Book Review: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

img_2504

Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $32.99 AUD

A huge thank you to Penguin Publishing Australia for gifting me a copy of this incredible book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

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. 

img_1374

“Are you lost or are you exploring?”

I have no words.

This was beautiful.

It was poetic and magical.

It was everything I could ever want in a book.

And it’s easily my favourite book of the year!

The Starless Sea takes you on an incredible, vivid adventure. Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, this book thoroughly immerses you in magic and wonder. I have already set a goal to read it again before the year is out so I can further understand all the small intricacies!

After Zachary Ezra Rawlins stumbles across a mysterious book in his university library, he is whisked off on an adventure that leads him through a magical painted door to a mysterious underground labyrinth filled with stories.

This book was gorgeous! It made me remember why I loved The Night Circus so much. Erin Morgenstern has a way with words. She is a poet. Honestly, my heart is so incredibly full after reading this book. The characters were beautifully written and complex, we got a perfect slow burn (and wonderfully queer) romance and the plot was layer upon layer of intricate detail that came together so beautifully in the end. It’s the kind of book that has you intrigued the whole way through and as you read the last page it’s as if all these pieces fall into place and you look up from your book and just stare in utter reverence at how incredible some story tellers are.

Now I understand that this book may not be for everyone. It can be a little “heavy”and as I’ve stated, there is a lot of intricate detail that some people may find a bit much. But for me, it was absolute wonder. This is a world I would very much like to be a part of!

Over all, I cannot fault this glorious book. It has everything I love in a story and I will read it over and over and over for the rest of my days. Go ahead, leap down the rabbit hole, step through the back of your cupboard, walk through that painted door. You won’t regret it. All the stars in the night sky for this one. Utter perfection.

 

Book Review: The Toll by Neal Shusterman

img_2276

Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $16.99 AUD | $18.99 NZ
Publication Date: November 5th 2019
Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

It’s been three years since Rowan and Citra disappeared; since Scythe Goddard came into power; since the Thunderhead closed itself off to everyone but Grayson Tolliver.

In this conclusion to Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy, constitutions are tested and old friends are brought back from the dead.

img_1374

This was such a satisfying and epic conclusion to this series! I’m so lucky to have been able to read it early! Thank you so much to Walker Books for sending me a review copy. Just wow! It was amazing! If you haven’t read Scythe or Thunderhead yet, go do that before you read on! You won’t regret it!

After the major cliff hanger we had at the end of Thunderhead, The Toll tells the story of the events that have happened over the three years after the sinking of Endura. Rowan and Citra have been found, we see a world gone mad under Scythe Goddard’s rule (which was both entertaining and utterly horrifying), we get an array of new characters, which at first felt really overwhelming, but after a while was fantastic and really pushed the plot forward and executed the story perfectly and, of course, we get epic intertwining story telling!

I honestly loved this, I can’t fault it. I feel really satisfied with how the series ended and would highly recommend reading it. I actually forgot how much I enjoyed Neal Shusterman’s writing style! It was both very fun and very matter-of-fact all at the same time (if that makes an ounce of sense). As with both Scythe and Thunderhead, The Toll tackles huge issues and  it was  really interesting to read and see the parallels forming between the main villains and their corrupt ideals and the horrors of real people from our own history! You almost read this while wanting to scream “ARE YOU CRAZY!? WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!?”

The characters, new and old were amazing, I feel like we got just enough of all of them. This book has certainly come a lot further since Scythe and branched out in terms of loveable and realistic characters. We got some INCREDIBLE representation when it came to Jericho, the feisty and tenacious sea caption, who is non binary! They identify as male under the cover of clouds and female under the sun. I really loved that and was so happy to see such awesome representation continuing into this book!

The Toll had all the elements that I really loved in Scythe. It got you thinking about your own morals and your own perspective on human kind all the while keeping you incredibly entertained! Too much happened in this amazing book for me to feel like I could ever truly do a review that would give it justice. So my final word on The Toll, is go read it! Read the whole series if you haven’t done so yet! 5 stars!

Thank you once again to Walker Books! You guys are all incredible. I truly appreciate being given these opportunities!

How to Become a Book Reviewer for a Publishing Company

publishers

Back when I started my Bookstagram, I hadn’t really put much thought into where I wanted to go with the whole thing. I knew I had a lot of thoughts and opinions about the books I had been reading, but I had never really done much more than drop a star-rating on Goodreads and be done with it. It wasn’t until I really started to delve into the Instagram community that I started to realise that running a blog could actually be a lot of fun! I started out writing my own content, “write what you know” as they say! So I wrote a lot of what I like to think is fun bookish content,  which included some how tos, book hauls and of course, reviews!

Once I had got some content onto my page, I thought about all those Bookstagrammers I had seen who were receiving books from publishers in exchange for honest reviews! I was so envious! Thinking that this could be something I do as more than just a fun little hobby, that maybe one day I could make it something more. That’s when I decided to really research how to become a book reviewer for publishing companies. Because there didn’t seem to be a lot of information out there, I ended up chatting to one of my Instagram friends who was incredibly helpful! But incase you don’t happen to have one of those friends, below are some of the things I have picked up along the way!

MAKE YOUR BLOG LOOK PROFESSIONAL.

First up, I recommend taking the time to set up a professional looking website! I am lucky enough to have a friend who is an incredible graphic designer, who was able to take my crazy, nonsensical ideas and come up with a really beautiful blog banner that fits my personality perfectly! I suggest getting something done professionally or even using the Canva app or website to try and create something yourself. You don’t have to do this step, but I honestly think it helps!

CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT!

Whether this is your instagram or your blog, you want to be as active as possible, so that the publisher can see you’re serious about what you do. I had had my Bookstagram running for about two years when I started getting serious about wanting to start a blog. It meant that I already had a great place to cross promote the blog too! Most publishing companies want to see that you have been posting consistently for about 6 months before they will add you to the blogger database!

ACTUALLY REVIEW BOOKS.

This goes without saying and ties in with the previous paragraph, but you actually need to be reviewing books you already have before you ask a publisher if you can be added to their database. It’s a really great way to get practice at reviewing books anyway and it helps show the publishers your style! A big part of becoming a reviewer for a publishing company is, well, actually reading and reviewing the books! So as long as this is something you’re able to do, you can go ahead and…

CONTACT THE PUBLISHING COMPANIES PUBLICITY DEPARTMENT.

Once you have your blog up and running and have been consistently creating content  for 6 months or more, go ahead and contact the publishing companies you’re interested in reviewing for. The easiest way I found was to jump on their website and send them an email. Make sure you are professional and courteous! A few things to remember to include in your email are:

  • Your website URL
  • How long you’ve been running your blog for
  • The amount of views your blog gets each month and
  • Links to your social media as well as the number of followers you have

And remember, be yourself!

FINALLY, DON’T BE DISCOURAGED IF YOU GET KNOCKED BACK!

Sometimes publishing companies have a set number of places to fill for bloggers, so don’t be discouraged if you get knocked back initially! Often times if you check back in a few months time they have positions that have become available!

Good luck on your blogging journey and happy reading everyone! If you ever want to chat books or blogging, hit me up here or on Instagram @readingsumpton.

Farewell To The Local Bookshop

copy of women

On Love Your Bookshop Day (August 10th 2019), along with a good friend of mine, I decided to head to the local bookstore we both know and love, to peruse the shelves, tell each other we really won’t be buying any books and then, of course, leave with a couple anyway. However, as I approached the store, I saw a large red banner covering its signage. “Stock Sale” it read.

My local bookshop has been open for twenty-one years. Twenty-one years. That feels like a lifetime, and I suppose for some, it is. Upon entering the store it was clear something wasn’t quite right. The once meticulously stocked shelves looked bare and unkept. The staff seemed forlorn. The store was closing down, they were given two weeks to get all their stock out the door. 50% off everything. That’s a pretty great deal, if only it didn’t come with a side of heartache.

twenty-one years. That’s more than half of my time on the planet. Now we won’t just be saying goodbye to the ink and pages that make this small corner of the shopping centre what it is, but also the potential new friends we could have made after spotting them contemplating the purchase of one of our favourite books or the cheerful look on the staffs faces when they are able to order you in that book you’ve been wanting desperately, but can’t for the life of you find anywhere else. We’re saying goodbye to an incredible independent bookstore.

Now, I can only speculate that this is possibly the result of higher rent within the complex, something a small, indie bookshop probably wouldn’t be able to compete with. But it also feels like a result of us. Supporting your local bookstore is important. I think this may have been the busiest I have ever seen the store. 50% off. What a steal, eh? Yet maybe, if we had chosen to shop there to begin with and paid the slightly higher prices, rather than bi-passing them in favour of large online stores or the chain department stores that are able to offer us cheaper goods, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.

All I can really say is please, if you have a local independent bookstore near you, support them. Because it’s heartbreaking when they have to close down.

#supportyourlocalbookshop

Book Review: Illuminae By Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

img_7884

Rating: ★★★★.5
Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

img_1374

I thoroughly enjoyed Illuminae! So much so, that I have put off writing this review in favour of reading the next book in the series, Gemina. It was a very interesting format, which I admit, was hard to get my head around at first and one of the reasons it took me so long to actually pick this book up in the first place. I even considered listening to the audio book instead (absolutely no shade on audio books, the reason I wanted to listen to it is because I’ve heard its phenomenal!) But I pushed ahead, got over the fact it had weird formatting and read it anyway… And I am so glad I did!

Illumine follows Kady and her ex-ex boyfriend, Ezra through an epic (and terrifying) space adventure. After their home planet is invaded and they are forced to flee, they find themselves separated onto two different space crafts. But the terror doesn’t stop there. Nobody in charge will tell them what’s really going on and as strange things start to happen, Kady puts her impressive hacker skills to work to uncover the truth.

This was amazing! It has all the right elements to create an intense and sometimes downright heart-wrenching plot. As I said before, the formatting took some getting used to as it’s almost as if you are reading through notes and photocopies of conversations for a trial, but after completing the novel, I don’t think a normal format would have done the story justice. It was different, quirky and really fun to read.

The characters, in true Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman style, were awesome. So much sass and great snarky banter! I found myself laughing out loud a lot while reading this one. Especially when I could almost feel the Aussie sense of humour coming through! On the other side of things, this book could also get really quite emotional and sad (also something this duo is incredible at!)

Overall, this was an amazing scifi! If you love rouge AI, deadly, mutating plagues and incredible badass characters, this one is for you! If you, like me, haven’t picked this up because the formatting “looks weird” just do it, go ahead and read it, its amazing! You won’t be sorry!

Book Review: The Binding By Bridget Collins

img_7218

Rating: ★★★★★
Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice among their small community but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.

But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.

img_1374

Every now and then I read a book that steals my heart. The Binding just stole my heart. It was an incredible, boundary defying love story, and I was utterly besotted with the two protagonists, Emmett and Lucian. If you can’t tell by their names, this is a LGBT love story and it was perfection. I could read this again and again and I’m certain I’d enjoy it just as much as I did the first time. The writing had a beautiful lyrical quality and the gothic, atmospheric setting was perfection.

The story begins with Emmett, a young man set to inherit his families farm, until one day he receives a letter, telling him that he must go to become an apprentice book binder. In the world of The Binding your memories can be taken away and bound into books, something that promotes fear and prejudice. After giving up the only life he has ever known, Emmett it surprised to find a book with his name on it. From there, The Binding takes you on an incredible journey of self discovery and forbidden love.

This was amazing. My only critic would be that it did start a little slow, but not in a bad way. I actually really enjoyed getting to know these characters in an almost leisurely pace, unfolding little bits and pieces of them one page at a time. It was a gorgeous slow burn novel that focused heavily on the details, something that I find I often miss when reading YA as opposed to an Adult novel.

The plot and setting was incredibly immersive and at times confronting and gritty. It had such a profound effect on me that it had me turning page after page as if in a daze! Emmett and Lucian’s love story might be my new favourite too! I feel like I’ll miss them now that I’ve finished with this book.

Over all, this was an emotional read! One that I thoroughly enjoyed and would highly recommend! Because of this, I am giving this historical fiction-romance-fantasy mash-up 5 stars!

Book Review: We Are Blood & Thunder By Kesia Lupo

we are okay

Rating: ★★★
RRP: $16.99 AUD
Find it on Book Depository

A huge thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

In a sealed-off city, it begins with a hunt. A young woman, Lena, running for her life, convicted of being a mage and sentenced to death. Her only way to survive is to trust those she has been brought up to fear – those with magic.

On the other side of the locked gates is a masked lady, Constance, determined to find a way back in. She knows only too well how the people of Duke’s Forest loathe magic. Years ago she escaped before her powers were discovered. But now she won’t hide who she is any longer.

A powerful and terrifying storm cloud unites them. It descends over the dukedom and devastates much in its wake. But this is more than a thunderstorm. This is a spell, and the truth behind why it has been cast is more sinister than anyone can imagine … Only Lena and Constance hold the key to destroying the spell. Though neither of them realise it, they need each other. They are the blood and they have the thunder within.img_1374

I was honestly expecting this to be a series of at least three books. I don’t think I have ever really come across a stand alone fantasy novel that was able to immerse me completely in 400 pages. Unfortunately this is no exception. Although the story wasn’t terrible, it just didn’t feel all that original. The world building was almost non existent and the magic system felt clunky and strange. There were a lot of things touched on that I would have loved to have seen explored further.

We Are Blood And Thunder is a story told from the perspective of two young mages, Constance and Lena. Constance is returning home to the isolated and quarantined, Dukes Forest, to finally conquer the dreaded magical storm cloud that lingers over the town taking the lives of many of its citizens. Lena however, is running from it after being convicted as a mage and sentenced to death.

This book took me a fairly long time to read. I found it hard to connect to both Lena and Constance and didn’t find either of them particularly likeable or memorable. There were a few occasions where different spells where introduced to the story and I though “Ok! This could be fun!” but I feel like the author could have delved far deeper into the magic system and the backstories of the Nine Gods that represent each mages power. (I would have loved a whole book on the Nine Gods actually, they sounded badass.)

The plot wasn’t too bad, it just felt so slow. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the fact that, chapter by chapter, we switch points of view back and forth from Constance to Lena, so we are essentially getting told two different stories that get 200 pages each to squish all the details into. I got about half way through this book and I still wasn’t sure of where it was going, I very nearly didn’t finish it, but I persevered!

Overall, this wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t the most original fantasy novel I’ve ever read. It had a lot of promise, but unfortunately, it didn’t hit the mark for me and fell rather flat. Because of this, I am giving We Are Blood And Thunder 3 stars.

Thank you again to Bloomsbury Publishing for sending me a review copy of this book!