I’ve been sitting on this one for such a long time but here it is, 'The Breakfast Club meets Guardians of the Galaxy in this YA sci-fi adventure' – check out my review of The Disasters by M. K. England

The Breakfast Club Meets Guardians Of The Galaxy In This YA Sci-Fi Adventure

I’ve been sitting on this one for such a long time but here it is, 'The Breakfast Club meets Guardians of the Galaxy in this YA sci-fi adventure' – check out my review of The Disasters by M. K. England
Click on cover for the book’s description.

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The Disasters reminds me a lot of this Sci-Fi show I love called Dark Matter, except not as dark. Complete with a heist, high stakes and a band of misfits with their own stories and motives this book makes good on the promise of a YA sci-fi adventure.

The world building is great, as it actually feels like our world but a 100 years in the future. What particularly stayed with me was this sense of despair England creates, throughout most of the book I was compelled to read simply because I did not know what they were going to do. As the story unravelled it never felt unrealistic because they just used the skills they had in the best way they could. I liked that the romance arc(s) didn’t take over the narrative and the action was the main focus, but they did bug me a little (see later on).

The characters do seem to warm to each other fairly quickly, too quickly really; I would have enjoyed a touch more conflict. The book is quite short and whilst that adds to the suspense and great pacing, I think it would have benefited from a teensy bit more exploration into the characters themselves.

The crew of the Swift Kick is very diverse ensconcing characters that are homosexual, bisexual, mixed race, transgender, and from different religious backgrounds and the way they accept each other so readily, given the fact that in this world those differences are less of a point of conflict and discrimination but (mostly) accepted as they should be, was really refreshing to read.

There was a bit of swearing which to me didn’t feel excessive but it might to some. The only area of content I find a little problematic is the indecisiveness Nax experiences in his vague love triangle. In the very least it felt a little … juvenile and forced? It just felt that it’s only purposes were to give the illusion of friction where there was none and to validate Nax’s bisexuality, which was unnecessary.

Overall really fun and I really liked it but to be honest this will probably lose a star if there is a sequel as I think it’s stronger as a standalone – you know, unless the sequel is amazing. It would also make a good movie. I’d recommend it to any YA fan looking for some light sci-fi to intro them to the genre.

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

I’ve been sitting on this one for such a long time but here it is, 'The Breakfast Club meets Guardians of the Galaxy in this YA sci-fi adventure' – check out my review of The Disasters by M. K. EnglandI’ve been sitting on this one for such a long time but here it is, 'The Breakfast Club meets Guardians of the Galaxy in this YA sci-fi adventure' – check out my review of The Disasters by M. K. England

 

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.

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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.