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.


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.


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.


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.


It Can’t Be THAT Easy – a review of Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado

We have another Pride Month review. This time it’s a dark fantasy that goes into NYC history with a sapphic relationship written by an NB author.

When Raquel’s mother gets hospitalised and her crush’s cousin becomes the next victim in a long list of disappearances, she’s convinced they’re connected. She and her crush Charlize soon learn about the Echo Game and the many conspiracies surrounding it. Their investigations lead them to the New York subways, a dark history of the Bronx, and a twisted alternate reality that leads them to making big mistakes.

The worldbuilding and the connections between the real world and the unnatural were stellar. It was what hooked me that combined into a story that is The Unsleeping City meets Stranger Things. Everything was so richly integrated, how the monsters were a reflection of what historically happened to the Bronx in the 80s. How the humans got affected by the dark alternate world. And above all else, how New York wasn’t the only affected city. I loved hearing hints of other histories across the world, and it makes a promising premise for an anthology series. But anyway, the world itself stole the book away. It had the best vibes that creeped you out at any possible turn.

The characters felt too much the same to each other. I cannot tell you the personality of the main characters to save my life. Raquel, Charlize, and every other character around their age felt so much the same minus one trait, if I was lucky. Oh, this one has the hots for Raquel and she doesn’t reciprocate. Like, is that even personality? They blur as I write this review even now. You should know by now how much I hate characters without character. And I was hoping they would show up this whole time. Guess what? They didn’t.

Second, the characters had it too easy. I like victory, but it didn’t feel earned in the climax of this novel. When this is marketed as a horror or a dark fantasy, I expect more terror and sacrifices than what I got delivered. I expect a greater struggle. The ending felt more suited to a middle grade story. Especially with the powers that got them off so easy. It felt too enlightening for such a dark setting. Altogether it made for a hollow conclusion.

Burn Down, Rise Up gets a score of 3/5. Let my characters struggle, please and thank you.


More Than One Perspective – a review of Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

The next (and belated) Pride Month review takes a look at LGBTQ+ history with this sapphic novel set in Chinatown written by a lesbian author. But this dives into more than just being queer.

Lily Hu is a first generation Chinese immigrant with a dream to help astronauts get into space. As she gets to know her classmate Katherine Miller she begins to understand more about herself. How she’s drawn to a romance between two women in a novel she picked up, and she’s mesmorised by a masculine presenting performer at a nightclub she frequents with Katherine. And then there’s the feelings she hasdeveloped for her. But in a time in history where deportation looms over her family and same sex relationships are illegal, Lily and Katherine will risk anything just to be together.

Lo’s writing style was captivating. It combined intelectual and insightful journeys through the mind with enchanting displays through Lily’s eyes, making it a very medium style that wasn’t a breeze to read over but you love to pick up every word and detail. I’m not normally a fan of slow pacing, but this novel was able to entrance me with how it took its time and built out the world. It was a pacing you wanted to take your time with.

Character was very well done across the board, from leading to minor characters. Lily and Katherine were obvious favourites with how well rounded they were, from their ambitions to discovering their love for each other. Their journey to lesbian romance was real and raw. It was never a shock, it just made sense. It developed naturally, and I loved that discovery.

This book felt very authentic to urban Chinese culture. I wouldn’t know much about it myself, but with what media outputs nowadays I can tell a good portrayal of a culture and a good story unique to a culture. This is one of them, especially with a niche aspect of that culture. It was great to read about three cultures in one – 50s, Chinese American, and lesbians. This is what really made the character feel well rounded above all else. Her identity was multi-sided, and it was amazing to see all sides of her, especially when other characters brought out aspects of her personality and identity in different ways.

So needless to say, Lily carried this novel.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club gets a score of 4.5/5. Many faces of a single person make a beautiful story.


Sisterhood – a review of The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

Fantasy Western. Need I say more? This book was my introduction to this sub genre, and I was trying to find a book to make my introduction to this an absolute thrill.

This book did not disappoint.

When Clementine kills her first client at a brothel she was raised to work at, her sister Aster leads her and three other young women on an escape from the house that trapped them. But branded by a magical tattoo which tells the world where they came from, these girls can never truly be free. But rumour out there is that someone can remove these tattoos, but it comes with a hefty price. Aster must decide how to accumulate the money needed to cover everyone’s freedom while keeping their identities hidden, but when they’re already outlaws how much do they all want to embrace it?

It was a bold and rewarding choice to have Aster as the lead character. She was not the one to start all of this, so you think it would have been Clementine’s story. But sisterhood trumps all else. The care she has for her group is what drives this all forward and it is the reason she was made the main POV. Everyone looking up to her. The pressure, the decision making. It was so right and so amazing to go into Aster’s mind.

Every character was entertaining. When writing an ensemble cast, regardless of who’s POV the story is written in, this is what you always look for. All characters in the crew being iconic in their own ways, from the brutal Tansy to the sass of Violet. All of them brought something incredible to the group, and even the motives of the people hunting them were motivating. There was never a boring character.

This book also makes me want to find more fantasy western novels. If this is my first dive into the genre, then I want to go deep. Dark fantasy suits the brutality of the Western environments so well. This interpretation has the magic tattoos on the faces of Good Luck Girls paired with various vengeful undead like revenants. This opens up so many possibilities for more interpretations of the genre and I wish people noticed this more. Fantasy has revived the western genre tenfold.

The Good Luck Girls gets a score of 4.5/5. Revive westerns like this please.


A Thousand Lives – a review of The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Needless to say, this book has its trigger warnings with the main theme of it being suicide. And I know that opinions on this book’s themes become very diverse. I won’t comment on the suicide themes as I have been lucky enough to not be in a position where I face these thoughts and I have not yet been diagnosed with any mental disabilities. I cannot comment on how well this novel depicts suicide, or not, and I don’t intend to.

I’m just here to talk about the story and its message.

Nora finds herself in a place between space and time after she commits suicide. She walks into a library filled with books that represent alternate versions of her life, lives where she makes changes big and small and her entire way of living changes. Any one of these lives could be a new life for Nora to choose. But to pick between them all becomes a challenge as she discovers lives where she is still depressed, where more of her loved ones die or where she realises her childhood dreams have equal nightmares. Nora wonders why she can’t find the life right for her, or if one even exists for her out there.

The language sold me like nothing else. That was the highlight of this novel for me – the writing style and the way everything was described throughout. There was a lot of artistry in each chapter that made so many paintings in my mind out of prose. I could imagine each of Nora’s stories vividly with the words put before me, making each of them so enthralling to read. And wow, there was so much.

Nora’s character felt very everyman and was easy to relate to. It is very universal to wonder what you are going to do with your life at any age, and Nora’s was taken to an extreme. It was easy to relate to aspects of her for me with her many interests and the struggle throughout this story to find one to truly put your heart and soul into in the hopes that it will be fulfilling. I loved to explore these different facets and passions of Nora.

Above all else, this novel made me change my thinking. Novels that do this instantly gain an high reputation in my eyes. Since reading this book I have put the novel’s message forth into my own day to day actions and it has offered a grand perspective on my own life henceforth. For the right people, this novel can leave you feeling hopeful and can give you your agency for your life back in spite of the struggles to try and work out what we want out of it.

The Midnight Library gets a score of 5/5. A book that changes the way I think with such prose deserves this.


This New Old World – a review of Expanding Cracks by Ben Pick

We’re continuing the Into the Void series! With a promising start from the first book I was intrigued to see where this would go. Those Stranger Things vibes do continue in this series, and I knew that from the start, I looked forward to see what more would come from this book – the second book so far in this series.

Derek, Rachel and Tracy have gained celebrity status in their hometown as defenders from magical monster attacks; it seems the monster Derek summoned when he first got his powers and defeated weeks ago is not the only thing threatening their town. Shadow monsters have broken through the void to attack anyone that stands in its away. And that’s not the only thing worrying the trio, with training pulling them away from their normal lives and impacting their friendships and grades.

Pick nailed interpersonal conflict in this novel and I was here for it. I’ve lately had a sweet tooth for this sour patch in narratives, and this book satisfied. Everyone at war with each other as they decide their present and their future… It was addictive to read. Especially with how well Pick understood the motives and angles of each character in play. You couldn’t tell whose side to be on, and those are among my favourite interpersonal conflicts. Because you no longer care who’s right and you just want to have everyone make up.

I liked the take on contemporary fantasy where the magic gets known by everyone. While the secret keeping sides are fun, it was intriguing to see the cultural impacts of a small town knowing magic for the first time and the magical knowledge expanding throughout. From the heroism facing Rachel, Derek and Tracy to the systems in place to protect against monstrosities. The building of this world as it changes was fascinating.

This plot felt very high and low stakes at the same time. The balance of these two plots was masterful as the characters navigated this new world together. I was constantly wondering where these worlds would collide, how interpersonal and external forces would clash and how everything affected each other. It was the perfect chance to explore this new world that was starting to get at risk. The fun and games in the hero’s journey if you will.

With all these forces now together, I’m excited to see how it goes coming forward.

Expanding Cracks gets a score of 4.5/5. *insert Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain here*


Speedrun – a review of Shattered by Teri Terry

Kyla, now on the run from the government, has now found her birth mother. She starts her life anew to live with her again and get to know her again and tell her of her stories of being forced into a rebellion then getting her memory back and regaining her thoughts again. But it seems there was more secrets in the past that were kept hidden from her even then, and more secrets surrounding Slating that she uncovers. Her heart gets torn from trusting her family as she learns of her past, but what will be of her future when the government finds her again?

The ending of this novel wasn’t the ending or direction I expected. I like how it started as something very personal, and that was still a key part of it throughout. But it still took those directions of overthrowing a corrupt government. I understand that’s a key part of the genre and I’m not mad about it being there. I just like how the two wound up weaving with each other. So often dystopia endings up being too focused on overthrowing by the second act, and I like that Shattered remained personal.

Kyla’s character remains a highlight. I will say again and again how we learn about her brain so much and I am always here for it. Each time we see her evolve in a new way as the extents of her brain expand, and it was wicked to see her change through an adult perspective in this world’s version of tertiary study. It was very interesting to see Kyla take on her own life and make more independent decisions – or to fight for them.

I felt the book rushed through too many important events. This was jarring when the previous books took their time over a few days for many of the events and stayed in the same environments, and this book went all over England and expanded the world too quick. I liked seeing the world expand at first, but then too much happened all at once. It screamed two books stuffed into one.

And surprise surprise, the final act brought this book’s rating down so much. Kyla lost a lot of her agency in that last act, and she felt like something valuable being protected more than she did someone making impactful changes to help the situation. I think this was because the external impacts she was making then failed too much. Other people solved her problems. And while in this act she learnt her overall lessons about identity, she didn’t have any external credits to her name or things she did in that final act that helped.

So that’s the way the cookie crumbles and the way the ending felt hollow.

Shattered gets a score of 3.5/5. The other books too

Now my guys, it’s time for a series review.

Slated5/5, a terrifyingly close to our own world dystopia with a deep look into the human mind

Fractured4/5, stakes rise and secrets remain closed, and Kyla’s stuck between three sides.

Shattered – 3.5/5, the other books took time where this one did not.

The Slated trilogy is an exemplary look into the human condition, the power of the brain and the many ways we see our own brains working. With a concept that hits close to home and our present day struggles gone too far, this makes this world seem realer than ever. However, the world takes its time to reveal itself to you before feeling a rush of everything at once. Some pacing issues with the publishers wanting a trilogy and nothing longer perhaps? The ending wasn’t as good, but the first two books are excellent.

The Slated Trilogy gets a score of 3.75/5. This is a keeper.