Review: Shadow Girl by Liana Liu

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When Mei arrives on Arrow Island, she can’t help feeling relieved. She’s happy to spend the summer in an actual mansion tutoring a rich man’s daughter if it means a break from her normal life—her needy mother, her delinquent brother, their tiny apartment in the city. And Ella Morison seems like an easy charge, sweet and well behaved.

What Mei doesn’t know is that something is very wrong in the Morison household.

Though she tries to focus on her duties, Mei becomes increasingly distracted by the family’s problems and her own complicated feelings for Ella’s brother, Henry. But most disturbing of all are the unexplained noises she hears at night—the howling and thumping and cries.

Why did I want to read? 40% the cool synopsis, but like, 60% the amazing cover

Shadow Girl seems, from the blurb, to be a ghost story. Mei is a tutor who is hired to look after the quiet and solemn Ella Morrison for the summer. Ella claims that her summer house is haunted by the ghost of a Eleanor Arrow, an undocumented daughter of the Arrow family who founded the island.

However, I don’t really feel like it’s correct to call this a ghost story after reading it. Partly because the reasons I enjoyed it had nothing to do with the ghost elements at all. But also because it’s more of a coming of age story with a mystery running through it, rather than the other way around.

 

Continue reading Review: Shadow Girl by Liana Liu

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Some books I’ve really enjoyed this year but haven’t reviewed (because I’m a Bad Person)

I’ve hit 50 books read on my Goodreads challenge, which means I am halfway to my goal for 2018. It was originally at 90 but I’ve upped it to 100 – and I’m still 13 books ahead (!!!)

Given that this means I’m ‘halfway through the year’, I thought I’d look back on some of the books I’ve really enjoyed, but didn’t write full reviews for, either due to time or because I felt like I didn’t have much to say (beyond incoherent screaming). So here is a shout out to some hitherto unappreciated faves!

  Continue reading Some books I’ve really enjoyed this year but haven’t reviewed (because I’m a Bad Person)

Series Review: Wayward Children 1-3 by Seanan McGuire

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I read full series so you can decide if you want to!

As this is a full series review, each post of this kind will have a non-spoiler and spoiler-y section – but I will give you plenty of warning for the spoilers.

The Wayward Children novella series by Seanan McGuire is a multiverse portal fantasy focused on Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a care home for children and young people who have gone through portals to magical worlds and have now returned to our world, either by accident or because the world rejected them. The children at Eleanor’s home are ones who yearn to return to the worlds of magic, wonder, nonsense, and rhyme that kicked them out, and we watch them both explore the magical worlds they ended up in or try to come to terms with the fact they are no longer there.

Every Heart a Doorway follows Nancy, an asexual girl who lived in the Halls of the Dead. She arrives at Eleanor’s home and struggles to integrate into the ‘real’ world, and then a murder happens.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones takes place in one of the portal worlds, the brutal Moors, where twins Jack and Jill find themselves after escaping abusive parents.

Beneath the Sugar Sky follows Cora, a fat girl from a mermaid world, and what happens when a girl from a nonsense world called Rini bursts into Eleanor’s home in a quest to save her mother.

Continue reading Series Review: Wayward Children 1-3 by Seanan McGuire

April 2018 Wrap Up

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I read 9 books (7 novels, 2 novellas) in April. This was actually lower than expected, due to some stressful work times, along with the fact that one of the nine books read was the Veritable Bane of My Existence, The Fellowship of the Ring.

My month as whole was a mixed bag. I had a soul destroying week at a conference for work. I knew it was going to be bad due to my social anxiety, but then a number of things also went wrong that couldn’t be anticipated and that added to my stress. To be honest, it was the worst I’ve felt in a long time about work.

However, I also celebrated my 24th birthday (see my book haul here) and I went to see Hamilton in London, with tickets I bought over 15 months ago. The London production blew me away, and was well worth the wait. I thought the actress who played Angelica was particularly amazing.

After a k-drama break, I also tried to get into a few more shows as part of my post conference recovery. I’m currently watching Moonlight Drawn by Clouds, which is a lovely historical rom-com with a cross-dressed heroine, and Something In The Rain, a cinnamon roll romance between a man in his twenties and woman in her thirties, which is currently airing on UK Netflix.

Books read: 9

Continue reading April 2018 Wrap Up

Review: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

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The Borderlands aren’t like anywhere else. Don’t try to smuggle a phone or any other piece of technology over the wall that marks the Border—unless you enjoy a fireworks display in your backpack. (Ballpoint pens are okay.) There are elves, harpies, and—best of all as far as Elliot is concerned—mermaids.

Elliot? Who’s Elliot? Elliot is thirteen years old. He’s smart and just a tiny bit obnoxious. Sometimes more than a tiny bit. When his class goes on a field trip and he can see a wall that no one else can see, he is given the chance to go to school in the Borderlands.

Why did I want to read? I really like Sarah Rees Brennan’s writing style, plus all my friends are super hyped by this book.

In Other Lands is possibly one of the most joyous books I’ve ever read, which is ironic because our hero Elliot Schafer is the biggest misanthrope imaginable.

It is also responsible for my current state of exhaustion, as its slowburn romance, coupled with a lack of chapters (it’s divided into “parts”), means that I’ve literally ‘picked it up for half an hour before bed’…only to discover it’s in fact four hours later, I can’t sleep, the world hates me, and I *still* haven’t reached any kind of chapter divide that tells me I’m free.

We follow Elliot, asshole and disaster-bi extraordinaire, as he grows up on the Border Camp, where students from both the Borderlands and the across the Border (majority humans) train as future soldiers and diplomats. He makes (some) friends, (mostly) enemies, and embarks on a campaign for peace between all magical races, all the while being majorly obnoxious and trying to woo his One True Love, Serene.

[Insert Thor: is she though? gif here]

It’s basically a queer, deconstructed portal fantasy that interrogates the idea of military heroism in fantasy, and I loved it.

Continue reading Review: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

Review: State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury

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“Sorrow, for that is all she brings us.”

Sorrow governs the Court of Tears, covering for her grief-maddened father, who has turned their once celebrated land into a living monument for the brother who died before she was born. But when a boy emerges claiming to be her deceased brother and therefore heir to the kingdom of Rhannon, Sorrow is forced to decide whether she wants to continue to rule, or even deserves to.

Why did I want to read? Hell, the entire premise sounded interesting!

State of Sorrow was such a lovely, unexpected surprise. I wasn’t a particular fan The Sin-Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury, but I’d heard from others that her writing has definitely improved over time, so I decided to give the author another go…and I absolutely loved her latest work.

Continue reading Review: State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury

24th Birthday Book Haul

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So I turned 24 years old on the 8th April. My actual birthday was pretty terrible (I had to work at a conference in Glasgow where a lot of shit things happened, and I mostly spent my birthday setting up a stand alone and then eating a sad McDonalds in my hotel room) but the day before (7th April) I WENT TO SEE HAMILTON IN LONDON SO I DIDN’T CARE.

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(me – with the blue hair – lovin’ life at Hamilton).

Towards the end of the week I also went home for a celebration with my family. My mum took me for a spa day to de-stress after all the aforementioned conference trauma, I went for a long walk on a beach in Liverpool, and for an amazing meal at Luck, Lust, Liquour, Burn (anyone who lives near Manchester and likes Mexican food, go there. Now.)

I also got a load of amazing books!! The covers were all so pretty that I decided to do an book haul post.

Continue reading 24th Birthday Book Haul

ARC Review: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

“She was supposed to tire of her folly, go home with her necklace, wear it, and tremble sometimes, at the memory of a frost-demon, in her impetuous youth. She was supposed to bear girl-children, who might wear the necklace in turn. She was not supposed to-“

*I received a free ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods.

Why did I want to read? I didn’t really like The Bear and the Nightingale, but I heard Arden talk about her writing process and the differences between her first and second book, and that made me willing to give the second in the series a go.

Although I found Arden’s first book in the Winternight series, The Bear and the Nightingale, only ok, I absolutely loved The Girl in the Tower. I think mainly because it was everything I wanted TBaTN to be.

Continue reading ARC Review: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

ARC Review: The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. Few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

*I received a free ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

Why did I want to read? It’s a fantasy  book set somewhere not inspired by Medieval Europe. Plus, the author cited Avatar: The Last Airbender as an influence in her goodreads summary, and I am trash.

Honestly, this may be the most difficult review I have written so far – which somewhat accounts for the length of this review. This book is, in many ways and without doubt, a five star read. The first half was enough for me to believe that it might genuinely be one of my favourite reads of 2018. But I personally cannot give this book five stars based on my own reading experience. The second half of this book contains some of the most triggering content I’ve ever read, to the point where I had to skip chapters. To be honest, I think this proved more than anything that I can no longer palette grimdark fantasy, despite this being one of the best grimdark books I’ve read.

Trigger Warnings: self harm, racism, colorism, genocide, racially motivated experimentation, violence and murder, graphic rape, substance abuse (yeah, this is a grimdark book)

No spoilers – beyond my explanation of triggering content.

Continue reading ARC Review: The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang