The Right Message – a review of Survive the Dome by Kosoko Jackson

In the middle of a BLM protest in Baltimore a white light flash in the sky, forming a dome to trap all inside of them and remove their contact from the rest of the world. Jamal, a wannabe journalist, gets trapped inside and gets taken care of by Marco, another protestor who had his back. Together they decide to chronicle the events that happen after the dome’s formation, including an increase in police brutality and bizzare tech they hold. They soon enlist the help of an AWOL graduate to help them get to the bottom of this operation and take the dome down.

Jamal was a very enjoyable character who throughout the novel had to face many moral struggles. I love it when characters face this with the attempt to be as good hearted as Jamal winds up. He felt very genuine as a teen character too, showing real vulnerability alongside motivation to take action and do something.

The other characters however… they were caricatures at best and things to move the plot along at worst. Take Cathrine, the AWOL graduate. She was introduced fairly late into the story, constantly felt distant to Jamal and Marco yet was tight with them, and had a lot of personality and history relevant to move the plot forward and little else. And then the villains on multiple levels also lack dimensions to feel like more than obstacles.

The plot was an engaging style of a plot, and one of my favourite kinds. The plot takes place over three days in quick succession, and I love deep plots that take the span of a short timeframe like nobody does. This was truly able to highlight the conditions inside the dome, how quickly things developed and how the sooner the dome was down the sooner they’d all be out of the woods. It’s such a great style of plot! And I want to read more like that.

But, this being an opinion I have expressed a lot nowadays with the books I read, I don’t think the characters faced enough hardships to warrant the ending they got. And with a story like this, this is tricky territory to work around. With the BLM movement being tied to this novel’s story and it being a story with the intention to encourage protest, you don’t want a book to put people off protesting. It’s tough, and I majorly respect Jackson for the message he was portraying. But his message did take priority, so that’s just how is goes.

Survive the Dome gets a score of 3.5/5. The message is right, I’ll give it that.


Know Why – a review of Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

When the future daughter of a dead girl falls out of the sky and lands in the pond at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, she seeks to bring her mother, who was a student at the school when she died, back to life so she can save her home, a land of sugar and candy. Four students from the school team up with this girl to try and bring her mother back, crossing world of logic and mayhem to try and find the missing pieces of this person’s body and spirit and using the magic of the worlds connected to earth to bring her back to life before the Queen of Cakes can stop them.

Bizzare, I know. And this is probably the most bizzare book in the series so far.

Also, this book is the weakest in the series thus far. I feel like it was because it didn’t know what the purpose was beyond the actual narrative except maybe to go exploring the various worlds of Wayward Children. But this book didn’t have much depth to it like the others did. Every Heart a Doorway was an introduction to the world and a tale of misfits who were very different still coming together and finding peace. Down Among the Sticks and Bones was commentary on poster children and the art of finding where you belong. Beneath the Sugar Sky had all the bells and whistles but lacked that deeper connection for me to be truly invested.

The whimsical writing style was back and I was so here for it! It very much suited the quests and adventures kind of plotline McGuire decided to take our characters on, especially as the worlds travelled to turned unique and bizzare. It very much suited, and I was so glad to notice this. This writing style made me feel like a kid again even with mature characters and concepts to discover like body positivity, gender and sexuality.

Speaking of, I loved the characters and the diverse range they had to offer. This is not only in terms of backgrounds and the ranges of characters most people would call a diverse cast, but their personalities too. Rini, the girl out of the sky, and her neverending curiosity, Kade’s nobility and how he looks out for everyone, Christopher’s near constant joy, and the connections between Nadya and Cora as they share similarities and differences with their worlds of water they found and had to leave. They were all so good.

I’m hoping to see these characters return in later books. This series has told a different plot every time with only two books sharing most of the same characters, and I hope to see them again later on because it is very entertaining to see them all.

Beneath the Sugar Sky gets a score of 3.5/5. If you had known your why, I would have rated you higher.


Complex Peoples – a REview of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Books that you study in school. They’re hits and they’re misses. And this one I decided to try, as it was the first book that didn’t get stale the more you studied it.

Christopher goes for a walk one night to find his neighbour’s dog dead. Against his father’s wishes not to get involved, this teen boy starts an investigation to work out who killed the dog and share this and his other thoughts in a book he decides to write. What makes his brain tick, how his brain operates different from other people, and what takes him on a journey someone like him would normally never attempt to do.

Christopher was the first portrayal of an autistic character I had come across. And I must say, upon reading this again I am uncertain of how well. It highlights a lot of the difficulties someone with autism may have, and while he does go out of his comfort zone to do good things it still focuses more on the struggles of autism than may be appropriate today. I wouldn’t know, as it is something I need to look into more. At least it’s no Sia movie.

The biggest point of interest within this novel is the writing style. It perfectly captures our main character, Christopher, and the way his mind works. That being said, in the short amount of time I read this, as I am a faster read than I was when I first read this, eventually the style became tiresome and predictable. Something I got bored of, which is weird. I wouldn’t call it sluggish to get through, but it had its moments where I didn’t want to read it or I wanted to take a breather just because of how it was written.

The other characters, the neurotypical I guess I should say, were equally complex in their own ways. The main ones to focus on here being Christopher’s family. Their motivations and actions were clear the further into the book you got, and the many other people who got tangled into it too became very interesting. This book’s conflict was all about the people, and I think with this book in particular few people realise that.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time gets a score of 4/5. Complex people make storytelling strong.


Welcome to my Dark Side – a review of The Cold is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale

Milla is kept in her home, forced to never venture into town, and she’s never met any young girls like her. That is until she meets Iris, betrothed to her brother Niklas. The two develop a deep connection close to sisterhood, but all too late. Demons are known to corrupt young girls, and Iris is the next target. She gets taken away before she becomes a danger to society. Milla goes out to rescue her, but as this goes on she seems to have her own problems. She may be turning into a demon herself…

This book’s strongest aspect is its atmosphere. This is key to any dark fantasy, and it certainly delivered. Setting up the dark things infesting this world, instilling fear into the citizens to force them to do good and avoid demonic possession, and yet it happens anyway. The demons are set up as ruthless and discriminatory no matter the rules the people think are put in place. Van Arsdelle worked wonders to make the townsfolk fear and the readers fear in turn.

The characters were very strong here too. I’m a fan of loyal characters, and Milla, Iris and Niklas tick that box in their many ways. They were too easy to root for and an exemplary, proactive trio who face their hardships throughout. And they did it for each other. Who doesn’t love that? It’s all brilliant, all what I’m here for.

So why am I not keeping this? Well, as much as I like dark fantasy, this I realise is not the kind of dark fantasy I like. I think the ending was one thing that didn’t make me like it as much. It felt too bright for a dark fantasy. I mean yeah, we often like happy endings, but the third act didn’t feel dark enough for a third act. I’m not an emotional masochist or anything, and I recognise the themes this book was trying to show, but I think it’s just my third act curse striking again.

Don’t let that bother you. Someone else is bound to like this, someone who likes a softer ending to a dark tale. I would still recommend it to someone with the right tastes, but this book is definitely not for me.

The Cold is In Her Bones gets a score of 4/5. The darker the weather, the better the book.


A Streak Broken – a REview of The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket

As previously illustrated, the odd books thus far in A Series of Unfortunate Events have been the weakest ones. That is, until now. Things are changing in the world of Violet, Klaus and Sunny.

The Baudelaires become students at Prufrock Prep, a morbid boarding school with obscure rules that make school life difficult and miserable. But they are able to find joy as they make their first true friends since being orphaned, Duncan and Isadora Quagmire. They soon discover the absurdities of how much they have in common and are able to bond over their circumstances. And then the five must team together as Count Olaf makes his way into the staff of Prufrock Prep.

This was the first book in the series to expand beyond Count Olaf’s escapades of trying to wrangle up the children, and I was here for it. It built up the world of Unfortunate Events so much more, which I could see having read the series many years before and knowing snippets of what to expect. This made the plot very refreshing and engaging compared to the other books, and sets up new mysteries to be solved later in the series.

I was a fan of exploring this new setting of a school too, for the short time we were present. The last book poked fun at labour and poor working conditions, and this book decided to poke fun at school by showing the most absurd one you could think of. And as someone who in my later years of high school realised how absurd schooling systems get when it comes to teaching us information they think valuable and beyond, this book was entertaining satire. With, of course, the typical Snicket spin.

The characters are getting more interesting now as well, especially as we are seeing more motivations in our characters and less surface level characters who off the top of my head we won’t be seeing again. I’m interested to re-remember how certain characters return and in what kind of scope.

And now I am truly interested in seeing how this series will turn out upon reread now that things have gotten deeper.

The Austere Academy gets a score of 4.5/5. Things are developing, and I’m here for it.


Magic Big Brother – a review of The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

This year I decided an initiative. Because too many people are wanting to go back to the magic school created by a TERF this time of year, the first book review every September is going to be reviewing a different magic school in rebellion.

Well, this isn’t EXACTLY a magic school. But it is still academic. The dark academia BookTok has freaked out over.

Six powerful magic individuals get selected to be taken under the wing of Atlas Blakely at the secret magical society, the Alexandrian Society. This gives them bountiful magical knowledge at their fingertips paired with the opportunity to grow their magical abilities further. Along with pursuing their other personal intentions of course. But things take a turn when it is revealed that not all of them will be selected, and then turn even further when they discover what dark methods they must take to secure their place amongst the magical elite.

For some reason, I read this book over a very long time, reading a section between other books I was reading at the time. This was meant to be a buddy read that ended up in a chaotic mess as people read this book faster and slower than each other. This is not a book to read the way that I wound up reading it. it became a blur. This may have made my opinions of this book decrease significantly.

This book was a full on mystery of discovering intentions and the complexities of alliances and intentions. It felt a lot like politics on a minute level, especially with stakes being revealed and amplified as it turns to a game of survival. It was entertaining to see the many ways alliances were made and broken. Then maybe this can’t be compared to politics. It felt like reality TV without the surveillance. Big Brother made magical. (I have never seen an episode to know fully what it is like).

The six main characters were hits and misses for me. Some of them were very strong, like Nico. Others had blurry intentions or became observers for most of the book, mainly Reina. And others had very twisted ways of thinking that became near captivating, those two beng Callum and Parisa. It was great to see such an array of people and their POVs, but it would have been nice if they were all more consistently great. The morally dark grey ones were the most entertaining, and I wished to love the others equally or more.

Because of my reading style I don’t remember the full details of the plot or the way that magic got studied and developed. The main part I remember is the ending, the last quarter or so. And that was a REALLY powerful quarter. Seriously eye opening and genius. It brought everything together so much that it almost didn’t matter that the rest of the book was a blur.

It certainly captivated me enough to read the next book.

The Atlas Six gets a score of 3.5/5. I wish I didn’t read it the way I did so I could appreciate it more.


Just One Strike – a review of The Little Match Girl Strikes Back by Emma Carroll

Fairytale retellings. Not a subgenre I normally pick up. I’m sick of the Beauty and the Beasts and the Cinderellas that saturate the market. Not only was this from a fairytale rarely touched, but also with a genre interpretation I liked.

Bridie, our little match girl, sells matches from the factory her mother works at to help her family get buy and have a decent meal to eat in the peak of England’s industrial revolution. But the phosphorous in the matches her mother makes is making her and the other workers sick, and the managers either want them working to their fullest or laid off. After an accident where Bridie has her supply of matches to sell for the day stolen, she gets inspired to make a difference and help her mother and other women working in the factory take a stand to improve their working and living conditions. All it takes is just one strike.

This was honestly just a quick read I picked up to get caught up on my reading goals, and I finished this in one day. It was a breeze to get through, probably because it is for a middle grade audience and it had some beautiful illustrations in it provided by Lauren Child. But it had a very mature voice regardless. Children are smart, y’know! At least when they get written about…

One common phrase in this book was about how the matches were magical. I think that best describes how cozy Carroll made dreary Victorian London. It takes the light of a single match, the imagery that is pivotal to so much in this book, to provide such warmth. The small light that this match provided made something magical. It became a transformative short story about hope with just the single strike of a match.

That being said, the one strike I’d give this novel as a bad strike. Pacing. The novel focused so much on the hope that the action had only the final two chapters left to dive into. It was brushed over, and it was something I really wanted to look into. I love hearing about the different protests at these times, and it was glossed over and told instead of shown. This could have been the perfect chance to have the hope restrike as hardships were faced. A missed opportunity.

But that hope was so strong that I couldn’t deny it this rating.

The Little Match Girl Strikes Back gets a score of 4/5. I used the word strike more in this review than I have ever used in my life.


The Atheist Likes A Religion Study Book – a review of Forbidden Healing by Rachael Watson

This next read I came across on Booktok, but this one has its differences. I discovered an indie author making their namesake and promoting this book of theirs, and I got convinced to pick it up. I am so glad that I stumbled upon Rachael Watson and this impressive start to her storytelling.

Kyla finally gets her shot to join the religious elite, until one of the God Sage’s acolytes gets murdered and a secret of hers almost gets brought to life. Marlowe’s parents were executed by said religious leaders, and he tries to keep his sister, an illegal healer, safe from those wanting her dead. The two’s worlds soon collide as Marlowe seeks safety and Kyla searches for a sign.

I never expected to enjoy a fantasy book where religion was the core of the story, but I really liked this take! This may be a spoiler, but it pins on individuals within the religion being corrupt rather than the whole church. And I liked that being shown in and out of the religious circles, and then seeing how that impacted the world. Even though I’m not religious myself, I like to see these impacts on the world just knowing how much religion has impacted certain countries in our world.

The characters were very compelling. The first thing I always look out for is if the characters are distinguishable, and Watson completely achieved that beyond just sticking to character roles. Their personalities and motivations were each very clear and you could understand a lot about them as a result. They were very well rounded, distinct, and sometimes with stereotypes that hit too close to home.

However, I think the pacing of the A plot, Kyla’s plot, and the B plot, Marlowe’s plot, could have been mirrored better. Telling two stories at once is very hard, and Watson did NOT do a terrible job, but still improvements could be made. It felt like one story progressed slower than the other and then it switched around, until the climax where both hit at once. It felt like maybe two acts of a story instead of three. But it was a very entertaining two-act story, if you would call it that at all.

This book also had a very strong aesthetic feel in my mind. I envisioned this world as dark and gritty, especially as we took a glimpse at some of the darker magics, with the main magic system of the healing brought by the God Sage (and thus the churches) leaning to brightness, purity and cleanliness. A stereotypes that gets distorted and broken as we see more sides of the same story, and we see cracks.

Watson is an author to look out for. I’ll be picking up the rest of the books in this series very soon.

Forbidden Healing gets a score of 4/5. I guess religion in fantasy is fun to study sometimes.


How to Write Animals – a review of Pax by Sarah Pennypacker

It was a book with a fox on the cover. It intrigued me, and reading the blurb I had some things to expect in what I thought was a wholesome tale.

My god was it so much more.

A boy and his fox, considered inseparable, are forced to separate as Peter leaves his fox Pax in some woods on the side of the road. Both must learn to survive from then on without each other. But as Peter learns of the war that will enter the forest he left Pax in, he runs away from his new abode to find him again.

Wow, this book was sad. From the very start. A very wholesome sad that warms you up a little bit, but sad nonetheless. There’s nothing that hits me harder than two people who care about each other and have such a deep connection fighting for their bond. And that was done so powerfully in this book. From the start, I repeat. How can a book be so powerful to do that to me?

I knew that this book took POVs from both the fox Pax and the boy Peter, but I was expecting one to be stronger than the other. They were both so valuable for such different reasons.

Pax’s POV I thought would be weak. To write about something non-humanoid on first pitch seems difficult, but what Pennypacker wrote was just plain mastery. It brought such emotion, curiosity and sentience to the fox without making it seem human in the slightest. It perfected the portrayal of animals through an animal’s point of view.

Peter, in the meantime, had the humanity to change people and interact with them in insightful and interesting ways. It wasn’t entirely what I expected from his arc, but I still liked the direction it took in the end. I think Peter’s arc really showcased the themes of the book as well of bonds and how they evolve with the people.

I will say that the ending felt too abrupt, but I heard there was a sequel to this. I am further intrigued and am ready to get teary again. I’m just hoping the two can spend more time together in the sequel.

Pax gets a score of 4.5/5. Sad and wholesome animals stories hit me right in the feels.


The Art of Belonging – a review of Down Among The Sticks And Bones by Seanan McGuire

Jaqueline and Jill were raised as the poster children of parents who wanted nothing more than to have kids to show off. Yet they envy each other over lives they want to have. Jill, raised to be a tomboy yet yearning for more feminine touches in her life. Jack, wishing to use her intelligence instead of her beauty. Soon after they both turn twelve they discover a secret in the attic, stairs down to a world that will accept them for who they want to be and transform them forever.

I was heavily entertained by the writing style and how reminiscent it was of children’s classic literature. I don’t remember how strongly it held this style in the first book, but the second book had it from the get go and hooked me instantly. In spite of having a far more adult audience and mature settings and themes, it made the story as a whole feel far more vivid, engaging, and emotionally attachable.

The theme was so simple and so effective, and I realised that was the root of this series. Belonging. It took a whole book for me to get it, the art of teens finding a space they belong and finding themselves when the people around them don’t know their true selves. I certainly hope to see this theme in further become emotional to hear them.

Let’s talk about the characters to attach to. Jack and Jill. Now, we were introduced to them and their terrifying ways before this prequel (weird statement, I know) and I never thought much about them upon my first dive. But now I care for both of them so deeply as they struggled at home with identity and found peace in a morbid place. And even though their truest homes were dark, I was so glad that they found them.

My only complaint was that I wanted more. That time skip was so terribly disappointing, because I wanted to see Jack and Jill grow. I wanted to see them learn lessons and transform. We had a beautiful before and an extravagant after, but a missing middle. I severely want to know what happened, it would have made such a great story. Such a great development as two twins become totally twisted in a gothic world, becoming the bride of a vampire and an assistant to one reminiscent of Frankenstein. I would read that for hours!

Thus I had to deduct half a star from this otherwise masterpiece.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones gets a score of 4.5/5. I’m so sad to be robbed of such beauty, I must write more!


The Poetry Dump – a REview of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

If you don’t know the story of Alice by now, you live under a rock. And if you think you really do, then perhaps you have read this book.

Now, this isn’t the first time I have read the book that brought along the Disney movie and warped your perceptions of the actual story like every other piece of literature the mouse company has touched. Yes, it includes Alice following a white rabbit down a neverending rabbit hole. She does grow and shrink, and indeed meet hats and mad hatters. However, there were no tweedles and an awful lot of poetry.

I think that’s what this book ultimately was. A collection of poetry strung together by absurd happenstance. No wonder people say this has no plot, it was never the purpose. Though I’m not quite sure why Carroll decided to frame the book in such a way. Or maybe this is just a trope of classic literature for children sometimes. I’m not entirely sure, as as someone who hasn’t written poetry since school and certainly hasn’t read much I’m afraid I don’t have much validation or knowledge on how good or bad this is.

Except that maybe Carroll should have stuck to one or the other. By the end of this dream sequence it felt like an excuse to cram as much poetry together as possible before returning to the threads of a plot there were. The structure of this novel – notice how I don’t say story – had an obvious bias to the poetry. Needless to say, I skimmed past a lot of poems.

Which is weird, when the poems are not what is considered so iconic about this book. In the non poetic parts, the fever trip of wonderland is very vivid and whimsical. It is a world to certain have fun in, being in all manner of sizes. I’m surprised that some bits were left out such as the pig, even when it was before the poetry dump. It made me thankful that Disney made so many changes just so I could re-remember new things about this book and its fun play on words.

I’m only reading the next book with the knowledge that there is an actual plot there and if my memory serves me well I actually found it quite entertaining. The only way is up it would seem.

Alice in Wonderland gets a score of 3/5. I’m not a fan of poetry, especially not in this form.


Not A Tale Of Women’s Wrongs – a review of Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire has monstrous blood and powers in her, such powers she wants to hide away knowing how much her deceased father abused it. But as royalty take notice of her heritage and the power that she holds, she wants them to use it for good. As war breaks out between nations, Fire’s monstrous charms could be the key to discovering traitors and getting hidden intel out of prisoners. While she’s reluctant to take on this role, she still raises the attention of many. Of crown princes hating her or falling head over heals for her, and of her jealous partner who doesn’t want her involved in royal affairs. And even her enemies are taking notice of the power she holds in this war.

This novel’s predecessor, Graceling, was the epitome of fantasy romance, so I was disappointed when romance wasn’t as dominant in this novel. Or well developed. It didn’t feel like Fire and her love interest, the one she winds up with in the end, spent enough time together or had enough moments for me to want to ship them together. Yes, it felt like a start of a relationship, but then my copy must have lost a few pages because by the end of the novel it felt like I missed a bunch of their chemistry.

Fire on her own was stellar as a character, and the journey she took was a beautiful one. It was a difficult journey in retrospect to get right, but one that was done so well. Written wrong it could have easily been a villain arc or a complete 180 on her gentle and empathic character, but she fought to stay that way in spite of the many ways she hardened. As much as I love a women’s wrongs tale, this was not for her. it was a beautiful tale of accepting every facet of herself and developing agency in a world where she didn’t think she deserved it.

This book taking place as an anthological book set in the same world made for a great chance to expand the world and take on a new angle. While Graceling was very much exploring the wilderness of one set of nations, Fire looked into the politics of kingdoms on the other side of an expansive mountain range. This really helped flesh out the world and made more much more variety of stories and characters to come out and shine. I can appreciate every angle of it with many stories that show different sides of the world.

I’m looking forward to seeing what other angles can be taken in this world now, as Cashore flexed her versatility in many ways in this novel.

Fire gets a score of 4/5. A pure story with a new look at the world.


Even Books are Superior- a REview of The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket

This aeon long journey of gradually finishing rereads of this long-ass series continues. You would know that thus far my opinions of A Series of Unfortunate Events has fluctuated between books and quite often I wonder if I should actually continue this series. But there seems to be a pattern with my opinion of these books.

The Baudelaires, no longer having legal guardians to take care of them, have been put into a new home of sorts. They are forced to work in a sawmill with questionable working conditions nobody has the guts to fight back on. But that isn’t the worst of the problems. When an accident has Klaus’s glasses break, his return from an eye doctor has him acting strangely. Maybe Count Olaf is right around the corner plotting against the Baudelaires still.

A lot of this book I had forgotten the plot of before I read it again. I think I only remembered Count Olaf’s disguise and alias from this book, so I went into this book expecting it to be forgetful. Stereotypical. Without excitement. All I remembered was a mill and Count Olaf. But as I read it the contents slowly came back to me.

We have lost the repetition I complained about in the previous novel, thankfully. That was my biggest fear coming into this book was that the plot was going to be yet another rehash, but I was pleasantly surprised instead by the mystery elements in this book. For a long time Count Olaf is not in the picture but working within the shadows, wreaking havoc in the mill in his own little ways. And we’re just seeing the results of his plotting and planning coming into fruition. It was refreshing to see him in such a light and to see other terrible people affecting the Baudelaires.

This novel particularly leaned into the absurdity of the Baudelaire’s situation, and while it took a while for me to suspend my disbelief it turned into some more dark comedic angles later on. Children working in a mill with terrible conditions? It’s a wonder they got into such a position in the first place, knowing what comes up in later books that are arguably better. But the adults are treated just as bad in the place. Knowing the consumer environment we live in today, some of the allusions hit a little too close to home. It felt very sweatshop adjacent.

This novel was also a chance for Violet to shine as the main person knowing things are awry, and the main person to have agency to save her siblings. This is especially in ways that are not typical of her. She’s performing the research Klaus is normally known for and making investigations. She still has some inventive moments to shine, but it is good to see her out of her comfort zone and still able to solve problems. An element that shakes things up for this middle grade audience.

But now I’m sitting here scared that book 5 is not going to be good if this odd/even pattern continues.

The Miserable Mill gets a score of 4/5. I have faith that book 6 in the series will be good now.


Winter is Here – a REview of The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan

At the current rate I’m DNFing books, I’m glad it means I can reread some absolute classics. And this whole series, I tell you, will be considered classic in 50+ years time. But let’s talk about the midpoint of this series for a second.

A monster that could bring out the end of the world is on the loose. A goddess has been caught while trying to save it. And Annabeth has been captured in the mix of it all. In a bid to save her, Percy teams up with Camp Half Blood’s Grover and Thalia and the Hunters of Artemis to thwart the next plan in bringing Kronos back to life. But the threats they face are the deadliest they have faced yet. Undead and titans threaten to stop them and steal Annabeth away from the world forever.

As a kid this book was my favourite because it had my favourite character in it, Thalia. Choosing favourites was a far simpler game back then, back when I didn’t religiously study stories. This was also the darkest installment of the series yet, and back when I was 11 and reading this for the first time you could say I was going through a middle grade literature emo phase. So this book appealed to me a lot then.

But now is it my favourite of the series? No, that still belongs to Sea of Monsters. But that doesn’t mean it was bad. Far from it. Allow me to explain:

As usual, character was a highlight. Percy constantly steals the spotlight, but credit also goes to Zoe and Thalia (yes I still love her). Riordan is able to create such depth to characters that at first appear tropey. Goth girl Thalia’s struggling with destiny and desire. Zoe’s ancient spirit in a youthful body and her struggle with her family. Even the sides of Luke that we see were great dives into his character we’ve learnt to hate. This is the kind of character mastery I only wish I had.

A second highlight in this installment was, as mentioned, the darker tones. It was instantly misleading that this novel about a summer camp takes place in winter, but it was a beautiful way to set up what was to come. This is not what you’re used to, and things are about to change. It suited the themes of loss present in this book, yet still carved plenty of room for the quirks, style and absurdities familiar with this series. It was just on a darker landscape.

I still can’t get over how masterful Riordan is with his worldbuilding. Finding Athena at the Hoover Dam, raising undead in the Smithsonian, the climax taking place in San Francisco. And these are just the links directly to the US. The world gets expanded further as Riordan introduces us to new players in ways that completely make sense. Like meeting the Hunters of Artemis and learning of their rivalry with Camp Half Blood. That was a highlight to see them butt heads.

What can I say? Riordan is just good at what he does. Let’s hope I can DNF another book in the near future and pick up the next installment soon as a reward.

The Titan’s Curse gets a score of 5/5. Dark Percy Jackson still rocks.


I Am Not A Bookworm- a review of Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Our final Pride Month read is a sci fi with lesbians and skeletons, written by a lesbian author who was raised in my homeland New Zealand!

Gideon couldn’t care less for the house of the ninth, but when she is chosen to accompany the Reverend Daughter Harrowhawk her chances of escaping the necromantic hellhole of her home are completely thwarted. For the Emperor has summoned the best necromancers of each of the nine planets and their cavaliers, which Gideon has been newly appointed as. The two childhood nemesises must join forces to complete challenges and ascend to the first house to join the Emperor’s side. But these games have become particularly deadly as the nature of these challenges get revealed.

This book is very dense. The writing style made it at times difficult to follow along, and on account of my brain being small I must rate this lower. This is especially difficult considering that if I didn’t read the next part of a book within 24 hours I would forget a lot of what happened previously. A bookworm would love this, but I don’t think I am a bookworm anymore with how long it took me to read this and understand everything.

The characters, and the book itself, had so much character to it. I will admit at times it was difficult to keep track of cast and who was who, but it paid off very fast. With each pair of characters having their own flavour of undeath and their relationships standing out in powerful ways. The character aesthetics tied each character off with a little bow, so I could love each and every one of them in their own little ways. No to mention how easily their motivations were shown.

That being said, Harrow and Gideon’s relationship could have been a bit more than what it wound up being at the end of the book. It didn’t quite hit the enemies to lovers fantasy that everyone said it would be, and that kind of disappointed me. Things were either so rushed or so slow at the wrong times and I don’t think they had the chemistry for it.

The complexity of learning this magic system was salvaged by a very simple plot. A contest is a classic! People underestimate how styles of plots can really make a story what it is. Fantasy and sci fi get so hooked up on quests and journeys that it was refreshing to see another contest in this genre, especially with the addition of puzzles that teach us about the complexities of necromancy.

Gideon the Ninth gets a score of 3.5/5. If I was a bookworm this would have been better.