Book Review: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Name:  The Starless Sea
Author:  
Erin Morgenstern
Number of Pages:
498 (Hardback)
Published:
November 5th 2019 by Harvill Secker
Genre:  Fantasy

Goodreads

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues — a bee, a key, and a sword — that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.
What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians — it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.
Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life.


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

The Starless Sea. Where to begin talking about this one? It’s a beautiful mixture of tales within books within a book – mystical, magical and meandering, snippets and glimpses of magic and wonder all held together within the main narrative of Zachary Ezra Rawlins, who finds Sweet Sorrows, a mysterious, previously un-catalogued book in his university library.
Captured by the tale of the pirate and the girl, and the tale of the acolyte, Zachary reads on to be confronted by an incident from his own past concisely captured in a volume much older than he is…

So begins the quest for the truth of the Starless Sea, a fantastical place of stories and dreams and tales, guarded, nurtured and revered by those who know of its existence.
From the literary themed masquerade, to stories whispered in the dark of Time falling in love with Fate, there is magic within every page of this charming tale, and the writing is something to savour. I really took my time reading this, to enjoy every word, whilst at the same time being so intrigued that I just had to read on.

The main characters holding this tale together are a wonderful mix.
Zachary is a reader, a dreamer, and brave when confronted with such strangeness.
Then there’s the enigmatic Dorian, and Mirabel, the pink-haired painter who can create doors into this magical world of stories.
Characters within some of the stories are intriguing too – the pirate and the girl, and Simon and Eleanor, the man who fell in love with the moon. I could go on….

It captures perfectly the magic and escapism of a great read, the wonder of a fantastic tale. If you’re looking for a fast paced, driven narrative this may not be the book you’re after right now, but for something to lose yourself in, that paints so many vivid stories and ties them in with a magical mystery quest for a world of stories and books, give it a try. I loved The Starless Sea from beginning to end.

Bout of Books 27 (January 2020) – Final Summary

January’s Bout of Books is over, and I enjoyed the final day of reading. I finished The Starless Sea. I didn’t want the book to end, it was a very good read. I’m still reading Poirot, and I’m already glancing at my TBR pile to decide what I’m going to read next.

Number of pages I’ve read today:  120

Total number of pages I’ve read:  500

I set general read-a-thon goals (Original goals posted HERE).

I’ve updated my blog (mostly) daily with progress, and managed to resist adding too many new books to my TBR list whilst visiting other blogs throughout the week.

I completed The Starless Sea, and read some Poirot.

Thank you to everyone who visited and commented on my blog during the event. I hope everyone had a great week of reading.

The Week’s Progress Revisited…

Continue reading

Bout of Books 27 (January 2020) Goals and Daily Progress Updates

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 6th and runs through Sunday, January 12th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, Twitter chats, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 26 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team


What better way to begin a new year of reading than with a good Bout of Books. I enjoy participating in this read-a-thon, and keeping track of my reading progress over the week. I’ll be using this blog for updates during the read-a-thon.

Time Devoted to Reading

I always say half an hour per day, but that’s hopefully just a starting point. I’d like to read more if possible.

My Goals

  • To read at least some of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  • To continue Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
  • Keep track of progress with daily updates
  • To visit other blogs

Books to Read

  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  • Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie

Updates

Monday

It’s read-a-thon time! There are two books I’d like to read during this week. I don’t know whether I’ll finish both of them, but I’m hoping I might manage one. The first is Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. I haven’t read any Christie for a while and it seemed a good pick for this time of year. The second book, and one I’ve been looking forward to for a while now, is The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern.
Let’s see how I get on…

Tuesday (Monday’s Progress)

Bout of Books is off to a good start, I think I’ve picked a good one with The Starless Sea. The cover of the book is lovely, and the story within is so far totally intriguing. I think it’s a book I’m going to want to take my time with, so I don’t know how much I’ll have read by the end of the week, but then it’s so good that I don’t want to put it down either!

Number of pages I’ve read today:  100
Total number of pages I’ve read:  100

Wednesday (Tuesday’s progress)

Still really enjoying The Starless Sea. I haven’t read quite as much today, but it’s still a great read.

Number of pages I’ve read today:  25
Total number of pages I’ve read:  125

Thursday (Wednesday’s progress)

I don’t want to put The Starless Sea down. I love the mix of stories and can’t wait to see when and how they all come together. I still don’t want to read this book too quickly so I gave some of my reading time today to Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. I do try to work out whodunit in these novels but I’ve very rarely been right, and so far with this one I have no idea. Well, I have a few potentials but can’t narrow it down beyond that!

Number of pages I’ve read today:  135
Total number of pages I’ve read:  260

Friday (Thursday’s progress)

I read more of The Starless Sea and I wonder now whether I will actually finish it before Bout of Books ends. I’ve been reading quite slowly but I still ended up reading 80 pages, and have passed the halfway point with the book now. It’s all starting to come together and I wonder how it’s going to end…

Number of pages I’ve read today:  80
Total number of pages I’ve read:  340

Saturday (Friday’s progress)

Oops! No progress to report today.

Number of pages I’ve read today:  0
Total number of pages I’ve read:  340

Sunday (Saturday’s progress)

Another quiet day for reading. Hopefully I’ll have a good final day tomorrow!

Number of pages I’ve read today:  40
Total number of pages I’ve read:  380

Monday (Sunday’s progress and final thoughts)

Final Summary posted HERE.

 

2019: The Year-End Book Survey

This Year End Survey is hosted by Jamie over at The Perpetual Page Turner.

I love this opportunity to look back over the year of reading. I enjoy recalling new favourites, exciting characters and, of course, listing some of the (many) books that I didn’t manage to read. Here’s my 2019 Year End Survey.

2019 READING STATS

Number of books you read: 30

Re-Reads: 0

Most Popular Genre: I’ve read a great variety this year!

BEST IN BOOKS

1. Best Book You Read In 2019?
(If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2019 release vs. backlist)

           

           

           

The Girl in the Tower and The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Poirot #4) by Agatha Christie
The Woman in the Woods (Charlie Parker #16) by John Connolly
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
The Institute by Stephen King
Full Throttle by Joe Hill

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

The Furies by Katie Lowe.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. I didn’t see it coming at all….

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I don’t think it’s happened.

5. Best series you started in 2019? Best Sequel of 2019? Best Series Ender of 2019?

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie is the first book in The age of Madness series and I can’t wait for the next instalment.

     

Best Sequel and best series ending go to books from the same series… Winternight by Katherine Arden – The Girl in the Tower and The Winter of the Witch. I read the second and final books really close together and it was a great reading experience.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2019?

I’m going for a couple of new-to-me choices for this one….

     

John Connolly – This year I picked up the two latest novels in the Charlie Parker series and I definitely want to read more. There are 17 books in the series so far, and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to discover them.

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman – Good Omens was my introduction to both these authors and I really enjoyed it. I’m pretty sure I already have a couple on Neil Gaiman’s novels, and I would love to try a few more Pratchett tales too.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

     

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie was quite different from my usual reading. I’ve read Fantasy, and I want to read more, but I’m not sure I’ve read anything you might call grimdark before.

Full Throttle by Joe Hill was a bit different for me too as I don’t usually read short stories.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

     

There was plenty going on action-wise in both The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon and A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie.

9. Book You Read In 2019 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

There are so many new books, backlist books and library books that I want to read that my TBR pile is endless and so I don’t tend to re-read books very often.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2019?

           

           

The Girl in the Tower and The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
The Institute by Stephen King
Bone China by Laura Purcell

11. Most memorable character of 2019?

Griz from A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher. I really enjoyed reading of Griz’s adventure.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2019?

I really like Laura Purcell’s writing in Bone China.

13. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2019 to finally read?

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Many autumns have arrived and I’ve thought I should read this book and this year I finally did.

14.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2019?

     

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson at 246 pages is the shortest book I read this year.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon clocks in at 827 pages, making it the longest book I read this year.

15. Book That Shocked You The Most?

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. I did not see that coming.

16. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)?

           

Vasya and Morozko from the Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden are the first that come to mind. I loved their story.

17. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year?

Aziraphale and Crowley from Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

18. Favorite Book You Read in 2019 From An Author You’ve Read Previously?

The Institute by Stephen King.

19. Best Book You Read In 2019 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure?

I don’t think it’s happened, which is unusual.  A book that caught my eye many times and earned a place on my TBR pile is The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow.  There were so many great reviews for it, and the story sounds brilliant.

20. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2019?

Um,okay, this is awkward. I have no idea…

21. Best 2019 debut you read?

I’m not actually sure I read a debut this year…

22. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

           

The world of the Winternight trilogy. I loved everything about it from the cold, the snow, the ice to the myths and the tales.

23. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Utterly bizarre at times but I definitely found myself laughing aloud more than once. Mostly this happened while I was at home and not out in public, which is probably a good thing!

24. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

There were some great stories in Full Throttle by Joe Hill. I must mention Faun. I really wished it was a full length novel because it was so good.

25. Most Unique Book You Read In 2019?

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher.

YOUR BLOGGING/BOOKISH LIFE

1. New favorite book blog/Bookstagram/Youtube channel you discovered in 2019?

I’ve followed many new blogs this year and enjoy reading about what people are reading.

2. Favorite reviews that you wrote in 2019?

           

           

Full Throttle by Joe Hill
The Institute by Stephen King
A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher
The Woman in the Woods by John Connolly
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

Aside from reviews and occasional book tags I enjoy participating in Top Ten Tuesday, having the chance to think back about books I’ve read, and list potential future reads. Here are some of my recent favourite Top Ten Tuesday posts…

Fall 2019 TBR
The Books of 2019 Past and Future
From Page to Screen
Things That Make Me Pick Up a Book

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

As always… Bout of Books. I love a readathon.
Readers Imbibing Peril also deserves a mention and it’s the perfect way to welcome autumn.
I would love to find out about readathons before they start so I have time to plan and participate. They’re great fun.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2019?

Taking part in readathons.

6. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

In review posts The Institute by Stephen King, and in Top Ten Tuesday posts my Fall TBR post and The Books of 2019 Past and Future.

7. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Any review post. Here are a few..

     

     

Full Throttle by Joe Hill
The Institute by Stephen King
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
A Book of Bones (Charlie Parker #17) by John Connolly

8. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

The library e-book system. There are so many titles on there that I want to read, and they’re so easy to access.

9. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I completed my Goodreads challenge, but I set a fairly low target.
I participated in Beat the Backlist again and this year I read 11 books. I also had a go at the Beat the Backlist Bingo.

LOOKING AHEAD

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2019 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2020?

This list could be endless. I’ll try to limit it to just a few…

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2020 (non-debut)?

Stephen King has a new book coming out – If It Bleeds.
I’ll also be looking out for the next Charlie Parker book by John Connolly, even though I have most of the backlist of that series I could also be reading, and the next Age of Madness book from Joe Abercrombie.

3. 2020 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Feel free to send some ideas my way as I’m always looking for new reads.

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2020?

Blood of Empire by Brian McClellan came out in December but I haven’t managed to get a copy yet so it has to be that book. I can’t wait to return to the world and characters I’ve come to like so much.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2020?

I think last year’s answer still applies here. I would like to read some of my own books as I always favour library books over books I already down.  Beat the Backlist challenge is happening again so I think I may sign up, it’s a good incentive to read some of these books.


So concludes this year-end survey. Congratulations if you made it all the way through to the end! What have you been reading this year? And what are you looking forward to reading next?

Booking Ahead: December 2019

Booking Ahead is an opportunity to glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

Welcome to another Booking Ahead. It’s that time again, to look for a few potential reads for the month. There are two books I really do want to read as soon as I can, so they’re definitely having a mention. Beyond that, I’m not sure, so it may be a short list this month.
Here are my December reading choices…

New Books

Angel Mage by Garth Nix – I’ve never read anything by Garth Nix but I’ve seen reviews for this book mentioning angel and musketeers?! Sounds like a decent combination to me. Can’t wait to get started reading this.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern – I couldn’t not want to read the new book from the author of the Night Circus. It’s a lovely looking book, and the story sounds great, so to the top of the TBR pile it goes.

Books from the Backlist

I’m not sure I’ll manage any Backlist books this month. Both the books I’ve chosen already are pretty long and I’d love to read them before the end of the year.


What are you hoping to read this month? Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
See you again next month year for another Booking Ahead.

Book Review: Full Throttle by Joe Hill

Name:  Full Throttle
Author:  
Joe Hill
Number of Pages:
480 (Hardback)
Published:
October 10th 2019 by Gollancz
Genre:  Short stories, Horror, Fantasy

Goodreads

A masterful collection of thirteen relentless tales of supernatural suspense, including In The Tall Grass, one of two stories co-written with Stephen King, the basis for the terrifying feature film from Netflix.
A little door that opens to a world of fairy tale wonders becomes the blood-drenched stomping ground for a gang of hunters in Faun.
A grief-stricken librarian climbs behind the wheel of an antique Bookmobile to deliver fresh reads to the dead in Late Returns.
In By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain, two young friends stumble on the corpse of a plesiosaur at the water’s edge, a discovery that forces them to confront the inescapable truth of their own mortality… and other horrors that lurk in the water’s shivery depths.
And tension shimmers in the sweltering heat of the Nevada desert as a faceless trucker finds himself caught in a sinister dance with a tribe of motorcycle outlaws in Throttle, co-written with Stephen King.
Featuring two previously unpublished stories, Full Throttle is a darkly imagined odyssey through the complexities of the human psyche. Hypnotic and disquieting, it mines our tormented secrets, hidden vulnerabilities, and basest fears.


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Short stories aren’t my usual reading choice, I tend to go for massive books that take me ages to read, but I enjoyed both The Fireman and Strange Weather, a novella collection, by Joe Hill so I thought I’d give this latest offering a try, and it was a real treat to dip in to a collection of stories varying in length and writing style. It meant I read some quicker than others, so it wasn’t always possible to finish a whole story in one sitting, but I had something to look forward to next time I picked up the book.

I loved the introduction, the insight into writing and childhood and growing up with two writers for parents, and the experiences and influences on Hill’s own writing.
Now, onto the stories. I don’t know that I’ll mention every single one as my review will end up longer than a story or two, and where’s the fun in knowing everything before you start reading? Here are a few mentions…

Throttle – I recently finished watching Sons of Anarchy, so inevitably the characters/group here reminded me a little of that series, and the story was co written with Stephen King, so my next thought was ‘hey, remember when Stephen King made a brief appearance in SOA?’ I digress.. The story follows a biker group in the midst of trouble who cross paths with a truck driver with a grudge. It’s tense and exciting.

Dark Carousel – You’re not going to look at a merry-go-round in the same way after reading this one. I loved the carnival atmosphere, all dazzle and lights and fantasy, tinged with a slightly sinister air once night descends. A group of teenagers celebrate being young and free before moving on to various commitments but an experience on the Wild Wheel changes things forever. NOS4A2 remains on my TBR pile, but just the mention that one of the figures on the ride was gifted by Manx who runs Christmasland gave me the idea that this wasn’t going to end well.

By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain – Young friends make a startling discovery by the side of a mist-shrouded lake and dream of what it will mean for their futures; it’s not every day you discover a Plesiosaur after all. I loved the imagination of the kids in this tale.

Faun – Definitely one of my favourite stories in the collection. I could have read a full length novel in this world with these characters. I don’t want to say too much about it and spoil it, but from the outset I was intrigued, and as the fantasy element came into play I loved it more, and then it went in a direction I didn’t anticipate and….

Late Returns – Another favourite, about a man who gets a job driving a Bookmobile taking out library books, only his patrons are from other eras and are in need of one last great read. A love of books and reading really shows in this story.

Twittering From the Circus of the Dead – Written in the form of tweets, I wondered at first where the story was going. A family on vacation find themselves attending a circus which a difference. Or do they? What if anything really happened, or was it all just clever marketing?

Still with me so far? So, what conclusion can I draw?
Full Throttle offers a great variety of reading fare; there probably is something for almost everyone. A vast array of settings, themes, characters, twists, endings that come out of nowhere and leave you thinking, this book offers them all, something to scare or delight a reader. That’s not to say I enjoyed every story. I spent the first half thinking I’d found the best story, only to be wowed by the next one, and I wondered when I’d finally hit the point where I didn’t quite love the story as much. That did happen, inevitably, but then it was back to another tale where I ended up thinking I wish there was so much more of this.
Full Throttle is variety, excitement, horror, thriller, mystery and so much more all contained in one volume and I really enjoyed it.

Book Review: Bone China by Laura Purcell

Name:  Bone China
Author:  
Laura Purcell
Number of Pages:
433 (Hardback)
Published:
September 19th 2019 by Raven Books
Genre:  Historical, Gothic

Goodreads

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.
Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Bone China is another great read from Laura Purcell. I enjoyed both her previous novels so much that I had high hopes for the latest and it really delivered. Her novels offer a taste of Gothic mystery with intriguing characters, beautiful but slightly creepy settings and a hint of something slightly spooky.

The story is set in Cornwall, an isolated old house on the cliffs and in easy reach of the wildness of the sea. At times bleak and imposing, at times beautiful and tranquil.
There are two timelines, both featuring Morvoren House and it’s inhabitants. In the first we meet Hester Why, a woman running away from her past under an assumed name, a well chosen name for I found myself wondering almost straight away, why have you run? What did you do that was so terrible you had to leave your life behind and take a new name? Hester’s reliance on gin and laudanum makes her something of an unreliable narrator.
And this is how Laura Purcell draws you in, for the circumstances surrounding Hester’s flight are gradually revealed, teased in between her current new living situation and the second narrative which follows Miss Pinecroft in her younger days, coming to live at Morvoren with her father as he tries to establish a colony for a group of prisoners from Bodmin jail who have consumption. He wants to find a cure, having lost most of his own family to the disease.
These people are grief-stricken and driven by guilt and the need to make amends.

These distraught characters are touched by grief and loss, then thrown into a place rich in folklore which is revealed through the arrival of Creeda, a young woman who insists she was taken by fairies, or the little people as she calls them, and that somehow she was returned, whereas most people are not so lucky, they’re swapped for a changeling and rarely returned.

The setting, so dramatic and wild, and the inclusion of these sick men dwelling within a cave which can be pretty spooky in itself, especially during the night, and the overwhelming sadness that drives Dr Pinecroft and to some extent his daughter Louise is all really well bought to life.
The isolation of their house on the cliffs also feeds into the mystery and magic of the Cornish coast and the folklore which becomes central to this tale.

I can’t say too much more without venturing into spoiler territory. Bone China is well worth your reading time, and with her new novel Laura Purcell still remains an auto-read author for me.