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Currently reading: The Outrage by William Hussey.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Skin Taker by Michelle Paver [Review]

Written by: Michelle Paver.
Published by: Zephyr/Head of Zeus.
Format: Hardback.
Released: 1st April 2021.
Rating: 5/5.

Official synopsis: "In the Dark Time of midwinter, disaster strikes the Forest. Chaos rules. Bears woken from their dens prowl the shadowy valleys. Desperate clans battle for survival. Only demons thrive. With their world in turmoil, Torak, Renn and Wolf are tested as never before. And as a new evil haunts the devastated land, Torak must risk his sanity, his life and even his souls to save everything he loves... Skin Taker carries you back to the Stone Age, to nature, drawing you deeper into an astonishing environment and adventure which began with Wolf Brother and has captivated millions of readers."

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It's a magical time that comes but once a year. It brings with it a sense of joy, but also fear. That's right! It's time for a new Michelle Paver book! The eighth instalment in the worldwide best selling Wolf Brother series! AKA Chronicles of Ancient Darkness. And boy, what a ride Skin Taker is! Right from the very first page, it is a tale of doom and gloom as a natural disaster befalls the Forest and our favourite characters are thrown right into the middle of all of the action as they attempt to drive the evil out of their home! I mean, you almost have to feel sorry for poor old Torak. Chosen by destiny to fight the Soul-Eaters and now that that task is done he still can't catch a break! Bears that would normally be asleep, hibernating, roam the trees. Whispers of evil beings known as skin takers are carried on the wind, fear causing the clans to do terrible things. And enemies that Torak may have thought he would never have to face again may be closer than he bargains for.

I'll make no apologies about it, I am a complete Michelle Paver stan, as I believe I have shown time and time again. Her words are just so well thought out and methodically placed but feel so lyrical, so effortless and they never fail to take me away from the real world and drag me into the world woven within the pages. Skin Taker feels a lot more claustrophobic than the previous books in my opinion. Yes you can read them separately but I believe to truly get the benefit from the story, you need to read them all. Torak has been trapped in caves before. He's been in some very sticky situations. But something about Skin Taker feels very different. Darker, quite literally at some points of the book. Torak and Renn are in the Far North, probably one of my favourite parts of the world that Michelle has created. It's chill just seeps from the page into your bones. Michelle always has such a way of describing the settings, the weather, that just makes them feel so real, so tangible.

I read the book in early December last year, during a particularly cold week and this only added to the feel of the book for me, as the cold seeps in and all hope seems to fade. These characters are some of my favourite I have ever encountered in any series. Yes, we all love Torak, Renn and of course, Wolf. But the supporting cast beyond the main trio are also a brilliant mix. As ever Fin-Keddinn is spellbinding. Dark continues to intrigue and with a host of new characters thrown in, showing different degrees of humanity in the pre-historic setting there is someone for all readers to fall in love with! I really felt for them all the way through this book, facing such adversity and having no choice but to pull together, regardless of clans and beliefs was so interesting to read, especially given the timely aspect of coronavirus and how it is bringing us all together as well!

Every time I read one of these books, it doesn't matter which one, there is always such a sense of safety, of coming home, and honestly it's a feeling I cannot get enough of. Even in the darkest moments, the Forest is a welcome respite from the real world. I can almost smell the tang of pine blood, hear the voices of the trees as they chatter among themselves as I pass.

Can we talk about that cover for a second! I mean! COME ON! John Fordham knocks it out of the park every time. This has to be my favourite cover of the series so far. The colours used. The overall feeling, and especially given that I have read the book, the actual meanings in the cover itself. Fantastic! These have to be some of my favourite covers I have ever had the fortune to own. So unique and easily identifiable within the book world, as well as being fun. Absolute pieces of art in their own right. I'd love to one day get them all framed or something, they're just stunning!

I can never truly get out just how I feel about the books because it just becomes such a gush-fest. I just love them so much. Last year a tv adaptation was announced and with work on that continuing, I can only hope that the team behind it do these characters and the world, and of course Michelle's work, justice and helps to bring a whole new audience to these fantastic books. Yes, they're worldwide bestsellers, but in my opinion, they do not get the recognition they deserve! 

Atmospheric, exhilarating and a complete page turner, Skin Taker is Michelle Paver at her very best. With one last instalment (for real, this time!) due next year, Wolfbane, there are no doubt thrills aplenty still to come. I don't know if I am, personally, ready to say goodbye to these characters that I adore so much. I've done it once before with Ghost Hunter, yes, but getting to walk alongside them on their adventures again has been such a wonderful experience. These characters and indeed the books mean a great, great deal to me so it'll never really be a goodbye, as I reread them quite often actually, but the thought of no more new adventures. Gives me chills far worse than those you experience in the Far North, let me tell you! All I know is that I trust Michelle and know that we are in safe hands, so I will walk confidently into the Forest once more to await the fate of our beloved characters!

My thanks to the wonderful Fiona Kennedy at Zephyr for being so lovely and allowing me to read Skin Taker so early! I am eternally grateful and beyond honoured!

Monday, 11 January 2021

Killing Jericho by Will Harker [Review]

 Written by: Will Harker.

Published by: End House Publishing.
Released: 7th December 2020.
Rating: 5/5.

Official synopsis: "Murder this twisted demands a new kind of detective. Fresh out of prison, former Detective Constable Scott Jericho is a desperate man. Disgraced and penniless after his assault on a violent suspect, he is forced to seek refuge with the fairground family he once rejected. Now, troubled by his failure, Jericho’s brilliant mind stagnates. That is until a series of bizarre murders reawaken his interest. Men and women with no obvious link to each other are being ritualistically slaughtered. Slaughtered in ways that recall an old legend of the Jericho Travelling Fair. Now, in a race against time, he must unpick the threads of a baffling mystery. But as his investigation unfolds and the corpses pile up, a shocking truth awaits him. A revelation that will test not only Jericho’s intellect but challenge the very core of his morality..."

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I will start by saying that murder mystery/crime novels aren't normally my cup of tea. I'm not sure why as I love a good crime drama on television but when it comes to books I generally struggle to stay interested. But from the very first page I was well and truly hooked on this one! I read it over a particularly difficult personal period and it was such an incredible experience that took me away from all my woes and had me completely captivated and determined to find out what on earth was going on! Will's writing is so engaging and draws you in so well that you just cannot put the book down!

Scott Jericho himself is a fantastic lead. Brooding, dark, mysterious with a past that is a joy to discover and gay! What more could you want? When it comes to book boyfriends, Scott has well and truly thrown himself into the mix and I for one am here for it! He's just so unapologetically himself which I loved. You don't get many gay leads especially in this genre so it is incredibly refreshing to read and downright enjoyable! All of the characters are so well realised and developed which sometimes in these sorts of books isn't always the case. They're there just for the sake of it, a throw-away character that is shoehorned in to make a certain aspect of the plot work, but here they all earn their place within the book and I really enjoyed that!

The book itself had me guessing and second guessing at every turn but the ending took me completely by surprise. So much so that I threw my kindle down and had to calm myself down a bit before connoting. I just couldn't believe it! I think that part of my problem with the genre in general is that I often see the ending coming and often work it out early on in the book, but with Killing Jericho, I didn't have that experience and I absolutely loved it for it. It is just testament to Will's writing and the story itself!

I for one cannot wait to see what Scott gets up to next and am waiting on tenterhooks for the follow up! You may have a convert on your hands here Mr. Harker!

A dark, atmospheric page-turner that will have you guessing until the very end! Killing Jericho is a joy to read and I cannot wait for more!

Friday, 1 January 2021

New Years Reading Resolutions

 HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!


It may not be starting off the way that we had hoped but I'm hoping the strangeness of 2020 won't linger for too long and that 2021 can actually be a good year! As crap as it was, 2020 was actually a VERY good reading year for me. I have been working from home since March and the time not spent commuting has meant I've had more time to myself, I've also been working different hours to what I used to in the office which also gave me more time to read, and social distancing worked wonders for my tbr as I managed to read 62 books despite setting myself an initial target of 30 books. I guess not being able to have a life and see friends can be a good thing!

I've thought a lot about how many books I would like to try and read this year. I am setting myself up a reading journal... as if I don't record my reads in enough places. I use Goodreads, obviously... I use an app called Bookly which has changed my life. It records how long you read, tells you how fast you read, gives you so many stats... I LOVE IT! I also have a note open in my notes app which I update with what I've read as I finish it, but I wanted somewhere physically to hopefully keep a couple of years worth of reads all in one place together. Whether I keep it running or not will be something else altogether but we'll see...

So I have preliminarily set myself a target of 45 books. I can obviously edit this later but I am conscious of the fact that I would like life to return to normal at some point this year and as it does that would probably mean less time to read and 45 seems like a good, manageable number. I changed my target twice last year, from 30 to 40, then 40 to 50 and once I'd hit 50 I just thought I would leave it and enjoy everything else I read.

I also have blogging resolutions. To be more active. I'm active on twitter, always talking about books on there, and I've started to get back into instagram slowly, but I want to get better at actually posting my reviews. One personal resolution for 2021 is to use my time better and to manage myself better so that goes hand in hand with more blogging so hopefully that'll sort it out! We shall see!

I really want to read more long-running series this year. I have been meaning to read more Discrworld books and this year I am aiming to get as many as I can in! I have some series that I have started but haven't finished. I have some books that I have owned for YEARS and just haven't gotten around to so I want to try and cut some of them down this year. I'd also like to sort out my Netgalley percentage which... LETS NOT GO THERE! I did do a month last year where I only read Netgalley proofs and managed to get my percentage up a whopping 3% (lol) so maybe I'll manage to sort some of those out this year too!

The main thing is I just want to enjoy everything I read and to have as much fun as possible!

What are your reading resolutions for 2021 if you have any?