Darkwood (Gabby Hutchinson Crouch)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link

Completely fabulous, can’t wait for the rest of the series. A strong contender for Book of the Month

TL;DR – A funny, clever and wonderful fairytale re-telling.

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Ragdoll Rating: 5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of fairytales, fantasy and female characters who kick butt!

About the Book…

Darkwood is a sort of fairytale retelling and variety pack. The lead character is Gretel, of Hansel and Gretel fame, driven out of her home by villainous Huntsmen who (wrongly) accuse her of being a witch! Gretel finds herself in the Darkwood, and soon winds up as part of a band of witches, featuring such wonderful characters as The White Knight (Snow White), Jack (of the Beanstalk fame) and my personal favourite, Trevor the Talking Spider. What follows is a hilarious adventure to fight back against the forces of evil!

What I thought…

I flat out adore this book. There are 2 things I didn’t like about it, and I’m gonna start the review with them because then I can gush about how good it was uninterrupted.

  1. The word ‘cowl’ is used to describe clothing with sleeves, which confused me.
  2. It’s written in the present tense, which I’m generally not a fan of. HOWEVER, I will come back to this point in a moment.

OK, where to begin. Let’s start with the setting. I’m a big fan of fairytales and folklore, and combining so many stories into one setting was a real treat for me. Each story has been turned on its head and reimagined, and then blended into something better than the sum of its parts. It’s really clever, well executed and extremely good fun.

And it’s funny! Oh man. I mentioned Trevor the talking spider in the intro and I’m gonna talk about him here. Trevor is *exactly* the type of character I love to read about. He’s small and apparently useless, but he dreams big. He wants to be useful. He wants to be a spy! And every time he gets the chance he does something daft. Like disguises. It’s silly, and playful and I love it.

Now I’m going to return to point 2 of my complaints. Present tense. I don’t like it, it annoys me and I’ve never been able to get over it. Until now. I really love how this book was written. I’m turned around on the use of present tense in writing, which is a big thing for me to admit.

Final Thoughts…

I love this book. I can’t wait for the rest of the series. I suppose the biggest compliment I can give to this book is that it made me want to write the book I’ve been planning for so long. It’s encouraged me to get up and give it a shot!

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Study J(OU)rnal

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This week was designated “Options Week”, the first of 3 over the course of this module. I had to choose what I wanted to study, which was pretty cool.

I decided to study what I thought was advice on how to get the most out of the Open University’s OpenLearn website, but actually, it contained almost nothing I didn’t already know. However, I made the best of it and actually had a really productive week.

OpenLearn hosts a series of mini-lessons on all the subjects the OU teaches. I’ve now been through the website and marked down every biology and environmental science courses that looked interesting (plus a few maths courses) and I will be working through them during the course of my degree. This marks a significant change in my study style as for the first time I am doing more than I am asked rather than the bare minimum.

Book Review: Book Love (Debbie Tung)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

The perfect book for the bookworm in your life

TL;DR – A collection of cute comics about loving books

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Ragdoll Rating: 5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Every book lover everywhere.

About the Book…

Book Love is – and this may shock you – a book about loving books. *gasp*. But in all seriousness, this book is a collection of comic strips about books and the people who love them.  It’s about 140 pages of hilarious observations of bookish people everywhere.

What I thought…

I don’t know Debbie Tung, we’ve never met, and until just now I didn’t know she existed. However, we are now best friends because of this book. I don’t make the rules. This book is hilarious from beginning to end. I found myself reading a couple of strips and thinking “That is so me” only to turn the page and find myself in fits of laughter at the next strip.

The observations in this book are SO accurate. I look through this book and if a strip doesn’t sound like me, I know someone bookish it fits perfectly! It’s hard to explain the beauty of a book of comics without any actual pictures – so just take me word for it that the pictures are cute as heck and then read my favourite line.

Happiness for bookworms:
Following your favorite authors on social media and acting as if they’re your friends.

Final Thoughts…

If you are a reader, or you know a reader, get this book. Trust me, you’ll love it.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Kwik Review: Lost Christmas (David Logan)

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Goodreads Link

This book reads like that list of ‘really bad metaphors’ that surfaces on the net every now and then – and I LOVE it.

TL;DR – This is the story about a boy whose life falls apart on Christmas eve, and if you’re wondering why I read a book like this at the beginning of July, I should point out that apart from the references to snow – which I don’t think I have ever seen at Christmas in the UK anyway – the book could have been set at any point in the year. It’s not just a Christmas story is what I’m saying.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4/5 BUTTONS

What I thought:

Goose’s parents both die in a car crash on Christmas eve, and in the following year his life has gone from happy and carefree, to casual criminal and a destroyed childhood. The only good things left in his life are his Nan and his dog. His Nan has Alzheimer’s, and he’s just lost his dog. Then this somewhat magical weirdo appears and turns things upside down.

The first thing that stuck out was on the first page – “His all-over-the-place hair was all over the place”. It’s childlike and weird, and it totally sets the tone for the rest of the book. It is written with a childlike quality that I really loved.

The next thing that stuck out was that I guessed the ending literally the second it was possible to do so. I’ve thought about it and I don’t know why it was so obvious, but it jumped out at me immediately. That said, I wasn’t disappointed to discover I knew the ending, and really enjoyed reading it.

The story is entertaining, the writing is funny, and the plot is quite clever, if a little cliche. It’s just a nice, easy read.

I can’t abide Christmas books – which is probably why I liked this one. If it wasn’t for a title and the occasional mention it could be just winter or any other cold place (that also happened to be called Manchester).

I recommend this one to anybody who likes a good story with a very casual writing style.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: American Gods (Neil Gaiman)


Goodreads Link | Author Website

Funny, clever and entertaining. Gaiman is the king!

TL;DR – This book is cleverly crafted, brilliantly written and endlessly entertaining. Once again Gaiman delivers a cracking read! A must have for fans of fantasy and myths.

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RAGDOLL RATING: Exceptional

Why I read it…

adore Neil Gaiman – he’s one of my fave authors (I met him once at a book signing, it was tres hoopy). I’ll read basically anything he’s written and this has been on my list for a long while.

Conveniently this happened to fit under the heading of “An award winning novel” for my reading  challenge – it won the Hugo, the Nebula and the Bram Stoker awards for Best Novel and the Locus award for Best Fantasy Novel.

The Story…

Shadow is finally getting out of prison. He’ has a plane ticket home to his loving wife, a job lined up and things will finally start getting back to normal. Then his world falls apart.

His wife and future boss both dead in the same car accident. Now he has a ticket to nothing, no future and no hope. Then he meets a man on a plane. This man, Wednesday, offers Shadow a job – it pays well, it’s mostly legal and very important. With nothing else to do with himself, Shadow takes the job and is thrown head first into a world of Gods old and new, and a war for that could change the mythological world forever.

The book is gripping and funny – it managed to win a fantasy, science fiction and horror award, which should give you some idea as to the quality of the writing. The version I read was the full ~700 page behemoth. I accidentally bought a French version which was less than half that size – I don’t know what was removed from that version, but I’m certain it was missing out on some gold.

The book is full of fantasy, gods and mythology, with twists and turns abound.

What I liked…

When I picked up this book, I didn’t really know what it was about – I assumed American Gods was just a title, but as it turns out this book is brimming with Gods and awesome stories about how they came to America and what has happened since. That was a really awesome discovery.

Gaiman weaves in elements of global mythology into his storytelling, and it is both fascinating and enjoyable to experience. Those of you who have read his book “Norse Mythology” will already be aware of how well Gaiman writes mythology, and for those of you that haven’t, read it and this because both are superb examples of how to write about gods.

The plot is extremely clever. It feels like it several stories, broken up with bonus short stories as a bonus. Gaiman leaves clues about the plot all the way through, but disguises them beautifully – by the end I was left wondering how I hadn’t worked things out sooner and loving that the fact that I had been so blind. It is there for those with the eyes to see.

I was hooked from beginning to end. It’s a long book, and I read it in a few days because I couldn’t put it down.

What I disliked…

Nothing stands out. It was excellent.

Final thoughts…

This book is outstanding, and also totally typical of Neil Gaiman. You know when you read a Gaiman novel it’s going to be great, and this book did not disappoint.

I would recommend this book to anybody who likes fantasy fiction especially – but also to literally anyone and everyone because it’s great.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Series Review: The Pirates! In an Adventure with… (Gideon Defoe)


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“Not since Moby-Dick… No, not since Treasure Island… Actually, not since Jonah and the Whale has there been a sea saga to rival The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists…” ~Goodreads

TL;DR – If you like light reading, humour and pirates, give this series a try.

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Series details…

Released: 2004-2012.

“The Pirates…” series is made up of 5 books; The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (2004); The Pirates! In an Adventure with Whaling (2005); The Pirates! In an Adventure with Communists (2006); The Pirates! In an Adventure with Napoleon (2008); The Pirates! In an Adventure with Romantics (2012).

The story…

“The Pirates!…” books focus on the tales of a typical pirate crew, and their fearless and ruthless captain; The Pirate Captain! With his pleasant open face, stentorian nose and luxuriant beard, the Pirate Captain leads his fearless – and only slightly inept – crew on a series of adventures throughout the globe.

The books contain a host of lovable heroes and contemptible villains, from Number 2 (the only competent pirate on the boat), to the dastardly Black Bellamy (Pirate Captains Arch Enemy / Long Standing Friend) to the cynical, realistic (and therefore much loathed) Pirate in Red.

The Stories all follow a similar format; The Pirate Captain and his crew are bobbing along through the high seas, with no particular aims or goals in mind – they just like being at sea. (Never before has a single group of people more fully embodied that fine old hymn “Yo ho; Yo ho; A pirate’s life for me”.) The crew find themselves embattled in important philosophical debates – such as the best way to cook a ham – when the Pirate Captain himself enters majestically, and settles the matter once and for all, with an observation so wise and logical, you are left wondering why you never realised it before! Then – usually due to the Pirate Captain’s boredom or generalised moping, the crew set off on a wild adventure, featuring a host of famous figures from history. For example:

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (2004) – In an attempt to score some major treasure, the Pirates attack a vessel belonging to the Bank of England, transporting oodles of gold and treasures to wherever it is the Bank of England hordes it’s treasures. Unfortunately for the the Pirate Captain, this vessel contains less gold and more brilliant naturalists, in the form of Charles Darwin. Never one to back away from a challenge, The Pirate Captain concocts a scheme to use Darwin to make a fortune in London – leading to an exciting (and utterly bizarre) mystery that only the Pirates can solve.

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Napoleon (2008) sees a depressed Pirate Captain give up the salty world of professional pirating, to follow his life-long (read: half-hour long) dream of being a bee-keeper. He buys an island – which the brochure says is ideal for bee-keeping –  from the devilish Black Bellamy, and (much to the misery of the crew) set’s sail for his new Island – Corsica. Shortly after arriving, a new resident arrives – none other the Napoleon Bonaparte, freshly exiled. The Pirate Captain and Napoleon hit it off badly – two powerful personalities on a small, raggedy island (that is useless for keeping bees on) constantly at each others throats. The pair set about proving once-and-for-all who is the better man, with hilarious results!

Why did I read them…

My first exposure to this series came from the movie adaption – The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (Movie – 2012) – which remains one of my Top 5 movies of all time. After watching it a few times and looking on the ‘net, I discovered the books and bought them all. The books did not disappoint.

Why I love them…

The main (and most non-specific) reason is because I enjoyed the books so much. “The Pirates!…” books are the only series I can think of that I have read 3 or more times. I enjoyed The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (2004) so much that it is my go-to book for reading when I’m in a difficult head-space and need something to soothe and give a little spark of joy. It also holds the #1 spot in my Top 5 ‘light reading’ list.

Secondly, the characters. This series has characters I can really picture and enjoy (which was definitely helped by the movie adaption). I love the Pirate Captain most of all.

The Pirate Captain stands out for me because of the way his character reacts to the world around him. He is a Pirate because he loves the idea of being a pirate. He loves the treasure, and the pirate boat and the running people through. He loves the tattoos and the shanties and the roaring. He is married to the sea and is mostly faithful to it. He loves pirating – he just isn’t very good at it.

For starters, he’s really bad with names (so relatable) so he uses descriptions instead – The Pirate in Green, The Albino Pirate, The Pirate Who Likes Kittens And Sunsets. He also doesn’t know how nautical instruments work; be it an astrolabe or an honest-to-goodness map, the Pirate Captain doesn’t know how to use it properly. But he tries his best, and goes out of his way to make it sound like he knows exactly whats going on – even, and indeed especially, when he has absolutely no clue. The Pirate Crew love him in spite – or perhaps because – of this (except the Pirate in Red who tried to undermine the Pirate Captain whenever he can).

The Pirate Captain is not a man with a plan. He prefers to get an outline (catch the white whale) and fill in the details later. This leads to a series of amusing, over-the-top and mostly ineffective schemes as part of a totally bizarre and wonderful adventure.

Things usually work themselves out in the end, in one way or another, and you never stop rooting for the magnificent Pirate Captain and his rag-tag crew of lovable idiots.

Finally, the stories themselves. The plots are silly. The writing is silly. The characters and situations and footnotes are silly – and that is fantastic. These books don’t take themselves seriously – there’s no worrying about realism or historical accuracy or on occasions, common sense. It’s just fun. Fun for adults, and fun teens, fun for all!

Recommended for…

Most ages: Certainly fun for adults and older children. (Probably find for younger children but use your own judgement).

For readers of: Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams etc. Similar sort of humour and writing. I personally rank my Top 3 ‘humour’ series as #1 Discworld (Pratchett), #2 The Pirates!… (Defoe), #3 The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Adams).

Final thoughts…

The Pirates! series is equal parts funny, weird and wonderful. With situations and characters that are easy to love. They are written in a humorous and easy-to read way (complete with interesting and amusing foot-notes).

The stories are short, and sweet and funny. You really can’t ask for more.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters (Mark Dunn)

Goodreads Link

“Inventive and impressive … as politically engaging as it is fun.” ~ Big Issue

TL;DR – This book is a strange little treasure. A must read for lovers of words.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I honestly have no idea how I came to own this book – I just remember one day I didn’t own it, the next day I did. I assume tumblr had something to do with it. I assume that I read about how unique it was somewhere and thought I’d give it a shot.

Also, it was a the “A book I by an author I haven’t read” category for my reading challenge.

The Story…

Off the coast of America is an Island called Nollop. Named for the revered Nevin Nollop (deceased), creator of the pangram “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

Nollop is not an advanced nation – it’s not even keeping up with the rest of the world. But what Nollop lacks in technological advancement, it’s makes up for with the adoration of language. The Nollopian’s adore words – especially Ella. They adore words, and they idolise the aforementioned Nevin Nollop. A monument to his linguistic prowess stands proud for all to see – tiles with individual letters spelling out the famous pangram.

One day, a tile falls from the monument – the letter Z. The governing body of Nollop – being so fanatically devoted – declare the falling of the tile to represent an instruction from Nollop himself! The message is interpreted to mean the Nollopians should never used the letter again. Not in speech, not in writing…and those who break this divine law are severely punished.

The book is written as a series of letters from various Nollopians. As more tiles fall from the aging monument, the Nollopians are forced to abandon the variety of words they adore so much, until they can take no more…

What I liked…

The book itself is an example – albeit a very strange one – of totalitarian government, fanatical religious leadership and censorship. As the letters fall from the monument, so too are they removed from the book. Dunn writes very cleverly, managing to keep as much variety and love of language in each letter, despite the every increasing pressure caused by the rapidly decrease pool of usable letters. It is clever, not just because it is a physically difficult task, but also because Dunn manages to express so much emotion in so many ways, and when Ella’s heart breaks, my heart broke too.

The format itself, a series of somewhat connected letters, is a very novel and highly effective form of delivery. It was not just a gimmick – it brought the story to life. It took me a little while to get my head around it, and might have been irritating if the story wasn’t so engaging.

Finally, I loved the variety of ‘authors’ for the letters. The letters are written by many different characters; all with different views and ways of dealing with an incredibly difficult situation. Perhaps one of the most difficult, but most rewarding things about this book is that you find yourself questioning which of the characters approaches you think you would follow if you were in their place. Questions like this are what usually make books about totalitarianism very difficult, and often soul crushing to read – but the admittedly bizarre situation allows you to consider these ethical dilemmas, something which I find really important.

What I disliked…

Nothing. I loved it.

Final thoughts…

This book seems really strange. The premise is strange, the way it uses an ever decreasing pool of letters is strange. The use of letters instead of ‘normal’ prose is weird. BUT it is beautiful. It is challenging. It is insightful. It is art.

This book may be better suited to those with an appreciation for linguistic acrobatics, and the art of words, rather than the casual reader – but I would still encourage the casual reader to try it and see. It’s more than worth the effort.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!