Miss Peregrine’s for Adults? 🦅

I got Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro in a Goldsboro GSFF box, and god is it gorgeous. But on top of that, it’s a damn good book. Coming in at just under 700 pages it’s definitely a big boi, but I think it’s worth it.

Ordinary Monsters is set in late 1800s, in the UK (mainly Scotland but with time spent in England) along with travels to places including the US and Japan. There are children who have mysterious powers, and a man who has set up a school/community for them in the Scottish highlands sends out staff to find them and bring them back to the Institute. To keep them protected. We primarily follow Charlie and Marlow, two young boys from the US. One is Black and despite being in Mississippi and having been treated with violence, Charlie has no scars. The other travelled across the pond from London to end up working in a circus in the US, and he can make himself glow blue.

I’ve barely even scratched the surface with the details inside this book. I could go on and on about each and every character, their backstory, and what we learn about them. Everything within this book has been so well developed. I’ve even found myself wanting to know about each and every side plot that was mentioned. I want to know everything about this world.

Miro does such a great job at exploring this magical world nestled within our own. I’m able to understand the magic system (as much as our characters do) as well as the community that has been built up and what their aims are for themselves and for humanity. And yet despite this there is still so much more that I want to know about the world! I was so relieved when I finished this and saw that there would be two more books. There is so much that can still be explored within this series!

I’m doing such a bad job of explaining this book, and that’s because it was just that good! I’m trying not to give any spoilers while I gush about this amazing tome and it’s so difficult!

It’s a lot easier to describe this book if you’ve read the Peculiar Children series though. Because this seems very much like the adult version of that. We explore the outside world more than you do in PC (especially in the first book) as well as tackling much darker and more complex themes. But the core concept of the book is still the same. There are magical children, they are taken to a big old house where they look after them and teach them to use magic, but things aren’t as they seem and dark forces want to ruin everything.

Bloody fantastic. That’s what it is.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 9, Writing: 9, Plot: 9, Intrigue: 9, Logic: 9, and Enjoyment: 10. With an average of 9.14 and a 5* rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: violence, death, gore, racism, blood, murder, injury detail, body horror, child abuse, gun violence, child death, mental illness, physical abuse, self harm, slavery, torture, kidnapping, abandonment, death of parent, addiction, confinement, miscarriage, misogyny, rape, xenophobia, police brutality, gaslighting.

I think the only reason this didn’t rate higher is because I finished The Travelling Cat Chronicles just before it and that made me weep my eyes out! But this is an amazing and fantastic read. If I’ve piqued your interest at all, please please consider giving this book a shot!

Have you read this? If so I need to know what you thought! And have you read Peculiar Children? I know a lot more people have read those books, and they’re fun!

The Embroidered Book, a review

The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield is a historical fantasy starting in the 1760s, following sisters Charlotte and Marie Antoinette. Both who become Queens and have a major impact on their respective new countries. But in this world, people can do magic, if they know the ingredients, and are willing to pay the price.

Historical fiction used to be very much my thing when I was younger, but in recent years I’ve moved away from it. Meaning that without this being the Goldsboro GSFF pick I probably wouldn’t have read it. And boy oh boy am I so glad that I was influenced to pick this up!!

This book is incredibly historically accurate. Every friendship, every enemy, every political move and alliance, can all be backed up by historians. Heartfield did an incredible job in the research for this book. This book made me so interested in these two women that I went to research them myself, thinking that surely there would be things that were missed and/or not factually accurate. In reality it just confirmed everything that had been shown in the book.

The only historical inaccuracy I could find in this book? The magic! (obvs) And I thought the magic was done so well and was a magic system I’d never come across before! Individuals have to sacrifice something important to them (specified for the spell) at each point of a five pointed star, to make the magic work. This can be a physical object, or they can write down a hope/dream/love and this will be taken from them and sacrificed. I thought it was done fantastically and was such an interesting aspect of the story.

On CAWPILE I rated this book: Characters: 10, Atmosphere: 9, Writing: 8, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 10, and enjoyment: 10. Giving an average score of 9 and a 5* rating!

I won’t lie to you folks, I did struggle a little to get through this book at first. Purely because it’s just so big! (it’s around 700 pages and my copy is hardback) and when I first finished it, I thought it was a 4 star read. But I just couldn’t stop thinking about it and every time I mentioned it I started gushing! And for me? Well that’s easily the signs of a five star read!

Highlight here for trigger warnings: death, violence, domestic abuse, misogyny, murder, arranged marriage, partner violence, child illness and death, miscarriage, endemic disease, racism, colonialism, imperialism, accusations of paedophilia, and mutilation of corpses.

Have you read The Embroidered Book, or would you consider reading it after this? I’m so so glad that I delved into this book and I’m very much here for more historical fantasies!

Fall of Giants, a review

IT IS FINALLY DONE!!! This huge book took me 1139 days to read, starting in January of 2019 and not finishing until February of 2022!! Now I did take at least a year long break in the middle, but still. That’s a bit of a ridiculous amount of time for me to get through Fall of Giants by Ken Follett.

This is a historical fiction that starts not long before the First World War broke out. We follow a large number of POVs from various locations, Wales, London, Germany, France, Russia, and the US. Not exactly all over the world (and a penny chew to whoever guesses first the race of every one of these characters) but from some varying viewpoints non-the-less.

It was really interesting to learn a little more about WWI in this way, it’s clearly a well researched book by Follett and it was genuinely interesting. This historical accuracy throughout this really saved the day for me, for the war itself, as well as events around it.

Something that I can’t avoid, however, is just how strong the male gaze was in this book. I’ve not read a book that was so clearly written by a man in a long while and it was difficult to adjust to this. There was actually some interesting and nuanced discussions around women gaining the vote, so it’s not that the writing itself was sexist. But every sex scene and interaction between men and women was just so clearly written for the male gaze and so obviously didn’t have any influence from any women.

In CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 6, Atmosphere: 6, Writing: 6, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 8, and Enjoyment: 7, which gives a score of 6.86 and a rating of 3.5*.

It’s not the highest rating, I know, but I do still want to continue with this series. Book 2 is based around WWII and book 3 around the Cold War. I think I could learn quite a bit from both of these and fingers crossed the representation of the female characters will be better.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: alcohol, death, family rejection, misogyny, murder, sexual content, sexual assault, rape, war.

Long Walk to Freedom – a review

This is a big book, as in 700+ pages in paperback big. So I wasn’t expecting to finish it any time soon and was actually taking it pretty slowly, reading it in small chunks…

I read 500+ pages of it in one evening cause I couldn’t put the damn thing down!

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This was gifted to me by the wonderful Kari from Kari-ng for books, and we both thought that I wouldn’t be starting or finishing it any time soon. But I was making good progress with War and Peace and I thought why not keep plodding my way through another big book reading sections at a time? So I did, I started doing that around November 2020. But in the beginning of March 2021 I read a few chapters during work. And then a few more just after work. And then when I looked up it was 11pm and I had finished the entire book!

If you couldn’t tell from the accidental 500 pages of reading, Mandela has a really accessible writing style that I personally really enjoyed. There were also, of course, so many interesting life events throughout this book that kept me interested. Seeing his young life and how as a young man he struggled to make a place for himself within an Apartheid world, and how this then developed into activism and fighting back against the oppression.

This was such an interesting read. I learnt so much about South Africa, about Mandela himself, and about how the rest of the world reacted to the oppression that was so blatant within South Africa. This is an incredible book and I’m so glad that I picked it up!

I did use CAWPILE on this book and got a rating, but the system isn’t designed for non-fiction books so take it with a grain of salt:

  • characters: 10
  • atmosphere: 8
  • writing: 9
  • plot: 9
  • logic: 9
  • enjoyment: 9

Totalling 9.00 meaning I rated this book 5*s! I know it’s a big one, and that bigger books can be intimidating, but I really do recommend giving this book a go. I promise it’s more readable than you think!

Highlight here for trigger warnings: violence against women and children, racial triggers

War and Peace Mini Review – Book 2

We’ve finished another chapter!! This is up a wee bit late in comparison to when the events happened, but on the 10th February me and Olivia officially finished Book 2 of War and Peace! This was a shorter chapter than the last, only coming in at 70 pages compared to the previous books 85. But that 15 pages? Wow, it felt like it was so much shorter!! How odd!

So far me and Olivia are having pretty similar views on the book, in that we both didn’t enjoy this war focus chapter as much as we enjoyed the peace based one. Whilst the focus on individuals works when we’re learning about society politics during peace times, with it allowing the reader to see the nuances between different points of view and political strategies, during war it just lost me. Often the individual we’re following has no clue what is happening on a wider scale, different parties on the same side are bad at communicating with one another and being in the middle of a battle is just disorientating. Whilst all of these reasons are why I didn’t enjoy these chapters as much as the last book, I do have to say that they show, in my opinion, a really well grasped concept of war during these times. The reason I’m confused and don’t know what is going on is because the individual’s we’re following would have been and it seems to be an accurate representation of war. I did also like that when some big positive news is reported to those as the very top of command, with the rider believing he is of great import, it’s a bit of a reality check when he realises that on a grand scale their win at their battle means little to the campaign and that even when we do get to comprehend what is going on with the troops we’re following that doesn’t mean we understand anything about the larger battle taking place.

Continuing from that, what I did also find very interesting in this chapter was the soldier’s viewpoints on war throughout. Prior to being in any battles they all seem very eager to get into the fighting, wanting to prove themselves for the glory of Russia and believing it to be quite poetic. When they’re in the battle, however, for many of them that goes completely out of the window as the realities of war sink in. I also enjoyed how each character has a different point of view on war after their battle is over. Some seem to have genuinely enjoyed themselves, this is mostly the upperclassmen who were on horseback and commanding people around. Whereas those on the ground seem to fall into either re-glorifying war after the battle has ended in a manner which seems very much like a PTSD reaction, burying reality deep down in order to carry on, or they’re coming face to face with its realities and wishing that they were back home where they were safe and scared with how the war is going to continue.

From this book my favourite three characters were Rostov, Tushin, and Andrew. Andrew is Prince Andrew, one of those we met in book 1 who has moved to the battlefield. Whilst in Russian high society he seemed reserved, uncomfortable and like he just wants to sink into the background, here on the battlefield he seems vibrant and full of life. The world of commanding battles seems to do him good and he is strong, thoughtful and much happier with his life. Rostov is a general foot soldier we follow. To compare to the peaceful chapters, he’s the war chapters Pierre. We love him! We don’t know him as well as a person, because we’ve only seen him as a soldier, but he also seems like a good man, peaceful and caring, and one we’re looking forward to following in future chapters. Lastly there’s Tushin. Staff Captain Tushin leads a group of men within the Russian army (no I don’t know the proper term and no I’m not going to look it up. We were calling him Mr T in our messages just be glad I checked his name!). He seems to really care for his men and was solidly holding ground without any of the help that should’ve been provided to him. In fact he made the French believe the majority of the Russian forces were with him and his guns! (they were most certainly not).

Overall, on reflection I quite enjoyed this war book, but during the reading itself it wasn’t as enjoyable as the peace book that came before. Next up we’re returning to Moscow and to Pierre and I’m very excited! After the developments at the end of book 1 his life is going to be quite dramatically changed and I’m looking forward to seeing how he handles all of this!