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.


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.


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.


It Always Ends This Way – a review of Dreadnought by April Daniels

This week we tackle the T in LGBTQ+ as we dive back into our Pride Month reads. The second book for the queerest month of June features an author AND a main character who are trans women.

Danny Tozer gets given the powers of a dying superhero. In the process, her dream comes true and she transitions into the female body she always wanted to have. That comes with pitfalls as the world around her knows of her new identity. Her father wants nothing more than to cure her and revert her back into a male, a superhero agency is divided as half want to recruit her and half want her to give up her powers for various reasons, and her school life is changed as a result of her transition. To top all that off, the villain who killed the hero who gave Danny her powers is still on the loose, and Danny’s powers may be one of the few things to stop such plots.

The trans struggles and moments within this book were the strongest. I got close to tears multiple times while reading this novel, and that’s a feat. I rarely cry at books. So getting close means you are doing something right. I recognise that every person’s experience coming out as trans is different, but the interpretation here allowed me to connect with an identity I don’t have. And it was so precious to see the world change for this girl. To fight for everything she ever wanted.

I enjoyed the superhero worldbuilding in this novel a great deal. Magical realism worlds, which superhero novels often fall under (fight me on that), are excellent ways to transform the world we know and understand how whatever is magical has changed that world. This superhero league was an entertaining way of discovering many power origins, including Danny’s and how she gains her powers while transitioning. And of course we have my favourite part, FANTASY TECH! In case you are new here, I am a sucker for fantasy tech even if it is modern day tech being affected by magics.

That being said, the final superhero battle was where things were let down for me. It’s the staple of a superhero film that we all get tired of, and to see it in book form this trope dragged out more for me. I think it was more of a drag for me in this part of the book because it became unclear what Danny was exactly fighting for and too many bits of information popped up like a mole ready to whack. It felt like it was there for the sake of having a grand and epic finale, but the number of chapters that were action packed in a row were erring on too much for me.

Dreadnought gets a score of 3.5/5. I think the sagging third act trend may have returned.


My Brain Is Small – a review of An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

I kid you not. I read two books in a row with a character with the same name.

This was a pure coincidence, because throughout June, the internationally recognised Pride Month, I will be reading novels featuring LGBTQIA+ protagonists and authors. This author, who uses they/them pronouns, has an intersex protagonist and a trans-feminine love interest.

Aster works as a botanist on a starship called The Matilda. As the lower decks face power cuts on a regular basis, Aster’s bunkmate Giselle breaks a code found within Aster’s late mother’s diary entries. This leads Aster on a mission to find out what she was hiding, what is wrong with her home and the history of it. All the while, the medic she is apprenticed other has news that their leader is dying and about to be replaced by a far more corrupt leader.

The writing style was brought down this novel a lot for me. This is not a book for everyone and one I would not call accessible on the first read. The main POV characters, largely Aster, are very scientifically minded and analytical. This meant that the POV from a third person perspective almost felt non fiction and essay like for me. I stay away from non fiction in text form because I struggle to keep focus, and that’s how I felt about this book. Too much like a non fiction author giving a go at writing fiction.

One character was intriguing enough for me to continue reading. Giselle and her derangement was the only thing that kept me going, the only character in this novel with a personality and arc worth observing. Maybe it was just because she was so different from everyone being so monotone? And the things she does to get shit done too, now I write about this and think on it. We see one POV chapter from her perspective, and I think it may have been far more entertaining to read this story through her lens.

The plot had potential when paired with interesting worldbuilding. The politics of this novel was one of the few things I could understand and I enjoyed learning about that side of things and the poverty of the lower levels inside of this spacecraft. But more focus was put into sciences. I understand that it is a trope of sci fi, and maybe I’m realising how I don’t like this specific kind of sci fi. Ah well. I still liked the sci fi politics.

All that was ruined for me by a confusing ending. To my knowledge this book was a standalone. It ended on too many disappointing uncertainties. Too much depression. So much hard work to end in an eternal sadness for dear Aster. Literally. I would be okay with this kind of an ending if I knew why they decided to end this book in such a way, but as established there was a lot in this book I didn’t pick up.

So all in all, I was too stupid to enjoy this book.

An Unkindness of Ghosts gets a score of 2.5/5. Maybe I shouldn’t have dropped the science subjects the first chance I got.


We Don’t Talk About Bruno – a review of The Boy in Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

When people talk about WWII fiction, this book is often mentioned. Sometimes even studied. Can I just say, don’t? Your future is bleak if you read this book.

In the middle of World War II, Bruno is forced to move out of his city home due to a promotion and job opportunity his father got. His new home in the middle of the country takes him away from everything he ever knew and comes with many strange things that makes him uncomfortable. His twelve year old sister gets infatuated with one of his father’s pretentious co-workers, and many other men in uniform can’t seem to get away from him family home. Bruno learns that the servants in his house may be in trouble and he doesn’t understand why. But the thing that captures Bruno’s attention the most is a view from his window; children wearing what he thinks are striped pajamas all playing behind a fence.

Bruno was not an easy character to sympathise with. Boyne kept telling us we should, but up against the titular boy in striped pajamas and a whole lot more going on in the context of WWII it was crocodile tears. Especially when Bruno was so oblivious to what was going on! It would have been easier to resonate with Bruno if he was able to learn these things sooner and recognise what this meant. Kids are smart you know, but not in this story!

Repetition was a crutch for Boyne’s writing style, which did not help with making me like Bruno. It made some of the better uses of language look stale all too much. This is usually forgiven in a children’s book, but it was specifically stated in the blurb that it was not a children’s book. Adults don’t like this being talked down too and being constantly reminded of obvious details thing. I will not forgive Boyne for how dumb he treated me as a reader and Bruno as the lead.

I guess the plot was solid? You could see what the story could become, but for me it didn’t get there. The substance was there, the concept was there, but then the writing surrounding it and the style turned stew to vomit. Y’know, this kind of stuff enrages me. Missed potential angers me. Usually this means that I would end up wanting to find a better story. But I’ve already found that story. It is my favourites.

And I can confirm that this novel, in spite of what looked like a promising plot for most of this story, is my least favourite WWII historical fiction. It’ll be hard to beat.

The Boy in Striped Pajamas gets a score of 1.5/5. If I hear Bruno speak one more time… oh never mind he died. He can’t speak again.


Let’s Explore A Castle! – a review of The Mystery of the Golden Card by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

I will admit, after the disappointment of the previous book in the Troubletwisters series I was worried that maybe this series wasn’t all that I thought it was as a kid. when book one hooked me and book two had the thread fraying, I was worried my love for the series would drop the deeper into it I got.

But hey, we’ve risen up to the peak of the series now.

With Grandma X, the main defender of Portland from the Evil, gets hospitalised after a car accident, her grandchildren Jack and Jaide feel it is their responsibility to solve the latest catastrophe happening in their small town. Master Rourke died mysteriously in his old and lavish castle, and the twins suspect it has something to do with the Evil, especially when their father is involved too. But all is not as it seems in this castle, as the Evil seeks out a powerful magical artefact that the twins now must get their hands on without anyone else knowing.

This book made me regain my faith in the series. If you’ve read my thoughts on the previous book, then you’d know that its quality sagged in a book that felt like filler. Book three, however, was far more enthralling. It had everything the first book had and more. It felt fun, connected. It had a lot of purpose and connections to what I remember was in the fourth book in the series. All the flaws from the previous book were basically solved.

The vibes in this book were exquisite. The minor academia vibes from earlier on in the series were amplified as Jack and Jaide explored his castle and I was here for it! Who does find the prospect of exploring an abandoned castle exciting? And the magic really dove into those vibes in quirky ways. the aesthetic really tied together and amplified the old house vibes from the previous two books.

The twins are once again shining in this book with their personalities and teamwork. Each book we see the various ways in which Jack and Jaide’s ways of thinking diverge, Jaide’s energy and Jack’s caution especially. It’s also enjoyable to see how loyal thare to each other in this book. There’s just something about siblings bonding to me.

People often underestimate simpler plotlines and how enticing they can be, and the object quest in this book was severely fun. I forgot many of the clues that lead to finding the titular gold card, and the trail that we went down to find them was thoroughly entertaining. Pair that up with the social side of things and the lies the twins must tell to solve this mystery, and the whole plot ties together neatly with a little bow.

So now I’m waiting for the time to be right to read book four.

The Mystery of the Golden Card gets a score of 4.5/5. You had me at exploring a castle.


Cozy Tragedy – a review of A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden is my favourite classic literature book of all time. It was time I tried some of Hodgson Burnett’s other books, and this was the next most popular of her works.

Sarah Crewe is sent to live at Miss Minchin’s School for Girls while her father pursues further riches in India. She is quick to capture the hearts of her fellow students with her kind heart, charity and mantra of mantra of behaving like a princess. But when her father dies and her fortune in indebted to Miss Minchin’s frugal spending, Sarah if forced to put aside her studies and work to survive. But with all the misfortune that keeps getting thrown her way, does her kind heart remain untouched?

Sarah’s arc of impacting others was the most beautiful I have ever seen. These kinds of flat arcs are among my favourites, in which the most wholesome character in the book is the main character and teachers their mantra to everyone they know. Sarah must have been the character to start this trend, to teach her fellows to be charitable by example and show great kindness. What makes this better is how the events in this book make her struggle with her own beliefs and how she still has to fight back. In her mind and perspective we do not see this as being easy. It was incredibly written.

I don’t know how, but Hodgson Burnett was able to make such wholesome moments out of such tragedies. My emotions back AND front flipped from every event that happened within this book as sad moments got turned so happy, beautiful and wholesome. Cozy, I think, is the best way to describe this altogether. The sensation of being in an old home and wrapping yourself up in a blanket while sitting next to the fireplace.

For a book with the primary audience being children, I liked how mature elements of this tale were. For reference, I once watched a dumbed-down animated movie of this story and expect the plot to be identical. It was nothing like that movie. That movie was so dumbed down and edited that the two bare little resemblance to each other. The pitfalls in this book felt very real, from bankruptcy to bullying. The emotions felt so raw every time.

A little side note to finish off. This is the second book I have read by the same author following an English girl being raised in India and then returning to England and experiencing some levels of culture shock. Strange coincidence.

A Little Princess gets a score of 4.5/5. Misfortune never felt so cozy.

Every Heart a Doorway

Not Your Storybook Ending- a review of Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Has a premise ever hooked you so much that you just had to read that book? Something so abnormal and unheard of that provides the best insights never delved into before?

I found that book. Hear me out:

What happens when you return from Wonderland? Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children cares for children who have returned from other worlds, offering them education and therapy to help them return to their normal lives. Nancy is the newest student, having returned from an Underworld and having her entire being changed as a result. And she learns she isn’t the only one to experience this. But with her arrival death is close behind, and now the school must find the source of the untimely deaths before the school is shut down.

Instantly this premise charmed me, more so as a writer of a portal fantasy series and a fan of The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland and the like. The whimsy of these worlds and the entrance and exit out of these portals overshadow what happens when these children return. How does one begin to explain the madness they saw and how they were changed by it? This all dealing with mental health surrounding getting evicted from a place you once belonged was a very interesting insight and the main dealings with the introduction of this world.

The characters were quite unrealistic, but that was the point. Abnormal worlds affected their personalities and turned them all mad, and each wound up mad in a different way. The worldbuilding even had systems for it. This felt like a mixed bag at times, because while these characters were unlike anything I’d ever seen their quirks overshadowed their depth at times. In fairness, it is very difficult to balance the two to the extent that is required for this book.

To combat the complexities of these characters, the simple plot of a murder mystery really helped to balance things out. It was a genuine shock to me in a very sensible way. The stakes were solid within this plot and left me constantly guessing who would die next or who was behind it – was it magic or mundane? This made for a very engaging story.

The ending was not something I was fond of however because of how disconnected things were. The ending was only partly solved by our main character Nancy, and the lesson she wound up learning to get her perfect ending was disjointed from the main plot. For things that were so promising to start with and something really compelling, this really brought it down for me.

Every Heart A Doorway gets a score of 4/5. Fairytales don’t end in the nicest ways once you look beyond the pages.