book review


Book Review: The Mother of All Questions – Rebecca Solnit


Release Date: May 25th 2017
Publisher: Granta Books
Pages: 176
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Granta kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

Following on from the success of Men Explain Things to Me comes a new collection of essays in which Rebecca Solnit opens up a feminism for all of us: one that doesn’t stigmatize women’s lives, whether they include spouses and children or not; that brings empathy to the silences in men’s lives as well as the silencing of women’s lives; celebrates the ways feminism has shifted in recent years to reclaim rape jokes, revise canons, and rethink our everyday lives.

Review:

This is the first book by Rebecca Solnit that I have read. I’ve heard such fascinating things about Men Explain Things to Me so I jumped at the chance to read the follow up. In this selection of essays Solnit touches on a number of different topics, including silence, rape jokes and the way in which rape victims are often seen as partly to blame.

The essays were intelligently written and I found them very enlightening. My one issue with this book is that there is quite a bit of repetition. Some of the essays reference previous essays in the book and provide a summary of what I have just previously written. I’m aware that this is because the essays featured in different places before they were collated, but I found it a tad grating to have so much repetition.

The writing is easy to follow, it isn’t too overly complex and really breaks down our society and drills at the heart of many of the problems we face. I particularly enjoyed “Men Explain Lolita to Me” and the discussions around books that women should not bother reading. I definitely think this book is essential reading for any feminist, and I’m definitely planning on picking up some of Solnit’s previous writings. This book is passionate, thought-provoking and definitely the best non-fiction book I have read in 2017.


Book Review: Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye – Tania del Rio & Will Staehle


Series: Warren the 13th #1
Publisher: Quirk Books
Pages: 224
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Quirk Books kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

Meet Warren the 13th, a cursed 12-year-old Victorian bellhop who’s terribly unlucky . . . yet perpetually optimistic, hard-working, and curious. Orphan Warren’s pride and joy is his family’s hotel, but he’s been miserable ever since his evil Aunt Anaconda took over the management. Anaconda believes a mysterious treasure known as the All-Seeing Eye is hidden somewhere on the grounds, and she’ll do anything to find it. If Warren wants to preserve his family’s legacy, he’ll need to find the treasure first—if the hotel’s many strange and wacky guests don’t beat him to it! This middle-grade adventure features gorgeous two-color illustrations on every page and a lavish two-column Victorian design that will pull young readers into a spooky and delightful mystery.

Review:

This beautiful hardback book has been on my TBR shelf for a little while now, so when I ended up with a day off on Halloween, I knew it was the perfect time to start on this terrific series. I must say that the illustrations in this book are absolutely stunning, and the layout and design is just terrific. It makes for pure enjoyment reading Warren the 13th, and I am hooked on his story. ~

The book is the perfect children’s/Middle Grade story. There’s plenty of adventure as Warren looks after his hotel, and the story is chalk full of magic and mystery. There’s witches, strange creatures and fascinating contraptions. The story moves along at a good pace, and it’s exciting to see Warren complete all the tasks in order to save his home. I loved the setting of this strange Victorian hotel, it was beautifully described and illustrated, and it certainly put me in a spooky Halloween mood!

I also adored the characters. Aunt Anaconda is a perfectly evil villain that both adults and children will love. I particularly liked Warren’s tutor, the old Mr Friggs who hides himself in the library. Our main protagonist Warren is a magnificent main character, a young man trying to look after his family legacy, and protect those he cares about. If you’re looking for a fun and charming read this autumn, I guarantee you’ll love Warren the 13th from start to finish. The book comes to a satisfying ending, but this is only the beginning on Warren’s tale. I for one can’t wait to find out what’s next in store for Warren and his friends in Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods!


Book Review: Seeing Red – Lina Meruane


Release Date: August 3rd 2017
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Pages: 170
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I obtained a copy of this book from ReadersFirst

Synopsis:

Lucina, a young Chilean writer, has moved to New York to pursue an academic career. While at a party one night, something that her doctors had long warned might happen finally occurs: her eyes haemorrhage. Within minutes, blood floods her vision, reducing her sight to sketched outlines and tones of grey, rendering her all but blind. As she begins to adjust to a very different life, those who love her begin to adjust to a very different woman – one who is angry, raw, funny, sinister, sexual and dizzyingly alive.

Review:

This was a bit of an unusual read for me. This isn’t the kind of thing I would normally pick up, but they eye catching cover definitely stood out, and after reading the first impression on ReadersFirst, I dived right in. The book is very beautifully written and explores some really interesting things – when your life is altered so completely, how do you cope? It was fascinating to what Lucina as she attempted to adjust to life as almost blind.

The book is an intense read, and packs a lot into the small 170 pages. The one thing that really stuck out for me is the effects that Lucina’s blindness has on her relationships – friends, family and her partner all become altered in the face of her disease.

The book is at times harrowing and sad, Lucina is a really fascinating character and the stream of consciousness style of the book really lets you inside her thoughts and feelings. She’s angry and funny and determined, all things that make for a wonderful protagonist.

The book is broken up into very short chapters – only a few pages at a time and I did find these short chapters that then often jump to different locations and times a little jarring, but overall this semi-autobiographical novel is a beautiful and intense read that I enjoyed immensely.


Book Review: Bloodprint – Ausma Zehanat Khan


Series: The Khorasan Archives #1
Release Date: October 19th 2017
Publisher: Harper  Voyager UK
Pages: 400
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Harper Voyager kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

In the lands of Candour, the Talisman threaten the authority of the Council with their growing indoctrination of the masses based on their rigid, oppressive interpretation of the Claim; a text orally transmitted from generation to generation, which they have appropriated in order to gain power. Tasked by the Council to fight this is Arian, aided by companion Sinnia and young boy Wafa, who must find the Bloodprint, legendary manuscript the Claim is based on, in order to stop the Talisman and re-establish the truth.

Review:

Bloodprint is the first in a new series by crime author Ausma Zehanat Khan. I confess I’ve always wanted to read The Unquiet Dead and haven’t quiet gotten around to buying a copy (that has since been rectified). Going into The Bloodprint I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but from the get go I was absolutely hooked, and I loved this book from beginning to end.

This book is steeped in blood and action – there is plenty of fast-paced plot to keep the fantasy fan happy, but The Bloodprint is so much more than that. With women living in a male dominated world – they are treated like slaves and not allowed to speak unless permitted by their husbands – is in many ways relevant to today’s media.

One of things I did love most about this book was the immense detail that Ausma put in. The book is very finely crafted, with the history and mythology really bringing the book to life. I’d love to spend an hour picking Ausma’s brain to find out where all these fascinating ideas came from. Her research must have taken a really long time to complete, and it really adds to this excellent story. The Claim is similarly a really fascinating aspect of this book. A magic that celebrates the written word is not something that I’ve come across before, and I really loved this unique concept.

Characters can make or break a book, and The Bloodprint is no exception. Our two main characters Arian and Sinnia are fabulous. Warrior women fighting to break slave trains and save the land from Talisman rule, their sense of companionship and friendship is a wonderful aspect of this book. I also similarly loved Wafa, the young child that Arian and Sinnia rescue. There is also a romantic element of the book (which I won’t say too much about so as not to ruin anything) but it is not in your face, and adds to the story without taking over.

There;s also plenty of mystery, and the reader is left with more than a few questions (I needed book two yesterday). There’s also a few shock twists a long the way, and not everything is as it seems. It really strikes home that in a world fraught with danger, who can you really trust? Each person is often out to further their own gains. I must also say that the cover design is gorgeous, my proof copy is beautiful but I cannot wait to go and buy a finished one for my favourites shelf. This is a truly superb read, and definitely sits in the top of my favourite books of 2017.


Book Review: The Book of Fire – Michelle Kenney

 

Release Date: 27th August 2017
Publisher: HQ Digital
Pages: 384
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I was kindly given a copy of this book at YALC.

Synopsis:

Life outside the domes is not possible. At least that’s what Insiders are told.

Twins Eli and Talia shouldn’t exist. They’re Outsiders.

Their home is a secret. Their lives are a secret. Arafel is a secret.

An unexpected forest raid forces Talia into a desperate mission to rescue her family while protecting the sacred Book of Arafel from those who would use it as a weapon. As Talia and her life long friend Max enter the dome, she makes some unexpected discoveries, and allies, in the form of rugged Insider August, that will change the course of her life forever.

She’ll stop at nothing to save her family but will she sacrifice her heart in the process?

Review:

This is a vivid and wonderfully written dystopian fantasy. The one thing that I really adored about Book of Fire is the imaginative setting and exciting plot. After a nuclear war, only those who live inside the dome are supposed to exist, but Talia and her family exist on the outside, and they thrive in the natural environment. When part of her family are captured, Thalia has to venture into the dome to save the ones she love. But all is not as it seems inside the domes, and she has some tough choices to make in order to survive and find her way out. I really loved the idea for this book. On one side the outsiders, those living in harmony with nature, living in treehouses and working with the land. On the other those that used technology to live an advanced and clinical life.

Book of Fire is a really interesting read, and it puts forth some really interesting questions about the way we live and the advancements of technology – just because we can doesn’t mean we should. The plot was well paced, with plenty of mystery and action to keep the reader intrigued. There were a few times when I just couldn’t put the book down, so desperate was I to know what was coming next. The world building is also superb, laying down the foundations and ideas well, without dumping all the information on the reader.

The characters in Book of Fire were also fantastically written. Thalia who will stop at nothing to get her family back, her wise caring grandfather and my personal favourite is definitely the mysterious August, he’s part of the elite inside the dome but he isn’t all that he seems. I thought the characters felt very human, the make mistakes and stupid decisions, they aren’t perfect all rounded people. These excellent characters are really what made the book for me and I was rooting for them almost from the get go. Book of Fire is a fantastic read and I really can’t wait to find out what’s next in store.


Book Review: Wonderwoman: Warbringer – Leigh Bardugo

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Series: DC Icons #1
Release Date: August 29th 2017
Pages: 369
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Penguin Random House kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

Daughter of immortals.

Princess Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mortal. Diana will soon learn that she has rescued no ordinary girl, and that with this single brave act, she may have doomed the world.

Daughter of death.

Alia Keralis just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted by people who think her very existence could spark a world war. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together.

Two girls will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. Tested beyond the bounds of their abilities, Diana and Alia must find a way to unleash hidden strengths and forge an unlikely alliance. Because if they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

Review:

 

This was a bit of an odd read for me. I love DC Comics, but have never really clicked with Wonderwoman. When I heard that Penguin were doing a YA series of DC heroes I jumped at the chance to read them, even more so when I found out that Leigh Bardugo (one of my favourite authors) would be writing one. However I was still a bit unsure how it would go when Wonderwoman wasn’t a story I was all that familiar with.

It took me a little while to get into the story. I found the beginning with Diana on the island a little slow, but as soon as Diana got to New York, I was sucked in and couldn’t put the book down. I’m so glad I was given the chance to review this book, because it’s honestly one of the best superhero stories I’ve ever read.

Warbringer really has it all. It’s full of action, Diana fighting bad guys and kicking butt, being the strong and fantastic heroine. It’s also full of mythology and meticulous research, a wonderful cast of characters – I loved scientist and all round geeky girl Alia and her best friend the fashion and style icon Nim so much. The one thing that really took me by surprise was how funny the book was. Bardugo gives Diana a really distinct voice, and it’s a wonderful story watching her be both Amazon Princess and a young woman doing normal things (interacting with boys, making friends, living up to the expectations of her mother). It’s a well crafted and multi-layered story that I lost myself in for hours on end.

As well as the fantastic characters and funny moments the story is just a really intriguing concept, the idea of the warbringer and the effect it has on the world. There were plenty of twists I didn’t see coming, and that made the story all the more enjoyable. This has even more solidified Leigh Bardugo’s place as one of my favourite authors, and I absolutely cannot wait to see what’s next in store for the DC Icons series.

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Blog Tour: The Dancing Girl and the Turtle – Karen Kao

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Release Date: April 1st 2017
Publisher: Linen Press
Pages: 288
Find it on: Goodreads. Amazon. LP Bookshop.
Source: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher to review.

Synopsis:

A rape. A war. A society where women are bought and sold but no one can speak of shame. Shanghai 1937. Violence throbs at the heart of The Dancing Girl and the Turtle.

Song Anyi is on the road to Shanghai and freedom when she is raped and left for dead. The silence and shame that mark her courageous survival drive her to escalating self-harm and prostitution. From opium dens to high- class brothels, Anyi dances on the edge of destruction while China prepares for war with Japan. Hers is the voice of every woman who fights for independence against overwhelming odds.

The Dancing Girl and the Turtle is one of four interlocking novels set in Shanghai from 1929 to 1954. Through the eyes of the dancer, Song Anyi, and her brother Kang, the Shanghai Quartet spans a tumultuous time in Chinese history: war with the Japanese, the influx of stateless Jews into Shanghai, civil war and revolution. How does the love of a sister destroy her brother and all those around him.

Review:

 

This is a book that will stay with me for a long time. Haunting and beautifully written, The Dancing Girl BTThe Dancing Girl and the Turtle is the story of Song Anyi, a young woman who after the death of her parents, travels to Shanghai to stay with her Aunt and Uncle. On the way there she is attacked by three men, raped and left for dead. What follows is her descent into prostitution and self harm in an attempt to deal with this horrific event.

This book is a really powerful one, and the story of Song Anyi is incredibly compelling reading. At times it was uncomfortable, but throughout it was vivid and well portrayed. The book is broken up into short chapters, and each one features differing view points of characters – some from Anyi and her brother Kang, and other times her cousin Cho and their maid Blossom. I really loved these differing points of view, it offered a chance to see Anyi and the story from different perspectives and really served to highlight the way that the Song family attempt to deal with what happened to Anyi – with a sense of shame, pretending it never happened.

The Dancing Girl and the Turtle also has a really fascinating backdrop – China in the 1930s – a time when women had no voice and little say in their lives. This combined with the country preparing for war with Japan, makes for a very rich and compelling setting. Initially I thought The Dancing Girl and the Turtle might be a quick read – being only 280 pages – but there is so much history, so much detail about women fighting for their right to be heard, that I found myself really taking my time, in order to savour this beautiful novel. If you only read one book this autumn, make it the beautiful and atmospheric Dancing Girl and the Turtle.

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Blog Tour: Fire Lines – Cara Thurbourn

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Release Date: September 26th 2017
Publisher: Bewick Press
Pages: 294
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.
Find it on: Goodreads. Amazon. 

Synopsis:

When your blood line awakens, how do you choose between family and freedom?

Émi’s father used to weave beautiful tales of life beyond the wall, but she never knew if they were true. Now, her father is gone and Émi has been banished to the Red Quarter, where she toils to support herself and her mother – obeying the rules, hiding secrets and suffering the cruelties of the council’s ruthless Cadets.

But when Émi turns seventeen, sparks fly – literally. Her blood line surges into life and she realises she has a talent for magick… a talent that could get her killed.

Émi makes her escape, beyond the wall and away from everything she’s ever known. In a world of watchers, elephant riders and sorcery, she must discover the truth about who she really is. But can the new Émi live up to her destiny?

Review:

Welcome to my stop on the Fire Lines blog tour, run by the lovely A Daydreamer’s Thoughts. Fire Lines is a lush story in a fantastic magical setting, and one of the things I most enjoyed about this book was the excellent world building. The magick and history were all very well laid out, and really helped to centre the reader in the midst of the story.

Emi and the rest of the cast are also really likeable characters, and it wasn’t hard to become completely absorbed by their story. They are well rounded and developed – you root for Emi almost from the get go, and there’s plenty of exciting moments to keep you reading along the way. I also think that cover is fantastic, it’s really eye-catching and I can’t wait to buy a physical copy to have on my shelves.

I did feel some parts of the story were a little slow, particularly in the early chapters of the book, but once everything kicks off towards the latter half of the book, I definitely found the book hard to put down. It was engaging, well written and had plenty of the magic and mystery that YA fantasy fans will love.

I really enjoyed Fire Lines and really enjoyed seeing the different cultures and groups that live outside the wall. It’s a really exciting read and if you’re looking for a new YA fantasy series, this is definitely not going to be one to miss. I for one am now desperately waiting for book two!

Thanks for checking out my stop on the Fire Lines blog tour, be sure to check out the other stops below!

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Blog Tour: Prisoner of Ice and Snow – Ruth Lauren

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Release Date: September 7th 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 288
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads. 
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of the book for this blog tour.

Synopsis:

 

Valor is under arrest for the attempted murder of the crown prince. Her parents are outcasts from the royal court, her sister is banished for theft of a national treasure, and now Valor has been sentenced to life imprisonment at Demidova, a prison built from stone and ice.

But that’s exactly where she wants to be. For her sister was sent there too, and Valor embarks on an epic plan to break her out from the inside.

No one has escaped from Demidova in over three hundred years, and if Valor is to succeed she will need all of her strength, courage and love. If the plan fails, she faces a chilling fate worse than any prison …

An unforgettable story of sisterhood, valour and rebellion, Prisoner of Ice and Snow will fire you up and melt your heart all at once. Perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell, Piers Torday and Cathryn Constable.

Review:

This is a beautifully written story about the friendship between two sisters. It’s an engaging, enjoyable story, and one I think a lot of people will really love. The plot is full of twists and turns and has that perfect blend of action and plot that fantasy fans will just love.

The main character Valor is a brave, determined young lady, and she’ll do anything to help her sister – even commit a crime. I admired her strength and courage, she’s a wonderful leading lady and I think she would be a fantastic role model for younger children reading A Prisoner of Ice and Snow. There are a few smaller characters that I would like to get to know as well as Valor, but perhaps that will come along later in the series.

The prison that Valor and her sister end up in is certainly a horrible one, and they depictions of the different settings – most notably the prison – is certainly vivid and well laid out. At only two hundred and eighty eight pages the book is quite a quick read, but there is plenty to keep you guessing and  wanting more. If you’re looking for a fun enjoyable MG fantasy, Prisoner of Ice and Snow is definitely a book to pick up. I for one am particularly looking forward to seeing what’s next in store for the series!

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Blog Tour: House of Spines – Michael J Malone


Release Date: August 16th 2017
Publisher: Orenda Books
Pages: 276
Source: I was kindly sent a copy of this book by the publisher for this blog tour.
Find it on: Goodreads. Amazon.

Synopsis:

Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who appears to have been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, he finds that Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror … the reflection of a woman … A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly…

Review:

What a wonderful creepy psychological thriller this book is! This book was another one of those sitting in the same spot for hours on end because I just couldn’t seem to put it down. This book is a fantastic Gothic novel that on several occasions definitely had me looking over my shoulder. It was a gripping read from start to finish, and it constantly kept me guessing (and terrified.)

One of the things I loved about this book is the setting. Newton Hall is this vast old mansion, exploring this big empty house that seems to be full to the brim with secrets. I also love that the book is set in Glasgow, as I grew up just outside there and it’s nice to read books set in a familiar place. The book is well paced, and as the story continues on, that tense feeling of unease definitely racks up more and more. The family history is also plotted really carefully and makes the book feel all the more realistic for the preciseness of the history and knowledge of the characters.

It reminded me a lot of the old Gothic novels I studied at University, with Rand as the unreliable narrator. Is it real or is he imagining it? The writing is really superb, and I definitely have plenty of vivid images in my head while I read House of Spines. This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but I am now very eager to read some of his other works too.

House of Spines really is a fantastic read. It keeps you hooked from the get go, and definitely makes you question what you know is real. The detail in the book is beautiful and I am going to be recommending this book to everyone I know.