book reviews, spoiler free

The Last Namsara – Spoiler Free Review

32667458The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

Rating: XXXXX

Published October 12th 2017 by Gollancz

Asha lured the dragon with a story.
It was an ancient story, older than the mountains at her back, and Asha had to dredge it up from where it lay deep and dormant inside her.

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

I actually received this in a FairyLoot Box last year and it turned into one of those books I had to read but took forever to get around to, now with The Caged Queen coming out on the 25th September I figured this would be a great time to get it read so I’m all ready for the next book in the Iskari series.

42579003_2240204629345687_9119902486532980736_n

First of all can I just say…Dragons.

I was pretty sure from the get go that I would enjoy this book but I hadn’t been prepared for just how much. I love the interweaving of the old tales interwoven throughout the story and I would love for Kristen to write a whole book of tales because even stand alone they were interesting, beautifully written and captivating. The writing in the rest of the book is very good as well obviously but there was just felt like a particular kind of artistry to the tales that really made them feel like they had power.

 

The characters in The Last Namsara are well-rounded and fleshed out, each have their particular flaws which were not shied away from and helped to build their character and give them a richness. Asha was a particular favourite for me, she had a real fire to her and goes to show that great characters can be hugely unsure of themselves but still confident, physically strong but smart and most importantly not always right. I really loved seeing her attitudes change as she uncovered things throughout the story and how she reacted to situations. I feel like Asha is a fantastic example of a strong woman in fantasy without a lot of the stereotypes that usually get pinned to those kind of characters. She is a character that I think will stay with me for a long time.

The plot is intriguing if not a little up and down. The political intrigue side of things was a little slow to get going and become of any real interest but Asha herself kept the first half of the book going single-handedly (I think I honestly may be in love with her) and then by the second half of the book a lot more other characters began to come out of their shell, stakes got even higher and it felt like everyone had more purpose. The romance begins to get a little heavier in the second half as well and I’m usually not overly interested in that side of things I feel that the relationship was done very well and was a well thought out plot point all of its own that felt very well handled.

The Last Namsara is a refreshing take on fantasy and a fantastic debut from Kristen Ciccarelli and a book I highly recommend checking it out! The sequel, A Caged Queen, is out in the UK tomorrow September 27th.

42629513_318527245623495_8568087996035760128_n

 

 

book reviews, book talk, spoiler free

Only Love Can Break Your Heart Review

37903962.jpgOnly Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber

Rating: XXXXX

Published August 2nd 2018 by Walker Books Ltd.

Sometimes a broken heart is all you need to set you free… Reiko loves the endless sky and electric colours of the Californian desert. It is a refuge from an increasingly claustrophobic life of family pressures and her own secrets. Then she meets Seth, a boy who shares a love of the desert and her yearning for a different kind of life. But Reiko and Seth both want something the other can’t give them. As summer ends, things begin to fall apart. But the end of love can sometimes be the beginning of you…

From the title I kind of figured this book would break my heart. What I experienced instead was so much more and although I love a good cry from a book (and there was certainly that don’t get me wrong) Only Love Can Break Your Heart was so much more than heartbreaking, it was infuriating and confusing and uplifting, heartwarming, wise and special. The only other book I’ve read that felt similar to this for me was Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman and although it doesn’t quite cover mental health and other aspects in quite the same way the book made me feel some of the same things and left the same feeling in my gut when I finished it, like a deep breath as you ready yourself for whatever the future holds.

41283997_462339870929253_4920350165346287616_n

Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a tough book to read in some ways, well at least it was for me. It may look deceptively pretty, fluffy and not too big a read but let me tell you the stuff that is in this book kind of blew my mind a little. For the longest time I did not like Reiko and certainly not Seth.They are, however written FANTASTICALLY! It’s hard to describe because it’s not a case of I love to hate them or anything and they’re certainly not nice people but you know what ARE ANY OF US? A big thing I took away from this book is absolutely none of us are perfect and that’s okay! We learn when we mess up, we deal with things and sometimes we need help and only we can really choose what we take away from the day-to-day events in our lives and the lives of those around us.

Getting towards the end of this book and looking back at the person I was when I started reading it was startling, my feelings changed so much throughout and I wish I had taken more notes because it was a rollercoaster of a ride. I love a book that can make you feel and a book that can make you think but isn’t weighed down by the weight of it. This book deals with the death/loss of a loved one on a very personal level and approaches a lot of other things like self-worth and the way you want others to perceive you along with more I’m sure I’ve missed.

This is definitely a book worth reading, the characters are developed well and very easy to visualise and remember. They are some gorgeous settings and moments throughout and as someone who hates dry sand and the heat it’s made me want to go explore the desert. Katherine’s writing style is smooth and flows with a particular brilliance to it, scenes move well and she’s great at moving the story along and trimming the parts that are important enough to be mentioned but not enough to need a play by-play without making us as readers feel like we’re missing out. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, another favourite I feel and a solid XXXXX  rating.

book reviews, spoiler free

Undead Girl Gang

35707056Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

Rating: XXXXX

Published May 8th 2018 by Razorbill

“Spells are just prayers with more steps and a name that scares people.”

Mila Flores and her best friend Riley have always been inseparable. There’s not much excitement in their small town of Cross Creek, so Mila and Riley make their own fun, devoting most of their time to Riley’s favorite activity: amateur witchcraft.

So when Riley and two Fairmont Academy mean girls die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone’s explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.

Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders, but they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer…before the killer strikes again.

I received an Advanced Readers Copy of Undead Girl Gang when I brought another book from the same stand at YALC this year. Originally I found an enamel pin badge as shown on the cover, fell in love with it and then searched for the book it was from which the stand only had in ARC form if you brought another book so I ended up with two books and pin badge for the price of one book! This was a wise choice and I’m so glad it caught my eye!

This book absolutely has it all. Death, Witches, Romance, Mystery, Zombies, Magic, Betrayal, Cats called Thackery Binx, multiple funerals and …Mushrooms. This book has it all and is easily one of my favorite books released this year. I expected to enjoy it but what I had not realised when I started reading was as follows:

– That I would then be up until the small hours the next morning reading by the light of the street lamp outside my bedroom window.

– That I would get in a genuine huff the next day when I had to go get my hair cut and therefore had to stop reading.

– Actually be glad about an hour and a half wait for a bus because I could read more.

– Consider stabbing my husband with a spoon if he didn’t stop trying to talk to me while I was trying to read

– Become traumatized by mushrooms.

40374361_543611426097941_170881827991453696_n

Undead Girl Gang was full of great surprises, genuine mystery and some great whodunnit vibes which kept me guessing the whole way through. The zombie magic was well done without being overly gross and the teenage witchy/wiccan side to things was interesting as someone who went through a similar phase when was a youngling so a lot of things sounded familiar, especially Mila’s attitude to the practise to begin with. One of my favourite things about this book is actually the relationships and family dynamics, especially between Mila and the other girls which change throughout the narrative. There are some other subtle themes throughout as well that I was pleased to see along with a funny, capable plus sized leading lady.

This book feels well rounded even with a dash of everything thrown in. The characters are memorable and it’s enjoyable to learn more things about them throughout the story and each have their own distinctive voice. I feel like Mila’s responses to some events and circumstances felt especially genuine and relatable, I couldn’t help but laugh every time she was distracted by a pretty boy because that was very much what I was like as a teenager. This is one of those books that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with but find it hard to describe in a few paragraphs without repeating myself because I don’t think I can pinpoint one or two things that made me love it, this book is a culmination of great things that net it a very easy XXXXX rating from me. Well worth a read if you enjoy stories about sisterhood, all things witchy, funny zombies, murder mystery and some VERY tense moments.

40211726_2142890975968976_7695595089552211968_n
book reviews, spoiler free

Tournament Trouble – Cross Ups 1

36613399Tournament Trouble by Sylv Chiang (and illustrated by Connie Choi)

Rating: XXXX

Published March 13th 2018 by Annick Press

All twelve-year-old Jaden wants to do is be the best at Cross Ups, the video game he and his friends can’t stop playing. He knows he could be―if only he didn’t have to hide his gaming from his mom, who’s convinced it will make him violent. After an epic match leads to an invitation to play in a top tournament, Jaden and his friends Devesh and Hugh hatch a plan to get him there. But Jaden’s strict parents and annoying siblings, not to mention a couple of bullies and his confusing feelings for his next-door neighbor Cali, keep getting in the way!

Tournament Trouble marks the first book in a planned series by Sylv Chiang, a captivating new voice in middle reader fiction. With sharp dialogue and relatable characters, it chronicles the ups and downs of middle school with a relevant, contemporary twist. Accompanied by Connie Choi’s lively illustrations, Tournament Trouble invites readers into Jaden’s world, and will leave them eagerly awaiting his next adventure.

1-chapter1
“from Tournament Trouble and Anyone’s Game © 2018 Sylv Chiang (text) © 2018 Connie Choi, published by Annick Press Ltd. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission.”

Tournament Trouble does a great job of capturing the spirit of young readers and gamers while also imparting important messages and lessons without ever shoving them in your face. There is a kind of smooth simplicity to the story telling as well which is absolutely refreshing. We don’t always need a whole chapter explaining how and why Jaden and Cali are friends and have been since they were little or a play by-play recreation of Jaden’s uncles back story etc. All it takes is a few lines here and there and it helps the narration feel much lighter and less bulked down in details then I feel a lot of books can be, I especially loved that this is done and written in such a way that it doesn’t feel like it’s been dumbed down either.

All of the characters are likable and memorable and I particularly liked the fact that the group of friends was diverse without being stereotypical as well as coming from differing backgrounds making them easily relatable and realistic. The main character, Jaden has a good story arc and you can really feel his deliberation and hesitancy when it comes to doing things that he knows he shouldn’t. I also feel the reactions of those around him like his parents and friends also seemed like they would be accurate and are as diverse as you would get in a real situation, not everyone always agrees.

9-chapter14
“from Tournament Trouble and Anyone’s Game © 2018 Sylv Chiang (text) © 2018 Connie Choi, published by Annick Press Ltd. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission.”

This book has a great approach to bullying, honesty, gaming and more, it has great pacing and was very hard to put down. I’d like to give a special (spoiler free) mention about the ending which I highly approved of and felt natural and organic, I’m usually very fussy about my endings and was pleased to be happy about this one.

I also cannot stress enough how fantastic the artwork by Connie Choi was! It really added a whole other level to the book and I would happily display some of the pieces in my home. The art is somehow both simple but very descriptive at the same time with a great distinctive style to it that feels appropriate for the story matter and I’d love to see more!

Cross Ups Book Two coming September 11th 2018 (Review coming next week!)

40347657_2135953073399490_8991223372264243200_n.jpg

 

book reviews, spoiler free

Ash Princess – Spoiler Free Review

37766209Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Rating: XXXXX

Published: June 14th 2018 by Macmillan Children’s Books (MyKindaBook)

“And now I know what it means to take a life, that it’s more than a bade and blood and a heart gone still.”

The queen you were meant to be
The land you were meant to save
The throne you were meant to claim

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. Ten years later, Theo has learned to survive under the relentless abuse of the Kaiser and his court as the ridiculed Ash Princess.

When the Kaiser forces her to execute her last hope of rescue, Theo can’t ignore her feelings and memories any longer. She vows revenge, throwing herself into a plot to seduce and murder the Kaiser’s warrior son with the help of a group of magically gifted and volatile rebels. But Theo doesn’t expect to develop feelings for the Prinz.

Forced to make impossible choices and unable to trust even those who are on her side, Theo will have to decide how far she’s willing to go to save her people and how much of herself she’s willing to sacrifice to become Queen.

From author Laura Sebastian comes Ash Princess, a nail-biting YA fantasy debut full of daring and vengeance.

After seeing cover reveals and early reviews for Ash Princess I find myself very intrigued. I’ve grown a little away from what seemed like a very “Throne of Glass” sounding book but something about Theo’s story just intrigued me. So much so in fact that after some encouragement from the lovely Sunday YA chat group I decided to drop the lovely people at Macmillan an email enquiring about a hardcopy proof. A few days passed and work was so busy I hadn’t spared it another thought when I arrived home to my first successful requested physical proof and let me tell you it was gorgeous!

35781687_10155299301891581_685051320981258240_n

Ash Princess seems to have a wealth of varied reviews online which is fantastic, I love when a book can really get people talking. Some wrote it off without finishing (understandable, if you’re really not enjoying a book then forcing it won’t help), some found themes uncomfortable (Trigger warning: abuse, violence, slavery and torture), some found it very samey or over done and some (like myself) LOVED it. I love a book that can divide readers because I love to read all the different points of view and this book is no exception.

I’ve found a lot of fantasy reads to be overly cliché recently, especially when it comes to romance so I honestly wasn’t sure how I would feel about this and seeing how some others have reviewed it I thought there was a strong chance I wouldn’t enjoy it but I was so pleasantly surprised! Although the bare bones of the story could seem rather familiar the way it was fleshed out surpassed every expectation I had and more.

The writing is compulsively readable, addictive and captivating, I was hooked very early on and after reading this book I would happily try anything written by Laura Sebastian. I found I had trouble putting this book down and I actually ended up rubbing some of the foil off the spine where I had read this book to death over a few days. The story actually really kept me guessing, it started off a little predictable but I still found so many surprises as I read on, not to mention the seamless world building that was threaded throughout as well, it felt natural and was easy to understand and imagine.Not to mention I do love a bit of “at court” politics as it were and there was a healthy dose of this throughout.

The torture Theo went through and the general misery and humiliation of her situation and how she dealt with it somehow endeared her to me as a character because it felt real and her reactions felt real and it made me believe in her plight and why she makes some of the choices she did, I really enjoyed all aspects of her character for better or worse. I enjoyed the way Cress, the Kaiser and the Prinz were portrayed as well. Cress was a fantastically written character with a surprising amount of depth to her, the Kaiser was absolutely horrific and the Prinz kept me conflicted which is perfect. There are another three characters; Blaise, Art and Heron and although I like Art and Heron well enough with their differing characteristics I wasn’t an avid fan of Blaise as I think he felt a little too troupey which made him feel a tad forgettable for me but I had plenty of other characters to worry about.  I remember thinking part way through that the story could be as bland as a grey colour sample sheet and these fantastic characters would still make it work. Thankfully we were lucky enough to have a great story as well!

Besides getting a little (slightly predictable) love triangle-y on us I enjoyed some aspects of the “romance” in this and can’t say too much without giving any of it away but considering how I’ve felt about clichéd romances lately I was pleasantly surprised. Ash Princess feels fresh, gripping and addictive. It’s a little dark in places which is worth considering if you have any relevant triggers but for me it just felt right, the scenes weren’t put in there just to be shocking, they were relevant to the story and how horrific and terrifying the people Theo found herself surrounded by.

Ash Princess gets an easy XXXXX rating from me and I’m already practically chomping at the bit to get hold of the next book “Lady Smoke” which I think will somehow be even better if it goes the way I think it might (and maybe even better if not!). I can tell you now that I think this is a book I might be rereading again this year as well! I’m a little late with my review due to working on the brand new NPC Crate (more details to come or check us out on instgram!) but Ash Princess is out now and I would highly recommend this read!

35864516_10155299301871581_8638523947861671936_n

book reviews, spoiler free

Bookshop Girl Review

36642932Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

Rating: XXXXX

Published: June 14th by Hot Key Books

“What do we want? Books! When do we want them? Forever!”

Bennett’s Bookshop has always been a haven for sixteen-year-old Paige Turner. It’s a place where she can escape from her sleepy hometown, hang out with her best friend, Holly, and also earn some money.

But, like so many bookshops, Bennett’s has become a ‘casualty of the high street’ – it’s strapped for cash and going to be torn down. Paige is determined to save it but mobilising a small town like Greysworth is no mean feat.

Time is ticking – but that’s not the only problem Paige has. How is she going to fend off the attractions of beautiful fellow artist, Blaine? And, more importantly, will his anarchist ways make or break her bookshop campaign?

I received a digital advance copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. When I saw the title of this book and the cute cover artwork I knew I needed to check this book out and I must be on a winning streak at the moment because I’m so glad I requested a copy.

Bookshop Girl is two things for me, one is a inspirational, little fluffy, fun, easy and enjoyable read and the second is a scarily arcuate representation of my town. I worked in a local pet shop that got shut down because rent’s became extortionate, foot fall in town fell and many more people go online or further afield and most of the time sadly independent retailers cannot compete so when the same thing looked to happen to Bennetts bookstore I immediately felt a connection there. It wasn’t just the retail climate that felt familiar either, although I’m a good 14/15 years older than the main character I remembered essentially being her. Sure the slang has changed and technology is vastly more superior but her essence and personality just felt so relatable to my “youth” (now I REALLY feel old). The surroundings and townsfolk seemed eerily accurate too, down the guy who used to try to hide things in his trousers to shop lift and the shops etc, I had to check the authors info page to find out how close she really lived to me because it felt like she could have easily written this about my town and I think that really helped connect me to this book in a way I might not have done otherwise.

Bookshop girl is a super laid back read and is, I think certainly for the younger side of the YA market with a sixteen year old protagonist and fairly light events which were no less meaningful for it. This book is heartwarming and just the right kind of funny, silly and cringe inducing and the couple of days it took to me read it just felt relaxing. The writing feels very arcuate to the age group (insert hello fellow young people meme here) and shows a lovely side of the “younger generation of today” instead of the bad image a lot of young people are unfairly branded with today. Paige Turner is normal, average and I love her for it because it helps hammer home the idea that anyone can help to make a difference if it’s something they care about.

I can see why some people, especially of my age, might find this a little too “young” for them but I throughly enjoyed it and can happily recommend it. I’m so happy books like this are being written, although we need the deep hard-hitting stories I feel like we also need books like Bookshop Girl too which address issues and current situations that I don’t think we see a lot of but that can still effect young people. Thank you so much to Hot Key Books and Net Galley for allowing me to read Paige’s story in time for its release date today!! Happy Book Birthday to Bookshop Girl and don’t forget if you’re attending YALC Chloe Coles will be attending the event and signing books on the Friday!

Until next time,

Jemma.

book reviews, spoiler free

The Extinction Trials: Exile Review

37824187The Extinction Trials: Exile by S.M. Wilson

Rating: XXXXX

Published: June 1st 2018 by Usbourne Publishing

“You’ve spent your life making plans and rules for everyone. It’s time to throw that out the window. Leave it behind. Life follows it’s own rules.”

After surviving on Piloria once, Storm and Lincoln are the obvious candidates to return to the dinosaur continent to test the new virus that should clear the way for human settlement. But they have their own priorities – finding a cure for the plague that’s sweeping Earthasia, and keeping themselves alive.

*The Extinction Trials: Exile is the sequel to The Extinction Trials, you can find my spoiler free review for the first book here and although this review will also be spoiler free when it comes to Exile it will most certainly contain spoilers from the first book.

Since reading The Extinction Trials a few months back I have been SO excited to get hold of this sequel! I made sure to preorder it and went to pick it up on day of release and despite buying a lot of other books that day because there are just so many great books coming out right now, this is the first one out of all of them that I read. Piloria was stuff fairly fresh in my mind and I’d been excited seeing all the updates about the impending release and this had to be the book I dived into first, I needed to know what happened after the way the first book and ended and DAMN I was not dissapointed.

I enjoyed the first book immensely but I LOVED it’s sequel. Exile takes all of my favourite aspects from the first book and somehow manages to turn it up another notch. We got more Pilora, we got more political intrigue, more character development, new dinosaurs but less dinosaurs on a whole which I’m not sure is a bad thing to be honest. It reminds me of shows/stories like The Walking Dead when people learn, or at least begin to learn how to more or less surrvive the huge primary threat and it becomes just another thing to surrvive and then other things come to light and you realise there are often other dangers closer to home you had lost sight of or missed due to the primary threat being (understandably) all ecompassing. The dinosaurs are very much still there and still a danger but they aren’t what I would call a huge focus in Exile. When they did appear they were still pretty terrifying (especially a scene with one of the new ones) and although I maybe would have liked a couple more I think they were done well, too many encounters I think would maybe have oversaturated the story, especially when there were other things going on to focus on.

I feel this was a great book for characters, Storm and Lincoln both good, interesting personal arcs and I enjoyed seeing more of some of the other characters and the few new ones we were introduced to as well. For me we really got to know Storm a lot better and she became more of a person in this book whereas before I had found her a bit too unbalanced and not making as much sense as I would have liked. Lincoln, although not as interesting to me as Storm, managed to really redeem himself for me in this book after me being pretty furious at him after the end of the first book. Although his motives were understandable then I didn’t like the way he went about it and this book I feel like we understand him more and he’s learnt from his mistakes to a degree making his character much more enjoyable and relatable. I won’t go into detail about the other characters so as not to spoil anything with hints but one of the returning characters we got to see more of was possibly one of my favourites after this other than Storm herself and I really enjoyed the direction that they were taken in.

Overall I found that I enjoyed this book even more than the first, I think down to the nice mix of elements here and the infacuation with the story garnered from the first book. Also I’m a very character based reader, a plot can be weak but if the chracters are enjoyable and/or relatableI will still get a fair bit of enjoyment out of it. Although the over arcing plot in Exile is relatively simple there are some interesting reveals and even though a couple of them were fairly predictable they were no less enjoyable for it which I put down to Wilson’s writing style and keeping everything still fresh somehow. I didn’t have to wait long between reading the first book and this second one and I know the wait for the third is going to be painful becasue I genuinely adored the ending but I need more immediatley. A television show wouldn’t go amiss either, I feel like this story would port to TV very well. So now the wait begins for the third book and I honestly already can’t help imagining the things that could happen and am resisting writing fan fiction because I need more.

Sadly now I need to get back to the absoloute mountain of books I have to read this month and by popular vote via my Twitter it looks like I can finally dive into Vicious so hopefully I’ll see you next week with another review. So until next time,

Jemma.

35062724_10155276604341581_6240669592272764928_n.jpg

book reviews, crone book club

The Exact Opposite of Okay

35817737The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

Published: March 8th 2018 by Electronic Monkey

Rating: XXXXX

“Basically, if you’re a woman, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”
Izzy O’Neill is an aspiring comic, an impoverished orphan, and a Slut Extraordinaire. Or at least, that’s what the malicious website flying round the school says. Izzy can try all she wants to laugh it off – after all, her sex life, her terms – but when pictures emerge of her doing the dirty with a politician’s son, her life suddenly becomes the centre of a national scandal. Izzy’s never been ashamed of herself before, and she’s not going to start now. But keeping her head up will take everything she has…
I had seen this book a few times and sadly did my usual, “oh its contemporary, I don’t know if I’m that interested” and passed it by. I need to stop doing this (that’s a whole other blog post) because I almost missed this AMAZING book. Thankfully Jenn from the #CroneBookClub picked this as our read for May and I managed to just squeeze it in after this months other reads and WOW. I’m so glad for it.
This book is something I would recommend every person on the planet read. Not just because it’s a great read but also because of the situations and messages portrayed within the story that are SO important and need to be understood by men, women, girls, boys and honestly any other gender on the spectrum because we live in a world where too many of us tear each other down, we emotionally manipulate those we supposedly care about and are emotionally manipulated by them and slut shaming is so rampant and practised by so many, not to mention the terrifying wave of revenge porn ushered in with the birth of camera phones and social media. Although stereotypically we find men behind revenge porn and spouting about the imaginary friend zone just as women tend to be some of the worst for slut shaming and I want to address first that I know this isn’t always the way. Any gender and sexuality is capable of these things but during this review I’ll be using the examples used within the book.
I managed to read The Exact Opposite of Okay in about three sittings and could not put it down. The story is written in a blog post format that I’m becoming increasingly fond of, it gives the narrative an extra twist of personality and is the perfect way of bringing Izzy’s particular brand of humour across, I especially liked the added closed captions often explaining or adding more information and comments from a later date as well. I think this easy to read format was one of the reasons it was such a quick read for me, possibly because I’m a blogger or a young(ish – haha) enough person that I’ve been around technology for a good deal of my life and therefore read a lot of information in this kind of format.
The personality of the characters in this feel done very well and I had no trouble remembering who was who and what they were like etc. I found myself very protective of Izzy and Ajita and I did have to have a brief break to rant and rave to my poor husband about how people need to mind their own business re: slut shaming etc and a long intense full on rant about how the friend zone is a stupid figment of imagination dreamed up by “butt hurt” men (again I know not always men but in this case it was relevant to the situation and my personal experience). This is a good thing, this book should make people angry at the injustices that the main character and others are subjected to because these things happen every single day to people around us and that is not okay. This book feels like it stoked a fire that had previously just been simmering embers inside me and it made me so mad for the people events like these affect.
I was extremely satisfied with the ending which is a rarity for me, I usually don’t like endings but this felt like it ended right and I was happy with it.
After Laura Steven herself joined the Crone Book Club for their monthly chat to discuss her book she revealed that there is in fact a sequel coming next year AND a spin-off about a murder podcast also set at Edgewood and I’m excited for both of these! If you haven’t checked out The Exact Opposite of Okay I highly recommend you do so! I feel like this is such an important book not to mention enjoyable, don’t let my ranting about the subject put you off because this book is genuinely so enjoyable and funny.
Thank you for checking out my review and I’ll catch you again soon.
Jemma.
jemma setterington
book reviews, spoiler free

The Testament of Loki

35077202The Testament of Loki by Joanne Harris

Published: May 17th 2018 by Gollancz

Rating: XXXX

“I’m Loki, son of Laufey and I always have a plan.”

Ragnarok was the End of Worlds.

Asgard fell, centuries ago, and the old gods have been defeated. Some are dead, while others have been consigned to eternal torment in the netherworld – among them, the legendary trickster, Loki. A god who betrayed every side and still lost everything, who has lain forgotten as time passed and the world of humans moved on to new beliefs, new idol and new deities . . .

But now mankind dreams of the Norse Gods once again, the river Dream is but a stone’s throw from their dark prison, and Loki is the first to escape into a new reality.

The first, but not the only one to. Other, darker, things have escaped with him, who seek to destroy everything that he covets. If he is to reclaim what has been lost, Loki will need allies, a plan, and plenty of tricks . . .

Loki is back! The Testament of Loki by Joanne Harris is out today in all it’s Norse glory!  was lucky enough to receive a digital advance copy from Gollancz via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was super excited to also pick up my signed finished copy a day in advance as well! I love the style of the cover art so much and it looks great next to my copy of Gospel, I can’t wait to receive my preorder bonus pin as well.

The Testament of Loki is a sequel to The Gospel of Loki and are a part of the Runemarks universe, I haven’t read the Runemarks books yet but still enjoyed Gospel immensely and to be honest you don’t necessarily have to have read even that to enjoy Testament because it recaps most of, if not all of the important information. That said, The Gospel of Loki is pretty good (My spoiler free review can be read here) and it does help set the tone for some of the characters so if you get the chance I recommend it.

This sequel does have a very different feel to its predesscor however, in Gospel your humble narrator often tells you how it’s all going to end and it feels very much like a story being told whereas in Testament it feels more in the moment. There is also the fact that Gospel is set mainly in Asgard and features heavily on the interactions between the different gods but now The Trickster is stranded in the world of the folk, our world and he’s about to discover pizza.

The first three-quarters of this book is great fun, a little silly and almost deep at times in its own way. Loki still has the great voice Harris brought him to life with in the first book and this is a whole new level and a glimmer of a slightly different (but not too much) side to our beloved red-haired, silver-tongued devil. I love the way Loki interacts with Jumps, his relationship with the other people in her life and his perspective on the way many of us live today, seeing our insecurities through his eyes was quite enlightening. We get to see a f/f relationship from a (I believe) bisexual character and we get a bit of a glimpse into another character suffering from a chronic pain disorder who is often confined to a wheelchair without making a huge deal of any of these things outside of the story. Just a warning there is a scene involving self harm, it didn’t trigger me personally but I was made away before hand and prepared for it so I feel it’s right to pass this on to my readers as well. I honestly think this aspect of Loki was my favourite parts of the story and I would have quite happily had a whole series of this side of things.

Sadly I felt again a few of the characters, bar perhaps Meg (in addition to Loki and Jumps) were a little flat and a bit lacking in the fleshing out department out but I like to think this is such Loki thing to do, he’s so self-absorbed and doesn’t have time for hardly anyone else. I found other than Loki and Jumps I didn’t give much of a hoot about anyone else.

I will say that although I enjoyed Testament a few things let it down for me, hence the XXXX rating and not XXXXX but I will say the good for me outweighed the bad by far but a few things still niggled me. There is a fair bit of repetitiveness and perhaps its to make sure things make sense and because things get a little twisty but after a little while it started to bug me and I could feel myself rolling my eyes every time it happened. Somehow though my other problem was that for the last quarter of the book I was pretty confused. I got the jist of things and understood most of the story but things would get skimmed over and then sometimes we found of what was said or happened later or sometimes we wouldn’t. This is quite possibly just a problem I’ll encounter because I often have a terrible attention span and I might not have been taking things in properly but towards the end I kept feeling like the final exam was here but I’d skipped a few classes. That being said it was enjoyable over all and I hope/wonder if there will be more. I’d certainly like to see more and I believe that the (I’m not quite sure on because it felt a bit weird) ending has been left in a way that we can have more of my favourite Norse god. (Yes please).

So happy release day to The Testament of Loki! Did you pick up this book today or will you be checking it out in the future? Let me know and until next time!

Jemma.

jemma setterington

book reviews, Older books, spoiler free

The Gospel of Loki

18665033The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris

Published: February 20th 2014 by Gollancz

Rating: XXXX

“The urge to destroy was all I had left. They tell you revenge isn’t worth it. I say there’s nothing finer.”

The first adult epic fantasy novel from multi-million copy bestselling author of Chocolat, Joanne Harris.

The novel is a brilliant first-person narrative of the rise and fall of the Norse gods – retold from the point of view of the world’s ultimate trickster, Loki. It tells the story of Loki’s recruitment from the underworld of Chaos, his many exploits on behalf of his one-eyed master, Odin, through to his eventual betrayal of the gods and the fall of Asgard itself. Using her life-long passion for the Norse myths, Joanne Harris has created a vibrant and powerful fantasy novel.

Loki, that’s me.

Loki, the Light-Bringer, the misunderstood, the elusive, the handsome and modest hero of this particular tissue of lies. Take it with a pinch of salt, but it’s at least as true as the official version, and, dare I say it, more entertaining.

So far, history, such as it is, has cast me in a rather unflattering role.

Now it’s my turn to take the stage.

With his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other. Demon-born, he is viewed with deepest suspicion by his fellow gods who will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows to take his revenge.

From his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos, through his years as the go-to man of Asgard, to his fall from grace in the build-up to Ragnarok, this is the unofficial history of the world’s ultimate trickster.

I was a bit late to the party with The Gospel of Loki and it wasn’t until I had heard about its sequel “The Testament of Loki” that I realised it existed. I had seen Runemarks about and have been interested but mention Loki and I’m in so here we are. I have an advanced copy of the sequel as well which is out in less than a week now so figured it would be a good time to get this one read.

This is a strange book in a way that the ending is really no surprise and there weren’t any shock twists or turns really and that makes sense when you’re retelling Norse Mythology because it’s been told over and over before. The difference with The Gospel of Loki however is that not only is it told from Loki’s point of view and thus subject to some differences of opinion from the  more well-known version but it also has an injection of humour and a kind of nostalgia that was both a good,different way of telling the story but also at times made it feel like a prequel (which technically it is!) It’s still interesting and funny and it probably helped that I don’t know a great deal about Norse mythology as some of the differences seem to have annoyed other readers but I’ve also always been good at separating fictional worlds. I can enjoy (mostly) book to film adaptations even if they aren’t perfect because I can easily separate them in my mind. I think once you distance yourself from a rigid comparison between the “lore” and this fantasy retelling this book can be enjoyed a lot more.

Loki is such a fun narrator and perhaps one of my favourite unreliable narrators. I always enjoy reminding myself that this is Loki’s telling of the lore and may not in fact be entirely honest because he would absolutely make himself the centre of drama and play the victim whenever he could conceivably manage it. I still totally fall for it and end up feeling sorry for him anyway. The other characters do all feel a bit shallow and 2D in comparison a fair bit of the time but I think that’s all a part of having an unreliable narrator such as The Trickster himself and lends to the theory that he isn’t being entirely truthful in his retelling.

Overall I really enjoyed The Gospel of Loki, at just over 300 pages it’s not an incredible long read and the length suits the type of story and the way it’s told, I think anything more would have possibly been too much. Although I don’t find anything essentially wrong with it (and like I said it is a great book) I’ve given Gospel a XXXX rating just because it didn’t make me feel too majorly invested other than feeling sorry for Loki occasionally. I still highly recommend checking it out if you can.

This book has made me want to try out the other Runemarks books for sure ,you don’t need to have read any of the others to understand this book either and it works well as a standalone. That being said, Loki himself in this book says “My story needed a sequel. Preferably a sequel in which I rose from the dead, regained my glam, saved the worlds, rebuilt Asgard and was generally welcomed by all as a hero and a conqueror” and a years later he finally has his wish. The Testament of Loki is out May 17th and let me tell you it was worth the wait and my review for it will be up soon!

Jemma.

jemma setterington