Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Virtue Inverted

Hello, it's Heather posting today. Again, it's quite a short review today as I've been very busy. Many thanks to Dreaming Big Publications for sending this to me in exchange for an honest review.


Author: Piers Anthony and Kenneth Kelly
Published: July 2017
Publisher: Dreaming Big Publications
Length: 142 pages
Genre: Fantasy

Brief Description (from Amazon)

Virtue Inverted is the first novel of a hard-hitting sword and sorcery trilogy by Piers Anthony and Ken Kelly. Benny Clout is a poor mountain boy who has found true love in Virtue the vampire. However, Virtue is not an ordinary vampire; she's actually a very nice girl. Her bites contain extraordinary power, but will that power be enough to combat the evil that awaits them?

This is about a chap named Benny who works in a pub for his friend Jack, where he pines hopelessly for his co-worker Nadia. Everything changes when two menacing strangers entice him into joining them on an adventure.

Benny irked me throughout the book, from his exasperation that Nadia would like a guy that was less attractive than he (because, of course, liking a guy for his personality would be crazy… right?!), to his lack of emotions when his brother randomly left. His shallow and vain attitude made him really difficult to like, in fact I found myself pegging for a giant or vampire to kill him at times. His feelings for Virtue developed remarkably quickly to love, and though I’m glad that he did not take advantage of her, I still thought she appeared more terrified of him than in love. 

However, I did like the paternal styled relationship between Jack and Benny, their friendship was very sweet and protective. I couldn’t spot any notable spelling or grammar mistakes and the presentation of the novel is good, including a map at the start to help track Benny’s adventures. The plot progresses snappily, and there is a good amount of dialogue and description to keep the story moving.

There’s a vast number of women that have descriptions made up mostly of their voluptuous factors. The women rarely engaged in fighting or anything really aside from occasional bar-work, and frequently were introduced naked for some bizarre reason, which made them seem like sexual objects. Furthermore, there’s frequent joking references to sexual abuse, groping and rape – none of which are amusing at all, I wasn't keen of how lightly these issues were treated. There’s also some insinuations that being a less macho man is somehow inferior, which I also disliked.

It’s probably very obvious that this book was not at all to my taste, but that’s not to say that it’s not written well; the description in the prologue being especially lovely. Let me know your thoughts on it below.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Black & White

Hiya, it’s Heather posting today! Hope you’re all having a super summer, I’m not particularly well at the moment so apologies for a shorter than normal review. Many thanks to the author for letting me read this in exchange for an honest review.


Author: Nick Wilford
Published: September 2017
Publisher: Superstar Peanut
Length: 180 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian

Brief Description (from Amazon)

What is the price paid for the creation of a perfect society?

In Whitopolis, a gleamingly white city of the future where illness has been eradicated, shock waves run through the populace when a bedraggled, dirt-stricken boy materialises in the main street. Led by government propaganda, most citizens shun him as a demon, except for Wellesbury Noon – a high school student the same age as the boy.

Upon befriending the boy, Wellesbury feels a connection that he can’t explain – as well as discovering that his new friend comes from a land that is stricken by disease and only has two weeks to live. Why do he and a girl named Ezmerelda Dontible appear to be the only ones who want to help?

As they dig deeper, everything they know is turned on its head – and a race to save one boy becomes a struggle to redeem humanity.


This novel is set in a spotless society (they’d despise my house) called Whitopolis in which even the word dirt is confusing to the citizens. One day, a kid named Mallinger from another place suddenly appears there – and this boy is covered in dirt, so naturally the citizens are terrified and condemn him as a ‘demon’. Meanwhile, Wellesbury is bored of how routine and perfectionistic their lifestyle is, so talk of a ‘demon’ intrigues him and he decides to investigate.

I found the concept of living in an immaculate society really creative. There’s no illness, most people live until they’re a hundred, and everything is fairly uneventful. This did rub off on some of the characters too. With the exception of Wellesbury, Ezmerelda and Tindleson, everyone living there seemed content with their lives yet were distant, passive and dull, almost lacking any energy. Wellesbury was a good protagonist; I really liked how innocent he was, harbouring a sweet crush for Ezmerelda and wanting to help Mallinger, but also struggling with his peers as school. Ezmerelda was animated and passionate, her bravery and thirst for justice making her very likable and a strong character. To be honest, I felt that Tindleson was introduced too late on in the book and seemed to very suddenly gain the trust of Wellesbury and Ezmerelda.  

“Her eyes had colour. Her skin had colour. Ezmerelda longed for more colour in her world.”

Sometimes, I found myself yearning for just a little more imagery – it’s particularly hard in fantasy and science fiction books because the reader needs to feel convinced that the place could exist. It’s the little things like the shade of the paving slabs, descriptions of the hovercars and food, did they have garages? Was there any fake grass or stone patches or was the outside completely concrete? Did they have windows and statues? Teensy details like the sound of one’s footsteps on different materials can really help to develop a sense of realism for the reader. The whole concept of eradicating anything vaguely unclean does make one question how toddlers were dealt with pre-toilet-training stage and whether dust was an issue. Were paint stains frowned upon? I know that a certain amount of information should be left to the imagination, but I’m a curious person and the idea of Whitopolis sparked my interest, so these questions bugged me.

I enjoyed this novel, but felt it needed just a little bit more description. The grammar was flawless, though there was an overuse of ellipses at the start. If you’ve read it, let me know your thoughts below!  

Monday, 14 August 2017

I am Wonder

Hey guys! It's Lydia here! I wrote this poem a few days ago. This is for anyone who has felt self doubt and worthlessness, and especially since exam results will be released very soon. I know its difficult, and I myself struggle with self belief. Writing this poem made me feel powerful and needed, and not purposeless.

Mist is all around – a suffocation of success.
The white contortions pushing deep,
Deep under nameless graves.
I am nobody. I mean nothing – they all whisper.

A thrashing waterfall, cold droplets like tiny daggers,
Weighing on back.
Metal threads pierce veins, bating to rise.
I am nobody. I mean nothing – she whispers.

Great folds of ivy, cursing, snapping and growing.
Rippling claws swipe at limps,
A monster of spitting green poison, a driving darkness.
I am nobody. I mean nothing – he whispers.

Cages of bone – the scentless persons of defeat.
Bound in mistakes and endless questions.
A silent jet of disbelief.
I am nobody. I am nothing – they repeat.

It takes a flicker. To change, to jump, to run.
One thought in ignition – to become possibilities.
An infinite candle in conceiving wonder.
Rising in simplicity, climbing shadows to swallow wholeness,
Feeding the wax of hearts.
I am someone. I mean everything. I feel wonder – they all scream.  

Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Year of the Flood

Hello, it’s Heather here. Lydia lent me this novel earlier, and after finishing it I just had to write about it! I had no idea that this was the second of the trilogy until after reading it, though from the comments I’ve read online this seems to be linked, but not necessarily attached, to its predecessor. There are sexual and violent themes in this book so it’s probably best for under-eighteens not to read it.


Author: Margaret Atwood
Published: September 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury (UK), McClelland & Stewart (Canada)
Length: 448 pages
Genre: Speculative/Dystopian/Feminist Fiction

Brief description (from Goodreads)

"The Year of the Flood" is a dystopic masterpiece and a testament to Margaret Atwood's visionary power.

The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God's Gardeners--a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life--has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God's Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible.

Have others survived? Ren's bioartist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers . . .

Meanwhile, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo'hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through this strange new world, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move. They can't stay locked away . . .

By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful, and uneasily hilarious, "The Year of the Flood" is Atwood at her most brilliant and inventive


Boldly inventive as always, Atwood definitely succeeded in crafting an eerie story following two women that join a religious group called the Gardeners and following their lives before and after, and how they manage to survive the man-made, water-less 'flood'.

The narrative is a little messy at times, sometimes I had to flick back to check what time the chapter was set in and whether it was Ren or Toby. I think it might have worked better starting from the beginning, instead of year twenty-five. Every now and then, there’s a speech given by Adam One on a special event or day. At the start of the book, these really confused me, I had no idea what they meant in the context of the book, nor did I know who most of the referenced characters were. Had I read this novel for analytical or educational purpose, as oppose to leisure, I would probably have actually read these bits, but instead I found myself skipping past it to get to the narrative. These were bits were followed by hymns – which would have been a lovely touch – but again, I wanted to stay attached to the story, and it’s much better to hear or sing a hymn than to read it, so they were normally skipped too! In true Atwood style, when it ends you expect there to be another page or chapter; maybe the last novel in the series covers all the unanswered questions.

Like in The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood includes charming little touches to her writing, for instance Toby contemplating the word daybreak and whether the sun or the night are splitting. Her writing remains as bold as ever, venturing into some dark and sensitive themes and using a lot of symbolism. I’d rather not get too bogged down on the whole meat debate as it’s pretty controversial for everyone, but I did find it interesting to look at, despite Ren and Toby’s view being overly one-sided in terms of religion (consider that Jesus frequently ate meat). I was reading up on Atwood earlier and it’s mentioned that she links meat-eating to sexual oppression sometimes, so perhaps this was done on purpose to show how, as women, they were oppressed. Utilising this idea, it’s no wonder that the SecretBurgers (a blend of whatever meat, and sometimes fingernails, could be found) made several appearances; maybe a symbol for the disturbing presentation of sex.

The world itself felt tiny, main characters running into one another so frequently that I wondered if Atwood was doing this to infer fate or just a lot of coincidences in a small place. As characters go, I’ll admit that sometimes Nuala and Pilar somehow got muddled up in my head, the Gardeners being similar in dialogue, but this kind of made me think that the bee hive was a symbol for them – moving as one with the same flow of thoughts. Little Ren was very sweet and easily influenced by Amanda; I really liked how Atwood wrote Ren’s guilt and sense of betrayal as she grew up, sometimes finding their lifestyle difficult and yearning to dress like the other children did. Zeb was a powerful character, filling a role as a fatherly figure to Ren, which the novel was otherwise pretty absent from, aside from perhaps Toby being maternal towards her. I liked how the novel portrayed friendship as more powerful than romantic love.

This brings me onto the next subject: sexual and romantic love. Throughout the novel, Toby is described by Ren as the dry witch, completely un-sexual and hardcore. I really think this demonstrated the way that Blanco’s abuse of her destroyed her sense of sexuality, contaminating the very idea of romance. Ren herself has some bad experiences with love as well, and it’s written wonderfully, really illustrating the many ways love can hurt you. All in all, romantic love is presented as painful and damaging.

Perhaps this is what makes the narrators both feel so isolated. Ren is quiet, but in her head, it’s obvious that she’s having to deal with a lot of issues alone and unsupported in a truly selfless manner. Toby also comes across as isolated, feeling abandoned regularly by those she loved and having to hide her own doubts to fit in. It was fascinating to see how Toby settles into the Gardeners, particularly as she frequently expresses a difficulty to believe like they do, and yet she finds herself at home there. The theme of disguise and concealment was another element that Atwood presents as important. Toby is constantly trying to blend into the background, be it by joining the Gardeners to escape from Blanco, and by physically changing her appearance. This idea almost makes unique identity and individuality appear negative, making even the self lonely.

Personally, I found the novel difficult to initially get into and the structure a little awkward, but it’s definitely worth persisting with. The storyline itself develops nicely, making it enticing and scary to read. 

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Jane Eyre

Hey everyone! Its Lydia here. I finished Jane Eyre yesterday and thought I'd voice my views on the well beloved classic.

Author: Charlotte Bronte
Published: 16th October 1847
Publisher: Smith, Elder and Co
Pages: 448
Genre: Romance, Gothic, Romantic

Description (from Amazon)
Jane Eyre ranks as one of the greatest and most perennially popular works of English fiction. Although the poor but plucky heroine is outwardly of plain appearance, she possesses an indomitable spirit, a sharp wit and great courage.

She is forced to battle against the exigencies of a cruel guardian, a harsh employer and a rigid social order. All of which circumscribe her life and position when she becomes governess to the daughter of the mysterious, sardonic and attractive Mr Rochester.

However, there is great kindness and warmth in this epic love story, which is set against the magnificent backdrop of the Yorkshire moors. Ultimately the grand passion of Jane and Rochester is called upon to survive cruel revelation, loss and reunion, only to be confronted with tragedy.


I've had Jane Eyre on my bookshelf for some time and I started to read it at the beginning of this year. However, I only got about a third of the way through before school work intervened. But my sister this year bought me a really lovely limited edition of the novel for my birthday, so I said to myself, "come on, now that you've got the time, you have to read Jane Eyre".

Jane Eyre is a novel with quite complex language, so if you're new to reading classics, I would perhaps start off with an easier book, like Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, or 20th century classic like The Great Gatsby or To Kill a Mocking Bird, which are some of my personal favourites. I urge this as the first time I started to read some of Jane Austen's novels, I was around twelve or thirteen, and for good part of the time, I didn't understand the language.

Now, like in all my reviews I like to discuss aspects I both liked and disliked within the book. The first quality I enjoyed about Jane Eyre was Bronte's creation and style of narrative. The first person narrator (Jane herself) has a welcoming and polite tone, as she directly addresses the reader occasionally, creating a confidant relationship between the narrator and reader, forming a close and personal atmosphere. This adds wonderfully to the plot and direction of the story, as Jane is retelling her life experiences.

Jane is a lovely character: she's strong minded, independent and direct in speech - qualities I find in myself, and it seems other people find compelling in other reviews I've read. The characters traits are quite interesting given the time and age of the book. As I've written above in the details, Jane Eyre was published in the 19th century, and directness and openly opinionated women weren't seen to be very attractive (but that seems to be a different case in the book, I'll discuss this further down). It's additionally evermore curious that Bronte published the novel under a male name, Currer Bell. As a reader, I can see that Bronte was able to secretly express her personal characteristics while avoiding the female hypocrisy in society.

Judgement is something that Jane is confronted with all her life, with her Aunt Reed (her legal guardian), at school and even by some of the minor characters of the book. From a little girl, Jane has been cruelly judged. Personally, I think she is judged for many reasons, all very unreasonable, but mainly because she is forthright and expresses her opinions. Most women of that time didn't directly challenge people, as society would have seen it to be unfeminine. However, when Jane meets Mr Rochester, I think that it's what he likes most about her, that she openly speaks her mind.

Continuing with Mr Rochester, I'm brought to the theme of love and passion in the novel. It is clear, not at first, that Jane and Mr Rochester love each other. But what I like about their romance is that it isn't based on their physical appearance, which a great deal of Romantic novels are based upon. The couple fall in love because they find each other equally unattractive. At the beginning, it is made quite clear that Jane isn't beautiful, other characters and Mr Rochester even expresses that she is 'plain' looking, yet equally Jane comments that Mr Rochester isn't an attractive being either, and occasionally tells the reader he is ugly. This conveys that they love each other for sense of conversation and intelligence, and the colloquial term 'it's what's on the inside that matters'. This gives a certain warmth and sentimentality to their relationship throughout the novel. However, there are some moments in the story where I thought Mr Rochester to be quite an abusive lover, not physically, but mentally. He tricks Jane into jealousy, becomes possessive and becomes quite aggressive when he doesn't get his way. Yet he does openly express he loves Jane and doesn't convince or force her to marry him, like another marital interest attempts to do.

The last aspect I enjoyed about Jane Eyre was the Gothic side to the novel. Amongst all the beautiful pastoral language were dense and dark concepts. There is a sense of supernaturalism at the beginning, and scenes of morbidity and horror. I really enjoyed these moments, as it gave the novel a balance of both affection and hatred, as well as light and dark sentiments. I'm a big Gothic reader, I studied Frankenstein and Dracula for my coursework in my A levels, but even when I was slightly younger I enjoyed reading The Woman in Black and I'm the King of the Castle, which I studied for GCSE. These are all brilliant books, and if you like horror books, I'd give these a read next.

I hope you enjoyed my review of Jane Eyre! Sorry if it was very long, I had a lot to say about this wonderful book.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Tainted Blood: Face Your Demons

Hey, it’s Heather! I’m reviewing this horror novel today, please be aware that the book features a lot of violence so is definitely not suitable for under eighteens. Many thanks to the author for letting me read in in exchange for an honest review.


Author: Nina Hobson
Published: June 2012
Publisher: Self-published
Length: 149 pages
Genre: Horror

Brief description (from Amazon)

“Have you seen anyone around?”
“That’s me,” stated Ron with no outward expression.
“What?” Jennifer’s sure she hadn’t heard him right.
“That’s me…ummm, he’s me. I can’t explain it Jennifer but ever since last night, I’ve felt funny, like something in me is missing. I think it’s…I’m following us.”

* * *

Ron Davis’s statement was enough to scare the crap out of Jennifer Holden, his best friend, because she’d been seeing things too -- especially in the back in the back room off the kitchen. The one her parents had forbidden Jennifer and her little brother to enter…which was okay by her since she’d no intention of stepping one foot in there.

That is until her terminally ill cousin takes up residence in it setting in motion a horrific turn of events; putting her and the entire town in mortal danger.

Tainted Blood: Face Your Demons is book one in a four book series of high school to adult, paranormal horror novellas. Action packed, suspenseful, thrilling yet sensitive, this first installment brings beings from two opposing dimensions together under one roof.

Imagine the specter from your worst nightmare adopting and trying to raise two sweet, young teens; trying to keep them safe while something dark and dangerous stalks and ravages the natives of Cleveland and you’ll have all you need to read this new urban horror classic.


The plot was fast-paced and interesting throughout. The perspective changed a lot, but it was always clear which character the reader was following. The title itself also links into the story, which I thought was quite clever. There were some grammatical errors, like ‘to’ and ‘too’ being mixed up, and sometimes more commas being needed, but these were minor so didn’t really affect the read. The more violent scenes had the best description, making it chilling and disturbing, which is what you want to achieve for a horror book, though I did feel it was over the top quite a lot (I don’t read much horror, so was cringing even at the less gross bits to be fair). It might have been better to build up to the ‘worst’ deaths, instead of retaining the graphic and gory methods of slaughter through the entire novel. I was also astonished at the lack of attention from other people given to the killings. Had a young lad been beheaded near me, I’m pretty sure my family would have banished me from leaving the house unsupervised for at least a week (bearing in mind I’m an adult and these were twelve/thirteen year-olds), then again I guess their own house was hardly safer.

Whilst I do appreciate the author trying to include LGBT+ characters in their literature, I wasn’t a massive fan of Angie’s crush on Jennifer. Angie’s infatuation with her was definitely overly creepy and worthy of a restraining order; particularly when she brushes her hand near Jennifer’s private area on her thigh, which bordered on sexual harassment given all the signs Jennifer had given her to stop flirting. I’m unsure on whether it was written like this to appear somehow romantic or if it was meant to disturb the reader. I also was perplexed at the friendship between Jennifer and Ron. If any of my friends crushed a baby bird to death, regardless of the fact nature would probably kill it eventually, I would have had very stern words with them. Even Jennifer herself was a somewhat dislikeable character, from the first chapter she presented herself as arrogant, claiming to be too smart and good for Cleveland. These aren't critiques of the writer though - I disliked all the characters in Wuthering Heights but enjoyed the novel nonetheless, sometimes having very flawed characters can make the read more relatable. Though the descriptions of each character were definitely good in providing clear images for the reader. Also, Tom was absolutely adorable, the sweetest little brother ever, his bond with his sister was lovely.

As I said earlier, the change in perspective was interesting in seeing how the plot was developing for different characters, and it was clear whose perspective one was reading as well. Aside from Mr. Mitschell, I thought the writer could have changed the writing style itself more depending on the character; even if it was simply by adding longer and more eloquent words for the older characters. It was especially impressive that the evil demon things had a language though. I was a little bit confused to come across some scenes that were sexual, given that we had been told on our submission form not to expect this at all. Although, the sexual content is not too graphic and can be skimmed through quickly if anyone else out there feels uncomfortable reading this type of stuff, most of it is implicit. Emotionally, I still felt like there could have been further development. If someone close to a character dies, particularly in a torturous way, they are going to feel upset for a long time. Honestly, I’d have liked to have seen several pages (even a chapter or two) devoted to describing the utter misery the characters were in, the children especially would have been traumatised. Again, this is my personal opinion, many people prefer to have a snappy plot than to see the emotional side of characters.

Given the violent nature of this book, I’d have to advise it for over eighteens that don’t mind a lot of blood and painful ways to die. It’s a short novella – I finished it in one afternoon without any problems, and certainly is not dull, though was perhaps a little too gory for me!

Monday, 7 August 2017


Hey guys it's Lydia here! I finished Outlander a few days ago and I have a few views and opinions I'd like to express.

Author: Diana Gabaldon
Published: 1st June 1991
Publisher: Arrow
Pages: 864
Genre: Historical fiction, fiction, romance

Small description (from Amazon)

1946, and Claire Randall goes to the Scottish Highlands with her husband Frank. It’s a second honeymoon, a chance to learn how war has changed them and to re-establish their loving marriage.
But one afternoon, Claire walks through a circle of standing stones and vanishes into 1743, where the first person she meets is a British army officer - her husband’s six-times great-grandfather.

Unfortunately, Black Jack Randall is not the man his descendant is, and while trying to escape him, Claire falls into the hands of a gang of Scottish outlaws, and finds herself a Sassenach - an outlander - in danger from both Jacobites and Redcoats.

Marooned amid danger, passion and violence, her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives.


Outlander as a whole was a fantastic read, even though I'm going to discuss aspects of the book I didn't enjoy, generally it was an exciting read all the way through.

Again like in my last review, I would recommend this book to readers who are aged eighteen and above, because there's quite a lot of sexual language.

The time settings of the book (there are two) are very interesting, as at the beginning the story is set after the Second World War, a time of peace and tranquility, where society was trying to rebuild their lives after six years of horrific war. But Clair, our narrator is transported back in time to the 18th century, a completely different and perhaps brutal society. However, another view could be that Clair is transported back into a similar atmosphere of the war, and evermore reflects her 20th century life in the progress of the Battle of Culloden (16th April 1746). The time difference may have been created by Gabaldon to convey how decorum has changed over the years, and that peoples attitude towards one another became less harsh and savage.

The plot was well structured and written, keeping myself as a reader full of excitement and anticipation for what was next to come. This can also be said about the characters. While I actually read the book by listening to the audio version, I felt that I more vividly imagined and heard the characters when they spoke to one another, as through their voices and dialogue I could understand their sense of character. Like the Harry Potter series, Outlander has many characters, and all are explored and used well in the journey the reader takes with Clair into the new and scary world of the past. My favourite character is Clair, as I think she is for many readers. I enjoyed her as a character and a narrator because although she is launched into a new place, her sense of self and character doesn't change. She is still the same strong-minded, determined, passionate and kind-hearted person she was in 1946 and 1743.

My other favourite character is Jamie Fraser. Although I dislike some of the aspects the character is involved in (which I will comment on further on), he really is  brilliant. I felt that I couldn't write a review about Outlander without discussing Jamie. As a reader and writer, I have connections with characters, and I feel like he is a genuine person and very down to earth; Gabaldon has created someone unique. I won't say too much about him, as I like to keep my reviews as spoiler free as possible. But my favourite aspect I like about Jamie, is that for most of the part, he treats people with respect.

That brings me into the romance of the book. The love interest in Outlander is gradual, and this make the story feel more realistic and personal, in some books the romance is really corny, like 'I saw her face and knew that I would love her forever'. However, you watch Jamie and Clair become friends, lovers and then soulmates. This is in retrospect with the TV series. Although I do love the live action version of the characters, I felt that there wasn't enough awkwardness in the TV series as there was in the book (as Clair and Jamie married for practical reasons), and that the characters on screen adapted to each other as a married couple too quickly.

On the flip side of romance, I'm going to discuss the sexual assaults and manipulations in Outlander. While reading these horrific moments, and becoming enraged and pitiful for the characters, I feel that Gabaldon, again has included these interactions and descriptions in her book because she wants to get her readers to understand the low treatment people had of each other. While it is mostly men of women, we do encounter a reversal, the reader shall also feel and understand the shame and isolation of sexual assault other from a female perspective. I just disliked the way some of the male characters spoke to women. Even when Jamie and Clair are married, he became brutish and used sadism against her, and plainly because it was how husbands disciplined their wives (I know I sound negative about Jamie, but honestly he does love Clair). I can understand the marital customs of the time, but it was hard for me to listen to as a 21st century reader. However, as I have said before, perhaps the writer has pushed the reader into hard and uncomfortable situations between people, because she is trying to mirror current treatment men and women have of each other, and perhaps it doesn't differ so much as it did almost three hundred years ago.

I hope you like my review of Outlander, and I also hope I didn't spoil any of the book for you. It was a historical and loving read.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Robinson Crusoe

Hello, this is Heather! Since my Tuesday postings are usually honest reviews of books that we get sent in (if I keep up with my schedule, which is rare), I’ve decided to spend Thursdays writing about any other piece of writing that sparks my interest. It’s going to be more informal and rambling-styled, because I’m exhausted by this time in the week. Despite taking an A-Level in maths, I keep thinking that sixteen comes after seventeen today, which is a little worrying. It seemed proper to start this with what could possibly have been the first English-written novel (with a lot of debate around the topic, for instance Beware the Cat by Baldwin is a strong contender, funny title given that the protagonist of this one is rather cruel to cats), Robinson Crusoe. 

To say I enjoyed this novel would be perhaps an exaggeration. I actually read the first chapter on holiday and found it so dreary that I put it down and decided not read it again. Like Robinson himself, I went against my word and drudged through it with the aid of an ASMR rainy room to exude the whole stormy atmosphere.

Alright, so it’s crucial to note that Defoe didn’t have all the resources writers do today – on almost every writing tips list, it’s highlighted that reading a variety of novels is vital. 1719? Well, life was somewhat different to 2017; Defoe himself having lived through the Plague, the Great Fire of London and the raid on Medway. His mother sadly did pass away when he was ten, and it’s highly probably that he was familiar with death given that only three houses survived the Great Fire of London in his neighbourhood including his own. England itself prosecuted anyone that involved in a religion outside of the Church of England, so it’s likely that Defoe was familiar with the Bible, which is echoed further in Robinson Crusoe. Obviously, the amazing Shakespeare had been around before Defoe was born, perhaps the Tempest influenced the whole island theme, this is all speculation as no one knows for sure. What we do know is that Daniel Defoe was born with the surname Foe, probably adding the ‘De’ on to sound more aristocratic, he was awful with money, being in enormous debt regularly, and other than writing, he also worked as a spy and pamphleteer. Normally I wouldn’t include so much context, but honestly without all that it’s difficult to appreciate the depth of the novel. 

For a modern audience, it’s pretty difficult to actually like Robinson. As a protagonist, he’s infuriating. Like Victor Frankenstein, he spends a long time loitering in a state of self-pity and commits himself to doing something stupid that everyone and God disapproves of. Everyone warns Robinson not to go to sea, and when he does go, his first voyage is such a fiasco that he initially views it as a sign from God that he should stay away from the sea, but being the stubbornly romantic idiot that he is, he does indeed sail again. His adventures get a little more exciting than a rebellion against the family and feeling awfully sea sick when he gets enslaved for a couple of years, breaking out with Xury, who I saw as a symbol for an angel or at least some rationality. Naturally, Robinson messes up a lot more, I won’t spoil the plot, but I think we all know that he inevitably winds up on an ‘uninhabited island’ that is actually used by cannibals to kill and eat their next meal. If you didn’t know that then frankly it’ll be a kind spoiler, I spent the majority of the book awaiting the cannibals. Eventually, I’m relieved to say that he is low on ink and thence cannot waffle nearly as much, making it all much more bearable. So, Robinson is stubborn, stupid, defiant against anyone that cares about him, kills several people (admittedly sometimes this is, arguably, justified) and pretty treacherous too. Oh, and he also drowns countless numbers of kittens who clearly just want a cuddle. Yup. I know, there are several rude words that I reserve for such kitten-slayers as he. I will never look at Robinson fruit juice without remembering Crusoe.

Naturally, in an older book, there are some ideas and words that are now offensive utilised, given the date of publication this really shouldn’t be penalised. I’d love to show Defoe how different our societies are. Really, what I found the most astonishing thing was the fact that Robinson apparently never really needs to use the loo or shower on this island of his. With that being said, writing usually leaves out such details, note how Harry Potter is basically told by Cedric to take a bath in the fourth book. Some of the topics discussed are actually really interesting – despite being dislikeable, Robinson has some thoughtful moments, then again, I guess we all would if we were on an island alone for so long. My favourite was the debate over cannibalism; is it wrong for someone to kill a fellow human if they think of it as normal and acceptable? Like I said earlier, it’s also important to remember that thanks to Daniel Defoe, novels became far more popular after Robinson Crusoe was publicised. Furthermore, it probably served as inspiration towards several castaway and desert island books. If ever anyone has found themselves on an uninhabited island and is familiar with the novel, this novel could potentially save their life, they’d know to lookout for cannibals. 

However, I feel like if this book could be a masterpiece if only we could scrub it, washing off the irrelevant and dull paragraphs of Robinson complaining or telling us again and again about how he’s building a fence. If the reader takes the time to analyse the novel, it’s pretty clear that Defoe has mastered the fundamentals of being human, letting Robinson fully express regret, sadness, guilt and confusion, and understand how simple our society could be, our needs being purely to eat, drink and retain good health. I’ve read several reviews that state that he has no character development and honestly, I really disagree with this. As the novel progressed, Robinson became less ignorant and more patient, valuing of the companions he had rather than discarding them and realising the futility of money when you only have the basic tools to survive with (perhaps something Defoe did to make his gigantic debt feel less stressful). Another plus point is that this is simply an adventure book. There’s no romance, no fantasy, no mystery, and it’s getting rather rare to find novels that fit snugly in one category. He’s adventuring not only literally but also spiritually; through meeting Friday in particular, he realises what his religion means and wonders why God allows certain actions.

Whilst I cannot say I loved this book, I can definitely appreciate the amount it's done in allowing us to understand humanity, stripping us back to basic needs, and for literature as a whole. If anyone wants to share their view on the novel, please do comment below.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Smugglers & Scones: Volume 1 (Moorehaven Mysteries)

Hey, it’s Heather here! Today I’m doing an honest review for Scones and Smugglers, a murder-mystery novel, hope you all enjoy.


Author: Morgan C. Talbot
Published: January 2017
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Length: 222 pages
Genre: Mystery, Detective Fiction

Brief description (from Amazon)

Pippa Winterbourne runs Moorehaven, the Oregon Coast’s quirkiest bed-and-breakfast and former home of world-famous mystery writer A. Raymond Moore. Guests come there to write their own crime novels. When a real-life murder takes a local’s life and washes a handsome boat pilot into her arms, Pippa is yanked into a deadly plot of her own. A tangle of secrets crashes past into present, and Pippa must uncover clues dating back to Seacrest’s Prohibition days, including a secret Moore himself hid from the world. Juggling her book-writing guests, small-town intrigues, secret club agendas, and a possibly fatal attraction, Pippa must sort fact from fiction to know who to trust before a desperate killer claims a final revenge nearly a century in the making.
Hey, it’s Heather here! Today I’m doing an honest review for Scones and Smugglers, a murder-mystery novel, hope you all enjoy.


Scones, friendship and a murder mystery, what more could anyone want in a book! The plot was good; from learning about Pippa’s usual day working at the bed and breakfast, to the murder solving bits, it was a nice measure of fun and serious stuff. I really liked how the history of the people and the town linked into the story – and no, I did not guess who the culprit was, so the last few chapters were quite a surprise for me. Writing style throughout was friendly with nice splashes of description and humour every now and then. I especially liked the references to Hermione’s patronus and Doctor Who. Each chapter begins with a Raymond Moore quote – the fictitious mystery writer who the bed and breakfast used to home – which was a charming touch. I was also pleased with the sensitive way depression and suicide was mentioned, showing that despite Pippa being mostly recovered now, the suicide of her roommate still impacted her massively.

The characterisation was good, Pippa in particular making herself an appealing protagonist with her welcoming and empathetic personality. I loved the scone recipe in the back and will certainly be making a batch later on in the summer, I certainly felt a craving for them as I read. The entire concept of running a bed-and-breakfast solely for authors was wonderful. From their breakfast games to the way they picked up on certain phrases and words, I adored the bunch, and was thoroughly entertained with how their innocent curiosity to research led to some troublesome situations. In fact, the book involves a wealth of lovely characters without getting confusing or too stereotypical at any point. The community itself is really nice to get to know, and I’m sure that we’ll hear back from many of the characters in books to come. There was also a theme of friendship throughout, something very underrated in novels that made the read endearing. I’ve included my favourite quote, and my excuse for giving my besties the pet name scone.

“Scones are the edible version of a lifelong friend. They’re full of amazing things. They can adapt to any circumstance. And they’ll never let you down with some weird kind of cream-filling surprise.”

The only aspect I was less keen on was the romance between Pippa and Lake, which I felt was a little rushed. Detective fiction and romance are always difficult to mingle because the reader is in a constant sense of suspicion about who the murderer could be, therefore making it difficult for the reader to happily anticipate the protagonist growing close with anyone. In Beaton’s Agatha Raisin books, it took a really long time for Agatha and her attractive neighbour James to become a couple, even at that stage their relationship was unsteady, the snooping detective life being hard to balance with life and love. Given that Lake was found at the scene of the murder without any memories of what happened, I’d have been extremely cautious about romancing him, so was rather surprised at how rapidly they got to the kissing stage and did not warm to his character. As the series continues and his character develops, however, I’m sure I’ll like him more; I’m rather hoping for a Tommy and Tuppence styled relationship to divulge.

Many thanks to the author for letting me read this. I'm pretty excited about reading the rest of the series when it comes out. If you’ve read this, let me know your thoughts below (and if you guessed who the killer was, because I could not have been more wrong about my initial prediction)!