It’s almost Christmas!

We’ll be having a little blog break over Christmas while I celebrate with my family. I’ll still be having YouTube videos and TikToks posting though! Just search for Abi of Pellinor ☺️

Hope you folks have a wonderful Christmas if you celebrate, and a nice end of year if you don’t! 🥂

Between Starshine and Clay by Sarah Ladipo Manyika, a review

Before Starshine and Clay by Sarah Ladipo Manyika was sent to me by the wonderful people over at the publishing house, Footnote. This doesn’t bias my opinion, but I thought you should know ☺️

Between Starshine and Clay: Conversations from the African Diaspora by Sarah Ladipo Manyika

“Conversations with the African diaspora” is the tag line for this book, as Ladipo Manyika interviews and chats with people from across the continents. There were names here I was familiar with, such as Toni Morrison, as well as a lot of individuals I had never heard of before. But each and every person had a fantastic and gripping story to tell and I’ll now follow them eagerly in the future.

The individuals that Ladipo Manyika talks to are: Toni Morrison, Claudia Rankine, Xoliswa Sithole, Wole Soyinka, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Margaret Busby, Anna Deavere Smith, Willard Harris, Michelle Obama, Michael Hastings, Evan Mawarire, and Cory Booker.

This book touches on a lot of topics. From racism, to feminism, to colonisation, gentrification, and dictatorships. All of them talking about the individual impact, as well as the larger effect. I was absorbed in each persons story and whilst I feel like everything wrapped up well, I definitely want to do some more of my own research on each of these people and discover more of their work.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Research: 9, Authenticity: 8, Readability: 9, Personal Impact: 9, Intrigue: 9, Informativeness: 9, Enjoyment: 9, giving an average of 8.86 and a 4.5* rating.

Highlight here for content warnings: discussions of persecution, death, racism, xenophobia, confinement, colonisation, violence, genocide, war, hate crime, classism.

I loved being exposed to so many more individuals that I likely wouldn’t have heard of without this collection. I am definitely bumping this up to 5*! This is a perfect read for me in November (Non-fiction November to be specific) but I recommend it all year round!

Vincent van Gogh by Meyer Schapiro, a review

Vincent van Gogh by Meyer Schapiro is an art book that I spotted in a charity shop in October and picked up on a whim.

Vincent van Gogh by Meyer Schapiro

It seemed like a great idea to pick up for non-fiction November, and I’m glad that I read this one. It’s a collection of prints of many of van Gogh’s paintings, with analysis on the neighbouring page, and the book starts with a 30-40 page analysis of the painters life, techniques, and more.

The analysis next to each painting is very detailed and the author clearly has a lot of knowledge about the art. However, the writing was overly academic and therefore quite inaccessible for anyone not in that realm of study. It did bring my enjoyment down a fair bit, because it just isn’t fun to read someone’s pretentious sounding thoughts on a painting. But there were some really interesting insights and I’m still glad I have a collection of van Gogh’s prints.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Credability: 9, Authenticity: 7, Writing: 3, Personal Impact: 5, Intrigue: 4, Informativeness: 6, and Enjoyment: 6 giving an average of 5.71 and a 3* rating.

Highlight here for content warnings: mentions of van Gogh’s suicide, mental illness, death.

This isn’t a book that I’d recommend for everyone to go and pick up. But as someone who loves van Gogh’s paintings, this is a nice edition to my shelves

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean, a review

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean was September’s Illumicrate book. A YA fantasy horror that was perfect to start in October.

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

A young mother runs away to keep her son safe. That’s the basic premise of this book, but it misses out on so much of the nuance. For example the fact that the mum only eats books, and the son? Well he eats minds.

I really enjoyed this book! For those worried about the horror marking? I personally wouldn’t be. There is some graphic violence, but whilst the book is dark I wouldn’t say it’s especially creepy. So it’s not that it doesn’t deserve the horror mark, perhaps that our view on horror should alter slightly.

The world building is done fantastically through this book. We jump back and forwards in time, and Dean has managed to arrange these in the perfect way so that we learn about the history of this world whilst we become invested in our protagonist Devon’s life and that of her son, Cai.

I also adore the fact that a fair amount of this is set in Newcastle and Northumberland! We almost never get books set in that region (where I’m from if you didn’t know, in the north east of England) and it was so much fun recognising places and streets!

The character development is really interesting, especially with us jumping back and forward in time. I think Dean managed this really well in how she keeps the plot simple in the beginning of the book, when we’re in the modern day. And advancing this plot as we learn more about past Devon and her life. I enjoyed seeing the change in Devon from childhood innocence to adult denial and then acceptance of the truth.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 7, Atmosphere: 9, Writing: 8, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 8, and Enjoyment: 8 with an average of 8 and a 4.5* rating.

Highlight here for content warnings: violence, domestic abuse, pregnancy, child abuse, death, body horror, misogyny, confinement, gaslighting, cannibalism, grief, infertility, rape, eating disorder, police brutality, death of parent, acephobia, kidnapping.

This book is a fantastic standalone read, but I would 100% read a sequel! The ending is satisfying, don’t get me wrong, but Dean could 100% write a book 2 and I hope that one day she does! Definitely an author I’ll be keeping an eye one

Mindwalker by Kate Dylan, a review

Mindwalker by Kate Dylan was September’s Goldsboro GSFF box book. A YA Sci-Fi set in Earth’s future. I always enjoy the GSFF box books so I was excited to dive in!

Mindwalker by Kate Dylan

Our protagonist is an 18 year old girl who has a supercomputer grafted into her brain in order to let her control secret agents when they need extraction, and anytime soon it’s going to blow. When Sil is forced to go on the run she joins with an unlikely band of people and learns more about the world she thought she knew.

This is such a fast moving book, which is something I always enjoy. Sil is a really interesting protagonist to be inside the head of, seeing how she starts the book and her thoughts and opinions of the company she works for and how these alter over the course of the novel. I also love that we get some alternative perspectives from the side characters. Both from those inside the company and out.

The core plot point in this book is relatively predictable. But I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I think all of you know, from the minimal amount I’ve said so far, that Sil starts out loving her company she works for and then ends up realising it’s bad. However, the twists and turns and the commentary around this? It’s done so well! There is one twist in particular that I just *adored* how it was done! And there were so many interesting discussions and viewpoints.

The writing style itself is also a fun one. Dylan says that she’s emulating Marvel and I think she does that well (and I adore that Sil names her AI Jarvis!). It really does lend the book a fast pace and kept me hooked the whole way through.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Charcters: 8, Atmosphere: 8, Writing: 8, Plot: 7, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 7, and Enjoyment: 9 giving an average of 8 and a 4.5* rating.

Highlight here for content warnings: body horror, death, violence, blood, vomit, medical content, suicide.

I absolutely need more books from this world, and Kate Dylan commented on my insta post suggesting we’ll get just that… I’m so excited! This is a fantastic YA Sci-Fi that I think is light enough to entice newbies to the genre, as well as having enough of the core Sci-Fi components to satisfy those who love the genre. In other words? This book is so much fun. I really do recommend it. And this is another big tick to Goldsboro from me!

Dracula by Bram Stoker, a review

Dracula by Bram Stoker is a well known Gothic classic, and the basis of much of pop cultures view on vampires. So of course I had to start this one in October!

Dracula by Bram Stoker

I had expected this to be just fine. An acceptable classic, nothing special. I was proved wrong, because I really enjoyed this book!

The beginning of this book, I will admit, doesn’t reflect the rest of the novel. The first 7 or so chapters were what I had expected from a classic. But I will say I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly we jumped into the vampire storyline! With my familiarity with classics I’d assumed this wouldn’t happen until later! Although the word vampire actually isn’t used in the book until surprisingly far in.

Mina is by far my favourite character, she’s a strong woman who is written well with Stoker proving that men can write accurate portrayals of women since 1897 *cough* Ken Follett *cough*. She’s tough and intelligent, enough so to impress the male doctors around her, whilst also reacting with realistic distress to the events (rather than being overly “strong” about them). Additionally the men in the group are also written very well, I enjoyed seeing their responses and how their views altered over time. Stoker does a very good job at writing realistic and empathetic people.

I was aware of the basic outline of the plot, but never the actual details and so it was a lot of fun for me to experience that for the first time here. I thought that it was paced very well, with realistic set backs and wins, and I was hooked for each set of events.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 9, Writing: 8, Plot: 9, Intrigue: 9, Logic: 9, Enjoyment: 10 meaning an average of 9 and a 5* rating.

Highlight here for content warnings: abduction, character, death, fear, inprisonment, murder, paranormal creatures, trichotillomania (brief).

This has immediately been added to my list of favourite classics. Bram Stoker is a feminist and I dare to you tell me otherwise 😂 I really do recommend pushing through the first 7-9 chapters of this one if you’re not immediately enjoying it. The payoff is (in my opinion) more than worth the effort of those few chapters. Now to find some more of Stoker’s work!

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, a review (Kingsbridge #1)

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett is a huge book, coming in at over 1000 pages in my paperback edition. I had been intimidated by this book for a fair few years (I’ve had it since 2018) and me and Kari decided that buddy reading this one was the way to go.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Well I am so glad that we did because wow I would not have finished this without Kari! Whilst I can see why others might find enjoyment in this book, it was very much not for me.

Don’t be mistaken before you start this book, it is about building a cathedral. The characters and any other plot/world event is just background to the main course of the book. It seems to be incredibly well researched, and I now know more about cathedral building in Western Europe in the 12th century than I ever thought I would (never complain about learning something new!). Whilst this is interesting, I hadn’t expected just how much depth Follett was going to go into. Not bad necessarily, just really unexpected.

There are also scenes of intense violence, both generic violence and against women specifically. I don’t use content warnings personally (although I always provide them) but me and Kari checked that each other were okay after a certain scene. Yeah. That bad. Additionally, the same as my thoughts on Fall of Giants, Follett does a bad job of writing women. He means well, but he doesn’t succeed in portraying these characters as realistic women.

The interweaving of historical events through this book was incredibly interesting, and I’m very curious what was altered for literatures sake and what is accurate to the time. I do think that this part of the book was done well but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to save the book with the rest of the issues.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 3, Atmosphere: 4, Writing: 2, Plot: 4, Intrigue: 4, Logic: 5, Enjoyment: 1, giving an average of 3.29 and a 2* rating.

Highlight here for content warnings: rape, sexual violence, sexual assault, murder, death of parent, animal death, bullying, misogyny, physical, domestic and emotional abuse, torture, adult/minor relationship, animal cruelty, body shaming, paedophilia, body horror, child abuse, suicidal thoughts, abandonment.

This book… Is one I’m glad is over. And it has definitely put me off from finishing the Centuries trilogy or anything else by Follett. He puts a lot of research and effort into his books, but I feel like they’re just not for me.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna, a review (Deathless #1)

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna is the first book in a trilogy, with the second book only being released recently. With that, I thought it was finally time for me to pick up book one.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

This book follows young girls who, at 16, have their blood tested to see if it runs pure. Runs red. If it doesn’t? If it runs gold? They are impure in the eyes of their god and must be killed. But the King has a new decree, one that states that those who are impure will instead be taken and trained as soldiers, intended to fight the Deathshreiks that terrorise the land.

I adored this book so much. The character development throughout is absolutely fantastic, how we see our main character alter from initially believing what she was taught to instead questioning this status quo and radically altering her perspective.

The world building is also done amazingly in this book, how the religion of the country is established as well as the history of the attacks. I also liked how the character backgrounds were developed, with the intricacies that were present and added a lot of depth to each individual.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 9, Writing: 8, Plot: 9, Intrigue: 9, Logic: 9, and Enjoyment: 10 giving an average of 9 and a 5* rating.

Highlight here for content warnings: The following warning is found in the book: “The Gilded Ones includes scenes of violence, including some graphic violence, which some readers may find distressing. Additional trigger warnings: death, disownment, loss of a parent/loved one, mutilation, paedophilia, rape, starvation, trauma, torture.

This is an absolutely beautiful YA fantasy book and I am incredibly excited to carry on with the series, with book two The Merciless Ones. With where book one ended off I need to know where the story is going next!

The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono, a review

The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono is a very short little environmental classic that the lovely Caitlyn from Mad Cheshire Rabbit gifted me, knowing my love for all things environmental.

The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono

It’s a short story of a man who dedicates his life to planting trees in an area that was decimated by human irresponsibility and how that area changes over time. I found it to be a beautiful story of the impact of small but repeated actions and how we need to be conscious of our impacts on the world around us.

I also enjoyed the second short story in my edition (Vintage environmental) which is from Jean Giono’s son, talking about the first story (which is a work of fiction) and how and why it was interpreted as non-fiction. It was really interesting to get this background and to add more depth to the original work.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 8, Writing: 8, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 8, and Enjoyment: 8 with an average of 8 and a 4.5* rating.

No content warnings found.

If you’re environmentally conscious, or want to inspire younger people to become so, this is a great little book to pick up. It sits with pride now on my classics shelves and I look forward to recommending it to people in the future!

The Imagination Chamber by Philip Pullman, a review (His Dark Materials #3.7)

The Imagination Chamber by Philip Pullman was sent to me as a birthday present by the wonderful Renette and the actual book itself, with the red sprayed edges and the gilded decorations on the cover, is gorgeous.

The Imagination Chamber: Cosmic rays from Lyra’s Universe, by Philip Pullman

Each page in this book essentially contains a scene idea that Pullman had within Lyra’s universe. Whether these were different plot points he though of, extra back story for side characters, or interactions between characters that didn’t make their way into the main books.

It’s a very short and very quick little read, but as someone who really likes the His Dark Materials and The Book of Dust universe, I adored these extra insights to the characters and the world.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 6, Atmosphere: 7, Writing: 7, Plot: 5, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 7, and Enjoyment: 7, giving an average of 6.57 and 3.5*. It was hard to rate this one given the nature of the book!

No content warnings found.

This is a short little book that is a fab gift (thanks again Renette!) for anyone who enjoys this world. If that’s you? Consider grabbing this! But if you’ve not read any of the other books yet, this is a bad intro to the universe and I’d recommend picking up The Golden Compass first!