believe.
When Chapman asked him about that during the post-taping conversation, Ted had reportedly replied, “Add one digit to that and you’ll have it.”
What had he meant? Was he being sarcastic? did he mean thirty-seven murders? Or, no, it couldn’t be… did he mean a hundred or more murders?”

I don’t know how to emphasize how horrifying it was to know how easy it was for Bundy to fool everyone around him. That he was smart and so meticulous about not leaving a single clue at each scene was beyond terrifying and it blows my mind to think how long this would’ve continued had he not been caught for other things. My gut churns knowing that the remains of the women he killed will never be found… and who knows how long he has been killing and how many women he actually killed in his lifetime… But I digress. Kind of. I don’t want to go on too much about what I read and learned, not because I don’t want to spoil the book, as I’m sure you can find the majority of information online or by watching the documentaries about him and the movie based on the book. I could go on about my thoughts on this but I’d likely end up repeating myself because there really are no words.

In the end, would I say I enjoyed this book? I mean, if you consider that I didn’t want to leave this book for too long, then yes, I did enjoy it because I read it faster than I thought I would. Every time I put it down I would think about it until I picked it up again. But it also feels wrong to say that because of what it’s about. The contents of this book have been tumbling over in my head since I finished reading it and I have a feeling that it’s one that will stick with me for a long, long time.

Have you read The Stranger Beside Me? Do you enjoy true crime?

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan – #BookReview

Goodreads: Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1)
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Panda Rating:

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.
A prince in danger must decide who to trust.
A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.
Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy..

You know that feeling when you so badly want to love a book but there’s just something about it that ultimately lets you down? Friends, this is how I felt about Wicked Saints and I could not be more disappointed… I’m not saying it was a horrible read, I liked the parts I enjoyed (lol) but there was just something about it that stopped me from losing myself in the story and it left me feeling pretty ‘meh’ towards the end. It took me so much longer than expected to finish this book.

It started off really strong and I was hooked from the first paragraph. But as the story progressed the pace really slowed down and I found myself struggling to pick the book back up every time I had to leave it. Again, it wasn’t that it was wholly unenjoyable, there was just some missing element(s) that had me frustrated trying to work it out.

I think much of it had to do with the predictability of the plot and the inability for me to connect with any of the characters and the story itself. I have to admit that I read countless passages over and over again because I just couldn’t get a grip on the writing. I thought the world building was set up well and I thought the magic system was interesting, but I often found myself getting lost in the author’s explanations about how things worked that I feel like I didn’t know anything despite just having read about it. A lot of the time I felt that we were also told things instead of shown things. I noticed a lot of foreshadowing about characters and events that were so obviously told to us as readers, that it ruined the possibility of any surprise in the story.

I also have to mention the one gripe that many readers had and that was the character names. While I didn’t have an issue with most of them, I did find myself repeating Malachiasz’ name so many freaking times because I had no clue if I was pronouncing it correctly; and the same goes with many of the cleric’s names liberally sprinkled throughout. I think this book would’ve really benefited from having a glossary for the characters and I was disappointed to find there wasn’t one.

I also found the characters a little flat. I wanted to know more about Nadya, Serefin and Malachiasz’ backstories, and while we learn more about the latter two than we do about Nadya, it still wasn’t much. I thought the side players showed more character in certain respects, especially Parajihan and Rashid, and I found myself disappointed that they all but ‘disappeared’ as the story went on. I really wish that the characters were better developed as it would’ve made me feel more invested in what would happen to them, and especially in the romance that blooms.

There were certain elements to the story that I did like though. I haven’t read many Russian inspired stories so I enjoyed reading one so heavily influenced by it. Like I said earlier, the magic systems in both countries were interesting. I liked how Nadya, the last cleric of Kalyazin communed with the Gods and how she was gifted their powers. I also thought the blood magic, dark though it was, was pretty cool. I definitely wanted to know more about the books they used to conjure spells and I wanted to better understand what makes one blood mage more powerful than another, but more importantly where blood magic came from.

The action really picks up in the last few chapters but I sadly found myself trying too hard to focus on understanding the author’s writing (I really read so many passages countless times), that it really took away from my reading experience. I’m not sure that I understood much of what happened, but what I did get had me racing towards the finish, especially when things took another turn that I was pleasantly surprised by because it was a little unexpected.

By the end though I just felt that there was so much potential for awesome in this story but I was let down by the execution of it. I originally thought I’d rate this about 2.5 stars but the final events did get me excited for the sequel, so I’m boosting it up to 3 stars. I got the e-ARC of Ruthless Gods recently so I’m looking forward to seeing if it will be an improvement and if it’ll change the way I feel about this series so far.

Have you read Wicked Saints? What’d you think of it?
Let’s chat in the comments!

#WWWWednesday: 03 July

It’s time for another WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be talking about:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What did you read last?

I recently finished Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith and I really enjoyed it. I loved the idea of a book set on a train, two strangers coming together, and with ‘love’ in `the title of the book, you know romance plays a big part of this story. Sure, it sounded cheesy and maybe improbable in real life (kids, don’t try this at home), but it was enough to get my hopeless romantic heart thumping in excitement at the thought. What are books for if not to let your imagination run a little free? Surprisingly, this was more than just a fluffy love story; it was about family, friendship, vulnerability and ultimately finding out who you are, what you want and what you’re willing to do to get it. You can read my review up on Goodreads and I’ll be posting it up on my blog with a few other mini-reviews later this week!

What are you currently reading?

Oops, I did it again… I’ve currently got four reads going! I’ve gotten through big chunks on three of them: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson, I Hate Fairyland, Vol. 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young, and Fix Her Up (Hot & Hammered #1) by Tessa Bailey. I couldn’t wait to pick up Sorcery because I’ve heard lots of great things (what’s not to love about magical libraries and books that come to life?!) and I’m 1,000% loving it so far. Fairyland is absolutely bizarre and the contrast between the gorey content and the bright colors and mostly innocent characters oddly really works? I’ve heard a lot about Fix Her Up–both the problematic things but also about the steamy scenes that are apparently really… steamy? Haven’t come up to those scenes yet, but I’m not sure I’m loving any of the men in this book. I’ve just started reading The Good Kill: A Killian Lebon Novel by Kurt Brindley just the other day. This was an ARC that released 01 July, but due to life in June being completely insane that slipped through the cracks but I’m hoping to finish reading it by this weekend! 🤞🏽

What will you read next?

So these have been on my list since the previous WWW because I’ve pushed them back (SORRY AURORA RISING) but I really want to get to them after I finish my current reads. I’m enjoying mixing up graphic novels with my other reads and I want to continue doing that! The graphic novels are Sparrowhawk (Sparrowhawk #1) by Delilah S. Dawson and The Magicians: Alice’s Story by Lev Grossman & Lilah Sturges. I’m really going to prioritize reading Aurora Rising (Aurora Cycle #1) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff soon too!

What are you currently reading? Have you read any of these books?
Leave me a comment and let’s chat 🙂