The Starless Sea

Books, Favourites, 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, Favourites, 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, Favourites, Pink in Ink

Neil Gaiman

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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.


Hardcover Illustrated Edition

336 pages

Published – 12 November 2019

Publishing Company – Headline

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The Devil and the Dark Water

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 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 Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Audiobooks, Books, Favourites, Pink in Ink

Stuart Turton

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Seven 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle


At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed–again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend–but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.          Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that will appeal to fans of Kate Atkinson and Agatha Christie.

Set in an illusive mansion in the deep countryside, we follow a man who has no memory of how or why he is there.

I don’t know how to explain the mastery of crossing fantasy, science fiction, crime and mystery. It is a marriage like no other I’ve read before. It’s set, in a way, following different characters of entirely different backgrounds that reveal ghastly secrets and the many twists and turns to finally reveal who killed Evelyn Hardcastle.

Despite it being written from different perspectives, each character has intentionally been written to seem like the same point of view. However, each character has their own ways of speaking and thinking so is easy to follow along. To add to the suspense, it is written from different points of time. It’s impossible to make a clear review without spoilers! All I can say is, it is a plot that is unmatched in it’s execution and each twist leaves you with more questions. Stuart Turton is an author to watch. I can’t wait to see what worlds he creates next.


Hardcover

505 pages

Published – 8th February 2018

Publishing Company – Raven Books

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The Bone Houses

Audiobooks, Books, Pink in Ink

Emily Lloyd-Jones

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead. The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good? Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves.”

This book delved into the topic of grief in a fantastical way. With a historical element to the story, it follows the journey of Ryn, weighed down with the grief of her missing, presumed dead, father and the passing of her mother while trying to keep her younger siblings safe from harm and destitution. We also come across our antagonist, Ellis, with no clear history other than he was found wandering the enchanted forest as a small boy.

This was a very immersive tale. It’s paved the way for open discussions of death and grief and its many forms. I struggled at times with the alternate perspectives because they were written in the third person, but it gave good insight into both Ellis and Ryn’s thoughts. The bone houses are the walking dead that only rise in the enchanted forest at nightfall but, as the book progresses, we learn that they are more than just bones. Leaving me with the dilemma of; if the enchantment was to be lifted, all the bone houses that were close with loved ones would be lost forever. But for them to stay would be unnatural. It left me contemplating what I would want if the enchanted forest was real.

The conclusion to this tale was a bitter-sweet one. It didn’t leave me wowed but was certainly enjoyable and an easy read. If you liked House of Salt and Sorrows, you’ll like this.


Hardcover

352 pages

Published – 24th September 2019

Publishing Company – Little Brown Books

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