Book lists, LGBT Books, Top 10

Book Tag | OMG That Song!

book tag

I was tagged to this by the amazing, and often hilarious, Krystin @ Here’s the Fucking Twist to do the Omg that Song! tag, in which you are supposed to answer the prompts with both a song and book. This tag was originally created by The Book Nut.

This was a really fun tag to do, but it sort of ran away from me, and I ended up writing a lot more than I initially thought I would. I tag anyone who feels like doing this, because I feel like I haven’t had this blog long enough to know what tags the people I follow have and haven’t done, and perhaps more importantly, how long ago. So, consider yourself tagged if this seems like something you’d like to do.



Nights by Frank Ocean is a song and a mood all in one, so it’s impossible to get sick of. Blond is one of my favourite albums of all time, and one of the best albums ever made. I believe that wholeheartedly. This song makes me wish I actually had a driver’s license or a car so I could drive around at night listening to it. None of those things is going to happen, so I must settle for listening to it on the bus and day-dream, which is almost as good.



This is a hard one, because the obvious answer is Harry Potter. I’ve re-read the whole series multiple times, and I feel the same wave of warm nostalgia every time. But for this one I think I’m going to go with The Persian Boy by Mary Renault. A book from a trilogy I started reading when I was 15 and that has never left me. It tells the story of Bagoas (a real historical figure) an eunuch and former member of King Darius of Persia’s harem, and one of Alexander the Great’s lovers. This chronicles the last years of Alexander’s life (for those who don’t know Alexander died at age 32), but this is the second book on Renault’s Alexander trilogy. Alexander is one of my favourite historical figures, Ancient Greece is one of my favourite historical settings, and Bagoas is one of my favourite characters. He is very much a tragic character, both for the hard life he’s lived, and because Alexander’s greatest love was Hephaestion, not him. He fell in love with a man whose love for his long-time companion is legendary, and it was both heartbreaking and beautiful to read about. There is one scene where he holds up a bust of Hephestion, begs the statue to release its hold on Alexander, and attempts to break it. Alexander catches him doing it, silently stops him, and then Bagoas watches him as he touches the bust lovingly — I don’t think I’ll ever forget that scene, and the beautiful haunting way it was written.



In high-school I was a huge emo/scene girl. I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth. I went all out, I had the raccoon tails, colourful highlights, even an half pink half black fringe. I was a mess and a half. Looking back, I feel more fondness than shame, because those years helped me figure out a lot about myself, and I did have loads of fun, met cool people, did very adventurous things — as all teens are supposed to — and didn’t hurt myself or anyone else. So all in all, terrible fashion choices aside, it wasn’t so bad. I can’t talk about those years without mentioning the band that started it all. Tokio Hotel, a German emo-pop-rock band that took Europe by storm. I think I actually got into them when I was still in middle school, but they definitely kicked the emo/scene thing into high gear. This song was my favourite of theirs.


26582Staying on brand with the high school years, I’m going to talk about The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice. I read it at the height of the Twilight craze, because I wasn’t impressed by Twilight, and what did you do when you weren’t impressed by Stephanie Meyer’s straight nonsense? You read Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Whose vampires were more the sort to pretentiously ponder mortality and lounge dramatically on fancy furniture than to shine bright like a diamond, also gay. And before Fifty Shades of Grey was even a glimmer on E.L. James eye, Anne Rice got you covered too. The Sleeping Beauty trilogy featured a fantasy BDSM world with a bisexual society, where if I’m remembering correctly, in order to be proper “citizens” nobles had to undergo a period as sexual submissives. I read this when I was 16, and when I say this was explicit, I mean explicit. There is almost no plot to this, it’s pure erotica. That wasn’t the problem however. I’m pretty sure there was no proper BDSM etiquette, consent was either absent or murky, and the people involved in this world just accepted their roles because it was the way things were. As a 16-year-old I’m pretty sure I wrote all of this off as “pretend”, and didn’t really consider any real-life implications. It didn’t leave any lasting impressions, nor can I say it informed the way I thought healthy sexual relationships should be, thankfully — its only saving grace is that perhaps the fantasy setting lends itself to this kind of intellectual distancing. I’m fairly certain I would hate it today, regardless.



This one is really easy. Brockhampton‘s latest album, Iridescence, just came out and I’ve been listening to it on repeat. They’re one of my favourite bands, sorry boyband, I just love all of their music. The Saturation trilogy has probably some of my favourite music of all time. Iridescence tops it. I don’t think there’s anything I like more musically than experimental rap, and this album is basically just that. The sound is unique without being so abrasive it becomes unlistenable (a hard juggling act with most experimental or genre-bending music), the lyrics, as always are engaging, and thought provoking, candid and painfully honest at times. But the stand-out is the sound. I read for the words, but I listen to music for the sound. The lyrics should compliment the melody, the message is secondary, a welcome secondary addition, but ultimately secondary in my eyes. In Iridescence the lyrics are part of the melody, something that was missing at times in the previous albuns. I love the whole album, but my most repeated track is without doubt Fabric.


35052265I’ve been beyond lucky with my fantasy reads lately. I’ve already waxed poetry about Read Sister on here before, so I’m going to talk about Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames instead, which I just finished. The tone couldn’t be more different from Red Sister’s but I loved it just as much. What it does have in common with it is the strong theme of friendship, and a squad that makes me smile just thinking about them. I won’t talk too much about it because I still plan on writing a review, but yeah, a great read all around.



Gets Me


I like music more for the feelings it evokes than for its message. Like I said before, what really matters to me is the melody. But I really like Hayley Kiyoko as an artist, and obviously I really identify with her and her songs in general. It’s great to have music out there that reflects you and your experiences. I think my absolute favourite is Cliff’s Edge. I love the melancholic, yet slightly irreverent tune in the song, and the lyrics, “Cliff’s edge, where I belong” and “I wanna feel like sea breeze” really resonate with me for some reason.


I haven’t found one yet! I don’t think it’s a bad thing, though. I’ve definitely found books whose characters I strongly identify with, and which have all the ingredients that make a book great in my eyes, but I haven’t found one that is a perfect distillation of me as a person. Maybe I never will, I don’t think I’ll mind if I never do. I guess I’ll have to keep reading and find out.



Fy Faen by Hkeem and Temur. This isn’t really a weird song. But it was playing on the radio everywhere when I went to Oslo last year. It got stuck in my head, and I started singing along in Norwegian, which is 100% a language I can’t speak. I guess this just goes to show how little I care about lyrics because I’ve listened to this song multiple times and still have no idea what it says, I just like the sound of it. I just know that fy faen means “bloody hell”, “damn it”, or at least something that evokes that feeling.


110896Again it’s not really that this is an unique book, but Dancer by Colum McCann is a semi-biographical novel about the life of Russian Ballet Dancer Rudolf Nureyev, which isn’t usually the kind of thing I read. I didn’t have that much of an interest in ballet, and previous to reading this book, which I picked up from my highschool library, I had no idea who Nureyev was. I ended up loving this book, and it stuck with me all these years. It also made me interested in ballet enough to talk my parents into taking me and my brother to watch a performance. We went to see the Nutcracker, it was amazing, ballet is amazing.

Let’s Go


This one has to be I ain’t got time by Tyler, the Creator, from the amazing album Flower Boy. It’s funny, most of the album is really mellow and introspective but the two bangers it has go so hard. It slaps my dudes, it just slaps. This song just makes me feel like I need to hurry up whatever I’m doing. I literally wrote an essay while listening to it on repeat.


135836This is a hard one. I’ve read many books that inspire me, for very different reasons. I’d like to be a fantasy writer one day, so there are books that inspire me because they are such a great example of the genre, or because I love the writing so much. But I think I’m going to choose Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh because of the way it uses language to evoke the characters mood and mental state in such a clear and stark way. It’s written in the Scottish dialect which makes for a challenge read, and the topics it deals with are absolutely harrowing, the characters are at times despicable, and yet it’s an amazing book that shows that even the most unpleasant stories deserve to be told. It would be an inspiring book because of Welsh’s sheer talent alone, but it also inspire me because I hope to someday write something this original, unapologetic, and transformative.



This has to be another Frank Ocean. His songs are just the best for introspection and relaxing. And this one has the literal lyrics “Eyes low, chin heavy, shoegazer”. It’s just so mellow and sweet. And, I believe, dedicated to Frank’s boyfriend, which makes it all the sweeter.


74270I’m gonna pick any of the Nightrunner series by Lynn Flewelling for this one. It’s an old-fashioned fantasy series, the plot is nothing out of this world, there’s some court intrigue, there’s an elf-like people with a long life-span, wizards and their place of study, magic, an ancient evil, etc etc. That’s is exactly why I like it, it’s a comfortable read with lovable characters I love returning to, a charming city that I can picture perfectly, in a world that feels alive and inviting. All those characteristics make it the perfect book to curl up with on a lazy day, rainy or otherwise.




I don’t really have guilty pleasure songs. I love all the songs I do unashamedly, and the ones I don’t listen to anymore I simply grew out of/got tired of. But Lipgloss by Charli XCX is so dirty, that when I listen to it in public I always feel slightly paranoid that someone can listen through my headphones, and I have to control myself not to sing-along, which is something I do a lot. Make no mistake though, I love this song. And there’s definitely a time and place to sing along to it.


43814I don’t know if I would call it light, but anything with vampires feels trashy to me. And since these books were my twilight, I definitely think of them that way. I don’t know if I would read them again, and I didn’t read the whole series, because it’s huge, and at some point witches are introduced to the story which only increases the trashy factor — but I definitely have good memories associated with them. Especially with The Vampire Lestat, since Lestat was my favourite character. I just loved how dramatic, and over-the-top he was. Also, fun fact, I absolutely hate Tom Cruise as an actor, I think his only good role is Lestat. Coincidentally,  it was also the only time I ever found him good-looking.



This is a song I loved when I was about 11 years old, and still love to this day. I like everything about it, the melody is fun and pop-y, the video has lots of pretty girls dancing and having fun. Eleven-year-old me didn’t understand why I was so fascinated by the video. Every time it came on on MTV I’d watch enraptured, but it’s one of those things that just makes perfect sense in retrospect. All of my friends knew this was my song, when it was on the school radio they would literally scream “your song!” and we’d all sing it together. I have great memories associated with it, and I always listen to it when I want to reminisce about my childhood.


489732I’m still not going to talk about Harry Potter, even though this would be the perfect place to do it. But it’s just so common place, almost everyone in the world has read Harry Potter — there’s no point in reiterating its influence. So I’m going to talk about the book I read when I was about 13 that made sure Harry Potter remained the only YA book I read for a long time, because I immediately graduated to adult books. In fact I think I’m reading all the YA today that I didn’t when I was an actual teenager. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde remains to this day one of my favourite books. It made me fall in love with Gothic literature, and quickly out of it when I realised no one could do it like Wilde. It’s the reason I hate Victorian settings, because no one captures the corrupting influence of Victorian London like Wilde does. It wasn’t beautiful, it wasn’t magical. It was disgusting and monstrous. It is said that the Londoners only learnt to appreciate the smog when Wilde said it was beautiful. But Wilde had a talent to find the beauty in the things that kill us. This book made me fall in love with an entire genre, and then broke my heart when I realised nothing could ever compare.

I don’t know if anyone is still reading at this point, but I salute you, your patience is infinite and deserves some type of award. I hope you had fun reading, and let me know if you like any of these songs or have read any of these books!

Book lists, LGBT Books, Top 10

Top 10 Tuesday: Fall TBR

top ten

This my first time doing this tag, which was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic this week is: Books On My Fall 2018 TBR.

Fantasy Fall Feelings

The Tiger’s Daughter — I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while. This is set in an Asian inspired fantasy world and there’s a f/f relationship, that’s all I needed to hear honestly. I love reading fantasy that pulls inspiration from anywhere other than Europe so this a welcome change. I’ve also recently received the ARC for the sequel, The Phoenix Empress, and I’ll probably read that one right after the Tiger’s Daughter because there’s nothing better than reading multiple books of a series in a row.

The Bone Witch — I’ve heard good things about this book, plus it involves necromancy, so really no way to go wrong there. I think there’s a f/f relationship, but it’s between secondary characters if I’m not mistaken. That always tampers my excitement a little, but I’m still really looking forward to this book.

And I Darken — I’m really late to this one. I think this series is actually over now, which means it’s the perfect time for me to pick it up, because if I love it when all the books are already out. I’m fascinated by the idea of Vlad the Impaler as a woman. I don’t actually know if this is fantasy, it might just be alternate history, but it has some definite fantasy vibes. I’m really excited to read it regardless.

Girls made of Snow and Glass — This is a fairytale retelling of Snow White, from what I understand. There’s also a f/f romance. I’m curious about this one, but a bit apprehensive too, because a few reviews mention it reads more like middle grade, which isn’t something I usually read but I’m still curious enough to give it a shot.

Grey Sister — This one needs no introductions. I loved Red Sister I can’t wait to read more in this universe. That’s all.

Witchmark — I’m really curious about this one, I think I’ve heard it described as gaslamp fantasy somewhere, which is something I can’t say I’ve ever read before. In any case there’s magic, a m/m romance, and a vaguely post WWI feel. Good enough for me.

Fall Releases

Girls of Paper and Fire — I’m so so excited for this one. This is another fantasy book set in an Asian inspired world. It also has a f/f relationship but it seems this one is going to be darker than the usual YA fantasy book. The premise sounds fascinating from the goodreads summary, and I can honestly say this is my most anticipated book of the fall.

What if it’s Us — Everyone’s already heard about this one. I haven’t always loved the other books I’ve read by these two authors, but I’m still curious to see what they come up with together.

Sawkill Girls — This seems to be at once fantasy and mystery and I’m really curious to read it. I’ve read some great reviews and that made me add this book to my tbr when previously it wasn’t even on my radar. I think there’s LGBT characters on this one too!

Fall Mood


Beartown — This is a book about a small town obsessed with hockey and the lengths they’re willing to go to protect the sport and players they think are going to save them from obscurity. I looove hockey, absolutely love it, and I can’t think of anything more fall and cosy than a book about hockey, and a possible mystery (?) I don’t know too much about this one, and I want to keep it that way. But listen, I expect lots of hockey talk, and games, and epic goals and saves. I need that. I’m begging.

And that’s my top 10 TBR for fall. I have no idea how many of these I’ll have read by the time winter comes around, or even how well I’ll stick to it, but here’s to hoping. Let me know if you’ve read any of these books, and what you thought of them, or if any of them are part of your fall tbr as well!

Book reviews, Horror, Lgbt Characters, Thriller

Book Review | Into the Drowning Deep

into the drowning deep

by Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire) — This book did not work for me as a horror book, while atmospheric it simply wasn’t scary enough. That being said, it did work as a sci-fi/fantasy thriller about the kind of mermaids Disney would frown at (for more reasons than one!)

“Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.”

This had a strong environmentalist message for the first half. There was talk of the consequences of climate change, and as it was set in the near future, 2022, things were (even) worse. That really worked for me, I deeply enjoyed the environmental panic as a backdrop for a siren fuelled carnage, it was poetic in a way, righteous almost, and if the book had gone down that road I would have loved it — especially considering the Melusine and its scientists were being funded by a shady and trashy cable network. However, it kind of vanished a little over the second half, where there were scientists actively encouraging the extermination of the sirens. I realise they were eating them, but that seems like an overreaction. Hear me out: they really should have left when the first person died and they had definite proof sirens were real, and instead stayed because they were greedy and wanted to be famous. How’s the siren’s fault they were idiots? What species deserves to disappear because of human stupidity?

I’m maybe blowing it out of proportion it was really two people who were okay with the knowledge the american army would (potentially) nuke the sirens, and destroy entire ecosystems. But man, did reading that piss me off. Most of the characters really only wanted to survive. And there were a lot of characters in this book, it made sense there would be, but this was written in third person omniscient (hurray for third, sad kazoo for omniscient my least favourite pov) and the head-hoping was a bit much at times. It wasn’t badly done, it just felt like knowing that specific character’s thoughts at that point didn’t add anything to the story. That being said I appreciated that many characters weren’t likeable, I mean, there was the couple of hunters who were purposefully written to be despicable (and they were), but others fell into more morally grey areas. Dr. Toth (and what an unfortunate name) and her husband for example. I sympathised with them at times, but by the end of the book I was sure I didn’t like either of them.

There’s a tiny bit of romance in this, believe it or not, between Victoria and Olivia. I went into this book knowing that and was kind of curious to know if it would make sense considering the setting, but it does. They weren’t really throwing down love declarations, it was just a case of two girls who’d lost someone trying to comfort each other and it worked. It helped that they were both adorable and really likeable. Olivia is on the autistic spectrum and she makes a really interesting observation about the tendency of parents of autistic children to infantilise them, and never see them as fully rounded humans who will one day have partners and careers. There were little musings like that sprinkled throughout the book, a few memorable ones from the deaf twin sisters Heather and Holly and their translator and hearing sister Hallie (I want to kill someone because of these names, the cute factor isn’t worth my headache, I wish authors would realise how dumb it is to have characters with such similar names).

Language played a big role in this book, and I loved the use to ASL to attempt to communicate with the sirens. Paired with the casual observations the twins made about their deafness and how it was so natural and comfortable for them and they were only ever made to feel different when confronted with people who could hear and the odd ways they reacted to them. There was one weird scene were a character isn’t aware that there isn’t a single Sign Language and in fact every country has their own, sometimes more than one. That broke my suspension of disbelief, I find it hard to believe that anyone isn’t aware of that.

There was a lot of scientific talk in this book, finding the sirens was above all a scientific endeavour and I loved that aspect of it. I loved every part where the characters tried to figure out how the sirens “worked”, how they could have evolved. It was all written in very simple layman terms, which I’m sure many people will be glad for, and it makes total sense considering the sci-fi element is secondary to the horror/thriller (this book compares well to the likes of Jurassic Park, the movies at least). I wished Grant would have gone full academic on the science, because it was by far my favourite part of this book. I could have read an entire encyclopaedia about these sirens. They were really fascinating, everything about them was. By the end of the book they were, collectively, my second favourite character.

The ending felt a bit abrupt, and the least said about the “reveal” about the siren’s social hierarchy the better. I expected something a lot more interesting than what we got, I’ll just say that.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, it did as all thrillers are supposed to and made it very hard for me to put it down. I read it in two days, and was at no point bored with the story. I feel a little disappointed because I feel this could have been great, a few tweaks here and there and this would have been a solid four, hell maybe even a five. There was really a lot to like here, and I actually recommend this book wholeheartedly, I think most people will get something out of it: be it for the science-y bits, the thrilling bits, or even the horror if they are luckier than me.

Rating: ★★★½
Author: Mira Grant
Publisher: Orbit

Book reviews, Fantasy, LGBT Books

Book Review | Godsgrave


by Jay Kristoff — This book actually fixed the few minor complaints I had with Nevernight but then went around and introduced a few new ones. It’s still an incredible book that I had a lot of fun with, and I can’t wait for Darkdown, but it’s still that half star shy of perfection.

“Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo, or avenging her familia. And after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

When it’s announced that Scaeva and Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end them. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.”

As you can see from the graphic (I can’t stick to a single style, I apologise), this book is all about gladiator fights — the more over the top the better. Unfortunately I really don’t care about them. I loved the tv show Spartacus, but it had enough blood and sand to last me a lifetime. It’s just a setting I have no interesting in revisiting. Speaking of setting, the Roman Empire influences are a lot more explicit in this book than in the previous one. Inescapably present, really. Mia spends most of the book training to be a gladiator, so it’s sort of hard to miss. And that’s it for complaints!

Despite my initial trepidation I still managed to enjoy some of the fights, and I did care about their outcome, the stakes were high enough to keep my attention. One fight in particular was actually pretty exciting, probably because it was against a monster and not people. The highlight were Mia’s fellow gladiators, though. In the previous book I complained that some side-characters felt a little underdeveloped, there’s no such thing here. All of them had clear personalities and voices, and even motivations that went against Mia’s plans. With the exception of Furian, (who fell a little flat for me, and annoyed me to no end), all the characters introduced in Godsgrave were welcome additions, and in a few cases sad departures when they met their grisly end. Sid in particular was a delight, he starts out as sort of a slimeball, but he redeems himself and becomes one of the most endearing characters in the whole book pretty fast.

The romance! I loved, loved it. Unlike Mia’s previous romance with he-who-shall-remain-nameless (because it’s a spoiler) where I felt like the relationship made them worse characters, as in: less interesting, boring to read about, and their romantic moments were overall dull. Mia’s relationship with this girl was completely different. I liked how they worked together, how they became a strong unit moving towards a common goal. I liked how they became better people together. I really hope to see their relationship develop even more in the next book, because I just love their dynamic and think it shows a lot of promise.

The ending was somewhat predictable, not nearly as shocking as Nevernight’s. That isn’t a bad thing, though. It felt predictable in that it unfolded in a way that was supported by previous events in the book, nothing felt like it was coming out of the blue for the sake of being another plot twist. There was one thing I definitely didn’t see coming. I don’t usually like it when characters come back from the dead, and it doesn’t look like the Nevernight series is going to make me change my tune– that’s all I’ll say about it. Eldritch abominations are cool, though.

The characters making a comeback were all welcome sights. And while I was expecting to keep closer tabs on the Red Church this book did a good job of making me happy to see the back of them. It also addressed the matter of slavery, which was sort of glossed over in Nevernight, but plays a huge role in Godsgrave. There’s a scene in the end that is particularly satisfying, when some people get a great comeuppance, and one gets away far too lightly. I hope that proves a mistake Mia grows to regret in the next book. I love consequences. Which is an ironic thing to say considering my second favourite character keeps getting away with murder. But I’m allowed my biases. Which Jay Kristoff seems to share.

Godsgrave is a great sequel,  one that lives up to its predecessor. Expands on some world-building, patches some holes, and opens new ones, just to keep things exciting. It’s not without its flaws but that doesn’t make it any less charming and fun. The change of scenery, so to speak, could give some readers pause, but I can also see it being a highlight for others. Either way, another great book in a series I can’t wait to read more of.

Rating: ★★★★½
Author: Jay Kristoff
Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

Book reviews, Fantasy, Lgbt Characters

Book Review | Red Sister

red sister review

by Mark Lawrence — I loved this book. There wasn’t a single thing I didn’t enjoy about it. The characters were a delight, from the lovable to the despicable, they were all unique and their voices unmistakable. The world was fascinating, and so gripping that I swear I could hear the Corridor wind whistling in my ears, rustling my hair. I didn’t want to leave, and I put off finishing this book for a long time — for me that’s the highest form of praise. The books I speed by are entertaining, and fun, but the ones I take my time with are truly special.

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…”

Nona is a fantastic protagonist, you just want to peel all the layers that make up her personality and get to the heart of her. She’s as outwardly cold as the frozen world of Abeth, beaten down by the harsh weather and an even harsher life, but that outward layer is like a warm cloak that protects her from the elements – and her rage is hot and incandescent, a glorious thing to watch – that hides the lonely 11 year-old girl who is so desperate for companionship, for friendship, that she won’t think twice about laying down her life for a friend. She might be a nun in training, learning under the blessing of the Ancestor, but friendship is Nona’s religion, and loyalty her prayer. I felt her struggles keenly, I wanted her to succeed at all costs, even as she was hot-headed and impulsive, risking her life but always mindful of the dangers to her friends’.

I loved Nona, she is the perfect protagonist, in my opinion. But the title of most fascinating character definitely goes to Abbess Glass who is everything J.K. Rowling wishes Albus Dumbledore was – I’m at once compelled to trust her, trust that her student’s well-being is a priority to her, but I’m also suspicious of her motivations. She is a master manipulator, and she uses everything and everyone to her advantage, to protect the convent and its students, sure, but you’re always left wondering how far is she willing to go, and is there even a limit if the end result is the greater good? Her voice is at once maternal and ruthless, it’s such a hard line to walk but Mark Lawrence does it beautifully.

This is grimdark fantasy, and while the students are 10-12 years-old they don’t sound like it. They live in an extremely unforgiving planet, with only the warmth of the “focus moon” to melt a thin corridor of liveable land around Abeth’s equator. The harsh realities of life don’t leave much room for carefree childhoods, but some of the natural innocence of children still shines through in some moments — few and far between, but that only makes them more poignant. That being said, the Convent of Sweet Mercy is still a comforting space, in the way all magical schools should be, even with danger lurking in every corner. The classes and the magic system were a highlight for me, even as many of the powers Nona, and a few others display, are still unpredictable. Walking the Path especially was very engrossing, and very easy to visualise, which speaks well of Mark Lawrence’s wonderful writing.

The only real complain I have about this book is that while Mark Lawrence is amazing at writing women, really from the despicable to the sweet they are all fascinating, he isn’t nearly as good at writing men. The few men that show up in Red Sister are rather one dimensional, and while one antagonist is appropriately menacing, that’s all there is to him. The other male antagonist, and Nona’s nemesis…I don’t think I remember a word he said. I sincerely hope that if there’s going to be any romance in future books (besides the side romance between two adult nuns at the Convent) it remains between the female cast, because the men in this world aren’t at all memorable. And again it speaks volumes about how great this book is, that it didn’t detract in the least from my enjoyment.

I still haven’t managed to talk about how beautiful the prose in this book is. Red Sister has some of the most beautiful writing I’ve read in grimdark fantasy. It’s lyrical without being purple. Some turns of phrase were so stunning that they stayed with me long after I’d read them. There really isn’t enough I can say to express how delightful this was to read. If the grimdark label doesn’t give you pause (and trigger warnings for violence/abuse against children) do yourself a favour and pick up this book.

Rating: ★★★★★
Author: Mark Lawrence
Publisher:  Ace

Book lists

Books I’m afraid of

books i'm afraidI should probably start by clarifying these aren’t horror books that I find really scary, but books that have been on my TBR or my shelves for years, and that for one reason or other I’m too afraid to start reading. I’m interested in these books, but I also find them daunting, for whatever reason.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

This is the book that motivated this whole list, really. It’s been sitting on my shelf for around three years and I still haven’t found the courage to start reading it. I picked it up on a whim without knowing much about it. After reading up on it I realised it dealt with some hard themes, like child abuse, paedophilia and rape. That made me reticent to read it because those are issues I tend to steer clear of — I realise the importance of writing about them, but often I find them too upsetting. I can deal with them being one part of a character’s journey, but reading a whole book about the traumatic life of a character who these things constantly happen to, feels like more than I can handle. Recently I also learnt, that what happens to the protagonist, Jude, is more similar to a trauma conga line than to the actual experiences of a survivor. Apparently that was Yanagihara’s intent, to exaggerate Jude’s abuse to grotesque proportions in order to start conversations, and highlight the horrific nature of all sexual violence. I’ve read that some people think it has the opposite effect — they can’t take the events seriously because they’re so exaggerated. I’m very unwilling to read a book dealing with such sensitive subject matter if there’s a chance I won’t find it respectful. On the other hand I know some people really love this book, and found it absolutely moving and that’s why I haven’t completely given up on it.

South of Broad by Pat Conroy

This is another book that scares me for some of the sensitive themes it deals with. Like with a Little Life, there’s paedophilia in this one, and rape, and child abuse, and at least one severely mentally-ill character who I’m not sure won’t be vilified. So that’s the main reason why I’m reticent. I really have to think long and hard before delving into books like these, and while I have in the past, they were usually recommend  by people I trusted and who knew how important it is to me that these topics be dealt with in a sensitive manner, and not exist merely for shock value. If I remember correctly I bought this book in some type of book fair, it was buy 3 for 10€ or something and I picked this one up randomly just to have three books. I haven’t touched it since, and I’m not sure I ever will.


Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

To be honest I’m scared of this book because of its size. It’s 1000 pages long, and while I usually like large books, in this case it seems a bit excessive for the premise. This is a fantasy book, but not high fantasy, so the length is more daunting than exciting. This is also set in Victorian England which is probably the time period I hate the most, it’s been beaten into the grave. I can’t find it in myself to care about it. Books either focus on how dreary things were for the poor and marginalised or sing praises to British Imperialism — and while I can sometimes stomach the former and deal with the overdone cliches, I have no patience for the latter, and I’m afraid this book will focus on exactly that. So, those are the reasons I’ve been putting it off for years, because while parts of it sound exciting, I’m afraid it will be a slog to get through on top of being set in a time period I really could not care less about.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

29056083Well this one is easy. I love Harry Potter and by all accounts this book will ruin that. A well-intentioned family member gave it to me as a gift, otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it myself. I know the whole plot and I guess I could say this one is actually horrifying.







And’t that’s my list of intimidating books (and one legitimately scary). I’d be interested in knowing if some of you own similar books, that feel like unclimbable mountains for some reason. Ping me back if that’s the case, because I love this kind of list. And also if you have any arguments why I should read any of these books please let me know!

Book reviews, Fantasy, Young Adult

Book Review | Nevernight

nevernight book review

by Jay Kristoff — I don’t have any witty remarks to start this review off, this was just a solid fantasy book that I enjoyed immensely. Compelling and believable world-building, solid characters, and a strong, if commonplace, plot that carried its weight all through the book. That’s it really.

“Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.”

Mia, the protagonist, is a really likeable character. I have a fondness for outwardly cold female characters that use their prickly exterior as a shield to hide not only their past hurts, but a soft mushy middle built on loyalty and kindness. Sometimes you have to dig to find that mushy middle, but that’s half the fun. Sometimes that mushy middle can coexist with utter ruthlessness, and that’s even better.

Some of the side characters weren’t as well-rounded as her unfortunately. There was a secondary antagonist whose personality, besides being a thorn on Mia’s side, was non-existent. A teacher who hated her for a flimsy reason, there’s always one of these in any fantasy school worth its salt, though, so it didn’t bother me too much, cliché as it was. Some tropes just come with the field. It also didn’t bother me that there were a few characters whose arcs didn’t seem to go anywhere, since this is a series and I’m hoping they’ll be more fleshed-out in the next books. I’m particularly curious about Hush.

I wasn’t a big fan of the romance either. I can see some people loving Mia’s love interest in this book though, he just didn’t do it for me. They had some fun banter but most of their romantic interactions felt more plot-convenient than heartfelt. I can say though, the resolution of this particular plot-thread had me grinning ear to ear, I’m probably in the minority here, but I was smiling down at the words as I read them, feeling smug and a little evil as I thought to myself,”Good.”

Knowing he ended up in that situation due to Mia’s actions was particularly delicious. I don’t know if that was what Jay Kristoff was going for, but it was definitely a highlight for me.

When it comes to highlights though none shines brighter than the world and its tree suns. Fantasy is my favourite genre because I love fantasy worlds and magic, simple as that. So, getting to read about a new and fascinating world is always a treat. Nevernight has it all: a complex religion with a mythology that didn’t seem lifted from any of the usual sources (Itreya is inspired by the late Roman Empire, but it doesn’t beat you up the head with it, mercifully — and interestingly, the main religion is a form of monolatrism which we don’t get to see very often in fantasy). A magic system that explained the reach and limitations of some of its components (I can’t get the weavers out of my head), while leaving others in the dark (Mia’s darkin abilities), without it feeling like its rules could change whenever convenient to the plot. And a political system that while not the focus of the book is the corrupt machine that keeps this fascinating, but often disgusting, world turning.

The use of footnotes for the info-dumps was brilliant, because they didn’t feel like info-dumps at all. And I often found myself looking forward to reading the next one. The narration should be credited for that. As of now the identity of the narrator is still a mystery (although I have my theories) but their voice is delightful to read, with a particular brand of dark humour that really suits the mood of the book.

This book is shelved as Young Adult on Goodreads, and although there’s definitely elements of that, it felt a lot grittier than most YA Fantasy, in a really good way. Sometimes YA books, regardless of genre, tend to be just a love-story masquerading as something else. This isn’t that, not by a long shot. And despite my misgivings about it the romance really doesn’t take up more room than it should, nor does it slow down the action. Besides, I would be lying if I said I would be opposed to seeing a romance involving Mia and someone I like better…

Overall, I really recommend this book, my complaints are very minor and by no means did they reduce my enjoyment while reading this. Funny enough, I started reading this book right as I was almost finishing Red Sister (because I was loving it so much and didn’t want it to end), and I was surprised to realise just how much the two books have in common. Although Red Sister is Adult Fiction, and grimdark to the more humorous grit of Nevernight they both happened to share a lot of superficial details, and hit on a lot of the same notes that made them both such stand out reads for me. If you’ve read Red Sister I definitely think you should give Nevernight a shot, it’s lighter, but not light, and Mia shares some of the traits that make Nona such a lovable protagonist, the supporting cast is not as strong but there’s a few gems.

I just checked back on Goodreads and a lot of the top reviews complain about the prose. The title of this book might have clued you in on that, but I vastly prefer books written in third person (I struggle to read first person more often than not), so this book already has that going for it, but I also consider the writing style to be a big plus. There were second person asides but they were barely noticeable. It’s simile heavy, some of them are wonderful, some are inconsequential, but none weigh the story down in my opinion. I wouldn’t call the prose lyrical or flowery but there is a melodic cadence to it. I really liked it, it’s what I’m saying. People who prefer cut and dry writing might not. That being said, I don’t think it’s complicated or hard to follow, at all.

Since I compared Nevernight to Red Sister, I can’t help but compare ratings too. And while I loved Nevernight I didn’t love it as much as Red Sister (it feels weird that I’m not posting that review first, but oh well), therefore:

Rating: ★★★★½
Author: Jay Kristoff
Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

Book reviews, LGBT Books, Murder mystery

Book Review | Instinct (Murder Games)

instinct book review

by Howard Roughan and James Patterson — This book was the literary equivalent of being told to enjoy the view while travelling on the Shinkansen — a pointless and nausea inducing effort.

“Dr. Dylan Reinhart wrote the book on criminal behavior. Literally–he’s a renowned, bestselling Ivy League expert on the subject. When a copy of his book turns up at a gruesome murder scene–along with a threatening message from the killer–it looks like someone has been taking notes.

Elizabeth Needham is the headstrong and brilliant NYPD Detective in charge of the case who recruits Dylan to help investigate another souvenir left at the scene–a playing card. Another murder, another card–and now Dylan suspects that the cards aren’t a signature, they’re a deadly hint–pointing directly toward the next victim.

As tabloid headlines about the killer known as “The Dealer” scream from newstands, New York City descends into panic. With the cops at a loss, it’s up to Dylan to hunt down a serial killer unlike any the city has ever seen. Only someone with Dylan’s expertise can hope to go inside the mind of a criminal and convince The Dealer to lay down his cards. But after thinking like a criminal–could Dylan become one?”

If perhaps you are under the impression that the “nausea” has anything to do with grisly murders and gore a-plenty, I’m sorry do disappoint. I mean literal motion-sickness nausea, because this book doesn’t know when to take a breath. It’s so fast paced that absolutely no part of the plot has any chance to leave a lasting impression. The characters are like socks in a washing machine, powerless to do anything against the whirlwind that rinses and spins them (gently, though, because nothing of consequence ever happens to a main character in this kind of pulpy crime fiction).

I picked up this book by the graces of the Goodreads’ algorithm that analysed my twin interests in both murder mysteries and LGBT books, and spit out this: Instinct by James Patterson and Howard Roughan (Murder Games, in previous editions). Credit where credit is due, the book belongs to both of those categories, it just isn’t any good.

The protagonist, Dylan Reinhart is a wisecracking criminal behaviour expert. Riveting. The put upon detective who has to deal with said wisecracks  is Elizabeth Needham who is “headstrong and brilliant” and all too happy to play second fiddle in her own investigation, for no discernible reason. They are both terribly bland, I finished this book yesterday and I remember almost nothing about either of them.

Dylan has a husband, we find out his name through the most pointless, self-indulgent, “ain’t we funny”, scene I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading. Dylan’s husband’s name is Tracy, and we find that out through the contrived actions of a disgruntled adoption agency representative, being confronted with the supposedly female name on her case file and the man in front of her. It was insufferable to read. It’s a lucky thing you can’t dislocate eyes, because I was rolling mine so hard it was a real concern at points. Ironically, the thing I liked best about this book was the representation. Cheesy scene aside — which I’m willing to attribute to a generational gap, older people might call it funny, anyone under 30 will call it cringy — I thought it was fine. There wasn’t much detail about Dylan and Tracy’s life, but they seemed believable enough. Tracy was a little thin at times, but all characters besides Dylan and Elizabeth (and even her…) were less developed.

By far my biggest gripe with this book was the pacing. Every chapter was at best 3 pages long, and each chapter ended either in a cliffhanger (the insufferable mid-dialogue kind, in which the conversation continues in the next chapter with absolutely no change of setting or tone) or with a witty one-liner that was reminiscent of early 00’s cartoons reminding you to tune in next week.

Most of the pertinent information Dylan and Elizabeth discover is the kind they have a hunch on, or some witness says something that lights the proverbial light bulb over their heads. What this means is that the reader has very little hope of figuring the mystery for themselves, because there aren’t any clues in the actual text, as a consequence the characters seem a lot more clever than they are. The ending does tie things up in a bow and call back to previous events, which makes it marginally more satisfying than the entire book up until then.

I finished this book before having time to digest half the things that were happening. It’s completely unremarkable and I’m fairly sure I’ll have forgotten everything about it by next week. I recommend it to everyone who is about to embark on a long-haul flight, because the break-neck pace is sure to make it go by faster.

Rating: 2 stars
Authors: Howard Roughan and James Patterson
Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company

Book reviews, LGBT Books, Young Adult

Book Review | The gentleman’s guide to vice and virtue

gentlemans guide to vice and virtue

by Mackenzi Lee — It’s been a while since I’ve read historical fiction, one of my favourite genres when I was younger, later to be replaced by fantasy, and now only revisited when it’s set in Ancient Greece, by far my favourite historical period. Anyone can tell by the cover that this book is not set in Ancient Greece, though. That’s okay, because it’s not really historical fiction, either.

Henry “Monty” Montague doesn’t care that his roguish passions are far from suitable for the gentleman he was born to be. But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice are in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

So Monty vows to make this year-long escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, dazzling, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is an irresistible romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue‘s biggest quality is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. When I say this isn’t historical fiction I mean it in the literal sense, the author sets the time period as “17–“, as in vaguely 18th century, I’ve seen reviewers place this book in the 19th century, others further back, it obviously doesn’t stick to anyone’s mind, nor are there any defining characteristics to tether it to the reality of a specific year, or even an age. I find I don’t have a problem with that.

This is a mostly character driven, coming of age story, with a romance at its centre. The time period is merely a backdrop to the character development, and it works well with the tone, the themes and the narration. The protagonist and narrator, Monty, is a privileged young man from a wealthy family, whom he doesn’t particularly like, and feels mostly detached from. His closest relationship is with his best friend Percy, and at the beginning of the novel the two are set to go on their Tour of Europe, before settling into their respective roles in society. They are to be accompanied by Monty’s sister Felicity, who is going to be dropped-off at a “finishing school”, a type of institution that mostly teaches wealthy young ladies good manners and little else.

The three of them embark on an adventure of increasingly unlikely proportions, which at one point includes pirates — this is where the humour of the book serves it best, because if this was trying to be an accurate depiction of the Tour, it would crumble under the ever increasing shenanigans.

I liked all of the characters, who were all very different. Monty is superficially charming and has a brand of caustic humour that he uses to mask his deep insecurity about his bisexuality, as well as his distrust of the high society people he’s expected to interact with. On the other hand, Percy who is half-black (and from what I read elsewhere, based on the real person Dido Elizabeth Belle), is unfailingly polite and cordial because he’s aware of just how tenuous his social standing is. Felicity shares some of her brother’s fiery temper but is also constrained by her role as a woman in a deeply patriarchal society.

While the issues of inequality and discrimination were addressed, and some of the character’s growth dealt exactly with overcoming biases about themselves and others, and challenging a deeply flawed society, this was done with the heavy-handed approach typical of Young Adult books — which is to say with a lot of exposition through dialogue. Monty, as the audience stand in, was often the most ignorant of other people’s struggles and only focused on his own. This resulted a lot in characters having to explain to him that “other people have problems too, you know”. It would have been better, and more satisfying for him to realise that on his own, through the events of the novel, instead of having to be told. His moments of introspection often followed a talking down from either Percy or Felicity.

I liked the romance, I was rooting for both characters and wanted them to end up together pretty much from the beginning of the novel. But some of the romantic conflict felt a bit forced in my opinion. There was one situation at the end, where both characters are apparently happy and have sorted out all their differences, and then a single conversation completely throws them out of sync. It wasn’t totally believable in my opinion, but at least it didn’t overstay its welcome, and the issue didn’t drag for the sake of building up angst.

Overall, I enjoyed myself with The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, it was a fun light read, that I finished over the course of two days at two different, but equally beautiful, river beaches. I have to admit I was more impressed by the landscape and crystalline waters than by the book. But it was still whimsical and heartwarming, and perfect for reading under the shade of  an oak tree that’s probably been around since the 17–‘s.

Rating: 3.5 stars
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Book reviews, Murder mystery

Book Review | The seven deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

the seven deaths of evelyn hardcastle review

I wanted to love this book. I was ready to love it. I just ended up liking it.

               “At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed–again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend–but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that will appeal to fans of Kate Atkinson and Agatha Christie.”

The premise was fresh and original, and murder mystery is one of my favourite genres, I was promised a fiendishly complicated plot of twists and turns whose out of order narrative was sure to make it hard for me to follow along. Instead I got an interesting plot-device I felt wasn’t used to its full potential, a plot that thought itself much cleverer than it was, and a nondescript protagonist whose personality and inner workings I couldn’t put in words to earn my supper. His motivation ends up being explained to us by a character who I assume is supposed to be mysterious and compelling but instead just feels like a manifestation of the author leading us along by the hand through the story, much like he does for the protagonist.

In short I was promised Memento, and got Clue.

Luckily for this book, I don’t hate Clue, or my rating of 3 stars would be much lower. It was amusing to follow along and piece together the main character’s day split in eight, or eight days split in one — however you want to look at it. The pacing was fast and kept the energy high, except for a bit of sagging in the middle. The clues as to what was going on were relevant, and with a few exceptions, didn’t fall on the main character’s lap due to a well-timed plot contrivance. There was one character, as I mentioned before, who I felt was one huge plot-contrivance, but fortunately the protagonist does manage to find some things on his own, or with the help of secondary characters — who I have mixed opinions of. And isn’t that the theme of this whole review?

The body-hoping, for lack of a better term, was well-developed and I liked the aspect of each host having his own personality that was at times at odds with the main character’s and even antagonistic to his ambitions. Where I felt like it didn’t live up to the promise was in the lack of a female host, as that would add to the complexities of inhabiting another’s body, and in my opinion, add something to the protagonist’s character development that was wholly necessary. As the novelty wore off, however, I found myself less and less interested in that aspect of the book, which is a shame since it was one of the things that made me pick it up in the first place.

Now as to the mystery of who murdered the titular Evelyn Hardcastle. It was predictable not in the sense that I knew who did it, or at least I didn’t from the start, but that I felt the rug pull coming a mile away, I didn’t know exactly what rug was going to be pulled, or in what manner, but it was pretty obvious that not all was what it seemed. In that way the reveal was a bit anti-climatic for me, and there were two other plot-twists that I was annoyingly aware of and could predict from the moment they were introduced. I’m more annoyed about one of them than the other, as I believe the author perhaps didn’t intend for it to be a plot-twist in itself just a lead in to the climax. Maybe. Hopefully.

Concerning the secondary characters, they weren’t all that memorable, I have trouble recalling most names, with the exception of Anna, who while central to the plot, was completely one-dimensional. Her defining personality trait was “be helpful to Aiden”. When the events that brought both Aiden and Anna (minor nitpick: it also annoyed me that their names started with the same letter) to the “party”, I was in total disbelief of who Anna was previous to the start of the book, but not in a good way, as I’m sure the author intended it to be, but in a way that stretched the limits of my suspension of disbelief – as nothing in her previous actions offered even the slightest clue. And no Aiden, she off-offhandedly suggesting that you kill Evelyn yourselves to solve her murder, once, doesn’t count.

I have nothing to say for the villain other than his identity has to do with the plot-twist that annoyed me. I know a red herring when I see one. And when a murder mystery tells me to look one way, I’m well aware I should look the other, except usually in a better book than this, there are various other directions to look at, instead of just one.

In conclusion, writing this review has made me realise that my 3 star rating can be completely credited to the fact that I did want to keep reading, and find out what happened in the end, I wasn’t all that excited about said ending but it is what it is. It kept me engaged while I was reading, even with all the issues I had with it, and I at no point considered not finishing it, a sure sign that a book at least fulfils its basic promise of entertaining me. This book managed that. Sometimes it entertained me for the wrong reasons. But so do the news, and I keep watching them.

Rating: 3 stars
Author: Stuart Turton
Publisher: Raven Books