• The Space Between Worlds – Micaiah Johnson

    The Space Between Worlds is a book in which the multiverse has been discovered, and travel between worlds is possible. At least if the you in that world is dead. And of the 380 that have been discovered, Cara is dead in all but 8… So she has been recruited to traverse the worlds and in turn learn about the universe.

    Many thanks to Hodder and Netgalley for the eARC. All opinions are my own.

    STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶

    PUBLICATION DATE: 04/08/20

    SUMMARY: Of the 380 realities that have been unlocked, Cara is dead in all but 8.
    Cara’s parallel selves are exceptionally good at dying – from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun – which makes Cara wary, and valuable. Because while multiverse travel is possible, no one can visit a world in which their counterpart is still alive. And no one has fewer counterparts than Cara.

    But then one of her eight doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, and Cara is plunged into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and future in ways she never could have imagined – and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her earth, but the entire multiverse. (from Hodder)

    OPINIONS: The Space Between Worlds sounded so good in theory, and still I kept pushing out reading it. I’m not sure what kept me from reading it for so long, but I didn’t pick it up until a few days ago, and when I did, I was disappointed by it. I expected to love it a lot more than I did. Trying to put my finger on what exactly kept me from connecting with it, I think that all aspects of the book ultimately felt too superficial. The plot was meandering and the relationships did not have enough emotional depth to them.

    There were a few rather big plot holes that ended up not being explored further – they just stood there awkwardly and made things weird. While I really enjoyed the first hundred pages or so of The Space Between Worlds, the longer I kept on reading, the more I felt like it was a very mediocre book that wasn’t right for me. However, lots of others really loved it, so it might also have been a case of me not being the right reader.

    If you want to check it out for yourself, you can find it on Goodreads here, and on Bookshop here. (affiliate link)

  • Double Review: Fable and Namesake – Adrienne Young

    I was lucky enough to get eARCs for both Fable and Namesake via NetGalley, so I thought I’d do a double/series/duology review! These books are set in a fantasy world, a group of islands, and are pirate-inspired. They also have stunning covers, especially when looked at next to each other (yes, that is the main reason why I decided to do a double review feature). Sadly the UK versions aren’t as epic..

    Many thanks to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for the eARCs and as usual, all opinions are my own.

    STAR RATING: 3.5/5 ✶ (Fable) / 4/5 ✶ (Namesake)

    PUBLICATION DATE: 01/09/20 (Fable) / 16/03/21 (Namesake)

    SYNOPSIS OF FABLE: As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

    But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

    SYNOPSIS OF NAMESAKE: With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.

    As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception, she learns that the secrets her mother took to her grave are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

    OPINIONS: Fable and Namesake feel less like a duology than like two halves of a whole. They read like one book that ended up split into two parts due to length, and organically meld into one story. Namesake picks up immediately after the end of Fable and continues Fable’s story. These books are a fun, distracting romp across the seas, keeping up the tension and a fast pace throughout. They are not deep literary novels, but great YA reads to get one’s mind off the real world in the current climate – I raced through both of them and if I had them at the same time, I would probably have binged the series.

    Fable is pretty much your average YA heroine. Beautiful, smart, with an unusual power and in a precarious situation at the start – oh, and a heir. Fable and Namesake are not hugely inventive books or ones that avoid tropes, but to be entirely honest, for one I did not mind. I was out for entertainment, and Adrienne Young delivered. There is some character depth, but I feel like this series isn’t as strong as Young’s previous work. Much of what happens between characters is predictable, but that makes the books comforting to read in their way.

    I really enjoyed reading Fable and Namesake and would recommend them to anyone looking to escape the real world for a while. Add them to your Goodreads (Fable and Namesake) and order them via Bookshop (Fable, affiliate link) or Blackwell’s (Namesake).

  • The Tower of Fools – Andrzej Sapkowski

    Arguably, The Witcher has been one of the biggest SFF franchises in recent years after Game of Thrones. And now it’s author is back with a new series – or shall we say, a new old series. The Tower of Fools was originally published in Polish in 2003 but is now being translated into English for the very first time. Much less a fantasy world than Sapkowski’s other world, this is set in a late Medieval Europe, referring historical movements such as the Hussites and the Wycliffites.

    Many thanks to Will O’Mullane and Gollancz for sending along a review copy. All opinions are my own.

    STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶

    PUBLICATION DATE: 27/10/20

    SYNOPSIS: Reinmar of Bielawa, sometimes known as Reynevan, is a doctor, a magician and, according to some, a charlatan.

    Discovered in bed with the wife of a high-born knight, he must flee his normal life. But his journeys will lead him into a part of Europe which will be overtaken by chaos. Religious tension between Hussite and Catholic countries is threatening to turn into war.

    Pursued not only by the affronted Stercza brothers, bent on vengeance, but also by the Holy Inquisition, and with strange, mystical forces gathering in the shadows, Reynevan finds himself in the Narrenturm, the Tower of Fools. The Tower is an asylum for the mad, or for those who dare to think differently and challenge the prevailing order. The ‘patients’ of this institution form a gallery of colourful types including the young Copernicus, proclaiming the truth of his heliocentric solar system.

    But can Reynevan escape the Tower, and avoid being drawn in to the conflict around him, without losing his own mind? (from Gollancz)

    OPINIONS: In a nutshell, The Tower of Fools could probably be most closely compared to Baudolino by Umberto Eco in it’s meandering style and detached narration, crossed with George R. R. Martin’s predilection for grittiness and sexual content. However, I expected The Tower of Fools to be very much a 2020 book in terms of content and sensibilities, not realising when I originally picked it up that it was actually written nearly two decades ago. And that is definitely something that shows in the book itself.

    It felt like the major emphasis of the book was laid on atmosphere and descriptions rather than a coherent plot or deeply developed characters. Not having read the Witcher books myself, I’m not sure how The Tower of Fools compares, but I do see how the world and characters here again would lend themselves to game adaptation at the very least. It is a detailed, visual world, at times even overly descriptive to the detriment of a streamlined reading experience.

    What I did enjoy about The Tower of Fools were the historical descriptions, the details about the religious movements in a period of upheaval. I felt that the atmosphere of that came through well. Nevertheless, I think I would have enjoyed my reading experience more if the characters were more nuanced, if there had been more complex female characters, especially ones that were not objectivised. Sadly, Reynevan, the main character, considers women as pleasure objects more than anything else, so there was not much opportunity for women to appear as more than side notes to the story.

    So, all in all, quite a mixed bag for me personally, and I don’t think I will continue with the trilogy. Nevertheless, you can find The Tower of Fools on Goodreads here, and on Bookshop here. (affiliate link)

  • Bone Harvest – James Brogden

    Bone book! Though not the bone book that has the Discord served obsessed… Bone Harvest is a horror thriller about an ancient Celtic deity, Moccus, and his followers. Moccus returns every twenty-six years, and has to be fed with sacrifices… And in 2020, both his followers and the way the worship have changed. Dennie Keeling, a lonely old woman, ends up almost single-handedly fighting against the coming threat…

    YOU SHALL REAP WHAT YOU SOW

    Many thanks to Sarah Mather and Titan Books for sending me a review copy of Bone Harvest. All opinions are my own.

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    PUBLICATION DATE: 17/11/20

    SUMMARY: Struggling with the effects of early-onset dementia, Dennie Keeling now leads a quiet life. Her husband is dead, her children are grown, and her best friend, Sarah, was convicted of murdering her abusive husband. After Sarah’s tragic death in prison, Dennie has found solace in her allotment, and all she wants is to be left to tend it in peace.

    Life remains quiet for twelve years, until three strangers take on a nearby plot and Dennie starts to notice unnatural things. Shadowy figures prowl at night; plants flower well before their time. And then Sarah appears, bringing dire warnings and vanishing after daubing symbols on the walls in Dennie’s own blood. Dennie soon realises that she is face to face with an ancient evil – but with her dementia steadily growing worse, who is going to believe her? (from Titan Books)

    OPINIONS: Bone Harvest is a compelling story about a little known Celtic deity. I found the religion/cult aspect around Moccus fascinating, and would probably consider that my favourite aspect of the book. As a whole, it was quite different to what I was expecting from the blurb, especially since Dennie’s story doesn’t start until a good hundred pages into the book. I really enjoyed my read though, as it also was something other than what I have been reading recently and it brought welcome change.

    While the cult of Moccus is a bloodthirsty cult and there is a fair share of gore, most of the horror is really down to psychological suspense. The boundaries between reality and imagination become murky in this story, especially combined with Dennie’s early-onset dementia. The characters are pretty much all morally very gray to clearly on the side of evil, which makes for interesting reading. I think there is not a single character who is morally blameless in the whole book.

    I do feel like the book could have been a bit tighter, maybe cut down a bit on some of the slower bits to enhance tension and speed up the pacing, but all in all it was a solid read. If your appetite has been whet, you can find Bone Harvest on Goodreads here, and on Bookshop here. (affiliate link)

  • December Hype Post!

    This one is going to be a relatively short one, as there aren’t as many books coming out now that it’s the end of the year. But yay, I did manage to get through a whole year of hype posts, and I have a huge 2021 one that I’m working on.

    The first book on my December list comes out on the very first of the month, King of the Rising by Kacen Callender. I’m going to be on the Caffeine Tours blog tour for this in early December, so look forward to reading my review then. This is the sequel to Queen of the Conquered, and promises even more revolution. I can’t wait to dive in! The first book also just won a World Fantasy Award, which I think might be a first for a trans author of colour – and it’s well deserved! Order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).

    Also out on the first of December is A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha. This is the last medieval retelling to be published this year. Based on Portugese legend, AND sapphic, this is the story of a princess who turns food into flowers and girl trapped by magical binds. Forbidden love, fairytale vibes… This book sounds like it will be amazing and I can’t wait to get a copy. Order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).

    Last for this year is A Universe of Wishes, an anthology of short stories by We Need Diverse Books, edited by Dhonielle Clayton. I’m a sucker for a good anthology, and this one has a stellar line-up. Stories I’m especially excited for are V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic short and the one by Anna-Marie McLemore – I just adore their writing. Other authors include Zoraida Cordova and Tochi Onyebuchi and many more. I have a special edition coming for Christmas, so I’m hoping to spend the holidays curled up with this book and a mug of tea or hot chocolate. This one is out on the eighth of December. Order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).

  • This is Not a Ghost Story – Andrea Portes

    This is Not a Ghost Story is a haunting tale, one where you don’t really know where up and down are or what is going on. You most definitely don’t know what is real and what isn’t and that is what makes it’s charm. However, there were some twists that took me aback which make me unsure how to rate this book. Hence, I am not going to give this one a star rating, just a written review.

    Massive thanks to Harper360YA for sending me an ARC of This is Not a Ghost Story in exchange for a honest review. As usual, all opinions are my own.

    PUBLICATION DATE: 17/11/20

    SUMMARY: I am not welcome. Somehow I know that. Something doesn’t want me here.

    Daffodil Franklin has plans for a quiet summer before her freshman year at college, and luckily, she’s found the job that can give her just that: housesitting a mansion for a wealthy couple.

    But as the summer progresses and shadows lengthen, Daffodil comes to realize the house is more than it appears. The spacious home seems to close in on her, and as she takes the long road into town, she feels eyes on her the entire way, and something tugging her back.

    What Daffodil doesn’t yet realize is that her job comes with a steep price. The house has a long-ago grudge it needs to settle . . . and Daffodil is the key to settling it. (from Harper Teen)

    OPINIONS: Ever since finishing This is Not a Ghost Story a couple of days ago I’ve been trying to figure out how I feel about it. I thought I knew what to write for most of the way through the book, and then the ending made me feel a completely different way about the story. I think I disagree with some of the fundamental messages that the ending itself sends, while I really enjoyed most of the book.

    For the most part, This is Not a Ghost Story is a book about Daffodil, staying in a small town in the middle of nowhere, looking after a house. Except that a load of unexplainable things happen and you as a reader are captivated trying to figure out along with Daffodil whether something supernatural is going on or whether she is going crazy. This makes the book compelling and easy to read in a single sitting.

    However, and this is where it might get a bit spoilery, so feel free to ignore this paragraph, the way the story resolved included some morals that I just don’t think I can go along with. The way love is portrayed as all-powerful and the ending is seen as rather positive keeps bugging me because I completely disagree. To me, it was upsetting, and I’m not sure if I would recommend the book to teens. As I said in the beginning, I haven’t been able to really pinpoint my feelings towards This is Not a Ghost Story ever since I finished reading it. It’s an odd one for sure, and it doesn’t help that I loved it for about 95% of the way.

    If you want to have a read for yourself, you can add it to your Goodreads here, and pre-order a copy via Bookshop here. (affiliate link)

  • The Ravens – Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige

    Here it is, my first review for a book out in 2021 (I think!). I’m so glad that this year is almost over and I thoroughly hope for a quiet 2021. But The Ravens starts the year off with a bang, and if this is anything to go off, we’re in for a great year reading-wise. Situating itself in that very top end of YA that really should be New Adult, The Ravens is a college-set mystery about a sorority of witches. And if that isn’t the ultimate temptation for guilty pleasure reading, I don’t know what is – and it’s also a fantastic book!

    Many thanks to Kate Keehan and Hodder for the eARC of this wonderful novel, and as usual, all opinions are my own.

    STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶

    PUBLICATION DATE: 05/01/21

    SUMMARY: At first glance, the sisters of ultra-exclusive Kappa Rho Nu – the Ravens – seem like typical sorority girls. Ambitious, beautiful, and smart, they’re the most powerful girls on Westerly College’s Savannah, Georgia, campus. But the Ravens aren’t just regular sorority girls. They’re witches.

    Scarlett Winter has always known she’s a witch – and she’s determined to be the sorority’s president. But if a painful secret from her past ever comes to light, she could lose absolutely everything…

    Vivi Devereaux has no idea she’s a witch. So when she gets a coveted bid to pledge the Ravens, she vows to do whatever it takes to be part of the magical sisterhood. The only thing standing in her way is Scarlett, who doesn’t think Vivi is Ravens material.

    But when a dark power rises on campus, the girls will have to put their rivalry aside to save their fellow sisters. Someone has discovered the Ravens’ secret. And that someone will do anything to see these witches burn . . . (from Hodder)

    OPINIONS: I loved loved loved The Ravens. I stayed up late and read the whole book in a single sitting as the story was so captivating I simply needed to know how it ended. I think part of what I enjoyed was that it featured the university experience rather than the high school experience of much of YA, which again, feeds in the need for the industry to lean into a New Adult category. The characters were just this tad more adult in the crossover space, dealing with issues in a different way that how YA readers might be used to.

    Another of my favourite aspects was the way the world was built around a magic based on tarot cards. And I’m kind of obsessed with tarot cards right now, so that’s right up my alley. In this world, every girl has the potential to be a witch, some stronger, and some less so, and those that end up in Kappa Rho Nu definitely have magic.

    The Ravens is a story of magic, sisterhood, but also betrayal and the corruption caused by too much power. It is well-written, excellently paced and lives up to the expectations raised by the concept. I highly recommend picking up this wonderful book for a night of escapism. Although: trigger warning for a parent with terminal cancer, as that might be hard for some readers to stomach.

    If you want to join Kappa Rho Nu yourself, you can do so on Goodreads here, and copies of The Ravens are available on Bookshop here. (Affiliate link)

  • Number 10 Blog Tour – C.J. Daugherty

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    Today I’m excited to welcome you onto my stop on the blog tour for Number 10 by C.J. Daugherty. This Gossip Girl meets Russian spies meets murder mystery is intriguing and entertaining – not least for all the entertainment the name Gray caused in the Discord server (shoutout to the Fantasy Inn Discord!). Set in the eponymous Number 10, Downing Street, the British PM’s teenage daughter works with her friends to try and save her mother from an assassination attempt…

    There is also a fancy book trailer, which I’ve embedded below, premiering today for the book’s release, check it out!

    Massive thanks to Midas PR and Moonflower Books for inviting me to the tour and sending me an ARC of Number 10. All opinions are my own.

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    PUBLICATION DATE: 10/11/20

    SUMMARY: Gray Langtry’s mum is the UK’s prime minister. Gray just wants life to go back to normal – no more bodyguards, no more paparazzi, just being a teenager. But when a wild night out is spread on the tabloids, she is grounded at Number 10. Exploring to pass the time, she finds underground tunnels leading her to the government buildings, where she overhears details of a plot against her mother. She is determined to prevent this from succeeding. There’s just the tiny problem that she doesn’t have any proof and time is running out…

    OPINIONS: I thoroughly enjoyed Number 10. Probably more than I was expecting to, to be honest. It was exactly the kind of political-themed relief I needed after a week of worrying about real-world politics. More than anything it reminded me of a thoroughly British version of Gossip Girl, with less teenage bickering and more actual intrigue to solve. And I adored that back when I was a teen myself.

    While Number 10 does rely on a number of tropes, the characters are well-realised teens that come with their share of issues and flaws. It is a well-written book, compelling throughout and clearly written straight for the intended audience. I did think the coincidence of Jake being who he is and being the exact same age as Gray was a bit much, but so is fiction. I really liked Gray’s best friend, Chloe, as well. The adult characters were not quite as fleshed out, and would have benefited from some additional scenes – the book is quite short at just about 250 pages, so there would have been scope for a bit more detail.

    I could see Number 10 working well as a TV series adaptation, it is that kind of book. It is not a deep intellectual read, but compelling and fun, entertaining, with charismatic leads. If you are intrigued, add Number 10 to your Goodreads here, and order a copy via Amazon here.

  • These Violent Delights – Chloe Gong

    Um, I’m a huge Shakespeare nerd. And a few years ago, my best friend whisked me away on an adventure to the magical city of Shanghai. So, These Violent Delights is right up my alley combining some of my favourite things, and you can bet I begged my ass off to receive a review copy. I’ve read it twice already and it’s not even out yet – that’s how much I love it.

    Massive thanks to Kate Keehan and Hodder for sending me an ARC. As usual, all opinions are my own.

    STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶

    PUBLICATION DATE: 17/11/20

    SUMMARY: The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

    A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang-a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love . . . and first betrayal.

    But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns-and grudges-aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule. (from Hodder)

    OPINIONS: This is so good. It is the most amazing debut novel and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Except maybe make it queerer, but a girl can’t have everything. It takes the best parts of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and turns them into its very own better version. The characters are nuanced and smart, flawed and growing, full of wishes and goals, striving towards their future.

    The central romance between Juliette and Roma is slow burning and believable, hinging on the past and dealing with its fair share of issues, rather than falling into the tropes of insta-love that the original depends on. This is just one of the ways in which Chloe Gong has managed to improve on the Bard’s work. These Violent Delights is full of tension and feeling, not letting the reader catch their breath throughout the story. Its pacing is excellent, showing not only the author’s talent, but outstanding editing as well.

    Additionally I loved the setting in colonial Shanghai. Recognising places from my own visit evoked a sense of nostalgia, while the book itself subtly addressed issues of colonialist ideology and landscape making the reader consider issues they might not have encountered before. These Violent Delights is many-layered and the reader discovers a new thread running through the story on each read.

    I highly recommend These Violent Delights to anyone who has the slightest inclination towards YA and the various subgenres it addresses. Chloe Gong really is an author to watch and I can’t wait to keep reading her work. Add the book to your Goodreads here, and order a copy via Bookshop here! (I get a tiny commission from orders through the link, allowing me to keep up the site)

  • Ruinsong – Julia Ember

    So, I’m massively struggling to actually finish and review books right now, hence the slow pace on here… But my self-isolation is finally over and the election limbo in the US seems to have dissolved positively, which means I’m giving this a shot! Ruinsong is a queer YA fantasy with a unique take on magic and a revolutionary bend, so perfect for the current climate.

    Thank you to FSG and Netgalley for providing me with an eARC of Ruinsong. All opinions are my own.

    STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶

    PUBLICATION DATE: 24/11/20

    SUMMARY: In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence has been forced to torture her country’s disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen’s bidding.

    But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself. (From Farrar, Strauss and Giroux)

    OPINIONS: Ruinsong has one of the most exciting and unique concepts of magic in YA right now. Magic is expressed through music, but is connected to both innate talent and craft – sort of like opera singing. While it can be used for good such as healing, it is most often used for purposes of oppression by the regime and heavily regulated. Mixed in with this is a slow (and I mean, slowest) burn wlw romance between two old friends who reconnect in the worst of circumstances.

    However, knowing that this was a wlw fantasy, I expected more on this front. I knew it was coming, but I only saw a couple of hints throughout the book before things happened, and I was hoping for more tension and chemistry. I generally felt that the pacing in Ruinsong did not quite work for me. It took almost half the book to get the story going properly, and major events happened very quickly in the last twenty percent or so. I would have preferred if the pacing was quicker in the beginning, leaving more space in the second half for character and plot development.

    It generally feels like I was intrigued by the concept of Ruinsong more than by its ultimate execution. I’m very glad that I got to read it, but I don’t think that I will be returning to it. For me personally, it seems that there could have been more made out of the elements in the story, but I am curious to see what Julia Ember comes up with next and to see how her craft develops in future.

    If you would like to follow the siren song of Ruinsong for yourself, add it to your Goodreads here, and pre-order it from Bookshop here (I get a tiny commission allowing me to keep up the site if you order through the link).