• November Hype Post!

    And it’s already time for another hype post! I can’t believe how fast time has been flying by… In my mind it’s still just been spring and now it’s almost November and I’ve been doing these posts for almost a year. Once again, so many wonderful books coming out that it is hard to choose just a handful to highlight!

    First of all, I CANNOT WAIT for you all to get your hands on These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong. This book has been so hyped, but damn, it lives up to it. I’ve read it, and my full review will be up soon. Out on the 17th of November in both the UK and the US, this is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, set in Shanghai, but so much better. It is amazing, addictive and takes you to one of the most magical places I have ever been. Chloe Gong is an author to watch, and you NEED These Violent Delights in your life. Pre-order a copy from Waterstones here.

    Then, the sequel to one of my favourite Arthurian reinterpretations is being released: Kiersten White’s The Camelot Betrayal. Her scheming Guinevere is back on the 10th, with more intrigue. I personally can’t wait to read what happens next (and I’m still mortally offended that I never got a reply to my request for a proof, sadly). One of my favourite things about this version is that Lancelot is a female knight, making me hope for a sapphic romance… Kiersten PLEASE?! I WILL NOT GIVE UP HOPE! In any case, you can pre-order your very own copy via Blackwell’s.

    Next on my list is the ever fabulous Rin Chupeco and their newest book, The Ever Cruel Kingdom. This is the sequel to last year’s amazing The Never Tilting World (reviewed here). Featuring a tidally locked planet, amazingly crafted relationships, disability both physical and mental, as well as LGBTQ characters and Mesapotamian mythology. I can’t wait to read how this story continues and dive back into this world. This is out on the 10th too, and you can order a copy from Book Depository here.

    I’ll keep it short and sweet this month – and I hope you’ll choose to support one or more of these authors!

  • Kingdom of the Wicked – Kerri Maniscalco

    And spooky season continues with Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco! After having made a name for herself with the Stalking Jack the Ripper series featuring forensic science enthusiast Audrey Rose, this is the first volume in a new series for Maniscalco. Set in a pre-industrial Sicily, Kingdom of the Wicked is the story of the stregha Emilia, murder, witches, demons and lots of delicious Mediterranean food.

    Many thanks to Kate Keehan and Hodder for the eARC! All opinions are my own.

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    RELEASE DATE: 27/10/2020

    Kingdom of the Wicked (Kingdom of the Wicked, #1)

    SUMMARY: Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin… desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost – even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

    Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked – princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems… (from Hodder)

    OPINIONS: Kingdom of the Wicked has an incredibly compelling opening. It is a story that gets you stuck in from the start, and by the time things slow down you’re so invested that you don’t really want to stop reading. The concept is pretty amazing, combining a murder mystery with witches and demons together with telling the story closely from Emilia’s point of view. I can honestly say that I ended up being pretty surprised by some of the twists! However, the pacing throughout is not always consistent and the story does drag at some points.

    There were moments when I felt like I was reading two different books, one that lived up to the concept, and one that fell victim to the clichés of YA, focusing more on the will-they-won’t-they aspect of the relationship between Emilia and Wrath than anything else – which felt more like a trope than something organic. Tension yes, but actually giving in to and making it into something properly romantic it felt like ticking a box required for YA fantasy. Other parts I loved – apart from the world of the streghe I really enjoyed the prevalence of food in the novel. Maniscalco’s descriptions of Emilia’s cooking are mouthwatering and I’m very tempted to try to recreate some of them for myself!

    If you’re intrigued by this delicious book, add it on Goodreads here, or pre-order a copy from Waterstones here!

  • A Golden Fury Blog Tour – Samantha Cohoe

    Today, I bring you A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe! A YA novel about alchemy set between just about pre-revolutionary France and England, featuring heroine Thea Hope. Give me smart girls, talk of the Philosopher’s Stone and a romp through Europe and I can’t resist picking up the book. What can I say, I’m a simple girl!

    Funnily enough I forgot to download my eARC while I was handing in my dissertation, which I didn’t realise until a couple of days ago. Silly me – of course that meant it was already archived… So I ran to get myself the audio book and listen to that as much as I could to finish in time!

    Many thanks to Megan Harrington and Wednesday Books for the invitation to the blog tour!

    STAR RATING: 3.5/5 ✶

    RELEASE DATE: 13/10/2020

    SUMMARY: Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.

    While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists. But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die. (from Wednesday Books)

    OPINIONS: So I absolutely love the concept behind A Golden Fury. And there are many things that work brilliantly – tense family dynamics, secrecy, and Thea is captured poignantly as a teenager towards the end of puberty, dangerously close to hubris as many adolescents are, especially ones that are convinced of their own brightness and capability. However, as a whole, A Golden Fury did not come together a hundred percent for me and spent too much time dropping into what I would consider standard YA tendencies to truly stand out in the market.

    I’m not sure whether I actually like Thea or not, but she certainly is a good character. She undergoes quite a journey over the course of the story and grows up a lot. Much of her behaviour can be attributed to being a teenager, one who thinks she is now an adult but has never had to fend for herself before and thus has not realised that she is very much still a child in the ways that matter. It was great to read about her struggles and see this reflected in the decisions she has to make over the course of the novel.

    However, I felt like many of the secondary characters were not as fleshed out and mainly existed to drive the story forward rather than as characters in their own right. Similarly, I felt that the system of alchemy could have been given more space, especially the concept of different schools/cultures of knowledge that was hinted at but not explored. I felt like the actual alchemy part of A Golden Fury was too easy for how big of a symbolism the Philosopher’s Stone has.

    I did enjoy A Golden Fury, but I don’t think it will join my shelf of favourites any time soon. It is nevertheless an entertaining read, interesting for fans of books such as Fawkes or The Witch Hunter. Find A Golden Fury on Goodreads here, or order a copy from Book Depository here!

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Samantha Cohoe writes historically-inspired young adult fantasy. She was raised in San Luis Obispo, California, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood of beach trips, omnivorous reading, and writing stories brimming with adverbs. She currently lives in Denver with her family and divides her time among teaching Latin, mothering, writing, reading, and
    deleting adverbs. A Golden Fury is her debut novel.

    You can find her on Twitter at @smcohoe and Instagram at @samanthacohoe!

  • The Midnight Bargain – C. L. Polk

    This is the year feminist witches are taking over fantasy! This week alone has seen not only the publication of the excellent The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow (see my review here) but also of The Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk. Discussing similar questions of women and independence, these books however take an utterly different approach: where The Once and Future Witches is all revolution, The Midnight Bargain is a softer book, focussing more on the individual impact of magic and romance.

    I received an eARC of The Midnight Bargain via NetGalley, but all opinions are my own. Many thanks to NetGalley and Erewhon Books!

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    RELEASE DATE: 13/10/2020

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    SUMMARY: Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.

    In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.

    The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken? (from Erewhon Books)

    OPINIONS: So, this took me a little bit to actually get into, but as soon as I did, I could not stop reading. C. L. Polk’s writing is utterly addictive, the world she builds is delicious with detail (although, as a woman who decidedly can not keep quiet and would very likely learn magic, I do not want to visit). If I had to compare it to anything, it reminds me of Mary Robinette Kowal’s early books, though it’s been a few years. As this is the first of Polk’s books that I’ve read, I very much want to go and read the rest now!

    The characters are just as well-crafted. With a book such as The Midnight Bargain, it would be easy enough to present Beatrice and her companions as archetypes, falling into tropes of traditional romance. However, Polk manages to craft them into multi-dimensional, flawed, determined characters – well, except maybe for a certain so-called gentleman, where I really can not see any ulterior considerations other than selfishness. They are a joy to read, suffer and worry with, and it is such a relief for the book to come to a satisfying conclusion as is demanded by the genre (despite everything, it is still romantic fantasy).

    All in all, I really enjoyed The Midnight Bargain and would highly recommend it. I don’t think it’ll quite make my list of all-time favourites, but I think its likely that I’ll reread it as a comfort read. It is the perfect kind of book to curl up with on a cold autumn night, with a cup of tea… Add it to your Goodreads here, and order a copy from Waterstones here!

  • Dracula’s Child – J. S. Barnes

    This year, I’m truly embracing spooky season. Dracula’s Child by J. S. Barnes is a sort of sequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, set a number of years after the original. Being a sucker for a good vampire story, I just could not resist the offer to review this modern take on one of the most classic iterations of the genre.

    Many thanks to Sarah Mather and Titan Books for sending me a review copy of Dracula’s Child. As always, any opinions expressed are entirely my own.

    STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶

    RELEASE DATE: 22/09/2020

    SUMMARY: It has been some years since Jonathan and Mina Harker survived their ordeal in Transylvania and, vanquishing Count Dracula, returned to England to try and live ordinary lives.

    But shadows linger long in this world of blood feud and superstition – and, the older their son Quincey gets, the deeper the shadows that lengthen at the heart of the Harkers’ marriage. Jonathan has turned back to drink; Mina finds herself isolated inside the confines of her own family; Quincey himself struggles to live up to a family of such high renown.

    And when a gathering of old friends leads to unexpected tragedy, the very particular wounds in the heart of the Harkers’ marriage are about to be exposed…

    There is darkness both within the marriage and without – for new evil is arising on the Continent. A naturalist is bringing a new species of bat back to London; two English gentlemen, on their separate tours of the Continent, find a strange quixotic love for each other, and stumble into a calamity far worse than either has imagined; and the vestiges of something forgotten long ago is finally beginning to stir… (from Titan Books)

    OPINIONS: Just like the original Dracula, Dracula’s Child is an epistolary novel in format, which means that its nature is fragmentary. The story is composed of diary entries, letters, newspaper clippings and more coming from a number of different perspectives, rather than being told in a straight-forward manner, while still presenting an edited narrative. I have to say, it is not my favourite manner of story-telling. I prefer a compelling, continuous writing style as I find that much more immersive – it took me almost two-thirds through Dracula’s Child to put the different plot lines together and figure out what was going on, and I think that was partially due to the form of the novel. Now, that is not a bad thing in itself, and I can see that working well for many readers. However, it kept me from fully enjoying myself as every time I felt I was starting to get invested in one of the strands, the book swerved onto one of the unconnected strands for a while and I ended up putting the book aside again.

    While we do learn quite a lot about some of the characters due to the nature of their diary entries, for example, I still felt rather disconnected from them. There were a number of them that I thought would make for interesting characters, were they more fleshed out, such as Ruby, or Dr. Seward, or even Caroline, but the way they were presented in the narrative, the reader does not see much in terms of character development or depth from most of the characters. They report rather than analyse, and the editorial selection of the entries is made in a rather clinical way.

    All in all, Dracula’s Child is an interesting read, and certainly a worthy sequel to the original Dracula. However, as a novel on its own merit, I think the same story would have profited from a different format allowing for more depth in story-telling and characterisation. It is clearly focused on imitating the original, at times to the detriment of its standing as a modern novel. Nevertheless, if you are intrigued, you can find Dracula’s Child on Goodreads here, and order a signed copy from Forbidden Planet here!

  • The Hungry Ghost Blog Tour – H. S. Norup

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    Children’s books are the best books! At the very least on days you hand in your dissertations and just want to read a great, immersive novel. They’re also pretty great on other days. Really, we so-called grown-ups should spend more time reading them in general. And The Hungry Ghost by H. S. Norup is definitely one to keep an eye out for. Emotional, gripping and featuring a girl who does not take no for an answer, it is a book both kids and adults will enjoy.

    Many thanks to Poppy Stimpson and Pushkin Press for having me on the blog tour for The Hungry Ghost and for providing me with an advance review copy of the book! All opinions are my own.

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    RELEASE DATE: 24/09/2020

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    SUMMARY: Freja arrives in Singapore during the month of the hungry ghost, when old spirits are said to roam the streets. She’s struggling to settle into her dad’s new, ‘happy’ family, and dreams only of escaping home and leaving this hot, unfamiliar city.

    Then one night, a mysterious girl in a white dress appears in the garden. Freja follows this figure to lush, secretive corners of the city, seeking to understand the girl’s identity. Her search will lead her to an old family mystery – one that must be unravelled before the month is over, to allow both girls to be freed from the secrets of the past. (from Pushkin Press)

    OPINIONS: So, I just raced through The Hungry Ghost. I could not put it down. Although I found Freja’s character equally frustrating and endearing, her story is compelling, and the mystery around her and Ling is incredibly suspenseful. Freja is the kind of girl who doesn’t take no for an answer, is outdoor-savy, but still manages to navigate her way around Singapore decently well after growing up in Denmark. It just felt like she was doing too well in this very foreign environment while also adjusting to the rest of her new life – I remember how overwhelming Singapore was to me when I visited a few years ago…

    Other than that, I thought the cultural setting was well done from the perspective of a foreigner – both as a reader, and as the main character is a foreigner experiencing Singapore. I enjoyed learning more about the idea of the hungry ghosts, and the culture surrounding them, as well as the history of Singapore. However, I do have to add that my evaluation of this might be off, as I’m European!

    One of the main issues the book deals, apart from the central theme of the hungry ghosts, is mental health and family dynamics. This is treated with nuance and respect, and struggles are presented as such without going into dramatics that pull the reader out of immersion. Without spoiling anything, issues are written from the perspective of the twelve-year old main character, and presented in a way that is realistic and logical to a child of that age, rather than seeming preachy or omniscient.

    I would definitely recommend The Hungry Ghost for both child and adult readers as there are things that both groups can get out of the story, and I think it is also the ideal kind of book for a family to read together in lockdown – imagine reading this aloud over cups of hot cocoa or tea during spooky season!

    Add The Hungry Ghost to your Goodreads here, or order a copy from Waterstones here before you encounter your very own hungry ghosts…

  • The Left-Handed Booksellers of London – Garth Nix

    I think every reader of fantasy fiction has heard of Garth Nix. He’s been writing for quite a while and spanning from middle grade to young adult to adult. He is probably most well-known for his Sabriel series – I personally have been reading his books for well over half my life. But The Left-Handed Booksellers of London is my favourite one of them all.

    Massive thanks to Will O’Mullane and Gollancz for sending me a review copy! All opinions are my own.

    STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶

    RELEASE DATE: 24/09/2020

    SUMMARY: In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley might be able to help her, but Susan doesn’t get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin.

    Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones), who with the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), are an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops.

    Susan’s search for her father begins with her mother’s possibly misremembered or misspelt surnames, a reading room ticket, and a silver cigarette case engraved with something that might be a coat of arms.

    Merlin has a quest of his own, to find the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother. As he and his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find this quest strangely overlaps with Susan’s. Who or what was her father? Susan, Merlin, and Vivien must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New. (from Gollancz)

    OPINIONS: I absolutely loved The Left-Handed Booksellers of London! It is a crossover between YA and adult fantasy – I think it’s published as YA in the US whereas Gollancz is an adult imprint. It does work in either category and is suitable for teen readers as well. And oh, how I fell in love with this world where bookish nerds are superhero types. There are right-handed booksellers, who are great at research and know a ton of obscure things, and left-handed booksellers who are great with books AND swords. So, basically, this is my ideal world. And I want to be one of them.

    Garth Nix manages to seamlessly blend British folklore with writing the loveliest, nerdiest, funniest book I’ve read. A passage I particularly enjoyed that shows this:

    “Children’s writers,” said Merlin. “Dangerous bunch. They cause us a lot of trouble.”

    “How?” asked Susan.

    “They don’t do it on purpose,” said Merlin. He opened the door. “But quite often they discover the key to raise some ancient myth, or release something that should have stayed imprisoned, and they share that knowledge via their writing. Stories aren’t always merely stories, you know. Come on.”

    So, you know, absolutely no reason not to run to the nearest bookshop and try and find a bookseller, though probably not one of the right- or left-handed ones, to sell you a copy of this amazing book. Apart from wit and humour, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London also features a great 1980s setting – which seems to be my October theme after yesterday’s review. There are also fantastic characters: feisty and artistic Susan, trying to figure out who she is, Merlin, who thinks he knows a lot but really doesn’t know half as much as he believes and does a lot of growing up, and his sister Vivien, who is right-handed but surprisingly handy in many real-life situations. And that is not mentioning all the colourful minor characters.

    You see, a treat of a book. Really, you do need a copy as soon as you can get your hands on one. Ideally from a bookseller in London. Maybe even a left-handed one if you can find one. Add The Left-Handed Booksellers of London to your Goodreads here and order yourself a copy from Waterstones here.

  • The Ghost Tree – Christina Henry

    ‘Tis the first of October, which means spooky season is officially upon us! So I’ve decided to open the month with a review of a supremely spooky, witchy book, The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry. If I’m not mistaken, this is her first completely original novel after a few novels based on retellings of classic stories such as a twisted version of Alice in Wonderland. And oh, this hits completely differently… Think Stranger Things crossed with an ancient curse meets feminism.

    Many thanks to Lydia Gittins and Titan Books for sending me a review copy! All opinions are my own.

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    RELEASE DATE: 08/09/2020

    SUMMARY: When the bodies of two girls are found torn apart in her hometown, Lauren is surprised, but she also expects that the police won’t find the killer. After all, the year before her father’s body was found with his heart missing, and since then everyone has moved on. Even her best friend, Miranda, has become more interested in boys than in spending time at the old ghost tree, the way they used to when they were kids.

    So when Lauren has a vision of a monster dragging the remains of the girls through the woods, she knows she can’t just do nothing. Not like the rest of her town. But as she draws closer to answers, she realizes that the foundation of her seemingly normal town might be rotten at the centre. And that if nobody else stands for the missing, she will. (from Titan Books)

    OPINIONS: I devoured The Ghost Tree. I think I stayed up late two nights in a row to read the book because I needed to know what happened. The story is set in the mid-1980s, giving it a bit of that Stranger Things vibe we’ve all been loving so much over the past few years, allowing for the story to develop without the interruption of things like the internet or cell phones. And that setting allows it credibility in itself. It works almost like a second-world setting, in which the story is possible.

    There are some questions that an attentive reader can figure out relatively soon – I know I had my suspicions, but that does not detract from the story as a whole. It is the story of a town, of a setting, of a curse. It is the story of a girl, a forgotten past and a potential future. It is heartbreaking, and sad, creepy and hopeful. There are no boring moments in The Ghost Tree, and it works wonderfully as a spooky autumn novel to curl up with under blankets when its dark and gloomy outside.

    So get yourself a cup of tea or a glass of whisky, depending on what you prefer, add The Ghost Tree to your Goodreads here and get yourself a copy from your dealer of choice for a delightfully creepy night in. Forbidden Planet has signed copies here!