Wild and Wicked Things, a review

My Goldsboro GSFF book for April, Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May, is set in 1920s England in a world which banned magic after it was used to manipulate soldiers during WWI. Magic in this universe is herbal, added to teas, chocolates, and drinks. But there’s an island where people flout this rule. And this is where our main character, Annie, is headed.

This book was absolutely fantastic. It was full of twists and turns, witchy magic galore, darkness, blood, and I found myself reading as my eyes fluttered shut. I didn’t want to stop reading but I couldn’t stay awake!

The magic system I found absolutely fascinating. There is both the herbal magic, and also blood magic, both of which act in similar ways but seem to garner different results (and take different amounts from the people who enact them). In addition, I thought that the background of the banning of magic, and of the island’s proclivity for it, was really interesting. It’s not the focus of the story, but it definitely adds another dimension to this not-quite-reality world.

There is some beautiful character development throughout this novel. Our main character starts out as an incredibly shy girl who has never left her home village, and who tries not to disturb the status quo. This, if it wasn’t obvious, changes. But we also see some significant changes in our other characters, from those we have as POVs as well as those in the background. If you’re looking for LGBTQ+ rep, then you’ve come to the right place. We have non-binary representation, as well as gay and lesbian characters, who are the primary focus of the story.

I did see this touted as a Great Gatsby retelling, and whilst I can see the influence that Gatsby had, it’s definitely more of an inspiration situation rather than a direct influence. We do have parties, and longing after someone who is taken now (and in an unhappy marriage). And there is disaster that strikes. But this is, at least to me, a backdrop to the magical plotline. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining! I adore the magical components of this book. Just be aware of what you’re going in to.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 9, Writing: 9, Plot: 9, Intrigue: 10, Logic: 9 and Enjoyment: 10, which gives a score of 9.25 and a 5* rating!

Highlight here for trigger warnings: alcohol/drug use, anxiety/panic attacks, visions/hallucinations, parental death, death of a loved one, murder, domestic abuse, forced name change, discrimination against masculine dress, body dysphoria, gender/appearance dysphoria, gore (blood), parental neglect, emotional abuse, pregnancy, abortion, rape, self harm.

Overall? I adored this. Oh god it was so good. Honestly whoever is picking out the books at Goldsboro for their GSFF box seems to have my taste down to a T! One or two more amazing books like these and I’ll trust them completely.

Have you read Wild and Wicked Things? Do you want to? Let me know! If you like witchy magic and dark vibes then I totally recommend this one.

The House in the Cerulean Sea, a review

I want to start out this review by mentioning Klune’s comments about his inspiration for the book. He stated in an interview he had been inspired by the story of Indigenous Americans being forced into residential schools after being torn from their families. Klune is white, and that is not his story to tell.

There are, of course, differing views from different Indigenous people about his statement. Some find his use of their trauma incredibly insulting. Some do not. This is something to be aware of before you pick this book up.

There is an additional issue that would be a very mild spoiler so I’m going to hide it here. Highlight the rest of this paragraph to see it: The orphanage is continuously referred to and emphasised as these children’s home. Their home. Regarding his stated inspiration this feels incredibly inconsiderate.

In addition to my hidden section above, The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune does also have some interesting discussions about what actually happens to these children when their orphanage is closed and how the Ofsted-style inspectors are part of this. However, it doesn’t take the discussion any further and I think that was a poor choice and a missed opportunity in this regard to clearly state, rather than just imply, the horrendous impacts that happened in the real world in these residential schools.

From this point on I’m going to discuss the details of the book separate to that of it’s stated inspiration. Just a reminder to please do some research into this yourself. Both in relation to the book and as an atrocity that occurred in the US.

I adored the character development of Linus. It’s slow and creeping, and at some points quite frustrating. He seems to take a few steps forward and one step back. But in this regard its incredibly realistic to how we really change as people and was done so beautifully.

I also loved the relationships throughout this book. Both the romantic and platonic. Between Linus, our main character, and the other adults and the children. There’s so much development here too as everyone gets to know those around them and learn how to best care for each other. It’s all so fucking cute and I love them all so much.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect. They have their issues, and that’s what makes it more realistic and more impactful. I adore all of the children in the orphanage, as well as the adults who care for them, Linus, and even some people who live in the nearby town!

I fucking WEPT over this book. My other half was genuinely concerned for me as I read the last 100 pages of this book (which takes me about an hour… of solid crying) and kept asking me if everything was okay. I don’t think he’s seen me react to a book like this before! To be fair it’s been many years since I have, and we weren’t together back then.

On CAWPILE I gave this book: Characters: 10, Atmosphere: 10, Writing: 10, Plot: 10, Intrigue: 9, Logic: 9, Enjoyment: 10 which gives a 9.71 score and of course a 5 star rating!!

This book has the same vibes as the Peculiar Children series by Ransom Rigg (or at least the first trilogy, I never read past that) and it’s so much fun. I’m so so mad that I don’t have the stunning Illumicrate editions of both this and Under the Whispering Door. I’ve tried to buy them online but they’re stupidly expensive!

At the moment I still intend to read more from Klune because I love his writing style, but I think I need to look a little more into him as a person before I feel 100% comfortable with that. But the story itself? Beautiful.

The Mask Falling – a review

The fourth book in The Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon. This was one of my most anticipated reads and it did not disappoint!

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This is going to be a spoiler free review, which just makes things hard on myself because it means not only can I not talk about the specifics within this book itself, but also nothing from the series as a whole. So.

This. Was. Amazing.

Of course I’m going to think that, I love the series. But genuinely this is so well written. We see so much character development as well as seeing various relationships develop in line with the plot. We learn so much more about the wider world we’re now entering after spending three books in a “limited” setting (ha! that makes it sound like there wasn’t much to explore, there was! Just now we’re going worldwide!)

I loved the points of anguish, and how threads have been pulled together and wound to create the plotline. So much has been learnt about the wider workings of this world, the politics, the individual storylines, and the system of the oppressor. It caused me so much anguish but is so so perfect and I am so highly anticipating the fifth book and it’s going to be a long and tough wait!!!

For my CAWPILE ratings I gave:

Characters: 10

Atmosphere: 10

Writing: 10

Plot: 9

Intrigue: 9

Logic: 9

Enjoyment: 9

For a grand total of 9.43 which of course is a FIVE STAR READ!!!! Did we truly expect anything else from my opinions on the wonderful Samantha Shannon?

Highlight here for trigger warnings: war, torture, gore, war themes, colonial themes, blood and gore, multiple murders, torture, reference to murder of family members, abduction, hostage situation, explosions, fire, prolonged sickness, medical procedures

All in all, as expected, I am in love with this book, this series, and Shannon’s writing as a whole. I can’t wait to read any and everything she comes out with!

The Dawn Chorus – a review

Book 3.5 in The Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon, I picked this up after reading The Song Rising and The Pale Dreamer as it was the last unread book left before I picked up The Mask Falling!

Coming in at 92 pages it was just a short read, but wow did I love it!

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Of course with this being so far through a series I can’t say all that much. What I can say is that this covers the transitional gap between books 3 and 4, and it does so really well. You don’t need to read it before you continue on with the series, but for big fans it adds an extra dimension to the world and the characters that I really appreciated.

Whilst there is some discussion of larger overall events, this novella is really focused on the relationship between two main characters. Due to events they spend a lot of time together and seeing this develop through the novella was so much fun to read, and for once Samantha Shannon wasn’t torturing her characters! A mini between book break for us all!

For my CAWPILE rating I gave:

  • characters: 10
  • atmosphere: 9
  • writing: 9
  • plot: 9
  • intrigue: 9
  • logic: 10
  • enjoyment: 9

Which totalled at 9.29, a solid 5* read that I really enjoyed!

Highlight here to see trigger warnings: abuse, PTSD, torture, trauma

I really recommend picking up this little novella if you like The Bone Season series. In English it’s only available in ebook format, so that’s how I read it. But I believe there’s a little paperback version that’s published in Polish! This is such a wonderful little slot of time with our faves and a nice rest between two heartbreaking books!

Do I still love Priory?

A year ago today I reviewed Priory of the Orange Tree! You can check out my original post here. I absolutely adored this book and ended up doing a standalone video review for it too!! Not something I do all that often! (you can watch that here)

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So, do my thoughts hold up?

Well I have to admit, I’ve not re-read the book yet. At 800 pages it’s a bit big and I still have so many other big books on my tbr that I’ve not read yet! I think the glamour has worn off slightly, in that I’m separated from the story. So without my infatuation would I still rate this highly? Yes! I love the world that Samantha Shannon built. I still adore Ead and Sabran, and Tane is such an interesting character to read about along with all of the dragon lore.

This might be a tome but I still definitely recommend it to fantasy lovers!!

The Pale Dreamer – a review

Another short book from the beginning of the year! I was determined I was going to catch up on The Bone Season series and this was the next step after reading The Song Rising at the end of 2020. I ended up reading all 90 pages in one day and I absolutely adored getting to see more into the world that Samantha Shannon has built.

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This prequel follows a 16 year old Paige (who is 19 at the start of the main series) who has recently started working for Jaxon Hall, one of the most notorious mime-lords. She wants to prove her worth to him as the newest member and the latest event in the underworld is the perfect chance for her to do so, but of course this won’t go as smoothly as she’d like.

This is a fantastic novella, it provides another dimension to the relationship between Paige and the others within the underworld, both working with Jaxon and against him. It makes Paige’s reasoning for her decisions in The Bone Season much more understandable and explains the connection and the debt she feels towards Jaxon. It also gives us some more insight into the relationship between Paige and Nick, and also Paige and Eliza. These details feed throughout the entire series, and I’ve noticed threads of them in even the most recent book so it’s wonderful to see them here!

All in all this is a lovely little novella that I really wouldn’t miss out on if you’re a fan of The Bone Season. It adds dimension to the world that isn’t necessarily needed but is wonderful to have and it really deepens your connection to Paige and the others. So of course I rated this 5*!

The Song Rising – a review

I finally caught up with the main series!! And then The Mask Falling came out lol, but I still really enjoyed The Song Rising to the point where it ended up on my favourite books of 2020! So far I’ve read one book from this series each year which has been a nice progression. If you want to check out my review of The Bone Season (book 1) or The Mime Order (book 2) then click on the respective links. This book took me a little while to get through, a good month and a half, and exactly like the first 2 in the series I gave this 5*s and I adored it so so much!!!

From this point on there will be spoilers for book #1 and #2. No spoilers for The Song Rising though. You have been warned!!!

The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

We start this book after Paige has become the Mime Queen, after her betrayal and defeat of Jaxon she now rules over the underbelly of London. Controlling this rabble is difficult enough without the government coming after her. And does she really think Jaxon is going to take his humiliation gracefully?

With twists, turns and deception throughout, we get to explore more of ScionBritain than in previous books as well as delving more into their impact on the world as a whole. The Senshields that can detect those with clairvoyant powers have become stronger and more dangerous for the underworld, forcing them to go into hiding. Paige has to find a way to overcome this and set her populace free, as being hemmed in isn’t going to end well for any of them. In hunting for this solution Paige is exposed to more of what is happening outside of her immediate boarders. There’s so much more to Scion than she had ever imagined.

We also learn quite a bit more about Paige’s past specifically in this book, something which provides context for the world’s view of Scion and that I found incredibly interesting. I’m really excited to see how this world view develops in book 4.

This book didn’t end on such a dramatic note as the last one, but more so looking out towards the future and what lays there. I’m so excited to pick up the Mask Falling but also so nervous because once I do that’s it! I’ve got to wait years for another book! And I don’t want to have that wait sitting there staring at me! Have you read The Mask Falling? Should I just pick it up?

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab | A Review after a re-read

ADSOM was my choice for the August prompt of “a book that surprised you” for the Booktube Rereadathon. What surprised me about this book was that I couldn’t remember any of it! I first read it in the beginning of 2018 and I honestly could barely remember what happened, and what I thought I had remembered turned out to be completely wrong, so it’s definitely good that I re-read this one! And I enjoyed it! We follow Kell, he is one of the last of the magicians called Antari, and he belongs to the Royal family. He can travel between the different parallel Londons, Red, Grey, and White. Despite knowing the risk, Kell is an unofficial smuggler, but when one smuggle goes wrong it leads to disastrous consequences across all three London’s.

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First up that review from the Guardian is the most British thing ever: “A rather brilliant novel!” – okay, moving on. This book has a little bit of everything with knife happy main characters who will kill for those they love without a moments thought, as well as magic, villains, and morally grey issues. It’s all there!!

I really enjoyed the concept of the parallel London’s. It’s one I’ve seen before but never in this way and never with this specific way of travelling through. The connections that used to be there between the worlds also allows for a lot of additional world building to be done which gets us invested in the world(s) and it’s goings on quickly.

Kell himself is a fun character to read from, he has a staunch moral code, but it bends and flexes with his will. In contrast Lila’s moral code is strong and unbending, but she herself doesn’t know it’s full extent. The worlds that these two live within couldn’t be any more different, but their immediate ability to relate to one another, in an incredibly well written and realistic way, really makes the book shine.

Schwab’s writing is absolutely beautiful, she’s able to evoke the feelings from all three London’s with scary ease. She takes the typical fantasy tropes and manipulates them into something completely new and unique. I can see each of the London’s in my minds eye, they’re all very distinct to me. They almost seem to have a personality of their own.

The only reason that this book got 4 instead of 5 stars is that it didn’t have that spark. I know, I know. It’s stupid. But it didn’t and I don’t know why. Technically this should be a 5 star read for me, but for now it isn’t. However, I definitely still do want to read the sequel and find out more about these worlds and these characters! I can’t wait to see where Lila and Kell end up next!

All That She Can See by Carrie Hope Fletcher | A Review

I won’t lie, I picked this book up because I’ve been following Carrie online for a while now. I was subscribed to her YouTube channel when it was still called Way Past My Bedtime and I still enjoy watching her content (although I’m not so keen on the lockdown vlogs ngl). So when I finally spotted one of her books in a charity shop, and when I realised that they were more fantasy than contemporary, I knew I had to give it a shot. We follow Cherry, who was orphaned at the age of 18, and who expressed her emotions through baking. After a lot of experimenting she discovers that she can impact other peoples moods through her baked goods and sets out to make everyone around her happy. Of course, not everything goes to plan. A man named Chase shows up in the new town she moves to and he can sense emotions too, but he doesn’t see it as a gift like she does.

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I did really enjoy this book, I’ve discovered that I quite like slice of life fantasy/ light fantasy reads as well as the heavier books. The concept of our main character being able to bake emotions into her cooking is one I’ve not seen anywhere else and Cherry’s emotional journey through the trauma that she has suffered really enhances how the reader sees her and gives an understanding for why she goes to various different towns to try and help as many people as possible.

On a more negative note, I really did think that the fantasy side of this book needed more development. Now of course I’m biased, I do love fantasy. There wasn’t enough development, however, of the plot and the new world that was built inside of our own. There was a lot of info dumping, without giving much information at all, and then moving on to the next thing. It didn’t hinder the telling of the tale, but it did make me feel less invested in the world and I do really wish that she had expanded upon this additional world she created.

In publishing this as a standalone there was also an issue with how quickly Chase and Cherry’s relationship progressed. There definitely needed to be more time for it to feel natural and realistic. I think Peter is one of the few characters in this book with a full and complete arc, and that’s kinda surprising given that he isn’t in a lot of the book. I feel like having this book as one of a duology or trilogy would have made much more sense for the pacing as well as for exploring this new world.

This book could have been amazing, and it was very much enjoyable, but a lack of development in so many departments just left it lacking. The information is clearly there in Carrie’s head! I wish an editor had told her to expand!!