• Reviews

    Return to Blackwater House – Vikki Patis

    I’ve been on a bit of an escapist thriller binge recently, so when Ollie from Hodder emailed about this psychological thriller with gothic elements, I was all ears. It’s a compelling story where things are not as they first seem – a great book to take along on holiday this summer!

    Many thanks to Ollie at Hodder for sending me a review copy. All opinions are my own.

    RELEASE DATE: 26/05/2022

    STAR RATING: 3.5/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: You can run from your past, but you can’t hide forever…

    Rebecca Bray has moved on from a childhood she desperately wants to forget.

    She has everything she’s ever wanted – the perfect fiancé, a loving stepdaughter, a career she’s proud of, and now the house of her dreams.

    But when the family move to the Cornish village where Rebecca grew up, everything she wanted to bury from those years starts to claw at the surface.

    Then, when her stepdaughter goes missing at a New Year’s Eve party, Rebecca must finally face the ghosts of her past – or Ava might never come home safely… (from Hodder)

    OPINIONS: I’m not sure why, but when my brain is tired these days, crime and thriller novels work great as quick reads that help me relax and regain energy. I spent a long time not really reading much in the genre, and have only really gotten back into it in the last year or so, and I’m really happy that I’m getting the opportunity to read a bunch for review at the moment. Return to Blackwater House by Vicki Patis is an atmospheric psychological thriller that keeps the reader guessing for a very long time. It is dark, even messed up at times, and it is most definitely twisty. But most of all, it is a fun and compelling read.

    And it has interesting characters. Every single character has depth and a backstory that comes through in layers, from Rebecca, the stepmother, to Ava, the missing daughter, to the dad, the detective, and everyone else involved. Nothing is as it seems in those first few chapters of exposition and the story slowly unravels to show past and present, weaving in strands of mental illness struggles blending hallucinations with reality to keep the reader on their toes.

    Vicki Patis is an author to look out for, and I’m curious to see what she comes up with next. I’m hoping more delightfully psychological thrillers with gothic elements like this!

    Add Return to Blackwater House to your Goodreads here, and order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).

  • Minis

    Monday Minis

    I finally managed to provide you with some Monday Mini fodder again. All slightly whimsical, legend/folk tale inspired fantasy, but with very different approaches and styles today. I hope you find something that intrigues you among this selection. Many thanks to the respective publishers for providing me with eARCs via NetGalley, all opinions are entirely my own.

    A Mirror Mended is the second novella in Alix E. Harrow’s Fractured Fairytales series. It follows on from A Spindle Splintered, though is set a few years in the future from that first book. Unfortunately, the things that didn’t click for me with the first novella seemed to be coming out in even stronger force in this second installment. Zinnia is now spending most of her time helping fairy tale characters trapped in their stories to escape tropes, to the detriment of her relationships with the people close to her. This felt far too short for the content that Harrow tried to discuss within the confines of the novella, leaving topics addressed but not properly discussed to their conclusion, with unsatisfying resolutions, relationships that read very superficial even if that clearly wasn’t the intention. I kept longing for more space, for more depth. While I adore Harrow’s full-length work and her short fiction, these novellas are her weakest writing to date and left me wanting more.

    The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones is a Welsh-inspired, mythology-based YA fantasy. It tells a heist story as a framing device to retell a part of Welsh mythology that gives an origin story to the landscape – which is absolute catnip to me, having studied similar narratives in my past life as an academic. I devoured this fantasy, and found much to love. Mer, the main character, is openly bisexual – there is a femme ex love interest and a masc current love interest on page – and it is simply accepted in this medieval-ish society. Such heart-eyes, such love from my side. It isn’t the type of highly researched fantasy like Spear, this is more on the lighthearted and entertaining side, but it is exactly what I needed this weekend. The characters were great – Mer, Ifanna, the thief who betrayed her in the past, Mer’s mentor who she was never quite sure how she felt towards him and Fane, the love interest with fae connections. A great YA.

    Monsters Born and Made by Tanvi Berwah is another YA fantasy. This one inspired by the author’s South Asian background, featuring a large-scale race in which the elite compete for glory. Koral, the main character, is very much not part of this elite, but circumstances have her sneak her way into the competition and stand against those who have been training their entire lives for this. In some ways, this is reminiscent of a better, more timely version of The Hunger Games – in a good way. I found this an enjoyable read, though I thought that perhaps the ending was a bit too convenient in the last couple of pages. I don’t think this is a standout read of 2022 for me, but it is a solid YA fantasy debut I recommend picking up if you like the sound of it.

  • Reviews

    Olivia Atwater’s Regency Faerie Tales

    I’ve heard great things about Olivia Atwater’s Regency Faerie Tales for years, which means I was thrilled when I found out that her self-published work was so successful that the lovely folks over at Orbit decided to pick them up for re-release. I’ve never read them before – and reading them now, I’m finding them magical and lovely and am kicking myself for missing out for so long. And now my flatmate is stealing them as soon as I finish…

    Huge thanks to Nazia at Orbit for sending me review copies of both these books. All opinions are my own.

    Half a Soul

    RELEASE DATE: 30/06/2022

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    Half a Soul tells the story of Theodora, a young woman in dire need of a husband to settle her family’s finances. But as it is wont to do, life has other ideas. And she gets pulled into a world of fae and magic. A lovely romance with wonderful characters that introduces the world of Olivia Atwater’s Regency Faerie Tales. Dora finds out that she was part of a bargain her late mother had made with the faerie Lord Hollowvale – and has to contend with a copy of herself, retaining her autonomy and ensuring her and her family’s future. And of course there’s also a good dash of romance. I devoured this book and immediately went on to read the second in the series of standalones – I highly recommend these wonderful stories as light, comforting reads, especially for vacations and times when you want to relax. Order a copy of the Orbit edition via Bookshop here. (affiliate link)

    Ten Thousand Stitches

    RELEASE DATE: 21/07/2022

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    Ten Thousand Stitches is the second book in this series of standalones in a shared world. This one is loosely based on the story of Cinderella, taking elements from the fairy tale but making it its own story. I adored this one even more than Half a Soul. I loved the chaos of maid Effie trying to muddle through life, to achieve dreams that were outside of the social boundaries, and I loved Lord Blackthorn’s attempt at being a fairy godfather. While the trope of the fairy godmother is an ubiquitous one, I’ve never seen a male twist on it before, and this one really worked well – in D&D terms, he’d have a chaotic good alignment, trying his best, but outside the codex of laws and regulations of society and therefore causing havoc. There is romance, there are shenanigans and there is a socialist revolt and proto-unionising. An absolute delight of a comfort read. Order a copy of the Orbit edition via Bookshop here. (affiliate link).

  • Reviews

    Out There: Into the Queer New Yonder – ed. Saundra Mitchell

    If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I adore short fiction, especially in the form of YA anthologies. And one of the books that sparked that love was Saundra Mitchell’s anthology All Out. So of course I jumped at the opportunity to read the last anthology in this series of three, Out There: Into the Queer New Yonder, featuring future-set stories about queer teens from a wide range of identities and authors. However, I think while the concept is amazing, this one is the weakest link in the series.

    Many thanks to Harper360YA for sending me an ARC for review. All opinions are my own.

    RELEASE DATE: 07/07/2022

    STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: Explore new and familiar worlds where the human consciousness can be uploaded into a body on Mars…an alien helps a girl decide if she should tell her best friend how she feels…two teens get stuck in a time loop at a space station…people are forced to travel to the past or the future to escape the dying planet…only a nonbinary person can translate the binary code of a machine that predicts the future…everyone in the world vanishes except for two teen girls who are in love.

    This essential and beautifully written collection immerses and surprises with each turn of the page.

    With original stories from:
    Ugochi M. Agoawike
    K. Ancrum
    Kalynn Bayron
    Z Brewer
    Mason Deaver
    Alechia Dow
    Z.R. Ellor
    Leah Johnson
    Naomi Kanakia
    Claire Kann
    Alex London
    Jim McCarthy
    Abdi Nazemian
    Emma K. Ohland
    Adam Sass
    Mato J. Steger
    Nita Tyndall

    (from Inkyard Press)

    OPINIONS: I loved All Out, Saundra Mitchell’s first anthology about queer teens, featuring a range of the best YA authors writing about their takes on historical queerness. This winning streak continued with Out Now, featuring contemporary stories and now, Out There, which reaches for a queer future. Many of the stories in this anthology are science fiction, some are merely set in a contemporary future, but all of them continue the theme: featuring queer teens living their lives, showcased by some of the best YA talent publishing right now. I did find that this third anthology had less standout stories than the first two – for me personally, All Out was full of them, Out Now had a fair amount and the standouts in Out There were only a handful.

    But the quality of the anthology throughout is solid – and just because not every story worked for me personally doesn’t mean it should not be told and doesn’t have an audience. Because to me, that’s the beauty of these anthologies: they feature such a wide range of identities and perspectives that there is something that will click with every reader, whether they are trying to find their identity or looking for representation, or even just exploring what the world has to offer.

    Among the stories that really touched me was Kalynn Bayron’s “The Department of Homegoing Affairs” which was a heartwarming sapphic story with a dark side, dealing with death and loss as well as queerness. I love her writing and this was no exception. I found it magical and compelling. I also adored “Concerto” by Abdi Nazemian, though again this had a lot of bittersweet elements to it – it seems that I need a good dose of darkness with my comfort these days! There were other stories that I really enjoyed too, but these two were my favourites in the anthology and the ones that stuck with me for a while after reading.

    While I do think that Out There is the weakest entry into this trilogy of anthologies, it is a strong weakest link and I think this concept is more valuable than potential flaws in its execution for the individual reader. I hope you pick one of these anthologies up for yourself or a young person in your life and it gives you joy.

    Add Out There: Into the Queer New Yonder to your Goodreads here, and order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).

  • Minis

    Monday Minis

    Welcome back to another round of Monday Minis – I’m sorry these have become a bit more sporadic as life has been increasingly manic these last few weeks! But here’s a solid selection of books for the week – something for every sort of reader, really. Many thanks to the respective publicists for giving me access to eARCs via NetGalley, all opinions are my own as always.

    A Prayer for the Crown-Shy is the follow-up to Becky Chambers’ Hugo- (and Subjective Chaos) nominated A Psalm for the Wild-Built. And this one may be even better than the first book. It keeps following Sibling Dex and Mosscap on their journey, and it gets more personal this time. A major plot element is Mosscap getting “injured” and having a part that needs replacing – along with all of the philosophical considerations that come with it. In A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, Dex and Mosscap interact more with others, and it really feels like the series is coming into its own. I loved how Mosscap’s personality as a curious observer dominated his interactions with the people they met on their travels, and Dex got to see their family again. It is a wonderful quick comfort read, and I desperately want more.

    I can’t quite believe that The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner was first published in 1996. It has only now come over to this side of the Atlantic thanks to the good work of the lovely folk over at Hodderscape – and reads like a newly published book. A timeless YA classic, really. The Thief is a compelling, fast read centred around a thief, Eugenides, called Gen and a massive heist, politics and a misfit gang. In short, lots of things still on trend in YA and with good reason. I had the pleasure to listen to Megan chat about the book and her journey as a writer last week, and I have been assured that the second book in the series is even better than this first one by my lovely flatmate who has read them all growing up. Definitely a wonderful series to get your teeth into and read as they’re now published in the UK in quick succession with stunning covers!

    Peter V. Brett’s The Desert Prince is an epic fantasy set in a somewhat Middle Eastern/North African feeling setting. It is the first book in a new series, though set in the same world as his earlier books – fifteen years on. This was my first Brett book, and I did notice a lack of context at times, though it largely stands on its own merit and knowledge of the earlier books is not necessary to follow the story. It just gives an added dimension to it, and I imagine makes it easier for readers to pick up on cultural references between characters that I likely missed. What makes The Desert Prince stand out from other epic fantasy is that Olive, the main character, is intersex. Always aware of the unique body they were born with, Olive was socialised as a girl and over the course of the story struggles with the confines of that identity. But it did feel like this was often simplified, and I would have loved to see Olive really find a non-binary identity and communicate that, rather than letting themselves be boxed into places that don’t entirely fit by others. All in all, The Desert Prince was an entertaining book – in many ways traditional epic fantasy battling demons, betrayal and politics with chosen ones at its centre, but a fun twist on it. I may well pick up the sequel.

  • Blog Tours,  Reviews

    Blog Tour: Hide – Kiersten White

    Looking for a compelling horror novel that reads like the fun slasher flicks of the early 2000s? Look no further. Hide is Kiersten White’s addictive and fun adult debut, with an intriguing concept and a lot of death. In short, it’s exactly what is needed for a fun read in the sun or cuddled up inside with a good drink right now.

    Huge thanks to Marie-Louise at Del Rey for inviting me on the Blog Tour and sending me an ARC of Hide. All opinions are my own.

    RELEASE DATE: 24/05/2022

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: The challenge: spend a week hiding in an abandoned amusement park and don’t get caught.

    The prize: enough money to change everything.

    Even though everyone is desperate to win – to seize their dream futures or escape their haunting pasts – Mack feels sure that she can beat her competitors. All she has to do is hide, and she’s an expert at that.

    It’s the reason she’s alive, and her family isn’t.

    But as the people around her begin disappearing one by one, Mack realizes this competition is more sinister than even she imagined, and that together might be the only way to survive.

    Fourteen competitors. Seven days. Everywhere to hide, but nowhere to run.

    Come out, come out, wherever you are. (from Del Rey)

    OPINIONS: I had so much fun with this book! It is not the most structurally sound or logical novel out there – but it doesn’t have to be. It is compelling and entertaining and I read it in a single sitting, which makes it the perfect summer read. Whether you like to read in the sunshine in a park, on holiday or cosied up at home with a cold drink, this is the ideal sort of book to read as it’s warm outside – it’s spooky, it distracts you and it chills you down to the bone – but it’s not nightmare-inducing-fucked-up-scary.

    It’s got everything for a great read – mainly, a strong setting, interesting characters and a creepy mystery. I loved the setting in a derelict amusement park – having seen images from old parks that have been abandoned for decades, I can imagine the spooky atmosphere being there must evoke, so it’s the perfect setting for a horror novel. Having a hide-and-seek competition with little information as the hook is classic for the genre. It makes no logical sense that any of the characters would take the bait so easily, but that is the fun of it. You as the reader know from the start that there is something very fishy going on and it’s a train wreck about to happen – and you just can’t look away. You want to scream at the characters to get out of there as the tension rises, and then the first person dies, and you know that your gut instincts are right.

    But the compelling part is not that characters die, but figuring out why they disappear and what is behind these events. In classic horror flick fashion, the reader knows more than the characters as the story unravels, and you just can not look away. While this is a horror novel, it is also an entertaining book, think Final Destination rather than The Ring. So if you enjoy a little bit of a scare, do give this a read and join Mack and her friends in hiding…

    Add Hide to your Goodreads here, and order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).

  • Minis

    Monday Minis

    Happy Monday everyone! This week is catching up with some of my NetGalley backlog time – I’ve been trying to read already published books to reduce my TBR, and sadly, none of these really clicked all that much with me. They’re all decent books, but I’m not the ideal reader for them. But in any case, huge thank yous to the publicists for sending me eARCs of these titles, all opinions are my own as always.

    The City of Dusk by Tara Sim is one of those books where I’m really not sure how to feel about them. I was super excited for it, and then it took me forever to read it (literally, I kept reading a few chapters, putting it down, and then coming back to it, I think it took me a couple of months!). This is the first in an adult epic fantasy from an author who previously wrote YA – and a lot of people have been saying that they think it reads as YA still. I don’t agree with this. The main characters are adults. They’re not teens. They may be young, but they’re not literal kids, and it doesn’t read like YA in terms of pacing either – which, to me, was a good thing. It is a story that works better for adults, and the crossover audience aging out of YA (aka those of us who still love YA even though we’ve technically outgrown it years ago). However, it is too long. Tension isn’t consistent, and so the book feels very meandering, which I think contributed to me putting it aside again and again. It seemed like the author was still trying to find her stride in this new series and world, and while I’m intrigued enough to want to read the next book, I think this one may have needed another round or two of polishing to truly shine.

    Wilder Than Midnight by Cerrie Burnell is a middle grade fairy-tale inspired fantasy. It is the story of a princess and a girl raised in the woods, of greedy royals and determined girls. It is a fast read, and an entertaining one, but I found that neither the plot nor the characters were allowed much nuance. I know it is a middle grade book, and there is certainly allowance for simplification with that age group, but there are so many wonderful middle grade books out there that do have that nuanced approach and are much more satisfying reads. I found the black-and-white morality, the predictability of the tropes and the lack of depth in the main characters didn’t let me get emotionally invested in their fates and thus did not make Wilder Than Midnight stand out for me.

    The Symmetry of Stars by Alex Myers unfortunately has been one of the more disappointing books I’ve read recently. I simultaneously feel like I only finished it because I loved his last book, The Story of Silence, so much, but also was far harsher on this one than I may otherwise have been for the same reason. I also have to admit that I picked up The Symmetry of Stars without knowing much about it because I thought I’d like it as much as the author’s previous book – but I think I liked that one for its story and themes more than Myers’ own work now that I have read another one of his books. In some ways, The Symmetry of Stars addresses some similar motifs concerning nature and nurture as The Story of Silence did, showing parallels between the books, and letting them function almost as companion pieces of a sort. However, the tone in which they are written differs enormously, as does the manner in which the motif is addressed. While The Story of Silence did so almost whimsically through medieval romance, The Symmetry of Stars is a very philosophical book. It is wordy, and it seems to go in circles at times as it argues with itself. It features a larger cast, but all of the characters stay fairly non-descript and bland. And at the moment, that is just not something I’m vibing with. I was expecting to love this, but, to be entirely honest, I was bored. I kept hoping that I’d change my mind, I’d find the magic of The Story of Silence, but I didn’t. If this is one you’ve been ogling up for yourself, I’d encourage you to check out a sample first to see if you mesh with the writing style.

  • Hype!

    June Hype Post!

    Honestly, it’s unfair how fast time passes these days. I feel like I’m prepping next month’s hype post as soon as I publish one! Nevertheless, June has many great offerings as well, and I’m thrilled to shout about some of them. Do check out our 2022 overview HERE as well for more suggestions what to read – this is a brilliant year for books, and June is an especially good month, with titles like Wrath Goddess Sing by Maya Deane (I’m reading this right now and it’s so good) or Ava Reid’s Juniper & Thorn!

    The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings is out from Orbit on June 23rd and presents a magical New Orleans. A debut novel and testament to the stellar lineup that Orbit have coming this summer, this is set in a city both familiar and foreign. This Nola is a place where haints dance the night away, Wise Women keep the order and songs walk, talk and keep the spirit of the city alive. And Perilous Graves, failed magician, calls it home. But then, nine songs of power escape from the magical piano that maintains the city’s beat – and life. And Perry and his sister unexpectedly are put in the position of having to save the city… This sounds hilarious and absolutely charming, bonkers in the very best way. YES PLEASE! Pre-order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).

    I am always up for fun YA fantasy. And if it’s inspired by medieval legends or literature, even more so.The Song That Moves the Sun by Anna Bright is out on June 28th, and partly inspired by the work of Dante Alighieri – which is not seen very often! It also has an absolutely gorgeous cover which makes me covet the physical object rather than just listening to it on audio… This is a standalone contemporary fantasy romance, though with a focus on complex female friendship as well, which I appreciate. At the centre of the story stand best friends Rora and Claudia, who feel like their lives are spiraling out of control. When they meed Major and Amir, two boys who hail from one of the secret cities of the spheres, ruled by the magic of astrology, they find out that chaos is spreading everywhere. Rora and Claudia embark on a whirlwind journey to discover the source behind it, the truth about themselves and the world around them, and find the story of Dante and Beatrice, two long-ago explorers following this path… Pre-order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).

    Clementine by Tillie Walden is out on June 28th from Image Comics. I got to read an early ARC of this – my review will be out over on Grimdark Magazine very soon. I love Tillie Walden’s art and approach to storytelling, and so I absolutely adored this too. Clementine is set in the universe of The Walking Dead, though it does not require any prior knowledge (we all know I don’t have any!), and it will appeal to fans of Walden’s work, graphic novels and coming of age stories alike. It is a gritty story about survival, but also a tender story about friendship, self-discovery and love in unfortunate circumstances. It’s not always an easy read, but it is a heart-felt one, never losing hope in a grimdark world. More of this please, even if zombies usually really aren’t my thing! Pre-order a copy of Clementine via Book Depository here.

  • Reviews

    Nettle & Bone – T. Kingfisher

    I love me a T. Kingfisher book as a comfort read, and Nettle & Bone is her best yet. Full of dark humour and dry wit, this is the twisted take on the fairy-tale trend I needed. A book I’m sure I’ll be re-reading again and again, as it’s exactly the kind of thing I want in a cosy read.

    Many thanks to Sarah at Titan for sending me a review copy (with a spell kit!), all opinions are my own.

    RELEASE DATE: 26/04/2022

    STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: After years of seeing her sisters suffer at the hands of an abusive prince, Marra—the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter—has finally realized that no one is coming to their rescue. No one, except for Marra herself.

    Seeking help from a powerful gravewitch, Marra is offered the tools to kill a prince—if she can complete three impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes, witches, and daughters, the impossible is only the beginning.

    On her quest, Marra is joined by the gravewitch, a reluctant fairy godmother, a strapping former knight, and a chicken possessed by a demon. Together, the five of them intend to be the hand that closes around the throat of the prince and frees Marra’s family and their kingdom from its tyrannous ruler at last. (from Titan Books)

    OPINIONS: I adored this book. Nettle & Bone is exactly what I want in a comfort read. It is a darker take on the fairy-tale tropes currently popular in fantasy literature, so it was sure to appeal to me – a princess who decides to kill the prince? What’s not to like about this concept. And then there is a chicken possessed by a demon, which… may be the best animal familiar ever. While the plot is not altogether unpredictable, it is fun, twisty and keeps the reader enthralled, but ultimately, it is the characters and the voice of the story that make it truly shine.

    I loved the quirky cast of characters, which is one of Kingfisher’s main strengths. Marra, having spent years in a convent, needs to re-adjust to the outside world, and as usual, there is a traumatised, sensitive hunk of a man (this is a recurring theme in Kingfisher’s books). Cranky witches and odd animals add to the mix, making up a very random group of intrepid adventurers, trying to break a curse. And there is nothing better than a reluctant gang, brought together by happenstance and need to complete a quest…

    The story is full of dry wit and dark humour, with a distinct voice narrating the story. And for me, that was Nettle & Bone‘s lifeblood. A great voice can really elevate a book, and this is a stellar example. The sometimes wacky plot and characters could easily have fallen into the absurd, or into more comedic fantasy, which is very hard to pull of if you’re not Terry Pratchett, but staying on the side of sarcasm avoided these pitfalls and made this a pure delight to read. That said, Nettle & Bone does address heavier subjects such as abusive relationships and miscarriage, which may be triggering for some readers, especially within the target demographic. I wish that the publisher had included a content warning – and I hope that this is something they may consider for the paperback edition still.

    As you can tell, I loved this book, and will add it to my list of comfort reads, most likely re-reading it again and again. If you too want to experience the magic, add Nettle & Bone to your Goodreads here, and order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).

  • Minis

    Monday Minis

    More Monday Minis! It’s a true Monday today, Mondaying hard for me. But have some minis to cheer you up and get you in the reading mood – and hopefully improve your Monday… Many thanks to the publicists for eARCs of all of these via NetGalley, opinions are my own as always.

    Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May has been very high on my most anticipated list for a very long time – just look at that cover. Absolute Fab-bait right there. Sapphic historical fantasy with witches? Doesn’t really get more me than that. But unfortunately, the book got swept up in my struggles to read digitally – I only managed to get an eARC as the promised physical copy got lost on the way somewhere, and struggled to get into it, mostly because I don’t like reading on kindle and forget about books that aren’t visibly in front of me. So when I finally picked up my final copy (yay gilded edges from Goldsboro, they look amazing and fit the book so well) I ended up racing through it in a day because it gripped me and I connected much better to the story in that format. I loved Emmeline, Annie and Bea, the three women driving the story. It is a slower book, but an immersive one. One that grabbed me just right and hit the stop perfectly. It is a story of self-determination, of finding your own path outside of the conventions that are given to you by society, and especially one where women realise that they don’t need men to live a fulfilling life in a period where they very much still determine how the world works. It is a lovely story, and one that I know I’ll come back to again.

    Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen is a fun YA fantasy about witches, seers and princes. I really enjoyed how it did not have a pleasant main character, how Violet was allowed to be prickly and quite literally be made of thorns. It is a fast read, and an entertaining one. Prophecies are usually considered to be a good thing, a driving force in YA and I loved how this took that trope and turned it on its head by having Violet, the resident seer also be a liar and actively speak a false prophecy that affects the elite of the kingdom. In that, Violet Made of Thorns plays with fairy tale tropes throughout, and is a refreshing voice in YA. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of Gina Chen’s writing in the future, even if ultimately this one wasn’t 100% my cup of tea in execution.

    Seven Devils by Elizabeth May and Laura Lam is one that I read ages ago and somehow just forgot to review – I read it before release! It is a delightful space opera with a ton of references to Greek mythology which made me love it even more. Combining queer found family elements (pretty much all of the main characters are queer, and female or non-binary, which is awesome) with hints at pre-determined story elements through the references and generally a fun space opera story, Seven Devils is pure entertainment. It is fast-paced and not scientifically accurate. This is one of those science fiction books where the rule of cool supersedes everything, rather than being meticulously researched in terms of technology and science. And it makes it compulsively readable. I need to catch up with Seven Mercies, the second book in the duology which has been released in the meantime (shame on me, this is how long this took me…) and dive back in the world of Eris, Ariadne and co. I loved all of the characters, who became more like friends over the course of the story, which I found wonderful. Definite recommendation for a relaxing and quick read.