book blog · Book Review

Rereading Old Favourites | Shadow Forest by Matt Haig

May 17th, 2021

| Released: May 2007 |
| Publisher: Bodley Head |
| Genre: Fantasy |
| Age: Middle Grade |
| Length: 416 Pages |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

What Is It About?

This books starts as most children’s books start, with the main character being orphaned. Sam & Martha are in the car with their parents on the way to Martha’s Birthday surprise, when they’re involved in a pretty horrific accident that kills their parents and leaves them with no one but their Aunt who lives in Norway.

They’re forced to go and live with her, and when they arrive there, they’re immediately warned to stay away from the forest that runs along the back of their aunts house. But kids will be kids…

My Thoughts

This book and I have a whole lot of history. Back when I was 10, in my sixth and final year of Primary school (I miss those days) we read this as a class for the Smarties Book Award (which it went on to win). I remember the day the box arrived and inside was all the books shortlisted for that years prize.

I remember the teacher calling up names to come and pick out a book, and I remember everyone picked Shadow Forest, and when it was my turn, there was no copies left. So I had to wait until one of my friends finally finished and I could read it for myself, and I fell in love with it.

This was still such a fun read, even as an adult. The writing it so unique as it includes witty little interruptions from Haig where he steps out of the narrative and it’s almost like he’s talking to you. The story is one of magic and mystery and is a real treat for any child (or adult) reader.

How Is It Different From How I Remembered?

I do not remember it being quite so dark as it is. Seriously, what is up with authors killing the parents in children’s books? And the way it happens in this one is particularly gruesome and made worse by Haig’s dark joke in the character profiles that the Dad will be ‘lucky to make it through the first chapter’. Sick. Just sick.

But I did laugh.

When I read this book at 10, I don’t think I ever thought I would still be reading Matt Haig as an adult or that his future books would mean as much to me as they do. It’s funny how some things turn out.

Do you still read any authors you read as a child?

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Most Popular Posts

My Top 10 Best Books Of 2020

January 4th, 2021

Hi Readers,

I really leaned on reading to get me through 2020, and I’m so grateful to have something that is so consistant in my life. I read some seriously incredible ones as well, it was hard to chose just 10. But, it’s tradition that I do, so here are the top 10 books I read in 2020.

Interestingly most of these books were published in 2020, but that wasn’t intentional. I guess I just really enjoyed my new releases this year!

For them to have made this list, these books must be books that tugged on my heartstrings, attached itself to my soul and hasn’t let me go, even now.

10. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

This is set around Día de Muertos following a trans boy who is trying to prove to his family he’s a brujo, and whilst doing that releases the ghost of another teenage boy who recently died. I was just obsessed with these two characters. Their dynamic and bond stole my heart.

Full Review Here

9. Vicious by V.E. Schwab

I wasn’t a fan of the sequel, but I can’t let that cloud how much I loved Vicious. I read this almost straight after watching the X-Men series for the first time and this was just what I needed to fill that hole in my life once I’d finished. I just love that this book doesn’t really have a hero. Everyone in it has a pretty messed up agenda which definitely made it a whole lot more interesting.

Full Review Here

8. The Six Wives Of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

I’m shocked that a non-fiction book is making my top 10. But I feel I’ve found the type of non-fiction I actually enjoy. Historical and about women. I also really loved Alison Weir’s writing and will definitely be reading more by her.

Full Review Here

7. A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

I was always destined to love a YA fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast. My favourite Disney film growing up, and I love the dark twist Kemmerer gave us with this. Can not wait for book three!

Full Review Here

6. Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

If someone told me I would one day have a horror book on my top 10 of the year list, I would have laughed in their face. Okay so for some people this probably isn’t super horror like, but this scared me into sleeping with my light on for a brief period. And I loved it.

Full Review Here

5. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

I mean, whose ‘Favourites of 2020’ list didn’t this make? And that’s probably only because they didn’t get to reading it. I loved this story. It’s just the type of sci-fi/fantasy I love. Slow, character driven and full of intrigue. I will definitely be rereading it soon.

Full Review Here

4. Beach Read by Emily Henry

This is just the type of book I love to read in the warm sun. A tension filled romance with a great cast of characters who have great banter. This follows two authors who are kind of rivals, and I loved the writing aspect involved in it. That’s definitely what upped it from a typical romance to something I will return to.

Full Review Here

3. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Another one I’m sure will be on a lot of peoples lists this year. It’s just so good and completely gripped me. Felix is a trans teenage boy who is still exploring his identity whilst being targeted by a anunymous, transphobic bully.

Full Review Here

2. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

2020’s women’s prize winner, and the book I was routing for! Hamnet is a beautifully written historical fiction about the wife of a famous play writer.

Full Review Here

1. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Can you believe that when I first wrote this list, I completely forgot this book exhisted. The second I did remember however I knew what spot it deserved. And that’s because of what this book means to me. I’d recommend this to everyone but TW for mental health.

Full Review Here

What was your number one book of 2020?

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog

The 20 Books I Would Keep | Blogmas

December 11th, 2020

Banner

Hi Readers!

Growing up I had three small bookshelves which held probably 30-40 books. I now own 2 full size bookshelves, another bookshelf the length of a wall, books in my wardrobe and another full bookshelf in the garage. All of that amounts to around 300+ books (possibly more. I haven’t counted recently).

I’ve always wondered what I would do if I had to downsize and go back to the amount I had as a kid. Then I decided to make this challenge even harder for myself and go with 20 books for 2020.

I feel like there are actually a lot of books I own that I’m not attatched to at all and just hold on to for the sake of it. But I also know I’m so overly sentimental about way more than just 20 of them, so this will be tough.

These are the 20 books I own and could never, ever let go of.

1.The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I do technically own two copies of this, so I would choose the blue one as that is my annotated copy. I have scribbled and doodled and highlighted in this copy. It’s very personal and I treat it like a diary. Nobody is allowed to look in it.

I think this book is so special to me because of what it meant to me as a teenager. I first read it when I was 16 and despite the fact it was written 20 years before, it still has such a timeless feel. It’s the book that made me feel seen and understood. I’d never be able to part with it.

2. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

This is a bit more of a random one. It’s a more recent read so it hasn’t got that attatchemen from being a kid/teenager. I think the reason I feel so sentimental about is because of the emotions it brought out in me, which was pretty much every emotion under the sun.

3. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Another pretty recent one. This only came out a couple of months ago, but already means so much to me. This is about a woman who suffers with depression and it takes a sci-fi look at regrets and how that effects out mental health. She’s given the opportunity to see how her life would have turned out had things gone differently. It has a very powerful and positive message.

4. Shadow Forest by Matt Haig

This is a book from my childhood which comes attached with a lot of good memories. I first read it when I was 10 at school and I feel like it was the first time the whole class looked forward to reading. It’s a nice way to remember my final year at Primary school.

5. Simon Vs The Homo Sapians Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I would keep this as it’s a book that never fails to put a smile on my face. I love the characters and their funny interactions with one another. I think I would miss them too much if I had to give this book up. There’s also just such cute moments between Simon and Blue, I feel gushy just thinking about them.

6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Anna Barrows

This book just never fails to put me in a good mood. It’s a real book lovers treat but it’s also got a lot of importance to it as it does tell the story of Guernsey whilst it was occupied in WWII. But it really captures the resilience of the people who lived their. I just think this book is so wonderfully British.

7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

It’s so hard for me to just pick one Jane Austen book. I love them all so much! But seeing as I can not go a year without rereading P&P, I’d have to keep this one. I do own three copies of it but I think I’d have to keep my first copy of it which I got for Christmas when I was 14. That one is just a little bit more special than the others.

8. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Such a cosy and heartwarming book. I fell in love with this the first time I read it and I’ve loved it every time I’ve read it since. I reread it recently and I will say I found it a bit morally heavy than I remember. It was a bit too sentimental. But I’ll always remember how I felt the first time I read it and I seriously love the characters.

9. My Sister Jodie by Jacqueline Wilson

Another one I read as a kid. I would call this book the pivotal moment in my reading life. It was the first of many Jacqueline Wilson books and through this I found YA. Most of my Wilson books are in the garage now but this one still has a place on my bookshelf and it always will.

10. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgsen Burnett

This book is special because it reminds me of afternoons with my Nan when I was younger. We used to watch the movie together and the first time I read the book I borrowed her copy. It such an old fashioned childrens classic and I’d probably hate it if I didn’t have that nostalgia attatched to it.

11 + 12. The Hunger Games + Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I would not survive without the first two books in the Hunger Games trilogy, but I could happily do without book three. Not because I think it’s bad, but because it hurts too much!

13. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I mean, it’s one of the most famous classics for a reason. It’s a captivating plot that never fails to enamour me. I just don’t think I’d ever be able to part with such an amazing crafted story.


14. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

I’ve only ever read this once, so I don’t know how I would feel if I reread it now. But I remember the first time I read this, I was so sure I was going to struggle with it because of it’s length and because it’s a translated piece of Russian literature. It just felt so inaccessible. But I ended up flying threw it and loving it.


15. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This is one of those stories that really has something to say and it just achieved so much so well. It’s touching, it’s brave, it’s inspiring. I’ll be rereading this book my whole life.



16. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Another book I just can’t pass a year without reading. It’s got the most emotionally complex characters and wonderful parents. Just thinking about this books makes me so emotional!


17. I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

I have a lot of YA on here and I think that’s because the books we read as teenagers are books that will always stay with us. It’s not the easiest time in life, but books really helped me get through it. This book is also just one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read.


18. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

This is a quartet so picking just one book is hard, but I think the first book might be my favourite. The whole series follows the friendship of two girls throughout their lives. Book one follows them through adolescence.



19. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Another more recent favourite. I think this book means more to me than others though because it has a book community feel to it. It really feels like everyone I follow has read and loved this book. It also just makes me so emotional, and I do love a book that makes me cry!

20. Harry Potter & The Philosphers Stone


Despite recent events, HP will always mean something to me and I can’t shake that off (I just won’t be buying anything new from her ever again). This was another pivotal moment for me.

Now it’s your turn. What is one book you could never part with. Let me know!

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review | Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

| Published: June 2020 by Dutton Books |
| Genre: Horror/Thriller |
| Themes: Book Within A Book, Supernatural, Mystery |
| Length: 409 Pages |
| ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Hi Readers!

Horror, thriller, supernatural, ghosty books are not my usual go to genres. In fact, I normally avoid them like the plague. But for a while now I’ve been wanting to join in with Books and Lala’s ‘Literally Dead’ book club and, seeing as this book club is all about thriller and horror books, that’s going to mean stepping out of my comfort zone just a little bit.

What Is It About?

This book is told from dual perspectives. In present day we follow Maggie who’s just inherited an old house she lived in for a short period as a 5 year old, after her father passes away. This house garnered a reputation after her family left it suddenly and never returned, claiming it was haunted.

Her father wrote a book about it which quickly became popular and really effected Maggie’s life. As Maggie grew up, she began questioning whether the events her father claims are true actually happened.

What Do I Think?

I’m the biggest wuss you will ever meet so don’t take my word for it, but this book is so spooky. I made the very daft decision that I would read the last 1/3 of this book whilst it was dark outside listening to a thunderstorm ‘ambience’ video on youtube because I wanted the full atmosphere.

Big mistake. I swear if that ‘Sixteen Going On Seventeen’ came up one more time I was going to scream.

I was getting so freaked out and when it came to going to bed that night I was almost too scared to turn my light out. But I kind of loved it as it almost felt like an adrenaline rush. I can see why some people are addicted to horror movies.

I don’t read many thriller/horror novels so this could just be the novelty of it for me, but I had a lot of fun reading this because as I was reading I came up with so many theories (a couple of which were actually quite close to the actual outcome).

The conclusion didn’t really have much of a shock factor for me though. I also felt like there were a couple of things that were left unexplained. But it kept me constantly questioning everything and I wasn’t sure what I should believe so it really sucked me in and wouldn’t let me go until I got to the last page.

After finishing this it has immediately made me want to pick up more books by Riley Sager and I will be doing that very soon. It is spooky season after all!

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog

My Favourite Books of 2018

Hi Readers!

In 2018 I read 113 books. Unfortunately not many of them were stand-out amazing but today I’m going to talk about the few that were.

Out of the 113 books I have ten that I think deserve to be on my 2018 favourites list.

Tilly and the BookWanderers by Anna James

My most recent read that ended up on this list. This is also the only middle-grade book. This book is the epitome of cosy and a must-read for all book lovers and includes references to books we all know and love. Set in a book shop we follow 11 year old Tilly who discovers the magic of book wandering, and befriends characters like Anne Shirley and Alice from Wonderland.

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith


The latest Cormoran Strike was, whilst not my favourite, certainly worth the wait. I love the mysteries but I also just love Strike and Robin. They’re great characters, and their story of will they won’t they is really the thing that keeps me reading. I am very invested in their lives.

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah


It’s not very often a non-fiction makes it onto my favourites list, but I couldn’t not mention this one. Born a Crime is Noah’s personal account of what it was like growing up in South Africa during Apartheid. He was able to write the truth about this period of history whilst also keeping it engaging and sometimes funny. I must admit, I don’t know much about South Africa and after reading this I’d like to learn more about their history.

The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton


This was one of my most highly anticipated books of the year and whilst it didn’t completely meet my expectations, it is still one of the most unique books I read this year. A sci-fi mystery about a man who is reliving the same day over and over until he can solve the murder that will take place that evening.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman


This is a beautiful story about loneliness and purpose. Ove is a man who at first seems like the typical grumpy old man who lives next door. But we delve into his life and his thoughts and, as we learn more about him, the more this fictional character creeps into the heart of the reader.  

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows


A remarkable story set post WWII about a writer who discovers how the British people on Guernsey coped with being occupied by the Germans. It’s a true book lovers delight, and whilst it sheds light on the horrible things that happened in Guernsey, it’s also a book full of hope, love, and books.

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J Maas


This is a series I have been reading for a long time now and reading the final book was emotional to say the least. This series has certainly had it’s ups and downs and this finale isn’t perfect (for me) but there’s no denying my love for these characters. 


The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins


I didn’t end up reading too many classics in 2018. I read this one because the BBC was doing an adaptation of it, but I quickly fell in love with this book. Eerie and mystical and beautifully written. I definitely want to read more by Wikie Collins in 2019.


Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

A funny book that turned out to be so much more. It’s a book about a woman who just doesn’t understand social cues and lives a very isolated life, and the book slowly reveals why.
I just love this character and every time I think about this book my heart bursts. When I first read this I thought it would be my number one book of the year. But then I read my number one book and it blew all of the others out of the water.

Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This book. THIS BOOK. Not only my favourite of the year but one of my favourites of all time. This story and these characters will remain with me for a long time. It’s set in old Hollywood and through Evelyn Hugo explores the period of fake relationships, objectifying and punishing women by controlling their careers, and just how the film industry works.
All of these characters felt so real to me, and I got so emotional so many times. I want every single person reading this post to read this book, please and thank you.

What was your favourite book of 2018?

Thanks for reading, 
Jess X

Book Review

My Favourite Book.

Hi Guys

I have talked about this book in quite a few blog posts before and recommended it at every possible opportunity, but I have realised that I have never given it it’s own post for me to gush about it. So, here I am today, doing everything in my power to try and persuade you to read this beautiful book.

This blog post will be spoiler free but I will be talking about themes and quotes, so if you want to go into this book knowing nothing, here are a few reasons why you should read it.

  • It’s a banned book. Be a rebel.
  • The friendship.
  • The acceptance.
  • The growth.
  • The writing, it’s beautiful.
  • It’s relateable (you will connect with at least one character.)
  • So you can watch the movie after, which is just as good and has Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson.

img_7212

When I first read this book I had borrowed it from a German foreign exchange student when I was 16 and I’ll admit, I didn’t completely get it. However this happens with most of my most loved ‘things.’ I start off thinking it’s ‘meh’ but there’s something about it that makes me want to give it another go and when I do something happens that didn’t happen the first time, I connect with it.

Charlie is such a special main character. He is a wallflower, he sees everything but never gets involved, and being a teenager surrounded by difficult and complex situations that can be very overwhelming. He’s an over-thinker, and the only person he confesses his thoughts to is his friend (the reader.)

I love his love for books. All of us love a main character who shares our interests, and I think it’s safe to say we all have a shared interest in books. Reading is a big  part of Charlies growth:

“I have finished To Kill a Mockingbird. It is now my favourite book of all time, but then again, I always think that until I read another book.”

The Music. This is the perfect moment to mention the movie (which I also love with all my heart.) Perks features ‘old’ music (pre 1990’s) which I never listened to unless forced before Perks. The movies soundtrack opened me up to a whole new era of music I never thought I could love. Now I listen to The Smiths, David Bowie and Fleetwood Mac. The Samples are even my alarm song to wake me up in the morning.

“And I thought how many people have loved those songs. And how many people got through bad times because of those songs. And how many people have enjoyed good times with these songs. And how much these songs really mean.”

The sub-plots are gifts. This book explores a lot of issues a teenager could experience through not just the main character Charlie but through the secondary characters as well. None of the characters are straight-forward, one dimensional, or perfect. Each of their stories needed to be told.

This book delves into themes of sexuality and all the struggles that could come with in the 80’s. There’s also teen-pregnancy, violence in relationships, a teenagers struggle with self-worth. But throughout all of that, these characters have each other.

I love the entirety of this book, but there are small quotes in this book that give it moments of genius. Quotes that I have to read twice to let soak in, quotes that I love so much I have them hanging on my wall in my bedroom. So I will leave you with some of my favourites:

“Sometimes people use thought to not participate in life”

“Five minutes of a lifetime were truly spent”

“We accept the love we think we deserve”

“And all those little kids are going to do the same things we do. And they will kiss someone someday. But for now, sledding is enough. I think it would be nice if sledding were always enough, but it isn’t.”

“Even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from here.”

And the most famous of the book:

.“And in that moment, I swear…”

Thanks for reading!

Jess X

book blog

Top 10 Books Of 2015!

Hello Readers!

In 2015, while I failed at basically all of the challenges I set myself, I was still able to read some pretty good books. So in this post I’ll share with you my top 10 (in no particular order) and why I loved them so much.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

This was my first Agatha Christie novel and for ages I’ve been wanting to read one of her classic mystery novels, and I was not disappointed. This was everything I wanted to be, a classic who did it novel that keeps you on the edge and makes you suspicious of everyone. I was a little worried going into this because I thought it would be really complex and hard to follow but it was actually written really simple and it has gotten me excited to read the rest of her novels. Next stop, Poirot.

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

This was such a unique fantasy novel. I loved the new take on magic and the world in this was so vividly described. I’ve been wanting to read a Brandon Sanderson book for ages but I haven’t been in a series reading mood for a while now. When I saw that Warbreaker was a standalone (or is for right now) I knew it was the perfect start to my Brandon Sanderson addiction and boy was I right. I love his writing and world building and character development. Everything about this book was perfect.

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Nivan

(2022 Update, I Hate This Book)
I know there is a lot of mixed feelings about this book because some people believe this book romanticizes depression and suicide. I completely disagree though. No book about suicide and mental illness is going to be perfect because everybody has different perceptions of it, and I love that a Young Adult book about mental illness has become as popular as it has because it will get more people thinking. I personally loved the story and while it did break my heart, I’m glad it wasn’t a happy go lucky ending because that’s just not realistic and wouldn’t have had the same impact.

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson


If I had to pick a favourite book of 2015 it would be this one. This made me feel all of the emotions, happy, sad, eye-opening, shock. This book was absolutely unputdownable and I completely fell in love with the characters. If I were to recommend anyone a book from this list, it would be this one. Absolutely loved it.

More Than This by Patrick Ness


I remember this one being one of the more shocking and mysterious books I’ve read this year. The entire time I was reading I genuinely had no idea where it was going and when we came to the conclusion it just seemed so clever and different. I loved the idea of this book and the execution was phenomenal. I can’t wait to read more Patrick Ness.

The Queen Of the Tearling by Erika Johanson

Everything about this book excites me, the world, the characters, the writing, the plot, the possible movie adaptation with Emma Watson. I read this months ago yet I remember every little detail, which in my eyes is the sign of a good book. I loved the twist that it’s set in the future yet feels medieval. The experience was also fun because this was my first (and as of right now only) booksplosion read. I got the sequel for christmas and can’t wait to read it.

Cormoran Strike by Robert Galbraith

I couldn’t pick between the first two in the series, because they were both so good. These are such amazingly written mystery detective novels. The thing that made these books for me was definitely the writing (although I do also love the characters.) If you have been hesitant to branch out to other J.K Rowling novels please don’t be, she really is an amazing all round writer and I can’t wait to read Career of Evil (which I also got for christmas!)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz


This book to me is a mix of Perks of Being a Wallflower and I’ll Give You the Sun (what more could you possibly want?) It was written amazingly and I loved the characters. This book describes friendship and self discovery perfectly and if you are looking for a coming of age novel, definitely add this to your list.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgsen Burnett

This is a childhood favourite of mine. I haven’t read the book or watched the movie for years and it brought back so many memories. I remember I used to imagine there was a secret garden in my own garden and I planted bulbs and skipped around with my rope and swung on my swing pretending Dickon was pushing me (ahh childhood.) I
felt so happy and relaxed while reading this and I’m so glad I decided to read it once more.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

This is a last minute favourite as I only read it just over a week ago but boy did it touch me. This book was bitter-sweet in so many ways. My heart broke multiple times yet there was one feeling I felt while reading this book (and don’t laugh at me for saying this,) I felt hope. Hope that even in the toughest of times it’s possible to find a way out and find a light to brighten the day. That as long as you work hard, you will survive, and as long as you are a good person you will get what you deserve. This book means a lot to me and I hope that you pick it up to.

Those are my favourite books of the year. I hope next year to read just as many good books, maybe even more. Let me know what your favourite book of 2015 was and whether you have also read any of these books.

Thanks for reading
Jess xxx