A Little Update and Some Publications!

So I’ve been a little AWOL these past two months, a lot was happening in my day-to-day life and I just didn’t have it in me to write reviews. The little time that I had I wanted to spend on writing fiction, so that’s what I did!

I have four new pieces published!

Mae’ in Second Chance Lit, a little story about the carnival and fate.

‘Beach Night’ in Capsule Stories, a short piece about nostalgia and the future and the beach.

‘The River Washes’ in Not Deer Magazine, a light-horror piece about revenge.

Honeysuckle’ also in Not Deer Magazine, a light-horror piece about something deep in the woods and getting lost.

I’m really proud of all of them so if you’d want to give them a read that’d mean a lot 🙂

But I’m not forgetting about my book blog! I do miss talking about books, and although I haven’t been reading much, I’ve been reading some really cool things. Currently I’m reading The Martian and it’s just so unexpectedly good (I normally hate anything about space) and it deserves a big review. But I’ve noticed I just can’t write full, formal reviews every week, and I think I’m going to change the format of this blog a little.

The posts are going to be more like diary updates (but focused on books, of course), kind of like the ‘What I Read and Wrote Last Month’ posts I’ve been doing, but less structured – but with full reviews in between if I have a lot to say about something. And not every week anymore, but just whenever it takes my fancy. I also think I’m going to do more with my bookstagram soon.

I just need to make everything less perfect, less formal, less structured, so everything is less labor intensive. I’m a big of a perfectionist, but I just can’t do everything :’) But I miss talking about books, so I’ll be back.

xx Lotte

Book Review | The Gin O’Clock Club by Rosie Blake

“Now, though, work seems to have swallowed her up.

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the gin o'clock club rosie blakeTeddy is worried about his granddaughter. Lottie rushes through life working, ticking off to-do lists, canceling plans with friends and snapping at her boyfriend. His late wife, Lily, would have known what to do, but it’s up to Teddy to talk some sense into Lottie. Together with his closest friends, The Gin O’Clock Club, he devices a plan to remind Lottie there’s more to life than being tired and overworked.

This was a really enjoyable read. I personally really identified with Lottie (not just because of the name) because I also have a tendency to work too hard and forget to just enjoy things. We really see her go through that process.

All of the characters were great, especially the secondary ones. The Gin O’Clock Club men could be so silly at times but they all clearly had their own troubles and pasts and inner lives. The book is also just very funny, especially because of these characters.

It was especially cool to read about a couple that doesn’t need to break up in order for the main character to undergo a major life change, because the bond is stronger than that. Usually breaking up or getting together is one of the big plots in books, but we shouldn’t forget that a lot of personal change can also happen within a relationship.

The only thing I missed a little was perhaps delving deeper into Lottie’s reasons for working so hard, the insecurities and traumas that make her overexert herself. Because these things are rarely really just a case of just realizing you have to stop, there’s often a deeper reasons. I also missed someone telling Lottie that she didn’t have to work so hard, that she was okay just was she was.

A very enjoyable, and very very funny story about finding your way back to enjoying life, full of amazing characters and laugh-out-loud scenes.

Trigger Warnings (CONTAINS SPOILERS): death, funeral, couple fighting

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Book Review | The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Just because something has always been done does not mean that it ought to be done.”

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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 creeping 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 sea, Tané 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.

This is one of the best fantasy I’ve ever read. This is Lord of the Rings level epic, but feminist. Women are real people in this book, not just damsels, not just fighters, not just a symbol for something else. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re evil, sometimes they’re just a little selfish. Like humans are. All of the characters are just so interesting and complex. While we get the POV of only a few of them, all of these characters feel real, with rich inner lives, struggled, strengths, weaknesses.

What I admire most is the world building. There’s such a rich world between these pages, such a wide world, too. It’s not just one kingdom, but almost a whole planet, every wind direction has a part in this story. There’s also a deep and rich history, full of legend and myths and facts and religions. The cultures of every country are so well thought-out, the cities and villages and towns so realistic that I can see them, feel them, smell them. They’re so clearly a product of its people, while also clearly influencing the people. All so rich and unique.

The writing was also absolutely beautiful. So often I had to just stop and stare at a sentence for a while because it was so beautifully crafted, so precisely done. “And when the dead lay at her feet, she looked up, tasting iron, hands glowing in wetness.” Hands glowing in wetness, what a detailed and gruesome image Shannon manages to conjure up. The text is rich and full of detail, but nothing ever feels over saturated. This makes the the book slow, but personally I love that. It’s not an action heavy fantasy, but it’s full of beautiful world-building and and meticulously written, slow burning plot.

I don’t think I can express enough how much I enjoyed reading this and how much I admire the craft that went into this book. In my eyes, it’s perfect on every level.

Trigger Warnings (CONTAINS SPOILERS): alcoholism, blood and gore, violence, death, torture, war, murder, plague, infertility, miscarriage, suicide ideation

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Literary Magazine Review | Capsule Stories Spring Issue ‘In Bloom’

So a disclaimer: my poem is in this magazine, and I got a free contributor copy so I am a little biased, but I thought I’d write a post anyway because I’ve read through all the other pieces, and they’re just so good.

Capsule Stories is a quarterly magazine that has themed issues every season, often vaguely connected to the current season. They “have a penchant for pretty words, an affinity to the melancholy, and an undeniably time-ful aura.” And that shows in the pieces they pick.

A mix of poetry and fiction, this issue is filled with stories of hope and of grief, dying and blooming, the bitter-sweetness of the new spring and a survived winter. What struck me most is the rich variety in styles and types of subjects, while still all fitting within the theme. Also the great quality of every single piece!

Some pieces I especially loved are:
I Told You It Takes Me Hours to Water My Houseplants by AJ Buckle
I Pray and I Deceive by Hila Messer
A Coffin Is Not a Cocoon by E. E. Rhodes
Crickets in the Bathroom by Eli Vandell
Elegy in Spring by L. Kardon

If you want a copy, you can find links here and also find it on Waterstones. Oh, and before you go, read my own poem ‘this spring’ here ;). I’ll have another piece out in the next issue, so watch this space!

Trigger Warnings: added for each individual piece on the title page

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Book Review | Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston

I always thought that gardeners’ daughters couldn’t thrive where our roots didn’t grow. But maybe we were like dandelion tuffs.”

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Cerys is safe in the kingdom of Aloriya. There are no droughts, no famines, no diseases. The country prospers because of the magic in the royal family’s blood and the crown their ancestor got from the Lady of the Wilds before she disappeard. But there is still the nevereending threat of the woods, which are forbidden. Cerys knows the dangers all too well, as she narrowly escaped once with only a small curse, and lost her mother to it. Now she is a gardener’s daughter, a safe, predictable life. But when the king dies, the wood smells weakness.

I had a lot of hope for this (sort of) Sleeping Beauty retelling but honestly I’m a little disappointed. I couldn’t connect to the story and I felt the plot was blotchy in places. It felt a lot of the time as if the author was trying to do this profound metaphor, but never quite got there. Like the MC had to have this big revelation but there was never any for her to feel that way. It’s also a very action heavy story, but the timing often felt off, especially with the ending where we suddenly skip ahead without ever really getting a truly satisfying conclusion to the story.

Why do I still give it three stars then? Because there isn’t inherently anything wrong with it. I just have a feeling it could have been better. It is an exciting story with pretty cool monsters and characters. The characters’ motivations weren’t always clear to me, they often felt like plot-devices rather than people, but it would work well as an action-film.

I did really enjoy the dynamic between Cerys and Fox, it was a really cool friendship they were building and I laughed out loud several times and their conversations. Honestly that was really the best part of the whole book to me.

If you like fast-paced stories that don’t go too deep and have a cool friendship/romance, then you will enjoy this book probably more than I did.

Trigger Warnings (CONTAINS SPOILERS): gore, zombies (sort of), death

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Book Review | Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke

I will grab the world by its leash and make it heel.”

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IMG_20210311_123522_008.jpgTorvi’s family is dead. Everyone of her household except her sister has died of the snow-sickness, that comes with the snow and strikes unexpectedly. Shortly after that, her sister is stolen by a band of flame-loving Fremish wolf-priests, and Torvi will have to leave the home she’s always known to get her back. Together with a druid and a band of Butcher Bards, she sets on a quest to rescue her sister and find a magical sword.

I loved this book. The world is a mix of Arthurian-esque and Norse Mythology-esque fantasy and something completely Tucholke’s own. You get the sense there’s an wide, wide world beyond just this one story and we only get to see glimpses of it right now. It’s a wonderful world to dwell in, full of both danger and heartache, but also adventure and magic. It’s such a rich tapestry of people and groups and places and stories. I also really enjoyed the characters, the backgrounds and their cultures, especially Torvi who goes to fulfill her destiny despite her upbringing.

What I found especially interesting is the plot structure, because it doesn’t follow the traditional route. It doesn’t follow the calm-action-calm-action structure of a lot of books. It reminds me lot of old sagas, long meandering tales where a lot of things just happen, and the story doesn’t necessary only works towards one specific point. You get the feeling it’s part of a much longer narrative. I really think it works, but it might be strange if you’re looking for a more conventional type of storytelling.

If you like the quieter parts of fantasy adventures instead of the fast-paced action scenes, this is the book for you. A quite slow-paced book, a meandering narrative of heroes through a fantastical world with beautiful story-telling.

Trigger Warnings (CONTAINS SPOILERS): alcohol, alcoholism/addiction, drugs, gore, blood, illness, plague

, ill~

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Book Review | Mudlarking by Lara Maiklem

“In my head I tell my forebears: I’ll be back with you on the river soon.”

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mudlarking lara maiklemI’d been following Lara Maiklem on her mudlark twitter for a while before I realized that she has a non-fiction book out that’s completely about mudlarking. Because I was really enjoying her tweets about her mudlarking adventures, I really wanted to read this book. And I loved it!

I’m really intrigued by the idea of mudlarking, which is looking for items in the mud of a river on low tide (in this case the Thames specifically). Some look for things that have monetary value, but Maiklem is more focused on those that are historically precious. It’s absolutely fascinating to me to just find stuff that is so old, so preserved by the mud. How strange and wonderful it must be to find a clay pipe that has been used by someone hundreds of years ago? What a way to be connected to the past.

In her book, Maiklem manages to weave a tapestry of what mudlarking is, and it’s place in the bigger picture of history and today’s culture. She binds personal anecdotes of interesting finds together with pieces of very real history, traces of actual events that happened hundreds of years ago, and parts of left-behind rubbish that speak of mysteries we will never quite figure out. But she also shows how it’s all connected to the modern day, that we’re still littering the river, only with more harmful stuff. That it’s still used in the same and different ways, that all the traces of the past are still here.

There’s so much information in this book about the Thames and its treasures, but it’s written in such a way it feels very natural to read. It meanders from place to place, from past to present, from historic events to personal events. Maiklem manages to make history personal, to connect the past with the present. Plus she takes the reader mudlarking with her, describes the sights, the sounds, the scents of the foreshore so vividly it’s almost like you’re there, with Maiklem there as a nature guide to tell you all she knows about the river. It’s so clear Maiklem is incredibly passionate about her subject, and she manages to transfer that passion onto the reader.

Absolutely a joy to read if you have any interest in the small history, in the found objects, in the every day life, or simply love rivers.

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Book Review | Away With the Penguins by Hazel Prior

“There are those who make the world worse, those who make no difference, and those who make the world better. Be one who makes the world better, if you can.”

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IMG_20201230_202521_306.jpgVeronica McCreedy has lived in her mansion by the sea for a very long time, alone, except for her housekeeper who comes by every day. She likes a good cup of darjeeling and a nature documentary, and picks up litter on her walks. For a long time this was enough, but then the loneliness and the boredom start to nag. A new documentary series about penguins remind Veronica of her former fire and set her on the biggest adventure of her life.

This was such an enjoyable read. Veronica is a grumpy and rigid old lady, but as you get to know her throughout the book she defrosts and you realize there is so much depth to her character. I also really enjoyed the perspective of her grandson, such a complex character. He has his demons and traumas but is also a really lively and cheerful guy. The secondary characters are all also really complex and full of layers, the whole book is a really interesting study of characters.

The story, too, is amazing. An old lady throws her whole life around (for a while) and does something truly unexpected, and everyone around her gets all in a panic about it, but she’s stronger than people take her for. We go back into her past through diary passages, we see her work through old trauma. The story gets quite dark at times, mostly because of the flash backs, but all in all it’s a message of hope, of wonder, of that you’re never too old to change things. It’s heartwarming without ever getting cheesy, funny without ever getting annoyingly so. Definitely a great read if you want a fun story that’s also profound somehow.

Such a heartwarming but also sometimes dark novel about finding love and family and the things you’re passionate about.

Content warnings (might contain spoilers): sexual harassment in a flashback (but no rape), death, illness, second world war, teenage pregnancy, forced adoption

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