Favourite June Reads ~ Sunday Stack #11

Hello lovelies and welcome to the first #sundaystack post of July. If you aren’t aware, each week I’ve been running a #sundaystack series over on my bookstagram and here and I have been absolutely loving it. It has been so much fun to design over lockdown and something that I am determined to continue. It has also been wonderful to see so many people getting involved as well and I have definitely been taking done loads of recommendations, much to the resentment of my TBR. I will leave the prompts below should you wish to take part. If you do, make sure to tag me so I can check them out ☺️

This month I read I read 8 books, which isn’t quite as impressive as last month, but I’m still happy with it. July was a MONTH so that fact I got any reading down is impressive. I was meant to be taking part in the MakeYourMythtaker readathon but, to be honest, the month got away from me and I really needed to be a mood reader. It was also a very mixed month, with books I adored and books that I just couldn’t get on with. I’m hoping that this month with the TotallySpiesathon is much more successful!

What I read in July:

Rival Queens: The Betrayal of Mary, Queen of Scots by Kate Williams – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Circe by Madeline Miller- ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin – ⭐️⭐️

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Strange Cade of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

But what about my favourites? For this stack, I’ve picked four books that blew me away in particular this month, including two that I’m hoping to continue into the future with!

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

I absolutely adored this read! I’m not usually into prose or poetry but there is something so utterly astounding about this that I couldn’t help but become obsessed with it. And the author also gushed about my review which was just MAD! This book is heartbreakingly beautiful in every possible way and if you still haven’t read it yet, please do.

The Kingdom of Copper by S.A Chakraborty

This is the second book in the City of Brass series, the first of which I also read this month. And boy-oh-boy did I love this! I don’t think I’ve ever been so connected to so many characters as quickly as I did with these books. I picked Kingdom of Copper for this stack because I think it was one of the best sequels I have ever read! It didn’t feel like a copy of the first but truly a book within its own right. I can’t wait to enjoy the finale and find out what happens!

Circe by Madeline Miller

This was a reread for me and I’m so glad that I picked this up this month. I picked this up as part of Tazmyn’s (at teabooksandtazmyn over on youtube ) Patreon bookclub and fell in love with it all over again. I think this is the book that made me fall in love with Greek mythology Retellings, something I have been obsessively drawn to ever since. Circe is such a phenomenal character and Miller’s writing style just leaves me astounded. Also, a little shout out to this bookclub but it’s one of the loveliest groups I’ve ever been part of, the group Instagram chat filled with bookish loveliness and fluffy pets. If you’re looking for a good bookclub to join, I cannot recommend this one enough.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

Continuing with Patreon book clubs, I picked this one up for Jean’s (over at Jeansbookishthoughts in Youtube) and have to say it completely surprised me. This is a historical fiction come retelling come murder investigation and left me completely hooked. I loved how much fun this reads was, and the interweaving of famous literary characters as they are dropped into the narratives as suspects and victims. I cannot wait to continue with this series, and have even got my mum hooked!

And there we have it! Whilst June wasn’t the best reading month I’ve had, it did see me finding some new favourites, revisiting old ones, and even completing my Goodreads challenge. What was your favourite read of the month?

Totally Spiesathon TBR

How is it that we’re in July? This year is really something! After seemingly stretching on forever it now seems to be racing by. Today I have a fun TBR to share with you for an amazing readathon that is taking place this entire month.

I know that July is already going to be a hectic month for readathons, with a plethora of prompts and challenges. However, what I particularly like about the Totally Spiesathon (other than it being the one I committed to first right at the beginning of June) is that it is essentially a game. I loved the playfulness of it and the prompts are so broad and challenging that I couldn’t wait to give them a go. It has already got me turning towards books I might not have picked up before and revisiting books I fell in love with and swore to read, only to be forgotten on my shelves.

This readathon was designed by Noura over at The Perks of being Noura and requires a dice. Simply, you work your way around the game board, completing the prompts that you land on. I have signed up to be on Team Clover, who was my absolute icon whilst I obsessively watched the series as a child.

The aim of the game is to keep making your way through the board and completing the prompts you land on. I was tempted to just roll and pick as I go, but basically got so excited I got ahead of myself! So I have rolled for my first four reads and am planning on seeing where I go from there.

I’ll pop the prompts next to the books to give you some ideas if you’re stumbling.

Rolled 6: SPY GLADIATORS- try a book with Greek/ Roman Mythology or set in those times

For this prompt I picked A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes. Recently I have been on such a Greek retelling splurge and I am absolutely here for it. This is another Troy retelling and I can’t wait to dive straight in.

This was never the story of one woman, or two. It was the story of all of them…

In the middle of the night, Creusa wakes to find her beloved Troy engulfed in flames. Ten seemingly endless years of brutal conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans are over, and the Greeks are victorious. Over the next few hours, the only life she has ever known will turn to ash . . .

The devastating consequences of the fall of Troy stretch from Mount Olympus to Mount Ida, from the citadel of Troy to the distant Greek islands, and across oceans and sky in between. These are the stories of the women embroiled in that legendary war and its terrible aftermath, as well as the feud and the fatal decisions that started it all… Good Reads

Rolled 5: A book that starts with C

For this prompt I picked up Crushed by Kate Hamer. I don’t know much about this other than I believe it is a YA retelling of Macbeth … maybe? Regardless, that cover is stunning!

Phoebe stands on Pulteney Bridge, tights gashed from toe to thigh. The shock of mangled metal and blood-stained walls flashes through her mind as she tries to cover her face so she won’t be recognised. It wouldn’t do to be spotted looking like this. She’s missing a shoe. She feels sick.

Phoebe thought murder and murder happened. Thoughts are just thoughts, they said. Now she knows they were wrong.

At home, Phoebe arranges the scissors and knives so they point toward her mother’s room. She is exhausted, making sure there’s no trace of herself – not a single hair, not even her scent – left anywhere in the house. She must not let her thoughts unravel, because if they do, there’s no telling who might be caught in the crossfire, and Phoebe will have to live with the consequences.Good Reads

Rolled 2: Truth or Scare! Pick some books from your shelf that you haven’t read yet and randomise your next read.

For this I picked Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey. This is a feminist queer western and if that doesn’t make you want to read it I don’t know what will!

“That girl’s got more wrong notions than a barn owl’s got mean looks.”

Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her–a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda.

The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing. – Good Reads

Rolled 3 (taking me to round 2): Read a book by an Author of colour.

For this I picked a read that has been on my shelf for a while now, Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Eravisto. I have heard so many wonderful things about this that I know it is going to be so illuminating and fantastic.

Teeming with life and crackling with energy — a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood

Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.

Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible. Good Reads

I can’t wait to get stuck in with this readathon and check out these amazing books. What reading plans do you have for this month?

Summer Reads ~ Sunday Stack # 10

Hello lovelies! It has been an absolute scorcher here in the UK for the last couple of days, so this feels like the perfect time to start talking about Summer Reads.

For me, Summer Reads are always contemporaries. They are also nice ‘easy’ comfort reads that you can lose yourself in whilst you soak in the sun. They are about life and love and are simply wonderful.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

Although I didn’t read this in the summer, I do feel like this is the perfect summer read. I devoured this is a matter of days and the heart wrenching writing style and beautifully crafted characters left me completely hooked. You can read my full thoughts here.

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life.

When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.Good Reads

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan.

This is a book which, again, is so beautiful and it made me feel every emotion under the sun. I instantly feel in love with each of the characters and spent the majority of the book trying to piece everything together.

Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancée, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidentally left behind—and writing stories about them. Now, in the twilight of his life, Anthony worries that he has not fully discharged his duty to reconcile all the lost things with their owners. As the end nears, he bequeaths his secret life’s mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.

Recovering from a bad divorce, Laura, in some ways, is one of Anthony’s lost things. But when the lonely woman moves into his mansion, her life begins to change. She finds a new friend in the neighbor’s quirky daughter, Sunshine, and a welcome distraction in Freddy, the rugged gardener. As the dark cloud engulfing her lifts, Laura, accompanied by her new companions, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish: reuniting his cherished lost objects with their owners.

Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made.

As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?Good Reads

The Summer We Ran Away by Jenny Oliver

I’m yet to read this, having picked it up only recently in my local supermarket for on £2.50 – £2.50!!!- but everything about it screamed summer to me.

Julia’s perfect life is in crisis.

As the founder of the Cedar Terrace Whatsapp group, she’s constantly chivvying the neighbours to action, as well as dealing with a kitchen extension, leaning-in at work, and dealing with Imposter Syndrome and her family…

But when she accidentally Whatsapps her neighbours a secret letter to an agony aunt she inadvertently confesses to a secret crush. While she loves her husband, Adam, she spends most of her time fantasising about the married father-of-two who lives opposite, timing her evening runs to coincide with his dog walks, finding reasons to pop over and chat and sometimes she catches him looking in a way that suggests he might quite like her too.

Julia is horror-struck as the little blue ticks appear on the Whatsapp message. Then left dangling as it’s met with widespread silence and a couple of embarrassed emojis.

When the neighbours know exactly what you’re thinking, there’s only one thing to do. Run away. Good Reads

Where the light gets in by Lucy Dillon

I will warn you, this read broke me. But there was something so utterly delightful in the way it broke me that it is one of the few books I have reread on multiple occasions. It also features my favourite Dillon feature – dogs! You can read my full thoughts here

‘You know those cracks in your heart, Lorna, where things didn’t work out, but you picked yourself up and carried on? That’s where the fear gets out. And where the light gets in.’

It was Betty, defiant to the end, who sent Lorna back to Longhampton. If Lorna’s learned one thing from Betty it’s that courage is something you paint on like red lipstick, even when you’re panicking inside. And right now, with the keys to the town’s gallery in her hand, Lorna feels about as courageous as Betty’s anxious little dachshund, trembling beside her.

Lorna’s come home to Longhampton to fulfil a long-held dream, but she knows, deep down, there are ghosts she needs to lay to rest first. This is where her tight-knit family shattered into silent pieces. It’s where her unspoken fears about herself took root and where her own secret, complicated love began. It’s not exactly a fresh start.

But as Lorna – and the little dog – tentatively open their cracked hearts to old friends and new ones, facing hard truths and fresh promises, something surprisingly beautiful begins to grow around the gallery, something so inspirational even Lorna couldn’t have predicted the light it lets into her world . . .

Something to tell you by Lucy Diamond

Along with Dillon, another auto buy author of mine is Lucy Diamond. What I love about these authors is that they perfectly encapsulate life as it truly is. So often contemporaries put in tinted glasses and everything revolves around love, so much that sometimes I find myself sitting there going … really?

What makes this read truly special is that it is about every definition of love – romantic, familial, friendship. I just adored this and absolutely every character Diamond created. You can read my full thoughts here.

When Frankie stumbles upon an unopened letter from her late mother, she’s delighted to have one last message from her . . . until she reads the contents and discovers the truth about her birth. Brimming with questions, she travels to York to seek further answers from the Mortimer family, but her appearance sends shockwaves through them all.

Meanwhile, Robyn Mortimer has problems of her own. Her husband John has become distant, and a chance remark from a friend leads Robyn to wonder exactly what he’s not been saying. Dare she find out more?

As for Bunny, she fell head over heels in love with Dave Mortimer when she first arrived in town, but now it seems her past is catching up with her. She can’t help wondering if he’ll still feel the same way about her if he discovers who she really is – and what she did.

As secrets tumble out and loyalties are tested, the Mortimers have to face up to some difficult decisions. With love, betrayal and dramatic revelations in the mix, this is one summer they’ll never forget.

So there you have it! I hope this post has got you ready to enjoy the summer.

As it is the last Sunday stack of the month, I can also introduce the prompts for July, which I am so excited to share. If you weren’t aware, I run this #sundaystack challenge across both my blog and my bookstagram and it is absolutely open to all. If you do take part make sure you tag me in them so I can share them with the world!

I’m so excited for next month’s prompts and I can’t wait to see what recommendations I get from all your posts ☺️

My Life in Books Tag

Today’s post is a bit of a fun one as I complete the ‘My Life in Books Tag’ which I was tagged in by Ellie @ Eleanorsophiewrites . So sit back and enjoy some bookish nonsense!

Find a book for each of your Initials:

Let me just tell you – this is very tricky when you have an obscure Welsh name and hardly any books begin with ‘E’ ‘O’ or ‘N’

B – Bone China by Laura Purcell

R – Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

O – The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

N – Noonday by Pat Barker

W – Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

E – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Not sure to what extent this qualifies for ‘E’ but there’s one there!)

N – No Night is too Long by Barbara Vine

Count your age along your bookshelf:

‘The Little Stranger’ by Sarah Waters – The only Sarah Waters’ novel I haven’t read … I believe.

Pick a book set in your City/Country

I’ve picked The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer as it was the closest I could find to my village.

Pick a book that has your favourite colour on it

I’m not sure I have a favourite colour by the cover of The Corset by Laura Purcell has to be one of my favourites. Laura Purcell is – by the way – the absolute QUEEN of Victorian Historical Fictions, especially those featuring Ghosts and you should go read her complete collection right now.

Which book do you have the fondest memories of?

Probably The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. It is one of the first books I studied and fell absolutely in love with it as both a book and a work of literature.

Which book did you have the most difficulty reading?

If I think of the books I have read recently, probably We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin. Although I found the discussion interesting and educating, the writing style was so stagnated that I wanted to literally anything else but read.

Which Book On Your TBR Pile Will Give You The Most Achievement When You Finish It?

Probably The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. I listened to this on audiobook when it first came out and fell in love with it. I’ve now bought the paperback and cannot wait to dive back in, though the size is quite intimidating. When I do return though, I know it will be instantly satisfying.

I’m Tagging:

Clara ~ TheLifeofClara

Amy ~ Read.Dream.Live

And absolutely anyone else who would like to take part!

Would You Rather Bookish Edition Tag

Today I have a lovely, fun book tag for you! The equally lovely Amy from Read.Dream.Live tagged me in this a while ago and I am only shamefully getting to it now … but what IS time in lockdown anyway?!?

Would you rather have to read the last chapter of every new book first, or never read the last chapter?

Definitely read the last chapter first. Imagine never knowing how a book would end?! That sounds like torture.

Would you rather have someone ruin the ending of a book for you or never finish a book you were reading?

Again, ruin the ending. I suppose it’s a left over benefit from studying Literature, but I often ended up reading a book knowing full well what was going to happen, and it’s never been an issue for me. There’s still little bits, moments, and nuances which will take you by suprise.

Would you rather lose your place or get a paper cut every time you read a book?

I am so squeamish which would mean I have to go with losing my place.

Would you rather be friends with Hermione Granger or Matilda?

Hermione Granger, easily. Can I admit that I have always found Matilda completely annoying *hides*.

Would you rather wait five years for the final installment in a series or get it now, but must read every spoiler before you can start reading it?

Oooh, this is a tricky one. I think wait the five years. I feel like I’m quite accustomed to having to wait now, and there’s nothing to say you can’t reread the series when you inevitably forget everything that happens.

Would you rather reread your least favorite book monthly or never be able to read your favorite book again?

Probably never read by favourite book again. I don’t often reread books, even favourites, but I cannot stand reading a book I hate.

Would you rather read in an isolated cabin that was infested with spiders or in a noisy coffee shop with bad music?

Noisy coffe shop with bad music. Always go with coffee.

Would you rather have the ability to read minds, but never be able to read another book or live as you are now and keep reading?

Live as you are now and keep reading. I feel like I’m much to anxious, paranoid, and insecure to have the ability to read minds. That actually sounds terrifying.

Would you rather read a novel based on a true story of someone you know or a fictional novel where a character is based on you?

Again, I don’t think I could deal with a book based on me. I would end up reading into everything too much!

Would you rather have a book where anything you write in it becomes true or have a book that contains all the knowledge in the universe?

Ooooh! I think I’d like all the knowledge of the universe. I’m not sure I could be trusted with the power of the first option. Plus, who doesn’t want to know everything?!

Would you rather read a great book FULL of typos or a terrible book?

As a teacher, I am absolutely fine with Typos. In fact, reading past terrible spelling and awful syntax I think is now a super power of mine. Plus, if a book is terrible, why would you want to read it?

Battles, Quests, and Journeys – Sunday Stack #9

Happy Sunday readers! Today’s Sunday stack prompt was Battles, Quests, and Journeys and I absolutely loved picking books for this stack. I feel like these three things can make or break an adventure novel, and when they are pulled off beautiful it often makes a book my firm favourite.

I tried to pick a range of genres but ended up with fantasy and retellings but each of these books has a very special place in my heart so I can’t wait to share them with you.

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty (*****) – I recently discovered this series and I am absolutely loving it. Steeped in Arabic mythology and culture, this series follows Nahri as she discovers her heritage as a daeva – a genie – as she journeys to the city of Daevabad, a beautiful city made of brass. The journey is filled with danger and hidden secrets, and when she eventually gets to Daevabad she discovers the journey has only just begun.

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for… Good Reads

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (*****) – I think this may just be one of my favourite reads of the year. Miller retells the imfamous story of the Trojan War and the Legend of Achilles, humanising our hero and painting him in a totally new and vulnerable light. The battles series and the journeys that the two central character endure truly pulled on my heart strings and I was a messed when it finished. My full review can be found here.

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.Good Reads

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davies (***) – If you are looking for an action packed YA dystopian that challenges social boundaries, this is the book for you. Escaping slavery and the law, the characters set off on a journey to freedom, each page so action pack that I tore through every page. You can see my full review here.

The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls–they know their luck is anything but. Sold to a “welcome house” as children and branded with cursed markings. Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.

When Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by Arketta’s most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive
. – Good Reads

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (*****) – This is one the cleverest retellings I have come across. A retelling of Dracula but an origin story for Dracula’s wives, this story is steeped in gothicism, folklore, and fantasy. I read this is one day and am desperate for a reread.

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…
Good Reads

Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas (*****) – This read seemed to take the book world by storm, and rightly so. I really enjoyed this read, but it was the final chapters and the battle it involved that really wowed me. The sass and drama left me tearing through every page. You can read my full thoughts here.

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.
Good Reads

What are your favourite battles, quests, and journeys?

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

I will admit that I am very late to the game when it comes to this book. Every review for it that I have read gushed at how fantastic it was and this one will be no different. I know my review will be the echo that bounces off the cave walls after the initial undenyable praise, but I so amazed by the sheer beauty of this that I felt I simply had to write a review.

Initially, I didn’t pick up this book for one reason and one reason alone: I do not get on with poetry. I know – I feel like that is almost blasphemous to say, especially considering I am both a Literature graduate and an English teacher, but there is always something I just cannot get … past when it comes to poetry. I think its because I adore the ‘natural-ness’ that comes with novel writing that leaves me completely immersed. Poetry always feels a bit like modern art – at no point are you meant to believe that what you are looking at is a literal representation of life but a mere reflection of it. And, much like modern art, no matter what way I turn my head or how hard I squint, half the time I cannot work out what is happening in the poem.

As we entered Pride month, and I was left to face the glaring gaps in my shelves that should be filled with more diversified voices and characters, I decided to buy the book everyone was raving about and discover it for myself. And let me just tell you – I am agape with the sheer wonder of this read.

Written as prose – a combination of poetry and stylised narratives – The Black Flamingo follows Michael through his life, exploring the impact of every form of identity, both in its liberating qualities and its restrictive forms. It chronicles how relationships change, what is permitted in childhood but forbidden in adolesence, the confusing nature of aging, as well as finding a version of yourself which is just for yourself. Whilst this book focuses on queer and black identity, the discussions within it are instantly recognisable and relatable.

Synopsis:

This is not about being ready, it’s not even about being fierce, or fearless, It’s about being Free.

Michael waits in the stage wings, wearing a pink wig, pink fluffy coat and black heels. One more step will see him illuminated by spotlight. He has been on a journey of bravery to get here, and he is almost ready to show himself to the world in bold colours …

Can he emerge as The Black Flamingo?

My Thoughts:

For me, this is one of the most brutal and honest reads I have come across. On each page you can feel the heart poured onto it, can feel the emotion bleeding from each page, and share in the vulnerability that peppers each sentence. I could not help but emphasise and absorb Michael at each stage of his life, recognising with shame behaviour from others than I have witnessed around me. I felt like I knew the issues surrounding identity before, but it was like I saw them with the torch from my phone and this book became the searchlight illuminating all. This has to be the most powerful and beautiful books I have read this month, if not the year.

Bookish Rainbow – Sunday Stack #8

Good Morning and Happy Sunday! Today I have another Sunday Stack for you and this week’s prompt was to create a bookish rainbow. I have made mine with LGBT+ representation and also tried to pick mainly writers who are BIPOC.

If you are wondering what on earth I am going on about, I hold a sunday stack challenge over on my bookstagram. It has been lovely to see so many people take part in this and see their wonderful stacks. It has definitely given me loads of reading recommendations. If you are interested in taking part, I will leave the prompts below. Make sure to tag me (@babblesnbooks) so I can check out your fantastic posts.

Two quick things before we start. There isn’t a red book at the beginning of my rainbow (Scandalous, I know). This is because the book I ordered to be my ‘red’ read turned up in a completely different colour. For that reason, I thought I’d take this moment to suggests a ‘red’ read instead, and that is A Blade so Black by L.L. McKinney. I haven’t read this YA dystopian but I have heard wonderful things about it. The second is that a book I had been waiting for for this stack inevitably turned up when I had just finished writing this post and therefore isn’t included in the picture. Therefore I am going to include it below.

Huntress by Malinda Lo

Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance.

To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls’ destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.
Good Reads

This is actually a prequel to a larger series (I learnt later) but have been assured that it works well as a stand alone. A who knows? Maybe I’ve just discovered a new series I’m going to be obsessed with.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon.

This read has become imfamous for the representation it contains. And but shortly, it is fantastic! I listened to the audiobook when it first came out and fell in love with it. Now, a year later, I decided to by a physical copy and am just waiting for the right time to dive back it.

A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.
Good Reads

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Galley

I picked this up because it was a contender for my work book club and, even thought we didn’t pick it, it sounded utterly fascinating.

Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her–a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda.

The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.
Good Reads

They both die in the End by Adam Silvera

I don’t actuall know an awful lot about this read but I am definitely anticipating heartbreak and emotional pain.

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today.

Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.
Good Reads

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Oh look! Another post where I rave about The Song of Achilles. Who would’ve thought? I loved this greek retelling and the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus is just exquistite. I’m still not over it. I don’t think I’ll ever be over it. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

If you would like to read my full thoughts, my review is here.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta.

I don’t read a lot of verse novels, mainly because I have an unbridled hatred of poetry (blasphemy I know), but I couldn’t resist picking this one up. It has received such a fantastic reception that I can’t wait to dive in.

A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour. – Good Reads

I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya

I picked this book because, whilst I read mainly representation to do with sexuality – honestly, sometimes it feels like all I read about are Gay Victorians and I have absolutely no shame! – I haven’t diversified my shelves enough when it comes to other areas of identity, such as Transgender identity. This read was bought in the hope to educate myself further on this.

A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl–and how we might re-imagine gender for the twenty-first century.

Vivek Shraya has reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she’s endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and not feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive childhood, she had to learn to convincingly perform masculinity. As an adult, she makes daily compromises to steel herself against everything from verbal attacks to heartbreak.

With raw honesty, Shraya delivers an important record of the cumulative damage caused by misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, releasing trauma from a body that has always refused to assimilate. I’m Afraid of Men is a journey from camouflage to a riot of color and a blueprint for how we might cherish all that makes us different and conquer all that makes us afraid.
Good Reads

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

This fantastic YA dystopian leaves every YA I’ve read in wanting when it comes to representation and social issues. It is simply astounding and the relationships (of all kinds) within it blew me away. If you would like to know more on my thoughts, you can read my review here.

And there we have it! That’s my Bookish Rainbow for this week. The majority of these reads are in my TBR and I can’t wait to get back to you all with my thoughts.

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg

Ok, confession time … I have never read a Graphic Novel.

I know – shame on me – but they have always been something I was interested in, just never quite invested the time to properly look into. During one of my book buying sprees during Lockdown, however, I came across Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg and felt that this was the perfect book to finally try this genre out with.

Synopsis:

Glass Town is an original graphic novel by Isabel Greenberg that encompasses the eccentric childhoods of the four Brontë children—Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The story begins in 1825, with the deaths of Maria and Elizabeth, the eldest siblings. It is in response to this loss that the four remaining Brontë children set pen to paper and created the fictional world that became known as Glass Town. This world and its cast of characters would come to be the Brontës’ escape from the realities of their lives. Within Glass Town the siblings experienced love, friendship, war, triumph, and heartbreak. Through a combination of quotes from the stories originally penned by the Brontës, biographical information about them, and Greenberg’s vivid comic book illustrations, readers will find themselves enraptured by this fascinating imaginary world.

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg

My thoughts:

For my first introduction into the world of Graphic novels, I had to say that this was perfect. Greenberg creates a fantastic world, brimming with childlike imagination and reinterpretation of the cruel realties of human life. I loved how innocent the beginning pages were, the clear ache from the loss of their sisters and desperate union to try and survive their grief together, and it was fascinating to watch that morph into something darker and more mature as each Brontë was forced to face real life.

The novel operates across two timelines. The first is Adult Charlotte as she is revisited by one of her characters, and recounts the tale of Glass Town. The second follows the children as they created Glass Town, devising stories, characters, and tragedies to distract themselves. In an almost ‘Narnia-like’ manner, the Brontës are able to interact with their characters, even being led astray by them. What I found so immersive about this read was the utter honest humanity of it all. Glass Town presents a safe space where cruel reality and the harshness it inflicts cannot touch them, and you can truly understand the temptation of such a paradise. However, as the Brontës age and their characters become more complex, this paradise seems to relapse into chaos, reflecting the inner turmoil within the four literary giants. The Brontës lived truly tragic lives, and you can see that beautifully reflected in this novel. It wasn’t immature or undeveloped as I fear, but instead a trascendant masterpiece that leaves you empathising and idolising in equal measure.

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg

Of course, you cannot talk about this novel without mentioning the stunning artwork. This is what first drew me to this novel, and it was utterly captivating. Whilst also beautiful, the illustrations are so creatively clever that they perfectly reflect the journey that characters undertake, both actually and emotionally. I desperately want to see if I can get some prints of these because I want to showcase them everywhere.

This graphic novel was utterly gorgeous. It is a beautiful account of human determination and survival when life throws the worst at you, and is both an astounding tale of bravery and a heartbeaking tragedy.

Favourite May Reads – #Sundaystack 7

Happy Sunday everyone! As the first Sunday of the month, I thought I would use today’s post to share my wrap up for the month of May, as well as share my favourites reads of the month. Whilst writing this review I did have to take pause for a moment and reflect on how ‘white’ my wrap up was, and have decided that this month (and for the many months following) I am going to actively diversify my shelves and educate myself, so that my reading reflects the wider world in which we all live – something I would actively encourage everyone to do. I want to write a blog post soon sharing my recent purchases that reflect this.

Today also marks the first sunday for the second #SundayStack challenge that I am running over on my bookstagram, and today’s challenge was – unsurprisingly – May favourite reads. I will leave the prompts down below and feel free to take part. It has been absolutely wonderful to see so many people take part and share wonderful recommendations. Make sure to tag me if you do take part so I can spotlight them and share them with everyone!

Over the course of May I managed to finish 14 books which I think is amazing. I have selected five that I think were my ‘stand out’ books to share with you today. I have to say that May was the month of discovering authors I hadn’t heard of before as well as revisiting those that were beloved to me.

Books I read:

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton – *****

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare – ****

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling (audiobook) – *****

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare – *****

Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare – ****

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – *****

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien – ***

Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare – ****

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis – ****

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow – ***

The Universe, The Gods And Mortal: Ancient Greek Myths by Jean-Pierre Vernant – ***

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – *****

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg – ****

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw – ***

May Favourite Reads

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller This is a wonderful queer retelling of the Trojan War and honestly broke me in the best possible way. I have written a full review here but honestly … just wow! If you are looking for a compassionate and complex retelling that humanises and represents every side of humanity, the best and the worst, this is for you.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton As I explained in my review for this read here, I picked this book up completely by accident, skimming and misreading the title and thinking it was The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Honestly, the mirroring in those two titles is scary! This is a timebending, mindmelting thriller that left me reeling and completely hooked. I honestly still can’t quite get my head around it but you simply must go and read it.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid It seems only appropriate that this read goes next. This fantastic queer romance has been celebrated and shouted about all across the bookverse and for good reason. I read this as part of my work’s bookclub that I set up and simply adored it. You can read my thoughts here.

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davies Looking for a thrilling YA dystopian with wide representation? Go no further than this brilliant debut. There is so much discussed in this read, covering prejudice of all kind whilst set in a fantasy world, and I frantically turned every page. I read this in about a day and honestly couldn’t put it down! You can read my thoughts here.

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg This month I tried my first ever graphic novel with this read. A reimagining of the world created by the Brontës when they were children, Greenberg creates an almost Narnian reality, where the Brontës can literally escape their world of grief and hardship through this magical world. I have a review for this read coming on Thursday, so keep your eyes peeled!

So there you have it! I am honestly so impressed with how much I read in May and really hope I can use my reading this month to educate myself and do some good. What were your favourite reads of the last month?