As I’ve been working a ton, I’m once again behind with writing reviews. So I decided to do another round of mini reviews – have a read and see if there’s something that appeals to you!
I was extremely excited for The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox (Michael Joseph, February 2021). But sadly, the execution of the concept was just not for me. The story centres Taryn, a self-absorbed woman who has issues dealing with her sister’s murder. She hires a hitman to take out her killer and ends up being pulled into a supernatural threat. I found the characters superficial, and I was bored by the writing. As this promised to be a book about books, something that I usually adore, I was very frustrated throughout reading it, and would not recommend it. If you are interested, you can get a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
The Four Profound Weaves (Tachyon, 2020) by R.M. Lemberg is a wonderful novella set in the author’s acclaimed Birdverse. It has the air of a fairytale, with trans and queer characters at its centre. The story drew me in and made me cry multiple times as characters were able to just live their realities. The eponymous four profound weaves are magical ways in which the characters in this world are able to weave things (and themselves) from nature. But to vanquish an evil ruler, they have to learn how to weave from death… I really liked this novella, and I highly recommend it if you like lyrical, magical stories. Get a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
The Stranger Times by C.K. McDonnell (Bantam, 2021) reads a bit like a Terry Pratchett book transposed into a present-day setting. I loved the concept, but the execution did not work for me. The humour was too crude and there were a lot of discriminatory jokes. I feel like the setting of a newspaper focusing on the weird and supernatural could have offered itself to far better stories, but the characters frustrated me to no end and I couldn’t get over some of the comments that were made. Added to that was that the plot just tried to do everything, rather than focus on one direction and do it properly. I don’t recommend this one, but if you want to check it out yourself, you can get a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link)
The City of a Thousand Faces by Walker Dryden (Orion, 2020) is based on the world created in the podcast Tumanbay. There are a lot of elements to recommend this story, but ultimately they did not come together in a satisfying way. I really enjoyed the setting, and some of the characters were really interesting. Still, I felt like the writing and the plot was too all over the place to hold my attention. While events happened, it did not feel like the individual characters were headed anywhere. The story happened to them, rather than the POV characters moving it forward. You can get a copy of this one from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
So Rebellion sent me this quirky little novella earlier this week and 24 hours later, I had already read and loved it! I started writing this review a few days ago, and then got distracted, as usual. I had no idea what to expect with One Day All This Will Be Yours, but it exceeded any expectations that I might have had.
Many thanks to Hanna Waigh and Rebellion for sending me a review copy! All opinions are my own.
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
RELEASE DATE: 02/03/21
SUMMARY: Welcome to the end of time. It’s a perfect day.
Nobody remembers how the Causality War started. Really, there’s no-one to remember, and nothing for them to remember if there were; that’s sort of the point. We were time warriors, and we broke time.
I was the one who ended it. Ended the fighting, tidied up the damage as much as I could.
Then I came here, to the end of it all, and gave myself a mission: to never let it happen again. (from Solaris)
OPINIONS: I haven’t laughed as much reading a book than I did reading One Day All This Will Be Yours in ages. I loved every minute of reading it. It has all my favourite things, exotic pets, time travel and oddball characters. Like, there’s a dinosaur who eats people for his owner! The narrator is a narcissistic idiot, but I loved him so much. Need to protect. He’s the last human at the end of time, killing everyone who might have invented time travel themselves in order to prevent more mass casualties in war.
Much of the book is the narrator trying to prevent a possible future he is confronted with. He is content with being the last human at the end of time and doesn’t want anything to threaten that status quo. But things don’t go quite how he planned… The book is amazingly funny and the best part is, there’s a dinosaur who eats Hitler at the end of time (this is as out of context in the book as it is here, so I don’t count it as a spoiler). I need more Adrian Tchaikovsky being comedic in my life and you do too.
This might be a slim little novella, but it packs a punch and I highly recommend it. It reminds me of a less literary This Is How You Lose the Time War, though not queer. That’s the only way this could have been improved in my opinion, though the choices make a lot of sense in context. Add One Day All This Will Be Yours to your Goodreads list here, and pre-order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
So Good Morning, Midnight was published a while ago, in 2016, but it’s been getting more traction again recently because the Netflix film Midnight Sky based on the book has just been released. I hadn’t heard of this before, so I’m very grateful to Kate Moreton and Weidenfeld & Nicholson for sending me a review copy to check out!
STAR RATING: 3.5/5 ✶
RELEASE DATE: originally 09/08/16, this edition 12/09/17
SUMMARY: There is a particular beauty in silence, in being cut off from the world. Augustine, a brilliant, ageing scientist, is consumed by the stars. He has spent his entire life searching for the origins of time itself. He has now been left alone on a remote research base in the Arctic circle, all communication with the outside world broken down. But then he discovers a mysterious child, Iris, who must have hidden herself away when the last of his colleagues departed.
Sully is a divorced mother. She is also an astronaut, currently aboard The Aether on a return flight from Jupiter. This is the culmination of her career, the very reason for all the sacrifices she has made – the daughter she left behind, the marriage she couldn’t save. When all communication goes silent, she is left wondering what she will be returning to.
Marooned in the vast silence of space and the achingly beautiful sweep of the Arctic, both Augustine and Sully begin to understand their place in the world, and what gives their life meaning. For only in the silence can we find out who we truly are. (from W&N)
OPINIONS: I really enjoyed this book, although it won’t be one of my standout favourites. Augustine is a fantastic anti-hero, a grouchy old man left to his own devices. Sully and her team of astronauts struggling to figure out why they have lost contact with Earth while in deep space are great too. Lily Brooks-Dalton manages to craft a host of multi-dimensional, flawed characters that play off each other wonderfully. Good Morning, Midnight is really a character driven novel.
There isn’t a lot of plot other than to establish the setting. It is a slow book, focused on philosophical questions, which I enjoyed. The settings, both of which are based on isolation hit home these days where we are isolated in our homes. There are some coincidences in the book (especially one major one) that just seems incredibly convenient, which did frustrate me a bit. But I liked the relatively ambiguous ending a lot. You finish not knowing how the story will end, and I think it’s a great choice to end the book where it did.
If you like bleak and thoughtful approaches to isolation and philosophical considerations about life and the world, I recommend you check out Good Morning, Midnight. Find it on Goodreads here, and order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Hello lovely readers! February is approaching fast and I’ve got my hopes up for it to be better than January. Many great books are being released – do have another look at my 2021 overview as I’m not going to talk about the same books here (find it HERE).
First of all, the lovely C.L. Polk is releasing the final book in the Kingston Cycle. Soulstar is released on the 16th, and I am very much looking forward to reading it (though I haven’t read book two, Stormsong, yet). This is the story of Robin Thorpe, a character I fell in love with the first time I met her in Witchmark. I can’t wait to read more about this feisty young lady trying to become a doctor. If you like historical romantic fantasy, you definitely need to check these books out! Order it via Blackwell’s here.
The second book on my list is A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel, which is also a Tor.com book. This is out on the 2nd. This is a sci-fi thriller, from the blurb: “A darkly satirical first contact thriller, as seen through the eyes of the women who make progress possible and the men who are determined to stop them…” It is about rocketry in the 1940s and it shows it from the perspective of Mia, whose family has been fighting to get to the stars for generations. It sounds fantastic and I want to get my hands on it ASAP. Order a copy from Blackwell’s here.
Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age by Annalee Newitz is a non-fiction history book (so TOTALLY not my thing, nope). I love Annalee Newitz’s writing so I’m really keen to read some of their non-fiction. This book centres on some urban metropoles that have since been abandoned, and looks at the reasons behind their abandonment. I was about to put this on one of my lists last year, but then the release got pushed to this February – it’s out on the 2nd as well. Based on archaeology, this sounds really interesting and I’ll definitely order it soon. Get your own copy from Blackwell’s here.
Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses intrigued me due to its approach to werewolves as a chronic illness and featuring disabled characters. However, while I loved the concept, I did not end up enjoying the book as much as I expected to. It’s an interesting format, but there were some issues too.
Many thanks to Black Crow PR and Quirk for sending me an ARC. All opinions are my own.
STAR RATING: 2.5/5 ✶
PUBLICATION DATE: 27/04/21
SUMMARY: Priya worked hard to pursue her premed dreams at Stanford, but a diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease during her sophomore year sends her back to her loving but overbearing family in New Jersey—and leaves her wondering if she’ll ever be able to return to the way things were. Thankfully she has her online pen pal, Brigid, and the rest of the members of “oof ouch my bones,” a virtual support group that meets on Discord to crack jokes and vent about their own chronic illnesses.
When Brigid suddenly goes offline, Priya does something out of character: she steals the family car and drives to Pennsylvania to check on Brigid. Priya isn’t sure what to expect, but it isn’t the horrifying creature that’s shut in the basement. With Brigid nowhere to be found, Priya begins to puzzle together an impossible but obvious truth: the creature might be a werewolf—and the werewolf might be Brigid. As Brigid’s unique condition worsens, their friendship will be deepened and challenged in unexpected ways, forcing them to reckon with their own ideas of what it means to be normal. (from Quirk Books)
OPINIONS: So, the most important thing about Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses is the format. I didn’t realise this going in, but approximately half the book is written as conversations on a Discord server or text messages. Many characters only appear through such conversation and don’t physically interact with the MCs. It was an interesting approach, but for me personally it didn’t quite work. It made the story drag and sometimes hard to follow – reading other people’s inside jokes just isn’t very funny to me.
The plot itself is pretty cool, looking at lycanthropy as a chronic condition that the person in question has to deal with and contextualising it within a support group for chronically ill people. But, the representation seems to be on a surface level. It’s hard to put my finger on it in terms of the illness narrative. While I don’t have Lyme disease, which the MC has to deal with, I am someone with chronic migraines and mental health issues, and a close friend of mine has EDS. Obviously there isn’t one right way to deal with such things, or a single way to discuss it, but to me, Lycanthropy and Chronic Illness reads like a story written by someone who has talked to some people who are disabled or have a chronic condition rather than one written by someone who is able to pull from personal experience.
Added to that is the fact that Priya, the main character, is Indian-American, and her parents seem to be immigrants. However, this representation too doesn’t go past the surface. The family is presented as devoutly Christian, going to church every Sunday and putting a big emphasis on the religion. So far, so good. Christianity is a minority religion in India, so focusing on that seems surprising. The way it is discussed reminds me more of a white American approach, to be entirely honest. Throughout the book, there is little to place them culturally, apart from one reference where the mother speaks Tamil. But there are no endearments, no occasional words in Tamil or any discussion of food that is not western – the one instance food is truly talked about it’s pizza, and they refer to the pineapple controversy. While I am obviously not an expert on Indian-American culture, Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses reads to me as a book featuring a white girl with an Indian name. (Also a huge thank you to my anonymous Indian friend who patiently answered all my questions to help distill my thoughts!)
These things heavily detracted from my enjoyment of the story. PoC authors continuously fight for representation and it seems a shame that this digs into that without doing a convincing job. Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses is an enjoyable, funny book, but also a deeply flawed one. I personally wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, as much as I hate writing that on here. If you are interested in checking it out for yourself, you can find it on Goodreads here, and order a copy from Waterstones here.
Towards the end of 2020 I was reading like crazy to hit my target of 366 books read (yes, I am absolutely insane, and no I will not be reading anywhere close to that in 2021 with my new job and everything). So here are a bunch of mini-reviews. I hope one of these takes your fancy!
All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue will be published by Walker Books on February 4th. The book centres on Maeve Chambers, who finds a mysterious Tarot deck while cleaning out a storage room at school. Set in Ireland, Maeve at last finds her calling in these cards and starts providing uncannily accurate readings for her schoolmates. Until her ex-best friend Lily goes missing after a reading goes awry. Together with her friend and her crush Roe, Lily’s sibling, she sets out to get her back before it’s too late. Gripping, mysterious and addictive, I read All Our Hidden Gifts in a single sitting. It’s not a perfect book by any means, but it’s an enjoyable read and a solid addition to the current UKYA market (well, Irish YA, but published in the UK). If you’re anything like me and love Tarot, creepy but intriguing books and wonderful teenage characters, check this one out. Add it to Goodreads here, and order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni, out on April 1st from Hodder, is the start of an exciting series. Set in Zalindov, a prison for multiple kingdoms, the book centres around Kiva, the seventeen-year-old in charge of medicine in the facility. When a high-profile prisoner gets brought in and Kiva tasked with her survival until the prisoner is supposed to undergo a trial by ordeal, Kiva unexpectedly volunteers to take her place. Aided by a mysterious young man, a guard who is more compassionate than any of the others and a boy Kiva feels responsible for, she fights to survive the trial which no one has survived before. An intriguing world full of rebellion and deception. I enjoyed The Prison Healer, although I felt that some of the plot twists were too left field and for me personally destroyed much of the build-up. I am curious to read book two though. Add The Prison Healer on Goodreads here, or order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters is a wonderful queer Southern Gothic debut. It came out from HarperTeen in August 2020 (WOW am I behind!). Shady Grove can conjure spirits with her father’s fiddle, and has to embrace her powers when her brother is accused of murder. Together with her new friends, she fights to figure out the truth with the help of the magic fiddle. A haunting story, with a bisexual main character and blossoming love triangle, Ghost Wood Song is perfect for fans of Anna-Marie McLemore or Rosemary Clement-Moore. The characters are wonderfully crafted and deal with grief throughout the book. I loved this one and highly recommend it – I’m also very excited for Erica Waters’ next book, The River Has Teeth! Add it to Goodreads here, or order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Master of One by Jaida Jones and Dani Bennett will be out on the 7th of January from HarperTeen in the UK. A queer heist story, Master of One is set around Rags, a thief, a sadistic sorcerer and a fae prince, Shining Talon. Rags is forced to steal an ancient fae relic, which turns out to be Shining Talon who can then lead them to the remaining parts, and things just get weirder from there… Sadly, I didn’t get along with Master of One at all – I started reading the eARC and was bored, and then switched to audio on Scribd. I had to force myself to finish, as I wasn’t pulled in by the plot, and the characters fell flat. I can see fans of The Cruel Prince and similar books really liking this one, but sadly it wasn’t for me. Find Master of One on Goodreads here, and on Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Thank you to the publishers for providing me with eARCs of all of these, all opinions are entirely my own.
So I was sent this massive chonk earlier in 2020 for the paperback release and it took me FOREVER to dare and start it – Covid has seriously affected my attention span, and 800+ page books have been a struggle. That said, once I actually dove into it, reading manageable 100-200 page chunks every day, I really enjoyed getting immersed in this epic grimdark world. By now, the sequel, Legacy of Steel, is out in the world as well and I both look forward to getting back to the story and dread reading another book this huge.
Many thanks to Nazia and Orbit for the review copy, all opinions are my own.
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
PUBLICATION DATE: 05/11/19
SUMMARY: A shadow has fallen over the Tressian Republic.
Ruling families plot against one another with sharp words and sharper knives, heedless of the threat posed by the invading armies of the Hadari Empire.
The Republic faces its darkest hour. Yet as Tressia falls, heroes rise. (from Orbit Books)
OPINIONS: As I mentioned above, Legacy of Ash is a massive chonk. A book not for the faint of heart. The paperback edition I have has 768 pages. But inside is an epic story that will captivate the reader throughout. At the centre of the book is a nation at war, and siblings that are just as much at odds with each other as they are with the world. Josiri and Calenne Trelan are the children of Katya Trelan, the leader of a failed revolution, whom the book starts off by killing before fast-forwarding fifteen years. Both of them fight to create their own path out of the shadow or their mother, although in very different ways. Legacy of Ash is the kind of book that features a large cast of characters in point-of-view perspectives, and thus shows the reader all sides of the story. We don’t see just one perspective, or a clear-cut good or bad, but Matthew Ward ensures that allegiances stay murky and the reader is fully immersed in this world. Ultimately, its a book about the world it is set in, rather than the story of individual characters.
Featuring magic, war and tense relationships, Legacy of Ash is a truly epic debut novel. It feels well-developed and is able to stand on its own, although I, and I’m sure most readers, am curious to see how the story develops over the course of the trilogy. I personally wish that it wasn’t quite as long, but that’s more of a me thing than anything else. The story is compelling and keeps up tension throughout, so it’s not like Legacy of Ash is boring – I just really like being able to read books in a couple of days and that wasn’t the case here (and pandemic brain). It is very well-written, and full of characters that are multi-dimensional and determined to follow their goals. Thus, if you can brave a chonk, I highly recommend Legacy of Ash. Add it to Goodreads here, and order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).