Easy Actions to Increase Brainpower and Stave Off Dementia A.K.A. Neurobiological Advice For Laymen

Easy Actions to Increase Brainpower and Stave Off Dementia A.K.A. Neurobiological Advice For Laymen
Click on cover for the book’s description.

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This book was a quick, surprisingly easy and engaging read. I had mistakenly identified it as a book to guide my goal-making for the upcoming new year, and I suppose it was, though not in the way I first thought. For a non-fiction book, it is remarkably well-paced and structured; first setting the scene with genuinely interesting (and honestly relatable) anecdotes; then aptly revealing that, yes, your brain power is, in fact, deteriorating; explaining why that is; and giving clear actionable steps as to how you fix it. I was sincerely hooked, and at 100-pages it was easily digestible too.

I picked this up with myself in mind, but read it thinking of my grandmother who’s very worst fear in life is forgetting herself and those she loves. The things outlined in this book weren’t miracles, they were actions she could take! She was thrilled.

Smarter Next Year is obviously not a fix-all, and never claims to be, but the content is well-explained in non-specialist language whilst still giving scientific evidence and context.

I intend to buy my Nanna her own copy, which is high praise since I only pass her books I know won’t waste her time.

I received a copy of this book from Simple Truths via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Easy Actions to Increase Brainpower and Stave Off Dementia A.K.A. Neurobiological Advice For Laymen. Check out my review of Smarter Next Year by David Bardsley.Easy Actions to Increase Brainpower and Stave Off Dementia A.K.A. Neurobiological Advice For Laymen. Check out my review of Smarter Next Year by David Bardsley.

 

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton – Book Review

I received this book from Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a classic British Murder Mystery (complete with a butler, a tremendous moustache, and a veritable drawing room of hidden skeletons just waiting to be uncovered) – with the slightest fantasy twist that allows us to see this fateful day from eight different perspectives. This is one of those books that you simply cannot explain in any amount of detail without many hand gestures, diagrams and spoilers – I’ve tried. It requires a decent amount of concentration and there are a lot of moving parts but the end product is nothing short of genius. If you figure it out more than a second before the tell-all, you’re a greater detective than I could ever hope to be. Absolutely nothing and nobody in this house is what they appear to be and there is a surprise around every corner. I did disagree / take issue with the forgiveness arc, simply because I feel there are crimes deserving of eternal punishment in retribution and this was one of them, for me at least. Otherwise, a very satisfying ending though I still have questions that may never be answered. Overall, this is the first mystery novel that’s ever really engaged me and may have made me open to more books in the genre.
Click on cover for the book’s description.

I received this book from Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a classic British Murder Mystery (complete with a butler, a tremendous moustache, and a veritable drawing room of hidden skeletons just waiting to be uncovered) – with the slightest fantasy twist that allows us to see this fateful day from eight different perspectives.

This is one of those books that you simply cannot explain in any amount of detail without many hand gestures, diagrams and spoilers – I’ve tried. It requires a decent amount of concentration and there are a lot of moving parts but the end product is nothing short of genius.

If you figure it out more than a second before the tell-all, you’re a greater detective than I could ever hope to be. Absolutely nothing and nobody in this house is what they appear to be and there is a surprise around every corner.

I did disagree / take issue with the forgiveness arc, simply because I feel there are crimes deserving of eternal punishment in retribution and this was one of them, for me at least. Otherwise, a very satisfying ending though I still have questions that may never be answered.

Overall, this is the first mystery novel that’s ever really engaged me and may have made me open to more books in the genre.

My review of the first mystery novel that’s ever really engaged me, a classic British Murder Mystery with a fantasy twist The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.My review of the first mystery novel that’s ever really engaged me, a classic British Murder Mystery with a fantasy twist The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.My review of the first mystery novel that’s ever really engaged me, a classic British Murder Mystery with a fantasy twist The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.


Distortion by Victor Dixen – Book Review & Giveaway

Check out my review of Phobos #2 Distortion by @VictorDixen - this suspense filled space opera is well on the way to becoming one of my favourite sci-fi series.
Click on cover for the book’s description.

I received this book from the publisher, Hot Key Books, and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I was completely hooked on the Phobos series after reading Ascension earlier this year and falling headfirst into the space opera Dixen has created, described as Love Island in space for this new British audience, this series is fun, compelling and full of suspense.

Whilst the first book read more like a dystopian/YA novel, this sequel is more of a classic space adventure with the same YA drama thrown in for good measure and it totally lives up to its predecessor.

In this instalment we see the Mars Pioneers landing on their new home and the inevitable drama that was bound to ensue on their first meeting. Much like most reality shows, this allows us to get a much more in-depth look at the characters and reveals much about their past and personality in the way they interact with one another.

New layers are revealed as the book continues, especially in terms of the boys, who we didn’t get a lot of interaction within the first novel and it certainly keeps you on your toes, with unmasking around every corner.  Alexei, in my humble opinion, is revealed to be something of a chauvinist pig; Mozart is not as reformed as he might have you believe and Marcus hides a multitude of sins under all those beautiful tattoos – and those are just the start.

Andrew may well be my new favourite (and he forms an unlikely alliance, but I won’t spoil it) and Serena’s deception truly knows no bounds. The characters all feel so much more fleshed out (with the exception of a few but I’m hoping to see more of them as the series progresses).

My one complaint, however, would have to be Serena. I’m not sure if it is how I am reading it personally but she can sometimes come off as slightly caricature-ish. This isn’t necessarily a detrimental comment, as much of the series is somewhat melodramatic (there are a long of !’s that I feel come from the original French text), just an observation as though she continues to give reasons for her actions, I don’t quite believe her and can’t seem to understand what she is gaining from all this. Surely, surely, she would become richer, more powerful, in general, benefit more if the Pioneers continue to live long and happy lives? Why not just help them? She is quickly losing everything to this scheme and I can’t help but wonder if it’s worth it. I will say, despite her odd cartoon-y moments she isn’t half a clever villain. Of course, Leonor can see what she’s doing, being our heroine, but Serena’s general approach to this whole plot is a clever one – though I can’t help but be disappointed the bulk of the Pioneers don’t see through her too, they’re generally very clever.

Fair warning, this book ends on yet another blasted cliff-hanger, somewhat similar to the first, though I assimilate this to the ‘duff-duff’ at the end of Eastenders in this Space Opera.

I look forward to the next book – this is well on the way to becoming a favourite sci-fi series for me.


If you like the look of this you can win 1 Paperback copy of Distortion here:

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Check out my review of Phobos #2 Distortion by @VictorDixen - this suspense filled space opera is well on the way to becoming one of my favourite sci-fi series.Check out my review of Phobos #2 Distortion by @VictorDixen - this suspense filled space opera is well on the way to becoming one of my favourite sci-fi series.Check out my review of Phobos #2 Distortion by @VictorDixen - this suspense filled space opera is well on the way to becoming one of my favourite sci-fi series.

 

Pride by Ibi Zoboi – Book Review

Check out my review of Pride by Ibi Zoboi - ‘Zoboi approaches the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s with a new, authentic and #ownvoices perspective, which is a rare occurrence in an abundance of interchangeable traditionalist retellings.’
Click on cover for the book’s description.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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Overall, I really enjoyed this refreshing take on one of my favourite classics. Zoboi approaches the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s with a new, authentic and #ownvoices perspective, which is a rare occurrence in an abundance of interchangeable traditionalist retellings.

Though it would be worth mentioning here I would not strictly class this as a retelling; I think the cover gives a better description, ‘a Pride and Prejudice remix’. It has notes and snippets of the original story, but the beats are different. There’s nothing wrong with that, just worth mentioning if you’re going into this expecting a carbon copy of Austen’s tale adapted because this is not that book. I feel for a book to really be considered a ‘retelling’ there are certain pivotal plot points that have to be included, which in this case they weren’t. All that really features from the original text and the templates of the majority of the characters and the hate to love relationship between Darius & Zuri.

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Zuri Benitez is a really distinctive and strong narrative standpoint, and the integration of her poetry into the story was a really great touch and gave a deeper insight into her character. The rest of the cast of characters are also brilliant in their own right, both those familiar from Meryton and those unique to this book. Zoboi creates an authentic, warm and vibrant atmosphere and setting you can’t help but get caught up in. So much of this book felt like music coming off the page.

Pride does contain a lot of slang, both in narrative and dialogue which generally I don’t like but I feel as though the book would have been missing that note of veracity without it. I’ll admit, I had to consult Urban Dictionary for a lot of it (learned some new words!) because I just don’t use that much slang. It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with it, hell half our language is based off it nowadays, it’s just not how I express myself and so I sought help from Google.

However, I still felt I missed a lot in this book. When Zuri speaks to Warren and other people in her neighbourhood who share her culture she often references ‘a secret language’ those involved in the conversation all understand. This language is never really translated to the reader and as a result, I kind of felt like I was on the outside looking in, in places.

Related imageI recognise I am not really the target audience for this book but at the same time, I feel #ownvoices books like this have a secondary purpose, as well as representing marginalised cultures and minorities. That secondary purpose being to remedy ignorance by bringing attention and educating the reader about these marginalised cultures and their beliefs and points of view. This is a small qualm really, and some things could be inferred but at times it really did feel like I was reading another language as the words being exchanged were clearly loaded with meaning but I just didn’t know what it was.

The characters undergo similar development to those in P&P but my only real problem was with an aspect of Zuri’s development. Though I know prejudice is a huge aspect of this novels makeup I found Zuri more than a little close-minded throughout the book and it’s not a trait she entirely lets go of. From her opinion to her changing neighbourhood – which, fair enough I understand having seen my own city change dramatically over past years, but I’m a firm believer places shouldn’t be defined as belonging to one ethnicity or one culture, there should just be places that we, the only race on Earth, the human race, are free to move freely between and live in without being made to feel or believe we have no right to be and I mean anybody when I say that, though I’m well aware it only goes one way at the moment and that sucks – to her constant perpetuation of what she thought Darius ought to be like because he’s black, and her complete refusal to try and get to know people with a different background to her own.

It just sort of grated on what I felt Austen wanted to represent in Elizabeth Bennett who, for her time, was forward thinking and nonconformist woman, made more brilliant for the fact she used her intelligence and other people’s prejudices and preconceptions to get away with it.

Zuri seems closer to acceptance at the end of the novel and I suppose these frustrations are a sign Zoboi wrote her book well as, though I understand their equivalents in the original text, the chronological difference prevents me from really feeling anything for the struggles of the Bennett sisters, where the Bentitez sisters’ struggles feel immediate and relevant to me.

A great read for Afro-Latinx women wanting to see themselves represented by an ingenuitive female author or anyone wanting to try something new and experience a culture I know I personally haven’t been able to before.

Check out my review of Pride by Ibi Zoboi - ‘Zoboi approaches the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s with a new, authentic and #ownvoices perspective, which is a rare occurrence in an abundance of interchangeable traditionalist retellings.’
Check out my review of Pride by Ibi Zoboi - ‘Zoboi approaches the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s with a new, authentic and #ownvoices perspective, which is a rare occurrence in an abundance of interchangeable traditionalist retellings.’
Check out my review of Pride by Ibi Zoboi - ‘Zoboi approaches the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s with a new, authentic and #ownvoices perspective, which is a rare occurrence in an abundance of interchangeable traditionalist retellings.’

 

And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness – Book Review

See my review of the new lyrical tale from the brilliant Patrick Ness – an illustrated parable depicting an age old war between man and whale.
Click on cover for the book’s description.

I received this book from the publisher, HarperTeen, and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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This book is every bit as profound, hauntingly beautiful and lyrical as I have come to expect Ness’ work to be. Though this kind of storytelling doesn’t particularly resonate with me personally, having read another illustrated tale by Ness (A Monster Calls) I can see his unique mark in the writing and I have to acknowledge that he is clearly a man that knows his craft. The characters are well fleshed out for a mere 100 pages of book, which is a feat, and the description of this secret world beneath the ocean was compelling in of itself because I found myself wanting to know and see more.

I feel this book makes far more sense, far more quickly, if you know you are reading from the perspective of a whale before you start. This may be my own fault for not reading the description, or seeing the cover and not immediately thinking ‘yup, whale narrative’. Either way, I picked it up fairly quickly.

Illustrations by Rovina Cai.
Illustrations by Rovina Cai.

On the face of it, this is a very pretty book indeed, brilliant in its simplicity, however, a large part of this book centres around a war between whale and humans started when men began hunting their kind in the form of the now-mythological figure of Toby Wick. This war and the way it has affected each character and construct as a result adds a dark twist that gets darker still the harder you look at it.

Illustrations by Rovina Cai.
Illustrations by Rovina Cai.

Like with most pretty things, the viciousness is cleverly disguised and I found myself taking a mental step back as I read some pretty vivid and horrifying descriptions of violence and behaviour I simply hadn’t expected when I began the story. These descriptions are then made worse by the fact that they feel so real because somewhere in the world they are real. I am of course an objector to animal cruelty, poaching and by extension, whaling but never has the issue has never felt so close and real to me.

This book asks difficult questions about war, religion, morality, right, wrong, love, racism, power, obsession and honour and I feel that had I read it in a different time in my life it would have been more percipient to me personally but it was very thought-provoking despite this.

The illustrations will be something to behold in print. My digital copy didn’t carry most of them forward completely but the glimpses I saw were fantastic.

Warning: As mentioned previously there are very graphic and evocative scenes of violence and cruelty both toward whales and humans and if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing this is perhaps not a read for you.
See my review of the new lyrical tale from the brilliant Patrick Ness – an illustrated parable depicting an age old war between man and whale.
See my review of the new lyrical tale from the brilliant Patrick Ness – an illustrated parable depicting an age old war between man and whale.
See my review of the new lyrical tale from the brilliant Patrick Ness – an illustrated parable depicting an age old war between man and whale.
Book Reviews by Bloodthirsty Little Beasts

 

You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance – Book Review

Read my review of You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance, the first in a series that is perfect for fans of Geek Girl. Gracie Dart is a relatable and funny character and her journey of self-discovery and growing up is one I think young women need fresh out of the stress of exams.
Click the cover to read the book’s description

I received a copy of this book from Hot Key Books via Readers First in exchange for an honest review.

🌟 🌟 🌟.5

This is a book I want to give to 16-year-olds who have made themselves ill over stress and school work like it’s the end of their life and not just a stepping stone to the next stages. Gracie Dart is a relatable and funny character and her journey of self-discovery and growing up is one I think young women need.

Vallance perfectly captured the mindset of a post-GCSE student and the sense of earnest, determined independence, yet greatly undecided and vulnerable nature of a young adult realising the insignificance of these exams in hindsight. The feelings described in this book about how school life depicts your future in comparison to the reality is so accurate it’s staggering. That, and Grace’s witty narration is so candid and sincere, even in melodrama, I was laughing from the start.

Grace goes through a tremendous amount of personal development and self-discovery, not least of all acknowledging her own sexuality to herself and her family and friends and coming to terms with what it all means.

Til, Grace’s best friend, was my favourite character; she was so funny and direct and reminded me so much of my best friend toward the end of high school.

I feel this book may be better given to less impressionable readers who are well versed in the mantra of ‘stranger-danger’ just as, I don’t know what it’s like in Brighton, but I wouldn’t advise Grace’s method of friend-making where I live. Though I did like Spider, he was an interesting character, his and Vicky’s age isn’t really that well defined (that I remember) but I got the idea they were a bit older than Grace and it made their relationship somewhat strange. It also made me a little uncomfortable with the fact this girl (who certainly acts 20+ years old) repeatedly kissed Grace, a 16-year-old, without invitation and Grace repeatedly comments on how she’s not sure she liked it or wanted her to.

I wouldn’t say any of the above is problematic per se, I just found it uncomfortable and weirdly, though I know I felt very grown up at 16, the closer I get to 20, the younger and more childlike that age seems to me.

A little note from me: I’m trialling some new Pinterest Graphics for my book reviews, and they took a while to perfect. I’m pretty proud of them but didn’t want them clogging up my post so they’re hidden within the review – if you could take 1 minute to maybe pin one with the below button I would really appreciate it!

Read my review of You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance, the first in a series that is perfect for fans of Geek Girl. Gracie Dart is a relatable and funny character and her journey of self-discovery and growing up is one I think young women need fresh out of the stress of exams.
Read my review of You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance, the first in a series that is perfect for fans of Geek Girl. Gracie Dart is a relatable and funny character and her journey of self-discovery and growing up is one I think young women need fresh out of the stress of exams.
Read my review of You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance, the first in a series that is perfect for fans of Geek Girl. Gracie Dart is a relatable and funny character and her journey of self-discovery and growing up is one I think young women need fresh out of the stress of exams.
Book Reviews by Bloodthirsty Little Beasts

 

Vox by Christina Dalcher – Book Review

My book review of Vox by Christina Dalcher - a book is set in 21st century America, a country recently relinquished to the control of religious zealots who have silenced half the population. #feminism
Click the cover to read the book’s description.

I received a copy of this book from Berkley via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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“Maybe this is how it happened in Germany with the Nazis, in Bosnia with the Serbs, in Rwanda with the Hutus. I’ve often wondered about that, about how kids can turn into monsters, how they learn that killing is right and oppression is just, how in one single generation the world can change on its axis into a place that’s unrecognizable.”

Except this isn’t Nazi Germany, or Bosnia, or Rwanda, this book is set in 21st century America, a country recently relinquished to the control of religious zealots who have silenced half the population with technology I’d guess is not beyond the capability of that we hold now.

I had contemplated making my review only 100 words long but realised that would probably utterly contradict the point this book was trying to make. And boy, it was making a point. If you are looking for subtle metaphors and understated symbolism portraying the oppression of women and its subsequent call to action, this isn’t really that book. This book’s message is not subtle, it’s blatant and undeniable but in a way, I think that is a good thing.

I love that academic subtlety and metaphor in my didactic literature as much as the next person, I really do, but in my experience discrimination is becoming more and more subtle and with anything you try to remove, is digging its heels. Most of my brushes with sexism nowadays are discovering it hiding, ingraining itself in cultural and social practices in the hopes of not being identified.

“When you get down to it, what’s the difference between some backwater assholes’ advising men to marry teenage girls and a bunch of costumed drunks flinging beads to anyone who shows her tits on St. Charles Avenue?”

I don’t necessarily think the above comparison is the best one to make, but I get the point behind it. In an age where basic arguments for equality are often met with a response of ‘political correctness gone mad’ (or at least in my corner of the world), it’s becoming clear that some arguments should be direct.

Enjoy seems a strange choice of word, but I did enjoy this book. It scared me, deeply, for two reasons. The first was Steven, the MC’s son, and how easily a young person at their peak of impressionability can be moulded into a character that is unrecognisable, even to their own mother. The second was, though I’m familiar with the concept of complacency, I have never considered myself complacent but this book made me feel like I was.

Think about what you need to do to stay free. Well, doing more than fuck all might have been a good place to start.”

The book isn’t without fault. The pacing, though generally good, did glaze over some areas and the inclusion of an affair on top of everything else felt like an unnecessary inclusion really. The story would have been perfectly good with either Lorenzo excluded, or situated as Jean’s husband. The whole thing felt … odd. Which bring me neatly to my main issue and that is the fact that Patrick was an interesting character that could have had a brilliant arc to do with uncovering the hidden layers to him, etc. but about 80% of this book short-changed him, especially in the end which felt a lot like the proverbial tying up of loose ends/brushing under the carpet/cleaning house.

I understood the meaning was showing how easily the world can turn onto its axis, as it were, but it wasn’t very well done. Despite that, this book did keep me hooked and it made me feel things: anger, fear, anticipation, indignation. Because of that, it deserves its 4 stars because only a good book can do that.

Book Review Vox by Christina Dalcher Bloodthirsty Little Beasts

 

Ascension by Victor Dixen – Book Review

4-star book review of Ascension by Victor Dixen - the first in the martian, sci-fi series Phobos. Widely described as Love Island in space, this compelling, original first instalment with leave you wanting more.
Click the cover to read the book’s description.

Click the cover to read the book’s description.

I received this book from Hot Key Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Be prepared for the world’s weirdest yet strangely addictive dating show in the known universe.

I’ve said in previous posts about this book that it was like ‘Love Island in a spaceship, but with teenagers, segregated living quarters and much less sex’. This still feels like a good description, but I think only UK readers would necessarily get it. There is also a little bit of Take Me Out in there. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please, Google is your friend.

Cut down to its core, Ascension is essentially a book about a space dating show, but the author takes that seemingly inane concept adds in questionable moral compasses; intrigue and several closets full of skeletons and ends up with a really compelling sci-fi novel filled with characters and plot-lines you’re left wanting more of.

I ended up really enjoying this book despite the fact that when the concept was first introduced at the start, I thought it wasn’t going to be good, at all. I quickly realised, that though some of my first impression was right (the show’s format was a smidge convoluted, I didn’t really see why the two teams couldn’t mix more for good entertainment value, it seemed like an unnecessary barrier, also instant marriage after what could only ever be a maximum of what? 3 hours in each other’s company? … ick), as motives and schemes were revealed I realised that something like this absolutely 100% could happen.

Not so much the space of it all, but you know, never say never, but the carrying out of explicable deeds and exploitation of desperate and damaged young people for money? Yeah, I buy it.

I also like that the characters don’t seem to be fulfilling any racial stereotypes either, it was a refreshing change of pace to be able to get to know each character individually as opposed to painfully obvious archetypes of their country – the Brit wasn’t an etiquette obsessed prudish stickler or a cartoonishly evil villain, yay!

Despite my overall enjoyment, the narrative didn’t always sit well with me. I generally like alternating perspectives and I understand now that everything we saw will likely be a crucial bit of information but, with all the suspense and tension, there were times I really didn’t care for the ‘bad guy parts’. You know the ‘Mwahahahaha, we are the bad guys, let us discuss our evil plot at length in this shady-ass bunker in a dimmed room with a long table, mwahahahahah, go us.’ Yeah, that. Some parts were great but I think other parts were a little bit repetitive.

It’s hard to describe the frustration I felt as the plot reached its climax and my e-reader read ‘98%’ at the bottom and I knew I wasn’t going to find out the answers I so, so needed. Needless to say, already pre-ordered the sequel Distortion – also, can we get some appreciation for these awesome covers?!

How (Not) To Marry A Duke by Felicia Kingsley – Book Review

See my review of How (Not) To Marry A Duke by Felicia Kingsley, a hate-to-love romance set in modern day British aristocracy.
Click the cover to read the book’s description.

I received this book from Aria and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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A gentle reminder two stars still means ‘it was okay’ by the Goodreads standard.

The premise for this book was interesting and the majority of my issues with it congregate toward the very start and the very end of the book, because the in between was pretty good and would have easily received 3/3.5 stars from me but, I did have my problems.

Like I said, it was an interesting concept, it was light and quite funny at times and, well it must have been compelling since past the 30% point I couldn’t put it down. By the end, I really routed for Ashford and Jemma because opposites attract has never been truer than when applied to them and, they worked. Inexplicably, they worked.

My issues as I said, began at the start, the first one being Derek’s part to play; I may be naïve to think this but no solicitor, or legal professional, would risk their integrity and livelihood to play matchmaker and disclose confidential client information and advise his clients to commit fraud. I’m sorry but lawyers are smart people, and that is dumb as f***. I know many, many solicitors and they wouldn’t dream of giving such negligent advice, let alone to a friend of theirs. I would have bought the whole scheme more if they had dreamed it up themselves.

The second issue I had was the portrayal of almost every character as some daft, caricature of an outdated stereotype. Carly and Vance’s hippy lifestyle, which hey, could well be accurate but I felt it was overemphasized and overdone; Ashford’s arrogance and ignorance (‘“We’re talking about three million pounds!” I complain.’ I’m sorry but one does not simply complain about discovering they are in £3m worth of debt. No one does, I don’t care how rich you are); and Delphina. Delphina, in general, was the absolute worst example of a caricature but even worse was the injustice I felt was done to poor Jemma.

Never mind the fact she was repeatedly treated like crap, and never actually got her sweet revenge by rubbing her millions in their snobby faces and proving someone can be wealthy and not act like they were born to the celestials, but I felt an injustice was done to working-class women in her portrayal. I felt I understood Jemma’s character, her roots; I come from a Labour-supporting, working-class city with roots as deep in football support as they are in tradesmanship. I know and am related to people like Jemma, who like what she likes and have the same take-me-or-leave-me attitude and don’t pander to those who feel as though they are above them, so her continuous abuse at the hands of the upper class meant something to me and I rooted for her. However, her consistent portrayal (both in thought and in action) as a childish, ill-mannered bimbo was just plain insulting. Living in the working class parts of London (which isn’t cheap even then), of any city doesn’t automatically make you incapable of holding a civil conversation, eating anything other than fried chicken and ignorant of the value of newspapers, even if you don’t enjoy them yourself. It just doesn’t, and whenever she did succeed at something it was never treated as an accomplishment, just a fluke or a lucky break as if no one like her could ever do such a thing based on skill. Even Ashford’s recognition is plain patronising and condescending. I get that everyone is different but I stopped relating to her the second I realised that unlike I first thought, she wasn’t the only real person in the book, she was yet another caricature.

As I said, the story improves and even though the plot cycles through (and references) the timeless tropes and themes of Pride and Prejudice, Taming of the Shrew, Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries, I really did enjoy that part as we actually saw some great character development from our two main characters (even if Ashford never completely stops being an absolute asshole).

But the ending* spoiled it for me and took it down to a 2-star rating because it just made me angry. Not a bad book but for me, it was personally problematic.

*SPOILER ALERT

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The Last Romeo by Justin Myers – Book Review

Myers, J - The Last RomeoI received this book from NetGalley and Piatkus in exchange for an honest review.

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This was a really, fun and funny read about one man’s descent into the horror that is the internet, online dating and fame going to your head.

“No one cared who i was until I put on the mask.” – Bane, The Dark Knight Rises

When Myers started his book with the above quote, he pretty much had me sold as he was obviously a cool guy with great taste.

I really enjoyed James’ narrative and point of view. He is a very real and relatable character with flaws and insecurities. His endless dating disasters (and not so disasters) were both comical but entirely realistic and I always enjoy reading from the perspective of a character who is a writer.

The author did a  really brilliant job of drawing you into the story and actually getting you vested in James’ hunt for The Last Romeo, without you even realising. I didn’t realise how deep I was until James made the stupidest choice possibly in the history of love stories and I was sat in my living room, alone, shouting “But why? Why? What the hell do you think you’re doing?! Goddamnit James, why?“.

Deep breath.

Anyway, I’m sure you’re wondering why only the 3 stars then? Surely, from what you’ve said this is 4 or even 5 star worthy? Well, because my ship got sunk – that’s why. Yes, it was that good a ship, and yes I sure as hell do hold a grudge.

That and though James undergoes huge character development, and is surely on the path to self-actualisation by the end of the book, it’s just a smidge incomplete at the slightly dissatisfying ending. The ending is still hugely worth it though – and I really hope Myers releases a short story set say, 6 years in the future, to let us know how it all turns out.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon – Book Review

32934117I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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This is not my usual genre at all but I’d seen so much about this book on social media that I thought I’d give it a try and ended up enjoying it. Had I known it had a large focus on the culture side of Dimple (still not sure how I feel about the name) and Rishi’s relationship I’d likely have read it sooner. I found all of the parts concerning that really interesting and as individual characters apart from all that I related to both of them, mainly Rishi I think but Dimple’s feminism (in the actual definition, not the new warped perception some people who call themselves feminists have developed for themselves) and aversion to make-up just because she doesn’t want to wear it was also really relatable too.

It was a mixed bag really and I found myself wincing a little at the particularly cliche parts especially as those parts didn’t really ring true for D and R’s characters’ personalities. I wish there had been more focus on Insomnia Con itself and the work the pair actually put into their project because we heard a lot about it but didn’t see much and it really didn’t seem like they put that much effort in for something that supposedly was so very important to Dimple.

I disliked the ending and would have hoped – or would have found more realistic – an ending similar to Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern except maybe not so many years down the line minus the teenage pregnancy.

Overall, I did enjoy it and though I wish there had been more character development for themselves rather than as a pair. I really liked the characters and think it’s awesome that other cultures are being represented and brought awareness to.

Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking – Book Review

Hocking, A - Between the Blade and the HeartI received a copy of this book from the publisher, Pan Macmillan, and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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So while I was checking who the publisher was for the opening line of this review I saw NetGalley’s description of this book started with these words: ‘Game of Thrones meets Thor: Ragnarok’.

Um, no? I feel like this is a severely misleading description if anything this book is Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Shadowhunters and well, every mythological being out there, apparently. I found this book quite disappointing really. It wasn’t bad, it was actually alright but it lacks focus on its concept and if you’re going into this expecting a Norse-inspired YA fantasy you’re going to be disappointed.

So far as I can tell the Valkyries in this book resemble those from mythology only in name, fierceness and weaponry. Their purpose and values are completely unique to this world and that is perfectly fine, they just don’t line up with the mythology and I think it might have been better if they had had a different name all their own. The atmosphere and setting of the novel is a very grungey, steampunk, overcrowded city complete with hover crafts, dark, gritty alleyways and underground markets just ’cause. The scene setting is actually really good, and the world building as good as it could be with the complete overload of inspirations it had.

The Norse influence is very limited and this book includes all manner of immortal, mythology beings including angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, goblins, cyclopses, ghosts, witches, devas (whatever they are), demigods, real gods, giant spiders, shapeshifters, sorcerers and pretty much everything in between. It’s too much, and frankly, I just wish the bad guys had had one overarching theme. On top of this, while a lot of the names used were German-inspired we also had them side by side with things named in different Norse languages, Latin and probably many others I’m too uneducated to recognise. It was just too much.

It’s our main character, Malin’s (and her fellow elite warriors the Valkyries) job to kill these many, many, many immortal beings when their time is dictated by some other faceless, immortal beings for reasons unbeknownst to us and her and she is aided by her human-come-sorceress-in-training best friend, her knowledge father figure mentor and this other dude she just met – but wait! She has to do all this world-saving and keep up with school work and exes and mother issues like any other teenager?! However, will she cope at being so awesome? (Do you see where I am getting Buffy from?)

Much like Buffy, I found it hard to keep my attention with this book. I mean it was interesting but, as with Buffy (when my best friend made me watch it, appalled I had missed it in my childhood despite it predating us both) my mind would wander and I’d hit pause to go do something else pretty easily.

Overall the writing was good even if a few sentences kind of felt like a thesaurus had coughed them out:

“Many immortals took umbrage with the idea of being “returned”, which was teh vernacular the Riks used for killing.”

And I feel when you are going to reference literature or mythology as part of your world building it’s important to decide once and for all if it’s also canon in your world or not. For instance, there was a place called ‘the Ninth Ring’ and one of the characters then explains it refers to Dante’s Inferno. It’s a place name. Your readers can get that reference themselves and it’s clever. When your characters get that it’s cheesy. I also didn’t get how the characters could refer to anything as mythology when it all lived right next door to them, quite literally. Or question if the Vanir gods are real when according to their own job description, they work for them. It was confused as hell.

My final peeve, is that I saw yet another example of what I’m tentatively going to refer to as a trope, since I’m not sure it is and I have not heard it discussed before. In the last few YA books I’ve read with a bisexual main character, I’ve noticed a trend that every single one seemed compelled to include two romantic rivals, one female, and one male as if it was necessary to validate their characters bisexuality? Just gonna say now, it isn’t. It makes sense in some books but on most occasions, it feels like the author is just trying to prove their character is bi to the reader. When a character makes it clear they are straight or gay in a book I don’t go looking for proof, I accept it because it’s a book, why would it lie? So, why do I need proof for bisexual characters in the form of forced, and often utterly incompatible love rivalries that add naught to the story except annoying inner turmoil for the main character as they decide who they like better? Please just stop, it’s dumb and borderline offensive.

I think this book will really appeal to a lot of people, as many people do really like the meshing of different mythologies and legends and overall it isn’t horrible, I’m just not one of them and I won’t be reading the sequel.

The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle – Book Review

The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly ringleI received this book from NetGalley and the publisher, Central Avenue Publishing, in exchange for an honest review. I’d like to apologise for my tardiness in giving them that review, sincerely.

🌟🌟🌟.5

This is a dark, paranormal romance with a fairy tale atmosphere and an actual non-pathetic heroine to boot.

The intertwining of the two worlds, both our real world and this dark magical one was well done and the ‘liaison’ role between the two forces was original and intriguing though I wished we’d got to see a little more of Kit as a character. The pacing was good and it was refreshing to have such a satisfying ending for a fantasy standalone.

The first scene with Grady and Skye actually really tugged at my heartstrings, something about the way he treated and communicated with her and her own, albeit limited, responses just gave me the feels in a big way. I mean, it got rapidly less cute and innocent as you’ll see but that scene stuck with me.

Oddly, what I took most from this book is a strange insight to mental illness and depression. Though Skye’s illness is really a magical spell/curse the frustration and depression she experiences, as a result, is most definitely less than magical and I thought it was eloquently expressed and I found it interesting to see through her eyes.

One of my peeves with all books of this genre is the tendency for the characters to substitute sex for dealing with their problems and there’s some of that here but it’s definitely not as problematic as other books I’ve read and certainly less vulgar.

Livy was a cool and I must say, unexpected female lead and as I said before, utterly non-pathetic which is great. She didn’t need anyone to come to save her, she just did what she had to and I respected her immensely for it. I did wish Kit had more of a role to play but he was still a good character.

This was a great read I demolished in one day but I’d have to emphasise it only stands this strongly alone – a sequel (unless it was mindblowing) would probably ruin it.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan – Book Review

Sullivan, M - Midnight at the Bright Ideas BookstoreI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I was having a hard time figuring out if I liked this book or not. The story was intriguing and definitely kept me hooked, I thought it was well written and the author painted the town so well, I could really picture and imagine the place. I just really hated the lead character.

I liked her to begin with but as I learnt more about her I just found her annoying. I understood she went through a terrible trauma. I understood these fears and trust issues she had. Like I got it, it was repeatedly fixated on by her. I just didn’t understand why. 

I mean so many people have been through similar and worse experiences than her and recovered, led full lives, yes there are some that can’t but considering she was presented as such a “strong” character – or perhaps I misinterpreted that – I feel like she was just holding onto the past and using it as an excuse to treat everyone around her like crap.

David deserved better, I genuinely don’t see how what he did was that wrong and she majorly over-reacted, her Dad maybe could have handled things better but really? Lydia didn’t even try. The more I learnt about Joey the sadder I felt that this awesome guy thought he only had self-pitying, mopey, grudging Lydia in his life. She didn’t really even do that much for the progression of the ‘investigation’, she was sort of being dragged forward through it by the other more interesting and less annoying characters.

Much of this is really my own opinion as I imagine to a different reader Lydia’s reactions to – well, everything might seem rational but I think her actions through the book really could have been rectified by a simple apology to the people she treated badly, but they didn’t even get that.

Despite all Lydia’s flaws, I liked the writing, the ending was nice and neat and didn’t leave me with a huge amount of unanswered questions – which for books in this sort of genre, is preferable to me and I really rather liked Lyle and the bookstore.

True Fire by Gary Meehan – Book Review

Meehan, G - True FireNote: This is all older review of mine (pre-blog) and reading it back I think I must have had a bad week or been really hyped up on sugar or something because I’m sure I don’t always sound this judgmental (I hope?).

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That took way longer than it should have.

My overall feeling on the book is meh although once I start getting into the good and bad points it will sound like I hated it, I didn’t hate it or even dislike it, it was just meh.

The book came to me with a sticker on it claiming ‘If you liked Throne of Glass you’ll love this’ or something to that effect. Throne of Glass is actually a series I really liked (mainly because of Rowan, no shame), though the first book Throne of Glass was not my favourite of the lot I thought hey, maybe this book will be pretty good if it has been likened to it, but then again how many books are ‘the next Harry Potter’. To sum up, the only way it’s like Throne of Glass is that the main character is female and shares some characteristics with Calaena depending where you’re at in the Throne of Glass series.

Queue biting sarcasm. The story starts with you (the reader) finding out that Megan (our fearless heroine) has gotten pregnant at 16 by her twin sisters boyfriend’s brother basically just because he was there plus mild (not that mild) peer pressure from her sister and that old nugget about ‘it can’t happen your first time’, before her village is promptly burned to the ground by soldiers who are men but also witches because reasons and her family slaughtered or missing.

She escapes due to her brilliant prowess and skill at hiding in wheat fields and finding underwater caves (which is an actual skill since she knew about it from a story her grandfather told her during childhood and not from anything like a map or history or a plausible story on how her grandfather supposedly found it originally and conveniently packed full treasure and money and a sword of unknown origin, waiting to be found by the first desperate, bereaved, pregnant child 16 year old brave enough to swim under a waterfall and find it). She then goes on a well thought out and completely realistic mission to save her sister from the witches with the help of a middle-aged exiled countess who shows up right after all the carnage with a bow which is not at all suspicious to Megan even though at this point, just a few chapters into the book, she has already come to the YA-trademark conclusion that all this is about her.

Things I didn’t like:

Essentially no world building, and what we do get comes in fits and starts and is jumpy, you’re really thrown in at the deep end of this not all that elegant world which is okay for some books if they’re well written enough to integrate it throughout the novel afterwards or one of the many other ways you can world build in a novel that don’t actually require amazing writing that YA novels use all the time because *begins to protect head from books being thrown* it’s not exactly a genre renowned for authors that are actually great writers. (I’ll add in here that I hate the idea behind the genre YA but it’s so mainstream at the moment there’s no way to avoid mentioning it as a group). However, one thing YA authors are great at (Maas and Cassandra Clare being key examples) is creating characters the reader loves so much they are blind to any poor writing until some cruel person points it out to them. Unfortunately, none of the characters did this for me they, like the book were all sort of meh, with the exception of one. We sort of find out why the ‘witches’ are just soldiers throwing their weight around but they insist on still referring to them as witches for no reason at all.

It bothers me that the writing level is aimed at a YA audience which is generally at 12-18 age range (depending who you talk to) and the main character is definitely kind of pressured into sex but little time is given to it and she doesn’t seem that bothered or affected by the fact except for her minor qualms about society’s view on her illegitimate child? It just seems like a bad message and easily led person shouldn’t hear.

Megan is a pathetic excuse for a heroine, she can’t do much at the beginning of the novel but she throws a lot of empty threats around like ‘God help anyone who stands against me’ and the like even though she’s a defenseless 16-year-old pregnant girl with one friend she’s known for five minutes. I’m also amazed she didn’t miscarry based on the events of the first 5 chapters alone let alone the rest of the book, can you even ride a horse whilst pregnant?

Though by far the best character in the book, I don’t think the author knew what to do with Damon. Clearly, a love interest is on the horizon because it’s on the YA non-negotiable checklist but I had no idea where that crazy train was going.

It’s a petty complaint but the cover looked cheap and that is a big-ish deal to me, I like my books to look pretty on my shelf after I finish them.

Totally saw the ‘big reveal’ coming, only pity was that there was no ‘I’m the bad guy and here’s my soliloquy on why I’m evil and what my master plan is’ moment and that’s the best part of that cliche plot line.

The things I liked list is much shorter. I liked that Megan was not given auto-super powers even though she is still a little dim, the book is thankfully quite short with a large font, the prophecy is nice and easy to interpret unlike others I’ve read and Damon. Though he was far from a perfect character he was the best one and he was quite funny, I don’t think he was given nearly enough credit and he as a character was wasted on his arc. I don’t get what Meehan’s trying to achieve with his cloak and dagger riddled love life.

Overall, meh. Probably won’t read the rest of the series.

The Stereotypical Freaks by Howard Shapiro – Book Review

The Stereotypical Freaks by Howard ShapiroI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The description given on NetGalley for this book, I found slightly misleading, simply because when the phrase ‘life-altering news’ is used I don’t automatically assume it’s a cancer diagnosis. Had I known that, I wouldn’t have requested the book because after A Monster Calls and (most of) A Fault in Our Stars (though both are good books) I had decided that novels centred around cancer just weren’t what I wanted to read. I read for fun, and it just kind of depresses me.

As the story progressed I noticed a lot of ‘life lessons’ being thrown about (all under the general umbrella of ‘make the most of life while you can’), it would have been hard not to notice them honestly, as they were all explicitly spelled out, sometimes more than once, leaving the reader nothing more to infer or figure out for themselves. This is something I’d expect for a graphic novel aimed at young readers but given the heavy subject matter, I don’t think I’d like the age group this level of reading was appropriate for reading this particular story. Especially since the only reason the band enters the competition is so, the lead singer can impress his one true love – the most popular girl in school with a ‘loser’ boyfriend – which is an odd cliche to include in a story about overcoming stereotypes?

This said I liked the music references in the story – even though I think I have a slightly different definition of ‘rock’ than the author.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Book Review

Cline, E - Ready Player One🌟🌟🌟🌟

I ended up really enjoying this book, against my better judgment – it kept me hooked and I found myself picking it up, again and again, wanting to know what happened next. A fun, geeky read for sci-fi fans and video gamers.

Sorrento made a truly hateful villain, impressive since he’s not in the book himself all that much, and even though I could see the OASIS was a poisonous obsession and scarily something I could imagine coming along and ruining our lives in reality I still despised the Sixers (Sux0rz, if you prefer) and what they planned to do. Not because I equated it to the end of the world like the characters clearly did, but because a dying wish is a dying wish and trying to manipulate it the way they wanted to was pretty sucky, to say the least.

Granted it’s far from perfect and a lot of the 80s references went way over my head having been born at the tail end of the nineties but I appreciated the effort the author had clearly put into it, even if it felt like he was just like James Halliday attempting to enshrine and force his obsession with a bygone era on the reader.

There were a few things I didn’t like about it besides this, Wade, for example, I found fickle – he dedicates five years of his life to obsessing over the hunt for the egg and within two seconds he doesn’t care anymore and he’s obsessed with some random girl he stalked as a side hobby? Pick an obsession and stick with it, dude.

There were very specific phrases and sentences that made several identical appearances which were glaringly obvious and slightly annoying to me since they could have been easily replaced by something else – “Get the hell out of Dodge” was used a total of four times in the book, doesn’t sound like much but when it’s only 372 pages long, it’s 3 times too many in my opinion. That, and “I’d never had such an immediate connection with a human being,” I think also tallied 3 or 4, – yeah we get it, you like her a lot. Shut up.

Yet despite all this, I did really like it because though I’m not quite on Wade’s level, I could relate to the general nerdiness even if it was over a lot of things I didn’t follow myself.

(The Rivendell themed mansion sounded a-mazing).

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang – Book Review

Hoang, H - The Kiss QuotientI received a copy of this book from Corvus and Atlantic Books Ltd. Via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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OH MY WORD.

I just cannot get over how much I love this book. I started it yesterday morning on the train and I just couldn’t. Stop. Reading. It. I just couldn’t. And to be clear, not an appropriate book for the workplace. I got absolutely nothing done. But I just couldn’t stop reading and by last night I’d finished it. It was so good.

I think my love was mainly down to Stella (our leading lady), she’s autistic/Asperger’s (both are mentioned in the book but it’s not clearly explained which she is because though they are part of the same spectrum there is something of a difference between the two) and I just couldn’t believe how entirely I related to her[1]. Hers and Michael’s relationship was downright adorable from the start which I feel is a huge accomplishment given it starts through solicitation, for crying out loud.

I liked the alternating perspectives as they were well executed and, it was just too funny at parts, Stella’s mum’s obsession with recommending Tinder was priceless, both mothers, in fact, were fantastic. And Stella’s thought process made me laugh as much as it made absolute sense to me, my two favourite quotes of hers are:

“I like you better than calculus, and math is the only thing that unites the universe.”

(Actually the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard and I’m not even that beguiled by Maths.)

“If a woman purchased underclothes for a man, it meant she loved him.”

This is actually true^. 100% fact.

I’m struggling to find fault frankly. It was a fun, light and extremely funny book that has joined the ranks of my all-time favourites and I will most certainly read again. Thank you, Helen Hoang, truly.


[1] This is a quote in particular that stands out in my mind:

“For several stomach-twisting moments, she ran through her list of presocialization reminders: think before you talk (anything and everything can be an insult to someone; when in doubt, say nothing), be nice, sitting on your hands prevents fidgeting and feels good, make eye contact, smile (no teeth, that’s scary), don’t start thinking about work, don’t let yourself talk about work (no one wants to hear about it), please and thank you, apologise with feeling.”

I have a list of stuff I tell myself in my head (before social stuff I’m made to go to even though I hate it) so similar to this, it hurts a little to read.

In the back of the book, Hoang writes how writing Stella helped her discover herself and recommends a bunch of books about autism in women that I am absolutely going to read. It’s been a possibility that has niggled in the back of my mind since my earliest teen years that though it’s highly unlikely I have Asperger’s syndrome I am almost certainly on the autistic spectrum, but before now I never wanted to actually ask the question, I just decided I was me and I was weird but that’s okay because I was always told everyone is a bit weird. But oddly, no matter the outcome of that likely strange conversation with my GP, I feel good about this and I really can’t explain why.

Furyborn by Claire Legrand – Book Review

Legrand, C - FurybornI received this book from its publisher Sourcebooks Fire via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

🌟🌟🌟🌟.5

I absolutely loved this book! I had heard very mixed views previously but I absolutely adored it, the world building, the narrative, all of it. This is kind of like Throne of Glass meets The Fallen meets Song of Blood and Stone. You know what it means when you have to use three different series to try and cover everything in a book? It means it’s a new and original idea and you’re grasping at straws trying to adequately explain it.

The story is told from the varying perspectives of two awesome, powerful and strong heroines, each fully rounded with fears, flaws and wit and both were great. The varying perspectives also take place in different time periods that would ordinarily confuse me because YA Fantasy novels never seem to strike the balance right but this was more in the way of how Scott Lynch writes his Gentleman Bastard Sequence, each is relevant to the other but makes intriguing and exciting narratives alone too. At the end of every chapter I was itching to continue with that narrative and see what happened but just a few lines into the other and that had me hooked too, it was most conflicting – but in a good way.

I don’t think the two stories separately would have been as interesting but together they were spectacular.

As you probably know I try to be balanced in my reviews so in the spirit if being fair my only issues were Ludivine’s dialogue and the propensity of the majority of the lead characters to try and fix all their problems with sex. Like everything, trauma, adversity, war, depression, guilt – when confronted with anything it felt like Rielle and Eliana’s first port of call to fix it was to get their leg over with whoever they were with. Luckily the men and women in their lives knew them well enough to make them actually face their problems but this response doesn’t alter even at the end and I think it would have been good character development for it to have stopped at the 75% mark.

What was my problem with Ludivine’s dialogue? She’s a question-talker. What’s a question-talker? Well, it’s someone who makes every point by first posing a question to themselves and them answering themselves, often in trains of three. Do I have a problem with this? Yes, because it’s freaking annoying!

It’s something writers usually use to make you find a character annoying, but we were supposed to like Ludivine but every time she spoke I was just like please, shut up.

That aside, this was such a great read and I can’t wait for the rest of the series.

the night circus erin morgenstern book review

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Book Review

Morgenstern, E - The Night Circus🌟🌟🌟

This book was not entirely what I expected. Perhaps because my edition is a Penguin Vintage Classic which led me to believe it was written long before 2011 but either way I did enjoy it.

The story centres around a magic ‘competition’ between two competitors, set up by their prospective mentors. Celia Bowen is the first, taught by her father, a famous illusionist, (who is actually a real magician) and the second is Marco Alisdair taught by Celia’s father’s mysterious frenemy, Alexander. It is hard to explain more than this without giving away spoilers really.

Though the language is simple, the imagery was really something else and I did think in a book like this it would have been easy to disrupt the balance between story and description but I thought Morgenstern did it really well overall. I did come out of it wanting to buy a red scarf and head to a circus even though I know these days they are just wacky fun fairs with strange clowns as opposed to this kind of, for lack of a better word, experience.

There are a few nitpicks but nothing huge. I found it slightly difficult to follow as the chapters jumped around between cities and dates and years and so on and sometimes in an order that made it confusing who was how old and what had already happened. I got a general grasp by the end but it made the reading slightly less easy.

There is something of an explanation for this large presence of wizards in the 19th century at the very end but it isn’t really an explanation but they ignored it for so long I was barely even curious at that point. I had just accepted they could just do magic because they could do magic and that was that.

Otherwise, I loved Celia and Marco and actually felt that they were well matched really but it would have been better had they had more than 2 (ish) full-length conversations so it was obvious they had gotten to know each other a little bit.

Bailey and the Murray twins were also brilliant and my favourite characters. However, my favourite part of the whole book had to be “You deceitful little slut.” because it just came out of nowhere and I laughed far too much.

I had been warned the ending was disappointing but I had such low expectations going in that I think it balanced it out and I felt it was an okay ending. I wanted to give it 4 stars, but it’s just missing … something. I’m not sure what and I feel like this is a book I could have really loved, but I just didn’t get excited about it as much as I had about other books I’ve read recently. I didn’t have a problem picking it up it just wasn’t more.

The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green – Book Review

Green, S - The Smoke ThievesI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

🌟🌟🌟  – Minor spoilers but will not give away the plot.

Somewhere between Throne of Glass & A Song of Ice and Fire, The Smoke Thieves is Game of Thrones through a heavy YA-lense. It’s Game of Thrones-Lite, if you will.

Although I must admit the writing style and execution is not really anywhere near as flawless as George R. R. Martin’s, Green writes a brilliant, if archetypical, fantasy world and some really solid characters. I really, wholeheartedly enjoyed this book because it recalled to me the chaos and intrigue of Martin’s books only with fewer confusing complex layers. It has a similar format of varying perspectives and plot devices/points but with less* cursing and bloody gore and no explicit sexual content.

*I say less because there is some. F-bombs and heads in boxes and the like.

I found the demon hunting and smoke aspect really interesting (I actually wish it had been explored more/been a more central point of the story) and love Gravell and Tash’s relationship and banter. Edyon had some funny moments that had me laughing out loud too and generally I liked how all the characters wove together eventually. I also felt that all the characters at least had a purpose in the story even if they weren’t especially well fleshed out.

I think we may have been able to survive with one less perspective as the story was quite thinly spread but that wasn’t a big deal really. More obstacles on the character’s various journey would have gone a long way to achieving this. I was not a huge fan of either of the love interests – I mean Edyon & March had the edge over Ambrose & Catherine but both just kind of felt like it was happening simply because the other person was there. I’d have bought into two very strong platonic relationships more, or even a platonic one for Ambrose & Catherine that was misunderstood and a hate-love for Edyon and March that had the two of them bonding over never being good enough just because of the circumstances of their births, which is where I thought she was going with it but then she totally just kept saying how good looking they both were. I’m really shipping Catherine’s arranged marriage working out if I’m honest, Prince Tarzan (not his real name but that’s what I called him)  seemed like a cool guy.

I think what was really missing from this, that GoT and other great fantasy has, is doubt about the motivations of the “bad guys”. In GoT, it’s all grey areas and second-guessing and mistrust and tests of loyalty and wanting at least one person on every side to win, even if the others don’t – whereas this was very black and white, but I guess being YA that makes sense and fits the genre but is still a personal preference.

Overall, I liked it and will read the sequel but only because I’m holding out hope for some great character development from our two royals.

Heavenward by Olga Gibbs – Book Review

Gibbs, O - HeavenwardI received a physical review copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Overall I really enjoyed this book – it’s choc-ful of potential to be something big, it just needs a teeny bit of a tweak.

I love anything to the backdrop of angels and a new perspective of celestial lore and stories so this was right up my street. It’s not like Clare’s Shadowhunters though, do not be fooled. Where her characters are descended from Angels, these are angels. It’s a little like Twilight but with angels and a less ridiculous adaption of the beings at that. Just to clarify – from me that is a compliment. I really liked the Twilight books, back in the day and much like with those books, I ship the other guy. This book I would say could entertain a slightly more mature audience than Twilight due to some of the subject matter. But enough about Twilight because aside from a paranormal love triangle, that is fairly where the similarities end.

Ariel, our fearless heroine, is just that. Whilst being both frank and honest with her situation she takes all in her stride and the more you learn about her past the more you have to admire her strength. She is not anyone’s fool and hates to play the damsel in distress. My kind of girl. I’ll admit she accepted the truth slightly faster than would have, but then I’ve never been confronted by a guy with wings sprouting out of his back, so yeah. I love the general message behind the story which I think should really be projected more in YA. My one issue with her is how easily she attaches to people, Tabby, Sam. It felt too … trusting, like she fell into love too easily and the rest of her character traits wouldn’t stand for it, you know?

did have a few nitpicks, it is true. But reflecting on them I feel most would be remedied by a professional editor. This is by no means a detrimental comment! I know from past reading that the first books in phenomenon series like Harry Potter and the aforementioned Twilight in their original incarnations were not what we all know and love today. Even in their published forms, the books in those series improve as time goes on. This would help with the main issue of spelling and grammatical errors but then again it is a review copy, so there are allowances to be made. It would also help with the cover which could be really very much a lot better and really does not do the book justice.

I think the real issue I had was that I wanted a lot more of it. The pacing was quick which is often good but at the same time, a 100 or so additional pages to expand and linger on certain parts would have really elevated it even more so.

My only problems that weren’t simply a matter of editing and are purely down to my personal preference were Sam and some the Americanisms that found their way in there every now and then. I really didn’t like Sam, I’m afraid. I just found him really cringey at points and a bit annoying and sometimes creepy. I really liked Rafe. So much. That’s my team right there. #TeamRafe all the way for sure. Sam? I did not get that, at all.

The Americanisms were infrequent, to be honest, and were only little things but little things like ‘feds’ and things I know Brtish teenagers wouldn’t really say (that I know of, I mean I am 19 and have lived in Northern/Midland England my whole life but I don’t pretend to be the authority on what the ‘kids’ say). Speaking of kids, I was a little ambiguous on how old the characters were meant to be, they acted very much like the age of American high school students but were evidently attending UK high school where they only go to age 16 and at the upper end of the school you take GCSEs for 2 years and they take up a pretty prominent part of your school life at that point but weren’t mentioned even in passing leading me to believe Ariel at least must be younger than 14/15 but she seemed a lot older? It’s not a massive issue of course as not many people would even notice that but just something I saw.

All that being said, and I did like the book, it kept me hooked on the plot and awoke the fan art girl inside of me all over again to the point I’m going to put my pen to paper once more (huzzah!). I shall most certainly read the next book.

Trigger warning: This book does contain some graphic scenes of violence and alludes to, with a brief flashback to, a time of sexual and emotional abuse that some readers may find upsetting.

The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross – Book Review

Shallcross, L - The Beast's HeartI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I really enjoyed this book, and I hadn’t expected to. Beauty and the Beast is one of my all-time favourite Disney movies (not exactly rare, I know but still Mulan and now Anastasia, since Disney bought Fox, are my ultimate favourites) and I have never read any of its retellings and thought this one was artfully done.

The setting and description are beautiful and I really liked how the prose was written like it really was the Beast’s inner monologue and not just the parts required from the movement of the story. We got self-reflection and memories and it was brilliant. And yet, it was all still important and it still felt as though we uncovered something relevant with each revelation. I would usually prefer dual or multiple perspectives but I think the single perspective works best for this as we really are getting the Beast’s entire and unabridged version of events.

This book also feels like its actually set in France which, with the exception of the odd ‘bonjour’ or mention of French food, most adaptions don’t feel that way. It felt authentic. The magic aspect I quite enjoyed also, as well as Isabeau’s family’s story arc – though I’m not sure how much of this derives from the original story having never read it.

This retelling also slightly redeems the previous issues this story has arising from terms like Stockholm Syndrome and what really qualifies as valid consent (ish, I’ll get more to that though I don’t dispute the validity in this case). I’m not certain how old Isabeau is meant to be in the story but she feels like a fully-fledged adult.

I had to knock a star off for a few minor points I wasn’t so hot on, but none of them were major issues.

Firstly, Isabeau. I think she benefits greatly from the preconceived idea of ‘Belle’ (AKA Beauty) being independent, intelligent, brave and well-read as she doesn’t exhibit a great many of these features and the ones she does, it’s not a lot and whilst I grant the main focus of the book is the Beast himself it would have been nice to see more layers of her personality.

Secondly, the proposals. It got a bit much over time and is what I’m referring to when I say about consent. It’s really more of an issue of how many times should a question be asked before the person being asked is simply worn into submission.

There are a lot of proposals in this book, too many to count and whilst the Beast understands why this is an issue:

“And my occasional proposals began to distress her once again.”

“Indeed, the only thing preventing us from being perfectly comfortable together was my obstinate insistence on proposing to her every few days.”

And, laments over it at length and grieves the upset it causes her, he doesn’t stop. Again, this could be taken from the original tale, and when they do eventually agree to marry it’s not to one of his incessant proposals and it’s doesn’t come across as pushy or forceful in the book … it’s still annoying to read, even if I get why he has to do it.

Overall, I think those who loved the live-action remake will love this as well and those who love the original tale and the Disney film (though you won’t find Cogsworth or Lumiere) will love this book too and I did really enjoy it overall.

Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody – Book Review

Foody, A - Ace of ShadesI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Generally, I enjoyed Ace of Shades. My first encounter with Amanda Foody and a page-turner for sure, the world is brilliant and well-built from the start. I have a weakness for fictional grim, gritty cities full of brilliant con artists (I’m looking at you Scott Lynch, you and Locke Lamora). Of course, this is a purely fictional fascination as I am quite aware I’m too soft to survive such cities, in particular, the City of Sin …

I really liked the Las Vegas-inspired world with distinct dystopian overtones and the world building was truly brilliant. The tentative peace of a recently established republic leaps off the page and the blood and split talent aspect was original to me too. The use of the word ‘missy’ for some reason made me think all the characters spoke with Dickensian London accents (because I’m weird) but that added some entertainment value too. Levi felt very much like the Artful Dodger but with poorer decision-making skills.

I took issue with a few things in the book. Enne’s character development practically hits warp speed going from dainty-lady-like wallflower-ballerina to black-lipstick-wearing-card-playing femme fatale. I mean I’m two years older than Enne and am definitely stronger and more hardened than the little, sheltered girl that entered the book and I feel like my reactions to the events in this book would significantly more than they did her. It felt a tad unrealistic, but then books.

The other aspect was the love interest. On the one hand I kind of get it, because the two of them are trapped together in a way no one else can understand and it’s easier to grow close that way – I do get that. But at the same time, I wish this genre would just for once understand and appreciate the value of a deep and meaningful platonic relationship between two people of the opposite sex. I think that could have worked in this book. I just hope they don’t fall into the old cliche of their seconds getting together because ughhh.

I couldn’t put the book down though, so that says something and I would quite like to read the sequel – would recommend!

Trigger warning: <spoiler>there is no graphic scenes of sexual violence but one mildly disturbing scene with a character who is evidently a pedophile though nothing happens it’s creepy and may affect sensitive audience members.

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon – Book Review

Menon, S - From Twinkle, With LoveI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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So many good books recently! So I really enjoyed this too, it was a fun, light summer-y read like When Dimple Met Rishi and honestly, that says a lot because this is really not my genre but I’m trying to branch out.

If you liked WDMR you’ll probably like this too, but I actually preferred From Twinkle, With Love. I love me an adorkable romance, mainly because I relate to that. That’s me and my boyfriend really – we’re not gooey romantic, we’re nerds and we talk about superheroes and play video games and make fun of our friends who are gooey couples (not that there’s anything wrong with that, they usually don’t even notice us). I liked Twinkle and related to her feelings about not coming from a well-off family and the inadequacy teenage girl brains can’t fight off. I adored Sahil. I mean that guy is a legend.

I mean, is it kind of annoying that Twinkle can’t let go of Neil and can’t see what is right in front of her face? Of course, but it adds to the story and to be honest is a pretty accurate representation of a teenage girls transition to adult feelings. All of it was a pretty good representation in fact, and I always love the gentle but undeniable feminist undertones to Menon’s stories. They are great and should be heard by the audience these books are aimed at.

My only drawback is that the book is mostly presented through journal entries which I don’t like in general, though it is handled well in this case. I loved the text conversations between Sahil, Skid, and Aaron – they were freaking hilarious. Group chat goals.

10/10 would recommend.

Manga Classics: Romeo and Juliet by Crystal S. Chan – Book Review

Chan, C. S - Manga Classics Romeo and JulietI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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So this is the fourth Manga Classic I’ve read and needless to say I’m officially a fan. My method with this series is to review the adaption more than the story because really you can’t review it as a story since its based off another book (that I’ve likely read and therefore reviewed).

Since I have not actually read Romeo and Juliet I can’t exactly do that but I happen to know this book is taken word for word from the OG so I don’t actually think it matters and – unpopular opinion coming your way – I genuinely think this could be a good alternative to reading the original. HEAR ME OUT.

Shakespeare never intended his plays to actually be read, he intended them to be seen and experienced. Reading Shakespeare is hard and sometimes dull for leisure purposes. I mean sure, you can get the gist of the language after some practice but I found this method of enjoying it so much better. I have read a few of the Bard’s plays and I honestly don’t find them even remotely fun to do so. I love watching the plays, every actor interprets and presents the character differently and it’s so good to watch and the acting and context makes understanding second nature. But, plays don’t come along that often, least of all really good ones, and manga is a perfect graphic substitute because the style is so expressive and hyperbolic – like good actors in a Shakespeare play should be.

really enjoyed this book, the art was beautiful. I mean, stunning really. Of course, I knew what was coming the whole time because it’s Romeo and Juliet but still loved it all the same. The only nitpick I’d have is maybe more clearly labeling characters as it can be tricky to keep track of them all.

If you enjoy Shakespeare anyway or want to get into it but are hesitant because of the language – read this, it’s great.

Phi Alpha Pi by Sara Marks – Book Review

Marks, S - Phi Alpha PiI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I did enjoy the book, I just felt like it could have been executed better.

The premise of this book is a Pride and Prejudice retelling in a modern American setting of sororities and fraternities. I adore Pride and Prejudice, it is one of my all-time favourite novels so when I first read the synopsis I was intrigued for several reasons. Firstly, P&P is very quintessentially British as are the characters, and thought seeing American interpretations would be interesting and (due to limited knowledge in the area and a few American movies) my idea of sororities centres a great deal around debutantes and socialites and I actually thought to apply the P&P story to that sounded all kinds of awesome and original.

Well, my idea was a little off but what I got was pretty awesome and original too! The bare bones of the original story are present and fleshed out with a great summer, feel-good romance that most P&P fans (with an open mind) can enjoy. I liked how Lizbeth was translated to modern day, complete with feminist bad-assery, and how other key characters from the original story do too – Wickham a fraudster and identity thief? Inspired! Darcy, explained as an introvert with social anxiety? So clever!

There is enough of the original in there to make it as un-put-downable as the original for me but, since it is a retelling I have to compare it to the original.

Whilst I have nothing against adaption for the purpose of modernisation there are almost always some aspects of classics that are important to maintain unless they’re changed in a specific way. I also have a thing about retellings containing the original material as a piece of media in the book, as in, in this book Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a book that exists. This creates a weird irony from the outset of any novel as the events mirror the book which is either addressed by a) referring to it constantly which is annoying and strange or b) mentioning it once and then inexplicably never again. Phi Alpha Pi uses the latter which is the lesser of two evils but in all honestly I wish they just wouldn’t at all. And that’s not specific to this book, but for all classic retellings. Just leave it out. (admittedly, Austenland by Shannon Hale actually handles it surprisingly well but I’d say it’s an exception).

In Phi Alpha Pi the Bennett sisters aren’t really sisters (well, they’re sorority sisters) which would be fine except they all have their own additional families and siblings that I felt were unnecessary plot devices that could have been substituted by actual P&P characters. But I also felt that removing the blood bond also jeopardizes some of the actual plot points. Lydia’s life choices, for example, I don’t doubt sorority sisters are close but Lizbeth’s constant judgment and commentary of the other sisters’ actions especially Lydia’s just feels rude and like overstepping. Opinions like that are best asked for and when it’s your family those concerns are expected and you’re entitled to shove them in a person’s face. Just some gal you’ve known for a few years at school? Um, rude? What’s it to you? Imean, it wasn’t a huge deal but it’s similar with Dr Bennett (the Mr Bennett archetype). His advice and counsel means more as Lizzy’s father, not her teacher.

The second is Lizzy’s social standing. Lizzy’s stalwart and satirical resolve against a marriage based on financial advantage means that much more when she is set to inherit nothing because it means she is quite literally happy to choose to be placed at a disadvantage before she jeopardises her beliefs and marry for money. Making her wealthy takes something away from that, even if I suppose it accentuates she’s really choosing Darcy for love since she doesn’t need his money?

There’s the two pivotal scenes in Darcy and Lizzy’ relationship: the slight and the proposal. I found the flip in the severity of these two scenes very amusing – the slight is actually not very much of a slight at all. Barely even a passing comment – ‘Not my type’ and a general (and kind of accurate) comment on people who aren’t Lizzy is so not on par with ‘tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me’ and an unfounded assumption coupled with the belief his company is a gift. Where, by comparison, “You are an aggressive, unconnected nobody who holds everyone up to ridiculously high expectations and acts like you’re entitled to everyone’s respect.” – but please love me back, is pretty darn brutal. I actually found this quite funny – in fact, I may have said “Ooooooh, snap” out loud.

The writing style was actually pretty good but the one thing that really sticks out in my mind is Marks’ constant remarking on what people are wearing, to the point that I dedicated a highlighter colour to every time this happened in the exact same format/phrasing on my kindle. The grand total? 20 and it’s not a long book. Unless there was something symbolic about Darcy’s penchant for Chucks that I missed.

I liked it, it was a fun read but I’m not likely to read it again, to be honest. It was a fun way to relive P&P in a new way for a weekend but in terms of retellings/adaptions, it’s not the best but also not the worst.

Can anyone recommend a P&P retelling with the setting of debutantes by any chance? I need to read that book.

Smoke in the Sun by Renée Ahdieh – Book Review

Ahdieh, R - Smoke in the SunI received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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So, overall – it totally holds up.

I really enjoyed this as a sequel to Flame in the Mist, Ahdieh did a great job of picking up where she left off and I couldn’t put it down. The whole story was seamlessly delivered, with all the threads interweaving at just the right moments. If anything, I’d say it was almost too neat, there was suspense and highs and lows throughout but I wouldn’t say it was as … captivating as the first. Still brilliant, definitely still brilliant but I think I’m just a sucker for an origin story.

I loved Mariko’s personal journey the most I think, and Okami, Tsuneoki and Yumi had some really great beats as well – I only wish we’d gotten more. I think Yumi could have been used more, she’s an amazing character.

[Medium] Spoilers ahead.

Okay, so I’m going to admit I kind of shipped Raiden and Mariko. They could have worked so well. And honestly, I thought that’s where she might be going until I realise this was probably the last book in the series. What I was hoping for from Raiden’s introduction proper onwards was Okami to escape (maybe grow closer to Yumi, there’s something there) and Mariko to stay on as spy but then fall for Raiden, this may be an unpopular opinion but who cares – I’d ship it all the way.

Roku was a pretty awesomely written villain – I love when you see the development of a monster, it was also especially powerful through Raiden’s eyes. Kanako I didn’t get so much, I felt there was an easier way to achieve what she did without so much innocent blood shed but I guess that the plot invoked so many feelings from me is just a testament to how good it was.

I think the best part about the whole series – including the two ‘shorts’ (practically minis) Ahdieh published over the past week or two – is that all the characters have a flaw, a fundamental weakness that makes them imperfect and so, so relatable. I like there are no perfect specimens of protagonist – that the winners and the heroes do so through pretty questionable means because it feels more real that way. Perfect heroes and heroines are okay sure, but when they try to spin it that their flaw is they’re too loyal or care too much I just want to call bullshit and make them have a real flaw, something that brings some humanity, you know?

A great (what I think is the) end to a series I will happily include in my modern favourites – plus their covers are so pretty, I’m glad for the redesign!

Smoke in the Sun is due out on either the 5th or 7th June – my sources can’t agree! – so plenty of time for you to read Flame in the Mist if you haven’t already. This series is perfect for fans of Mulan (my favourite Disney animation!) as it is a sort of retelling but set in a Japan-inspired fictional world.

Until next time!

Blog Tour: Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope – Book Review

Penelope, L - Song of Blood &amp; StoneI would first like to start with an incredibly grateful thank you to Brittani Hilles and St Martin’s Press for the opportunity to be part of the Song of Blood & Stone Blog Tour (my very first blog tour! I’m so excited!) and NetGalley for a sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Minor spoilers, you have been warned.

This book took me by surprise in a big way and a very good one at that. Jasminda makes a fierce heroine with an independent streak a mile wide that is hard not to admire. The ways she faces adversity, prejudice and danger throughout the book are amazing and so different from other female MCs in this genre. The world building is so immersive and elegantly done, and although the beginning parts in the town have something of a Western feel (not a bad thing), this is a fantasy novel through and through offering a unique history and a power-set I have not seen explored so well in this genre before.

The romance did have a touch of the insta-love, (well a lot of it), but I felt it was well earned throughout the book and loved that though there were parts when it slipped, the relationship’s dynamic did not falter as events unfurled. I was hooked from the word go and couldn’t put it down – even during the time at court which is almost always the most boring part of royalty-involved fantasy but was intriguing and cut right to the meat of the situation.

One of my favourite parts of the book’s layout was the little fable snippets at the start of each chapter, I found them so clever and gave me an interesting thought process when approaching the next chapter, one of my favourites was:

“Bobcat and Horse raced to the river to see who was fastest. Bobcat fell behind on a turn in the path, and Horse began to gloat. But when he approached the riverbank, he was shocked to find Bobcat leisurely bathing.

How did you beat me? Horse cried, angry.

Bobcat replied, When the path curved I stayed straight. A road is not enough to throw me off my path.”

Although, they are all brilliant and I would like mugs or coasters with them printed on with little characters – Etsy, take me money!

I loved Jack as a character even though I wish we had learned more of his history as opposed to the brief glimpses we get, but I should imagine that will come more into play in the sequel which I simply cannot wait for despite the fact I think this could easily stand alone as the ending was most satisfying. I always find that those kind of endings are worse than cliffhangers since you have no idea where they are going to go with it.

Trigger warning: there are attempted rapes of two characters in this novel, one male and one female, this being an area of upset for me personally I felt it important to include here and (slightly less minor spoilers) though both are unsuccessful (the method of which in both made me laugh with both nerves and relief at the absurdity of evasion).

There are also two consensual sex scenes that get somewhat graphic so I’d advise 16+ at the least.

It was released yesterday and you can buy it here. (P.S. I recently became an Amazon Affiliate so if you use this link to buy it a mini percentage will make it’s way back to me 🙂 )

I can’t wait to read more of L. Penelope! If you’d like some more views on this awesome book check out Marta @ The Cursed Books awesome post and Angela @ Pooled Ink Reviews equally awesome post (complete with excerpt and Q&A).

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Until next time!

The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan – Book Review

Logan, K - The GloamingI received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Yes! It finally happened – a month trudging through this book and I’m finally done!

Okay, so I’m 80% sure this is a beautiful and haunting story about grief and overcoming loss and life, finding love, etc, etc but I’m 100% sure I just didn’t get it.

Now, admittedly, I haven’t experienced a loss so very close to me and I did sympathise with the characters greatly for all their hardships and losses (it was about 7 chapters in I realised just how morbidly depressing and beautiful a book could be) and I do have those close to me who have experienced similar conception issues as Peter and Signe but I think what was missing was my ability to empathise as I just have never experienced these things myself. A lot of the feelings and the little moments that I could tell were supposed to be symbolic and powerful and show me something just went over my head. I just didn’t get it.

I didn’t get Pearl, I didn’t get the mermaid stuff, I didn’t get the island magic that was just there, unexplained and not really magic and I didn’t get the transition into first person or the flashbacks and anecdotes or just … any of it.

This is not to say this is a bad book, not at all – it was beautifully written and there were parts that really spoke to me like when Mara experienced a revelation as a reader toward the beginning, which I had experienced as a writer a few years ago.

“Over that winter she read a hundred deaths – and when the book ended, she could turn to the first page again, and the death was undone.”

For me it was the weird power of writing – you create a character, control their lives, create them in every dimension and way, make them real to the reader and then in just a few short words, take them away as if they were never there to start with. It was just a part that really spoke to me.

There were also quotes about the many things that could happen after we die but honestly I just found the bulk of this book … boring.

Nothing really happened in the beginning then after it did I thought it was getting to a turning point where stuff would start to happen and then it didn’t but it seemed like it could then I was too far in and realised I’d already dedicated too much time to give up and thought it might throw a huge plot twist right when I wasn’t expecting it and then I wondered what I was still doing reading a book that made me equal parts bored and morbid when it just went on and on about nothing like this sentence you’re still reading because you think it might have a point when it doesn’t.

Overarching theme: not a bad book, but not for everyone and not for me.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer – Book Review

Meyer, M - RenegadesThis book was the March choice for the Book Dragon Lair Book Club.

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Okay, I’ll admit I adored this book. It’s not perfect for sure, but nothing is – and there were parts even I had to cringe a smidge at the cheesy superhero/villain dialogue but I feel like if you’re going to go into the superhero genre, you’ve got to go all in.

My advice for picking up this book:

If you already enjoy comic books/superheroes and know you don’t mind the tropes/dialogue then you will enjoy this for the fun read it is. P.S. Nova is totally a Batman (but less gritty).

If you’re not overly familiar or a big reader of comics/heroes etc, but enjoy YA then you will enjoy it if you go into it prepared for the odd cheesy superhero lines. But honestly, you need to go into it with an open mind and just with the intention of having a bit of a fun ride, but don’t expect a dark gritty twisted tale because this isn’t it, the darkest parts are at the start and they still have a metaphorical nightlight if you catch my meaning.

I did pretty much predict most of the main plot points but I don’t mind it if they’re good ones. I’m a firm believer that clichés are clichés for a reason and they just work with this concept. More than anything I just want them to adapt it into a beautiful graphic novel. That’s all I want. More than I want a sequel.

Minor spoliers ahead.

The love arc, whilst also totally foreordained didn’t actually feel forced and I think will lead to interesting places in future installments. I’m kind of hoping ‘Archenemies’ (the recently announced title) means it’s leading to where I want it too.

Admittedly, I wasn’t all for the big reveal because I was really rooting for Nova to get Ace’s helmet for herself and being all …

But oh well, maybe later on in the series.

Anna by Amanda Prowse – Book Review

Prowse, A - anna

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Just a gentle reminder that 2 stars on Goodreads mean ‘it was okay’.

Okay, I have mixed feelings about this book that left me feeling a bit …

I’ll start with the parts I liked. The cover is very pretty and I will go to my grave before admitting seeing a photo of how gorgeous the paperback edition is on Instagram was about 80% of the reason I requested it. I liked it was relatively easy to read and fairly well written, the characters were well-rounded and I could clearly see them and their mannerisms in my mind’s eye. I also loved the idea that there were two whole books told entirely from one half of the prospective couple’s perspective – something I feel should be done in more genres.

With a cover as pretty as that I had set myself up for a nice, easy, cheesy love story which was really what I needed at the time of this reading because I was ill and just wanted a fluffy, girly book. I didn’t get this and that’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but it did re-teach me the ‘don’t judge a book by its cover lesson’ once again – will I ever learn? Probably not.

Now I can and will never use subject matter as a reason to dislike a book of this genre because whilst I don’t enjoy reading about this kind of angst and all the horrible things that can happen to people in this world because I use reading as an escape from those things, I understand that some people do and that’s fine.

Things I can use as a reason include pacing and characters. This book covered a lot of time, and in order to do it had huge time leaps varying from months to years and it just made the whole book feel rushed and left me wanting more detail in places. I would have preferred for the book to start at say, when Anna starts working or leaves the home and then revisit the early parts in flashbacks or something similar. It just would have felt … neater, but that’s just me. I just felt like I was being ushered around a store, able to browse things but not really pick them up and examine them.

Anna was the main character I took issue with and that was a problem since it was all told from her POV. It wasn’t so much in the beginning when she didn’t speak as much but as time wore on she just got repetitive and annoying. When she was sad she whined and when she was happy she was really, really happy! So happy! So, so happy! That everything she said, ended in exclamation points! I’m being harsh and man, I felt bad for her at times I really did – I’d have actually stabbed Theo at points – but other times I wanted to slap her and tell her to get a grip.

Hers and Theo’s marital problems got real old, real fast and I found myself skimming most of their rows and not really missing anything new.

To sum up I get why this book literally has no bad reviews (as of the time of this writing) but it wasn’t for me. I’ll probably read Theo’s side just because there were a lot of blanks regarding him I’m assuming so the second book would sell but in all honesty, I just want a more satisfying ending than the one provided.

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo – Book Review

Christo, A - To Kill A Kingdom🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I had to take a few hours to collect myself after I finished this book, lest any thoughts I express be illegible. This is exactly the kind of book I needed right now, in the midst of an extended reading-slump (they tend to be an annual occurrence, around the transformation of Winter to Spring). Had I not been at work, I don’t think I’d have put it down once – sleep be damned – but alas, I love my job and would like to keep it.

Christo caught my attention immediately from the very first page, she definitely came in all guns blazing with action, world-building and intrigue. I liked the main characters, in particular, Lira, from the get-go and the descriptions of mermaids and sirens and all other aspects of their turmoiled kingdom were eerily beautiful and – for a mythology nerd like myself – thought-provoking.

There were aspects of the story I could predict purely due to the genre – the romance arc for example – but it in no way took away from my enjoyment of the book but as far as the development of the story was concerned there was a surprise around every corner and it was brilliantly well-paced and I truly loved the book.

The only faults I’d even be able to entertain would be the most inconsequential nitpicks like the romance arc but even then I thought it was well managed and transcended the cliche – and to be honest, I shipped them the whole time anyway. I was slightly dissatisfied with the ending but only because I wanted more detail and the book was so well paced the whole way through, that the ending felt a smidge rushed – but that may just be the book hangover talking. The characters stayed true to themselves in the ending though, which is great since it would have been so easy for them to fall into that huge, branch-covered-and-not-at-all-inconspicuous trap and conform to the romance arc cliche I previously mentioned, which would have made no sense. *sighs in relief*

I do wish there had been more crew members of the Saad mentioned than just the core group – as great as they are (and they really are), there were times I forgot there were 100 people on that ship but I understand that too many characters can cause a slew of writing issues so it’s more a preference than a criticism.

Despite these highly negligible issues, To Kill A Kingdom has joined my list of favourite novels and I’ve already ordered my physical copy. I can’t wait for more from this author – though not a sequel to this book, it would be The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea all over again. I have unanswered questions but not enough to warrant a whole book – it stands stronger as a standalone novel.

Overall, a stunning novel. Thank you for curing my slump, Ms. Christo.

Bookworm by Lucy Mangan – Book Review

Mangan, L - Bookworm🌟🌟🌟🌟

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This took slightly longer to finish than I thought it would but it was totally worth it. I’m not much of a non-fiction reader as I often find it does not interest me as much as fiction but the title – and gorgeous cover – drew me in immediately.

Though my childhood and upbringing was primarily during the noughties, and Lucy’s (I feel as though referring to her by her surname is too formal – I feel like I almost know her after this book, and I related to her in so many ways; being raised in the Northern fashion, being told off her hiding behind a book and causing no trouble at, etc) was in the seventies, this book still recalled on many of my childhood favourites – The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Spot the Dog, Elmer, Miffy, Meg and Mog – even if I can’t pinpoint where I remember them from as clearly as she can.

The whole book was not only a nostalgic, scenic train journey (not a roller coaster – far too disruptive) but a trove of interesting publication facts and witty commentary that had me laughing out loud on my commute – some favourites were:

“The Brontes owned a copy of A History of British Birds and by all accounts cherished it. Then again, so would you if it was the only thing available to take your mind off the TB-ridden siblings dropping all around you like flies.” 

“Even now, after 40 years in the same place, you would not be able to guess a single thing about the people who live there. Apart, possibly, from the fact that one at least must be a monomaniac who has forgotten more about decluttering than Marie Kondo will ever know.” 

“In love with a hundred-year-old vampire Bella may be, but Buffy, she ain’t.” 

It also helped me remember books I had forgotten I had ever read, Flat Stanley for example. I had completely forgotten about Flat Stanley Lambchop until I read this book! Stanley meet my Read shelf.

I think what resonated with me the most about this book, however, was just how much I related to some of the stories Lucy told. Like pretending to try and fit in with the other kids at school.

At one point she says ‘At five I was largely studying the difference between upper- and lower-case letters, but in my spare moments, I was already having to contemplate tearing down my entire personality and starting from scratch.’.

At 19 years old, this is a thought I can’t remember not having and do still and this is the first time I’ve read the feeling so aptly put into words. Whilst I don’t relish the fact that others share this insecurity, it’s almost comforting enough to begin to potentially overcome it. You know, maybe.

The feelings Lucy relates about her wishes for Alexander – her son’s – reading experiences also made me smile as they paralleled my own for my two-year-old baby brother, whom I recently bought The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Spot the Dog and The Tiger Who Came to Tea in addition to We’re Going On A Bear Hunt and The Gruffalo.

Admittedly there were parts I skipped over either because they gave away plot points in a book I intend to read or it was a large amount publication history or facts that didn’t interest me as much as I had not read/heard of the book itself but I still found it hugely enjoyable. I was slightly surprised that in all the little tidbits of obscure information regarding various authors personal lives that in the section on Alice in Wonderland none of Carroll’s more … unsavoury tastes were mentioned. This could, of course, be because they are essentially impossible to be reliably proven as fact and may well just be a poisonous rumour invented by English Literature teachers to ruin childhoods forever but it was surprising nonetheless.

I could probably write a review consisting of 90% awesome and witty quotes from this book but I’d much rather you just read it for yourself and take a quick stroll down your bookish memory lane and, like me, lament that your memories are not as distinct and detailed as Lucy’s or that you were not blessed with a bookish parent to help guide you.

Alas. But thank you, Lucy Mangan for sharing these stories, I enjoyed them immensely.

The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin – Book Review

Carlin, L - The Wicked ComethSo I finally gave in.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

🌟🌟 – DNFed at the halfway mark. If I’m at the 50% mark in any book and still don’t care how the book ends, I can’t justify any time spent on it from there. I also feel the need to point out that 2 stars on Goodreads means ‘it was ok’ so you know, I didn’t dislike it.

I’m willing to come back to this book at another time because I honestly think it’s a good idea, it presents interesting and quite striking depictions of poverty, social mobility (which is a really important issue to me), and sexuality and I appreciated that when Hester got knocked over by the carriage and the handsome doctor helped her out they didn’t instantly fall in love because I definitely would have finished it there and then.

I think my main issue with getting into the story is that it’s in the first person which I generally dislike as a mode of storytelling – the writing itself is very good but just not for me.

I’ll admit I didn’t get the romance arc, I didn’t see any specific catalyst to it but the way it was written, explored and understood was quite interesting. I did skip to the last chapter because of a mild curiosity to how it worked out for them – though had it not been explained in that chapter I probably wouldn’t have looked further.

Overall, I totally get why it has such amazing reviews but it’s just not my cup of tea.

The Sherlock Effect by Raymond Kay Lyon – Book Review

Lyon, R. K - The Sherlock EffectI received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

🌟🌟 – but only because I DNFed at the third story – around 50% – and therefore don’t feel entitled to give 1 star.

I really wanted to stick with this until the end, it was 215 pages – I feel like a failure for not being able to. I wish I could say I will try to go back to it but I probably won’t. This book just wasn’t for me and I might be alone in this since generally the reviews seem good but no, just no.

My first impression was that Christopher Sherlock Webster is a spoiled, ungrateful brat that couldn’t just indulge his father for the sake of human decency. Your dad loved Sherlock, just read one of his stories with him won’t you? They aren’t long, and as you found out (a bit too late) they’re actually pretty good. My dad loves zombies, I personally think the concept is utterly stupid but I watched Shaun of the Dead and a few episodes of The Walking Dead and when his birthday came round I still bought him tickets for a zombie apocalypse experience. I’m sure Mr. Webster didn’t want to watch Barney or Teletubbies or whatever little Sherl watched in his childhood but he did. It’s just what you do for family.

Then, as the first story kicked in, I realised not only was he spoiled and ungrateful, he was also a pretentious prat that had achieved nothing of significance prior to having his rich friend drop a business into his lap that he does such a mediocre job of contributing to I think I’d have been able to do a comparable job. I knew exactly what the ending of the ‘The Fur Trade’ was going to be approximately 2 minutes into it and just to see if I was being overly analytical gave my partner the basics of the case since he’s a big Sherlock fan (listened to all the audiobooks as read by Stephen Fry) and see what he thought, this was our conversation:

‘I’m reading this modern-take Sherlock book, they’ve got this case: rich and famous singer’s boyfriend has been kidnapped for a second time by an animal rights group and they’ve asked for more money in exchange for his release again. What do you think is going on?’

*Not even really listening to me* ‘What? So her boyfriend faked his own kidnapping?’

Bingo! Got it in one, now my boyfriend is a clever sort so maybe it’s just us but I’m inclined to think this conclusion isn’t such a stretch for anyone. The second and third stories seemed weirder and more in the realm of Holmes but I still guessed the culprit in two and couldn’t get far enough into the third story to care to make a guess.

This book isn’t technically a modern adaption since the Sherlock Holmes books and canon exist as fiction in this world as they do in ours, so the Baskerville Agency is technically an overly zealous fan club with a gimmick to make money rather than an actual detective consultancy. Sherlock Holmes is not a PI he’s a consulting detective – which is explicitly stated in the original texts several times.

I’m by no means a veteran Holmes reader – full disclosure I’ve only read the first two books (I’m getting round to the rest) and watched the BBC adaption but what I specifically remember about those books was that the writing surprised me.

I had expected something more in the realm of Dickens or Dumas where you expect the writing to be overly flowery as standard, accept it as part of the story itself even, but actually found that Doyle had a very simple writing style, simple but effective. He didn’t need all the hyperbolic phrasing or unnecessarily long or archaic words to create the feel the books have. Now, to be fair this could be because Doyle writes his stories from the stoic and comparatively simple perspective of Dr. Watson as oppose to Holmes himself. Lyon writes this story from the Holmes archetype character so, you know, theoretically it could be argued that it is not the writing that’s pretentious is the character and had Doyle written his stories from the original Holmes’ point of view his writing would have resembled this. You could argue that, I wouldn’t but you could.

The benefit from telling the story from Watson’s perspective is that everything Holmes does is only shown from a third party and it’s easier to maintain the mystery and trickle feed the clues until the big reveal. The clues are still attempted to be revealed in this way in The Sherlock Effect but since you are reading from the perspective of the ‘Sherlock’ character you can’t really hear their thought process because it would give it away so what you end up with is quite a lot of dialogue.

The book was well-written despite this but these issues just meant I didn’t enjoy reading it. I’ll stick to the originals I think.

WaR: Wizards and Robots by Will.i.am and Brian David Johnson – Book Review

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I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Okay, so this book really surprised me. When I first saw the title in NetGalley my first reaction was:

‘Wizards and Robots? That sounds stupid.’ Stupid enough for me to want more information and request it just for the hell of it – figuring if they accepted it’d be an interesting experience and if they didn’t, no real loss.

I probably should have read the description since it explicitly states one of the co-authors is will.i.am – a fact that threw me a little since I knew he had recently branched into graphic novels as he appeared on Good Morning Britain with his book ‘Black Eyed Peas Presents: Masters Of The Sun – The Zombie Chronicles’ but didn’t know he’d gone into YA prose too. I’m kind of ashamed that I went into the book with low expectations because of this – I don’t really even know why I just did – because this is hands down one of the best written YA (though I feel like this could be shelved at a middle school level too) books I’ve read in a long time.

The writing itself was great, and not in an overly descriptive flowery way but just in the simplicity of the writing and the variety of vocabulary at this level of reading is just great and would appeal to young adults. The characters were all great and relatable in a big way and they all had their own arcs and development. I was also really impressed by the world-building mainly because I didn’t even know it was happening until I was in the world.

The story jumps around to 3 time periods in the first half of the chapters and usually this kind of storytelling confuses the heck out of me and I can only piece it together fully at the end (I’m looking at you The Night Circus ) but since the characters and settings in each one were so distinctly different from one another I didn’t have this issue.

Overall it was a really fun read, I liked all the characters and their personal development and the story was interesting and made me care about the outcome. The concept could have produced something silly and pointless but it worked in a weirdly wonderful way and most importantly this is the kind of book I can imagine encouraging primary/middle school kids to read more which is always a great thing in my opinion.

Manga Classics: The Count of Monte Cristo By Crystal S. Chan – Book Review

51fmzzsq8ql1334064964..jpgI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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If you have read the Count of Monte Cristo, you obviously don’t need me to give an overview of the plot, if you haven’t then what the hell are you doing reading reviews on this book? Go and read the original. Now. It’s amazing and you will not appreciate this book or the story unless you have read it. And not the abridged version, the whole 1300 page monster.

The Count of Monte Cristo is easily my favourite classic novel – perhaps even favourite book in general – of all time. I read it for the first time at the end of last year and fell in love with it. I was just sad I was unlikely to have the time to read it again anytime soon because, as I’ve said it’s a monster of a book and really I think everything in it is important to the story – at least in prose form.

I have read a few other Manga Classics as a way to almost experience the classics in a consolidated way, and also out of curiosity as to how they will be depicted. Generally, I have liked them all and this was no exception as it allowed me to experience the story in only 400 beautifully illustrated pages. The way the characters were depicted was brilliant and I love how this team adapts classic stories to the manga style. That being said, being only 400 pages it does gloss over large portions of the book – Edmond’s time in prison for example and the majority of Heloise de Villefort’s whole scheming, treacherous arc. I understand why this is done but if you have not read the original, and don’t know how to fill in the blanks, it loses something.

Either way, it’s impressive how concisely they cut it down, and I also think it’s clever how they changed the perspective slightly so that some of the ‘insider info’ or dramatic irony that the reader experiences in the novel is removed and then revealed with more suspenseful way, like an unravelling mystery, in this adaption.

I will most definitely be adding this to my hard copy collection, along with Pride and Prejudice.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton – Book Review

23197837I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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At the start of the book as the concept was revealed the idea really struck something with me but I knew because it was such an important issue that if it wasn’t dealt with well in the book it could easily send a harmful message. Going in I was really hoping that the Belles – who bring beauty to the kingdom of Orléans with their magical arcana – would somehow convey a message about true beauty being within or something whilst also beating their villains and saving the day and so on. I really hoped this because the world, whilst a beautiful idea just seemed as though that was the message it was needing.

Maybe they’ll tackle that in the next one, who knows, but for the moment the books resounding message is: ‘Society is way too concerned with physical beauty and will go to deadly lengths for it.’

And?

I had really high hopes for this book since I first heard about it in a tweet by Rick Riordan (https://twitter.com/camphalfblood/sta…) and heard many good things. I don’t disagree with Rick, it is certainly a brand new idea and world that will definitely take off in the YA genre, but the whole book just felt like an orange: the last 100/150 pages were really great, but I wasn’t sure the hassle of getting into it had been gratified.

I did generally enjoy it, the world was a brilliant idea I personally have never come across. The heroine was relatable I’d say, as were her relationships with her sisters and the rivalry caused between them by the choice of the favourite. I especially loved the fall out afterward because it rang so true because that is just how 16-year-old girls react in competition and if it had gone any differently I’d have probably put the book down there and then.

[Minor spoilers ahead: but doesn’t really give away plot points, just hints at a few]

My only issues were that I saw the betrayal coming a mile away and it annoyed me the otherwise intelligent heroine didn’t: I can’t decide whether this showed poor character development or was just representing the love-triggered blindness. I got a strong Chaol/Dorian/Aelin vibe from the start and I was pretty much right I think though it is going to happen in the next one I’d assume.
I also struggled with the description at the start, the incessant food similes made me hungry and I was kind of sick of the word ‘Belle’ by the 200-page mark.

I will likely read the next installment as I loved Edel so much and want to see how it pans out because the cliff-hanger was pretty great, if cruel.