The Starless Sea

Audiobooks, Big News-Books, Books, Pink in Ink

Erin Morgenstern

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them. Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is. A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea

After ten years of waiting for fans of Erin Morngenstern’s hugely successful debut The Night Circus, we’re transported to another wonderfully fantastical world of magic doors, mythical libraries and legendary stories.

We follow Zachary Ezra, our protagonist. During his regular visit to the local library, he stumbles upon a book full of fantastical short stories that looks to be very old. As he flicks through this mysterious book of tales, the is a tale of romance involving what is called the starless sea in an underground world. But as he continues reading, he finds one that reads like a very unusual moment in his life. In perfect detail. Can he find out who wrote about this moment in his life? Will he find the starless sea?

I loved The Night Circus and became a die-hard fan of Morgenstern’s from its last page. So, when I saw she was finally coming out with another title, I was beyond excited!

As I began to read, I discovered why it took so long between publications. This book is impeccably crafted. Not only do we have a wonderful, beautiful and captivating main plot with excellent character-building, but we find that this is just book-inception. The short fairy tales are published inside the main story, giving it even more unique qualities. But these extra tales aren’t rushed, far from it. They are immersive in-and-of themselves. If she published a book with just the short tales, I’d be throwing my money everywhere!

I loved her descriptive writing of this world and the magical painted doors, I really felt I could see everything and just wanted, desperately, for someone to invent a way to travel to these fictional worlds, to hear, see and smell the surroundings.

Despite all that, I became a little annoyed at the amount of filler-words there were (more specifically the word ‘and’). I ended up skipping over these words so often because they really were over-used and took me away from the story. This AND this, AND this… it just got annoying.

But for a negative, it’s a pretty minor one which I can easily look past (literally) because the level of craftsmanship was staggering.

This really made me feel festive, for some reason. Maybe something to do with when I ordered it? I can’t recommend this more and Erin Morgenstern remains one of my all-time favourite authors.


Hardcover

498 pages

Published – 5th February 2020

Publishing Company – Doubleday Books


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Serpent & Dove

Audiobooks, Books, Pink in Ink

Shelby Mahurin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.           Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.          The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.          And love makes fools of us all.

This title just blew up in the book world. I’m guilty for purchasing this purely because of the hype!

I’m noticing a trend where witch-themes are making a come-back in publishing and Ms. Mahurin chose a great time to have this published. Many of the YA-fantasy Royals have reignited this adoration.

Set in a some-what historical setting in France during the time of the witch-trials, this added a layer of romance and gothic feel. Louise le Blanc is a young witch, running away from her mother and her coven after years of mistreatment from them. When she is found by the Chasseur, Reid Diggory, she uses her magic to coerce the archbishop to wed the pair and wipe her true identity from knowledge to protect herself from the Chasseur and her mother.

Louise and Reid’s relationship goes from indifference and distrust to love ad romance. Though this was really well written, I don’t tend to enjoy this trope. However, as I said, this relationship development was really well written where it felt organic and not something the author is forcing.

The main plot-point took a good chunk of this book before we get to the climax. But, since this is a series of two books (with a promise of a third) I kind of expected this.

All in all, I did enjoy this. It was a good read but wasn’t something to write home about.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?


Hardcover

513 pages

Published – 3rd September 2019

Publishing Company – Harper Teen


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Come Again

Audiobooks, Books, Pink in Ink

Robert Webb

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Kate’s husband Luke – the man she loved from the moment she met him twenty-eight years ago – died suddenly. Since then she has pushed away her friends, lost her job and everything is starting to fall apart. One day, she wakes up in the wrong room and in the wrong body. She is eighteen again but remembers everything. This is her college room in 1992. This is the first day of Freshers’ Week. And this was the day she first met Luke. But he is not the man that she lost: he’s still a boy – the annoying nineteen-year-old English student she first met. Kate knows how he died and that he’s already ill. If they can fall in love again she might just be able to save him. She’s going to try to do everything exactly the same…

When I first saw this, I thought it sounded like such a bittersweet story. A take on the throws of grief, loss and depression.

After I learned it was written by Robert Webb, quite a well-known name in our home for his comedy, I was even more intrigued to see the whit that would come up. Despite it sounding like a rather sad tale, it did make me audibly laugh more times than I ever have while reading!

Our leading lady, Kate was such a character! She was so well crafted, I began to really feel like she was a friend of my own; trying to help her see that people love her and grief doesn’t take centre-stage forever.

I think my favourite part of this was when Kate wakes up to find she’s in her dorm room at uni on the day she met her future husband. With every change of history she made, I couldn’t help but think “has the world imploded? Or has a huge nuclear explosion wiped out the human race because of the changes?”

I really enjoyed this story. For a debut with such heavy expectation, it was so enjoyable and I just loved the ease and flow of it and I loved the retake on the butterfly effect.

This was an audiobook listen for me. Olivia Colman is a great actress, on screen, and just as great on audio. Her emotions she showed were so easy to connect with. The annunciation at perfect points in the dialogues were spot on. I would highly recommend to listen to the audiobook, it gives such a wonderful extra-layer to the already excellent writing.

Did I mention I loved it?


Audiobook

13 hours 08 minutes

Published – 12th November 2020

Publishing Company – Penguin Audio


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2020 Reading in Review

Big News-Books, Pink in Ink

As we approach the end of probably one of the strangest years many of us have ever or will ever have, it’s time for me to reflect on all the books I’ve read. If your a sucker for stats, I’ll also be throwing that one in there.

For me, I’ve read some amazing books and discovered new authors that have become a new favourite of mine. I set out this year with an initial goal of reading 12 books… one a month. I definitely did a lot of altering to this! I also started using NetGalley, a place for professional readers to review upcoming releases. And, the best part of my year was setting up Bushtus with my business partner, best friend and best brother, Stewart. A damn-good year despite everything else!


Top 10 Reads of 2020

I’m finding it so difficult to pick my favourite reads this year. There’s just been so much discovery for me! But, to make it easier on myself I’ve made it a rule to only allow an author to be on the list once. So, without further a-due, here are my top ten reads:


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4.





A Court of Wings and Ruin

Audiobooks, Books, Pink in Ink
A Court of Thorns and Roses #3

Sarah J. Maas

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series. Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well. As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places. In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

The third instalment in the famous series by Sarah J. Maas.

With the first two being filled with suspense, anticipation and action, there was quite a high expectation from me.

We continue to follow Feyre after we were left with her returning to the Spring Court with Tamlin as a spy to gather as much information for the impending war with the High King. Her sisters struggle to accept and adjust to their new lives as fae and try to control their powers. And we see the relationship between Feyre, Rhysand and their Valerian family grow despite everything that is fighting against them.

Though, I still enjoyed this read, it wasn’t quite as unpredictable as the last. I found the writing to feel very determined to remain suspenseful and keep building, but it felt forced. There wasn’t as many erotic scenes as before, which I was very grateful for!

Maas’ descriptive writing is excellent, as usual and consistently shows her incredible imagination and creative writing. As we get to the stories end, I can’t deny that I both rolled my eyes and felt a pull at my heart-strings despite it turning into a trope-ending.

Though, I still continue to have an internal debate that this feels like more of a new-adult fantasy novel, I can’t deny that it was fun and packed-full of great characters, plots and descriptive writing. I would recommend this as something worth reading if you’re drawn to high-fantasy with dynamic storylines and a large cast of characters.


Hardcover

699 pages

Published – 2nd May 2017

Publishing Company – Bloomsbury USA Childrens


Audiobook

25h 9m

Published – 2nd May 2017

Publishing Company – Recorded Books


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A Court of Mist and Fury

Audiobooks, Books, Pink in Ink
A Court of Thorns and Roses #2

Sarah J. Maas

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people. Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two. With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.

The second phase of the ACOTAR series, we delve into the aftermath of Feyre’s trials to save Tamlin and Prythian.

After escaping to the spring court, Feyre is beginning to get lost in her memories and nightmares of the night she killed to save Tamlin and when she was killed. Which is understandable! As we progress through the first third of the book, we learn that Tamlin is also struggling with his memories and is determined to protect Feyre… At any cost. And as we find out that Feyre hasn’t only inherited life from all the court-leaders but also some of their gifts. Begging Tamlin to allow her to train and learn to control this power, she is refused and the expectations of being married to Tamlin in the Spring Court are too much for her human desire for freedom.

Rhysand, through the tattoo on Feyre after their bargain, feels her desperation to escape her new confines and offers his court of dreams as her safe-haven and to teach her to read, write and her power and how to control and harness it. But the more time they spend together, something begins between them.

As always, Maas’ ability to create these wonderfully imagined characters and the world that surrounds them is astounding. In every stage of these books, we learn more and more about the world, politics and traditions.

When my attention began to drift from the book, she instantly has something else to snap your attention back. It feels like she really was thorough with her edits on this to make sure it really was as good as it can be.

That said, I had the same issue with this as I did with the first instalment. That being the erotic scenes at so many points in this. Literally the first chapter is all erotic! Call me old-fashioned but I’ve never felt comfortable with these and they just make me cringe, so I skip through them. I tend to expect this in adult books but, as I said before, this is a YA fantasy that blurs the line between that and adult fiction.

That said, I really did enjoy this, and this author has become a solid favourite in my books. I can’t wait to see what the final book has in store for me!


Hardcover

626 pages

Published – 3rd May 2016

Publishing Company – Bloomsbury USA Childrens


Audiobook

23h 17m

Published – 3rd May 2016

Publishing Company – Recorder Books


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A Court of Thorns and Roses

Audiobooks, Books, Pink in Ink
A Court of Thorns and Roses #1

Sarah J. Maas

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …          Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

This fictional fantasy screams Beauty and the Beast for me. Just by the plot alone, it doesn’t seem like a retelling, on first glance. Being that my favourite Disney movie when I was growing up, there was big shoes to fill!

I’ve read Maas’ most recent release (Crescent City-House of Earth and Blood) and was just blown away by the saturation of it. I had a book-hangover for a few days after and was desperate to read more of this series… but, alas, I have to wait. So what’s as good as the next book in a series? Another series from the same author!

I would say that this is on the very border of YA and closer to the New Adult category. There were a few erotic scenes that really push that boundary. But maybe this is what our young adults are reading these days!

Is it just me that is rather confused by the definition of Young Adult and New Adult?

Anyway, our protagonist, Feyre is of poor origins with the continual burden of getting food on her families table. She is a very stubborn woman with the raw determination to protect anyone she cares about and to not be confined by her human form.

Our antagonist, Tamlin, is a dashing High Lord in the Spring Court of Prythian. Unable to tell Feyre of his curse and is falling in love with her, he finds determination to protect her from the malevolent forces that have plagued him for years.

The plot was rather predictable, given that it’s very reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast, but was no less enjoyable! In fact, I just became more invested as it went on. With curses, faerie lands, the divide between human and faerie, the mysterious confines of Tamlin’s curse and the gut-twisting fetes that Feyre will go to prove her love.

I spent a while really deciding where I would put this in my ratings but settled on a four-star because it was a well-written novel and I really did enjoy every second but it wasn’t a solid favourite for me. There were a few moments where I rolled my eyes, those being the riddle that Feyre is given to save the fate of Prythian and, of course, the erotic scenes. I’m never one to find these scenes exciting, more cringey and uncomfortable. Especially when this is marketed for young adults and pushed that bar a bit too far across the border.

I mostly listened to the audiobook for this, narrated by Jennifer Ikeda, who did a fantastic job at portraying the characters and their emotions throughout the book.

I would recommend this, more to new adults who want to transition reading more adult fiction.


Hardcover

419 pages

Published – 5th May 2015

Publishing Company – Bloomsbury USA Childrens


Audiobook

16h 8m

Published – 1st February 2018

Publishing Company – Audible


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House of Earth and Blood

Audiobooks, Books, Pink in Ink
Crescent City #1

Sarah J. Maas

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.          Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.          As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.          With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.

This book was one Hel of a rollercoaster of emotions. I’ve never read such a full, saturated story in many years. I laughed, I cried, my heart broke, my soul sang. I can’t explain it any better than that.

Bryce is, as you’d expect after her best friend is murdered, wears both physical and emotional scars. Determined to solve her murder, she falls into all the worst possible scenarios but our antagonist, Hunt; a slave to the Archangels, begins as stand-off-ish character with a lot of his own opinions, right or wrong… but who wouldn’t be if you were enslaved!


I was unsure of the world and the characters at the beginning and in the middle of the book but the final half of this book was what really sold me. Every little detail in this book was part of the story and it all came together so brilliantly. Also, I wish Hunt really existed because I was swooning! The love story in this was amazing and the ups were so sweet and heart-warming and the downs really felt like a break-up. I did a combination of listening to the audiobook and physically reading this purely because I wanted to keep reading it when I was doing chores. The voice actor, Elizabeth Evans, was amazing at really bringing the characters alive more than they were already. After I started listening, I kept hearing Evans voice for Bryce because it fit so well to the character I pictured.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so invested in characters before.

This is the first book from Sarah J. Maas I’ve read and already have another popular series of hers waiting to be read.

Amazing, shocking and enchanting. I can’t recommend this enough! For her first novel in the adult-fantasy world, it was incredible. I can’t wait to see where this series goes.


Hardcover

803 pages

Published – 3rd March 2020

Publishing Company – Bloomsbury Publishing


Audiobook

27h 50m

Published – 3rd March 2020

Publishing Company – Audible


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Sick Kids in Love

Books, Pink in Ink

Hannah Moskowitz

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Isabel has one rule: no dating.          It’s easier–          It’s safer–          It’s better–          –for the other person.          She’s got issues. She’s got secrets. She’s got rheumatoid arthritis.          But then she meets another sick kid.          He’s got a chronic illness Isabel’s never heard of, something she can’t even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who’s a doctor.          He’s gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her.          Isabel has one rule: no dating.          It’s complicated–          It’s dangerous–          It’s never felt better–          –to consider breaking that rule for him.

October is a particularly important month for me because it’s Dysautonomia Awareness month. As I’ve said in my bio, I’m chronically ill with a list of syndromes, many of them under the umbrella diagnosis of Dysautonomia. To find out more about Dysautonomia and other chronic illness myths and thoughts, click the link below to my Advocacy page.

Now, lets get to the book-

Usually, for me, a life-changing book is a five-star read.

However, this is the first time I have read a book where main characters have chronic illness but DO NOT DIE!
Suffering from chronic illnesses is so lonely and isolating because if you don’t look sick, not many people care or care to understand. But this book is literally what my mind says every day! The representation of life with long-term chronic illness is spot-on for me and after some digging, found Hannah’s Instagram page and sees she also suffers with chronic illness.

Isabel was a character that I could understand fully with her life and struggles and the messages that this book gives the reader. It’s important to see that, for most of those suffering with chronic illnesses, suffer in silence because of fear that they will be ignored or told that their illness isn’t real (yes, that does actually happen). So creating an outlet for these discussions to be had is a great way to educate people that people can still suffer without a terminal diagnosis.

Similar to Isabel, she struggles every day to try and be like her friends and not let her diagnosis affect her life and keeps how she’s feeling from her father out of fear of being ignored.

Then she meets Sasha, a boy who also suffers from a rare disease who is trying to show her that her illness does not define her and that making adjustments so she doesn’t suffer more than necessary is OK too. And mobility aids! I found that so much of the dialog between the main characters and their friends and family talk about topics and phrases that are harmful to those suffering with an illness and why it’s so hurtful to hear them. If there were more titles that spoke of chronic, invisible illness like this, we would live in a much more, respectful, unprejudiced world.

My only issue, I couldn’t get invested in the love story. I just couldn’t feel it, but it, to me, wasn’t the primary focus, more an added bonus.

If you or someone you know has long-term chronic illness, PLEASE READ THIS! It says what I wish I could say to people around me without coming across like a bitch…


Hardcover

300 pages

Published – 5th November 2019

Publishing Company – Entangled: Teen


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The Gravity of Us

Books, Pink in Ink

Phil Stamper

Rating: 4 out of 5.

” As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.          Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.          Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch. “

I really enjoyed this book. I had to remind myself that it wasn’t a TV show or a movie but a book! My imagination just soared with this author with its characters. I may be quite bias as a fellow nerd in science, physics, theoretical physics and basically everything NASA does so it didn’t take me long to be invested in the story, given we may be raising the Mars generations right now!

We follow our main character, Cal; a young teen who loves New York, journalism and old cassette tapes. But our antagonist, Leon, is the polar opposite: quiet, reserved, sporty and his family look perfect on TV. Added to the cast of characters are the astronauts, Cal’s

As the book progresses, we see that appearances aren’t all they seem to be, and sparks begin to fly between Cal and Leon. I wasn’t completely invested in the romance, but it made every character more human and tangible.

The plot of this was interesting. I could see how the events that unfolded could actually happen. It left me a little shocked!

If you love science and space exploration with a focus on the astrokids (love that name) and the families, you’ll love this.


Hardcover

314 pages

Published – 4th February 2020

Publishing Company – Bloomsbury YA


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