Feminazi Agenda – a review of The Merciless Ones by Namina Forna

I have never been in a position where I have waited for the next book in a series to come out so desperately until I read The Gilded Ones. And was I ever so glad to pick up the next book in the Deathless series after waiting for over a year since I read book one.

Was it worth the wait? Hell and back again, yes.

Deka awakening the Gilded Ones in a bid to free females from the patriarchy was meant to solve all problems, not bring more war and death to her kind. Still, as the Nuru it is her and her friends’ duty to fight for it. However, after rescuing another divine figure from oppression she discovers that the oppressors may have something more powerful than the goddesses she follows. It is now her duty to find out more about these potential weapons and priests to stop them. However, more about the world gets brought to her eyes the deeper she searches, and lies about all she knew come to light.

The action in this was phenomenal and always had me on the edge of my seat! What really captivated me this time was how in these action scenes there was always so much more to focus on than just the task at hand. Forna knows how to emphasise stakes and dive into a character’s mind during battle, be it fear or curiosity, and to shape the battle to recite a character’s mindset.

Character was another strong suit in this novel. Trauma was a common adversary amongst Deka and her allies, which was fascinating to explore amongst all of them. And even then each had their own arcs to follow. Deka and Britta were favourites of mine for their friendship alone. I want a best friend like what they’ve got going on. Minus the whole bloodshed and warrior lifestyle maybe.

Worldbuilding was expanded upon so well. So much was culturally and politically shared during this is made my heart sing to see the world expanded. The world was clearly reacting to the events of the previous book in the series and it impacted the plot so well. No single decision or repercussion was ignored. And the mythos of this world too! Such a great mythos and exploration of magic along the way.

All in all, in the way the plot and themes were developed this book is a perfect sequel. It all made great sense in developing the discussion of feminism and non-male rights. I haven’t read a book, or a series, that talked about this topic so well, so insightfully and so un-campy. Which makes sense considering Forna’s educational background. It is a blessing for her to bring her studies and her own insights into this book for people to read. Minus the triggers, I think anyone should be reading this for the valuable insights it contains about feminism and not feminazis.

The Merciless Ones gets a score of 5/5. A perfect score for a perfect sequel that left an impact on my feminist viewpoints.

Yours in writing



Humans are Pop Culture – a review of The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

The Ilori have taken over the Earth and are shaping it to their vision, and forms of self expression are made illegal to minimise the spread of rebellion. But two beings have found ways to fight against it. First is Ellie, a human providing salvation to her peers through a small library of books she hid. Second is Morris, a lab made Ilori and human sympathiser in love with pop music. When their paths cross, they band together in order to find ways to save each other from getting caught by the Ilori and to find a way to save the world from being turned into lifeless hosts waiting to be possessed.

What drew me to this book was the asexual representation in it. Both main characters Ellie and Morris identify on this spectrum. While it was nice to see them, it wasn’t as revolutionary as other novels with ace leads. And that’s not always a bad thing! We need more stories like this where it is explored but not taking over the whole plot. And I respect the novel for doing that in ways that I strive to. I guess I kind of expected something revolutionary when people recommended this to me as a book with ace rep.

But that didn’t make me like the characters. Even the ones who weren’t ace I found immensely unrelatable. It’s hard to explain – they were both too generic and too untouchable at the same time. I will credit the motivations the characters had were solid, but for some of them that plus their hobbies wound up defining their entire personality. That’s a major character pet peeve for me! If I can’t define a character in three traits like in the Sims, I don’t consider them fully developed. And those traits don’t relate to their goals of freedom or their love of books.

But enough mediocrity and disappointment, let’s talk the best part of this novel – worldbuilding. It feels very rooted in it’s near futureness, that even with the take on aliens it felt like something that could actually happen. Protests, climate change and more make the prologue of this novel, and the alien race of Illori has come to monitor humanity and fix the issues on the planet. Albeit to their vision, it is still a very interesting take to start. It makes for a good hook to start this novel.

Sadly the relationship, plot and worldbuilding was cast into shadow by pop culture. I’m not hating on it, just the way that it is used. Books, bands and clothing references were found on every page. It’s like the author was getting paid by every single company who owned these pop culture pieces to reference them, and each time she did she earned ten dollars. It’s not seriously that big today, right?

If that’s what the author thinks humanity is, I may have lost my faith in it. There’s more to us than the songs we sing.

The Sound of Stars gets a score of 2/5. Humanity isn’t so shallow.

Yours in writing



I Like Math Now – a review of The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung

I find it ironic now, looking back on my past and my ever vague connections to this book. I was pushed ahead a year for maths in High School, though my marks weren’t exactly spectacular. I learnt imaginary numbers and calculus when I didn’t need it for my degree, especially when all my others subjects sans one was writing based.

And this book is where those two worlds of mine, in a sense, collided.

Katherine is a half-chinese mathematician looking to pave her way forward in the field and tackle the unsolvable. And her greatest struggle in her career was never the problems she had to solve. In a career field dominated by males, everyone around her has given her nothing but doubt. Even those she trusted had stopped her from becoming known, stolen her credit and gone against her career morals. But that still isn’t her greatest struggle. It is discovering the full truth behind her past, one she previously never doubted to be anything but true.

Going into this novel I expected to be bombarded with math terms I had to quickly adapt to, but I got none of that at all. It wound up being a very different story with more depth and insight than the study of. maths itself. It created a very interesting backdrop, similar to stories like Hidden Figures and The Imitation Game but without the focus on the goals they pursue. It feels organic and ordinary in comparison, just going into the story of someone with a passion.

That someone is the protagonist, Katherine. Katherine’s voice and character made for a very beautiful way to tell the story, through insights, anecdotes and very beautiful imagery. It breaks the stereotype of cold and hard calculations coming from scientific minds on every matter they come across. Katherine is very sensitive and perceptive in the way she sees her world, which is reflected in her voice and Chung’s writing style. This was a style I very much enjoyed, encouraging me to read more of her works in the future.

One thing I really enjoyed about this was a refreshing take on feminism as a theme in this story. I’ll admit that I’m tired of seeing stale feminist stories about overthrowing patriarchies or breaking rules being set by men. The Tenth Muse features a new take, where Katherine being the first female to study in her field is not caring for the fact that she’s a female and doing it. It became a very refreshing perspective, for someone wanting to be recognised for their talent and worth and not their gender in the field. A very equitable look on feminism that I’m inclined to agree with after reading it. While it is good for someone of a minority to make pursuits or huge strides in a field they’re not normally a part of, it is not glorious. Glory is earned, as is Katherine’s pursuits and how she wants to succeed in her goals.

This is a book that opened my mind. This is a book that anyone could love. Even if you’re not female identifying, this overs fantastic perspectives into so much in life. And it’s very easy to read. This will become a go-to recommendation for me.

The Tenth Muse gets a score of 5/5. Books about math can be good guys!

Yours in writing



Oh Gods – a review of Soul of a Rose by S.D. Huston

I was excited to learn that the second installment of the Clash of Goddesses trilogy was a retelling of my favourite Greek myth I was so excited to get into it. Even then it didn’t become my favourite part of the novel. There’s a lot to enjoy in this novel.

When Rose’s family hides an eagle wanted dead by the Greek Goddess Artemis, her beloved Lugh dies to protect her family and their allies. The Morrigan, a powerful Irish Goddess, says that Rose can save him by venturing into the afterlife and facing the harrowing challenges there to bring him back before he resurrects without his memories. When she takes that choice, her trials reveal more and more lies Rose’s mother kept. But meanwhile, Greek and Irish must decide whether to fight or form alliances for their own personal goals and the threat of the world losing its magic.

Characterisation was once again a strong point of this novel. I think what makes this characters stand out is how easily you can envision how they act. For me that’s what makes characters stand out the most, and each acted in such unique ways that even subtle differences made all the difference. Even minor characters without POVs were thoroughly well established characters when their motivations came into play. This made for a very engaging cast of characters.

It was interesting to see the worldbuilding expand in the ways that Greek and Irish myths collide. The original tale of Orpheus and Eurydice was the inspiration for this, but it evolved so much from that to create its own story fueled by Irish mythology. I especially loved when not only Greek gods and goddesses left their marks in the world, but when early stages of Christianity were seeping its way into the world too that was a very interesting approach to take. It is not often that multiple mythologies are looked into and not often that they interact. I really liked Huston’s take on the matter.

Rose and Lily’s plot was very fascinating and engaging. Both were sent on their own missions to save those they loved in their respective ways, but each took different paths of self discovery and evaluation in the process. Their character arcs and their own characters were huge driving forces in their respective stories. I couldn’t say the same for Hera and the Morrigan and how most of their chapters were filled with conversation, but it still wound up good overall.

Which leaves one book left in the trilogy. Let’s just say it ended on some very intriguing notes. I can’t wait to see them resolved in the final installment.

Soul of a Rose gets a score of 4/5. Gods should clash more often, but maybe with less talking and more magic and fighting.

Yours in writing



Still Salty at the Movies – a REview of The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

This book was in desperate need of a reread. I barely remembered anything about it thanks to its terrible adaptation that was played five too many times by teachers.

On the bright side, that made me fall in love with this series again. Even when reading it for a second time and knowing how it ends.

When middle schooler Percy Jackson vaporises his maths teacher, he quickly learns that it wasn’t some kind of hallucination. He’s a demigod, the son of a Greek Olympian God, who is forced into refuge at a summer camp for those like him. Unfortunately, his mother was unable to get to safety with him. So when the opportunity to save her arrives on the brink of a war between Zeus and Poseidon, Percy takes his satyr best friend and an overachiever daughter of Athena with him across the USA to confront Hades, who is believed to be the one causing this all.

Going back over ten years ago, this was the hype of everyone in my senior classes at primary school and ultimately what got me to read this series. I genuinely don’t know if my enjoyment of it was solely so I could talk about it with my friends or me actually enjoying the story. This was especially when The Lightning Thief was the least favourite of mine as a kid.

Upon rereading it, I don’t know why!

The characters – incredible. These twelve year olds especially have so much depth to them! Better than the way I’ve seen adults and teens written by a landslide. Each have their own goals and fears that don’t define them, with little quirks and personality traits that give them each a chance to shine. My god, it is so hard to pick favourites in this cast! Unlike the movie in which everyone was turned flat, especially Annabeth. They did Annabeth dirty in the adaptation.

Next we need to talk about worldbuilding and how seamlessly Mythology fits into this world. It’s in the plot like crazy, feeling a lot like a modern day Odyssey for preteens with the inclusions of quests and tropes found in some of my favourites. The story feels like so much of its own in spite of the mythology roots. The way the monsters fit into the world is perfect! A seamless example of how to add the fantasy to an urban environment.

And oh my god, the writing style. I remember the writing style being what made me fall in love with this book and inspired me to write, but I don’t remember it being this damn good! It has cheesy and unexpected comedy, things to wrench out your heart and some of the best imagery I have ever read. Not once did I read a cliche metaphor or simile and it was so refreshing! I will admit that the foreshadowing was a bit in your face and timed a bit too close to reveals, but I can forgive it slightly on being a middle grade book.

Regardless, this is still so readable and fun to read, I can now confirm being an adult, for all ages. Top 10 books to read before you die. Because all 10 of those are Rick Riordan books.

The Lightning Thief gets a score of 4.5/5. I already predict that the Disney series won’t do this book justice.

Yours in writing



Mature Children – a review of Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

I would call this a RE-view, but I didn’t even remember what happened in this book. So it was basically like reading this for the first time. I read this book in my final year of Intermediate school, got my best friend into it and we were obsessed with this book for a while.

11-year-old Aubrey is home alone. Her dad and sister died in an accident and her grieving mother abandoned her. She didn’t mind this lifestyle until Grandma arrived and took her to her home in Vermont to stay with her. Not only must Aubrey come to terms with a new life, but she must come to turns with the past at the same time and how things will never be the same.

This was the first book that made me cry, but I couldn’t remember what about it made me cry. It was ten years ago since I read that book and I had read tonnes more since then. Even so, this held such a place in my heart and I reminisced on the feelings I felt while reading it. There were bits and pieces I remembered of it but nothing stronger than the emotion – the crying and the joy mixed into the pages.

This was a stellar character driven story, perfect for a contemporary novel. You could clearly see interactions and opinions impact characters in such a real way. Each revelation hit hard or brought joy. Each character and their relationships felt real, developed, thoughtful. Contemporary novels in my perspective have some of the richest and most well rounded characters I’ve ever read, and LaFleur’s work is not exception.

Aubrey’s character and her arc were stellar. She had so much dimension, maturity and at the same time youth for her age. That and it felt so relatable and universal. Love, Aubrey revolves around children’s grief and PTSD through her perspective, and even though it relates to her dealing with it that doesn’t consume her or the plot. Her developments are very mature and signify a coming of age.

One thing that brought it down for me were a bunch of cliches in the language of this novel. You can expect language cliches in middle grade novels, the same metaphors and similes you see all the time. And seeing cliches of ways to describe things doesn’t usually get me mad. But when they come in this huge quantity it does made me think less of the novel. You couldn’t think of any new ways to describe that river? Or that feeling in your gut? I know how wild a child’s imagination can get, and this wasn’t it.

But don’t let that take the rating of this fantastic book down too far. This is still an incredible story for anyone to read, so make you cry and warm your heart all at once.

Love, Aubrey gets a score of 4.5/5. Enough emotion and purity to last me the rest of the year.

Yours in writing



Big Shocker – a review of False Idols by Jon Hollins

I was hyped to get to this sequel. Fool’s Gold was already a huge hit, falling in love with the series mere chapters into it.

The hype live up! The hype lived up!

Dragons may no longer rule over Kondorra, but they’re still a threat as the rest of the continent accepts them. Corrupted human governments are taken over by manipulative dragons who claim to be the new gods. The only people not subjected to this vision of a new world are the five heroes who slayed the dragons – Quirk, Will, Lette, Balur and Firkin. It’s up to them to make the remaining governments and empires step up, and to save the people already swayed the wrong way.

It was fantastic to see the world built out from the previous books. The first book focussed on a single empire on the continent and the corruption there, and to see the rest of the world, especially with characters directly linked to it, was so enlightening. Universities, churches and governments galore! And of course how the dragons attempt to get to them. So cool! It really brings out the ingenuity of Hollins and how he comments on problems we too face in a campy presentation.

This plot hit me hard in so many ways. Between character arcs, relationship tensions and the fate of the world itself, there was so much to guess about and be blind to for bigger reveals. Literally – when you think you know what’s going on and how it would all end the carpet animated and traps you in a little corpse burrito. And what a fantastic predictability and unpredictability it became! Not too much or little of either.

The characters were great as usual, but I have to give credit to Quirk and her character arc in this novel. She became my favourite this time around. Her devotion to her sense of duty and morality and the internal conflicts surrounding that were very engaging – a perfect look into her mind.

One thing I want to highlight is the ensemble characters, the ones without perspective chapters and were there for their own purposes. It is not often that the non main characters are so crucial to building up the world, conflicts and stakes, and to have so many. These were all done very well where it feels so real and with each crowd group being unique.

And now book three awaits. So much exciting content awaits.

False Idols gets a score of 5/5. When the going gets tough, the rating goes up.

Yours in writing



Hindus in Space – a review of Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers

My start to sci fi was dismal, and I started to think that this genre wasn’t for me. That was until I picked up this novel.

I bought the rest of the series as soon as I finished this book.

Hailimi ran away from the Indranan Empire to avenge the death of her father, but now the rest of the royal family is at risk or already dead. The princess-turned-gunrunner now must return home and team up with her bodyguards in the midst of her planet’s celebrations to stop the assassination of her mother, reclaim her rights to the throne and mend family ties that were broken when she abandoned them.

Worldbuilding was executed well in this novel. I like how it mainstreamed colonization from Earth and turned international affairs to interplanetary affairs, with cultural distinctions flavouring each empire. An Indian inspired world was featured in the spotlight, which I appreciated having seen Hindu culture frequently in my hometown. It still made the Indranan culture distinct from what we know of India today, making it truly feel like an evolution.

The subtleties of technology within the story was fantastic too. I liked how it wasn’t always pivotal to the story and wound up being used on multiple occasions, including accessing the internet from your mind, permanent body modifications and tracking systems. It made the world feel both futuristic and not very far from our own, in a cultural sense mind you. There was no need to flaunt the technology and how revolutionary it was when it was constantly shown, used and exercised in plot relevant ways that kept me interested and excited me.

Every character was very enjoyable and distinct. None were campy, but many had their comedic moments to shine. I was particularly a fan of Hailimi’s Trackers, Emmory and Zin, and the respective quips each of them had with each other and with Hailimi. And, of course, Hailimi herself deserves some credit. She was written incredibly real.

I’m usually not a fan of courts and strategies within them, but it was written very well in this novel. It was mostly easy to follow along with, interlaced with family drama that left me wincing. With the additions of assassination attempts and gunfire, this became a very fun read. I was always wonder what would be revealed next. I also appreciate the novel for not hinging on a big reveal of the conspirators, for being as smart as the reader. There was more to focus on than that so it became very nice to see that unfold in a more natural way.

See what unfold? You’ll have to read to find out. I deeply encourage you.

Behind the Throne gets a score of 5/5. Perfect novel for a fantasy reader dipping toes into science fiction.

Yours in writing



This Ain’t Classism – a review of Evalene’s Number by Bethany Atazadeh

Somebody please help me. I have read five books in a row and have not liked them enough to keep them. Why is my luck this bad? Will this streak end?

I guess while I debate that, let’s talk book five in that streak. A dystopian disappointment.

In the country of Eden, people are labeled with numbers to dictate their place in society and their associative rolls. Needless to say, when Evalene expects a low number like her parents and gets labelled with #29, one of the lowest numbers in society, her life crumbles. Eight years later she seeks an escape after hearing rumors of a land where numbers don’t matter, where newborn children don’t have that expectation and everyone is treated as an equal. But what happens when she seeks freedom at a time where revolution is on the horizon?

I had very mixed feelings about the main character. She bordered between Mary Sue and Everyman as each page was turned. This made her as a character never stand out because while she was universally relatable it was never enough for me to root for her or make a large enough impact.

But I can say that there were exactly two characters in the entire novel that actually had a personality. They were in very generic ways too. One was an optimist, one was abusive and the rest were a generic mishmash. Yay! But seriously, did this never cross Atazadeh’s mind as to how generic her cast was? How nobody had dimension? It was even worse when it was so desperately trying to be a character driven story with these guys. In that respect it fell flat.

The world was interesting but never explored enough. The various positions people held with their number was explained but never shown aside from high and low society. Why bother explaining this without showing it? I would have really liked to see the lives of priests, law and merchants but it was never shown. Pity is an understatement. This is a novel all about classism and prejudice justified by religion and that was rarely touched. It felt like barely any research went into the implications of such.

Pair that with a mediocre rebellion plot, and this is what you get. I say mediocre because there wasn’t a great enough struggle, not enough losses for what was won. It felt too uplifting too quick. I think something went critically wrong once and it was solved by coincidence. I’m sick of coincidences solving everything!

So can I coincidentally have a read that will blow my mind next week please?

Evalene’s number gets a score of 2.5/5. This novel went about as deep as a fish bowl.

Yours in writing



It’s Evolving! – a review of The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

This novel was described as gritty little sibling of Avatar The Last Airbender. I see the comparison, but this novel was so much more it it. I had heard so many good things about this trilogy!

But it left me with an opinion of a novel that I never had on this blog before.

Rin manages to escape an arranged marriage by being the only person in her town to make it into Sinegard Military Academy, but in no ways does her hard work stop there. Her prejudices and rivalries at the academy force her to struggle even further, until one of her kookier professors teaches her the forgotten art of Shamans – the ability to channel the powers of the gods. As war between Nikara and Mugen lingers, this power may be what the empire needs to win it. But what at what cost for Rin?

I really liked the characters in this novel, for the most part. Towards the end there were some contradictory things that the characters did, and at times too many in one scene. It still made them enjoyable, each with little quirks and dimensions that made even the most similar characters still unique enough.

The world and the magic was very fascinating, rich and entertaining. We managed to get a look at a fair amount of the world in this first book, and the unique influences from our own world combined into a fantasy world unlike any I had ever seen. At times it was too rich I’ll admit. There was a lot of information to process about the way the world was run, and they weren’t presented in ways easy for me to pick up. It may be for others, though.

There was a lot of military jargon – especially in the middle – that slowed it down for me. A bunch of strategy and meetings – they were good and interesting when they first came in, but then there wound up being too much of it as it went on. Like I get it, it’s a military centric story, but this made me long for different things to happen.

I think a lot of it was the book hooking me at the start with things that were unique and that I liked, but by the end it evolved into not the story I expected or one that appealed to me. It was very well written and very engaging until then. I’m not faulting the book for this at all. There are people out there who would eat this up, but I am not one of them. This is a very good book, don’t get me wrong. But after reading this I realise it wasn’t for me.

So while I say I didn’t like this book, I can still see myself recommending it to people who like this kind of story. I hope someone can love this more than I do.

The Poppy War gets a score of 3.5/5. This is good shit for somebody else.

Yours in writing



This Isn’t Rush Hour – a REview of Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer

We’ve been doing a lot of re-views lately, haven’t we? HOWEVER something new did come out of this.

A book I loved and thought I was devoted to wound up disappointing me.

When her aunt’s diner shuts down, Hope Yancey moves with her to a diner needing a pick-me-up in Wisconsin. A few days after the two of them start working there they discover that the owner, G.T., decided to run for mayor once he discovered he had cancer. Hope then gets swept up in a whirlwind with the other teens of the town to campaign against the corrupt mayor and help the town out financially in as many ways as possible. But when your mayor is a corrupt moneybags giant, you bet they have ways to stiffen morale.

Back when I read this I was 14, got intrigued by the title and bought this at the book fair. I think I was reading this during an election period myself? Regardless, this was a very touching and heartwarming book that nearly made me cry towards the end, seeing Hope find a family instead of wishing for her own to find her again.

Clearly back then I didn’t know what good storytelling was.

The plot itself was great, very compelling and hit me in the right places again on the second read. It was very interesting to see the twists, turns and processes mentioned in the election campaign and you the corrupt mayor fought back. That side of things made for a very interesting plot in spite of its simplicity.

But then we get to problems I didn’t see back when I was 14. First off, it was rushed. Crazy rushed. That made a lot of those moments last not nearly as long as I wanted them to. How dare. And this was more rushed than in other novels, which is surprising. I should’ve known based on how thin the book was, but I’ve read novels with same page number and yet bigger font sizes that had more cohesively paced stories than this.

Second, I don’t get why it was told from Hope’s point of view. Not only is she a Mary Sue in this novel, but she has no agency relating directly to the plot. I think only one problem in this novel relating to the main plot was solved by her. And when she said she found her family and people to care for her at the end of the novel, I was struggling to find the moments that claimed so.

The other characters weren’t greater either. Not only did this include love-interest-exists-only-to-make-the-lead-feel-horny syndrome, but none of the other characters aside from the villain had any personal and clear goals except for maybe one of the other waitresses at the diner. Even the main character, as mentioned before. The entire town was full of plot vessels. Terrible storytelling.

So I think I had my head in the clouds. And this book which I have kept for eight years will find a new home at a charity thrift shop.

Hope Was Here gets a score of 2/5. I’ve never read a story that took place in such a boring town before.

Yours in writing



Hits Hard Twice – a REview of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I was disappointed when my teacher in my final year of high school said we might study this book for English and then pulled out Shakespeare two weeks later. We ready the prologue in class and everything! And I was hooked.

But more on that later, and more on what hooked me reading this novel a second time this year.

Also, Markus Zusak commented on my photo of The Messenger the other day. I was starstruck all day.

On the brink of the Second World War in a small town in Germany, Liesel was meant to be sent to a foster home with her brother. He died on the train there. Overcome with grief and with a stolen book in hand, Liesel is welcomed into this new family found in Hans and Rosa Hubermann. In the years to come Liesel draws upon a connection to books as her family becomes silent protestors during the rise of Nazi Germany.

This was the novel that got me into historical fiction. While not the first, it was the one that got me hooked those four years ago with unique writing styles, insights and incredible characters. How anyone was able to write something so phenomenal was beyond me. It was revolutionary to my tiny brain. I someday want to write a book that hits like The Book Thief does but I don’t even know if it’s possible.

And when I read it the second time it still hit just as hard. I still got so emotional and close to tears reading the end, and even little bits in between that I had forgotten. So many surprises, so many lines that hit hard, and so many insights into the human condition. You already know I’m a fan of human condition themes, and this one smacks me in the face with desires to be welcomed, to find purpose, fulfill desires and do good in the world. So universal.

The main reason I wanted to read this novel back when I was seventeen was when I found out that this novel was narrated by Death. Arguably, this is what makes The Book Thief and defines Zusak’s style is narration like this. His portrayal of Death as a concept and a being is refreshing compared to the usual cynical and sinister portrayals. The narrator provides the killer lines and insights that hit the hardest, with a garden of flowery language that makes us see the world through his eyes in an at times dark beauty.

Usually with plots like this, day in the life stories with no clear goals and objectives of the main character, they can get tedious. But Zusak masters this and kept me engaged the whole way through. This is the way you make the seemingly mundane hit hard! He pulls out so much beauty from the simplest things – even dominos! I will never get over his writing style and how well he writes things.

If you haven’t guessed, this is book I recommend to everyone no matter their preferences.

The Book Thief gets a score of 5/5. Find a better book, I dare you.

Yours in writing



Not Quite My Boo – a review of The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

This is the first book that BookTok has convinced me to buy.

In an alternate near future, the Scion government rules over London in attempt to prosecute the illegal acts of clairvoyance and the communion of spirits. The most powerful clairvoyants are found in underground gangs amongst the many districts, including Irish immigrant Paige Mahoney. However, when she gets arrested she isn’t killed or brainwashed like she expects to be. She is taken to the off-grid city of Oxford where her kind is enslaved by otherworldly Rephaim to keep the world from destruction. Paige soon discovers that her particular branch of clairvoyance is very sought after, and she must both utilise it and hide it if she wishes to escape.

Fantasy Dystopia is a genre less talked about than other fantasies, and the worldbuilding of this book just goes to prove how good it is. In retrospect I realise it was a lot of information, but it was present and explained in ways that made perfect sense. I’m a huge fan of magic centric worldbuilding and seeing the implications of it. The abstract ways the aether and spirits worked to the will of clairvoyants was especially entertaining for me, especially from the perspective of Paige who was blind to them but could still sense them. Better still was the contrast of the urban and typical dystopia of London put against the archaic and rustic Oxford, very well captured introductions to these key locations which I hope to see more of in the future.

Flashbacks were used a lot in this novel, but for once it didn’t annoy me how often it was used. That’s because they added to the story, the main character and supporting characters who appear later in the plot. It also became a unique way to build out the world, with the flashbacks being in different locations to the present. I’ve read and reviewed other books where flashbacks have been pivotal yet ruined the experience, but this novel done it in a way that made so much sense and became very entertaining to get through. I was happy to come across another flashback as a result.

However, like many other novels this one suffers from the same issue – the lead romance feeling unearned! There were moments where I looked at it and saw it coming, but even when the kiss came to fruition I couldn’t help but wonder how things escalated so quickly. I’m not denying that they care for each other, but to a romantic kind of degree? I didn’t see any thoughts of it that way until the final chapters. It felt like the kiss was shoved in there at the end instead of later in the series to do service to some kind of audience – what kind? I’m not sure.

Moving onto characters and relationships, which was a mixed bag altogether. Few of the characters stood out in spite of clearly unique personalities, and while relationships were there and solid I felt like they could’ve been expanded upon more. This made the stronger characters, such as Jaxon and Nick, cast the rest of the cast in shadow and have the emotional stakes involving them get dampened.

Luckily there will be more books in the series to get to know the characters that are still sticking around. I am still very much looking forward to what the rest of the series holds.

The Bone Season gets a score of 3.5/5. What a wonderful world, but the characters constructively need more work.

Yours in writing



Who Needs A Thesaurus?- a RE-view of The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

This was the first series I read in its entirety. Granted it was out of order, so I thought it was time to give it another try from the start. And in order – the way it was meant to be read.

After the death of their parents in a house fire, siblings Violet, Klaus and Sunny are put into the care of Count Olaf who immediately mistreats them behind closed doors. The three of them seek escape, but when adults don’t listen to them or care enough about them they need to take matters into their own hands to work out what the Count has planned for them in order to get their fortune, locked away.

This novel was introduced to me at age 8 by my teacher, who was a huge fan of the series. This was a particularly impactful series for me because it signified a coming of age for me, much like each character experiences gradually at some point in the series. For me, it was the abandoning of 50-page “chapter” books on fairies and unicorns.

This novel’s biggest strength is definitely its mood. It had a way with putting pessimism on things in simple ways. I feel like it could’ve been described more, but with it being middle grade it worked out fairly well in how the mood was set. This novel would scream dark academia if it was released in the past five years. Well, it still could, but that would be a huge marketing point for this novel if it was newer to shelves.

With it being a middle grade novel, it definitely embraced that side of things. At times it was charming and others it was annoying. Snicket definitely had his clever moments in his writing, but at times they were foreshadowed by how often he explained the meaning of a new word. This wasn’t that much of a deal to me when I read it at the appropriate age, but reading it as an adult I found it passively condescending. Ironically, so did Klaus when adults tried explaining things to him.

The interesting take this novel took was explaining tragedy, trauma and other mature topics to a younger audience. A lot of it is glossed over, but the parts that stayed were very impactful altogether. The parts that explained emotions and behaviours the children experienced, the shock factor of the abuse the Count put them through, how they care for each other. That’s what particularly drew me in – how it was never floury or joking over that aspect of the novel. It had the space to be quirky and eccentric, but knew when not to be.

I’m definitely not as into it as I was initially, but I think this series is one I’ll keep going through and rereading. Just to see what the whole story looks like.

The Bad Beginning gets a score of 3.5/5. Not a bad start for a bad start.

Yours in writing



Inspired My Own Novels – a RE-view of Troubletwisters by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Welcome to our first RE-view! Where I take books I have read – but not reviewed – and return to them with a critical eye to see if they were really as good as I thought they were as a kid.

First off we’ve got a novel which, upon re-read, features the seeds to inspire my debut novel, Aster’s Coda: Exposure.

A bizarre incident that exploded their home forces twins Jack and Jaide Shield to meet and move in with their eccentric grandmother. Though the small town and even the house they live in provides many curiosities, none are greater for Jack and Jaide than Grandma X’s suspicious activity in the house – how the scent of hot chocolate affects their short term memory, her cat sometimes talks to Jack, and Jaide getting caught in the wind. And when they start to get attacked by animals with pure white eyes, they suspect she could be behind it.

Let’s start off with describing my attachment to this book and this series when I first read it. This was the first book series I read when I left primary school and it somewhat marked another step in me moving away from books about fairies. I loved it within the first chapter, with the dark fantasy twists on a middle grade book that even disturbed me now – ten years since this book came out. In retrospect, this novel features many tropes that wound up being favourites of mine. The way is uses magic, mind control villains, and contemporary fantasies. The magic is really what sucks you in the most.

Upon reading it again, however, I noticed the behaviour of the characters and the way they were described were a little bit shallow. The difference in the twins’ personalities were fairly minute at the start, their mum and dad had fairly typical parent behaviour, and the side characters were introduced with little impact. I would say that the only characters that didn’t seem flawed in that way were Grandma X and her cats. They were all very entertaining.

The magic system and the plot were still very strong. Simple, yes, but very strong. Simple plotlines or premises can end up making stronger stories in my eyes, and this is no exception. This made for moments to be described in engaging and disturbing ways. Nothing was taken away from this novel upon a reread in terms of a great experience and story.

So while my opinion of this novel may have gone down, it is still very good and very treasured to me.

Troubletwisters gets a score of 4/5. This novel walked so my own novel could run.

Yours in writing