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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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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The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Books, Pink in Ink

Neil Gaiman

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Illustrated by – Elise Hurst


Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy. Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what. A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

This book is so amazing. This edition is one of the most stunning on my shelves and sits pride-of-place with many of my other favourites!

Neil Gaiman is, for many, the king of paranormal, fantasy fiction. And, being the winner of the GoodReads Choice Awards in 2013, it’s become a timeless piece.

We follow the nameless boy through his early years of living with his single father. And when he brings home a lodger and asks the nameless boy to move into his older sisters room, everything changes.

On one of his wanderings around his hometown, he meets Lettie Hempstock, a girl who claims to have seen the moon being made and adamant that the pond on her estate is an ocean.

I was absolutely gripped from the start by this book. This was so lyrical and had some very thought provoking messages of life, death, friendship and memories. The overall message, to me, is a different take of reincarnation. That we simply let the earth and water heal our hurt bodies and gives it back when the time is right, that no one truly dies.

The illustrations by Elise Hurst are absolutely beautiful and really adds to the story, making the suspenseful, darker and more gothic. I adored that the illustration was done using simple line-shading and negative space, leaving you to imagine how the characters look. All in all, I absolutely loved this tale and its messages. I would have to put this as a firm-favourite of mine and this edition is an absolute treasure.

“We are what we choose to be”


Illustrated Hardcover

336 pages

Published – 12th November 2019

Publishing Company – Headline


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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.





The Devil and the Dark Water

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

Stuart Turton

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent. But no sooner are they out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A twice-dead leper stalks the decks. Strange symbols appear on the sails. Livestock is slaughtered. And then three passengers are marked for death, including Samuel. Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes? With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent can solve a mystery that connects every passenger onboard. A mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board.

In typical fashion for Stuart Turton, we’re met with an eclectic mix of genre’s; historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, crime/thriller, mystery and a dash of horror. In all honesty, there should be an entirely new genre for this book because I can put this in so many but they just don’t do it justice!

The Devil and the Dark Water is Turton’s second novel, and after the roaring success that The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle gave, there was a fair amount of expectation, anticipation and trepidation.

Set in the 1634, Turton showed he did a lot of research into his set but wasn’t afraid to take creative liberty, which is something many authors are tentative to do, putting their minds in a tunnel for historical accuracy. Turtons description of the ship, the Saardam, setting sail from the Dutch island Batavia to Amsterdam, was good. I had no issue imagining such a monstrous beauty of a ship with the stark contrasts between the noble’s cabins, the other passengers’ quarters, and the ships crews.

During the novel we meet quite a mixed bag of characters, our main focus’ are Arent Hayes, a soldier with a mysterious past and his long-time friend, Samual Pipps, the famous detective (thank’s to the reports published by Arent) and Sara Wessel, a woman of high status, married to an abusive husband, knowledge in healing and mother to her highly intelligent daughter, Lia.                  As Turton has previously done, each character, big or small, was so well fleshed-out and had their own backstory, giving you the feeling that you knew them all.

The main plot was yet another example of Turton’s incredible writing by giving you the answers to what the novel is leading to but misdirecting the readers attention to follow a different trail-of-thought. You feel like you’re following the characters as they are trying to make sense of the happenings until you both finally put it all together.

I felt like the conclusion wasn’t as original or shocking as his previous novel (7-deaths) but was just as mysterious and mind-boggling in its craftmanship. At the book’s conclusion, we’re left to sit and wonder what happened after.

As Stuart Turton explained in his note at the end of the book, each reader reads a story differently. If you have, or are thinking of picking this book up, you’ll be surprised at different elements than I was. I don’t feel like this book had any particular audience in mind, allowing for a vast readership, which it definitely achieved.

Have you read this title? What were your thoughts and do you agree with the genre’s I mentioned? Let me know in the comments below!

"Courage isn't an absence of fear. It's the light we find when fear is all there is."

Hardcover

576 pages

Published – 1st October 2020

Publishing Company – Raven Books


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Wanderers

Audiobooks, Books, Pink in Ink

Chuck Wendig

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope.          Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.          For on their journey, they will discover an America convulsed with terror and violence, where this apocalyptic epidemic proves less dangerous than the fear of it. As the rest of society collapses all around them–and an ultraviolent militia threatens to exterminate them–the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unravelling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart–or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world. “

This certainly doesn’t disappoint!

This wonderful mix of science fiction, contemporary, mystery and thriller is something that I’ve rarely come across.

I’ve never read anything by Chuck Wendig before this but I feel like I should definitely check out some more of his standalone novels. The cover of the book fits with the mystique that the book runs with.

Set in a small town in Pennsylvania we meet our first protagonist, Shana, when her younger sister Nessie suddenly begins to sleepwalk, but she can’t be awoken. Shana is the typical teen, desperate to spread her wings and do what she loves, but her father is absent, her mother is missing and her younger sister Nessi is constantly overshadowing her. Though her sister is a big part of Shana’s motivations, we begin to see cracks in the family.

We also meet Benjie, our second antagonist who is an ex-CDC doctor working on understanding and treating “new” pathogens, bacteria and fungal diseases. But we find that his past is not all that clean, when he was fired from the CDC.

With a page count of almost 800 pages, I didn’t find myself bored or feeling like it was uninteresting. With the ever-present mystery of what is infecting the sleepwalkers and its where’s and why’s, and the individual character development. We meet a vast array of side characters and protagonists which, at times, got a little confusing but you aren’t left confused for long.

As we progress through the book we learn that everything is not as it seems and the plot twist leaves you feeling quite stunned but it’s not an entirely unbelievable twist. The descriptive writing is, though quite sparse, more than enough to really picture the surroundings.

The book opens discussions about many very important topics; climate change, racism, religious belief, and so many more. I feel like the author was using the real-world issues of our own mortality and the constant threat of an extinction-level-event. It gives the reader a place to reflect on global issues that we all face that can be changed.

This novel fit well in many different genres that I feel like it would be an interesting read for so many. The descriptions and the explanations into the science behind this enigmatic infection makes me feel that Chuck Wendig really took the time to research his plot.

I combined reading the physical book and listening to the audiobook and, despite some reservations, the voice actors really made the characters come to life. The portrayal of emotion that they gave was great, adding emotion and tonal changes to dialog throughout. It certainly helped me get through this in the time I did.

I wasn’t entirely amazed by this novel and part of me wonders if its purely the size of the book. But in reflection, I don’t see how this could be shortened, which is a good argument for its cohesion and clarity. If you’re a fan of long, science fiction with a contemporary setting, you’ll devour this!


Hardcover

782 pages

Published – 2nd July 2019

Publishing Company – Del Rey Books


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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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The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Books, Pink in Ink

V. E. Schwab

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.          France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.          Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.          But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

From the best-selling author, V. E. (Victoria) Schwab, comes a lyrical tale that has been anticipated by fans all over the world.

I only discovered Schwab this last year and she has rapidly become a favourite author that will send me swooning after every page. Known for her many series of fantastical fiction including A Darker Shade of Magic which won the hearts and souls of so many.

Combining fantasy, mythical, contemporary and historical fiction, I was surprised at how smooth and easy to follow this was.

We follow Adeline LaRue, or Addie, who, desperate to change her fate and explore the world, makes a deal with the darkness. But, after begging for freedom, she made a terrible error by not choosing her words wisely and everyone she ever meets will never remember her. Until she meets Henry, a lost employee of a quaint bookstore in New York who is the first and only (other than the dark) to remember her and give her the power to say her name.

Written so we follow Addie and Henry, we also follow their past, making it a captivating read. During the time-jumps to centuries past, it paints our history in a more realistic, less romanticised fashion giving it that little more believability.

This is a much slower and (for Schwab and her previous works,) a subtle plot leaving all the extra room for the emotional suspense this book provides of love, loss, grief, identity, loyalty, depression, suicidal thoughts and the trickery of war.

Schwab has been very open that this single novel has been ten years in the making. As I was reading I couldn’t help but see the real-life turbulence of the mind reflect in the characters situations. I can see that this tale and Addie will resonate with so many and is a tale that will stay with me for another 300 years.

“Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives – or to find strength in a very long one.”


Hardcover

448 pages

Published – 6th October 2020

Publishing Company – Tor Books / Titan Books


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