book reviews

The Girl in Red

43550676.jpgThe Girl in Red by Christina Henry

Rating: XXXXX

Published June 18th by Titan Books

“She was just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that didn’t look anything like the one she’d grown up in, the one that had been perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.”

It’s not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined. 

Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods…

You know that author you keep putting off reading? Not in an unkind way, but in an “I WILL get around to reading one of their books” muttered every time you see them because you just know they’re going to be great and you then something comes up and you for whatever reason the thought slips your mind again and again and again. This is Christina Henry for me so when the lovely Julia from Titan Books asked if I wanted to review The Girl in Red by Henry and take part in the Instagram book tour in I jumped at the chance! I love retellings at the best of times but this sounded like a really interesting inspiring take on the Red Riding Hood Story.

I found The Girl in Red to be slightly terrifying, absolutely creepy as heck and wholly addictive. It reminds me a lot of the human element to the earlier episodes of the Walking Dead when you begin to realise it’s not the zombies, or in this case, the cough that are the things you have to watch your back for it’s the survivors, most of who have become desperate or cruel (if they weren’t already) since the crisis. It’s not a unique tale by any means and is a little repetitive and predictable in some places but forgivably so because the real star of this book for me (other than main character Red herself) was the amazing way Henry builds tension. I found I was holding my breath, clenching my teeth and I had trouble reading it in my house alone, at one point my phone rang (a rare occurrence) while I was reading and it was during such a tense moment in the book that I screamed so loudly I woke up my four year old. On the slightly negative side, I did personally find the ending very rushed and a little unsatisfying but the book, even on reflection was no less enjoyable for it.

Red has possibly become one of my favourite fictional characters. She is a fantastic mix of badassery and compassion, she will kill and make tough choices to survive but she doesn’t let herself become dehumanised for it which I found a really refreshing balance, when she has to fatally defend herself she doesn’t relish it, when she has to take supplies she takes what she needs and likes to make sure that there is enough left if someone else needs them etc. Red often overthinks things, often to a fault and often thinks herself round in circles to inaction which is a habit I am also extraordinarily guilty of, so seeing it portrayed in this fantastic character who acknowledged that her obsessive and sometimes paranoid thinking could be debilitating like that felt incredibly eye-opening and has really helped to keep my own obsessive thinking in check by being able to identify it.

Main character Red is also an amputee and obviously, I can’t speak to the accuracy of her experience or identify with it but I found it really enlightening and I hope it helped people who find themselves with prosthetics feel seen and represented as well as hopefully helping to educate others. There is a line that is said in relation to someone question how much Red is capable of due to her amputation and Red replies with “Stop treating me like half a person…I am missing my leg below the knee. My brain is still functioning. I know what I can do and what I can’t.” and this feels SO important and relatable for anyone who is judged, babied and looked down on because they’re differently abled.

The Girl in Red is out in stores and online today!

 

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Blog Tours, book reviews, spoiler free

Summer Bird Blue – Blog Tour

35716237.jpgSummer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Rating: XXXX

Published: April 4th by Ink Road

“Becasue it turns out music isn’t just keeping me alive – It’s keeping Lea alive too.”

Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying. What to eat, where to go, who to love. But one thing she is sure of she wants to spend her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea. Then Lea dies in a car accident, and Rumi is sent to live with her aunt in Hawaii. Now, miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, feeling abandoned by her mother, and the aching absence of music. With the help of the “boys next door” teenage surfer Kai, who doesn’t take anything too seriously, and old George Watanabe, who succumbed to grief years ago Rumi seeks her way back to music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish. With unflinching honesty, Summer Bird Blue explores big truths about insurmountable grief, unconditional love, and how to forgive even when it feels impossible.

After reading and falling in love with Starfish and Akemi’s writing last year I have been SO excited to read her newest book Summer Bird Blue, the story of Rumi Seto grieving for her sister and trying to navigate her feelings and learning how to live her life again. I know I always mention this, but I don’t read a lot of contemporary books and was more than happy to break out of my norm to read this. I was lucky enough to be gifted an early finished copy from the lovely people at Ink Road Books and invited to take part in the blog tour 💙

I decided as this is a blog tour post I would spice it up a little so before we get to my review I want to play a little game. In Summer Bird Blue Rumi and Lea love to write songs together so I’m going to show you how to create your own using a book!

1. Pick your favourite book OR count along your bookcase or e-reader library etc until you get to your age and pick the book you finish on. I’m going to use Summer Bird Blue.

2. Take that book and look at the blurb and note down the word of the first three sentences or close your eyes and pick three words at random. This is the title of your song. (If there is no blurb then you can use the first three chapter names or three words to describe the cover perhaps?)

3. Next use your date of birth to choose which pages you’ll use to hunt for song lyrics. You can pick any two lines from each page or the first and last. I.e for me, my birthday is 25/12/1988 so I would use pages, 25, 12, 19 and 88. (Edit: page 12 is blank so going to pick the closest one with words)

4. Write them down in any order you like, it can make as much or as little sense as you like.

5. Your song is now complete! What kind of song do you think it is? A rock ballad? A punk-pop hit? Maybe it has a country feel to it? Let me know in the comments of you try it out! You can check mine about below:

Help Grief Sister

“Happy Birthday,” I say
The only thing dark in Hawaii is me
I feel like I hate everyone
A wish is a wish after all
I’ll never be able to reach her, not really
I’m not sure I understand what any of it means
I almost forgot what this felt like – to be lost in the music
“Is she going to stop?” I ask.

Summer Bird Blue is a powerfully evocative, intensely beautiful and heartbreaking story. At its core it feels a little like a coming of age over the summer kind of story but is so much more and although I am fortunate enough to be unable to imagine anything close to the all-consuming guilt Rumi feels and therefore cannot comment much on the accuracy of those emotions I feel like there are messages throughout this book for everyone, whether they have lost someone or not. It teaches a lot about grief but also mental health, confidence in yourself and others, identity (sexuality or otherwise) and feeling comfortable in your own skin as well as being able to let yourself rely on others and being there for them in return not to mention family, the good and the bad.

Akemi has absolutely hit the nail on the head with her second novel, it’s a brilliant mix of heartbreak and hope. I cried at this book a lot and in under ten pages – this book does not pull its punches. But although I can remember each and every moment that made me cry and hurt for Rumi and her family I can remember so much happiness too. There are some fantastic, organic moments throughout the book that just make it feel so real and make you really remember the good moments in spite of the painful ones and I think it’s an amazing parallel to a great approach to life, things can be bad and painful but we can’t let ourselves forget the good too.

Every single character in this book is memorable and I love them all. Kai is the most perfect male character I think I have ever read. I’m not saying he’s perfect because he’s gorgeous and can do no wrong, he feels perfect because he is flawed and he has problems like we all do and he doesn’t always deal with them in the best ways but that is life and I love him so much. I also love Mr Watanabe, who again I love more because of his flaws, he is quite possibly my favourite character in this book and maybe in any contemporary book I’ve ever read, he is an absolute gem. I also learnt about Hawaiin pidgin which a lot of the Hawaiin characters speak, first of all, I thought it was a written as it sounds accent kind of thing but then looked into further and realised it was its own language of sorts. I stumbled over reading it to begin with but it quickly became second nature and I really loved it.

Considering a fair amount of this book, especially the first half, is rather internal it moves really well. The internal parts are often scattered with memories of Rumi and her sister which helps to break it up some and everything else just moves in such a way that it feels really balanced. I found it really hard to put this book down and read it in about two days which is pretty fast for me and the poor book suffered from spine wrinkles which from me is a sign of an enjoyed book. I feel like I’ve been on holiday to Hawaii for the past five weeks and learned some important life lessons, I think this is definitely a book I’ll revisit in the summer.

Thank you so much to Ink Road books for my gifted early copy in exchange for an honest review and for having me on today’s stop for the blog tour! I hope you’ve enjoyed this review and if you’d like to check out more stops on the tour you can find them all in the graphic below!

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book reviews, spoiler free

Firefly: The Magnificent Nine

38486256Firefly: The Magnificent Nine

Rating: XXXX

Published: March 19th by Titan Books

“This was without a doubt the dumbest, insanest, reckless-est plan he had come up with, in a life marked by no lack of such plans.”

An old flame of Jayne Cobb’s, Temperance McCloud, sends a message to Serenity, begging him for help. She lives on the arid, far-flung world of Tethys, and bandits are trying to overrun her town to gain control of their water supply: the only thing standing between its people and dustbowl ruin. Jayne tries to persuade the Serenity crew to join the fight, but it is only when he offers Vera, his favourite gun, as collateral that Mal realises he’s serious.

When the Serenity crew land at a hardscrabble desert outpost called Coogan’s Bluff, they discover two things: an outlaw gang with an almost fanatical devotion to their leader who will stop at nothing to get what they want, and that Temperance is singlehandedly raising a teenage daughter, born less than a year after Temperance and Jayne broke up. A daughter by the name of Jane McCloud…

I was gifted an early finished copy from the lovely team at Titan books in exchange for an honest review, as a big Firefly fan, I absolutely jumped at the chance. This is the second tie in novel to the Firefly franchise but acts easily as a stand-alone.

For those who haven’t heard of Firefly before, (and it’s scary how many people that probably includes nowadays as it was originally broadcast back in 2002, seventeen years ago which feels crazy.) It was a TV show set in 2517 after humans have branched out into a new star system and follows a group of renegades, some of whom fought for the losing side in a system-wide civil war, turned crewmates aboard a Firefly class ship called Serenity. It was originally pitched as “nine people looking into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things.” In Whedon’s vision, “nothing will change in the future: technology will advance, but we will still have the same political, moral, and ethical problems as today.” Although the creator Joss Wheadon had planned for it to run for seven years, it barely lasted one season due to poor ratings but still lived on in the hearts and minds of it’s fans (or Browncoats as they are often referred to) for years to come, going so far as to petition for a continuation of the series which sadly failed. DVD sales of the singular season, however, were strong and the show even won a Primetime Emmy award. Thanks to its late success Wheadon and Universal pictures produced a feature-length film “Serenity” in 2005 to continue the series and it has since continued on via various comic series. The events that occur in this book, “The Magnificent Nine” take place between the end of the TV show and the film.

Whoever works on designing the looks of the books at Titan is amazing, this is another gorgeous book. The fantastic artwork on the front of the dust jacket is textured with the series title “Firefly” and the silhouette of the ship itself in a smooth foiling. The back of the dust jacket is simple but perfect with some Chinese kanji and a beautiful description of the ship Serenity, including the quote “She was the very picture of Serenity. From the outside at least.” The actual book itself is a perfectly matched Brown (a great nod to the Browncoats perhaps?) and an addition that is fast becoming my favourite thing to be included in hardbacks, a built-in ribbon bookmark.

The first thing that really pulled me into The Magnificent nine was the use of language. The original show has such a distinctive language style in many ways that are all brought over brilliantly into the written word with this book, from the phrasing in general, words that are unique to the Firefly ‘verse and the inclusion of the sprinkled Chinese phrases just like in the show. This made it easy to fall back into the already established fictional universe of the Firefly franchise and gave a sense of returning home as soon as I read the first few pages.

I really felt that James has also captured the individual rhythms and voices of the characters in a way that not only pays homage to the way they’re portrayed by the actors on the show but also gives us a unique insight into the inner workings of each character. Jayne, in particular, shone in this book, as a character who can often be misconstrued as selfish, unintelligent and trigger happy we really got a good look inside his head and although he can be a little of all three of those things it was refreshing to see another side of him swallowing his pride, protecting others and acknowledging that at times he can rush into things but when things are important he takes the time to think his actions through, even if they are often still part of a terrible idea, that’s just Jayne and we love him for it.

 

The plot moves at a good pace with a few little lulls here and there but it reads like a two-part episode. The fast-paced action scenes are easy to follow and visualise without being too repetitive, James seems to have a gift for making each altercation feel fresh. There are some great twists and turns throughout and although by the time most of them happened I had them figured out so they weren’t a huge surprise, they were interesting and well thought out with some great foreshadowing, again this is in line with a lot of the episodic storylines from the show. Even with some of the reveals feeling obvious however there are some surprising moments and there are plenty of tension-filled scenes where you’re not quite sure what could happen next. I loved the introduction of new supporting characters and especially River’s interactions with Jane. I’ve always found River to be a remarkably interesting character and this book is no exception, seeing her interact with a girl reasonably close to her age was heartwarming and fun. Not to mention Jane is a firecracker of a character and brilliant in her own right.

James Lovegrove has done an amazing job bringing the Firefly universe to the page with “The Magnificent Nine,” the characters leap off the page and the story pulls you in like a Jen mei nai-shing duh fwo-tzoo (extraordinarily impatient buddha). Keep your eyes peeled for a Q&A with the man himself coming soon!

A third tie in novel by the name of Generations is due in October this year and will be penned by Tim Lebbon.

 

book reviews, book talk, Bookish Discuussions, Comics, spoiler free

Captain Marvel: Liberation Run

42583944Captain Marvel: Liberation Run by Tess Sharpe

Rating: XXXX

Published: February 26th 2019 by Titan Books

But nothing can resist the stars for long. And she was made of battle-worn-starlight – her own kind of fire, one that never went out.

Carol Danvers–Captain Marvel–narrowly stops a spacecraft from crashing. Its pilot Rhi is a young Inhuman woman from a group who left for a life among the stars. Instead, they were imprisoned on a planet where an enslaved Inhuman brings her owner great power and influence. Horrified by the account, Carol gathers a team–including Ant-Man, Mantis, and Amadeus Cho–and they set out to free Rhi’s people.

I was gifted this gorgeous finished copy of Captain Marvel: Liberation Run by the publisher, Titan Books in exchange for an honest review. When I was offered this book that comes out under two weeks before one of my most anticipated Marvel film releases, Captain Marvel hits cinemas across the world I thought this would be a great opportunity to really dip my toe back into the world of Marvel comics and familiarise myself with the story of Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. I’m usually very much a DC Comics reader (Give me Green Lantern or Gotham City Sirens any day) but the films we’ve seen from Marvel over the past decade have really piqued my interest and I’ve found my way to reading a few of their titles. I was excited however to find an entire story in one novelised volume instead of having to wait months for any kind of conclusion such as we often find in comics (I’m impatient okay?).

In the comics… Labelled as Marvels biggest female hero and quite possibly the Marvels mightiest Avenger, Carol Danvers  first entered the Marvel universe in the 1970’s as the security chief of a restricted military base and later in 1977 took on the title of Ms Marvel in her own self titled series after she effectively became a human-Kree hybrid thanks to being exposed to energy from an explosion of a device that tried to meld her genetic structure to that of  the Kree hero, Captain Marvel who was also in the vicinity. Despite some horrific treatment to her story in the 1980s, which even the former writer considered “inappropriate”, the title alone was socially progressive for its time by using the title Ms. which was then associated with the feminist movement. In 2012 after going through a lot of changes and different appearances, Carol returns with the title Captain Marvel in a new series written by Kelly Sue DeConnick which leads the way for a newer, more progressive side to the character and a slew of female writers. Fast forward to July 2018 and we get a “retelling” of Carol’s origin story with her mother instead being of Kree origin and the explosion merely unlocking her latent abilities, writer Margret Stohl has also commented on the fact that the series will share some similarities to the upcoming film although that is still “it’s own thing.”  Currently, Captain Marvels (and Carol’s) story is being written by Kelly Thompson (of Hawkeye and Jem and the Holograms fame) and illustrated by Carmen Carnero.

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Captain Marvel: Liberation Run was everything that I could have hoped for in that it felt like your typical but enjoyable YA storyline but became so much more with the addition of Carol and the team she assembles to aid Rhi, an inhuman girl who, along with her people have been trapped in a hellish prison disguised as a “safe place” for the powerful women of her kind. Not only do we get a well written, moderatley paced and interesting storyline with Rhi and the other inhumans but we also get to see a little into the lives of Carol and Scott Lang (Ant-man) as well as some great story and dialogue from Mantis, Hepzibah and Amadeus (with a hint of Brawn).

The only thing that I found irked me about this book, and it completely a problem of my own making, was that I wanted to know more about each character. If you’re an avid comic reader you will probably recognise all, if not most, of the Alpha Flight characters but as someone who only dips their toe in here and there with the occasional series that interests me I had to rely on my knowledge gleaned from the popular films which are not always entirely in line with the comic releases. Although each character does get a bit of an explanation as to their powers etc in the story, at times it kind of felt, to me, like the name was dropped and we should know everything we need to know about from just that and to be honest that is a fair assumption as someone who is picking up a Marvel novel will more than likely have at least a passing knowledge about it’s characters. I do think there maybe could have been an additional glossary type feature with a little explanation of each of the “superhero” characters – I just want to know how they got their powers is that so much to ask? – but as I said this is a problem that not everyone will have and is more to do with my inherent need to know backstories than any real problem.

Aside from the characters themselves, the story holds well, even on its own, I may have been less inclined to have picked this up without the Captain Marvel name but it does read very much like a YA story I would happily read and enjoy outside of the Marvel universe as well. I think this is one of the most enjoyable feminist books I’ve read in a while too, it really hits the nail on the head with a lot of its points and moments that I really connected to without feeling like it was steamrolling over the plot, it was a part of it that helped make it a whole instead of taking centre stage.

Captain Marvel: Liberation Run has definitely made me more excited about the upcoming film and has certainly piqued my interest in checking out the comics, I just need to decide where to start!

Have you read a novel based on or tied into a comic at all? How did you find it and had you read the linked comics beforehand? Let me know in the comments and sound off if you’re also looking forward to seeing Captain Marvel on the big screen on March 8th! Don’t forget Captain Marvel: Liberation Run is out today!

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book reviews, spoiler free

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe Review

32601841.jpgThe Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Rating: XXXXX

Published September 7th 2017 by Walker Books

“Love takes so much energy, and it just leads to pain. I think it’s probably best for people to be self-sufficient. If I was strong enough to be independent, then I wouldn’t be so desperately lonely. I’m sure of it,”

Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away?

Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.

Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.

But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?

Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .

I stumbled across this beautiful book at YALC in 2017 on early sale at the Waterstones stand and although to me it looked like it was probably just a contemporary, maybe set in space? (I know contemporaries can be good too, I’m just not usually as interested in them). After I read the blurb I figured it was maybe a cross of Fangirl and the lake house somehow? Either way, I couldn’t say no to that shiny, sparkly cover. That and on behalf of Walker to celebrate the books release I’d just had a sparkly makeover so figured the least I could do was to check out the book they were promoting (and that sweet sweet cover). I had no idea that The Loneliest Girl would end up being one of my absolute favourite books. Two years later and now eagerly awaiting Lauren’s new book “The Quiet at the End of the World” which is out in early March, I decided to revisit the book that started it all for me, “The Loneliest Girl in the Universe.”

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The first time I read The Loneliest Girl I found out far too late that this book is a thriller. It starts off fluffy and light, very much in the vein of Fangirl, despite the darker sides to Romy’s backstory and her situation it feels like boy meets girl but are thousands beyond thousands of miles away from each other, cute emailing ensues etc. When I realised it was a thriller it was far too late to turn back, I was utterly hooked and terrified at the same time. I want to say that it’s different the second time around but to be honest it still pulls you in, lulls you into a false sense of security and makes you complacent so that when it really gets going you still feel like you’ve hit the floor at the bottom of the stairs when you were convinced there was one more step. This book is a wild ride that will not let you go, as the story goes on you recognise that feeling when you know something bad is going to happen but you can’t stop looking anyway and it is WORTH IT.

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Romy is a fantastic character, she’s realistic and relatable despite living her entire life on a spaceship she is wracked with anxiety and real fears and wants that just really hit a note with me and from having spoken to others who have read this she has the same effect on them as well. There are only a small number of characters in this book and I think in a lot of other books I might have found that boring but it works so well with The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, it adds to Romy’s isolation and you feel how important any kind of communication between the small number of characters really is and makes you appreciate them all the more which I imagine is the same case for Romy. This is one of my favourite aspects of the book because it really puts you in Romy’s shoes and heightens so much of the story.

The science is fantastic and fairly easy to wrap your head around instead of the pages of confusing words that don’t actually make sense together or sound ridiculous like you find in some Science Fiction books, strangely especially the adult ones… I now realise after having read Lauren’s other books that this is always a defining feature as well as featuring female scientists in prominent roles which gets a huge thumbs up from me! I actually found out after reading this book for the first time that it was inspired by a physics calculation Lauren was tasked with completing while at university! How cool is that?!

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If for some reason you haven’t checked this book out yet I highly recommend you do so, it’s only a short read and you can even buy a personalised and signed copy from Lauren’s Etsy store (it’s a dangerous place) there are pin badges and different versions of the books of which I now own all of…my personal favourite is the doodle in my US copy of a space cat because I like space. and cats. You get the idea. Don’t forget you can also preorder The Quiet at the end of the World, I just read the prologue and I HAVE CHILLS.

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book reviews, spoiler free

The Wicked King by Holly Black

26032887The Wicked King by Holly Black

Rating: XXXX

Published January 8th by Hot Key Books

Kiss me until I am sick of it”

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her, even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

(Also this review will contain no spoilers for The Wicked King, I cannot guarantee any non spoiler content for the first book in the series, The Cruel Prince.)

I read the first book in this series, The Cruel Prince on release last year after being super excited for when Holly Black herself told us all about it at the event with her and Cassandra Clare the year before and for those who have seen the review I did for it on YouTube last year you’ll know how much I loved it and it really heightened my love for the Hate/Love troupe and for potentially morally ambiguous murder girls like Jude. So suffice to say I’ve been pretty excited for this sequel since the moment I read the last page of The Cruel Prince and although I wasn’t able to get this one dead on release day this time, I did get it a week later and absolutely devour it the moment I got it and at every available opportunity afterwards until I finished it.

The Wicked King has a similar tone to The Cruel Prince but with much higher stakes, the way Jude is treated as Seneschal to the High King is obviously different to how she was treated as a mortal child, weather “daughter” of the high general or not but she still faces the same kind of degradation and mocking, it’s just a lot more underhanded but no less impactful. What does change the way a lot of these moments play out is Jude’s reaction to these occurrences and how her actions in retaliation can have a larger ripple affect in all of her plans and potentially the future of Elfhame. I enjoyed the new dynamic as I always used to read a lot of Historical Fiction with a large amount of under handed court scheming and the like so this felt like very familiar territory and done especially well i that style that Holly Black has where she can make everything seem beautiful and mesmerising yet deadly and terrifying all at once.

We got to see a lot more of the inner workings of the High Kings court in The Wicked King then we did via the Court of Shadows previously which I found interesting but occasionally they were sandwiched in between some other really tantalising part of the story and I found myself racing through those parts to get back to it, a little like most of the Sansa Stark chapters in the Game of Thrones books (unrelated note – Sansa is so much more awesome in the show). This wasn’t a huge problem by any means but I think it might have affected my rating a little because it sticks out in my mind as making the middle feel a little slow or frustrating which is crazy because they were still written well and fairly interesting they just had the misfortune to be placed between parts I was desperate to get back to. That being this may have a just been a great tension building technique that may have gone over my head.

Locke, Cardan and Jude were all brilliantly terrible as they were originally, by terrible I mean I like that everyone is morally grey and for want of a better term to describe them “chaotic neutral” in that they are just as much likely to stab you in the face as help you depending on their mood and thanks to Holly this is easily becoming one of my favourite types of characters. I love that Cardan is so hard to read, for Jude and for me as the reader, there’s just something about feeling like you can never truly trust any of these characters that I adore and Cardan is one hundred percent the best example of that. Taryn was another character I think excelled in The Wicked King, especially in the latter half of the book, I found her quite irritating in The Cruel Prince and although we see less of her in the sequel, what we do see of her is brilliant.

I won’t speak too much on the ‘relationship’ between Jude and Cardan but although I know the “I hate you because I love/want you” is not a healthy basis for a real life relationship in any way shape or form, especially with the lengths of cruelty and manipulation these two can take it too but that is the beauty of Fiction because for these characters especially it suits so well and I’m so very here for it, especially with it being a very two way thing between them both. Also the quote “Kiss me until I’m sick of it” is probably one of my top ten favourite quotes of all time.

As expected I was completely blown away by the last one hundred pages and made the mistake of staying up late to finish it as I couldn’t put it down and then being unable to sleep for thinking “well, what comes next” for the next two hours. If you loved or enjoyed The Cruel Prince I definitely recommend picking up its sequel for more of the same great content but with higher stakes, more Jude murdering, more Jude and Cardan, more fae scheming and back stabbing – lots of my favourite things.

book reviews, spoiler free

A Discovery of Witches- Spoiler Free Review

10459837A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Rating: XXXXX

Published September 29th 2011 by Headline

“It begins with absence and desire.
It begins with blood and fear.
It begins with a discovery of witches.”

A world of witches, daemons and vampires. A manuscript which holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future. Diana and Matthew – the forbidden love at the heart of it.

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires. Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist. Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…

Having brought this last year at the great advice of one of the booksellers at my local Waterstones I had planned to join in with a readathon before the fourth book in the series was released, I did start this but with life and other things getting in the way I fell behind and decided I would come back to it at a later date and that later date happened to be in October. I watched the first episode of the TV show that aired this Autumn assuming I had read enough to get me through the episode without any huge spoilers and I was mostly right but by this point I was utterly hooked and started reading again. I had to stop just over half way through to read some books that I had to review by particular dates but with the last one done for the year I dived straight back into this book and finished it off in no time.

The best way I feel I can describe A Discovery of Witches is Twilight for adults, now I know Twilight gets a lot of stick and it’s not the most amazingly well written book in the whole wide world but, for me at least and some others it was enjoyable. A Discovery of Witches is more adult, not just in its characters but in setting and content which keeps it much more entertaining and more accessible for older readers but not inaccessible for the younger.

As characters go I found each memorable and particularly like Diana who is stubborn and strong but also has fragile moments as well, she doesn’t just take Matthews alpha male act at its word either which is refreshing for female main characters in books featuring paranormal romances. There are too many to list to be able to name my favourite things about all the characters but I do feel that despite the varied ensemble we get a nice amount of them, their back story, quirks and views etc making them easy to enjoy and remember, there are very few books, especially of this length where I can remember not only the names of characters but also details about them as well.

On reflection it feels amazing how much was crammed into this book and done well, it is certainly a sizeable book but one that I found very easy to work my way through with speed due to the not overly simplified but comfortable writing style that I found easy to devour. I wouldn’t say it is a book filled with great tension, other than the odd sensual (but not steamy) scene but there is definitely enough action and magic spread throughout to keep it interesting. I especially liked the first and last halves, the first half focusing very much on Diana and how her life begins to change as events unfold and the third being the part of the book where everything really culminates. The middle is still a good read and interesting, I could honestly read an entire series on its own about sept-tor but those parts I particularly enjoyed immensely.

I wouldn’t say this isn’t an epic read but absolutely an enjoyable one, especially if you enjoy paranormal romance, this isn’t quite the overly steamy, sex scene every chapter, heroines clad in leather that some PR caters to but is a little more stereotypically refined and feels like a nice mix between PR and general paranormal fantasy which I hadn’t known I had needed. What I mean by saying this isn’t an epic read is that this is very much a starting book, it’s certainly good and everything begins to get set into place, we get some answers and a fairly satisfying ending but it is very much a starting point and a great, addictive one at that. I’ve already started the second book and I’m pretty sure this is a series I will happily see through to the end.

Just an additional note I also listened to a good half of this book as an Audio-book read by Jenifer Ikeda who I feel embodies Diana well and is especially fantastic at all of the different accents and voices, if you’re looking for a good Audio-book, A Discovery of Witches is definitely a great example and I’ll be listening to the others alongside reading depending when opportunity dictates.