book reviews, Graphic Novels, spoiler free

The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill

42369064.jpgThe Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill

Rating: XXXXX

Published September 17th 2019 by Oni Press

“Just because something comes easily to you, does not mean it has no value. You find it effortless because you love it, and that is why it is your gift.”

Rinn has grown up with the Tea Dragons that inhabit their village, but stumbling across a real dragon turns out to be a different matter entirely! Aedhan is a young dragon who was appointed to protect the village but fell asleep in the forest eighty years ago. With the aid of Rinn’s adventuring uncle Erik and his partner Hesekiel, they investigate the mystery of his enchanted sleep, but Rinn’s real challenge is to help Aedhan come to terms with feeling that he cannot get back the time he has lost.

I read The Tea Dragon Society earlier this year (review here) and absolutely fell in love with the wold Katie had created and was ecstatic to find a new book set in the world of the tea dragons, The Tea Dragon Festival, up on NetGalley! I was so happy when I was approved and dug in almost immediately.

If you’ve read and enjoyed the first book then you’ll be pleased to know that you can look forward to more of the same breath takin artwork and wholesome story. Equally, if this is your first foray into the world of Tea Dragons then never fear because this can absolutely be read alone no problem and is actually a prequel of sorts in that it’s set before the events of the first book and includes two characters we see in the second book, but they can easily be read in any order and still compliment each other.

The Tea Dragon Festival is filled with a brilliant cast of colourful and diverse characters, each more charming than the last, I particularly loved Aedhan and main character of sorts, Rinn, an aspiring cook who loves to gather fresh ingredients and help the people of her town. A new inclusion in this instalment which I really loved was the use of sign language which Katie has brought onto the page fantastically with the simple use of different coloured blocks of text to indicate if someone is communicating through sign and if they are signing and speaking out loud.

The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill is out today and I highly recommend this beautiful tale. You can find it in the large hardback version, akin to the first book as well as digitally through both kindle and ComiXology (release for digital is dated as September 18th, tomorrow according to Amazon).

 

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book reviews, spoiler free

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

Book Review

32055872._SY475_Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

Rating: XXXXX

Published September 7th 2017

“You can keep the glory. I’m just here for the blood.” 

Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo, or avenging her familia. And after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

When it’s announced that Scaeva and Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end them. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.

Godsgrave is a sequel to Nevernight (review here) and as such, this is a very vague review to keep it as spoiler-free as possible. It turns out this is a super hard book to talk about without spoilers so never fear I’ll be doing a spoiler book talk video on my booktube within the next week with any luck.

So I gave myself a day to get over Nevernight (as much as I could) or at least let the ending sink in and then I started Godsgrave. Initially, I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it as much as it’s predecessor, especially with some story splitting at the beginning which I found a little jarring at times but once things came together and everything made sense I got into it very quickly.

I found myself becoming more invested in returning characters as I learned more about them and easily warmed to a few of the newer ones leading to some emotional moments for that I hadn’t been expecting. Mia, as always, has a lot of fantastic moments in this one, not all of which end up with her soaked in blood (although obviously some of them do) and I really enjoyed watching her develop, seeing her in different situations and essentially becoming stronger in a multitude of ways. I think we really get to learn a fair bit about Mia in this book and her thoughts and feelings a little beyond her constant need for revenge (but only just).

The story itself, much like Nevernight did start slow but gained traction and there were points where my heart was in my throat, my eyes were frantically moving across the page trying to devour words as fast as I possibly good and I’m sure my heart rate must have been going crazy from the stress of some key moments. I’m infinitely glad that I finished Godsgrave a mere week before Darkdawn was released because I was left with so many questions and bombshells that I think the wait may have driven me to insanity.

I don’t think I enjoyed Godsgrave quite as much as Nevernight until towards the end but it’s still more than worthy of a XXXXX rating and it’s certainly one that will stick with me. Even as I write this I’ve started Darkdawn and I’m terrified it’s going to destroy me, to be honest.

 

book reviews, spoiler free

The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

Book Review

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The Girl the Sea Gave Back 
by Adrienne Young

Rating: XXXX

Published September 3rd 2019 by Titan Books

“He knew that I’d bring death since the moment he first laid eyes on me. And he was right.”

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

I was gifted an early finished copy of The Girl the Sea Gave Back by publisher Titan Books in exchange for an honest review, despite not being blown away by Sky in the Deep, the debut book by the same author I decided to give this second book a go as there defintley felt like potential and the cover and name of the book completely won me over.

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You might remember back in April I reviewed Sky in the Deep (you can find my review here) and I found it really predictable and didn’t hugely enjoy it too much as a result but I am pleased to report the sequel of sorts/companion story The Girl the Sea Gave Back felt like a vast improvement. If you haven’t read Sky in the Deep however do not despair as they can be read as separate books and you do not have to have read Sky in the Deep to understand and follow TGTSGB. I would say, however, that it is beneficial and gives the story much more depth. It is certainly a good story in its own right but I found I was already attached to other characters because of their involvement in the first book, especially Halvard who is a main character this time around and I had already decided I would lay my life down for him in Sky in the Deep.

The Girl the Sea Gave Back, for me at least, defintley benefited from having a little more of a fantasy element to it. The main character, Tova, is a truth tongue, she can communicate (in a way) with the spinners who carve fate into the tree of Udur and thus she can cast runes and use them to determine futures and outcomes. This really gave it a more interesting depth and the fact that Tova from a Kyrr, (a member of a mysterious clan from the headlands who keep to themselves) living among another clan called the Svell made for some brilliant narrative and conflict within as she tried to find her place. I really like that although Tova is young and relatively inexperienced she made smart choices and was an easy character to mesh with and see the world through her eyes.

Halvard is all grown up ten years after the events of Sky in the Deep and he is almost impossible not to love, he’s grown up to be honourable and thoughtful but as one of the first generations to have not seen battle in the fighting seasons, instead being taught merely to fish and hunt instead of fight he sometimes feels he is lesser and not worthy of responsibility placed on him by those around him. He is as wholesome as ever in this companion story and the love I already had for him only grew as he makes hard decisions and proves himself to be who his family and his village already know him to be.

The plot was paced fairly well, with sprinklings of battle here and there which were written very well, being both exciting and easy to follow. There is the smallest sprinkling of romance involved and I was worried that it would be very predictable and irritate me but honestly, it was okay and not made a huge deal of which I think was for the best. I found moments surprised me and I became quite invested in the outcome of all involved, The Girl the Sea Gave Back is a solid and enjoyable read.

 

book reviews, spoiler free

The Tea Dragon Society

Book Review

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The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill

Rating: XXXXX

Published October 18th 2017 by Oni Press

“Memories don’t just live inside you, Minette. They live in all the people and objects you share your life with.” 

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.

This book has been catching my eye on the shelf in varying shops for YEARS and when I was approved to review the sequel (review coming soon) I knew it was finally time to throw myself headfirst into the world of Tea Dragons. The Tea Dragon Society began life as a webcomic that upon completion was compiled into its own stunning graphic novel by Oni Press and as well as featuring the first complete story it also features an illustrated, well detailed, almanack full of information about Tea Dragons and the different kinds which I enjoyed almost as much as the initial story itself.

The story is broken down into five parts with a part for each season, beginning with Spring and an epilogue both broke it up into chunks nicely and really helped to show the passing of time in an easy and natural way. This is a story about friendship, following your dreams and cherishing those of others, respecting peoples traditions and cultures and supporting those around you. It’s sweet and beautiful with each page being a gorgeous work of art on its own.

There are a cast of beautifully varied characters, in personality and appearance which is refreshing, I loved that each character had their own feel and quirks with no one character being absolutely ‘perfect’ each had realistic flaws and brought different things to the story. I especially liked that we got to see into each characters backgrounds in unique ways and got to know them better as well.

Although you can read the story in individual parts via her it’s own gorgeous website here, I can’t recommend the hard copy enough, not only does it actively support Katie’s work but it’s a beautiful book to have around, it’s an A4 hardback book with high-quality paper pages, the lack of a glossy finish that a lot of graphic novels have really helps add to the natural feel too and just gives it a whole other layer, honestly it’s beautiful. The Tea Dragon Society is out now and it’s sequel, The Tea Dragon Festival is out this September so this is the perfect time to start reading!

 

book reviews, book talk, booktube, spoiler free

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Book Review
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Nevernight 
by Jay Kristoff

Rating: XXXX

Published: July 25th 2016

“The books we love, they love us back. And just as we mark our places in the pages, those pages leave their marks on us. I can see it in you, sure as I see it in me. You’re a daughter of the words. A girl with a story to tell.”

Destined to destroy empires, Mia Covere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.

Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day that she lost everything.

But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and demons at the heart of a murder cult.

The Red Church is no Hogwarts, but Mia is no ordinary student.

The shadows love her. And they drink her fear.

So I finally did it, I read Nevernight and I have a sinking feeling it may be one of my favourite books I’ve ever read. I apologise to everyone who has been telling me to read it these past few years, I’m sorry it took me so long to read it so that’s all that matters right?

I must admit I had some trouble at first, although the start is cleverly written it drags a little while the story is set up and you get used to the writing style as well as the footnotes. Footnotes probably don’t sound too bad but some of the ones in Nevernight are half a page long and yes, you could probably ignore them but honestly, some of them are hilarious, they’re fun and a lot of them are actually pretty interesting and tell little tales of their own. The main problem I had was not that they distracted from the story although they did do that a little it wasn’t too much of a problem it was more the fact that I kept losing my place after reading said footnote which was a little jarring. There are fewer footnotes as the book moves on and I got a bit better at keeping my place, I also listening to a fair bit of this via audiobook which reads them out as part of the story which is kind of perfect, to be honest. I’m not the hugest fan of the way the narrator reads the book, he sounds a bit off but after a while, you get used to the style and I find it preferable to getting lost reading footnotes.

Once Mia arrives at the Red Church (I wouldn’t class this as a spoiler as it’s part of the synopsis) things really pick up, I’ve affectionately named this part “Mia enrols in murder Hogwarts” because it totally has stabby Harry Potter vibes which feels like a weird way of describing this kind of book (which is an adult book by the way, as I’ve said before, a teenage protagonist does not a YA make and that is defintley the case here) but it just feels a good fit as you get to know Mia and the main characters.

Speaking of characters, I absolutely ADORE Mia. She’s sassy and even when she makes some not great choices she totally owns them which is one of my favourite qualities, it also helps that she could almost certainly murder me in under five seconds without me being any the wiser (if you’re into that sort of thing). She has vulnerable moments too (although there’s no way she’d ever admit to having actual feelings) but it helps to ground her and give her more depth instead of just making her an angry ball of revenge (she’s probably about 85% that as well though). The other church initiates are interesting and all have their own tales to tell and their own reasons to join the church as well as distinctive personalities which I loved learning throughout the book. I found Hush especially interesting and loved the relationship between Mia and Ashlin but Tric stole my damned heart. Mr Kindly also holds a special place in my heart, a sarcastic black cat made of shadows? It’s like he was written for me.

As previously mentioned, the first third dragged a little but was still enjoyable, the rest of the book absolutely flew by and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough, I’m shocked I didn’t manage to rip them, especially towards the end. There’s a particular moment that feels like it comes out of nowhere and punches you in the face. I reread this part about four times because I wasn’t sure I’d read it right at first and when I realised I had…I might have thrown my book across the room I’m not gonna lie.

This book absolutely rocked my world and at writing this I’m already about 200 pages through Godsgrave, I’m not sure how ready I am for the third book in the trilogy not long after.

If you’ve already read Nevernight and want to know my thought on some of the more spoilery aspects of the book you can check out my book talk video below!

 

 

book reviews, Graphic Novels

Heartstopper Volume 2

Book Review

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Heartstopper Volume 2
 by Alice Oseman

Rating: XXXXX

Published July 11th by Hodder Children’s Books

“You like me?”
“Was that not obvious?”

“I’m an idiot”

Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. An LGBTQ+ graphic novel about life, love, and everything that happens in between: this is the second volume of HEARTSTOPPER, for fans of The Art of Being Normal, Holly Bourne and Love, Simon. 

Nick and Charlie are best friends. Nick knows Charlie’s gay, and Charlie is sure that Nick isn’t. But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is discovering all kinds of things about his friends, his family … and himself. 

Heartstopper is about friendship, loyalty and mental illness. It encompasses all the small stories of Nick and Charlie’s lives that together make up something larger, which speaks to all of us. 

This review is for volume two of Heartstopper. If you’re looking for Volume One you can check out my spoiler-free review for it right here if you would prefer.

I have been so SO excited to read volume two of Heartstopper and I was gutted that i had to wait an extra week and a half until after release to read it. I’ve tried to restrain myself from reading too far ahead on Tapas which is updated every week and is further ahead than the printed volumes, thankfully I managed fairly well just rereading the first one and other than the first few pages everything was fresh to me. The day it arrived I sat and read the whole beautiful thing in one sitting. If I hadn’t had my son to look after (and you know, parent) I would have probably sat on the floor in my kitchen where I’d opened it and read it there and then.

In volume two, Nick has some big issues to think about and although there are some heartbreaking little moments even the more conflict heavy parts still feel like soul food, the way Charlie and Nick interact is beautiful. There defintley feels more at stake here almost and although things obviously do happen (and in a way that feels quite close to home – some bullying trigger warning here) it never feels hopeless, Heartstopper, to me, always feels so gentle and full of hope.

The art continues to be simple yet emotive and I love the way the dialogue just flows so well and feels totally natural, we get more Nelly, some secret handholding scene that brought me to (happy) tears. If you enjoyed Heartstopper volume one then Volume two is a must and then we can desperately wait for volume three.

You can check out the webcomic here. Alice posts updates for free but I highly recommend supporting her via Patreon if able or Tapas if not, more information is available on her Tumblr page. Also, just a note that if you haven’t read Solitare there are no spoilers in Heartstopper for it so not to worry there.

 

book reviews, spoiler free

Sanctuary Blog Tour

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Sanctuary by V.V James

Rating: XXXXX

Published: August 8th 2019 by Gollancz

“The bad days were behind us, and our friendships and theirs were stronger than ever. Lies, lies, lies. And they all knew it.”

The small Connecticut town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback.

Daniel’s death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper is the daughter of a witch – and she was there when he died.

Then the rumours start. When Harper insists Dan was guilty of a terrible act, the town turns on her. So was his death an accident, revenge – or something even darker?

As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching . . .

I received an e-Arc via Netgalley from Gollancz in exchange for an honest review. One of my friends has been recommending Vic James books to me for a couple of years now and I’ve never quite made it around to them but when she got mega excited after reading Sanctuary, Vic’s newest book I knew it was finally time and this witchy murder mystery was just the place to start.

Sanctuary, out August 8th, has been one of the most intense page-turning books I have read this year and has already become a firm favourite. I absolutely flew through it in just a couple of days. In the world Sanctuary is set in, almost everything is the same as we already know it except Witchcraft is a normal every day, mostly accepted occurrence with its own rules and state-mandated laws and such, which I found fascinating but also very grounded. I also loved the particular brand of witchcraft we see used with charts, herbs, hand gestures and energy as well as the fact that different witches from around the world use different varieties of spell casting derived from their personal culture and traditions. One particular detail I really enjoyed was the explanation that witches familiars are considered an important role as they are a witches connection back to the earth and nature. You could really feel Vic had done her research, there’s not a huge amount of really obvious world-building to be done but all the tiny details, as well as the big ones, were executed brilliantly and so organically as well as the general feeling of the town which almost felt like it’s own entity at times.

The story is told from three main points of view, two distraught mothers on either end of a possible murder and police officer, Maggie trying to unravel it all. Following these particular characters was a fantastic choice, watching events unfold from each ‘side’ was particularly interesting and then seeing how Maggie dealt with said information or revelation and the conclusions she then came to as a result, not to mention that she was fantastic at injecting a little humour into the narrative here and there which impressively didn’t feel out of place in a book that is otherwise fairly dark. I loved seeing how far each of the three women were willing to go to protect themselves, what they believed in and the ones they love as well as the way their friends and neighbours reacted to the turn of events. Every character, even ones who weren’t what I would call “main” supporting characters felt interesting and solid, I found most of these characters very easy to picture and each had memorable traits without falling into stereotypical troupes (for the most part). Sanctuary has an insanely interesting and thrilling narrative but it also very much feels like a startling study of the darker corners of human nature.

To start with, the plot seems simplistic in nature and like any other “whodunnit” kind of mystery with a few extra additions such as the inclusion of witchcraft but still enjoyable and as the story continues on it becomes a whole other creature full of secrets, lies, twists and turns leaving you pointing fingers every which way and really taking a good hard look at your own morals in the process. I’m not ready in any way shape or form to talk about that ending so you’ll have to wait for the spoilery book talk on Youtube for that because right now when I try to type about it I just bash my keyboard keys while making incoherent noises of pain and anxiety. Every secret feels expertly layered as each revelation becomes tangled in a web of persecution and fear, author Vic James has a terrifying gift and I can’t wait to read more of her books if this standard of writing is the norm because it absolutely blew me away.

Sanctuary is out August 8th but if you were lucky enough to have picked up an early copy at YALC or the beautiful green sprayed edges edition in July’s Illumicrate you may have already read it but if not make sure you check out your local bookstore or most convenient retailer to preorder if you fancy a twisty, witchy murder mystery with bite.

Trigger Warnings: Rape of a minor by an older minor, gaslighting.

Also don’t forget to check out all of these other lovely bloggers taking part on the Sanctuary blog tour too!