The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski Review

This is a collection of short stories following Geralt, our Witcher, on his adventures before the events of Blood of Elves.

The stories have a few dark fairytale elements, A Grain of Truth reminded me of Beauty and the Beast. A vile highwayman was cursed and lived alone as a beast in his mansion, he gained some magical abilities and could summon food from the kitchens without having to lift a finger. One day a merchant stumbled upon the beast and traded his daughter for a year with the beast in exchange for money and jewels. Soon other men found out about the arrangement and the beast was hardly alone. Geralt came across the beast when he found bodies in a wood nearby, it turns out there was something far more dangerous living in the house.

“There was something strange in Renfri’s voice…something associated with the red reflection of fire on blades, the wailing of people being murdered, the whinnying of horses and the smell of blood.”

In The Lesser Evil, Geralt finds an old acquaintance, a wizard who has become obsessed with an old myth that says any women born on the day of an eclipse has been sent by the devil to kill. For years some mad wizards have been hunting down these women and keeping them in towers (Rapunzel vibes). There’s also mention of a queen asking their mirror to predict the future and bring about the downfall of her stepdaughter. I think this was my favourite story.

“I know my fate whirls about me like water in a weir. It’s hard on my heels, following my tracks, but I never look back.”

Geralt’s moral compass is better than everyone around him, he was made to kill but he doesn’t enjoy it. He kills monsters if he has to and for money. If he can he will try to reverse spells and save as many people as he can. But people are scared of him, they shun him. He still has humour and his horse Roach though!

“People like to invent monsters and monstrosities. Then they seem less monstrous themselves.”

Queen Calanthe is so cool, I want to be her. She refuses to marry again after her husband dies because she doesn’t want to give up her power, fight the Patriarchy!!

“So I, a poor witcher, am to face down a destiny which is stronger than the royal will. A witcher fighting destiny! What irony!”

Yennefer is only in The Last Wish and she comes across as very fierce and forceful, her relationship with Geralt is important, they are bound together but they’re both low-key messes so it’s no wonder they fight a lot. Dandilion is also in this story as well as The Edge of the World. He makes me laugh, I love his and Geralt’s relationship, they both get on each other’s nerves but still care about each other.

I’m very excited to read Sword of Destiny which is another set of short stories, then it’ll be the main series!

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson Review

Blurb: Jackson Brodie has relocated to a quiet seaside village in North Yorkshire, in the occasional company of his recalcitrant teenage son Nathan and ageing Labrador Dido, both at the discretion of his former partner Julia. It’s a picturesque setting, but there’s something darker lurking behind the scenes. Jackson’s current job, gathering proof of an unfaithful husband for his suspicious wife, seems straightforward, but a chance encounter with a desperate man on a crumbling cliff leads him into a sinister network-and back into the path of someone from his past. Old secrets and new lies intersect in this breathtaking new novel, both sharply funny and achingly sad, by one of the most dazzling and surprising writers at work today.

It’s a slow burn to start with but I don’t mind that, I like getting to know the characters and starting to see where the connections are but I was always aware that something bigger was coming.

“It was funny how so many men were defined by their downfall. Women hardly ever. They didn’t fall down. They stood up.”

One of Kate Atkinson’s strengths is her characters and making them feel real, no matter how often they appear, every character is detailed and has life in them.

“His life had been a litany of disasters. What if he was already on his ninth life? The last go round. Perhaps he should be more cautious.”

Jackson’s sarcasm and pessimistic view of the world is the main reason I connect so well to his character. I also really connected with Reggie and Ronnie the two detectives that were assigned to investigate potential leads in an old case. They’re witty and determined and some of their quotes just spoke to me.

“Reggie sometimes wondered if a day would ever go by when she wasn’t disappointed in people.” – such a mood

Everything is cleverly wound together and as usual Jackson finds himself in the middle trying to put all the pieces together. I enjoyed all the references to the older books in the series but you don’t have to have read them to get into this book.

“Reggie was twenty-six, but she didn’t think that she had ever been the right age.”

I really enjoyed this book, I love a good mystery and trying to work things out for myself! I will always love everything that Kate Atkinson writes, she is brilliant no matter what the genre.

Top Five Tuesday – Books I’m glad I read this year

It’s Top Five Tuesday which is hosted by Meeghan Reads, every week we’re given a book related topic and we choose our top five! This week we’ve got to pick five book that we’re glad we read this year. I’ve had a great reading year so far and here are my favourites:

1. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

I really enjoyed this book, my full review is here. It’s a prequel to The Hunger Games series but I found it chilling and interesting to see the Capitol just after the war and witness the coldness of the people in charge.

2. The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

I’m so glad Lyra is back! This is the second book in The Book of Dust and Lyra is an adult and enrolled at Oxford University. I loved being back in Lyra’s world and watching her navigate through it to places we’ve never been before, my full review is here.

3. Circe by Madeline Miller

This book is so great! Circe is a badass witch but more than that she still compassion and love to give. I learnt a lot about the Greek gods and goddesses in it as well, my full review is here.

4. The Garden of Lost and Found by Harriet Evans

A sad and beautiful historical fiction novel, I loved this book and the connection that the characters had to their house throughout the 20th century. My full review is here.

5. The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Another witchy tale but this time it was truly terrifying, it’s based on true events and I still can’t get over how awfully women were treated during the witch trials. My full review is here.

What are your favourite reads this year?

Top Five Tuesday – Books I haven’t read yet

It’s Top Five Tuesday which is hosted by Meeghan Reads, every week we’re given a book related topic and we choose our top five! This week we’ve got to choose five books that we wanted to read this year but haven’t yet, I’ve been pretty good this year, I’ve got through most of the books I wanted to but here are five that I may hve neglected:

1. The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley

It’s been a while since I finished The Shadow Sister which precedes this but it keeps getting bumped down my list! I love this series and I need to get a wriggle on and read the last three.

2. The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

Ever since I watched The Witcher on Netflix I’ve been desperate to read the books! Someone has just leant me the first three in the series so I can’t wait to read all of Geralt’s adventures.

3. The Unseen by Katherine Webb

I added this to my TBR list four years ago and it’s been creeping it’s way up but I still haven’t got around to it, it’s historical fiction set in the early 1900s with a mystery and suspense, my type of book!

4. Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir

I started Alison Weir’s Six Queens series a while ago, each book focuses on one of Henry VIII’s wives. Her book about Katherine of Aragon was so detailed and incredibly written I felt like I knew more about Katherine than before, she felt far more real. I can’t wait to read Weir’s book about Anne Boleyn, I’ll probably be quite emotional as well.

5. Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom

I’ve been wanting to read more from C.J. Sansom ever since I read Dominion which was a terrifying take on what-if Britain made peace with Nazi Germany. It was so well written I was completely gripped, I need to get my hands on Winter in Madrid!

Do you have any books you were meant to read this year but haven’t yet?

Top Five Tuesday – Creepy Characters

It’s Top Five Tuesday which is hosted by Meeghan Reads, every week we’re given a book related topic and we choose our top five! This month is spooky themed for Halloween, this week we’ve got to pick creepy characters. I actually struggled a little bit with this one, but then I just thought about characters that I strongly dislike and why so here are the creepiest:

1. Ramsay Snow from A Song of Ice and Fire

Saying I hate him is a massive understatement. He’s a vile sadist, he tortures and kills people for fun, I won’t go into more detail. I can’t think of a more creepy character.

2. Littlefinger (Petyr Baelish) from A Song of Ice and Fire

Honestly what a creep! He basically stalks Catelyn and when he couldn’t marry her he sets out to creep on her daughter instead. He also spends all his time orchestrating chaotic scenarios and trying to destroy the country. He has no set goals except to get his hands on as much power as possible.

3. Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The only woman to make the list, but she is the worst! From her weird obsession with pink and kittens and her fake positivity to her forcing children to cut their hands because they disobeyed her. She’s a bully, pure and simple and she loves having power over others.

4. Count Olaf from A Series of Unfortunate Events

This guy is so creepy, he tries to adopt the Baudelaire orphans to steal their fortune and when his first plan fails he follows them for years trying to trick their various guardians to give them up. He also had different and increasingly disturbing disguises every time. These books are scarier the older you get!

5. Wormtail (Peter Pettigrew) from Harry Potter

I mean he literally chose to turn into a rat when given the choice, if that isn’t creepy I don’t know what is. He gave up his friends location to Voldermort because he is weak and pathetic and then hid for years as a pet rat.

There’s my list of creepy arseholes, who is on your list?!

Top Five Tuesday – Witches

It’s Top Five Tuesday which is hosted by Meeghan Reads, every week we’re given a book related topic and we choose our top five! This month is spooky themed for Halloween, this week we’ve got to pick our favourite books with witches in them. I love witches, I want to be one, so this is the perfect category for me!

1. Circe by Madeline Miller

I love Circe, she has amazing powers with herbs and plants, her potions and spells turned nyphs into monsters and mortal men into pigs who threw themselves off cliffs into the sea. She is not to be messed with! But Circe is also loving and used a lot of her magical energy protecting her son from Athena who wanted to do him harm.

2. Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

This is the first Discworld story with our witches; Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick. It’s a spoof of Macbeth where our witches try to help the right person to the throne. It’s funny of course, I find Granny the funniest, she’s grumpy and set in her ways and just one glare can make most people tremble, but she cares really!

3. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

The witches in this series are mysterious and almost mythical beings. They live in clans and fight with other clans if necessary. They can fly easily, they live for hundreds of years but don’t appear to age much and can be miles away from their daemons, unlike the humans of their world who have to stay within a few feet of their daemons. Serafina Pekkala is the main witch that we know, she sees something special in Lyra and promises to protect her, also she has a great name.

4. A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

I haven’t read this yet but it’s patiently waiting on my shelf! It follows a family of witches across five generations as they try to hide their secret and keep each other safe. I am very excited about this book!

5. The Familiars by Stacey Hall

I read this book recently and loved it, it’s set in the north of England when the witch trials were at their peak. It’s terrifying how those women were treated, most of them were just healers and midwives and wouldn’t do anyone any harm, the delusions of the King killed hundreds.

Top Five Tuesday – Ghosts

It’s Top Five Tuesday which is hosted by Meeghan Reads, every week we’re given a book related topic and we choose our top five! This month is spooky themed for Halloween, this week we’ve got to pick our favourite books with ghosts in them.

38530939. sy475 1. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

This is one of my favourite books, it’s narrated by the resident ghost at Birchwood Manor. She gives us glimpses of the lives of her favourite people who have lived in the house since she’s been there. She helps some of the residents and even saved a girl’s life. But she barely remembers her own name or the rest of her life, it’s incredibly sad.

6147457. sy475 2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

This is probably my favourite classic, when Cathy dies she haunts Heathcliff and visits the house at night. The atmosphere in Wuthering Heights is haunting in itself, the fog and isolation of the moors which surround the house. It’s a good Halloween read!

253295133. Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James

The ghost in this book is a young girl, when alive she was troubled by visions and she took her own life. When Jo first goes to Wych Elm House she is terrified by the ghost who moves her things and wakes her in the night. But she comes to realise that the girl needs Jo to reveal the truth.

407656004. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

I haven’t read this book but I’ve watched the tv series and it is full of ghosts! But it’s cleverer than a normal haunted house story. I loved all the characters and their strangeness and how they interacted with the house, I’ve never read a horror book before but I’m looking forward to this one.

180006305. The Memory of Midnight by Pamela Hartshorne

This is an interesting take on ghosts because the haunting is memories rather than an active ghost. Tess and her son Oscar move to York, Tess is eager for a new start away from her manipulative husband. But soon Tess starts seeing memories of a past that’s not her own. Meanwhile we meet Nell in Elizabethan times, she is also hoping to escape a horrible marriage.

What are some of your favourite ghostly stories?

World Mental Health Day

This World Mental Health Day is probably more important than ones before, this year has been terrifying for most of us and it can be hard to think about taking positive steps in this time. I thought I could share some books that have helped me specifically with my mental health (really all books help my mental health because – escapism):

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

Matt Haig’s style really works in this book, he asks important questions and then answers them himself, he shares some of his own experiences with anxiety and how the world around him affects it. This book made me really think about my social media habits and how much I rush from one thing to the next and how those things affect my anxiety and stress levels.

Calm and Happy by Fearne Cotton

What I love about these books is the little tasks that Fearne set that help to check in with your mood and enbrace it. There are also stories about mental health from Fearne and others. They helped me see the importance of stepping back and taking a breath, not rushing around all the time, take some time for my mind to relax.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

This is a really wholesome book where Mitch finds his old college professor and mentor who taught him so much. In these discussions they talk about life and we see an older perspective from someone at the end of their life. It’s an emotional read but I found it uplifting as well.

Please take care of yourself and your beautiful mind. Take some time to go for a walk, do something creative or maybe write in a journal today. For advice regarding mental health you can visit the Mind website, their resources are so helpful.

Top Five Tuesday – Black and Orange Covers

It’s Top Five Tuesday which is hosted by Meeghan Reads, every week we’re given a book related topic and we choose our top five! This month is spooky themed for Halloween, this week we’ve got to find black and orange book covers.

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This has both black and orange so it’s at the top of my list! I really love this cover I think the black makes it look more dramatic and of course the mockingjay is iconic. The Hunger Games is set in a pretty terrifying world where the people are starving and ruled over by an insane population of ‘elite’ money grabbers.

2. Nightflyers by George R.R. Martin

This book has a black cover and the short stories inside are eerie and creepy so it would make a good Halloween read. All the stories are set in the future and in space but they all have scary elements.

3. The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz

This has both black and orange on the cover too! I love this series, it’s always dramatic and intriguing. In this book Lisbeth decides to try to find out more about her traumatic childhood, with Mikael’s help she discovers some disturbing things about her past.

4. The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events) by Lemony Snicket

This has got orange and black on the cover and it looks great on my bookshelf with all the other books in the series! This book is pretty scary, the Baudelaire siblings go to stay at a lumber mill but are put to work, there’s barely any food and when Olaf finds them he hypnotises Klaus via his optometrist friend. Klaus then takes charge of the dangerous equipment and everyone is in danger.

5. The Sword and the Scimitar by David Ball

I read this book years ago before I went to visit Malta, it’s set on the island over Nico and Maria’s lifetime, they’re siblings but were separated by war and slavery. Malta was constantlybeing invaded and attacked by Europeans or the Ottoman Empire and this book shows that history through the eyes of some Maltese citizens.

Top Five Tuesday – A-Z Favourite Characters

It’s Top Five Tuesday which is hosted by Meeghan Reads, every week we’re given a book related topic and we choose our top five! This month it’s another A-Z this time our favourite characters, this week it’s the end of the alphabet U-Z.

U – Ursula Todd (Life After Life)

Ursula lives through different versions of her life in Life After Life, sometimes she can almost remember parts from previous time lines. She lives through WWI and WWII she is incredibly strong but above all she loves her family, specifically her sister Pamela and brother Teddy. Eventually she realises that she can use her reincarnations to try to save them during the war.

V – Visenya Targaryen (Fire and Blood)

I’m not always a fan of the Targaryens but I’ve always been drawn more to Visenya. She’s a true warrior queen, she prefers wearing armour and flying on the back of her dragon to being around people!

W – Frederick Wentworth (Persuasion)

This guy is adorable, he had his heart broken by the love of his life, Anne when she rejected his proposal years before. In Persuasion they find each other again, they still love each other, Frederick is now wealthy, he made his fortune through hard work. He’s blunt and stand-offish at first but eventually we see his soft side.

X – Xenophilius Lovegood (Harry Potter series)

I’m pretty surprised that I found someone with a name beginning with X! Xenophilius is a very quirky wizard, he created the Quibbler, a magazine that highlights all the conspiracy theories of the Wizarding World. A lot of people don’t take him seriously but when Voldermort came back and the Ministry were attacking Harry he stood by him. Also he raised Luna and she is golden!

Y – Yennefer of Vengerberg (The Witcher series)

I haven’t read the Witcher series yet but I loved Yennefer’s character in the show so I know she’ll be one of my favourites when I read them! She’s fierce and strong and fights against the rules that are imposed on her. Yennefer is a badass witch who doesn’t care what anyone says.

Z – Zeus (Greek mythology)

I’m clutching at straws here because Zeus actually annoys me, but I do find Greek mythology fascinating! I love how the Greek gods aren’t perfect and divine, they’re chaotic, ruthless, meddling and even jealous, they seem more real this way, they’re flawed too. Zeus is the most out of control, he’s in charge so he does what he likes, but if you cross him it could have grave consequences, even for the immortal, he will find a terrible punishment for those that anger him.

I am really happy that I managed to find someone for all the tricky letters! I’ve enjoyed this months prompts, I can’t believe it’s nearly October already!