book reviews, Graphic Novels, spoiler free

The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill

42369064.jpgThe Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill

Rating: XXXXX

Published September 17th 2019 by Oni Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Advertisements
Events, spoiler free

London Darkdawn Launch

event report

So, if you’ve been reading my blog for the past couple of years or so you might notice that I’m a bit of a Jay Kristoff fan. I fell in love The Illuminae Files and more recently, finally read The Nevernight Chronicles (although I’m yet to finish Darkdawn) and fell head over heels for everyone’s favourite knife wife, Mia Corverre, her friends, her companions and her enemies. So when tickets for the London Darkdawn launch with the man himself went live I frantically ordered myself and my husband (who adored The Illuminae Files too) one each right away.

We travelled up with friendlings and had lunch beforehand before heading to Goldsboro books to pick up our special editions of Darkdawn. I’d never been before and the store was small but lovely. I think the Goldsboro edition of Darkdawn may be one of the best-looking books I have ever seen and certainly my favourite. When we purchased our books the salesperson wrapped each one with a protective plastic covering which to me, was a beautiful personal touch and I certainly plan to order from there again in the future.

From Goldsboro we headed straight to the venue (give or take some coffee and ice cream), St James’s Church, just past the huge Waterstones Picadilly store. Having been to an event there before with Leigh Bardugo and then again with Cassie Clare and Holly Black we knew that arriving early was essential to getting a good seat and to be in with a chance of getting our books signed fairly quickly so we didn’t get back too late. We arrived at around 3pm and there were only two other people in front of us which was a bonus. I had brought my Waterstones copy of Darkdawn with me to read in the queue and my 3DS but in the end we actually all ended up chatting to each other and friends as they arrived. About 3:30/4 Jay actually popped out to see us which was awesome, he seemed genuinely shocked that we were waiting there for his event that didn’t start for another four hours. I maaay have embarrassed myself when I saw him, greeting him with a “Hey Loser” because I have no idea how to actually be cool and it seemed funny at the time? I’m not sure my friends or husband will ever let me live it down…

We were let into the venue (I think) a little earlier than seven which was nice and it was starting to get chilly and looked like it may rain. We managed to get one of the front seats which was brilliant, especially as I’m pretty damned short! It was nice chatting to everyone and in what felt like no time at all the event was underway, starting with a talk chaired by Samantha Shannon who I’ve seen chair a few times now and she’s absolutely fantastic at it. The talk lasted an hour with some questions at the end and it was probably one of the best talks I’ve been to, it was hilarious, heartwarming and informative. Some highlights were:

  • Finding out Nevernight came about after an argument between two friends one New Years Eve about the “dreaded” C-Word and whether it was an insult or not (If you’ve read Nevernight this will make a lot more sense).
  • World Building – Jay likes to address the broad first, i.e the key differences between our world and the fictional world.
  • The three things Jay can talk about at the drop of a hat are marvel comics, Lord of the Rings and Ancient Rome.
  • A lot of Jay’s inspiration for his writing comes from history, saying “The weirdest thing you can probably imagine has actually happened and it was probably weirder than you can imagine.”
  • “Jesus is okay with F*ck” (in response to not using the C-Word in church but dropping all of the F-Bombs.
  • Blowing Samantha Shannon’s mind when she discovered you could sleep with characters in some RPG video games, this example was The Witcher (Jay’s a Yen man y’all) and the unicorn scene. This moment was hilarious and as a gamer, it felt like chilling out chatting with a bunch of friends.
  • His number one piece of writing advice is to get to the fun (he used a brilliant Simpsons analogy “When are they going to get to the fireworks factory?!” Nevernight originally featured a ten-year-old Mia exploring Godsgrave.
  • Jay’s shadow companion would be a Jack Russell.
  • We got some more information about Jay’s next adult fantasy book “Empire of the Vampire” which I’m crazy excited for and may have whopped and cheered when he announced it.
  • The book that changed everything for Jay was The Hobbit, saying “I found my people in that book” and I actually got misty-eyed here because this was a big important book for me too for many of the same reasons.
  • I got to ask a question about his use of slang in most of his books (my favourite, “Son of a biscuit” it turns out was an Amie Kauffman invention) and he showed me how to correctly give someone the knuckles (I was SO close).

img_8774-1.jpg
After this came the signing and it was a little bit of a mess to be honest, some people were pretty peeved that those who had arrived after them were being let up to sign before them etc but we were still in the first row that were able to do so which was pretty awesome with me and we didn’t have to wait long at all. I was however incredibly nervous! After a joke about throwing his books, I had got a shirt personalised for myself (which I was wearing) and one for him saying “I only throw Jay Kristoff books” and felt like maybe it was a bit weird but it turns out he actually loved it (see vlog at the end of this post for reaction). He doodled a Mr Kindly in my copy of Nevernight, signed my copy of Godsgrave and a Nevernight poster I’d brought with me as long as our copies of the Illumine Files and chatted with Chris about getting back into reading etc which was lovely. We did have our picture taken with him too but honestly me and Chris look like nervous wrecks in it so have a nice picture of one of my signed books instead.

GURD8309

I had a fantastic time and despite the organisational issues with the signing (which were a lot worse as time went on, we were very very lucky as a friend in the fourth row waited for over two hours). I really really hope Jay decides to come back to the UK in the future, maybe him AND Amie for one of the Aurora Rising releases or maybe Empire of the Vampire who knows!

Did you make it to one of the events? If so what was one of your highlights? If you couldn’t make it but would have liked to what would one question would you have asked Jay?

 

 

 

spoiler free, WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday September 11th 2019

Another fortnight has come and gone and I’m underprepared as usual (7am on a Wednesday morning instead of 8am is an improvement though neh? (Gone are those days too as now little man is at school 8am is a much more frantic time and leaves no room for panicked blogging! On the bright side, WWW Wednesday is a fun, easy post as I just talk about what I’ve read and what I want to read next and is probably one of my favourites.

If you want to join in with WWW don’t forget to send over a big thank you to Sam at Taking on a World of Words for keeping WWW alive and kicking.

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

As I’m sure you’re sick of hearing about now, I’m currently reading Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff (still). I’m making pretty slow going with it, not because I’m not enjoying it as it definitely as the least draggy start of all three books but I’m just so short on time to read at the moment and I defintley don’t want to rush this one, I feel like it needs to be savoured.

What did you recently finish reading?

I actually managed to squeeze in The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill and, much like it’s predecessor, it’s an absolute work of art.  I think it may actually be my favourite of the two! It comes out next week and my spoiler-free review will go live on the same day. Prepare for more tea dragon cuteness!

What do you think you’ll read next?

Probably The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. I’m on a big vampire kick at the moment and have honestly just been rewatching Moonlight (slightly angsty vampire TV show from the 00’s and one of my favourites) in between battling the urge to read fanfic for the past week so I think some a fresh vampire story can only be a good thing, I’m so glad they seem to be “back in” for YA now!

What are you reading at the moment? Is anyone else still currently reading Darkdawn or is it just me now? Have you read The Deathless Girls? If so let me know what you thought! Feel free to link me to any spoiler-free reviews about it as I’d love to check them out. Have a great Wednesday!

 

book reviews, spoiler free

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

Book Review

32055872._SY475_Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

Rating: XXXXX

Published September 7th 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

book reviews, spoiler free

The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

Book Review

42867937
The Girl the Sea Gave Back 
by Adrienne Young

Rating: XXXX

Published September 3rd 2019 by Titan Books

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

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

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

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

img_8555

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

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

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

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

 

#SixforSunday, spoiler free

S4S – Books you think should be studied in school

Six for Sunday

Yikes! Steph from A Little but A Lot who comes up with these prompts picked a hard one for this week! I have no idea what would be beneficial to children today, I’m so out of touch! I will, however, list six books that I would have liked to have studied in school or that I think would be interesting to discuss.

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
I feel like this would potentially be a difficult one because it is so filled with grief and some behaviour that could be construed as negative (but realistic). I’m a little out of touch with how teenagers or those who had lost someone very close to them would feel about reading or studying this so not sure this would actually be the best of choices as it could be a sensitive subject but I think it’s something that I would have valued at a younger age personally.

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven
This is an incredibly important book. It showcases so many relevant topics, although this would probably be a 16+ book.

His Hideous Heart by various authors, edited by Dahlia Adler
I think this anthology of retellings of the works of Edgar Allen Poe would be a brilliant book to study, especially as it also includes the original poems in the back of the book too. Perhaps when studying this, students could pick a poem and write a story about that in the same way?

The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James
This book is a great read but it also has some important messages about how we treat the world itself and what it means to be human, I feel like this could lead to some important and educational discussions and ideas.

Floored by Sara Barnard, Holly Bourne, Tanya Byrne, Non Pratt, Melinda Sailsbury, Lisa Williamson and Eleanor Wood
I feel like this book is so good at showcasing a group of very different young people and how despite their differences and disagreements they can still care about each other and still get along with dealing with some pretty hard times in their life and topics that may be difficult to broach otherwise.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Okay so this is probably boring for a lot of people but I studied Macbeth multiple times in school and I LOVED it. I was so glad we weren’t stuck studying Of Mice and Men or Romeo and Juliet but Macbeth had battles and witches and Lady Macbeth telling her husband to sort himself out and murder the king already, also regicide is always fun, let alone the characters and then going mad with guilt. Also, I won’t spoil it but that loophole in the prophecy hey? LOVE it. I think studying Shakespeare is cool but we defintley need to look at some of the more awesome plays instead of repeatedly studying the same things. (I would have loved 12th night or Hamlet in addition to Macbeth instead of doing Macbeth twice despite how much I loved it).

Okay so most of these probably aren’t great or realistic choices but I tried? Was there a particular book at school that you studied and really liked? I was particularly fond of The Crucible and that always stuck with me.

 

 

book reviews, spoiler free

The Tea Dragon Society

Book Review

34895950._SX318_

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill

Rating: XXXXX

Published October 18th 2017 by Oni Press

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

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

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

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

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

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