Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (2011)

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)
by Deborah Harkness

‘I saw the logic that they used, and the death of a thousand cuts as experimental scientists slowly chipped away at the belief that the world was an inexplicably powerful, magical place. Ultimately they failed, though. The magic never really went away. It waited, quietly, for people to return to it when they found the science wanting.’

TEA! WINE! BOOKS! MAGIC!

This book is basically an ode to all the things a historian loves: archival research in old libraries with numerous texts and tomes, historical tangents, philosophical debates, and an investigation into the inexplicable and wondrous. I’m also fairly certain I’ve never encountered two characters who love the history of wine and tea more than Diana and Matthew. Bless their hearts.

A Discovery of Witches is the first in a trilogy that follows the fantastical adventures of Diana Bishop, a professor/witch who is spending her summer in Oxford for research on alchemical texts. But it’s in the archives that she stumbles upon something: a book that everyone in the magical world wants to get their hands on. Diana, though a witch, wants nothing to do with magic and pretends not to notice the book or its magical ~allure. That is, until a vampire named Matthew Clairmont catches her notice.

Matthew, along with an entire library of magical onlookers (i.e. magical stalkers), all want the book. For some reason, though, only Diana has ever been able to access it. This discovery leads to a spiral of events that put Diana in danger as various vampires and witches try to get the book. Few of the book’s seekers care about Diana’s wellbeing, leaving her with only Matthew and her aunts to help. Her aunts, Sarah and Emily, were wonderful! Very motherly. They’re both witches themselves and I love their scenes. I also loved Matthew’s relationships with his family: especially Marcus, his son and Ysabeau, his mum. The story eventually leads the main couple from England to France and then to the United States, so there’s a good bit of setting changes. The library scenes were probably my favourite, though!

This is a vampire tale quite different from Buffy or Vampire Diaries. I was reminded a bit of Twilight at the start, but not because the storylines are the same (they’re not) or because Diana is similar to Bella (she isn’t), or because the vampires are similar (they’re totally, totally, totally different), but rather because Matthew reminded me a bit of Edward at the start. That sort of quiet, reserved, chivalrous type who lurks in the shadows. That changed pretty quickly, though. Matthew is much, much darker than Edward. His history is long and brutal and he makes no attempts at hiding it. There are some seriously interesting events in history that he’s been party to. This is a book that lauds history, so you do get a lot of historical moments re-imagined through the lens of vampires and witches, which was seriously cool. Diana and Matthew are the epitome of researching academics, which I adore ♡ Their chemistry is also unreal.

I’m definitely curious about book two, Shadow of Night, especially given that ending! OH MY GOSH.

Has anyone else read this trilogy? Or seen the show?

Book Review: Lie With Me by Philippe Besson, Translated by Molly Ringwald (2019)

Lie With Me by Philippe Besson

No matter how much you want to respect someone’s freedom (even when you consider it selfish), you still have your own pain, anger, and melancholy to contend with.

I was not prepared for this story AT ALL.

I first picked up Lie With Me because I love Molly Ringwald – and Molly Ringwald surely has great taste in LGBT French novellas?! And, she totally does. Lie With Me is a beautiful, tragic, raw novella that’s left me quite unsure what to do with myself. I just want to reach into the book and wrap my arms around Thomas, Philippe and Lucas.

He says I’m a boy of books, from somewhere else.

The story follows Philippe and Thomas in a small French village in the 1980s. They start a quiet, hidden away relationship. The story’s quite short (only about 160 pages), so to avoid spoiling anything I’m just going to say that this is a stunning piece of literature. Truly. But be prepared to cry your eyes out.

It’s a curious notion, love: difficult to identify and define. There are so many degrees and variations.

100% recommend. 

Currently Reading [20/09]

I’m going to have so little time to read very soon, so of course I decided to start three awesome books in tandem.

I’m absolutely loving A Discovery of Witches. It follows a historian witch who discovers a magical book in Oxford and is suddenly a target for magical creatures. Matthew, the vampire she ends up dating, is fascinating. The backstories are really interesting and I’m excited to see where it goes. There’s a television show based on the trilogy, but I haven’t seen it yet and I kind of want to read all three books before I watch it.

Lie With Me is one that came to my notice because it’s a French book by Philippe Besson that Molly Ringwald translated into English. I really like Molly Ringwald and was interested to check it out. It’s a short novella set in France and tells the love story of Philippe and Thomas in the 1980s. I’m really liking it so far and the writing is absolutely lovely.

I also just got Wicked Fox, which is a Korean fantasy novel that I’ve been excited to read for months now. It’s about a gumiho, which is a nine-tailed fox in Korean mythology. I’m listening to this one on audible and the narrator’s really good!

Anyone read any of these? ♡

September TBRs

There are so many books on my list that I’m eagerly awaiting reading and these are just the start! Some great finds, though. Of these four, the first is an ARC to read and review, the second was gifted to me by a friend, the third is a new short from Tor (I really do love their short stories!), and the last is a new nonfiction book on the Korean War that I got pretty much the day it came out. I really respect Charles J. Hanley’s previous work, so I’m definitely going into this one ready to be well informed. If you haven’t read it, definitely check out The Bridge at No Gun Ri.

The Wolf and The Water by Josie Jaffrey

Some secrets are worth killing for

The ancient city of Kepos sits in an isolated valley, cut off from the outside world by a towering wall. Behind it, the souls of the dead clamour for release. Or so the priesthood says.


Kala has never had any reason to doubt their word – until her father dies in suspicious circumstances that implicate the city’s high priest. She’s determined to investigate, but she has a more immediate problem: the laws of the city require her mother to remarry straight away.
Kala’s new stepfather is a monster, but his son Leon is something altogether more dangerous: kind.


With her family fractured and the investigation putting her life in danger, the last thing Kala needs is romance. She would rather ignore Leon entirely, however difficult he makes it. But when she learns the truth of what really clamours behind the wall at the end of the valley, she faces a choice: share what she knows and jeopardise her escape, or abandon him to his fate along with the rest of the city.


If she doesn’t move fast, then no one will make it out of the valley alive.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Everyone in Fairview knows the story.

Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.

But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?

Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.

This is the story of an investigation turned obsession, full of twists and turns and with an ending you’ll never expect.

Wait for Night by Stephen Graham Jones

Wait for Night by Stephen Graham Jones is horror story about a day laborer hired to help clean up a flooded creek outside of Boulder, Colorado, who comes across what could be a very valuable find.

Ghost Flames: Life and Death in a Hidden War, Korea 1950-1953 by Charles J. Hanley

A powerful, character-driven narrative of the Korean War from the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who helped uncover some of its longest-held and darkest secrets

The war that broke out in Korea on a Sunday morning 70 years ago has come to be recognized as a critical turning point in modern history, as the first great clash of arms of the Cold War, the last conflict between superpowers, and the root of a nuclear crisis that grips the world to this day.

In this vivid, emotionally compelling and highly original account, Charles J. Hanley tells the story of the Korean War through the eyes of 20 individuals who lived through it–from a North Korean refugee girl to an American nun, a Chinese general to a black American prisoner of war, a British journalist to a US Marine hero.

This is an intimate, deeper kind of history, whose meticulous research and rich detail, drawing on recently unearthed materials and eyewitness accounts, brings the true face of the Korean War, the vastness of its human tragedy, into a sharper focus than ever before. The “Forgotten War” becomes unforgettable.


In decades as an international journalist, Hanley reported from some 100 countries and covered more than a half-dozen conflicts, from Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq. 

What’s everyone else looking forwarding to reading this month?

Currently Listening: an audiobook post

I found a bunch of great audiobooks and audibles this week. A lot of them are free, too, which makes me happy! If you have an Audible account, definitely take advantage of the free offers because I somehow overlooked them until recently and there’s actually some pretty good stuff on offer.

I’m currently listening to The Folding Star (literary fiction, lgbt+), which has been on my list for a bit, and The Rise of the Iron Men With Misha Glenny (politics, free!). The narrator of The Folding Star is so good (Samuel West!), I definitely recommend this one for easy listening and beautiful prose. The Rise of the Iron Men is a series by Misha Glenny, looking at the rise of populist leaders around the world. Also looks at how Covid-19 affected their power. Very interesting stuff and it provides a detailed overview of six current leaders. I’ve listened to 2/6 so far.

I’m also really looking forward to these ones (all free!): In Search of Black History with Bonnie Greer, Romeo and Jude, Six Degrees of Assassination, Nicholas Nickleby: The Dickens Collection, We Need to Talk About the British Empire, A Grown-Up Guide to Dinosaurs, A Grown-Up Guide to Oceans, and Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets.

Anyone else listening to good audiobooks? Do share!

Book Review: Release (2017)

Release by Patrick Ness

As I was reading this, my mind kept likening it to The Wicker King and The Monsters We Deserve, although neither of those is really similar. Maybe just along the same vibe? Release takes place over the course of the day and tells two stories: one is Adam’s, a gay teenager in an Evangelical home with a family he doesn’t feel loved by; the other is the story of a Queen and her faun. I quite liked both stories, for different reasons. I adored Adam and my heart ached for all he went through (and in the course of a freakin’ day, poor lad!). I really enjoyed the Queen’s tale, too, although I think more of a connection between the two stories would have been nice. Maybe just a bit longer, perhaps?

I really liked Angela, Adam’s bestie, and Marty, his brother. Marty was definitely a complicated character with some frustrating moments, but by the end I really liked his character. I wanted a few more scenes with him and Adam, though!

All in all, a very good story and my first one by Patrick Ness. Can’t wait to read more by him!

Book Review: Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood (2016)

I had so many reactions while reading this one. Trevor’s as funny as ever, but it’s impossible to read his story, in every place linked back to his love for his mother and family, and not get emotional. His relationship with his mother is central to the novel as he relates his childhood in South Africa and how religion and Apartheid shaped their every day life. It’s part memoir, part history, part commentary.

He also details so much about Apartheid that I didn’t know. Seriously informative and eye opening. The naming section really stuck out in my mind. But he talks about how the different laws worked, how schools split up classes and worked to keep children apart, how cities were set up strategically, the different types of churches he and his mother attended, family obligations and complications, and the way language could link so many of them together. Trevor’s use of his many learned languages is astonishing. He speaks, like, six or seven languages. So. Impressive.

I totally, totally recommend this book to everyone.

Review cross-posted to Goodreads.

Book Review: In Other News (2020)

Hi, I’m Marlon, and I’m sure you’ve seen my face all over the news. Nice to meet you, and yes, the rumors are true. No, he couldn’t talk about it, let alone acknowledge its existence.

This is the first book I’ve read by Dale Robbins and I’m definitely going to be checking out more!

In Other News reminds me of Speak. The story follows Marlon when he returns to university after his assault is made public without his consent. He finds that not only are rumours swirling about what happened, but some people are downright hostile and blame him. Although the rapist has been kicked out of school, many people hold Marlon accountable. There’s a lot of bullying and homophobia directed towards Marlon, but he eventually finds solidarity amongst those who believe him and help him get through the ordeal and ensuing trial.

This is a very raw and realistic tale of how people explain away the actions of rapists and blame the victim. You really feel for Marlon throughout the story.

Review cross posted to Goodreads & Reedsy.

Currently Reading [09/07]

My local bookshop has a great sale section, so I was able to pick up a couple of books recently. I also found out you can bring in books for store credit, which is amazing! Best news ever! I have a pile of books that I’ve been meaning to give away, so the prospect of getting books for them gives me heart eyes. I especially love that the bookshop near me now has such a great LGBT+ selection. Always wonderful to see!

In addition to the new paperbacks, I’m also listening to an audiobook, and have an ARC to finish up and review. So much to read and not enough time!

Has anyone read any of the books listed above? I’d love to know your thoughts!

What’s everyone else currently reading? 🙂