By Alysia Jackson Sunday 25th July
Issue 2 of the Murmurations magazine is upon us and with that comes more reviews galore! For this week’s post I have decided to share with you some of my recent reads as, after reading non-stop for the past month or so, I have built up my recommendations list for you to enjoy!
‘Grishaverse’ by Leigh Bardugo (Fantasy)
If you’re in the mood for a fantasy, then look no further than Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse! Comprised of three different book series and supplementary books, the Grishaverse expertly merges interesting characters with gripping plots for a true high fantasy feel. It has everything you need in fantasy – the fantastical element, magic (the small science), war, politics, the unknown, an expansive world, strong characters, and humour.
I was introduced to this series by a friend of mine who recommended Bardugo’s work to me, whilst also becoming hooked after watching the new Netflix adaptation Shadow and Bone. I subsequently spent the majority of May/June reading the collection (bar the additional stand-alones) and fell in love with the fantasy world of summoners, thieves, and fighters.
I started with the ‘Six of Crows’ duology which has 6 equally strong main characters and a high-stake heist premise that made me captivated from the beginning. The characters in this series were by far my favourite, being all so different and diverse in abilities, personality, and goals, but working perfectly as part of the Crow Club. I read the ‘Shadow and Bone’ trilogy next, which follows the chosen one trope and explores the enticement of a villain. The ‘King of Scars’ duology is a culmination of everything that transpired in the previous books, dealing with the aftermath of war, and trying to rebuild a land. It includes some of my favourite characters from the Grishaverse (with the addition of some new ones) and Bardugo perfectly gives the reader everything they want – well as much as a fantasy writer can!
If you want fantasy, I recommend the Grishaverse – you won’t be disappointed!
‘Bridgerton’ by Julia Quinn (Romance)
Romance might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if it is yours then I highly recommend any of Julia Quinn’s regency romances – especially the Bridgerton series. You may have heard about the Netflix adaptation that took the world by storm back on Christmas Day, and well if you loved Bridgerton then be sure to check out the books which brought it to life.
Julia Quinn is a queen of regency romances; her stories have the society rules, scandals, reputations, wit/humour, and so much more. With 43 stories to choose from, there is something there for any romance lover to enjoy and to keep them going for a long while yet.
There is the Bridgerton series itself (8 books long), the Rokesby series (4 books long), the Smythe-Smith Quartet (4 books long), and about 6 more series’ – not to mention the novellas! Each book is comfortably familiar and yet so perfectly different that (at least for me) you’re never bored.
There is the overarching romance storyline – which makes you into a hopeless romantic I’m sure – combined with the problems/issues prevalent in each respective characters’ lives. From the more mundane issues like money or social class to the extreme problems of pirates and spies, Quinn has explored so much within her novels that they do not feel like any other romance with a heroine swooning her way to love. Instead, the two protagonists will likely ‘save’ each other (and you can be sure that the lady will not sit there calmly tied up waiting for a man to save her).
If you want a good historical romance, then take a glance at Julia Quinn’s collection – I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr (Children’s)
I have always been of the strong opinion that children’s books are not just for children, they are for anyone who enjoys reading. In fact, a lot of the time I will choose a middle grade or a YA book when in search of a new read and constantly find myself rereading my childhood favourites. However, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr is a new read for me, one which I wish I had read as a child because it gripped me so much that I will now be recommending it to everyone.
Written by Judith Kerr (The Tiger Who Came to Tea), When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is a biographical account of the author’s own refugee experience travelling from Germany to Switzerland and then to Paris, France. With the backdrop of Hitler gaining power in 1936, the story focuses on our protagonist Anna and her Jewish family who, due to the rising conflicts in Germany, must flee their home in search of safety elsewhere.
As a children’s book, it concentrates on Anna’s perspective as a nine-year-old and how she views the world around, forever changing as she must adjust to the new ways of living. As such, it’s an important book (for children and adults alike) and one which looks at the refugee experience and sense of identity that the family experience on their journey.
On the surface, it might sound like a dark book set in a dark time, but Kerr perfectly captures the optimism of children and Anna’s sense of adventure during their experience. You fall in love with the characters, especially Anna and Max (brother) who are children learning about the important parts of life – which to them is family. They play games, have fun, make friends, go to school, and so much more, which keeps the tone of the book up in contrast to the serious moments of fear. You root for them, and feel for them, and start to understand on a more personal level the true levities of the time.
If you want a children’s book (for yourself or a child) then I recommend When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, because it merges the serious with the adventure for a truly great read!
‘Heartstopper’ by Alice Oseman (Graphic Novel)
If you’re not quite in the mood for a novel, then maybe a graphic novel is the way ahead, and I cannot recommend ‘Heartstopper’ by Alice Oseman enough! Starting out as a serialised and ongoing webcomic it has now morphed into a physical graphic novel, currently spanning 1-4 Volumes. The overarching story focuses on the blossoming relationship between Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson, from the moment they are sat next to each other in form room to the love they begin to share with each other.
I have only just read (and finished) the graphic novels, but as soon as I opened Heartstopper Volume 1 I was captivated by it so much that I could not put it down; to the point where I have now read them all and fallen in love with the storyline. It is a good comfort read – being cute, fun, and interesting with a sweet story – with a strong LGBTQ+ representation within its pages. The main protagonists, Charlie and Nick, are not the only ones who you come to love, with Oseman developing strong characterisations of minor characters (their friends) and including little comics of additional romantic relationships which add to the overall loveliness of the series.
What Oseman also does in ‘Heartstopper’ – especially in the later Volumes – is explore mental health and the impact that it has on the people around us. In particular, Oseman focuses on Charlie and how his mental health suffered as a result of the backlash he received at school after everyone found out he was gay. This storyline progresses from the first Volume right up until the latest, and not only addresses eating disorders, anxiety, and depression in Charlie, but also how Nick has reacted and the necessity for a support system. Oseman uses the Volume to share with readers the support and knowledge which is out there, trying to bring about and normalise these conversations, and enjoyed the story because of how truthful it felt.
Oseman creates a highly addictive and loveable story in the ‘heartstopper’ graphic novels, which I recommend to anyone out there looking for something a bit different but still utterly charming!
And there we have just a few recommendations from what I have been reading (and loving) recently. Be sure to comment any interesting reads you’ve found and as always check us out on Instagram , Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channel for more of our upcoming content.