Friday, 31 May 2019

Review - Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

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Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly
Published 15th May 2019 by Hot Key Books
Star Rating - ****
Goodreads Challenge - 30/50

I was gifted a copy of this book from the publisher via Readers First.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)
'In an ancient city by the sea, three sisters - a maiden, a mother, and a crone - are drawing maps by candlelight. Sombre, with piercing grey eyes, they are the three Fates, and every map is a human life . . .'

Stepsister takes up where Cinderella's tale ends. We meet Isabelle, the younger of Cinderella's two stepsisters. Ella is considered beautiful; stepsister Isabelle is not. Isabelle is fearless, brave, and strong-willed. She fences better than any boy, and takes her stallion over jumps that grown men fear to attempt. It doesn't matter, though; these qualities are not valued in a girl. Others have determined what is beautiful, and Isabelle does not fit their definition. Isabelle must face down the demons that drove her cruel treatment of Ella, challenge her own fate and maybe even redefine the very notion of beauty . . .

Cinderella is about a girl who was bullied; Stepsister is about the bully. We all root for the victims, we want to see them triumph. But what about the bullies? Is there hope for them? Can a mean girl change? Can she find her own happily ever after?

My Thoughts
I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book from the publisher via Readers First and I was super excited to read it. For those who don't know, Readers First is a website in the UK which gives readers the opportunity to read and review extracts of the first few chapters of books in order to be entered into a draw to win a copy. After reading the extract of this one I was super intrigued and I was really excited to continue with the story. 

This book is a retelling of Cinderella but not one that you would normally expect. Instead of focusing on Cinderella we actually follow Isabelle, one of her 'Ugly Stepsisters'. The direction this story takes is really interesting, it gets quite dark in places when you think about how Isabelle is feeling but it is also extremely feminist and I love the way it tackles the way woman are treated and their expectations from others. The writing style was really compelling and the chapters are really short which made for intriguing story telling and I kept saying to myself just one more. I flew through sections of this book and I really didn't want to put it down. 

As I said before I loved how this tackled the treatment and expectations of woman. The setting of this book seems to be the classic setting of the original fairy tale, a time period in which the expectations of a woman is to be a house wife and child barer and to rely on a man to support them however, this was challenged by our main character and several side characters. Our main character Isabelle loves riding, fighting and learning about military history but she's pressured by her mother to become the woman shes expected to be and this causes her to develop some not very nice feelings towards others. The exploration of emotions in this book was really interesting and sometimes Isabelle's feelings became quite dark when she was exploring resentment, jealousy and anger. Over the course of the book Isabelle experienced some great character development and I loved watching her become the person she is at the end. 

Many of the other characters were really interesting too, all of them played their part and I didn't feel like any of them were put there just to further the story. I particularly enjoyed the interactions between The Crone and Chance, I thought this added another interesting layer to the story. Isabelle's sister Tavi was interesting too, she also didn't want to fit in with the societies expectations but instead of fighting she wanted to learn. I enjoyed the romantic aspects between Isabelle and Felix too, the reconciliation wasn't forced and has some nice development too it as well. 

Overall I enjoyed this book. It was a really unique and fresh take on a fairy tale retelling. I enjoyed the feminist aspects of this story as well as the exploration of feelings and character development. I really want the author to write some more retellings in this vain because I would definitely pick them up.

Overall Rating 


Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Top 5 Wednesday - Books Featuring Mental Health


Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme where you discuss your 'top 5' in a variety of different topics on, guess what, a Wednesday. Full list of topics and more information can be found here on the Goodreads group.

This weeks topic is books featuring mental health in honour of May being Mental Health Awareness Month. This was quite a hard topic for me as most books featuring mental health fall into the contemporary genre and this is not really a genre I read. That being said after a bit of a think I came up with 5, all of which are on my TBR. 

The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X R Pan

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I've heard nothing but great things about this book. Everyone seems to love it. Mental health rep - MC working through grief

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

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This one has been on my TBR for ages, I really need to get to it soon. 
Mental health rep - MC dealing with self harm

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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Another one that's been on my TBR for far too long. I've heard mixed things about this one but I'm still intrigued by the premise. 
Mental health rep - OCD

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)

I really enjoyed the Shadow and Bone trilogy when I read it and I've been meaning to carry on in this universe for a while. I've heard the rep in this one is really good too. 
Mental health rep - PTSD

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

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This is a more recent addition to my TBR. I've never really been drawn to read John Green before as I don't like contemporary romance but the mystery element in premise of this one intrigues me.
Mental health rep - OCD (which I think might be Own Voices)

Obviously as I haven't read any of these I can't say how good the rep is in them, if you know please let me know, but I hope to get to them soon. 

If you have any great recommendations for books with good mental health rep please let me know. I'd love to add them to my ever growing TBR!



Friday, 24 May 2019

Review - The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

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The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Published 26th February 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Star Rating - *****
Goodreads Challenge - 28/50

Synopsis (from Goodreads)
'The new Game of Thrones' Stylist 'Puts Samantha Shannon in the same league as Robin Hobb and George R. R. Martin. Shannon is a master of dragons' Starburst An enthralling, epic fantasy about a world on the brink of war with dragons - an the women who must lead the fight to save it. 

A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens. 

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction - but assassins are getting closer to her door. Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic. 

Across the dark sea, Tane has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel. Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

My Thoughts
So I finally finished this beast of a book and my god what a brilliant beast it was! It took me a long time to read this one, nearly 3 weeks, and that's a long time for me, even for an 800 page book. That being said I savoured the time I spent with this story. I didn't want to rush it as I didn't want to miss anything. Not once did I find myself getting bored or wanting to pick up something else and, considering how long it took me to read, that's an achievement in itself. 

I'm not going to even try to explain the plot of this one as it's so complex, I just don't think I would be able to do it justice but there's a lot of buzz words associated with this story including myth, magic, dragons, court politics, queendom, f/f romance and I loved each and every part of it. The author did a fantastic job of building such a complex world and story within this one standalone novel. We follow two main perspectives throughout, one from the West and one from the East, with lots of other characters interspersed in between and I loved the way everything came together and was brought to an epic conclusion. I've seen a few reviews that have said that the first 200 pages are quite heavy with information about the setting and I do agree with that however, I really enjoyed learning about this setting that the author has crafted, I felt completely immersed in everything. Everything was so well thought out and everything that was mentioned played a part in the overarching story. I didn't feel like there was anything that could have been left out. 

I really enjoyed our cast of characters too. My favourite perspective was definitely the West. I loved following Ead, Sabran and Loth. All of the court politics and religious virtues were so well thought out. Their story was compelling and enticing and I sped through these chapters. That doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy the Eastern perspective following Tane and Niklays but I didn't feel this story line was as flashed out as the others, especially in the beginning. As we moved towards the conclusion and our characters paths began to cross then this obviously changed but, if I have to be a bit critical, I would of liked a little bit more from Tane and her story, especially about the Eastern dragons. 

Overall I absolutely loved this book. I loved the myth, magic and court politics, everything was so well thought out. I also loved how fleshed out the characters were, Ead and Sabran were especially well developed. The world building was also amazing. I think the author did an absolutely brilliant job of building this amazing world and story in one stand alone novel. I would definitely recommend this one.

Overall Rating 


Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Top 5 Wednesday - Emerald Covers


Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme where you discuss your 'top 5' in a variety of different topics on, guess what, a Wednesday. Full list of topics and more information can be found here on the Goodreads group.

This weeks topic is emerald covers in celebration of May's birthstone, the emerald. I struggled with this one a little bit, I can't think of many books I've read or want to read with emerald covers so I may have cheated a little and some of these covers are just green. 


This was the first book that came to mind when I saw this weeks topic. I don't think the photo does this cover justice, it really is beautiful and emerald. I've heard mixed things about this one but the premise really intrigues me so I do want to pick it up. 

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Another one on my TBR that I would like to read very soon. This one I have heard great things about though. 

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This is another TBR pick. I don't usually like covers with people on them but for some reason all of A.G. Howard's covers really appeal to me. 

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2)

The UK cover of this book, which I've pictured, is actually really shiny in real life and does remind me a little bit of emeralds. I love all of Rick Riorden's books and this one is the 2nd in the Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief series. 

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Okay so this one may be more green than emerald but hey ho. I actually only gave this book 3.5* but the series overall is fantastic. The books get so much better as you go. If you've read this one and feel a bit meh about it I would recommend continuing. 

So there are my 5 picks for emerald *cough* covers. Have you read any of these books? 

Are their any books with emerald covers that you would recommend?



Monday, 20 May 2019

Recent Book Haul

Some of you may have noticed that I have stopped doing my regular Mailbox Monday post as I haven't been receiving as many books as I have done before. That being said I have still bought a few books and been sent some from publishers so I thought I would share these with you here. 


Books I received from publishers/authors

       
 

One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence - I received this one from the author. It came out the beginning of this month, I've already read it and really enjoyed it. 

Step Sister by Jennifer Donnelly - I received this one from the UK website Readers First. It also comes out this month and is next on my TBR. 

The Girl in Red by Christina Henry - I received this one from the publisher, Titan Books. It comes out in June. 

The Beckoning Shadow by Katharyn Blair and A Dress for the Wicked by Autumn Krause - I received these from the publisher, Harper Collins. They come out in July and Autumn respectively. 

Books I bought


Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell - After reading and loving Alex Bell's most recent book I really wanted to pick up some more of her work. This one I picked up in a book trade on Facebook. 

Finale by Stephanie Garber - I pre-ordered this one as I had to have a first edition with the hidden cover to match my other books in this series. My local Waterstones also managed to get me a signed edition!

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie - I've been really enjoying adult fantasy recently and I've heard great things about this author. This is another one I picked up in a book trade on Facebook. 

So they are all the books I have received recently which isn't as many as normal which I'm pleased about as my TBR is getting a little bit out of control. 

What books have you received recently?

Have you read any of these that you would recommend?










Friday, 17 May 2019

Review - Final Girls by Riley Sager

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Final Girls by Riley Sager
Published 11th July 2017 by Ebury Press
Star Rating - ****
Goodreads Challenge - 26/50

Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout's knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media's attempts, they never meet.
 
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancĂ©, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past. 
 
That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy's doorstep. Blowing through Quincy's life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa's death come to light, Quincy's life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam's truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

My Thoughts
I haven't read a good mystery/thriller for a while so when I was looking for books to fit the O.W.Ls prompts and this one came up I was keen to dive in as I'd heard good things. It took me a while to get into it but in the end I really enjoyed this story. 

As I said it took me a while to get into this story, it started off a little slow for me. This story follows our main character Quincy, who is the only survivor of a horrible attack that killed all of her friends, as shes dubbed a Final Girl along with 2 other woman who have survived similar attacks. We watch Quincy as she tries to get on with her life and be 'normal' but then events happen that start to unravel Quincy's past and her future. In the beginning we follow Quincy and the events that ultimately lead up to the conclusion of the story. Things begin to unravel slowly and the elements of mystery are gradually introduced and you find yourself with a lot of questions. Although, there wasn't anything wrong with this and I did find myself wanting to keep reading to have my questions answered, I do prefer my thrillers to be a bit more fast paced. However, the story did pick up the pace in the last 3rd and I really enjoyed this part. I definitely didn't see any of the plot twists coming, I had a lot of theories and none of them were correct so I found myself genuinely shocked several times. 

I enjoyed our main character, in my opinion, I think the author did a good job and portraying a woman suffering the after affects of a trauma and trying to move on with her life. There were a lot of strains on the relationships in her life, both with her partner and her mother, but these were resolved in a way that felt genuine to me in the end. I especially enjoyed the development of the relationship with her mother which showed the importance of talking to others. Sam and Coop were also really interesting characters. I enjoyed the development of both of these, it was particularly interesting to watch Sam's development and see the motives behind her actions. 

Overall I enjoyed this story, especially when the pace picked up in the last 3rd. I thought the writing was quite clever and it unravelled the elements of the mystery slowly and this kept me engaged in the story, wanting to know what happens next. There were several shocking twists and turns that I was completely unaware were coming and these kept me on my toes. I would definitely recommend this one and I will be checking out this authors other work. 

Overall Rating


Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Top 5 Wednesday - SFF BFFs


Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme where you discuss your 'top 5' in a variety of different topics on, guess what, a Wednesday. Full list of topics and more information can be found here on the Goodreads group.

This weeks topic is your top 5 SFF BFFs, so your favourite friendships in science fiction and fantasy or characters you would want to be friends with. 

Hermione Granger 

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So lets start with an obvious one. The whole of the Harry Potter series is full of wonderful characters, wonderful friendships and characters that I think would make the best BFFs. I've chosen Hermione as I think she's a great character. She's smart, loyal and loves to read, what more could you ask for. 

Annabeth Chase

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This is another series that has a lot of great characters in it. This was a tough choice between Annabeth and Grover but in the end I went for Annabeth because she will be able to get you out of some sticky situations. 

Mia Covere

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She's the worlds most deadliest assassin, why wouldn't you want her for a friend! She will have your back if needed but do not cross her, you may not live to tell the tale. 

Kady, Ezra, Hannah and Nik

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These friends are the best. I loved reading about them throughout the series and when they finally all got together in Obsidio they fought for each other and fought hard!

Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter

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Another great rag tag group of friends fighting together to save the universe. 

So that's my top 5 favourite SFF BFFs. As you can see I love female characters and groups of friends working together, that's my jam!

I'd love to hear which characters you would like as a BFF. 



Monday, 13 May 2019

Out of My Comfort Zone Book Tag


When I was looking for fun book tags to take part in over on Twitter Stephen over at Stephen Writes pointed me in the direction of this one, you can see his answers here

I liked the idea of this tag which is that you have to pick one genre that you read regularly and you are NOT allowed to use any books from that genre to answer the questions, hence out of your comfort zone. 

I read a lot of fantasy, I would say that's my favourite genre so, I am going to try my hardest to answer these questions without using any fantasy books. Here we go. 


A book that is an exception when it comes to genres or elements you don't particularly like.

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The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo 
I do not read poetry, I just don't get it. However, I loved this book which is written in verse. Elizabeth Acevedo is a slam poet and this book is written in that style and I gave it 5 stars. 

A book you enjoyed from a genre that you previously held some stigma about.

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Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
I do not like romance, adult or YA, I do not like reading it, it does not hold my attention. However, I received a copy of this book from review and I actually quite enjoyed it. I think it's because it covers not just a romance but a few heavier topics too. 

A book you didn't know was out of your comfort zone until you started reading it.

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All the Lonely People by David Owen
When I picked this up I thought it was a science fiction, which I enjoy. However, it was more of a contemporary story with a speculative element and I don't tend to pick up contemporary. I did actually really enjoy this one too, I thought it was a really important read. 

Pick a friend who motivates you to pick up books you might not normally be interested in. Is there a book they convinced you to give a try?

The only people I know in real life who read are my mum and dad. My dad tends to read historical thrillers and crime novels which I tend to enjoy anyway and my mum will generally give anything a go. It was actually because of my mum that I picked up novels by Phillipa Gregory and realised I actually quite enjoy historical fiction. 

A book that is out of your comfort zone but you would like to read.

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They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera 
I don't have many contemporary romances on my TBR, as I've said before I don't read romance. However, I actually own a physical copy of this one that I picked up second hand and I've heard nothing but great things. I'm keen to give it a try. 

A book/genre so outside of your comfort zone that you'll probably never give a chance.

I have a few of these, I don't think I'll ever pick up erotica, paranormal romance or auto biographical work but never say never. 

This was a really fun tag to do and, it actually wasn't that hard to think of answers out of my comfort zone. It actually reminded me to read these types of books more because I usually enjoy them. 

I'd love to read your answers if you decide to do this tag. 


Friday, 10 May 2019

Review - Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett

Even the Darkest Stars (Even the Darkest Stars, #1)

Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett
Published 5th September 2017 by HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray
Star Rating - ***
Goodreads Challenge - 23/50

I was gifted a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the Emperor’s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. She knows she could be the best in the world, if only someone would give her a chance.

But everything changes when the mysterious and eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer ever known, arrives in her village and demands to hire Kamzin—not her older sister Lusha, as everyone had expected—for his next expedition. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself—even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means climbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer who is determined to best River, and Kamzin must decide what’s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit.

The challenges of climbing Raksha are unlike anything Kamzin expected—or prepared for—with avalanches, ice chasms, ghosts, and even worse at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth of their mission and of her companions—while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced.

My Thoughts
I was lucky enough to be gifted a copy of this book from the publisher a while ago in exchange for an honest review. I was really intrigued by the premise of this one and I loved the sound of the setting but unfortunately I felt it was a bit lacking in plot.

There were lots of things mentioned in this premise that I love in books. I love reading about explorations in rural and harsh environments with lots of secrets, mystery and magic thrown in so I was really expecting to love this one but alas I did not. I did love the setting, we follow our main character Kamzin as she becomes partner to the Royal Explorer, River Shara, and together they have to tackle the tallest, deadliest mountain in this world. I think the author did a fantastic job at building up this world. The descriptions of the harshness of the environment were really detailed and I really felt like I was immersed in the world. I could feel the cold, the winds and the snow just as much as our characters did which I think is a testament to the authors writing ability.

Unfortunately, as much as I loved this setting, I did feel this story was lacking in plot. Our main characters did a lot of travelling in this book and I get that this was one of the main points of the story however, I felt like nothing really happened until we were about 75% of the way through. Then when finally something did happen I felt it was quite anticlimactic. I also felt the story was quite predictable and I was able to figure out the twist from about a third of the way through so this wasn't a surprise to me either. The characters were okay. I liked Kamzin, she was determined and strong willed which was nice but there wasn't really anything stand out about them. I wasn't a fan of Kamzin and Lusha's sister relationship and I didn't think the romances were that great either.

Overall I loved the setting and the world building in this one but the plot and characters just didn't live up to my expectations. I will probably continue with the series though as I was intrigued by that ending but I will probably wait until I can pick it up for reasonably cheap or get it from my library.

Overall Rating


Sunday, 5 May 2019

Game of Thrones Book Tag

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Like most of the world I am fully immersed in the new series of Game of Thrones, let's just take a moment to admire she that is Arya Stark! I actually started watching the show about half way through so after bingeing the first 3 or 4 series I am now one of those people waiting on the edge of their seat for the next season and then continuing to sit there throughout the duration. 

I can't believe we have made it to the final season of the show (boo!) and in recognition of this I have decided to do the Game of Thrones book tag. Side note, I haven't actually read the books. I tired once before I started watching and got completely lost but, I may try again now I have the show as a reference. 

I saw this tag over on TBR and Beyond, Melanie had some great answers that you can check out here. She found it on Biblio Nyan, who is the original creator, however she did tweek anything that was out of date so I will be following that. 

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I very rarely reread books because, you know, giant TBR problems. However, I really want to reread Caraval so I can finish reading this series and I'm really worried that I won't enjoy it as much the second time around. 

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This is obviously my most anticipated release of 2019 not 2017. My most anticipated release of the year is actually already out and that was The Wicked King by Holly Black. Another one that's not out yet is Finale by Stephanie Garber which I have on preorder. 

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This has to be Nevernight by Jay Kristoff. I absolutely loved everything about this book and I really want to read the rest of them, like now!

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I don't think I have a book for this one in the way this prompt is implied however, the clifferhanger at the end of The Wicked King was epic and I'm 'pissed off' that I can't read the next one right away. 

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The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Mass. This series is such a staple in YA fantasy and I do want to read it I just haven't got round to picking it up yet. I even own the first three books so I have no excuse really. 

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I don't tend to read gory books however, a disturbing book would have to be Rattle by Fiona Cummins. It's a detective thriller, which I don't usually find disturbing but this one was really creepy and sinister. I felt chilled whilst reading it. 

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As I said earlier I don't tend to reread books so for this one I'm going to have to say The Harry Potter series. Self explanatory really. 

Thank you to those bloggers mentioned above for this super fun tag, I really enjoyed taking part. 

If your a fan of GOT I'd love to see your answers to these questions.