Three Bookish Things Tag

I don’t normally do these types of posts but I had fun thinking up the answers for this one, thanks to Hundreds & Thousands of Books for nominating me. I can’t find a comprehensive list of rules or the original prompt creator so I’ll just press on. Feel free to have a go!

Three Bookish Goals for 2021:

Read 50 Books (22/50)

Read at least 5 Non-Fiction books (1/5)

Read What I Own (Failing miserably at this one, my TBR is already an avalanche risk, and I keep adding to it)

Three Favourite Authors:

Leigh Bardugo

Emily Bronte

Daphne du Maurier

Three Characters I Love:

Inej Ghafa (Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom) – I love that Inej is a survivor who overcomes some really traumatic experiences and finds a new purpose. I also love that she expects her love interest to try to overcome his own traumas if he wants to be with her, and she’s willing to walk away rather than settle.

Father Chains (the Gentleman Bastards series) – this mysterious figure adopts orphans (including Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen) in order to educate and train them into becoming the most cunning con artists, he also appears to know everyone worth knowing and everyone from the nobility to criminals respects him. Father Chains is only shown in flashbacks in the series, but I’d love to read more about him.

Irene Winters (The Invisible Library series) – Irene is such a lovable and relatable heroine, a member of a Secret Society of Librarians travelling around alternate worlds collecting rare books, she’s resourceful, brave, principled and self-deprecating.

Three Weirdest Things I’ve Used for Bookmarks:

Receipts, tickets and a pressed leaf.

Three Favourite Covers:

Three Titles I’ve Watched But Not Read:

The Lord of the Rings

The Umbrella Academy

The Never Ending Story (this was my favourite film as a child and it’s a short book so I really don’t have any excuses)

Three Series I’ve Binged:

The Chronicles of Narnia

The Hunger Games

Shadow and Bone

Three Unpopular Bookish Opinions:

It might be because I worked in a bookshop for years but rainbow shelves, and worse, books with the spines hidden and pages facing out, make my fingers itch, sure it looks good but how on Earth do you find anything?!

I’m a paperback reader and while I appreciate the aesthetic value of a special edition hardback, it really annoys me that hardbacks and ebooks are usually released at the same time but the paperback comes out a year later, grrr.

I’m put off by long-running series. There are obviously exceptions, but I much prefer a concise little trilogy, duology or even a standalone novel to a series that goes on and on. I think stories should leave you wanting more, not wondering if the author will finish the series before they die. ☠️

Three Nominations:

Laura at Freedom and Flour

Jess at Beyond the Front Cover

Nicole at Nicole’s Book Thoughts

Have a lovely weekend! X

A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos

AWintersPromise

A Winter’s Promise is the first in ‘The Mirror Visitor Quartet’ and follows Ophelia, a member of the Animist clan who is betrothed against her wishes to Thorn, a stranger from another clan on a different Arc (one of the floating islands featured on the cover). No sooner does Ophelia arrive on Thorn’s Arc than she finds herself caught in the midst of political intrigues between feuding clans, with her future in-laws proving to be every bit as devious and vicious as their enemies.

Ophelia has the unusual abilities of being able to read the history of an object by touching it and to travel through mirrors. Despite her abilities, Ophelia is such an unlikely heroine, a mumbling, clumsy and socially awkward slip of a girl, but she proves to be brave, determined, resourceful and honest, and I’m looking forward to seeing how she develops through the series.

TheMirrorVisitor

This was originally written in French, and the translation is generally very smooth with a few exceptions where the author used terms like trompe l’oeil that don’t have a clear translation and remain in French, which felt slightly jarring.

A Winter’s Promise is such a strange and whimsical story that it’s hard to describe; it’s not typical fantasy, there aren’t any great battles or epic quests, yet the plot trots along and there were enough twists to keep me hooked until the end. This quirky story is populated with such eccentric and scheming characters that it reminded me of a cross between Jane Austen and Gormenghast. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I thoroughly enjoyed A Winter’s Promise and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what happens next. Have a lovely week. X

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

I’ve been reading in fits and starts since my daughter was born, a few pages here or a chapter there during her feeds and naps, but this was such a short, gripping story that I read it in a couple of sittings.

Ten year old Harvey Swick is bored, when one dreary February day he’s visited by a strange creature called Rictus who invites him to visit the mysterious Mr Hood’s Holiday House.

One by one, Harvey meets Mr Hood’s servants, kindly Mrs Griffin and her cats, as well as the mysterious “brood” of siblings Rictus, Jive, Marr, and Carna, each of them performing a different role for their master and threatening in their own way, though Hood himself remains hidden.

Mr Hood’s house is a wondrous place where there are four seasons in one day everyday, spring mornings turn into summer afternoons with Halloween every evening and Christmas every night.

Yet things take a sinister turn when a Halloween trick goes too far, and Harvey and the other children realise that they’re prisoners in Hood’s world of illusions.

This is a thrilling and sinister children’s horror story that reminds us to live in the present and not to wish our lives away – a pertinent message during lockdown when it feels like life is on hold. Have a lovely week. X

The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman

The Lost Plot is the fourth book in the Invisible Library series following the librarian Irene Winters in the battle between the forces of chaos and order.

Shortly after The Lost Plot begins, Irene is approached by a dragon with a request to acquire a specific version of a text, a request that threatens the Library’s neutrality between the dragons and the fae, and Irene finds herself caught between two rival factions of feuding dragons.

One of the aspects I love most about this series are the locations and this one was set in an alternate 1920’s New York complete with speakeasy’s, prohibition and gangs.

The pace of The Lost Plot trots along and there were enough shady deals, betrayals, shoot-outs and librarian duels to keep me hooked until the end. As an added bonus the slow burn romance between Irene and her assistant Kai finally starts to heat up.

I’m generally reluctant to commit to long-running series, but the Invisible Library books are so original, fun and easy to read with such endearing characters that I’m always happy to find out what Irene and her allies are up to. Have a lovely week. X

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Set in an old-fashioned cafe off the beaten path in Tokyo, Before the Coffee Gets Cold is a quirky, Japanese novel about time travel. In the Funiculi Funicula Cafe, there is a particular chair that allows the person sitting in it the once in a lifetime chance to travel back or forward in time to speak to someone they know who has visited the cafe. There are several rules regarding time-travel, the most important of which is that the traveller must return to the present before their cup of coffee gets cold.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold is split into four parts, each following a different relationship from a broken-hearted woman whose lover moved to the U.S.A., a nurse whose husband has forgotten her due to Alzheimer’s Disease, a grieving sister who ran away from her family to escape her obligations and responsibilities, and a mother and daughter who never had the chance to know each other. There’s also a ghostly woman who haunts the cafe and failed to return to the present in time, but regrettably her story isn’t elaborated on. Visiting the past and future helps the time travelers to make sense of events and find a way forward in the present.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold is a short but thought-provoking and poignant story of regret and hope. Have a lovely week. X

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

TheLiesofLockeLamora

The first book in The Gentleman Bastards series follows Locke Lamora an orphan who grows into a criminal mastermind addicted to the thrill of pulling elaborate cons on the nobility. However, the delicate accord that exists between the nobles, law enforcement and criminal factions in the city of Camorr is torn apart when the mysterious Grey King arrives, and Locke and his crew find themselves caught in the middle of the murderous, political machinations of much powerful players.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is as much a story about found families as it is a fantasy heist, with each member of the Gentleman Bastards bringing unique skills to their operations, and the friendship between Locke and Jean (the brains and brawn of the crew respectively) is the emotional keystone of the story.

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I often talk about books being easy or quick to read because many of us lead busy lives and it can be hard to find the time to read, and I tend to have a 100 page rule that if I’m not invested in a story by that point then I give up and move on to something else, but it took me about 200 pages to really get into The Lies of Locke Lamora. There are definite pacing issues, with a lot of verbose descriptions of Camorr and setting up all the rival political and criminal factions before the action begins, yet the endearing characters, witty dialogue, clever foreshadowing and the combination of heart-pounding, nail-biting suspense and thrilling, unexpected twists more than made up for the slow start, and as soon as I finished this I bought the next two books in the series. Have a lovely week! X

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

I’ve always been an impulse book buyer, easily persuaded by a pretty cover and an intriguing first chapter, so I picked up The Invisible Library on a whim recently, and I’m very glad I did.

The story follows Irene, a Librarian from a secret society known as the Invisible Library, which collects rare and unique books from alternate realities. Instructed to collect a specific version of a text, Irene and her apprentice, Kai, arrive to find the book’s owner has been murdered and the book has already been stolen.

Irene is such a likeable heroine, she’s curious, resourceful and self-deprecating, and I really enjoyed the interplay between Irene and the other characters from her charming and enigmatic apprentice Kai to her femme-fatale rival Bradamant, and the mysterious villain, Alberich.

The Invisible Library subverts a few fantasy norms, instead of the usual battle between good and evil, the librarians try to restore order to chaos-infested worlds; and instead of magic, the Librarians use the Language, which allows them to influence reality with specific commands and instructions.

This is a quirky fantasy-mystery with lots of humour and a few twists; The Invisible Library is a bit different from the epic fantasies I usually read but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Have a lovely week! X

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

TheFinalEmpire

Dark and stormy evenings in our corner of the world have given me a lovely excuse to stay at home snuggled under a blanket on the couch with candles lit and books to read. I’ve had a few false starts this year – books that I’ve started but lost interest in – and I decided to re-read The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson to refresh my memory before picking up the other books in the Mistborn trilogy, which have been on my TBR list for a long time.

The plot of The Final Empire follows a fairly typical hero’s journey as the charismatic Kelsier leads a daring group of rebels from a subjugated race in an attempt to overthrow the tyranical Lord Ruler and his oppressive empire. Along the way, Kelsier takes a thief called Vin as his apprentice and trains her in allomancy, the magic system Sanderson created and it’s easily one of the most original and well-integrated systems I’ve come across in a long time.

The Mistborn Trilogy

I suspect fantasy novels are often dismissed by many readers because they require too much suspension of disbelief and yet beyond the magic and battles, The Final Empire explores some universal and pertinent themes such as prejudice, persecution and even the injustices and atrocities that ordinary people ignore or accept every day, as well as the redeeming qualities of courage, resilience, loyalty and hope.

The biggest criticism I have of this story is that Sanderson doesn’t so much foreshadow the two major plot twists as shine a spotlight on them, and many readers will probably guess the Lord Ruler’s identity and the source of his power long before any of the characters do, while another character’s death carries a certain sense of inevitability. Despite this though, it’s still a gripping tale and I enjoyed re-reading The Final Empire just as much as I did the first time around, and I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next in the series. Have a lovely week! X

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

PrincessDiarist

For almost as long as I can remember I’ve been a Star Wars fan, and my affection for the franchise is in no small part due to the sassy, blaster-wielding Princess who bossed her male counterparts around and was always at the forefront of the action.

Carrie was apparently inspired to write The Princess Diarist when she stumbled upon the diaries she wrote while filming Star Wars: A New Hope, and decided that forty years after the event, the public revelation of her affair with Harrison Ford would cause minimal damage to those involved.

The Princess Diarist starts with Carrie recounting her decision to step out of her celebrity parents’ shadows, and how at the age of nineteen she was cast as Princess Leia in a low-budget “space fantasy” simply called Star Wars. I sometimes wonder how faithful her recollection of events is but I can’t deny it’s entertaining to read about some of the changes in the original script, the process of finding that iconic hairstyle and various other behind the scenes moments between the cast and crew. However, for what is ostensibly a kiss-and-tell memoir, Carrie Fisher is remarkably tight-lipped about the details of her love affair with Harrison Ford.

PrincessDiarist2

The mid-section contains poems and direct extracts from the diaries she wrote in 1976, and this part lags a little as the diary entries are rambling, self-indulgent and laced with Carrie’s teenage insecurities.

The final part explores the cultural phenomenon Star Wars became, and some readers might be offended by the way she describes the rabid fans and their sense of entitlement for autographs and selfies, yet I suspect she probably understood why the Star Wars characters are so beloved because she admitted that there were times throughout her own life when she wished she was more like Leia. I also found it interesting reading about the different ways male and female fans respond to her character, and she doesn’t shy away from sharing details of some of her experiences and observations about Hollywood sexism (and ageism).

I suspect that Star Wars fans may be disappointed that she doesn’t share more behind the scenes secrets and people expecting a more linear biography may also be disappointed, but Carrie’s inimitable style, humour and candour still make The Princess Diarist an easy and enjoyable read. Have a lovely week! X

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Kitchen_Banana Yoshimoto

Let me preface this review by saying that Kitchen is a book that shouldn’t be judged by the cover, as aside from the garish colours, the description and synopsis on the back cover are downright misleading. This slim book compromises of two standalone stories covering similar themes of grief and loss, Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow.

The first story, Kitchen, is narrated by a young woman, Mikage Sakurai, following the death of her grandmother – and last remaining blood relative. After her grandmother’s funeral, Yuichi Tanabe, a young man who knew her grandmother invites Mikage to live with him and his transgender parent, Eriko; feeling cast adrift and at something of a crossroads in her life, Mikage gratefully accepts. The title of the story refers to Mikage’s favourite room in the home, where she finds a sense of comfort and purpose preparing food for the people she cares about or even just cleaning and setting things in order in the midst of her own turmoil and upheaval.

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Kitchen explores the different ways that the three characters, Mikage, Yuichi and Eriko experience and react to grief. Rather than seeming macabre and depressing, Kitchen is an inspiring and thought-provoking reminder not to sleepwalk through life lost in our daily routines because our time is finite and every moment is precious. As the narrator wrestles with her own highs and lows, she also ponders if we can really appreciate joy and triumph without also experiencing sorrow and disappointment, and it is Mikage’s acceptance of her own loneliness and mortality that encourages her to consider new paths and possibilities.

Unfortunately, Moonlight Shadow is a bittersweet story with similar themes but it just didn’t resonate with me the way that Kitchen did.

This is a short book and so easy to slip into, yet it is one I savoured and will likely re-read. Have a lovely week. X