The Unbound (The Archived #2) Review

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Book: The Unbound (The Archived #2)

Author: Victoria Schwab

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Mackenzie and Dallas talk about her problems.

Content Warnings: PTSD, death, grief, incidence of self-harm, dissociative episodes, blood, mention of attempted sexual assault, incidence of drugging a drink, hospital & scenes of a medical nature, mental torture, explosions

I first read The Archived in 2017, and I’ll be honest, I’d been putting off reading The Unbound, because I knew the series was unfinished and not knowing if the third book was ever going to come out, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read the second book knowing we might never get the proper ending. I definitely had to familiarise myself with what happened in The Archived before reading this, which I don’t usually do, but it had been so long, I’d definitely forgotten a lot of stuff! Still, this year I finally decided to dive into The Unbound as one of my #RockMyTBR Challenge books and I have to admit, I was disappointed. It was a really slow paced book, taking me almost three months to get through, and I still didn’t really connect with Mac as a character. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she’s struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn’t easy-not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she’s really safe.

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She’s sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she’ll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?

So as I said at the top of the review, my biggest problem with this book was definitely the pacing. I had the same problem with the first book, but it felt even worse here. The pace didn’t really start to pick up until around the last three chapters, so that’s a very long time to not feel massively invested as a reader. Honestly if it hadn’t been Schwab, I probably wouldn’t have finished this book. It was a slog to get through the first half and then the ending felt really rushed, so you didn’t really have time to take in all the stuff that was happening. A lot of the chapters were overly long as well which added to the slow pace.

This book is focused a lot around Mac’s time at her new school, which I found kind of dull, though I’m sure actual teen readers would probably like that more. This was definitely more of a me thing, at almost 25, I don’t really relate to school stories anymore, which is why I read more YA fantasy than contemporary, but the problem here for me was that there was so much focus on the mundane day to day of Mac’s school life rather than the fun fantastical elements.

I appreciated once again that her parents were actually present in this book, and I feel like this was a really good example of how including parents can actually increase rather than take away the drama from characters’ lives as Mac’s parents were somewhat of an obstacle to her adventures in the Archive. I actually felt kind of bad for Mac’s parents and didn’t blame them for not trusting her, she was constantly lying to them and even though I know she couldn’t tell them the truth, she did seem quite harsh on them when all they wanted to do was protect her (I’m clearly getting old being on the side of parents in YA books!).

I was glad that Mac’s trauma from the first book was addressed in this book: she’s really struggling after the confrontation with Owen at the end of the last book. It was super frustrating to see her refuse help, I understand that she couldn’t tell anyone about The Archive, but I felt like she could definitely have dealt with her other issues. Still, that is probably coming from a privileged place, never having dealt with the kind of trauma that Mac is in this book, and I’m sure there are a lot of people dealing with mental health issues that find it hard to ask for help, so on that front it did feel realistic, it was just more frustrating from a reader perspective because you so want her to deal with everything that’s happened to her. I was so glad when she finally did get to a therapist though, and it was really refreshing to see a YA fantasy book actually deal with the trauma that a main character faced, as honestly, pretty much all YA fantasy heroes could probably use therapy!

It was super frustrating that Schwab threw Mac into another love triangle situation, with Mac, Wesley and Cash in this book. Not only did it feel unnecessary because it was so clear that Mac and Wesley were going to get together, I felt genuinely bad for Cash because he seemed like a really sweet guy. It also just felt like super contrived drama to keep Mac and Wes apart.

It was frustrating that even though Mac ostensibly had a little circle of friends in this book, that she kept them all at arms’ length and seemed like she only used Amber in particular to get information because of who her dad was. I also didn’t love that the only people Mac seemed able to form proper connections with were the boys, her connection with Amber was very superficial, Safia seemed to hate her for no reason and the same with Sako. Schwab does seem to have a bit of problem with allowing her female characters to have proper and meaningful friendships with other women, which is something that I’ve seen carry through in her work: aside from Vengeful, and her Cassidy Blake books, her other books really aren’t that great with female friendship and I hope this is something that she works on in future!

Surprisingly, I didn’t think the writing in this one was all that great? I mean this was one of her earlier published books, so naturally she’s improved a lot since it was released, but even compared to The Archived this one wasn’t that great. There were a lot of overly long, clunky sentences and it didn’t have the same atmosphere as The Archived. The dialogue at least was still good, Schwab has always done great dialogue.

The cycling of settings was very repetitive, we were either at the coffee shop, at school, in Mac’s apartment building or in The Archive building, so once again, you really don’t get a good sense of the world. I still have a lot of questions about The Archive: how do they decide on who gets to be a Keeper? It’s clearly a genetic thing as it seems to get passed down through families but what is it in your genes that makes you a good Keeper? I was hoping that Schwab would expand on the world of The Archive more in this book but it didn’t seem like that was the case.

I wasn’t massively invested with the villain in this book, without wanting to spoil anything, I wish Schwab had gone in a different direction as to who was responsible for the people disappearing into the voids. The villain reveal felt kind of cheap and I feel like had she gone in a different direction, it would have actually resulted in a more interesting plot.

I don’t really get why Mac looked up to Da so much? I mean I understand he was her grandfather and she loved him, but he threw her into this life that she doesn’t even really seem to want and lied to her so much, I was surprised that she wasn’t angrier with him to be honest.

The characters in this all felt kind of flat. I had that problem with Mac in the first book and it didn’t seem to have improved any in this one. The villains were also surprisingly two-dimensional for a Schwab book when she’s usually so good at villains. Even Wesley who I really loved in the first book came across as kind of a jerk, at least in the first part of this book, though he did improve towards the end.

Mac made a lot of stupid decisions in this book, which yes, realistic for traumatized teenager, but very frustrating as a reader! She could have let Wes in on her plans, especially when she went to break into the crime scene and it didn’t really make sense to me when she didn’t. She cuts Wes out a lot in this book, which didn’t really make much sense to me as he’s literally the only person in her life who she can actually be honest with.

Honestly I wasn’t really sympathetic with Mac wanting to keep on with her Archive duties, because it felt to me like it actually would have been better for her if she’d been declared unfit for duty as she clearly wasn’t in a place to be handling Archive work. I mean I get why she was so adamant about wanting to hide it because she didn’t want her mind altered, but it was tough to read about her pushing herself way too far when she clearly wasn’t ready. I didn’t think Roland was actually really helping her out by covering for her, I think having the one adult she could trust pretend like she was able to do something she was clearly struggling with, actually made things worse for her.

There were quite a few YA cliches that as an adult reader kind of made me roll my eyes, like Wes being the guy that all the girls fawn over and Mac drooling over his abs. Again this is just a me thing, I’m sure actual teens would probably be able to relate to it more than I could!

There were a few kind of unrealistic things that bothered me: the fact that Mac was able to function as well as she did on less than four hours sleep a night was kind of unbelievable. Also I went to a private school, and okay maybe it’s different in the US, but I found it hard to believe that the Hyde school party dress code would be so strict that everyone wore uniform to it. When we had no uniform days at my school, as long as you weren’t wearing anything too short (like super short shorts and crop tops), you could wear pretty much whatever you wanted.

The action when it finally did happen at the end of the book was great, I just wish there had been more of it throughout.

Honestly Mac was supremely lucky throughout the book that things went her way, a lot of her plans were not well thought through and it was sheer chance that anything came off. It seems like Mac has nine lives the amount of times she managed to overcome what were surely fireable offences in this book!

Despite me really not getting along with this book, I really do hope that the third book eventually comes off because the way the book ended was not conducive to a proper ending and I want to see Mac and Wesley get a proper send-off. I also think Schwab has improved so much as a writer since writing this book, that Archived #3 will probably be the best book of the trilogy-if or when it happens!

Overall, I was really disappointed in this book. It was poorly paced, had flat characters and the things that Schwab usually does well like world building and villains just weren’t up to standard here. Maybe that is just a sign of how much she’s improved as a writer since 2014 though. Either way, I do still hope that she gets a chance to end this series on a high and in the way she always intended to.

My Rating: 2.5/5 (it kills me to give a Schwab book such a low rating, but here we are).

My next review will be of my June audiobook read, The Poppy War, by RF Kuang.

Top Ten Tuesday #325

Hi everyone, I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these! The UK is currently melting in a heatwave, and honestly I am just waiting for it to be over, I’m really not a summer person, definitely more of a cool Autumn breeze kind of girl. Still it does mean time reading out the balcony which is one of my favourite things to do so that is an upside. My week has been fairly quiet, but my friend Hannah is coming to visit over the weekend so I’m really excited for that.

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is meant to be Books I Read In One Sitting but honestly even when I was a faster reader than I am, I never really read books in just one sitting. So I decided to twist this topic to suit me better and do Books I Read In Less Than 2 Weeks (which seems to be my average reading time):

  1. The Perks of Being A Wallflower-Stephen Chbosky-2 days

Perks is a very short book, under 300 pages so naturally it didn’t take me very long to read. This is one of the rare times where I actually preferred the movie, the book is in an epistolary format and I just don’t get along all that well with those, I find it hard to grasp the narrative.

2. Speak Up!-Laura Coryton-3 days

This one is definitely aimed for much younger readers, but it was a nice quick read and definitely a good introduction to activism for young girls.

3. The Daughter of The Pirate King-Tricia Levenseller-4 days

I always tend to read faster in the summer when I spend hours outside reading. This was a really fun, light read with a great main character and a large dose of humour which made it very engaging. I really do need to get around to the sequel at some point!

4. City of Ghosts-Victoria Schwab-4 days

Middle grade books are always very quick to get through because they’re so short and Victoria Schwab’s middle grade debut was no exception. It was a nice refreshing break from all the dense fantasy that I tend to read, a fun little read with friendship at the heart rather than romance (YA books take note: you could do this too.)

5. Daughter of The Burning City-Amanda Foody-6 days

Another of my post-exam reads, I raced through this one whilst reading out in the sun. This was such a creative story, I loved the combination of the murder mystery in a circus setting and it was a wonderfully atmospheric read. This is one of few YA fantasy books that I actually thought could have benefitted from being a bit longer, because the world building was a little lacking. I don’t think Foody is ever going to do a sequel, but I would love it if she did as I feel there’s a lot more of Gomorrah to be explored.

6. Six of Crows-Leigh Bardugo-7 days

7 days for an almost 500 page book may be quite a long time for most people, but for me that is very quick! I was so addicted to the characters that even though there were definite pacing problems in the beginning, I raced through it and I’m so happy that it was my introduction to the Grishaverse as if I’d started with Shadow and Bone, I’m not sure I would have actually read onto this one? For me, this is definitely still Bardugo’s best book.

7. The Song Rising-Samantha Shannon-7 days

I know Shannon has said this has been her least favourite book to write in The Bone Season series so far, but it has definitely been my favourite to read. It’s much pacier than the rest of the books, and more tightly plotted and just generally worked better for me as a reader. I will admit, having a five hour train journey to Scotland whilst reading this book did help me finish it faster, but I was so engaged with the story, that I didn’t really want to put it down for long.

8. The Exact Opposite of Okay-Laura Steven-7 days

It’s no surprise that this one was a fast read, it’s short and funny and Izzy O’Neill is one of my favourite main characters of any book ever. I’m not usually a massive fan of contemporary YA but occasionally one comes along that’s right up my street and The Exact Opposite of Okay was that for me.

9. Magnus Chase and The Sword of Summer-Rick Riordan-8 days

Again, 8 days might seem like a while for really fast readers, but for me, a 500 odd page book in just over a week is very good. Rick Riordan’s books are always very quick reads for me, they’re funny, pacey, lots of action and I always love the characters, The Sword of Summer was no exception to this.

10. The Lady’s Guide To Petticoats and Piracy-Mackenzi Lee-9 days

Given the length of the chapters in this book, I was quite surprised I finished it as fast as I did (again for me) but the long summer days reading outside definitely helped. It was also the height of lockdown number one, so I didn’t really have anything else to do other than read. I didn’t love this as much as Monty’s book, but I still really enjoyed it, Felicity was great as the main character and I loved how focused on female friendship this book was.

11. Stalking Jack The Ripper-Kerri Maniscalco-10 days

This was an engaging historical murder mystery. I loved Audrey Rose as the heroine, a traditionally feminine women in STEM in a historical fiction book was definitely a protagonist I could get on board with, and whilst I had theories on who the killer was, I didn’t find it super easy to guess, I was on the wrong track for ages.

12. The Language Of Thorns-Leigh Bardugo-10 days

I’m not usually a short story reader, but I loved this collection of folktales from the Grishaverse. I probably could have finished this faster if it hadn’t been for my exams as it was fairly short. It’s such a fun addition to the world Bardugo has created, and I really loved the illustrations, they definitely enhanced the stories.

So there you go, those are some of the Books I Read In Less Than Two Weeks. Have you read any of these? Did you like them? What’s your average reading time? Do you read a lot of books in one sitting? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is Books I’d Want With Me On A Deserted Island, so that should be a fun one.

The Rose Code Review (Audiobook)

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Book: The Rose Code

Author: Kate Quinn

Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Mab, Osla and Beth have multiple conversations that don’t revolve around men.

Content Warnings: Death, bombing depictions, parental abuse, patient abuse, incidence of using a straightjacket, vomiting, sexual assault, blood, description of lobotomies, alcoholism, infidelity, PTSD, racial slurs, sexist slurs, grief depictions, war themes, forced institutionalisation

I actually came across The Rose Code by chance, I was scrolling through Instagram and shown an ad for it, it sounded interesting and so I decided to check out the audiobook! Never say targeted ads don’t work eh? Anyway, it’s no secret that I love women’s history, so naturally, a story about female codebreakers in WWII was always going to be right up my alley. I ended up really enjoying it, particularly the narration and have gone on to read another of Kate Quinn’s books, The Alice Network since. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything – beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses – but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter – the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger – and their true enemy – closer. .

I have start with the thing I loved most about this book: the narration. Saskia Maarleveld was incredible, I think the best audiobook narrator I’ve listened to. She does the whole audiobook in an accent that isn’t her own, which is impressive enough anyway but then she does multiple different accents for all the different characters as well, and slips into and out of them so easily. She really made the book such an excellent listening experience, and one of the reasons I was so excited to read The Alice Network is because I saw she was the narrator.

I also really loved how much this book centred female friendships, as I’m sure you know if you’ve followed me for a while, female friendships are like catnip to me. Anyway, I loved how supportive Osla, Mab and Beth were of each other and the way that they formed their own little family. Even though I knew the moment that their friendship fell apart was coming (not a spoiler, it’s in the synopsis), I was so devastated when that moment came because I had become so invested in their friendship as Quinn had developed it so well.

Beth’s character development was a highlight of this book for me. At the start of the book, she’s 24 and under the thumb of her emotionally and physically abusive mother. As a result, she’s painfully shy and withdrawn, to the point of barely being able to speak to people and has very low self-esteem. It was so wonderful to see her come into her own over the course of the story, gaining confidence through her work as a cryptanalyst and eventually being able to stand up to her abusive mother. Of the three characters, I felt like she grew the most over the course of the story.

I also really loved Osla, I think she was my favourite of the three girls (Beth being a close second). She’s smart, determined, desperate to prove herself and not be overlooked as a “silly deb” & she’s the most fun of the three. I also thought her trauma was really well handled, she experiences a bombing fairly early on in the war and it really colours her experiences afterward, it’s not just brushed under the carpet. The way she used humour as a way of dealing with her trauma really rang true, and her loneliness and longing for a family really made me feel her.

Mab on the other hand, kind of rubbed me up the wrong way. There were certain things I did like about her, I liked how feisty she was and how determined she was to forge her own path in life but I didn’t love how judgemental she was of other women. In the beginning, she’s incredibly judgemental of Beth, referring to her as “weak” and “spineless” and I thought this was really unfair given that Beth has been emotionally and physically abused by her mother for years. She’s also fairly unreasonable to Osla following the incident that breaks up their friendship, and whilst it is somewhat understandable given her state at the time, Osla had also been through a lot of trauma and it seemed like she was trying to be supportive of Mab’s trauma, but Mab gave no thought to hers. Having said that, I did appreciate that Quinn allowed her female characters to be flawed: Mab is judgemental, Beth is so hyper focused on work to the extent of ignoring other people’s feelings and what is happening in their lives and Osla constantly referring to not wanting be considered a “silly deb” could be annoying.

The dual timeline was generally done well: they tied together nicely, but I definitely found the past timeline more engaging and better paced than the present: the present was a lot of Osla and Mab griping at each other which wasn’t the most fun to read.

Speaking of the pacing, this book is a little long and could probably have been trimmed down a little, it definitely took a while for things to build up. Having said that, the narration was so engaging that it didn’t really matter, I still wanted to keep listening, even when the plot was lagging a little. The chapters were also nice and short, which kept things ticking over nicely.

All the codebreaking stuff was really interesting and I learned a lot that I didn’t previously know by the end of this book-for instance, I had no idea that the Duchess of Cambridge’s grandmother was a codebreaker at Bletchley!

I wasn’t massively enamoured with the romance plots. I didn’t find Mab and Francis’ relationship particularly interesting, they didn’t seem to have much chemistry and I found Francis kind of dull so I wasn’t massively convinced when she was suddenly in love with him. Osla and Philip definitely had more chemistry, but I found it slightly odd reading about them since Prince Philip was a really person and died not long before I started reading the book. You also know from the start that it’s going to end: though I will say Quinn did a great job of making the inevitable still seem heartbreaking. Beth and fellow codebreaker Harry Zab actually had the most convincing connection as they had a lot in common, but he was married, so I couldn’t really invest in their relationship as I really hate cheating.

I really loved that this book made a big deal of talking about contraceptives, not many contemporary books do, so it was really great to see it in a historical one.

Quinn’s writing style was really great, she creates a wonderful atmosphere throughout and the sense of suspense heading up to D-Day was really well done. You get a very vivid picture of the inner workings of Bletchley Park and she captures the sense of camaraderie but intense secrecy very well.

Obviously being a war book there are some very devastating parts, and whilst I don’t want to go into too many details about the specifics in order to avoid spoilers, Chapters 43-46 are particularly heartrending. Quinn handles character grief exceptionally well.

It’s not the most diverse cast, all of the main characters are white & the one important non-white character suffers much racial abuse. Being a WWII book isn’t an excuse for lack of diversity, plenty of POC were involved in the Allied War effort and it would have been nice to see more of that here. It’s also very heteronormative, and the only non able-bodied character is the son of Beth’s love interest, who has leg braces after suffering from polio.

The scene where Osla and Mab first meet is probably one of my favourites of the entire book: the way Osla embarrasses the man who was masturbating on the train was priceless!

Quinn has clearly done her research in terms of the real life operations, bombing raids, the way that cryptography worked, the day to day life of Bletchley Park, all of this detail really enhanced the story. Being a history graduate, I love it when I read historical fiction and it’s clear that author has properly researched the time period! She also managed to integrate the historical cameos very well, in a way that felt natural to the story.

Some of the 1940s slang felt a little cringey and there were some overused phrases like “silly deb”, but generally the dialogue was really good.

I liked that Quinn wasn’t afraid to confront some of the harsh realities of 1940s Britain, like the treatment of patients in asylums, and the sexism that the three girls faced in their work, especially Osla who is constantly looked down on for being traditionally feminine and a society girl, and is even suspected of being a traitor just because of who she is dating. I found the asylum parts of the book particularly harrowing to read, Beth’s experience there sounded truly horrendous.

Being a mystery book, there are naturally quite a few twists along the way, the main one being this traitor from Bletchley Park and I have to admit, I had the completely wrong end of the stick for a long time on that one. There were also a couple of other mysteries from the past that I didn’t work out, even though in hindsight they probably should have been super obvious.

I loved Beth and Dilly’s mentor/mentee relationship, I thought that was really heartwarming, and I enjoyed the little nods to Alice in Wonderland throughout the book (the characters’ book club being called “The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, the asylum parts being referred to as into the clock, several allusions to codebreaking being like “going down the rabbit hole” etc).

Also I feel I should mention: there is a dog in this, the DOG IS FINE. The dog survives, I promise.

I did feel like the end was almost a little too neat? Don’t get me wrong, the characters definitely deserved a happy ending after everything they went through and I found it quite heartwarming, but everything was resolved just a bit too easily for me and we didn’t get to see any of the fallout from the events that happened towards the end of the book. It would have felt a bit more earned I think if more development had gone into rebuilding the girls’ relationship and if everything hadn’t been resolved so quickly: I think the conclusion could have actually done with a bit more space, which is strange to say for such a long book!

Overall I really enjoyed this book. The narration was fabulous, I loved the female friendship at the heart of the story, I enjoyed the characters and the setting, and whilst it could have been a little pacier in places, I found myself engaged the whole way through. Plus it made me seek out another of Quinn’s books, which is always a mark of success!

My Rating: 4/5

My next review will be of The Unbound by Victoria Schwab, I know I said that would be my next one last time, but I do these in the order I finish them, and I finished The Rose Code before The Unbound. Please bear with me as I catch up on reviews, I’ve been busy with work over the past few weeks and haven’t had a chance to sit down and write reviews for my most recent reads! I’m hoping I should be all caught up by the end of the month!

Top Ten Tuesday #324

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, mine has been fairly quiet, work has been slowing down a bit recently but I’ve got a couple more shifts booked for this week so hopefully they are busier (on the upside, slow days at work means getting a bit of reading in!).

Anyway, as it’s Tuesday, I have another Top Ten Tuesday from you all courtesy of Jana At That Artsy Reader Girl. Now this week’s topic didn’t quite work for me as I’ve not really read any Book Titles That Are Questions so I decided to twist the topic a little and instead do Unnecessary Title Abbreviations Used On Book Twitter. If you are on Book Twitter, you’re probably familiar with the endless abbreviations used for book titles that seem like gibberish to anyone who doesn’t know what they mean. Some of these titles make sense to abbreviate because they are super long (like A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder for instance), but some are fairly short titles that could quite easily be typed out in full. Honestly I kind of hate title abbreviations and would rather use a shortened version of the full title (like Gentleman’s Guide for The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue) because I think it looks better, but to each their own. Anyway, on with the unnecessary title abbreviations:

  1. SoC-Six of Crows-Leigh Bardugo

It’s three words. They’re super short words. It’s one of the most popular books on Book Twitter, so I do get that most people probably think that everyone knows what you’re talking about (and most probably do) but there’s really no reason to abbreviate this title, it’s not going to take up many characters!

2. ToG-Throne of Glass-Sarah J Maas

AGAIN, IT’S THREE WORDS. I understand abbreviating the A Court of Thorns and Roses series titles because they’re that bit longer but the Throne of Glass series is all three word titles, and whilst it’s not a problem for this particular title (I can’t instantly think of any other titles with the same acronym that have the same degree of notoriety as Throne of Glass), there are other titles in the series that share that same title as other books. Queen of Shadows for instance, there are several other books that share the same title and there are several other books in the series that have the same acronym as books by different authors. So I think it would save confusion if people just referred to these books by their full names!

3. TBS-The Bone Season-Samantha Shannon

All the books in these series have pretty short titles and whilst they are fairly popular, I don’t know if they’re so popular that you’d look at the acronym and instantly know, yep that’s The Bone Season. I can understand abbreviating the title of Shannon’s standalone, The Priory of The Orange Tree (TPOTOT), though like I said above, I tend to prefer to just shorten the title to something simpler, like plain “Priory”.

4. THG-The Hunger Games-Suzanne Collins

Okay, so I imagine most people probably know that THG stands for The Hunger Games, it’s fairly self-explanatory, but why not just use the full title? It’s only three words, it’s not going to take up much space in your tweet!

5. GOT-Game of Thrones-George RR Martin

I understand the series title being abbreviated, A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) is a bit of a mouthful, but Game of Thrones is comparatively simple. I imagine most people will recognise what GOT stands for in conversation because it is a fantasy phenomenon and popular outside of book circles thanks to the TV series, but unlike most book acronyms, got is actually a word, so that could be confusing if you’re not a fantasy fan!

6. S&B or SAB (I’ve seen both used)-Shadow and Bone-Leigh Bardugo

Again it’s three words, it’s not that hard to use the full title. I really don’t think any of Leigh Bardugo’s titles are long enough to be abbreviated, she tends to go for fairly short titles. SAB is a fairly popular acronym as well, it could be the TV show, Switched At Birth, there are various scientific abbreviations that also use SAB, so I think in this case being specific is helpful!

7. TRB-The Raven Boys-Maggie Stiefvater

All the books in this series get abbreviated when talked about on Book Twitter, but they all have super short titles! I can definitely see situations where it could be really easy to mix up TRB and TBR, if you’re typing in hurry, so that could quite easily be confused. TRB is also used for a lot of technical acronyms so that could also be confusing.

8. TPW-The Poppy War-RF Kuang

I can speak myself to the confusion I felt with this one, over the past year, I saw TPW floating around Twitter a lot and could not work out what it was at all, until I finally found out it was The Poppy War. The Poppy War is such a short title that I think shortening it honestly creates more confusion than it solves? Just go with the full guys!

9. TGW-The Gilded Wolves-Roshani Chokshi

Again, it’s a fairly short title so abbreviating it seems kind of redundant, and though it’s a popular book, I don’t know that it’s so popular that people will know what it is instantly by the acronym. It’s also an acronym for the TV show The Good Wife, which I reckon is probably more well known so that could be confusing!

10. TCP-The Cruel Prince-Holly Black

It seems fairly redundant for The Cruel Prince to be shortened, and there are a million and one other things that it could be because TCP is a fairly common abbreviation (there are around 100 different options if you search TCP acronym) so specificity probably wouldn’t hurt here.

So there you go, some of the Book Twitter abbreviations that I feel are unnecessary. How about you? Any Book Twitter acronyms that you don’t understand? Do you like using abbreviations for book titles? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is Books I Read In One Sitting, I’m going to tweak it slightly to Books That Took Me Under Two Weeks To Read as I’m not a massively fast reader and two weeks seems to be my average.

Top Ten Tuesday #323

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, I had a great time with my friends over the weekend. I’ve got quite the packed week this week, with work shifts and a lot of things booked for my days off.

Anyway, it’s Tuesday and that means another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s topic was supposed be Reasons Why I Love Reading, but I’ve already done a post like that a few years ago when TTT was still with The Broke and The Bookish, so I decided to change up the topic this week. I’ve picked an old one from the archived topics from TB&TB, I’ll be sharing my Top Ten Most Unique Books I’ve Ever Read. I don’t feel like it’s possible for any book to ever be completely unique, I feel like you’d be able to find underlying similarities to other stories in all books, but I do think you can take something that’s been done before and give it an original twist, or twist old tropes into a new story etc. So these books will be more of that ilk, not necessarily ones that I think “there’s absolutely nothing out there like this”, more “This author came up with a really interesting concept” or “This author twisted something familiar into something new”. Here we go:

  1. Unwind-Neal Shusterman

I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever read anything like Unwind. I mean it’s a truly horrifying and disturbing concept, the idea of this is that after a war fought over reproductive rights, the solution that the US comes to is that abortion is outlawed, but parents/guardians have the choice to have their children “unwound” from the age of 13 to 18, where they are literally taken apart piece by piece and their organs are donated, so their life doesn’t technically end.

I know, I know, it sounds super dark and weird, but it’s a really great book. It explores a lot of interesting issues, like what it means to be alive, issues around organ donation, who has the right to decide whether a person lives or dies, what consciousness is etc. It’s probably one of the most thoughtful dystopian books I’ve read, as well as being a really action packed, fun read with great characters. Not for the faint of heart, but if you like darker books, definitely recommend!

2. Girl, Serpent, Thorn-Melissa Bashardoust

Mythology, fairytale based stories certainly aren’t anything new, but I thought Melissa Bashardoust did something really cool and creative in her second book. I’ve not seen many books with Persian mythology influences before, so that immediately made the book feel quite fresh to me and she drew a lot from other fairytales (for instance Sleeping Beauty) but the way she mixed them together was very creative.

3. Pure-Julianna Baggott

Pure was one of those books that came out after the big dystopian buzz so it doesn’t seem to be one that gets talked about much (or else I read it after all the buzz died down!). This is a shame, because I think it’s a really creative post-apocalyptic book. It’s set after a nuclear apocalypse where survivors are left fused to objects that they were holding at the time of the Detonations. However there are some survivors who escaped the apocalypse unscathed, and live in a secure bubble called the Dome. It’s a very interesting concept and world, and though it was a little confusing at first, I ended up thoroughly enjoying it.

4. Not Even Bones-Rebecca Schaeffer

This is a super dark book, but it’s incredibly enjoyable. It’s about a girl who dissects the bodies of supernatural creatures so her mother can sell their parts on the black market, but when she tries to save one of her mother’s victims, she ends up being sold in his place-because she is also supernatural. It definitely felt like a quite original idea, I can’t think of many other books I’ve read like it and I loved how DARK it was. A lot of books claim to be dark and then feel kind of time, this really leaned into the darkness. I liked the mix of the modern world with the supernatural too.

5. The Diviners-Libba Bray

The separate parts of the Diviners on their own, could be any number of books. Historical setting, teens with supernatural powers related to a science experiment, ghosts, murder mystery etc, all quite common to find in YA books. However, I don’t think any book I’ve read mixes them all together in the way The Diviners does. Is it confusing at first? Yes. There are a lot of characters and plot threads to keep track of. However, the further through the series you get, the more brilliant Bray’s hodge-podge of genres and ideas becomes and by the end I truly felt like it was one of the most creative fantasies I’ve ever read. Plus, the sprawling group cast became one of my favourites!

6. The Bone Season-Samantha Shannon

I will admit that the first book in Samantha Shannon’s series is not my favourite, I like other books in the series better, but I’ve never read anything like the world Samantha Shannon has created in this series. She describes it as a kind of epic dystopia and it’s true, it blends a lot of fantastical elements into a dystopian world. Honestly it’s kind of difficult to explain because there are a lot of different parts to the story, but basically the UK is run by this authoritarian regime called Scion (who also control other countries across Europe) and they monitor the population for people with extraordinary powers, called clairvoyants. Paige, a rare clairvoyant called a Dreamwalker, gets captured and sent to a penal colony run by otherworldly creatures called Rephaim and the plot unravels from there. It was really confusing to start with, I’m not going to lie and there are a lot of moving elements, but I definitely fell in love with the series the more I read of it and it really isn’t like anything else I’ve ever read.

7. The Shadow Game Trilogy-Amanda Foody

Whilst there are a lot of familiar tropes in Foody’s series, her world definitely set this book apart from others for me. It’s like a 1900s Atlantic City inspired world (I said Vegas in my initial review, I’ve since learned that this was wrong!), there are casinos and gangs and old motorcars and the setting is very much another character in the book. The magic system is also really cool, each character has two abilities, a blood talent which is the stronger, main ability and a split talent which is a slightly weaker ability and it allowed for such a brilliantly wide range of magic which I loved because so many fantasy worlds stick to maybe one or two kinds of magic and there’s no such restriction in Foody’s world. I also really love how Foody treats her female characters, she shows off a lot of different kinds of women in her books, including praising and highlighting extremely feminine women which I love and make her books feel very fresh to me.

8. The Accident Season-Moira Fowley-Doyle

I’ll admit upfront that I didn’t really like this one. However the premise is definitely unique, it follows a family that becomes suddenly extremely accident prone every October, often resulting in deaths. So that was cool, and I enjoyed the main mystery plot but there was a lot that confused me about this book and it never really fulfilled the promise of the concept.

9. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue-VE Schwab

I could have used any number of VE Schwab’s books on here because I always feel like she’s so creative and inventive with her ideas, but I thought The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue was probably the one that fit best. Addie is kind of a difficult book to place, it’s fantastical, historical, contemporary, kind of a bit of everything all mixed up into one so that alone makes it a fairly unique book. Then you have the twist in Addie’s bargain whereby she’s able to live forever (fairly typical) but ends up forgotten by everyone she meets (less so) and the sheer scope of this book covering around 300 years of history. I’ve read other books that cross genres before, but never something quite as defiantly undefinable as Addie LaRue.

10. By A Charm And A Curse-Jaime Questell

On the surface this book has a lot of familiar tropes: circus setting, kisses and curses being connected etc. But the way the author used those familiar tropes felt very unique: the kiss in this case is actually the cause of the curse not the solution and this curse ensures that the members of the circus stay young and never get hurt (so is actually a good thing for them), and so that’s where the conflict comes in as main character Emma wants to break the curse which is inflicted on her but in doing so dooms everyone in the circus. It’s a really cool little story, kind of like Pinocchio (the curse basically turns you into a puppet in human form) mixed with Snow White. It’s a real shame that Jaime Questell hasn’t published any books since this one because I really loved it, I hope she does at some point because I’d love to see what she does next.

So there we go, those are some of the most unique books I’ve ever read. How about you, what are the most unique books you have ever read (or rather, books that you think have a unique take on familiar tropes)? Have you read any of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, next week’s topic is meant to be Book Titles That Are Questions but honestly I don’t think I’ve read any? So I’m going to change twist the topic and do a different title related topic: Unnecessary Book Title Abbreviations Used On Book Twitter ie all the short titles that get abbreviated that really don’t need to be!

Mid Year Check In (2021)

Hi everyone! So we’re now halfway through 2021, apparently 2020 being so slow means that 2021 is going twice as fast. This year has already been ten times better than last year, and I have a lot of cool stuff coming up in the next couple of months, I’m definitely feeling a lot more optimistic than I was this time last year. Anyway, it’s that time of year where I like to check in on the goals that I made at the beginning of the year to help keep myself accountable and see where I’m at. So here we go, here’s how I’ve been doing over the past six months:

  1. Complete Goodreads Challenge goal

Honestly I’m super behind on this one! I’ve been in a bit of a slump most of this year, and I’ve been reading very slowly so I haven’t read anywhere near as many books as I’d have liked to by this point in the year. I’m hoping that the second half of the year will be much better for me in terms on reading and I’ll still be able to make my goal of 24. I would have loved to get more done this year, but I think I just have to accept where I am at and realise that this year is not going to be a big reading year for me.

2. Complete my #RockMyTBR Challenge

I’m also super behind on this one, I’ve only read 2 of the 12 books on my list because I kind of stalled out on one of my challenge books and it took me several months to get through it. I’m hoping I will get through more of them before the year is out, but I’m not sure I’ll finish it this year.

3. Finish current round of edits on This Is Not A Love Story

I’ve kind of lost momentum on this one, I was doing well at the start of the year, and then I got caught up in job applications and started my new job and I just haven’t had much time for edits. I’m hoping I’ll be able to pick it back up again before the end of the year.

4. Get Netgalley Ratio to 80%

HA HA HA HA. I went on a bit of a requesting spree and have kind of stalled out on a lot of the books I’ve requested, I’ve not actually finished any of my Netgalley books this year. I’m hoping I will do better in the second half of the year but honestly I’d be happy if I’d just cleared my Netgalley shelf by the end of the year.

5. Catch up on 2020 releases

I’ve read a few 2020 releases this year, I think four, though two were carry-overs from last year! I’d like to try and catch up on a few more before the year is over, especially some of the ones that I was most excited for last year like Good Girl, Bad Blood and Where Dreams Descend.

6. Read more new to me authors

Finally one I’ve been doing quite well on! I’ve read five new to me authors so far this year, and I have more planned for the rest of the year, so I’m hoping I will be able to call this a significant success by the end of the year.

7. Continue reading more by authors of colour

I can’t say I’m doing the best on this one, though admittedly I’ve not read much this year, but only two of the books I’ve read so far have been by authors of colour. I have a few more planned for the rest of the year though, so I’m hoping to get that number up much higher.

8. Read more non-fiction

I’ve read one memoir so far this year, so not very much! I’m hoping to read a few more non-fiction books lined up to read before the end of the year but given my reading slump, I’m very much going wherever the reading feeling takes me and at the moment, it’s not toward non-fiction!

9. Try to have Writing Corner posts more regularly

HA HA HA HA. This has been going terribly! I haven’t done a single Writing Corner post this year. Honestly it’s been hard to get people signed up for guest posts and I haven’t really had many ideas of things I’ve wanted to talk about myself. I may get a couple done before the end of the year, but I’m not stressing too much over this one as I tend to get more engagement on my regular discussion posts anyway, so if I’m doing long posts, I prioritise those ones.

10. Don’t buy any physical books from Amazon

Finally one I’ve been doing great on! Of all the physical books I’ve bought this year, I’ve not bought a single one from Amazon, they have all been from either Waterstones, Blackwells or Bookshop. It’s actually not been massively difficult to cut off buying physical books from Amazon, I bought a lot from Waterstones anyway and if there’s something I can’t find on there, Blackwells or Bookshop usually has it, so I really don’t need to rely on Amazon for physical books at all. It has felt pretty great not to use them for that actually, so I definitely think I’m going to continue this past this year.

So that’s how my year has been going so far, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag, but I definitely think I can improve on and complete at least some of these before the end of the year. How about you guys? Did you make any reading/writing/blogging goals for this year? How are they going so far? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back on Tuesday with my regular Top Ten Tuesday for you all, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Top Ten Tuesday #322

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve had a good week since I last did one of these, I’ve been working mostly but I’ve got this weekend off and I’m going to meet up with my friends so I’m super excited about that. I also have another riding lesson on Thursday which is always great.

Anyway it’s Tuesday which means another Top Ten Tuesday courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is another one of our annual ones and it’s our Most Anticipated Releases For The Second Half of the year. I didn’t think I’d have as many for this as most of my anticipated releases for this year seemed to be in January-June, but it turns out I have exactly the same amount and it definitely goes over ten, so that’s always a nice feeling to find out that you are anticipating more books than you thought. So here we go, my most anticipated releases for June (I snuck in a couple that didn’t make the last post) to December of 2021. As always these are in release date order, so the numbers are not indicators of my level of excitement for the book (also all release dates are correct for the UK, so if you are US, you might want check yours as for some it may be earlier than listed here):

  1. Witchshadow (Witchlands #4)-Susan Dennard-Released 24th June
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Cover Artist: Cliff Neilsen

Okay so technically this book is already out but I wanted to include it because I didn’t include it in my first half of the year post and I’m really excited to read it. It’s Iseult’s book and there’s so much that I want to learn about her and her powers, so I’m hoping this book will provide at least a few of the answers.

2. This Poison Heart-Kalynn Bayron-Released TODAY!

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Cover Artist: Raymond Sebastien

This one releases today, so happy book birthday to Kalynn Bayron! I’m super excited for this because I loved her first book and this one sounds super cool and dark which I love. Also this cover is perhaps one of my favourites of all time, it’s so beautiful. Shoutout to cover artist Raymond Sebastien who did this most extraordinary of covers.

3. Six Crimson Cranes-Elizabeth Lim-Releases 8th July

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Cover Artist: @_afterblossom_

Again, this cover is truly stunning, the pastel colours are so beautiful and the design is gorgeous, the designer is @_afterblossom_ on Twitter and they’ve done the UK covers for Elizabeth Lim’s Blood of The Stars duology as well. It also sounds brilliant, it’s a retelling of the fairytale The Wild Swans which is one I’ve never heard of before so I’m super excited as I love it when authors take on different fairytales (I love Beauty and The Beast as much as the next girl, but I need some variety!).

4. A Lesson In Vengeance-Victoria Lee-Releases 3rd August

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Cover Art by Maggie Enterrios, Design by Regina Flath

Again this cover is gorgeous, I swear cover designers have been killing it this year (I mean they always do, but there are so many great ones this year). I’m also super happy that this is like a dark purply colour because purple is one of my favourite colours. But I digress, I’m super excited to read this because it sounds brilliant, a witchy, gay, dark academia? YES PLEASE.

4. As Good As Dead (A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder #3)-Holly Jackson-Releases 5th August

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Okay, so technically I’ve not yet read Book 2, but I loved Book 1, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to love Book 2 and have already pre-ordered this one. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this invested in a murder mystery! This one sounds AMAZING and apparently it’s the darkest of the series, which of course is very up my street. I can’t wait to see how Pip’s story ends….and who makes it out alive.

5. The Fair Botanists-Sara Sheridan-Releases 5th August

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Cover Artist: Charlotte Day

This story sounds so different and interesting, I’m trying to get a bit more into adult historical as much as I love YA, I do like finding stories with characters closer to my age! It’s all about this rare plant that blooms once in every few decades and two women whose lives entwine in 19th century Edinburgh. This cover is SO GORGEOUS AS WELL, all the flowers are lovely and I especially love the illustration of Edinburgh Castle.

6. Endgame (Noughts and Crosses #6)-Malorie Blackman-Releases 16th September

No cover for this one yet I’m afraid! I’m not going to lie, the word endgame has kind of been ruined for me by far too much non-ironic use of it in teen dramas (I’m looking at you Riverdale and Glee) to refer to shipping, but I’m still super excited for this. I may not have loved Crossfire as much as I’d hoped, but the ending of the Noughts and Crosses series holds a lot of nostalgia for me, it was one of the very first YA books I read at around 11, and the final book will be releasing just after I turn 25 so it’s a nice little full circle moment for me and it’s so lovely for Malorie as well to have everything coming full circle like this in the year of the 20th anniversary of the first book.

7. The Bronzed Beasts (The Gilded Wolves #3)-Roshani Chokshi-Releases 21st September

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Cover Artist: Cover art by James Iacobelli, Design by Kerri Resnick

Can I just say before I start this what an AMAZING JOB this team have done on this whole series of covers? The Gilded Wolves trilogy has some of my favourite covers OF EVER and they are going to look so stunning together so hats off to the Kerri Resnick Books team. Also my autumn-loving heart is thrilled by the autumnal looking cover (I love that this series has such a seasonal feel in all its covers, if it was a four book series, there would definitely need to be a summery cover). Anyway, enough of my ramblings about the cover, which I could talk about all day. I’m SO SO EXCITED AND TERRIFIED FOR THIS BOOK. The second book ended on such a cliffhanger and I need to find out what happened to everyone, that everyone is okay and be reassured that Laila IS NOT GOING TO DIE. RIGHT? RIGHT?

8. Vespertine-Margaret Rogerson-Releases 28th September

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Cover Artist: Charlie Bowater

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Margaret Rogerson’s debut An Enchantment of Ravens, but I am loving her second book, Sorcery of Thorns, so I’m excited to check out what comes next. It sounds fabulously dark, all about a nun-in-training whose job is to cleanse the bodies of the dead who gets more than she bargained for when she has to raise a malevolent revenant in order to save her convent from attack. Sounds good, no?

10. Once Upon A Broken Heart-Stephanie Garber-Releases 30th September

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Cover Artist: Lisa Perrin

THAT COVER. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE AN ILLUSTRATED COVER and Lisa Perrin did a magnificent job! I swear I do want to read these books for more than covers, I just have to swoon a little because they’re all so pretty. Anyway, massively excited for Stephanie’s new book, it’s set in the same world as Caraval but follows different characters (and is apparently the start of a new series according to Goodreads). This new book follows Evangeline Fox who makes a bargain with the Prince of Hearts (Jacks) in order to stop her true love from marrying someone else, and much as anyone who makes a deal with Jacks, it doesn’t go quite the way she intended!

11. Little Thieves-Margaret Owen-Releases 5th October

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Cover Artist: M.S. Corley

Again this cover! So beautiful and vibrant and if I’m being totally honest a lot of the draw of this book for me (look anyone who claimed that bookworms never judge a book by its cover clearly never met any of us). But the story does sound great too, I’m sure you all know by now that I’m a sucker for thieves, and this retelling of The Goose Girl (yay for another lesser retold fairytale) follows thief Vanja, who steals the life of her mistress Princess Gisele with enchanted pearls but is then cursed by a god for her greed. She is set to turn into jewels for her greed, unless she manages to break her curse within two weeks. I have a Netgalley e-ARC for this, so I’m hoping I can finally clear my huge backlog and get to it before release in October.

12. A Marvellous Light-Freya Marske-Releases 2nd November

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Cover Artist: Will Staehle

A adult historical fantasy? Were you made for me? It’s like all my dreams come in one beautiful, colourful package! Also the cover has some of my favourite colours, which I love, fantasy books definitely have a tendency towards the dark and whilst that is also awesome, it’s so nice to see one with such a bright cover. It’s also a m/m romance, which is so great to see in a historical book. Historical gays for the win!

13. All of Us Villains-Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman-Releases 11th November

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I’m super excited for this one, I didn’t have the best first outing with Christine Lynn Herman, but I love Amanda Foody’s books and their co-writing debut sounds AMAZING. It’s been billed as a magical Hunger Games, the plot revolves around a magical tournament where the descendants of seven families in Ilvernath compete in a tournament to the death for control of the city’s magick supply. It sounds so amazing, and I’ve really enjoyed all of Amanda Foody’s books thus far, so I have high hopes!

14. The Nobleman’s Guide To Scandal and Shipwrecks-Releases 16th November

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Cover Artist: David Curtis

After many delays over the past year or so, this book is finally coming out! I’m super excited to see Adrian (the Goblin, Monty and Felicity’s younger brother from the first book) as a teenager, and of course Monty and Felicity as adults. This is such a fun series and I look forward to seeing how everything ends.

15. A Psalm of Storms and Silence-Roseanne A. Brown-Releases 21st November

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Cover Art by Tawny Chatmon, Cover Design by Jessie Gang

I know this book was on my last list, but sadly it got pushed back. Anyway, I’m still super excited for it, the last book ended in a really exciting place and I can’t wait to see how Karina and Malik’s stories end!

So there we go, that was my bumper edition of anticipated releases for the second half of 2021 for you. There are so many AMAZING books coming out over the next few months, I really wish my bank account was large enough to support all of these authors! Anyway, do we share any? What books are you excited about coming out in the rest of 2021? Have you been lucky enough to read any of these already? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week for another Top Ten Tuesday, next week’s topic is Reasons Why I Love Reading but I actually already did that one as a twist on a old topic back in 2016, so I don’t want to do a rehash of that list. Instead I’m going to dig out a topic from the Broke and Bookish (previous hosts) archive, and I’ve decided to do Top Ten Most Unique Books I’ve Ever Read.

Jo Talks Books: On What Makes A Good TV/Movie Adaptation of A Book

Hi all! I’m so sorry I’ve not had one of these for you in the last couple of months, honestly, time’s just kind of got away from me in the past few months with lockdown easing and seeing friends, starting my new job and of course working on job applications, it’s been a busy few months.

Anyway, this month, inspired by watching Shadow and Bone in April, I wanted to talk a bit about book to screen adaptations as I think so often as book lovers, we complain about bad screen adaptations of our favourite books, but don’t necessarily talk as much about what makes a good one? Now this is understandable to me as it is infuriating when we see our favourite books torn to shreds on screen, but I wanted to take today to talk about what I think makes a good screen adaptation of a book. Now, disclaimer before I start this: these are all my personal opinions, book lovers don’t all want the same things from book to screen adaptations, and I’m sure if you asked someone else, they would give different answers than me!

In general, I have found that I prefer TV adaptations of books to films. For me, I think that’s because TV feels like a more natural fit than film: books and TV both have a more serialised, episodic format, and TV allows for characters and stories to be explored in more depth because of this. TV also allows for more of the little details that fans of books love, that sometimes get missed in movies because of the restricted running times. That’s not to say that movie adaptations are bad, I’ve loved plenty of film adaptations, but in general I think TV as a format lends itself more naturally to book adaptations than films do.

The best example of this for me in recent years was the A Series of Unfortunate Events adaptation. That novel series got two different adaptations: first a movie adaptation, which focused on the first three books and then a Netflix TV show, which had three seasons covering the whole series. The reason that the movie adaptation didn’t work for me is because it crammed so much story into a two hour movie and didn’t really do justice to any of it (even with the first three books in that series being fairly short). The Netflix show on the other hand, took their time, had two episodes for each book, which allowed the story to be explored in much more depth. It’s all about choosing the right format for the material: something like Outlander (though I will admit, I’ve not read books, only seen the show) could only ever have been a TV show because there’s just too much material for a two hour film. Whereas a relatively short book, like for example Matilda, could be made into a film pretty easily because there’s not as much material so you don’t have to massively condense the story to fit into a restricted running time.

I’m maybe somewhat strange as a reader in that it doesn’t massively matter to me whether the actors look exactly the same as the way the characters are described in the books? I think this comes from not being a visual reader, I don’t have a picture of the characters in my head already, so whoever plays them in the screen adaptation will usually just become how I think that character looks. Obviously there are some major caveats to this: I wouldn’t want a character who is described as non-white in a book to be played by a white actor because that’s just…..a big no. Appearance details that are intrinsically important to who the character is should be kept on screen. But in general, it matters more to me that an actor is able to get across a character’s personality, that they feel like the character they’re meant to be playing, than that they exactly match the description given in the book. An adaptation is not going to fail if the actor has a different colour eye than stated on page for instance.

For example, Annabeth in the first Percy Jackson film having brown hair rather than blonde was annoying, yes, but that’s not to say that an actress with brown hair couldn’t have played her well. But the actress is the wrong age for the character (who should have been 12 rather than 16) and doesn’t capture Annabeth’s character from the books well: Annabeth in the films isn’t as smart as she is in the books (which is pretty integral to her character, being a daughter of Athena) and they take away all of her emotional moments (like when she tells Percy about her issues with her Dad and growing up with Luke and Thalia) so she seems to lack depth. She’s also completely devoid of any humour, and whilst Annabeth in the books is more serious than Percy, she has a sense of humour and enjoys poking fun at Percy which doesn’t come across at all in the films. If the actress who played Annabeth had looked different but portrayed her personality well, then I think it would have come across better, but as it stood, she had no resemblance to Annabeth in either look or personality.

However, when actors do a really good job capturing a character’s personality, it don’t necessarily matter if they don’t look exactly the way the character is described in the books, at least to me! For instance, Alina in Shadow and Bone deliberately doesn’t look the way she’s described in the books as the writers chose to make her part Shu in the show. I’m not going to talk about the show’s handling of Asian representation because it’s not my place to do so and many Asian women have already spoken about it with far more depth and eloquence than I would be able to. But that’s a side note, my main point here is that Jessie Mei-Li does a great job of bringing Alina to life on screen, she really embodies her character and I actually liked her portrayal more than I liked Alina in the book, which just goes to show how important casting can be!

I understand that both film and TV adaptations aren’t able to include absolutely every single detail from the books they’re based on because of time constraints. But I want the essence of the book to be there, I want to see that the filmmakers or TV show producers have understood what the fans love about the book and translated that to the screen. I mean someone has to read the book in the first place for the film rights to get optioned, you would think, so at some point someone has read a book and decided that it would make a great film. I don’t want the film to be completely unrecognisable from the book that it came from (I’m looking at you Percy Jackson film), otherwise they’re not worth watching!

The Hunger Games film series is a pretty good example of this done well for me, there are changes from the books, but generally the films are very faithful to the plot and capture the essence of the characters and the stories well. I think that’s one of the reasons why The Hunger Games did so much better than any other dystopian franchise that came after: for both Divergent and The Maze Runner, the filmmakers didn’t stick close enough to the original plot of the books to please book fans and the films just weren’t really good enough in themselves to please non-book fans.

I don’t mind if the writers add details that weren’t in the books if it works to enhance the film or TV show: for instance, adding the Crows into the plot of Shadow and Bone and essentially creating a prequel for the Crows in Shadow and Bone, actually worked really well and enhanced the plot of a book that I honestly hadn’t been that interested in when I read it. However if they add new plot points or change things massively and it actually detracts from the story, that’s when I get annoyed. The film adaptation of My Sister’s Keeper was really bad for this, in changing the ending of the book for the movie, it detracted from the whole point of the story and made it feel really cliche.

I also think it’s really important that the author has some involvement in the adaptation: though I am aware that the authors themselves have little say in how much involvement they get. But generally, I’ve found that the best book to movie or book to TV adaptations are that way because the author has been involved in the process. As a reader, it’s always quite reassuring to hear when an author is involved in the adaptation process, either writing the scripts, or as a producer or just being consulted, because you know that author will push for the adaptation to be as close to the book as possible.

Take for instance The Perks of Being A Wallflower. Author Stephen Chbosky was director and screenplay writer for the film version and the resulting film was incredibly faithful to the book and for me personally, I actually enjoyed it more because I thought the story worked better in that format. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is another example where authorial involvement made for a great film, she again wrote the screenplay and the resulting film was incredibly faithful to the book, with Rosamund Pike being particularly memorable as Amy.

I know that not all authors will want or be offered the opportunity to write the screenplay for their novel, but I have liked the trend towards authors getting more involvement with their screen adaptations in recent years (being executive producers or producers for instance) because I think adaptations tend to work out better when the authors are involved in some capacity. For example, Rick Riordan has been pretty clear that he wasn’t involved much in the Percy Jackson films and didn’t like the decisions that the filmmakers made for them, such as aging the characters up and changing a lot of the source material. These were both decisions that were also disliked by fans: authors know what their fanbases want to see so it stands to reason that having their involvement in screen adaptations can only be a help!

That’s not to say that all movies where the author isn’t a screenplay writer or executive producer turn out badly. As far as I’m aware, Markus Zusak didn’t have a massive role in adapting The Book Thief for film, and it’s a beautifully done film, it captures the same feel of the book, it’s wonderfully cast and amazingly acted and it’s largely faithful to the plot of the book. However, it seems to be one of the exceptions rather than the rule.

Ultimately it’s going to be very difficult to please everyone when it comes to a book adaptation. Readers all interpret different stories in different ways and have different ideas of what a story will like on screen, which makes it very difficult for filmmakers/TV show writers to bring a story to life in a way that will please absolutely every fan of a book ever, and attract non-readers as well. I do think though, in general, if you manage to stay true to the spirit of the story and the characters, then you will by and large be able to create a satisfying adaptation for both readers and non-readers alike.

How do you feel about book-to-screen adaptations? What do they need to be good for you? Any favourite ones? Any that you feel were particularly awful? Let me know in the comments!

I don’t know what my Jo Talks post for next month will be, or if I’ll even have one, it depends how busy I am at work, so I guess you’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I will have my regular Top Ten Tuesday post up for you guys tomorrow.

Top Ten Tuesday #321

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve had a good week since I last did one of these, I had my first day of work at the vaccination centre today and it went well. I have the day off tomorrow, and I have another riding lesson which is great, it’s been so nice to get back at it especially with the warmer weather we’ve been having (though since this is the UK we get warm weather for like a week and then go back to being cold. However it does mean that my hayfever has had a chance to die down finally!).

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, so that means another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic was meant to be Bookish Wishes, in honour of Jana’s birthday (Happy Birthday Jana!) but honestly I’ve pre-ordered all the books I want for this year so I decided to change it up and do a Pride themed topic since it’s still Pride Month. There are loads of great LGBTQ+ books coming out this year so I’ve decided to share some of the ones I’m excited for. I will indicate authors’ identities where I know they have been public with sharing that information, but I equally didn’t want to exclude anyone who hadn’t publicly shared their sexuality for whatever reason. So here we go, 2021 LGBTQ+ Books I’m Looking Forward To Reading:

  1. This Poison Heart-Kalynn Bayron

Kalynn Bayron was one of my favourite new author finds of 2020, Cinderella Is Dead was so great, such an interesting reworking of a classic fairytale and I’m equally excited for her newest book. Apparently it’s a reimagining of The Secret Garden with some Greek mythology involved? Count me in. Bayron herself is pansexual, and in this book, the main character Bri has two mums and Bri herself is bisexual.

2. These Feathered Flames-Alexandra Overy

This one sounds so good! It’s an f/f retelling of a Russian folktale called The Firebird, and I love reading books reimagining stories that I’m not familiar with as it’s hard to find unique retellings! It’s also all about sisters and I’m a SUCKER for sister stories.

3. Mister Impossible-Maggie Stiefvater

Obviously I’m excited for Mister Impossible because I love the Raven Cycle world and I want to see how the Dreamer trilogy continues, but it’s also been nice to see how Adam and Ronan’s relationship is developing beyond high school as you never usually get to see that in YA books.

4. The Bronzed Beasts-Roshani Chokshi

THE FINAL BOOK IN THE GILDED WOLVES TRILOGY AND I NEED IT. NEED DESPERATELY. The last one ended on such a cruel cliffhanger and I just need to see what happens to Laila, Severin, Zofia, Enrique and Hypnos already! This series also features several LGBTQ+ characters, Enrique who is bisexual, Hypnos who is pansexual and Zofia who is somewhere on the ace spectrum, though as of the last book, she’s still very much figuring that out (and of course as this is a historical fiction, the characters don’t use modern language to describe their own identities).

5. All of Us Villains-Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

I wasn’t that thrilled with Christine Lynn Herman’s debut, The Devouring Gray but I LOVE Amanda Foody’s books so I have to admit, I’m reading this mostly because of her. It also sounds like a super fun book though, it’s basically like a magical Hunger Games for villains. The children of these seven families compete in this big death tournament in order to gain control of their city’s supply of magic. It sounds dark and bloody and incredibly fun. According to Foody, two of the four POV characters of the book are bisexual, as are both of the authors.

6. A Lesson In Vengeance-Victoria Lee

There’s been a real surge in dark academia stuff coming out in recent years which is so exciting because these kinds of books definitely sound very Me. This one is about a boarding school haunted by the ghosts of rumoured witches and the main character teams up with the new girl to research the true story behind the legends. It’s f/f, sounds super dark, atmospheric and creepy and entirely up my street. Victoria Lee is bisexual and bigender.

7. The Girls I’ve Been-Tess Sharpe

Since reading A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder last year, I’ve been craving more mysteries and this one sounded AMAZING. It’s about a daughter of a con artist who gets taken hostage in a bank heist and apparently the book takes place in less than a day which sounds very my speed as I love fast paced, action packed plots. The main character, Nora is bisexual, as is the author, Tess Sharpe.

8. A Marvellous Light-Freya Marske

This sounds so up my street! It’s an adult historical fantasy, which yay, because I love finding new adult fantasies to read, and I love historical fantasies too. There’s an underground magical world, a murder mystery and an m/m romance between the main characters. It’s also set in Edwardian England which I feel like is not often used setting for historicals? You definitely get a lot of Victorian England but Edwardian not so much. Freya Marske is also queer.

9. Ace of Spades-Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

I’m so excited for this one! Another instalment of Jo really needs to actually get into dark academia, this thriller follows two Black students at an elite private school who are being blackmailed by an anonymous texter, Aces, who brings their darkest secrets to light. This one sounds so exciting, and both main characters are LGBTQ+, Devon is gay and Chiamaka is queer.

10. A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions-Sheena Boekweg

This is set in 1926, and follows a secret society of women who are determined to gain what little influence they can in the world by training to marry influential men, and main character Elsie and her four friends end up competing to win the heart of the future President. It sounds really interesting and apparently has female friendship at its core, which is an automatic win for me. It also apparently has a lot of positive casual LGBTQ+ rep, so that makes me want to read it even more.

So there we go, those are some of the LGBTQ+ books that I’m excited to read that either have come out or are set to come out this year. Have you read any of these (of the ones that are out, I realise there are quite a few that aren’t yet!)? Are you looking forward to any? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, this time we’ll be doing our annual Most Anticipated Releases For The Second Half of 2021. I actually have less of these this year than I normally would, but I’m still excited to share the books I’m looking forward to, there’s a lot of great stuff due to come out in the back half of 2021.

Quarterly Rewind (March-June ’21 edition)

Hi everyone! I can’t believe it’s almost the end of June, this year seems to be flying by, I swear I blinked and we were halfway through the year. This Spring has definitely been much better than the beginning of the year when we were all in lockdown, I’ve been able to see friends, I’ve been on holiday with my family, I’ve been back at riding, I got my first vaccine dose last week, so all in all things are definitely looking up! Anyway, today is the Summer Solstice, the first official day of Summer, which means it’s time for another Quarterly Rewind, the feature where I wrap up each season on the blog and look forward to the next one. So today I will be wrapping up Spring and looking forward to Summer. This post will cover 20th March-20th June:

Image From Spring:

I’ve not taken a massive amount of pictures this Spring, because even though we’ve been opening up more, I just haven’t been taking all that many pictures! Still I thought this one of a sunset we had whilst I was up in Stirling was a nice one to share.

Favourite Quote From A Book You Read This Spring:

“The funny thing about armor is that it doesn’t just keep other people out. It keeps us in. We build it up around us, not realizing that we’re trapping ourselves.” -The Unbound, Victoria Schwab

I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Unbound, but being a Victoria Schwab book, it still had lots of eminently quotable lines, so I thought I’d share this one as I really liked it.

This Spring in One Word:

Wet! (the weather in the UK has been terrible for most of Spring!).

Most Popular Review of Spring:

I’m super behind in my reviews and I’ve been in a bit of a slump, I’ve only read four books in the period that this Rewind covers and I’ve only reviewed one, I still have a lot of reviews to catch up on! So by default my most popular review of Spring has to be the only book I’ve reviewed and that’s Lore, Alexandra Bracken’s latest release:

Top Two Books I’ve Read This Spring:

Once again, I’ve had a fairly mixed Spring as I’ve been in a reading slump the whole year, but there were two books that I really enjoyed:

  1. Olive, Mabel & Me-Andrew Cotter

Andrew Cotter’s memoir about his two labradors Olive and Mabel was highly entertaining and endlessly funny, so if you love dogs, I highly recommend the audiobook of this one (for the full experience).

2. The Rose Code-Kate Quinn

Once again the narration of this one was brilliant, Saskia Maarleveld really brought this story to life, and it was such a brilliant one, following three female codebreakers at Bletchley Park in WWII. I love historical fiction that focuses on women, particularly female friendships and this one had that in abundance.

Two Things I’m Looking Forward To This Summer:

YES! I FINALLY HAVE THINGS I CAN PUT IN THIS SECTION AGAIN, BECAUSE I ACTUALLY HAVE THINGS COMING UP.

  1. Hairspray

We were meant to go and see Hairspray in London last August, but naturally it was cancelled because of the pandemic. However a year later and Hairspray finally opens today and we have rescheduled tickets to go and see it in August, I think exactly a year from the date that we first had tickets. I’m so excited to see it, not just because we’ve been waiting so long, but also because it will be my first show back in a big West End theatre since lockdown and I CANNOT WAIT. Also I love Hairspray, I saw it on tour back in 2017 and it was so much fun, so I’m super excited to see it again.

2. Back To The Future

Yes, another musical, I’m really making the most of theatre of being back, because I have missed it so much! We have tickets to go see this the week after Hairspray and it sounds really fun, though I do need to actually watch the movie before I go, because believe it or not, I’ve never seen it!

TV Shows I’m Looking Forward To Watching This Summer

Yes, I do still want to keep this section of the post because I’ve had fun talking to you guys about the shows I’m looking forward watching over the past few months, it’s nice to talk about that as well as books because a lot of the time I’m not reading is spent watching TV:

  1. Heartland Season 14-The new series of Heartland comes out on Netflix tomorrow and I’m super excited because we’ve been waiting since it first aired in Canada in January to get it in the UK and it’s one of my favourite shows.
  2. Lupin-The new series of Lupin landed on Netflix a couple of weeks ago, and I’m excited to see how Assane’s adventures turn out in this next part.
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4-The new series of The Handmaid’s Tale finally arrived in the UK yesterday, the first new series that has aired since I binged watched Series 1-3 over lockdown, so I’m excited to see where June goes next and how the revolution against Gilead unfolds.
  4. Breaking The Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet-I always enjoy David Attenborough’s documentaries, so I’m looking forward to watching his new one.
  5. Riverdale S5 (B)-The rest of Riverdale Season 5 is back in August. Is it terrible? Yes. Is it addictive? Also yes. Will I be watching? Of course.

Three New Obsessions This Spring:

  1. Shadow and Bone (Netflix series)-I loved the Shadow and Bone series on Netflix this April, and I’m so excited that they are coming back for S2 (WE GET NIKOLAI EVERYONE!).
  2. Fearless (Taylor’s Version)-I don’t know if this really counts as a new obsession since I’ve loved Fearless for over a decade and I only downloaded the new “From The Vault” songs but I still really love them and I’m super excited to hear Red (Taylor’s Version) later this year. WE’RE GETTING THE TEN MINUTE VERSION OF ALL TOO WELL PEOPLE.
  3. Swab Dogs Of Instagram-Okay, an Instagram account on here is a little bit of a strange one for me, but some of the volunteers at a COVID-testing site in Melbourne, Australia have been taking photos of the dogs of people who come in for testing and made an Instagram account of it and it’s just one of the best things I’ve found this year, seeing pictures of people’s cute dogs just makes me smile!

Five Most Popular Blog Posts This Spring:

In a surprising turn, almost all of my most popular blog posts of this Spring were old reviews of mine, which is really heartening to see, it often feels like my review posts don’t get much love so it’s nice to see that you guys are reading them!

  1. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue Review

I’m not sure why the sudden resurgence of interest in this review since I posted it in November of last year and my reviews tend to have a fairly short shelf life, but I’m pleased that you guys have kept finding this one as I’m always happy to push VE Schwab books on people.

2. Crooked Kingdom Review

I’m not surprised that there has been a resurgence of interest in my Leigh Bardugo reviews following the Shadow & Bone release on Netflix, though weirdly it hasn’t been in my review of Shadow & Bone but other books in the Grishaverse but then I suppose people have been catching up with other books in the Grishaverse too.

3. Ruin and Rising Review

You guys seem to have jumped straight from Book One to Book Three! Either a lot of people wanted spoilers following Shadow and Bone on Netflix as to what might happen in future seasons, or there were a lot of people finally finishing the trilogy in the run up to the show.

4. Queen of Volts Review

My review of Queen of Volts had a fairly small response when I first published it but it seems to have seen a renewed interest in the past few months, which I’m super happy about if it means that more people have been finding and loving the Shadow Game trilogy.

5. Top Ten Tuesday #311

In a Quarterly Rewind first, this is my only Top Ten Tuesday post featured in my most popular list. This one was my Spring Book Covers post, which was a super fun one to compile, so I’m glad that you guys seemed to enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

Four Posts I Enjoyed On This Spring:

I’m always terrible at keeping track of these but here are a few that I enjoyed:

  1. Journalist Lynn Enright wrote this really interesting article for The Independent about the risks of blood clots linked to the Pill and why comparisons to the blood clots potentially linked to the Astra-Zeneca vaccine might not be entirely comparing like with like. I found this super interesting because I don’t feel like the risks surrounding the Pill are really talked about enough and this article did a great job putting that into context.

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/astrazeneca-blood-clots-contraceptive-pill-b1834001.html?r=45747#comments-area

2. Jack Rear did an article for The Telegraph on what people wish they had learned in sex ed growing up and I could definitely relate because my sex ed at school definitely left A LOT out. It’s behind a paywall so you’d have to get a free trial to read it, but it’s definitely worth the read.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/family/relationships/wish-known-sex-growing/

3. This is kind of an old one that Diane Anderson-Mishall wrote for The Advocate but I found it after watching It’s A Sin, it’s about a biography of Freddie Mercury which tracked a biography of his life alongside the history of HIV. It was really interesting and definitely worth a read.

https://www.advocate.com/hiv/2016/11/23/freddie-mercurys-life-story-hiv-bisexuality-and-queer-identity

4. This is also kind of an old one that I found after watching a TV show, Marcie Bianco and Merryn Johns wrote this really interesting piece about how old Hollywood would get secret abortions for their female stars in the 30s-50s, whether they wanted them or not.

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/07/classic-hollywood-abortion

Five Shows I Enjoyed This Spring:

  1. Shadow and Bone

As I mentioned earlier on in this post, I really enjoyed the Netflix adaptation of Shadow and Bone when it came on the platform back in April. Combining it with Six of Crows was definitely a smart move because it managed to take a book I wasn’t actually all that bothered by when I read it and make me really enjoy the adaptation. I’m really looking forward to Season 2, whenever we get that!

2. Lucifer Season 5 Part 2

We finally got the second part of Lucifer Season 5 and it was SO WORTH THE WAIT. I’m still in shock and awe over that ending to be honest and I really cannot wait for the final season to come out, whenever that happens (but also I can because I really don’t want this show to be over).

3. Superstore Season 6

The final season of Superstore arrived in the UK in May, and it was such a lovely end to the series, though I really do wish it had been able to go out on a non-pandemic related series, they did a great job with what they had to work with.

4. Mare of Easttown

Everyone was talking about this show, so I got a trial of NowTV to see what all the fuss was about, and I can definitely see it now. Such a well put together mystery, I really had no idea who the murderer was going to be until about the second to last episode and everyone was brilliant in it, especially Kate Winslet.

5. It’s A Sin

Again following all the hype about it earlier in the year, I finally checked it out in May and WOW. What a beautiful, sad and yet joyous at the same time show.

Six songs I’ve Listened To Way Too Often This Spring:

  1. Mr Perfectly Fine-Taylor Swift

My favourite of the “From The Vault” songs from Fearless, how ridiculous is it that this one didn’t make the original Fearless? SUCH A TUNE.

2. You Belong With Me-Taylor Swift

Yes, I’ve had this one stuck in my head a lot since the release of Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and I’m not sad about it.

3. You Matter To Me-Waitress

One of my favourite songs from the soundtrack, so I listen to it a lot.

4. no body, no crime-Taylor Swift

Hands down my favourite song on evermore.

5. Your Song-Moulin Rouge (original movie soundtrack)

Around the 20th anniversary of the movie coming out, I was listening to the soundtrack quite a lot.

6. That’s When-Taylor Swift

The other Fearless “From The Vault” track that seems to make a lot of appearances on my shuffle.

So there we go, that was my Spring! All in all much better than Winter was, and here’s hoping for an even brighter summer (with more reading hopefully). What have you enjoyed most on my blog this Spring (or Autumn if you’re in the southern hemisphere)? What have you been up to? Let me know in the comments!