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The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

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“Bad fates do not always follow those who deserve them.”

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Angharad’s Thoughts
I have never been one for fairytale stories. I spent my childhood years reading both the Goosebumps series (seriously what happened to those books??) and any crime thriller that my mother brought home from the library and because of this, my knowledge of them is shaky. I just know majority of them take place in the woods. However, when I found out that my favourite author was writing a collection of fairytales with the ‘dark’ edge only Leigh Bardugo can create and they take place in the Grishaverse, I preordered the hell out of it. I was not disappointed.

The collection is split into six tales and each is paired with its own beautiful, amazing illustrations – both as page decorations and a final art spread at the end of each story. Despite loving them all, my favourite would have to be a tie between Ayama and the Thorn WoodWhen Water Sang Fire and my least favourite was Little Knife. Like Leigh states in her author’s note, these stories are loosely based on the fairytales that we all know but despite their dark tones, they are more realistic – the idea that the prince isn’t always the good guy and what makes a monster a monster? Another theme that I found to be very strong throughout these tales was Leigh’s feminist beliefs. This book was full of so many diverse and complex female characters and female friendships. Classic tales such as The Little Mermaid and The Nutcracker are turned on their heads and reimagined in new and spectacular ways and despite being short stories, they were still full of twists and turns and you never knew who was going to be the hero or villain of the story. What was constant, however, was the message that each story contained. You can just imagine our beloved Grisha characters reading these stories as children and growing up with their messages instilled.

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Overall, I think I never fell in love with fairytales because they never seemed real enough – even to my young mind. As we all unfortunately learn, life isn’t a fairytale, the bad guy isn’t always the bad guy and the hero isn’t always what they seem and this little collection that I will cherish for years to come just shows that. These stories cater to the people who look just that bit deeper into these stories and see the darkness that peeks from within. What if the children didn’t wander from the path and find danger but actually find solace? What if the monster was actually the victim and the prince only thought of his greed? What happened to the girls who chose their own destiny over those that were decided for them? All of these questions are answered within the pages of The Language of Thorns and they are all brought to life by Sara Kipin’s illustrations. Truly a full five stars from me.

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Becky’s Thoughts
Unlike Angharad, I have always absolutely adored fairytales (although, especially these days, I do tend to root for the villain – even when I know what’s going to happen to them). Leigh states in her author’s note that the six stories in The Language of Thorns are inspired by fairytales that are known around the world, but turned on their heads – and I have to say, I was way more invested in Leigh’s versions of these classic tales.
My favourites were also Amaya and the Thorn Wood – a story which took inspiration from Beauty and the Beast and to an extent, A Thousand and One Nights, it focused on the ideas behind what makes someone a monster; and When Water Sang Fire, an absolutely enchanting story inspired by The Little Mermaid (and also a sort of origin story for one of my favourite villains – and featuring another of my favourite villains, but I won’t say any more on that). I also really liked The Too Clever Fox and The Witch of Duva (a retelling of Hansel and Gretel) which both included clever twists that I definitely didn’t anticipate.

I would say that the underlying theme throughout all six stories is definitely the idea of what makes a villain evil, what makes them monstrous, and it was definitely all about looking beyond outward appearances to the monster hidden beneath the princely face or the seemingly caring father figure. The stories in The Language of Thorns are how fairytales should be written in a feminist world that understands that happy endings aren’t all that they seem, that the hero of the story isn’t always beautiful, and that those who are called monstrous are often not the ones you need to fear. I absolutely adored this anthology of fairytales set in one of my favourite fictional worlds, and honestly would opt to read these to my future children over the classics that they’re based around.

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What did you think of this collection?
Let us know in the comments!
Love,
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WWW Wednesday // October 11th

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WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that was previously hosted by Should Be Reading and is now hosted by Taking on a World of Words.

To play along you just had to answer the following three questions:

What did you recently finish reading?
What are you currently reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

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I was kindly sent I Danced With Sorrow through email but its very talented author, Alicia Wright. It is a collection of short-verse poetry split into five sections that explore heartbreak, abuse and finally, liberation and is very reminiscent of Milk and Honey and Salt. Some were short and to the point and raw and others flowed lyrically and they all came together, almost like a tale. I’d definitely recommend this collection of poetry either if you are new to the genre or a frequent reader of it. It is clear that Alicia put her heart and soul into this book and I’m honoured to have been given the chance to read it.

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212652304.jpgI must admit that Sleeping Beauties was both a cover-buy (I got the exclusive edition from Tescos that also has an engraved front cover) and the fact that it was written by Stephen King. Despite not having a read a lot of his books, there’s a reason everybody knows his name and this time he is joined by his son. This is a very loose retelling of the Sleeping Beauty tale – in this world, an epidemic is causing women to fall asleep and enter cocoon-like states. This book is filled with characters and luckily, isn’t just about men running about being men but also about all these different types of women – criminals, mothers, police officers. I’m about half way through so far and despite it being a huge block of a book (700+ pages,) it is incredibly enthralling.

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212652304.jpgYes, you may be wondering what decade I’m in to have Fahrenheit 451 as my next read and where have I been for the past few years but I just haven’t got around to it. However, lately my local Waterstones has had a display dedicated to this book so I just went for it. I probably don’t have to tell you guys the synopsis of this classic but it just tells the story of a fireman whose job it is to burn books as they are forbidden in this world. My idea of hell, thank you very much. I’m sure I’ll love it as much as everybody else does so I’m super excited to get into it.


What are you guys currently reading? Let me know in the comments.
Lots of love,
Angharad @
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Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović

Huge thank you to Harper360 for sending me a copy of Wicked Like a Wildfire!

This book has been on my TBR for a loooong time – sibling dynamics, witches that can manipulate beauty, a family curse and set in the Balkans (plus, I have to say, that cover), what’s not to love? I’m glad to say that Wicked Like a Wildfire did not disappoint!

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WLAW follows twins, Iris and Malina, living with their mother in old town Cattaro (Kotor) in Montenegro. Their family passes down a gleam –  a way of manipulating magic – which manifests differently in each woman. Iris can manipulate flowers into fractals, Malina senses moods through song, and their mother Jasmina can bake memories into flavours. Since the girls were young, Jasmina has told them that the three of them are the last of their family, and that it’s not only important to keep their magic a secret, but also vital that they never fall in love. However, when Jasmina is attacked the day after a mysterious stranger who shares their light grey eyes visits their bakery, Iris and Malina must uncover Jasmina’s secrets, and unravel the family curse that they stumble upon when discovering that Jasmina may not have been entirely truthful about her origins.

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First off, I have to say, I absolutely flew through this book! I’ve been in quite a big reading slump over the past few weeks, and WLAW was such a magical, refreshing read, I couldn’t put it down. I adored the setting – having visited some Balkan countries before, I was really interested to read more about folklore from the area, and frankly, I now really want to go to Montenegro at some point! Popović’s choice to include aspects from her Serbian heritage definitely made this book for me, and Montenegro was the perfect magical setting for such a story.

Alongside the setting and world building, I adored the characters. I definitely felt more connected to Iris, since the book was written from her point of view, but I loved reading how different the two girls were – Iris’s tough exterior compared to Malina’s softer personality really complemented each other, and Iris’s constant need to protect Malina fit perfectly with the rest of the book. I have to say, one thing that really stood out to me was Iris’s openness when talking about sex – this is something that I found really refreshing, especially in a YA book. I think it’s so important that talking about sex without the sense of shame or taboo is normalised in YA. However, I don’t think the low key slut shaming that Jasmina often directed towards Iris, in terms of her dress sense and her casual way with guys, was necessary.

Anyway, I absolutely love sister-stories (probably because I got stuck with two brothers) and as much as I loved Iris, I’m definitely hoping for book two to be from Malina’s POV!

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I have to say, I’m a huge wimp when it comes to anything even slightly scary, and parts of this book definitely creeped me out a bit, but as with everything else, this just added to the overall mysticism of the story. The way the family curse tied in with the local folklore tales worked so well, and I definitely didn’t expect that ending at all! I can’t say much else without revealing huge spoilers, but I’m in desperate need of book two right now – I have to know what happens next.

Overall, for me, Wicked Like a Wildfire was made by the relationships throughout it – not only Iris and Malina’s sisterly bond, but also Iris and Jasmina’s strained relationship which is a key focus that’s constantly developing throughout the entire book, the bonds of family members throughout generations, and there’s also a really cute f/f relationship! This was the perfect magical sisterhood book, and I am so excited to read Fierce Like a Firestorm after that plot twist filled ending. I’d definitely recommend picking up this book!

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Love Becky @
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October Recommendations

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So I have been trying to think of a blog post to welcome in the month of October that wasn’t just the same as our one last year – our recommended spooky reads. I was hit with inspiration when I came across a new podcast that fits the whole horror, October vibe and then decided to pair it with book, movie and song recommendations for you, guys. So of course these cover the whole month of October, not just Halloween specifically so I hope you see something you like!

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Autumn leaves under frozen souls,
Hungry hands turning soft and old.
My hero cried as we stood out there in the cold,
Like these autumn leaves I don’t have nothing to hold (x)
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But if I know you, I know what you’ll do
You’ll love me at once
The way you did once upon a dream (x)

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So we have chosen two new releases and one quite old release. However, these books all have an equal amount of witchiness, magic and creepiness. Language of Thorns has added atmospheric illustrations to pair up with their short stories. Frankenstein is a classic for a reason – despite primarily being the birth of the sci-fi genre, it also explores the world of horror and human nature. Wicked Like A Wildfire just screams Autumn with its beautiful, colourful cover and the story is equally as atmospheric and magical.

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As soon as I asked Becky to recommend an Autumnal/Halloween esque film, she basically bit my head off with her answer which was Beetlejuice. She told me to say that Winona Ryder is in it, need she say more? I chose Fantastic Mr. Fox because despite seeing this movie years ago, I still love it to this day and I distinctly remember the autumnal scenes throughout the movie. One of these movies is very cute and the other is a bit more creepy so I like to think we chose both something from both sides of the October period.

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So, you may recognise one of these Podcasts, and the other not so much. Trace is a fairly new podcast which I’d definitely recommend if you’re a fan of true crime and Buzzfeed Unsolved. It follows the case of Maria James who was stabbed to death in 1980 and to this day her killer has never been found. Welcome to Night Vale is definitely a much-loved podcast that is quite frankly bizarre, crazy and amazing. It follows Cecil, a radio broadcaster who tells us the strange events that happen in his small, fictional town of Night Vale. There’s a lot of episodes already out in the world so get started!


 

So that’s it! I hope you find something new for October and even if you don’t, have a Happy Halloween and a lovely, cosy month!
Love Angharad & Becky @
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An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

“You are like a living rose amongst wax flowers. We may last forever, but you bloom brighter and smell sweeter, and draw blood with your thorns.”

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I’ve been really excited for An Enchantment of Ravens for a long time, so when I managed to get an ARC in a twitter trade (thanks again, Kelly!) I was over the moon! This book pulled me right out of my reading slump and is literally the perfect autumnal read.

An Enchantment of Ravens follows Isobel, a portrait artist living in the town of Whimsy, whose citizens mostly serve faeries through their ‘craft’. Isobel is a master of her craft, and is renowned both throughout Whimsy and the faerie courts. However, when Rook, a prince of the autumn court, commissions Isobel to paint him, she makes one deadly mistake – Isobel sees mortal sorrow in Rooks eyes and adds this detail to his painting, a weakness which could cost him his reputation and his crown. Rook then sets off to take Isobel to the autumn court to stand trial for her mistake, but the path through the faerie courts is a dangerous one for mortals to tread.

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So first off, I have to say – I definitely thought I was over faerie books, at least, YA faerie books. An Enchantment of Ravens, however, is unlike any other faerie book I’ve ever read. Although it incorporates all of the usual faerie-lore, such as an aversion to iron, being unable to lie etc, it still managed to be so unique. The faeries of Isobel’s world are unable to create anything seen as human craft (which ranges from painting to cooking, and everything in between) and therefore, they crave it – hence Isobel’s high end clients of the faerie world. I’ve always been a fond artist, and so I loved that Isobel was a painter, and the details of her painting style, method, and even her favoured oil paint colours really are what made this book stand out to me. You really could tell that Margaret Rogerson had done her research when it came to Isobel’s art, as literally no detail from the pigments to the creation of each oil painting was missed out. The descriptions throughout were vivid and beautiful, and I found it incredibly easy to picture Isobel, Rook, and their journey from Whimsy through to the Autumn court.

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I’m not generally a fan of journey books, however, this managed to be a journey book without feeling too much like one for me to get tired of the theme. The majority of the journey focused on character and relationship development, rather than jumping from one path-blocker to the next, and again, this really made the overall story for me.

If I had to give one slight criticism, it’s that I think An Enchantment of Ravens certainly could have benefited from being a bit longer. I believe it’s just about 300 pages long, and I definitely could have read about Isobel and her story for another 200 pages or more! I connected with her as a main character instantly – besides immediately clicking with her love of art, Isobel was a smart, down to earth protagonist, and you all know how much I love strong female characters. The writing was also absolutely beautiful – I cannot stress enough how much each sentence within this book was just perfectly crafted. Unfortunately, I believe that this book is a standalone, however I can say with confidence that I’ll immediately pick up anything else that Margaret Rogerson writes.

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An Enchantment of Ravens is out today and I’d highly recommend that you add it to your autumn TBR!

(PS. we’ve also just released a candle inspired by An Enchantment of Ravens on Two Candle Thieves! Take a look here!)

Love Becky @

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The Red Thread by Dawn Farnham

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I was kindly sent The Red Thread in exchange for an honest review in the blog tour hosted by Monsoon. What drew me to this book was not only it being historical fiction which is a genre that I love, but the fact that it takes place in 1830’s Singapore, an era I have never read about and quite frankly, don’t have any knowledge of. However, after finishing this book, I feel as though I lived in that world, saw its people and smelled the air and visited the places. It is clear that Dawn Furnham researched this book meticulously and although sometimes I felt as though there was too much description, you can’t deny that the world just leapt from the page.
The story follows the interracial relationship between Charlotte, the brother of the head of police and Zhen, a triad member after they meet at sea. The two don’t come together until way over page 100 so this is definitely a slow-burning romance. However, when they finally do, their love, despite all its boundaries, is very clear. The book also features Farnham’s take on real life figures such as Irish architect, George Coleman who is responsible for most of Singapore’s famous structures.

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To summarise, this book isn’t just a love story, it delves into the history of Singapore and its people. Everything is detailed – the clothes they wore, the food they ate. Its beautiful prose is definitely what sets it apart and it is all brought together by the lovely but ultimately tragic love between Charlotte and Zhen. Zhen’s closest friend, Qian is also a wonderful character and his own thoughts are documented on page too. The entire book is filled with interesting and unique characters and the occasional tiger attack. I’d definitely recommend picking up this book that is the first volume in a series if you are interested in this era as you will finish with a whole lot of knowledge you didn’t have before.

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Thank you kindly to Monsoon Books for allowing me to take part in their blog tour and make sure you check out the people listed above to see what they have contributed.

Lots of Love,
Angharad @
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dawnfarnhamAuthor Information 
Dawn Farnham is the author of The Straits Quartet (The Red Thread, The Shallow Seas, The Hills of Singapore and The English Concubine), as well as numerous short stories, plays and children’s books. A former long-term resident of Singapore, Dawn now calls Perth, Australia, home. Her new book, Finding Maria is published in October 2017.
Website: www.dawnfarnham.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/farnhamauthor

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WWW Wednesday // September 20th

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WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that was previously hosted by Should Be Reading and is now hosted by Taking on a World of Words.

To play along you just had to answer the following three questions:

What did you recently finish reading?
What are you currently reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

a-book-i-have-read212652304.jpgI read Good Me, Bad Me in one sitting whilst on a train journey, I wasn’t going to put it down for anybody. It hooked me from the very beginning, the very end line of the prologue gave me chills and I knew I was going to love it. The story follows Milly, previously known as Annie but then was when she was the daughter of her serial killing mother. This book delves into nature vs nurture and if blood really is thicker than water. It doesn’t have a main plot but exploring the mind of Milly who had an horrific childhood and has survived abuse whilst struggling with still being somewhat loyal to her mother is so interesting. It’s definitely a chilling thriller and I’d recommend it 100%.

a-book-i-have-read3.jpgI was kindly sent The Red Thread in exchange for an honest review during a blog tour (my review will be up on Friday!) Despite just hitting the 100 page mark, I’m unfortunately not enjoying it. Although the descriptions are so unique and atmospheric, the entire book is dedicated to them. However, I will say that delving into the world of 1830s Singapore is very interesting as it’s an era I’ve never read about either in fiction or otherwise. More in-depth thoughts will be in my main review!

a-book-i-have-read2.jpgDespite having so many good books in my current TBR, I’m most excited for The Girl with the Red Balloon and have been since it was announced. It just sounds perfect for me, historical fiction mixed with fantasy and magic elements. It sounds both heartbreaking and beautiful and I’m so excited to get into it. I also believe it features both a Romani character and a Jewish-American character so it gets extra points for being diverse. Despite not reading it yet, I’ve heard raving reviews from bloggers I trust so definitely go and check it out if you haven’t already!


 

What are you guys currently reading? Let me know in the comments.
Lots of love,
Angharad @
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