book reviews, spoiler free

Overlord Spoiler Free Review

dfkqw_miOverlord by SianJefferson

Rating: XXXXX

Published December 2018 by Sian Jefferson

“Bring in the Evil Gauntlet!”
“The what? Look I don’t want to be rude or anything, but if you’re going to eat me then maybe we can skip the “torture by Evil Gauntlet” thing?”

Kit Thornwood does not fit in.

Not only is he the least heroic person in Heroestown, but he’s also a secret magic user. And now he has punched the mayor in the face.
On the run, Kit finds himself the unwitting new master of the Dark Tower, Stronghold of the infamous Overlord. 
Delighted to finally fit in, things quickly escalate when Kit discovers that balancing between being an evil overlord and not actually doing anything evil is a lot harder than he thinks, especially now there’s a whole town of heroes out to get him too!
Heroes! Minions! Swords! Dragons! Magic! Romance! Sarcasm!
Get ready for an epic clash between good and kind-of-sort-of-evil!

You may remember back in September last year I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak at a sampler of the newest book by Sian Jefferson, Overlord just before the Kickstarter went live. Now five months later, the project was sucsessfully backed and books recieved! I’ve been pretty excited about this for a while and I was overjoyed when it turned up, not to mention the extra goodies it came with! Four exclusive prints from various guest artists (including some of my favourites!) a “Bastion of Evil” sticker (which was the name of my backer tier) and a super cute and shiny “Dark Tower Tour with Gibbet” badge! After marveling over the gorgeous extras I dove straight in and read the whole thing in one glorious sitting!

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The brilliantly timed wit and humour I mentioned in my review of the sampler is still ever present throughout and there’s a great balance between that and some of the more serious parts of the book which I enjoyed, I literally laughed out loud at some of the little extra bits here and there like the old lady hanging from the castle ramparts yelling “SNORE” and making dollies or the minions in general because they are fantastic. Kit was a great character, he knew he didn’t fit in with the others in Heroestown and I really felt for him, I think the appeal of the minon characters for me comes from their no nonsense acceptance of him and the moment he finally feels like he’s somewhere he could belong. Kit is an absolute precious, soft boy and I just want to hug him but he stands up for what he believes in and defends those he loves or are under his care.

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Once again the art is fantastic, Sian’s style is defintley suited to this kind of story, it’s not too over fluffy, ‘cartoony’ or a little weird without being too gritty which is a perfect middle ground for me too after being put off of a lot of great sounding stories by their “adventure time” style art that’s a little too much for me. Sian’s use of colour adds a whole other level to the story and it’s scenes, especially the opposing blues and reds, not to mention the use of ‘sound effects’ which I feel really added to the action scenes especially, the art in this book is a complete feast for the eyes!

My only critisicm is that I found it a little short, I would have loved more devlopment on both sides from Kit and the heroes, but honestly this is probably just because I’ve been spoilt and read a lot of multiple issue books at the moment giving them a lot more room for more content. Overlord is still a well rounded, enjoyable book I think I maybe enjoyed it a little too much and was a little gutted when it was over, can we please have an entire minion book next please? I adore them! The story was great with some pleasing twists and turns which I always love and I highly reccomend checking it out, you can buy your own copy now from Sian’s Etsy here. I would absoloutely back a sequel if that was something the creator wanted to do as well (PLEASE).

Sincerley,

A very happy Kickstarter backer who may be just a little in love with Kit and would like to adopt some minions.

 

book reviews, spoiler free

The Turnaway Girls – Spoiler Free Review

43232587The Turnaway Girls by Hayley Chewins

Rating: XXXX

Published January 3rd 2019 by Walker Books Ltd

On the strange, stormy island of Blightsend, twelve-year-old Delphernia Undersea has spent her whole life in the cloister of turnaway girls, hidden from sea and sky by a dome of stone and the laws of the island. Outside, the Masters play their music. Inside, the turnaway girls silently make that music into gold. Making shimmer, Mother Nine calls it. But Delphernia can’t make shimmer. She would rather sing than stay silent. When a Master who doesn’t act like a Master comes to the skydoor, it’s a chance for Delphernia to leave the cloister. Outside the stone dome, the sea breathes like a wild beast, the sky watches with stars like eyes, and even the gardens have claws. Outside, secrets fall silent in halls without sound. And outside, Delphernia is caught –between the island’s sinister Custodian and its mysterious Childer-Queen. Between a poem-speaking prince and a girl who feels like freedom. And in a debut that glimmers with hope and beauty, freedom – to sing, to change, to live – is precisely what’s at stake.

I’ve always loved to sing and being totally unable to imagine a world in which that was allowed had me totally intrigued, even more so when I read up a little on the author of The Turnaway Girls, Hayley Chewins. Hayley grew up in South Africa, in a household full of books. She’s studied Classical voice as well as doing degrees in English Literature and Italian. I’ve always loved when a song or a piece of music tells a story and I feel that Hayley’s particular expertise are this a perfect debut for her and gives her writing such a beautifully distinct style that I look forward to reading more of in the future.

The Turnaway Girls is by no means a long book at just shy of three hundred pages it is a pretty standard size for middle grade reads as far as I can tell and it is perfect for the story inside. The Turnaway Girls feels a little confusing to begin with as the main character talks about a world that is presumably not our own although with some similarities. Having not been able to experience much of said world or any kind of life outside of her cloister Delpherina’s knowledge is limited to what she has been told by Mother Nine, a woman charged with the care and education of The Turnaway Girls. These girls, although forbidden to sing or make any music or their own can create a substance called shimmer which is coveted by The Masters of The the city of Blightsend and as per the last kings ruling each Master may take their own Turnaway Girl from the cloister when they are twelve years old. This is the only way they can leave the cloister and as she can’t make shimmer Delpherina assumes she will have no hope of being chosen and she will be trapped with Mother Nine and her punishments forever.

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Once I was over the initial opening confusion I very quickly got into this book. I had been a little lost but things made more sense the longer I read for and as I adjusted to the authors distinct and lyrical tone. I found the writing moved well, it never dwindled too long and kept a good rhythm and pace up throughout. The plot itself is reasonably simple when you take it down to brass tacks but there are twists and turns along the way with little nuggets of information broadening the story as it goes and shedding more light on the town of Blightsend and it’s strange, short history.

I found parts of the plot a little predictable but none the less enjoyable for it as for me it was really the way the characters reacted to these goings-on. A couple of characters I felt were a little flat but this might honestly be because for me a couple of them absolutely outshined the others and became fast favourites. Although we didn’t get a huge amount of detail about characters I think this only helped to enhance feeling that this is a tale just as much as it is a book which is a lovely, refreshing take that reminds me of a Pocketful of Crows and The Blue Salt Road by Joanne Harris.

The Turnaway Girls is a humourless book but certainly not one without light or hope much like the place where it is set, Blightsend is, dark, cold, grey and harsh but looking in the right places with the right eyes you can find beauty, life, magic and rebellion and in my opinion that describes this stunning debut perfectly. The Turnaway Girls is due out very soon! January 3rd is only two days away so if you enjoy lyrical reads, a little mystery and the magic of a song keep an eye out for this particularly gorgeous cover in your local bookstore this Thursday!

book reviews, spoiler free

NPC Tea Issues 1-5 Spoiler Free Review

NPC_Tea-236x360NPC Tea (Issues 1-5) Written and illustrated by Sarah Milman

Rating: XXXXX

Published: 2016 onwards (Still ongoing)

“Oh, is it a secret?”
“A badly kept one, but still: if you breathe one word about this to anybody –”
“You’ll what? Kill me?”
“With my bare hands”

NPC Tea is about Cardiff’s least popular tea shop, Y Ddraig, run by a perfectionist elf and a disgruntled fire summon. When a magicless human discovers Y Ddraig’s secret and a type of banned magic rears its ugly head, caddies upon caddies of rotting tea become the least of their worries as the entire city of Cardiff is threatened with destruction!

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I’m STILL reading/listening to A Queen of Air and Darkness and I needed a break, I hadn’t been feeling well recently so I gathered up all my indie/self-published comics I’ve been trying to get around to reading or rereading and I’ve spent the past week catching up. It has been GLORIOUS and over the next couple of weeks, I’m planning on reviewing my favourites and a couple of new ones that are on their way thanks to some amazing Kickstarters I backed earlier in the year.

First up is a comic that kind of sucked me back into this style of book and that is NPC Tea by Sarah Milman. The premise alone pitched to me by Sarah back at MCM Expo a few years back had me intrigued! I’ve always loved worlds where high fantasy and contemporary can mix with a nice dollop of magic stirred in and NPC Tea is all that and more! These books capture that perfect balance where this is still fantasy but set in a modern world which just gets me far too excited when thinking about all the Dungeons and Dragons stories I’d love to see in this world!

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Other than the synopsis one of the first things that drew me to these was the art style and I apologise to anyone who is even remotely artistically inclined for my ineloquence here but not only do I love the style in which these comics are drawn but the use of colours throughout the pages absolutely enthrals me, they are a pure joy to look at and not only do they help establish to whom and when events are happening they convey SO much more and honestly I’m so here for it. Not to mention the illustrations themselves are fantastic and Sarah’s work has this brilliant comedic timing where the written words and the illustrations join in such a way as to really enhance each other.

Even with the art aside the story moves along nicely and we get a bit of info, to begin with, to set us up and then as the characters learn and uncover more we, the reader do as well which I find especially satisfying. The characters of NPC Tea are beautifully diverse, they all have their own individual look, style and feel established very early on and the staff at Y Ddraig are honestly my favourite little dysfunctional family. As the issues move along we get closer looks at a good few of them and learn more about how they became the people they are without taking away from the main story too much. Personally Hannah the human is my favourite character and I love to see how she reacts to all the different situations cropping up around her, she’s kind but sassy and firey too!

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Overall I’ve found this series an absolute delight and the wait for the next issues are slowly eating away at me. Originally slated for eight issues I’m also really hoping we get more, perhaps a second story arc? I can’t imagine letting them go!

The first issue was released in 2016 with the second following in 2017 and issues three, four and five successfully kickstarted in 2017 and 2018 with rumours of six and seven not being too far off in the distance now! You can check out Sarah’s shop here where you can buy issues one to five now!

 

book reviews, spoiler free

Snapshot – Spoiler Free Review

40189384Snapshot by Brian Sanderson

Rating: XXX

Published September 14th 2018 by Gollancz

Snapshot is a Science Fiction detective story following Anthony Davis, a cop assigned to Snapshot Duty. In this vivid world that author Brandon Sanderson has built, society can create a snapshot of a specific day in time. The experiences people have, the paths they follow—all of them are real again for a one day in the snapshot. All for the purposes of investigation by the court.

Davis’s job as a cop on Snapshot Duty is straight forward. Sometimes he is tasked with finding where a criminal dumped a weapon. Sometimes he is tasked with documenting domestic disputes. Simple. Mundane. One day, in between two snapshot assignments, Davis decides to investigate the memory of a call that was mysteriously never logged at the precinct, and he makes a horrifying discovery.

As in all many stories, Snapshot follows a wonderfully flawed character as he attempts to solve a horrific crime. Sanderson proves that no matter the genre, he is one of the most skilled storytellers in the business.

I was sent a copy of Snapshot by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. After devouring a couple of books with prominent “whodunnit” themes and while working on a piece of  writing myself that deals with a group of people in a world full of others who aren’t real I decided Snapshot would be a perfect book to read right now and dug in almost as soon as it arrived on my doorstep.

Snapshot is a novella rather than a full book and at 129 pages much smaller than I had assumed it would be having not checked before hand and remembering the size of the first book in the mistborn trilogy. I’ve been enjoying shorter books recently as they tend to get to the point quicker and I can devour more of these stories in a shorter time period. This book is no exception and dives right into the story with no huge qualms about major world building or even much of a description of our two main characters. This annoyed me a little to begin with but made sense the more I read. The emphasis of the story is on the characters more so than the mysterious and not necessarily too distant future, I found myself wanting a few questions answered but the more I read, the less I realised that it mattered how things outside of the snapshot worked. Some things are explained with just enough detail for you to know the things you need to understand the story and we learn more about the characters through their interactions with each other throughout the story.

To begin with I found it hard to keep track of who was who, I would remember traits but be unsure which character they belonged to, this too begun to fade and made more sense as time went on so if you give this a go and it feels a little difficult at first it’s not just you. The book vastly improved as it progressed and became more interesting with information plots being filled as and when needed. After reading a large number of books in the weeks leading up to this that are targeted at a very different audience it took a while to become invested in the characters for me personally but I doubt this will be the case for everyone. Even being a short book this had a feel of a detective show you would see on TV and felt reminiscent of the first few episodes of Gotham.

The story telling, despite its short length is intricate and twisting culminating in a spectacular couple of plot twists that I didn’t see coming until they hit me in the face. I love it when I don’t see things coming and being shocked and surprised are some of my favourite aspects of reading. This little book drew me in very quickly in the end and despite my early thoughts really proved itself. Snapshot is very much worth a read if you enjoy multi layered plot stings and/or enjoy character driven reads.

book reviews, spoiler free

A Pocketful of Crows – Spoiler Free Review

34913762A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne Harris
Illustrations by Bonnie Helen Hawkins
Audiobook read by Joanne Harris

Rating: XXXXX

Published October 19th 2017 by Gollancz

“If only I had patience. If only I could sleep till spring. If only I were the hawthorn tree, too old to love, too wise to hate.”

I am as brown as brown can be,
And my eyes as black as sloe;
I am as brisk as brisk can be,
And wild as forest doe.
(The Child Ballads, 295)

So begins a beautiful tale of love, loss and revenge. Following the seasons, A Pocketful of Crows balances youth and age, wisdom and passion and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless wild girl.
Only love could draw her into the world of named, tamed things. And it seems only revenge will be powerful enough to let her escape.
Beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this is a stunning and original modern fairytale.

In the run-up to the release of the beautiful “The Blue Salt Road” (Out this Thursday, November 15th) which although not a direct sequel to A Pocketful of Crows is also based around a Child Ballad poem and is full of the same beautiful illustrations and wonderful, whimsical writing. Not to mention this book this book is a perfect Autumn read and we are well into the season of crunchy leaves, knitted cardigans, scarves and magic by now.

Although I read this last year I’m rereading this now in the form of the captivating audiobook read by Joanne Harris herself. I love good audiobooks and this one is so exception, the joy of listening to a book narrated by the author themselves is you can hear how it was meant to be read, obviously everything is open to interpretation but there’s just something exceedingly special and magical listening to the words in the way they sound to the author themselves creating a whole other level of storytelling harking back to the roots of stories themselves.

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A Pocketful of Crows has a magical quality to it, in the story itself and in the telling of it and feels different from almost any other book I’ve read before, it feels old and mysterious and reads like something between a poem, a ballad and a spell. The writing and the language are absolutely beautiful and the story itself would be interesting no matter how it was told but Joanne’s hand has given it an extra flourish that makes it wonderous and allows you to feel the damp earth underfoot, smell the changing of the seasons and hear the sounds of the animals in the forest, it is truly an experience.

Although I primarily listened to the audiobook this read through I did take time to look through the physical book itself once again because the illustrations by Hawkins are simply gorgeous and something about the style and the black and white colouring just really brings them in line with and evokes the style of this new but ancient book.

A short read, the audiobook clocks in at just over four hours and it is a book that can fairly easily be read in one sitting and one I recommend to anyone feeling witchy or like they want to swept up in a magical and mysterious story about a wild girl who refuses to be tamed.

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Blog Tours, book reviews

Skyward – Blog Tour Spoiler Free Review

36642458Skyward by Brandon  Sanderson

Rating: XXXXX

Published November 6th by Gollancz
(I received  a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

“Alas poor space junk,” M-Bot said. “I would have pretended to know you, if I were capable of lying.”

Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.

There are SO many great books coming out right now and this is another one I’ve been excited about for a little while now, after dabbling in Sanderson’s Mistborn series previously I couldn’t wait to see his take on what promised to be a Sci-Fi tale right up my street and I was not disappointed, this book is, surprisingly probably no one, absolutely fantastic.

The world building is done brilliantly, any info dumping is done well and at just the right moments but most of the information we get to help create the world in Skyward and help us to understand it is expertly layered into the narrative like brushstrokes to help create the overall picture that is is the Defiant civilisation, their history and their customs. I enjoyed that it wasn’t just the epic moments that were talked about either, there were brilliant small moments that really added to the characters and quite often the world building itself led to some great character development instead of just a general history.

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Skyward has many great facets, one of them is most certainly the characters with even the smallest being memorable and easy to identify. Most characters were refreshing and weren’t cornered into stereotypes, everyone had their own stories and their goals which were surprisingly simple to keep up with but the characters, their emotions and choices felt no less complex for it.  I usually try to refrain from mentioning my favourite characters for fear of giving away spoilers or favouritism but although I loved all the characters I have to say for me personally, M-Bot totally stole the show in the best way. It’s funny, sincere and the most precious, heartbreaking A.I I have ever had the pleasure to read (AIDAN is a close second but that’s another story).

The pacing is spot on and almost constantly has you on the edge of your seat for one reason or another, this is an absolute page-turner and I often found myself totally immersed to the point where I decided to read a little before bed around ten thirty and finally put the book down around three in the morning, it just sucks you in. The battles and even the flight training are particularly fast-paced but written in such a way that they are easy to understand well even when reading at speed which is perfect because if you’re anything like me you will be practically inhaling the words. I was worried the ‘flight speak’ would get repetitive or boring but found that actually, it meant that I was much better able to process the information and I honestly think if you showed me a diagram of a DDF Poco class fighter I could name a good amount of the parts and what they’re used for. Although I enjoy Star Wars I hadn’t initially been sure how I would about the fighter elements parts which a fair bit of the story is comprised from but I feel that Skyward hit the perfect spot where it was exciting and that extra understanding just really helped boost that enjoyment.

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The overall story is interesting and certainly piqued my interest many times as a truly good book should, there are some great little twists and turns throughout, some brilliant friendships between the characters and I genuinely felt myself being pleasantly surprised at the turns a lot of the story took. This book is a great sci-fi gem and I don’t think I have ever read such a large book at such a fast pace. Skyward is certainly a story that will stay with me, its humour, it’s important messages, the teamwork, the hope and the thrilling ride.

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book reviews, spoiler free

Vengeful – Spoiler Free Review

40139338Vengeful by V.E Schwab

Rating: XXXXX

Published September 25th 2018 by Titan Books

“How many men would she have to turn to dust before one took her seriously?”

Eli Ever and Victor Vale were only medical students when their mutual discovery that near-death experiences can, under the right conditions, manifest extraordinary abilities.

They were best friends, and rivals, and then enemies. They were dead, then alive, and then—Eli killed Victor, once and for all.

Or so he thought—but Sydney Clarke felt otherwise, and used her own superpower to tip the scales. Now, a trio hides in the shadows, while another takes advantages of post-death life to take over the city of Merit.

If there can be life after death—will there be calm after vengeance, or will chaos rule?

It feels amazing to have finally held this book in my hands that has been in the making for five years and like both Eli and Victor has been made and remade. The taster in the form of the first chapter at the end of the special edition version of Vicious that was out this year was wonderfully tantalising and it’s fantastic to have finally dug into Marcellas story and the continuation of Victor and Eli’s world.

This book is pretty huge, at almost 600 pages compared to the 360 odd of Vicious I felt a bit daunted when I sat down to read it. I needn’t have feared though as the story moves so well and so quickly the pages fly by and when you finally look up you realise it’s dark out and you’ve not moved for a good few hours. This book is an absolute work of art that feels beautifully polished and perfected, you can almost feel all the immense hard work that’s gone into it and the result it fantastic.

We get multiple points of view including that of a couple of new characters and the return of some from Vicious, including Dominic who we had only recently met previously and is, like all of the characters in Vengeful extremely intriguing and in-depth but not uncomfortably so. We delve into the lives of these characters and the goings on of the past five years between the two books and although I enjoyed the way these were presented I did have trouble keeping track on where we were in the timeline a few times and found it easier to refer to these parts as then and now instead of trying to fit them in precisely.

It was brilliant to see more from my favourite dysfunctional family although I’m a little gutted we didn’t see more done with them, especially as a group but found Sydney really coming into her own and I hope if we get a third book that perhaps this one will focus on her a lot more. Also Mitch. I love Mitch to pieces and he was kind of relegated to just the tech guy here but I still enjoyed whenever he was around and that he’s still breaking stereotypes, no chocolate milk mentioned this time though sadly. I found Eli A LOT more interesting this time around and he actually became one of the characters voices I enjoyed the most. He really developed and getting into his back story really explained and gave a new depth to him that I think we were missing before, he was absolutely perfect and as obsessed with Victor as always. Victor himself I found more interesting but he’s even more one track that Eli and although I did enjoy the journey he went on I’ll admit I was too preoccupied with Eli and everyone else to obsess over him much.

As for the new characters, wow. We meet Marcella Riggins who is an amazing character, she’s just such a powerful, badass breath of fresh air. She’s an EO who doesn’t try to run or hide herself away, who is comfortable in her power and embraces it and the authority to demands with it and her presence. Villain or not she is was an absolute joy to read and I just couldn’t help enjoying it when she took down all the men who continued to underestimate her again and again. We also meet June the shapeshifter who is still a bit of a mystery and I’m desperate to know more. She’s a prominent voice in the book who we hear from quite a bit but we still know so little about her, just the snippets she chooses to share here and there, we get enough to know what she’s up to mostly and how some things make her feel but we don’t really know anything about her past or her real goals and I need to know more!

I could honestly go on about this book for a lot longer but it’s definitely one that needs to be checked out, much like the first book which if you enjoyed obviously you need to read this but also if you enjoy x-men and the like, especially the relationship between Charles and Erik which is echoed in a new and different way in these books. The writing in incredible, the characters are alluring and the book is addictive, you need to read this.