5 Ways to Plough Through Your TBR Pile

It appears, from the extensive research (or, going to Twitter and hearing the shrieks) I've been doing, that the main problem most bookworms face is a massive, near-crushing TBR pile. And, whatever we seem to do, it just keeps getting bigger.

And bigger. And bigger.

As book buying bans are clearly the work of utterly desperate - and therefore motivated - bibliophiles, there's only really one course of action for those of us with no willpower. We must develop techniques to help us get through that pile.

Never fear! If you're drowning in books, I'm here to help:

Tip #1 - Would you? Could you? In a car?

If I couldn't read on the move, I probably wouldn't have read half the books I have: assuming you're anything like me, there's a lot of time there just waiting to be used. It's also very relaxing, because being on my way to somewhere is the one time when I don't feel like I should be doing something else. Multitasking is, like, organised.

Or something.

It could be a little bit of an . . . issue if you get carsick - it's a good policy in life to avoid anything that may result in projectile vomiting - but trainsick isn't a thing, right? I also found you an article on reducing motion sickness, so never let it be said that I don't care about my readers. Even the ones that might throw up on me.

Anyway, my point. Think about the amount of time it takes you to commute in the morning, and back home again: if you usually drive, take the bus (or make your slave drive you) and that time is there to escape into fictional worlds.

Tip #2 - Variety is your friend.

Reading slumps (days or weeks or even - library forbid - months when you don't want to read anything) are pretty much the natural enemy of bookworms trying to beat their TBRs. There's no shame in having them, especially since it means that you give every book you do read the proper attention, but if you really want to crack on a reading slump can be exceptionally frustrating.

The secret to avoiding them is simple enough: vary what you read.

I usually find that I find myself in the deep pit of a slump due to boredom, and boredom stems from doing the same things over and over again. That's not saying that you shouldn't re-read (some days it feels like I live to relive Harry Potter books) but that reading several books from the same genre back-to-back can get even the best bookworms stuck in a rut. Branch out! Try something new! Or even *holds breath* . . .

Read some non-fiction. 

I have this horrible feeling that I might have gone too far.

Tip #3 - Always carry a book. Always.

I'm not even fully sure why I'm calling this a tip, quite frankly, since I'm all but certain that most bookworms bring books with them as a reflex, but always having that back-up book (and being fully prepared to use it) will do wonders for the amount of books you get through.

Waiting for someone to pick you up? There's a book right there. Are you okay just waiting for a second? It's fine, I've got my book. Teacher hasn't arrived to the lesson yet? Read. (They're always super-impressed when they come in and you're the only one not throwing things at the ceiling.) 

The fact is that implementing this tip will not just make you a more efficient reader, but also make you happier, because you can always escape to a book if you really need to.
     Disclaimer: It may also make your friends and family mad if you insist on reading when they try to talk to you, or more accurately they insist on trying to talk to you when you're reading. Employ tip wisely and don't say I didn't warn you.

Tip #4 - Clear out your TBR on a regular basis.

This post exists purely because of the terrifying power of a looming, so-tall-it's-mutant TBR. If you cull the number of books it has available as an army, then it loses a lot of that power.

I'm serious! It may seem like a daunting task, but go through your to-read shelf on Goodreads  (or Amazon wishlist, or whatever you like to use) and cut the books that don't seem interesting anymore. You'll be suprised at how cathartic this feels, and how many books you actually lose.

And, on the off chance you don't manage to cull any after all, you need to be ruthless-er. Remove all Ruths from the immediate vicinity and try again.

Tip #5 - Don't expect to really get on top of it, like, ever.

A non-existent TBR is pretty much impossible for bookworms, when you face the cold, hard truth of the matter. The best we can really hope for is "managable" (and that's if we're lucky, to be honest). But, be content with controlling it just a little, because . . . isn't a TBR a good thing?

Having no TBR pile would mean that YOU HAVE NOTHING TO BE READ. Nothing. You'd have to pull novels off shelves at random to find your next fix I mean book; then it could be the worst thing of ever and you'd go in with absolutely no warning.

*shudder* TBR, I'm sorry! Come back . . .

In the comments: Come on, confess! How big is your TBR? How do you keep on top of it, if at all? And do you think a big TBR is a bad thing?
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Good Things Don't Always Come In Small Packages (Reviewing The 13 Problems by Agatha Christie)

This book contains thirteen chapter-sized Marple bites, but other than that, I find it pretty hard to describe. There were . . . characters? Who . . . formed a club that discussed unsolved mysteries? (A really interesting way of linking otherwise unrelated short stories, it turns out.) And of course Miss Marple defied expectations of "young folk" and solved all of them so quickly the mind almost boggles.

As you can probably tell from all the question marks, parts of this book confused me a little, but I want to talk about the good things first: Marple fans will definitely get their fix - there are a limited amount of books detailing an elderly woman who solves crime using small-town metaphors, you know - and that's always great because she's such a unique detective. I don't think anyone could mix up Miss Marple with Sherlock Holmes, for example.

Judging by the Poirot books I've read, Christie has a knack for individual main characters.

The other thing I've always loved about Agatha Christie's books in general is that you have no idea how the mystery is going to tie up until the last possible second: that but-there-can't-possibly-be-enough-pages left feeling always glues me to the page. How could you not love it? The short mysteries in this particular book packed in so much detail and complexity that it seemed almost impossible, and led to a lot of those "but how? OH" moments. So I'd like to applaud the author's skill in succinct-ness.

But in some stories (and it literally hurts to say this, knowing that I usually love Marple), Christie didn't quite . . . do it. And that's sad.

No matter how much I love Miss Marple's personality, it doesn't delete the fact that a lot of the other characters kind of blurred into each other. Some were dashing, or chilling, or funny, but I'm sure there were two names with one letter different at one point. It also really confused me that there was a character constantly referred to as "Jane".

Miss Marple's name is Jane, and yet apparently it wasn't her. I reminded myself of this several times and still forgot, so either my brain has messed up or that's confusing.

The weird thing about this was that I'm kind of okay with it. When I pick up a Miss Marple book, I'm not really doing it for the characters or even the quality of the prose. I'm looking for a plot with more twists and turns than a twisty turny thing - and while some of the chapters had that, some just confused me because the author didn't have enough words to pull off such a detailed storyline.

Just imagine me frowning.

In conclusion, this book wasn't exactly bad. I just feel like Agatha Christie's plots don't work in small packages, and so it didn't make the (admittedly very high) bar the rest of the series has set for me. If you already love Marple, then go ahead and enjoy another installment - at least you have 315 pages involving said elderly detective - but if not, I'd find another place to start. It would be horrible if this particular book put you off a brilliant series.

In the comments: How did you find this book, people-who've-read-it? Do you love Agatha Christie? Basically, TELL ME EVERYTHING MARPLE RELATED. You must.
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Cast A Harry Potter Spell Tag

There are pretty much two things I love . . . tags and Harry Potter. And this is a TAG about HARRY POTTER, so, you know. This post = Lara heaven.

I haven't managed to completely track down the origins of this tag, so I'm just going to have to say an anonymous thanks to whoever wrote it and admit that I stole it from Kate @ The Magic Violinist. If you want to have a go, then please do, but I'm a lazy little blogger who skipped a lot of questions, so I'd go to her post and grab all the missing ones.

Now stand back, ladies and gentlemen. It's time for Charms class.

Fixes damaged objects

A book that needs some serious fixing: Probably lots, to be honest, but it always seems to be the way that I read a book, hate it and then promptly erase it from my memory, so that I'm not scarred for life. The good, sad ones scar me enough as it is. I think the first book that comes to mind is Crow Moon by Anna McKerrow - it's got a really good premise and enough good elements to make it worth mending, but the main couple? Can we just have a completely new one please?

Creates a narrow beam of light

A book that deserves more attention: WHY DOES NO-ONE TALK ABOUT THE NAME OF THE STAR BY MAUREEN JOHNSON? It has brilliant, often hilarious characters (especially the MC, an out-of-place-American trying to survive in British boarding school), a gloriously gritty London setting and ghosts. Where were you, book community?

I'm going to need you to drop everything, read the book and then create a fandom. I want the internet flooded with Tumblr speculation by next week, okay?

Sorry to be drastic, but the book really deserves this. I really wish it would at least go on a few people's TBRs.

Summons an object from a significant distance

A book you’re anticipating: Um . . . all of them? 2017 (and the rest of 2016) looks like it's going to be an amazing year for books - it's agony I tell you. Agony! But I am absolutely definitely most excited about What's A Girl Gotta Do?, the third book in the Normal series by Holly Bourne; we now have a Goodreads blurb. THIS IS MAKING IT EVEN WORSE. 

I must confess, however, that I am slightly upset by the cover. It looks so different to the others in the series! And they were very pretty! But I'm hoping it's just provisional . . . and either way, nothing's going to stop me reading this book when I get my hands on it.

Expecto Patronum
Conjures an incarnation of positive feelings

A book that made you cry, or at least want to: Again, all of them? I'm a horribly emotional person and I cry at everything. Including people telling me not to cry. Other than the obvious (The Fault in Our Stars by John Green effectively drowned the entire book community, there were so many tears flying around) I blubbed my heart out at One by Sarah Crossan, because-

No, I'm going to have to stop talking now. Tears are pricking at my eyelids. 

Petrificus Totalus
Petrifies victim

A book you wish to keep forever: What book wouldn't you want to keep forever? I mean, even if what they have inside them doesn't agree with you, the covers are pretty and you can stroke them.

As you can tell, I have a real problem with book hoarding. If I could only keep one book that I've ever owned *trembles from the strain of making herself do this* it would probably be my Mum's old Secret Sevens. Because, you know, sentimentality. I can't just buy another set that have my Uncle's name in them.

And hush, I know that's more than one book. LIMITING MYSELF TO A SERIES WAS MORE THAN HARD ENOUGH, OKAY?

Lacarnum Inflamarae
Shoots fireballs

A book you wish to burn out of your mind completely: Definitely the Harry Potter series. Because them I could read them for the first time all over again, which is brilliant because a) duh, it's Potter, and b) I would be genuinely interested to see what an objective review ended up looking like. I really hate nine-year-old me for not having a blog at the time.

Wingardium Leviosa
Levitates objects

A book you wish to reread: I haven't reread anything in a while, actually (other than a quick flick through Harry Potter and the Prisoner Of Azkaban the other day, but I do that so often it barely counts), although I do have my eye on The Diary of a Young Girl. I'm contributing to Ely and Inge's Read-a-Long Diaries event, an Anne Frank read-along starting on the 12th of June, and I will have to actually remember the details if I'm going to write a mini review. (Unless random clueless non-opinion is what my hosts are going for.)

Forgive my slight tangent, but if you guys want to supply a read-along post (or have another idea for how you could contribute material to the event), there's still room for you! Comment here or email me - the address is in my sidebar - and I'll put you in contact with the right peeps.

Avada Kedavra
Causes instant death

Worst book EVER: Ugh. I guess, for it to be a classic, some people must have liked it at some point, but I must admit that I DNFed on Emma by Jane Austen. I mean, I DNFed hard - after about a hundred pages, I had to admit that my patience with the pain (sorry, I mean main) character that was Emma just didn't exist anymore. She was missing a soon-to-be plot twist when it was right in front of her nose, and I found her stuck-up and a little full of herself.

I don't mean to offend you if you liked the book, especially since I know there's a big Austen fanbase out there in the booksphere somewhere, but it just wasn't my thing. #sorrynotsorry

Puts victim in an unconscious state

A book with a chapter you couldn't seem to get over: This entire book was pretty much incredible (as you can probably guess, what with my above squealing about the not-soon-enough-to-be-released sequel), but my love for Chapter 29 knows no bounds. I don't want to reveal too much, of course, so I'll just say that this book is centred around the fact that love can't fix everything . . .

and thanks to Chapter 29, it didn't have to.

Heals relatively minor injuries

A feel good book that you enjoyed: Kindred Spirits, a World Book Day novella by Rainbow Rowell, is a beautiful book that actually involves a fangirl, Instagram and highly-decorated cupcakes. It is everything I wish my life would be: Frankly, anything Rowell ever writes will put a smile on my face, but this is still my favourite.

Impedes target’s progress

A book that kept you up all night reading: I have this very specific memory of reading Sophie's Adventures by Dick King-Smith, in bed at the age of about six. And reading. And reading. I could honestly tell you almost nothing about the plot (I had to Google to make sure I'd remembered the title right) but I can recall vividly being left for hours because Dad had promised me "five more minutes" and then gone out to mow (or weed, or something) without telling Mum to put me to sleep.

Needless to say, she was not impressed when she found me at nine o'clock. 

Breaks through solid objects

A book that convinced you to reconsider a certain genre: I really do think certain bloggers are going to find and torture me if I say this, but I always thought that the sort of fantasy book with a map in would be too dense and long for me. If I saw a map, I would literally baulk and put the book back on the shelf. And now I am re-drawing the map of the fantasy novel I'm writing right now.

So what changed? I read an awful lot of good fantasy books (because there're a lot out there - who knew?), but Incarceron's fantasy elements are definitely the cream of the crop. The futuristic gadgets mixed with classic medieval society . . . I WANNA READ.

Oh yeah. I already did.

Tickling spell

A book that made you laugh: I'm pretty sure almost everyone who does this tag will say the exact same thing, but the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan had me more giggle-incapacitated than anything else has in a long time. The sarcasm level is astronomical.

And no, I haven't read Heroes of Olympus or Magnus Bane, but please don't kill me. My IRL friends are rabid enough Riordan fans to have my death covered.

Offensive spell that violently wounds the target

A book that may have scarred you for life: Urgh, probably thousands. Books - especially YA books, it seems - have this horrible habit nowadays of lashing out of me, and I have the scars, the figurative scars, to prove it. 

You can probably tell from this handful of quotes that Jennifer Niven's All the Bright Places is brutal, but you really have to read it to see just how brutal. It left me a wreck, but naturally I think you have to read it.

This is the vicious cycle of wounding books.

Bombarda Maxima
Causes an explosion that breaks through obstacles

A book that made you explode with the feels: Because I've already told you guys practically everything about sad books in this tag, I'm going to assume this means happy feels. Actually, I really hope it means happy feels; otherwise there's a chance I might cry. Luckily, just opening a Murder Most Unladylike Mystery by Robin Stevens gives me so many happy feels that it makes everything better. I mean, please. The phrase 'most divine berry cloche' is actually used at one point. Who wouldn't want a character who says that?

Finite Incantatem
Nullifies other spells

A book you thought you’d dislike, but ended up loving: I hate to admit that I groaned when I first found out I was going to be studying To Kill A Mockingbird for English, because it turned out to be amazing. Scout's viewpoint was both starkly honest and clouded by innocence. And . . . it was just poignantly beautiful and I loved it. Kindly read.

In the comments: Do you guys have a favourite book tag? Should I do it? And, as all of these covers are so gorgeous, which do you like best?
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7 Sources of Blogger Stress (Plus Articles to Help You Kill Them)

In general, I must say that I'm a very stressy person. I worry about everything because I worry that if I don't worry it won't be good enough, but then I worry about not worrying enough.

That entire sentence - like a lot of my thought processes, I guess - is just a worrisome mess.

But the one time I feel like I'm not the only stress-ball around is when I worry about blogging: I find, if conversations on Twitter and discussion posts can be trusted, that most bloggers get anxious, and also that they tend to get anxious about similar things. Being stressed is a terrible feeling, so I thought I'd help the bloggersphere out a bit and summarise those sources. I've even included some articles to help you kill that stress.

You can tell I'm feeling nice today.

The Existential Crisis

This one could also be called the "no-one's reading my blog and that makes me feel worthless and what am I doing wrong and now I'm hyperventilating" but I have a feeling that sentence might be a bit difficult to follow. Oops.

Most of us know that getting hung up on blog statistics is never going to end happily, but that doesn't stop us doing it. I guess it's because we want so desperately to communicate with people and attempt to make connections with them - which is absolutely a brilliant thing - that it's natural to feel a little down when your work might not seem to be reaching anyone.
  • I've discovered that, when these thoughts are running through your head, you need a little confidence boost. You need someone to pat you on the head and tell you it's ok - and I wrote this little post a while back that might help remind you a blog can be successful without a gazillion hits.
Accidental Piracy

The thing with the blogging community is that we are all fiercely protective of our content. That's usually a good thing, because no-one wins when someone copies; it means that the repercussions for such a cheater (I guess that's what you'd call them, if blogging was a test) are severe. Your name will be blackened. Twitter will yell about your misdemeanours. Often, you'll even end up being pressured to shut your blog down.

These things honestly make a lot of sense, if you meant to copy (which the people who are called out on it almost always did) but I often worry about the trouble I might get into if I pirate something by accident, if my post ends up being too similar to someone else's because I was inspired by them, and they don't like it. (FYI, if you're worried about this, just ask permission. Most bloggers will be flattered that they inspired someone and happy to say yes.)
  • Information about what is acceptable and what is not would probably be very useful in killing this particular stress source, because then you know if you're doing the right thing or how to fix your post to make it more unique. Knowing where you stand can be exceptionally calming. With that in mind, I would like to suggest this glorious information mine post by Cait @ Paper Fury, which makes amazingly clear the fine line between inspiration and copying. (Funny story, but I actually got inspiration for this post from Cait's. A POST ABOUT INSPIRATION. I asked her if she was ok with it, and because she's an amazing human, she was really nice about it. So asking permission is absolutely not a scary thing.)
Content Peer Pressure

When I say peer pressure here, I don't mean that people are literally telling me what my content should be, because the blogging community are far too nice for that. It's more that I see what other people are posting, and then put pressure on myself by wondering, for example, if I post too many blog tags and not enough reviews. I suppose a more accurate term for this would be Lara Pressure, because I bring it pretty much completely on myself, but that doesn't stop it stressing me out. (Other types of content pressure include feeling forced to write in a certain style or with particular formatting or to a certain schedule, by the way. My example was just . . . an example.)
  • You'll just have to take my word on this, because I couldn't find an article after searching everywhere - maybe you or I should write it - but it's your blog, and readers can tell if you've forced a post just because you felt you should. WRITE WHAT YOUR FINGERS ARE ACHING TO PRESS INTO THE KEYBOARD.
  • Sorry. My fingers made me do it.


I've seen a couple of people suffer from hacking in the book-interweb lately, most noteably Society6 and RedBubble stores, and it's terrifying! I highly doubt hackers would really care about a blog with such long, difficult-to-follow sentences (especially when there are much bigger ones out there to take down - I assume hackers like to make as many people miserable as possible) but I still can't help but be worried. I mean, this blog is my baby. I've spent so much time and I really don't want to have to start from scratch . . . it's horrible to even think about.

*sobs* I'm sorry, I'm sorry! *runs from the room like an X Factor contestant* Um, maybe I'm not that dramatic.
  • It's a scary thought, but never fear! Amber from The Mile Long Bookshelf has written an incredibly useful post to help you protect your blog on Blogger. Sorry, it probably won't be helpful to you Wordpress folks, but I hear you don't have to back up as manually over there, so hopefully you'll be ok. If you know of any helpful posts for other platforms, shout about them in the comments.
What Do I Write About? (AKA The Idea Drought)

There is absolutely nothing more frustrating - and stressy - than sitting at a blank computer screen, all ready to write a post and share yet more of your genius only to find that your brain is an absolute void empty of all ideas. Complete with tumbleweed. Especially when you're on a deadline, it feels like every second spent staring at a blinking cursor is bringing you closer to your impending doom.

And nobody likes impending doom.

I think what makes The Idea Drought so scary is the feeling that you might never have an idea Ever Again, that inspiration has deserted you, the feeling that you're absolutely stuck and will always be. It's horrible. The fear drills into your soul, and I absolutely hate it.

  • The only solution for Idea Droughts is to go out there and grab the inspiration by the neck. You'll find your own way of finding ideas, your own favourite lists, and those are always evolving. For example, I utterly adored this idea generator from Portent for ages, but now it feels like I've used up most of the prompts. Vivatramp's list of 100 ideas is also amazing, especially since it lists all sorts of blog tags to try, which I usually have to spend hours finding.

Tied to Your Topic

Another common root of stress for bloggers, as any bloggers reading this will know, is self-doubt over your content. If you feel like you have to stick like superglue (or, as I've recently found out with night splints, velcro) to your blogging niche, then a lot of brilliant post ideas - ones related to your personal life or other hobbies - can fall by the wayside, and nobody wins there.
  • The saddest thing about this stress source is that it's completely unnecessary - Amber (Mile Long Bookshelf, if you were paying attention above) has another great post about why stepping outside your niche is a good thing to do. She puts it much better than I ever could, so enjoy.

Too Much To Write, Too Little Time

Lack of time is horrendously worrying at all times, but bloggers hate it even more. At least, I assume we do. Posts are difficult to type quickly, especially when the clock is ticking and every tick tightens the fear-spring inside and oh my bookworm gosh I feel like the world is ending.

As you might be able to guess, I'm writing this post on a deadline.

  • The only true way to eliminate this kind of stress entirely is to have a really good schedule, and to write when you know you have the time. Sure, this kind of system takes a while to build - and, as you can tell from how frenzied I am right now, is far from fallible - but Lucy from Queen of Contemporary has an awesome blogging ritual that you can read a bit more about here.

In the comments: I hope I've managed to de-stress you at least a little! Which of these sources do you think is most problematic to you? Why? What other things make you worried, and are there any posts that help you with those?
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Series Review: Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries

Now, as you could probably tell from Monday's TBR Post, I just finished Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens. I absolutely adored it, and therefore need to scream about it from the rooftops (what else is an obsessed bookworm to do?).

Hence, a series review! (Well, I say review . . . probably more like an obsessed rave.)

Gah! Where do I even start, talking about such an amazing series?

The characters are to die for - ha, me and my murder puns - and I'm especially fond of the protagonist, Hazel. She's a Hong Kong Chinese girl in the middle of traditional English boarding school, facing the occasional bit of cultural confusion and even hostility, but the best part about her is just . . . her. Quiet and unassuming when compared to her best friend, Daisy (more on her in a minute) but brave and noble too, as well as having more than sharp observational skills. And when someone's death has to be avenged, she puts aside her fear. That's why I love Hazel Wong.

And then there's Daisy. She just doesn't have any fear. Headstrong and sometimes oblivious to the people around her, she has a tendency to sideline Hazel however much she cares for her, and just assume her friends will do what she says. This dynamic makes their relationship one of the most realistic I've read, and the way it keeps changing has kept me glued to the entire series (so far, there may be more).

Add this and some incredibly well-defined secondary characters (including their dorm-mates, Lavinia, Kitty, and Beanie, who all have separate personalities and fears) to the uniquely vivid melting pot that is a 1920s boarding school, and you have an exceptionally gripping series. It simply stinks of gym floor polish and hockey sticks and midnight feasts - I've heard people call it Agatha Christie inside Malory Towers, and that is an excellent comparison.

The plots are interesting, too, even if I have been known to guess the occasional clue a few pages before Wells & Wong. It didn't seem to matter. I was still really interested, and it was less 'oh, they're being stupid' and more 'oh, they don't know! What's going to happen next?'. I'm usually so gripped by each book that I read it in one sitting, pretty much.

Here's some more about each of the books (I wrote the summaries myself, so I hope you like them):

Murder Most Unladylike

Miss Hazel Wong and the Honourable Daisy Wells might be the most unlikely of friends, but when their science mistress is pushed off a balcony, timid Hazel is dragged into Deepdean School for Girls' most unlikely detective partnership, as they work out which of their teachers must also be a murderer.

What makes these girls such interesting detectives is that their investigations are constantly being derailed, by nosy teachers or time lost to lessons or even the dreaded School Rules: it feels like a much more realistic and sympathetic situation than in some stories, when the younger characters are left to run riot so much you wonder if their guardians are really responsible enough. Here, the limitations of being a child were very clear plot points, and when you add a plot with more twists and turns than a twisty turny thing (more suspects too), it's an absolutely gripping recipe.

Arsenic For Tea

Murder strikes too close for comfort when Hazel's at Daisy's estate for the Easter hols, leaving half of the Wells family suspect and digging up family secret after family secret . . . can Daisy betray her loved ones to solve the case?

It might make me a little bit mean, but in a way I loved watching Daisy's perfect façade crumble in this book - it helped me understand and sympathise with her so much that it was almost worth the pain it put her through. I might have missed Deepdean if it weren't for Fallingford, a setting just as deep and interesting - in fact the only thing I disliked was who the murderer was. Having favourite secondary characters really is a drag sometimes.

First Class Murder

Hazel's father takes the girls on what he thinks will be a completely safe, educational trip on the Orient Express, far away from any murder. Clearly, he hadn't factored in a whole bunch of interesting characters and a maid who's willing to get Wells & Wong the information they need - or read any Agatha Christie.

Somehow - and someone needs to tell me how she did this - Stevens has managed to set a classic era detective novel on the Orient Express and make it feel completely original. Maybe it was the constant references to Agatha Christie's book, the characters' disbelief that it could happen 'IRL', but it worked.

Wells & Wong also got to meet another junior detective - you can imagine how Daisy feels about that, but it isn't rosy - and it was fascinating to discover more about Hazel, her father and her upbringing in general.

Jolly Foul Play

Back at Deepdean, half the old teachers have been arrested or killed, and the new Head Girl's reign of terror is infecting the whole school. But no-one expected it to end with a firework display, a bloodied rake, and her five prefects as suspects.

I think most of what I love about this series is that Stevens' masterful characters become deeper and deeper the more I read about them, and she slowly reveals more about even the side characters until I feel I know them. This time round, I got to hear more about Kitty, Lavinia and Beanie, to understand why Lavinia can be beastly and Kitty gets so annoyed at her sister, and it was awesome.

In the comments:  What did YOU think, if you've read the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries? Can you recommend anything similar to fuel my Hazel-esque detectives obsession? And which other series would you like to see me review?
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A Month of Pure Excitement: My April TBR

It might be a week and a half into April, but I want to tell you lovelies about my April TBR because I don't usually have monthly reading lists. I was forced inspired to create one for the first day of #LILBookishApril, a Bookstagram tag that I'm doing this month - you can follow my (hopefully) daily pictures here, as you won't have seen most of them on the blog - and it was actually kinda fun, even if it did just involve pulling all the unread books in my house into a list. 

And I'm guessing, perhaps wrongly, that you want to hear about it. Even if you don't, I'm going to write this post anyway. ;-)

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

I never reviewed Cinder on this blog, but that was probably a mistake, because the exceptional worldbuilding made it an easy five stars. New Beijing was a bustlingly realistic post-apocalyptic metropolis, and it was impossible not to be riveted by the whole societal model, especially how it involved cyborgs at the bottom of the ladder.  

Scarlet - as well as being a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood - is partly set in TOULOUSE. So I get to see post-apocalyptic TOULOUSE.

Sorry, but the idea of Southern France, which is so laid back and traditional that it may as well be a time capsule (in a good way) plunged into a wildly technological age makes me do a dystopian fangirl happy dance. And from the two or three pages I've read, it looks like it's been done really well. Squee!

Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens

FINALLY! I GOT HOLD OF THIS BOOK! It might have been published less than a year after the previous Murder Most Unladylike instalment, so yay for authors who edit fast, but a release within a month would have been far too slow. I'm just obsessed with this series.

Daisy and Hazel have one of the best, most realistic friendships I've ever seen on the page, and when you couple that with a vivid 1920s setting, I'm always going to be in love. The covers are quirkily gorgeous. They're easy to read. I really can't wait to start this!

UPDATE: I read it. There should be a law against books being this good.

My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher

This book sounds absolutely morbidly fascinating. I am utterly dying to see how opinions on terrorism and race can be distorted through a child's eyes - especially a child who lost a sister to terrorists and therefore has a racist father.

We've talked a lot at school about how terrorism, particularly through the media, can make people scared of Islam, a religion which literally means peace, and I'm genuinely interested to read about someone who's been brought up to think like that, because it always seemed a bit alien to me. I'm also a hardcore fan of Annabel Pitcher (if Silence is Goldfish and Ketchup Clouds can be believed): she writes family trauma, especially hidden family trauma, really well, and I trust her to handle such a controversial topic.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I know basically nothing about this book. No-one will tell me anything because 'going in blind is absolutely essential'. Apparently there's an island and four friends, and it was described by Cait @ Paper Fury as "agony on the page".

In bookworm language, that means that I'm absolutely dying to get started. I'm so odd that I believe getting your heart ripped out can be rather fun.

The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

Everyone keeps trying to make me read The Sleeping Prince, and I can't do that until I tackle this little ball of fantasy goodness. So I've bumped it to the top of by TBR for fear of being bumped off by a frustrated fellow bookworm who needs someone to fangirl with.

Apparently there's a princess with poisonous skin and a nice traditional fantasy world, which I need to sink my teeth into if I'm going to write a fantasy book. I just need to wait for the library to give it to me, and then I can descend into a papery paradise of medieval-esque courts and arranged marriages and a princess whose touch kills. At least, I'm hoping it's going to be a paradise. I haven't read it yet.

and, now that I've got a bit further into the month (and received some awesome gifts from some awesome friends) here are some additions that aren't on my initial picture. I'm never going to get through this list, considering I'm on the end of an eight day reading slump, but it's always good to dream, right?

The Selection by Kiera Cass

My friend gave me this book, and it was already on my Goodreads list, and yet most of what I know about it is 'pretty dresses on the cover'. And also competing for the affections of royalty, I think?

This is beginning to sound an awful lot like The Jewel by Amy Ewing, but I'm willing to give it a shot. Mostly because other bloggers seem to like it and 'pretty dresses on the cover'.

I'm such an objective and selective book reviewer, aren't I?

Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

This is another book that fought its way onto the TBR simply because so many friends have demanded I read it, but - however loath I am to admit it after being strong-armed into this - I do like the idea of a ghost pandemic that can only be solved by children, especially set in what seems to be the Victorian era.

I can work with the Victorian era.

This sounds like my kind of speculative fiction and apparently the main character is rather interesting, too. I'll keep you posted.

In the comments: Do you tend to write a monthly TBR? Why or why not? What's on it? (Sorry, I'm asking a lot of questions here.) And can you tell me anything about these books?
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What Do My Star Ratings Mean?

After looking at a lot of review stats recently (mine and others), I've realised that I could be considered quite a lenient reviewer. My average Goodreads star rating is 4.32 - I've never rated anything less than 3 - whereas other, more high-profile bloggers, like Cait @ Paper Fury or Kate @ The Magic Violinist, tend to have average ratings nearer to three.

I don't mind that, really: I review my way and I'm not going to let a desperate hunt for viewing statistics or to be like everyone else change that. Besides, if someone's picking books they think they're going to enjoy, they'll usually be right, and I've been reviewing books for a lot less time than they have. I've had less opportunity to hate things.


However, I would still like to explain what star ratings mean to me, so that you can fully understand my reviews, I guess. I might need to use this reference to help me decide some ratings in the future, too, so . . . I never said I wasn't selfish.

5 STARS - This book might have tiny issues, but I honestly don't think, even if those were fixed, I could like it any more. It has a shot at my 'Best Reads of the Year' shelf, and that means it's good. Like, really good. I really care about the characters, I was sucked into the settings, I will be shoving it in all my friend's faces, ready to watch them laugh or cry just like I did.

4.5 STARS - Great, although I probably won't be able to tell you why, but this book didn't quite make the virtually flawless mark for me. The likelihood is that I'm still going to remember and recommend it, while still wondering (to the point when it gets a little frustrating) what is niggling at me.

4 STARS - There is a specific problem that is holding me back just a little from enjoying this book fully. Thankfully - perhaps - for my sanity, I know what it is, but I really enjoyed other elements of the book and that redeemed this for me. I can't give it a bad review, because the plot or the characters or the settings or something pulled me along enough to make me feel like I'd be letting the author down by doing so. Remember that this doesn't stop it being a good book.

3.5 STARS - This book is . . . meh, I guess. It has perfectly well-structured writing, and I was interested by it, but I don't think it's memorable enough for me to recommend it to everyone. Just the people I know have specific interest in the genre / what the characters are like / the English Civil War (you know, if I know someone interested in the English Civil War, and the book actually involves it). Maybe this book just wasn't my cup of hot chocolate.

3 STARS - This book has some redeeming qualities, but I have a serious issue with it, the kind that I can't just overlook. Giving it this rating is probably really annoying me, because I know that some elements are really well-done and the author deserves credit, but I got really annoyed with other bits.

2.5 STARS - Eh, I was bored. Sorry, but it never really interested me even though the writing wasn't necessarily bad. I'm not going to recommend it because I know I didn't enjoy it, and wouldn't wish a waste of time on anyone else. That doesn't mean you won't like it, though!

2 STARS - Something about this book is written badly, I find. Maybe the characters fall flat or the worldbuilding just wasn't good enough, or the prose is annoying me. Probably a combination of these things. I finished, so something must have been ok, but it was a hard slog.

1.5 STARS - Um . . . I've never given one of these. Slightly better than books with one star?

1 STAR - This. Book. I probably can't even work out why I finished it, but I did, out of sheer Capricorn stubbornness (not that I really believe in star signs, it's just a good metaphor). There were probably grammatical errors or something. *grinds grammar queen teeth and sharpens grammar correction pencil*

0 STARS or N/A - We have a DNF, people! DNF alert! I'm not going to give it a ranking because I haven't finished, so I don't have all the information. But the bit I read . . . no, thank you.

In the comments: What do your star ratings mean, bloggers? Non-bloggers, were my reasonings similar to what you thought? And did I overdo it a little on the GIFs?
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