Books I’ve been reading lately | A Mess In A Dress

Ok, so rather than saying lately it would probably be more accurate to say “over the last year.”  I’ve had this post sat in my draft box for ages but never actually got around to writing it.  I feel like this could finally be the moment when it actually gets to see the light of day!

I absolutely love to read but I do tend to stick to my preferred genre of fantasy/historical romance novels. They’re quick, they’re easy and I pretty much always know how they’re going to end.  Not much concentration involved.

Occasionally though I will branch out and try something a bit different and with the help of birthday presents and my library card I have had the opportunity to tick off some books I’ve been wanting to read for a while now.

These aren’t going to be full reviews. I’m not entirely sure if I’m up to full reviews but if you think I should start, let me know.  I’m also going to try and avoid too many spoilers, which for some of them is pretty difficult.  Anyway, here we go.  Hope you enjoy!

On the Other Side – Carrie Hope Fletcher

I have been a huge fan of Carrie’s Youtube channel and theatre work for a while now (as mentioned in my fan girl post) so I really, really couldn’t wait to read this book.  I actually got it for my birthday in July last year and started reading it on my holiday.  To my immense surprise, I just couldn’t quite get into it.  It ended up sitting on my shelf for ages.

After Christmas I finally decided to give it another go.  I think my initial problem is that it is quite a strange book.  It involved magical realism, which is not something I’m used to and you really have to suspend disbelief and just go with it.  Once I let myself do just that, I absolutely loved the book and sailed through it.  I found the characters charming and really wanted to find out how it was going to end.  I guess, sometimes you just have to be in the mood for a certain book.

Carrie is releasing a new book “All That She Can See” in July and I’ll certainly be adding that to my wishlist for my birthday this year.

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

I only read this book so that  I could join in the Twitter chat for The Girl Gang book club.  I probably would never have heard of it otherwise.  I immediately loved the blurb on the back of the back.

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”

See!  How awesome does that sound already? I knew this was not going to be the not my normal kind of book, but I was willing to take the chance.

The descriptions of the circus and the magic within are simply fabulous and so original.  It was like nothing I’ve ever read before.  The plot could be a little frustrating. You don’t really have a good idea what is happening throughout the book but that just made me want to read it even faster.

This is definitely a book you have to concentrate on, especially when it jumps back and forwards in time. If you’re willing to put in the effort, it’s well worth it.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – JK Rowling|John Tiffany|Jack Thorne

Ok, here is where I get a little controversial.  Unlike The Night Circus, I don’t believe the Harry Potter books are really all that original.  It can be a little point and shoot, laser guns, “pow pow” kind of magic.  It also borrows a lot from common mythology and the stuff that isn’t can be a little random – pigmy puffs, nifflers, house elves called Winky?

Having said all that, I do actually enjoy the books.  I think they have fun storylines even if I feel you shouldn’t take them too seriously and ignore some slighty-dubious plot issues.  I could probably write a whole post on this, if I wanted to be hunted by a mob with pitchforks and torches. Potter fans can be VERY protective.

Anyway, on to the Cursed Child.  I actually quite liked it.  I know some people had difficulty with the script format, but as someone who reads scripts often this wasn’t a problem. In fact, it made it a very quick read.

I loved the nostalgia of visiting familiar characters, plus it was great to meet the younger generation.  I thought Thorne had a  good writing style with some snappy, witty dialogue.

The plot, I felt, was a tad shaky.  Without giving too much away, it seemed like there were two main threads that I didn’t feel cam together.  The eponymous Cursed child was kind of afterthought and came out of nowhere, although maybe it is clearer when you’re actually watching the play.  Also, I’m not convinced that the history leading to the Cursed Child’s existence is referenced at any point in the main novels.  Just another thing we’re expected to accept as canon after the event.

I’m also very wary of stories involving time travel. As a writer, you have to be SO careful.  There’s no real explanation as to why time travel affects some things and not others.  The plot relies a bit too heavily on this and I’m not entirely sure it holds together but it’s fun if you don’t examine it too closely.

One point in the script’s favour is that it really did make me want to go and see the show.  The special effects sound amazing like they will be amazing and I am sure it would be a spectacular experience.  Maybe if they ever make it more affordable I may get the chance.

The Carnadine Academy (Apprentices) – Chris Ireson

Ok, so I may be a little biased here as I kind of know the author, a little, but I genuinely have read this recently.  Apprentices is in fact a sequel to the first book in the series, Novices, which I also really enjoyed.

I’ve read a couple of reviews that have likened it to Harry Potter, and while I understand the comparison (it’s set in a boarding school of magicians), that is kind of where the similarities end.  It’s a fantasy novel set a kind of alternate 1930’s.  The students are psychologically real and experience real-life troubles as well as magical ones.   I particularly like the way the book sensitively handles some quite grown up issues, such as domestic violence and a homosexual character’s “coming out”, at a time when his sexuality wouldn’t have been accepted at all.

It does have the odd element of horror in there, but there is nothing gratuitous.  It’s more a sinister and creepy atmosphere that moves through the book.  I wouldn’t recommend this for children.  It’s more a adult story about children, a la Stephen King’s IT.

If you like fantasy stories with a good grounding in reality then I would certainly recommend you give this one a try.  (Although start with the first one, obviously!)

Red Queen/ Glass Sword – Victoria Aveyard

I was recommended this book a long time ago by a fellow book blogger, but it took ages for me to actually get around to reading them.  I borrowed both books from the library, but I would certainly consider buying the whole series to keep for future re-reads.

The series is very similar in style to books like The Hunger Games and Divergent.  Its a story about a girl in a dystopian universe with villains on both sides, so she never really knows who to trust.  I have to admit the market is a little saturated with these kind of stories a the moment.  They are getting a tad cliche! Having said that, I really enjoyed both books.  They’re very easy to read with appealing characters and I rocketed through. Now I can’t wait to read the next one.

Cinder – Marissa Meyer

I’ve always been a fan of a fairytale retelling and this is one that offers something a little different.  Cinder is the first book in The Lunar Chronicles and is loosely based on the story Cinderella.

Cinder, in this version, is a cyborg and her missing slipper is really more of a missing foot.  It’s certainly original.  I enjoyed the writing style, was invested in the plot and cared about the characters.  What more can you really ask for in a book?  I’ve already added all of the other books in the series to my Amazon wishlist!

Life and Death – Stephanie Meyer

Finally, (I’m sorry, I had no idea this post would be so long) is Life and Death by Stephanie Meyer.  I probably would never have gone out looking for this book, but I saw it in the library and thought I may as well give it a go. 

Life and Death is a retelling of the novel Twilight with the gender roles reversed.  The human character is now male and the vampire is female.  Now, I’m not a massive fan of Twilight but I don’t hate it.  I saw no reason why I wouldn’t enjoy this book.

I have to say I REALLY didn’t like this version.  I wasn’t at all convinced of the dynamic between the couple once the genders were switched.  I think this due mainly to my rather traditional views on romantic role and relationship stereotypes.  Obviously everyone has their own tastes, but this just didn’t work for me.

The ending of the book has been changed quite dramatically and I absolutely HATED it! It was so depressing.  I’m very glad the original book didn’t end like that

More than anything, reading this book left me with an overwhelming urge to re-read the original.  

So, what have you been reading recently?  Do you have any recommendations for me?  Have you read any of these books and do you agree/disagree with my verdicts? Leave me a comment to let me know!


  1. Sophie says:

    I forgot all about Carrie’s book, I’m intrigued to read it now as I really like her. Disappointed to hear about life and death, don’t think i’ll give that a read as I did love twilight and don’t want to ruin it! xxx

    • Stacey says:

      Carrie’s book is really interesting. It’s certainly not like anything I’ve read before. I wished I hadn’t bothered with the Twilight one to be honest – I’ll be sticking with the original!

  2. Jemma says:

    Oh my gosh I didn’t know about the other Twilight book, and I must say; I wont be reading it! I like the original and wouldn’t want to try this new one haha. I did LOVE The Cursed Child though! 🙂 xx

    • Stacey says:

      Haha! I don’t blame you – I wish I hadn’t read it. It did nothing for me. I really need to see The Cursed Child at the theatre now, just to see how it translates on stage. I’m sure it’s amazing!

  3. Lauren says:

    Okay seriously, so many of these are on my reading list! I’m currently spending agesssss getting into Stephen King’s IT. Really hate it when I can’t find the time to read…

    Lauren x Huggled

    • Stacey says:

      I read IT years ago so can’t remember it well, but there are certain bits that stick in your mind (you’ll see what I mean when you get there). I have to be careful not to get my head stuck in a book as I end up neglecting everything else I have to do!

    • Stacey says:

      Lots of these were sat on my shelf for ages. I tend to flip between not reading for ages and then devouring every book I find!

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