Review: Henry V – William Shakespeare


Henry V is Shakespeare’s most famous “war play”; it includes the storied English victory over the French at Agincourt. Some of it glorifies war, especially the choruses and Henry’s speeches urging his troops into battle. But we also hear bishops conniving for war to postpone a bill that would tax the church, and soldiers expecting to reap profits from the conflict. Even in the speeches of Henry and his nobles, there are many chilling references to the human cost of war.


Firstly, I don’t feel I can write a ‘review’ of a Shakespeare play. It’s Shakespeare, England’s most famous writer, I think it’s fair to say. But I wanted to share some of my thoughts about the play anyway.

I’m not really a fan of the histories, I must admit. I read this play back in year twelve (nearly three years ago) and wasn’t really keen on it, and reading it again for uni made me understand why I don’t particularly enjoy it. I watched it, rather than read it, this time around. It helped, as my attempts at reading it were just not going to happen!

There are so many characters. I know it’s a historical piece and Shakespeare couldn’t exactly cut them out of the play but I could not follow them. This is why watching it made it so much better. I could put a face to a name at the very least (admittedly, I had no clue who some of the people were but hey). I just got so confused reading this and I struggled to get through it (well, I didn’t). It is important to remember it is written for the stage though, even more so than today’s plays as the majority of Shakespeare’s audience wouldn’t have been able to read, so I guess there’s that.

I did love some of the speeches, the ‘Crispin’s Day’ speech is truly wonderful. Henry V definitely has good, motivational speeches going for it. But otherwise, I was bored. As I said, I’m not really a fan of the histories – I prefer the over the top drama of the tragedies and comedies personally. But I can see its merit. I mean, I find history interesting to learn about, but historical fiction in general is not my thing, let alone Shakespeare’s version of it!

Rating: 3 / 5 🌟



Review: Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters – Rick Riordan


Genre: Middle grade, fantasy

Publication date: 1st April 2006 by Hyperion books

Format: Paperback purchased from The Works

After a year spent trying to prevent a catastrophic war among the Greek gods, Percy Jackson finds his seventh-grade school year unnervingly quiet. His biggest problem is dealing with his new friend, Tyson–a six-foot-three, mentally challenged homeless kid who follows Percy everywhere, making it hard for Percy to have any “normal” friends.

But things don’t stay quiet for long. Percy soon discovers there is trouble at Camp Half-Blood: The magical borders which protect Half-Blood Hill have been poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and the only safe haven for demigods is on the verge of being overrun by mythological monsters. To save the camp, Percy needs the help of his best friend, Grover, who has been taken prisoner by the Cyclops Polyphemus on an island somewhere in the Sea of Monsters–the dangerous waters Greek heroes have sailed for millenia–only today, the Sea of Monsters goes by a new name…the Bermuda Triangle.

Now Percy and his friends–Grover, Annabeth, and Tyson–must retrieve the Golden Fleece from the Island of the Cyclopes by the end of the summer or Camp Half-Blood will be destroyed. But first, Percy will learn a stunning new secret about his family–one that makes him question whether being claimed as Poseidon’s son is an honor or simply a cruel joke.


This was such a good second book; I’m still fairly new to the series, but I already feel so invested in the world and the characters’ lives. The introduction of Tyson, a cyclops, really changed the character dynamic in the story and I loved his character as well.

The character development almost seemed a little different in this book. I mean, it was explicitly stated in the first book – to an extent – whereas in this one I felt that there was more showing and less telling. I enjoyed both, but I felt that maybe it was done ‘better’ in this book. We learn some of Percy and Annabeth’s deepest flaws and worries, and I loved this, it really altered the story and the way I saw the characters in their given situations.

Reading this book almost makes me a lot more excited for the continuation of the series. The first book made me want to continue to see what happened next, whereas this one has given me faith in Rick Riordan (not that I didn’t have any faith in him before – the sheer number of books he has published says it all really about his writing and storytelling abilities!). He took his characters and gave them a completely new adventure, adding new characters and changing relationships along the way. It wasn’t just a continuation of the first book, it was a new story in itself.

The development of the backstories of several characters really caught my interest too – Annabeth’s in particular. I feel as though there is a lot more to her character compared to what has been revealed so far, and I look forward to where this will go later on in the series. Chiron, too, has a backstory that I hope to learn more about as I work my way through the rest of the books.

I really enjoyed this book, and I can’t wait to carry on through the series – I will be picking up the next one as soon as I’m on track with uni reading! This has definitely given me confidence that every book will be different in some way, and not just an ‘oh it’s a new summer so there must be a new adventure’ kind of thing, the adventures have their reason for being and are well thought-out. I completely understand the hype about this series now, and my only regret is not reading it sooner.

Rating: 4.5 / 5 🌟

Review: With Paper for Feet – Jennifer A. McGowan


Genre: Poetry

Publication date: 23rd February 2017 by Inpress Books

Format: eARC sent to me for review by Inpress Books via Netgalley

Jennifer A McGowan’s collection of themed narrative poems is steeped in the traditions of oral storytelling and folklore.

Each section addresses a different source: world folk stories, Shakespeare and the Iliad; skillfully mining old stories for new truths, giving a voice to silent characters, or an alternative take on the accepted view – especially of women.


With Paper for Feet is a unique collection of poetry, and I really enjoyed it. The poetry was lyrical, and well-executed.

The poet has said that her intention was to give a voice to people who went unheard, primarily women, and she does this extremely well. I loved the way that it was divided into sections, each focusing on different characters from history or literature or folklore. The perspectives were interesting and thought-provoking, they forced me to think about those characters / people who the ‘original’ stories don’t really cover.

I did find myself struggling to understand who some of the characters were, and a little clarification would have been helpful. Otherwise though, a quick google search sorted things out, and it’s probably because I’m not that knowledgeable on folklore / mythology, even though I love reading about it. That’s probably why I found this book so good; because it focuses on a less talked about aspect to something I find intriguing anyway.

The writing wasn’t overdramatic or too flowery, which was lovely to read. It wasn’t simple either, but it flowed and wove beautiful stories and it worked so, so well.

I would definitely recommend this collection, it was insightful, unique, and I loved the writing style. It’s certainly well worth a read.

Rating: 4 / 5 🌟

Review: A Secret Garden – Katie Fforde


Genre: Romance, chick lit

Publication date: 23rd February 2017 by Century

Format: eARC sent to me for review from Randomhouse UK, Cornerstone, Century, via Netgalley

Lorna is a talented gardener and Philly is a plantswoman. Together they work in the grounds of a beautiful manor house in the Cotswolds.

They enjoy their jobs and are surrounded by family and friends.

But for them both the door to true love remains resolutely closed.

So when Lorna is introduced to Jack at a dinner party and Lucien catches Philly’s eye at the local farmers market, it seems that dreams really can come true and happy endings lie just around the corner.

But do they?

Troublesome parents, the unexpected arrival of someone from Lorna’s past, and the discovery of an old and secret garden mean their lives are about to become a lot more complicated…


Another review courtesy of mum, she’s read pretty much all of Katie Fforde’s books and loves them!

A Secret Garden is set in the grounds of Burthen House, a beautiful Cotswold Manor owner by Peter and his formidable mother Anthea. The gardens are being restored by head gardener Lorna, who is middle-aged, divorced and a childhood friend of Peter. Needing assistance, Lorna enlists the help of Philly, a girl who has moved to the area from Ireland with her beloved grandfather Seamus and who now runs a small holding growing plants, which she sells on her market stall.

Lorna and Philly, together with Anthea, discover a secret garden within the grounds of the manor, which they set about restoring in time for Anthea’s birthday, hence the book’s title (although, strangely, this doesn’t happen until halfway through the book). All three women, despite being generations apart in age, form a strong friendship and the plot centres around, not only the restoration of the garden, but the path each of them takes to finding love. All three are strong, capable women and the characters are likeable, even if you do want to shake them from time to time!

Lorna, who initially thinks she’s in love with Peter but has to watch whilst he falls for someone else, meets Jack, attractive but younger than her. Philly meets Lucien, a chef who dreams of becoming an artisan baker. Both couples encounter obstacles along the way in order to be together. All three women have to overcome age or class barriers to find love.

The plot is warm, comfortable and interesting, if a little too predictable. The descriptions of the garden are lovely and the relationships between the characters sweet and gentle (particularly that of Philly and her grandfather).

To be honest, A Secret Garden lacks as much depth and excitement as some of Katie Fforde’s other novels but nonetheless is still a good story, full of gentle humour, romantic escapism and the required happy-ever-after ending. It is effortless to read, pleasantly entertaining and there is enough going on to keep you turning the pages.

Not a standout novel by Katie Fforde but still enjoyable.

Review: Spandex and the City by Jenny T. Colgan


Genre: Romance, chick lit,

Publication date: 18th May 2017 by Orbit

Format: eARC sent to me for review from Little, Brown Book Group UK via Netgalley


Mild-mannered publicist Holly Phillips is unlucky in love. She’s embarrassed beyond belief when the handsome stranger she meets in a bar turns out to be ‘Ultimate Man’ – a superpowered hero whose rescue attempt finds her hoisted over his shoulder and flashing her knickers in the newspaper the next day.

But when Holly’s fifteen minutes of fame make her a target for something villainous, she only has one place to turn – and finds the man behind the mask holds a lot more charm than his crime-fighting alter-ego.

Can Holly find love, or is superdating just as complicated as the regular kind?


This is another review courtesy of my mum, who is a lover of Jenny (T.) Colgan’s books.

Having read many of Jenny Colgan’s books, I looked forward to Spandex And The City, expecting much the same format as the others:- a gentle, albeit predictable, story of a woman starting on a new path in her life and finding romance on the way. So I had a bit of a shock when I started to read Spandex And the City. (I hadn’t realised that this particular novel was written by Jenny T Colgan, not Jenny Colgan.  Same author, just very different styles).

Spandex And The City is set in a busy city and centres around unlikely heroine Holly Phillips, who has an unfortunate talent for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Holly is stubborn, often sarcastic but brave. Aided by the hero of the story, a masked figure clad in purple Spandex called Ultimate Man, whose path she unwittingly continually crosses, Holly sets about defeating villain Frederick Cecil, as he tries to take down the internet. Yes, the names are daft but so is the plot!

The focus of the story is on Holly, more than the hero or villain. She is girl next door type, who reluctantly finds herself being rescued by Ultimate Man and ends up falling for him. Jenny’s Colgan’s writing is easy going and relaxed, but also playful, fun and very entertaining. There’s lots of humour and tongue in cheek sarcasm, great if you just want a bit of escapism and to be amused.

Spandex And The City is an entertaining take on a superhero vs villain, good vs evil tale with a happy ending. It is refreshingly different, ridiculously far-fetched and romantic. But huge fun!

Review: The Inexplicable Logic of my Life – Benjamin Alire Sáenz


Genre: Contemporary, YA, LGBT+

Publication date: 7th March 2017 by Clarion Books

Format: eARC sent to me for review by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group via Netgalley.

The first day of senior year:

Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.

Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?


It’s been a while since I picked up a book by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, the last one being Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – which I adored and reviewed in my early blogging days. I loved this book too, maybe not quite as much (A&D was truly exceptional), but it was wonderful nonetheless.

Something that strikes me in Sáenz’s writing is the positive emphasis on family. Yes, there are problematic families in this book too, which are discussed and developed, but Sal’s family is incredibly close and caring and I genuinely love this portrayal. His father is gay, and to avoid spoilers I don’t want to talk too much about his relationship, but it is sensitively and genuinely shown. The extended family, too, is covered, and I love the connection that the members have to one another, and happily extend to those who need some love from a family too.

His characters are all so unique and fantastically developed, you feel as though they are real people and become fully invested in their lives. The friendship between Sal and Samantha is one of the most perfect friendships I’ve seen portrayed in a book – not perfect in that everything is wonderful, but perfect because it is flawed, they fall out, make up, but it’s realistic. Also, the lack of romance made me extremely happy, there was no need for them to fall in love, in fact, I think it would have spoiled it a bit, and I definitely appreciated seeing the male-female friendship staying at just that.

Sáenz’s writing style is absolutely incredible. I remember, even now, how much I loved it in is Aristotle and Dante. It does not disappoint here either, it’s poetic and beautiful and flowing and just wonderful. If I try and talk about it much more I’ll end up reusing adjectives because all I can do is gush about it.

There is not much of a plot, though there are several events that occur and take Sal on his ‘journey’. It didn’t need some ‘big scheme’ happening. Natural, realistic events are what make this book so good. Sal’s experience could be someone else’s, and that’s what makes a book so great.

It is such a diverse book, with LGBT+ characters, Mexican-American families, poverty, and variety of family situations. I don’t think I need to say I’d recommend this – it should be obvious from my review… I love Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s books, I’ve come to that conclusion, and I can’t wait to get to the rest of them (I have another that I received recently as a gift so that’ll be read soon). His characters are phenomenal and it’s also impossible not to fall in love with his writing.

Rating: 4.5 / 5 🌟

Review: Tremulous Hinge – Adam Giannelli


Genre: Poetry

Publication date: 15th April 2017 by University Of Iowa Press

Format: eARC sent to me for review from The University of Iowa Press via Netgalley

Rain intermits, bus windows steam up, loved ones suffer from dementia—in the constantly shifting, metaphoric world of Tremulous Hinge, figures struggle to remain standing and speaking against forces of gravity, time, and language. In these visually porous poems, boundaries waver and reconfigure along the rumbling shoreline of Rockaway or during the intermediary hours that an insomniac undergoes between darkness and dawn. Through a series of self-portraits, elegies, and Eros-tinged meditations, this hovering never subsides but offers, among the fragments, momentary constellations: “moths all swarming the / same light bulb.”

From the difficulties of stuttering to teetering attempts at love, from struggling to order a hamburger to tracing the deckled edge of a hydrangea, these poems tumble and hum, revealing a hinge between word and world. Ultimately, among lofting waves, collapsing hands, and darkening skies, words themselves—a stutterer’s manoeuvres through speech, a deceased grandfather’s use of punctuation—become forms of consolation. From its initial turbulence to its final surprising solace, this debut collection mesmerises. 


Reviewing poetry is challenging, as it is something I feel is extremely personal. What one person can connect to, another can’t. This collection was beautiful though; a heartfelt, stunning book.

The imagery in all of the poems was wonderful and I found it thought-provoking. Whilst the writing wasn’t over the top, rather it was simplistic in some places, it created such images in my mind and covered a whole number of topics extremely well. It didn’t matter how simple the writing was in places because it did what poetry should do; invoke feelings and thoughts.

There wasn’t a poem I didn’t like in this collection, they were all so wonderfully executed. The rhythm of the pieces worked perfectly to emphasise their meanings, as did the tone of the poems. They didn’t feel gimmicky or cliched, which I definitely appreciated. I also loved the word choices that the poet made – they created a poetry collection that is as insightful as it is elegant.

I would definitely recommend this poetry collection, as it covers a wide range of emotive topics and it is truly beautiful. It is easy to follow, but it remains apart from the new ‘tumblr’ poetry (I believe that’s how some people refer to it) that is so popular today. In other words, it uses regular poetry conventions (for contemporary poetry, that is), and the result is wonderful.

Rating: 4 / 5 🌟

Review: Winter – Ali Smith

Natalie Cotterill

Genre: Literary fiction, contemporary

Publication Date: 2nd November 2017 by Hamish Hamilton

Format: Hardcover bought for me as a gift

Winter? Bleak. Frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old song goes. The shortest days, the longest nights. The trees are bare and shivering. The summer’s leaves? Dead litter. 

The world shrinks; the sap sinks. 

But winter makes things visible. And if there’s ice, there’ll be fire. 

In Ali Smith’s Winter, lifeforce matches up to the toughest of the seasons. In this second novel in her acclaimed Seasonal cycle, the follow-up to her sensational Autumn, Smith’s shape-shifting quartet of novels casts a merry eye over a bleak post-truth era with a story rooted in history, memory and warmth, its taproot deep in the evergreens: art, love, laughter. 

It’s the season that teaches us survival. 

Here comes Winter.


Like Autumn, Winter is a difficult book to review. Though maybe it’s because I haven’t reviewed that much literary fiction.

Nevertheless, this was another enjoyable read. I liked Ali Smith’s writing style yet again, though in this one I found there to be a few cases where I was confused by the digressions, and struggled to follow the main narrative throughout. There are, of course, aspects of the story that are not supposed to make complete sense – they are somewhat fantastical, bordering the line of realistic / fantasy. In a couple of instances I did pause, wondering whether the occurrences were real or metaphorical – sometimes this would be addressed later on, other times it wouldn’t.

The characters did not cross over from Autumn, and so there was a whole new set to be developed. I found the character of Iris to be lacking a something, despite her being my favourite character. The same with Lux. Maybe it was because of the development of Arthur and Sophia I didn’t like them so much (I didn’t dislike them per se, just preferred Iris and Lux). However, none of the characters fell flat, I just felt they could have had more.

I enjoyed the relationships within this story, more than in Autumn. There were a lot of contrasting emotions and beliefs, which led to many challenges, and it was this bit that I enjoyed most. It became clear how the characters had changed and become who they are in the ‘present’, having all of the flashbacks and anecdotes to refer to and expand upon their characterisation.

The social commentary I found particularly amusing. Probably because I agree with a lot of what was being said, but the two sides of the debate were portrayed fairly – in my opinion anyway. Art’s naive questioning and Iris’ brashness were contrasting ways of seeing and challenging an idea, and I liked this aspect. It gives people something to relate to (we also have Sophia’s outright dismissal of ideas – but she does read the Daily Mail so what can you expect).

I’m looking forward to Spring now and to seeing what that holds. I’m assuming Spring will follow – logically it does. I definitely am enjoying these books, they’re something a little different to what I would normally read. I don’t avoid political novels, but I haven’t really read anything about Brexit beside Autumn and Winter, and the not-so-subtle references to various politicians did make me laugh. I’d apologise for that, but I’m not sorry.

Rating: 4 / 5 🌟

Review: Autumn – Ali Smith

Natalie Cotterill

Genre: Literary fiction, contemporary

Publication date: 20th October 2016 by Hamish Hamilton

Format: Hardcover purchased from Waterstone’s

Autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. That’s what it felt like for Keats in 1819. How about Autumn 2016? Daniel is a century old. Elisabeth, born in 1984, has her eye on the future. The United Kingdom is in pieces, divided by a historic, once-in-a-generation summer.Love is won, love is lost. Hope is hand-in-hand with hopelessness. The seasons roll round, as ever. 

Ali Smith’s new novel is a meditation on a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, on what harvest means. It is the first instalment of her Seasonal quartet–four stand-alone books, separate yet interconnected and cyclical (as the seasons are)–and it casts an eye over our own time. Who are we? 

What are we made of? Shakespearean jeu d’esprit, Keatsian melancholy, the sheer bright energy of 1960s pop art: the centuries cast their eyes over our own history making. 

Here’s where we’re living. Here’s time at its most contemporaneous and its most cyclic. 

From the imagination of the peerless Ali Smith comes a shape-shifting series, wide-ranging in time-scale and light-footed through histories, a story about ageing and time and love and stories themselves.


Autumn is one of those books that I struggle to review. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and as the first Ali Smith novel I have read (I have previously read some of her short stories), it was interesting to see her writing style in a longer text.

There is something about Ali Smith’s writing style that I really enjoy. It ebbs and flows, digressing in seemingly random places but everything works perfectly. I was surprised at how quickly I read it, but it was because of the writing. Nothing was stilted, though the plot is fairly difficult to nail down. I’m definitely a fan of her writing – though I can completely see why some people may not be – and I will be picking up more of her work in the future for sure. She is a true storyteller, with her words being flaunted throughout the book, and her story is powerful and beautiful.

It’s difficult to review this and talk about the characters and the plot because they all come and go. We do follow their growth and development, but it is so interrupted that it is almost difficult to follow – we just seem to end up with fully fleshed out characters. Effortless, is a good description of the reading process, I’d say. The prominent characters, Elisabeth and Daniel, were well developed and interesting, and I loved their relationship, and the way that grows and changes as the novel progresses.

The social commentary within this book is what makes it so important and relevant. I believe it was hailed as the ‘first Brexit book’ – whether that is true or not, I’m not sure. I do think it captured the feeling of both sides perfectly as they were after the vote. The portrayal of the hostility towards those deemed ‘foreign’ and the way other people responded to this hate, was extremely well done. Difficult to read at some points, but that’s because of it being so accurate.

Overall, I really enjoyed Autumn. I easily got into it, thanks to the writing style. I’d definitely recommend it, as it is very thought-provoking, as well as a generally good story. In the current climate, it’s an important read.

Rating: 4 / 5 🌟

Review: In Real Life – Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang


Genre: Graphic novel, YA

Publication date: 14th October 2014 by First Second

Format: Paperback copy purchased from Waterstone’s

Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends. 

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer–a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behaviour is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person’s real livelihood is at stake. 


The artwork and colour palette in this graphic novel is absolutely stunning. There were subtle changes in the colours to indicate a change in location and whether Anda is in the game or not, and it was just beautifully executed. I fell completely in love with the illustrations, they made this graphic novel for me.

The plot was very different – I’m not usually one to pick up things related to gaming though, so I may be wrong. I found it relatively easy to keep up with, despite not being very familiar with gaming as a hobby. I loved the fact that the main character was female; I feel like games are predominantly thought of as a male hobby, so it was fantastic to see that the respected players were female.

I also enjoyed the link across cultures covered in this book, with a friendship forming between Anda in America and ‘Raymond’ in China. It was interesting to see how the authors/illustrators decided to discuss the differences between them – how they struggled with finances in completely different ways. In the introduction by Cory Doctorow, he describes it as a book about economics, and indeed it is, but it is discussed in a much more interesting (and colourful) way.

Anda’s character is a particular favourite of mine – she’s just a normal girl, I guess – no superpower or anything like that is what I’m trying to get at. She’s an average girl who happens to be very good at gaming and wants to help people. She’s thrilled at being chosen to get involved in the first place and wants to please her ‘Sarge’, and then, later on, wants to help her new friend. She’s a good person, but complex too, and we see her conflict as she tries to help her friend in a different country, but please (and obey) her parents at the same time. I just really, really liked her character and her development (I’m struggling to elaborate without adding spoilers!).

I really enjoyed this graphic novel, especially as I was unsure about picking it up in the first place. Knowing very little about gaming didn’t impact my reading of it – as I have seen some people say – but maybe I would have enjoyed it more, had I more interest in games. The illustrations in it were simply gorgeous and were 100% the reason for me picking it up in the first place, and they definitely didn’t disappoint in reading it.

Rating: 4 / 5 🌟