Lost in Time by A.G Riddle, a review

Lost in Time by A.G. Riddle was the August pick for the Goldsboro GSFF box. A Sci-Fi book set in both AD 2027 and 201,320,641 BC? I was totally here for it. Goldsboro did a complete redesign for the cover which is absolutely stunning. I’ll show you them both below.

Lost in Time by A.G. Riddle (original cover)

This book is a sci-fi mystery thriller, with time travel, murder, and a sprinkling of dinosaurs just for good measure. I absolutely adored the convolution of the time travel through this book. It’s always an almost impossible task to write about time travel, and I enjoyed how Riddle tackled this and actually mentioned the difficulties within the book. It made our scientists efforts seem that much more believable.

That sprinkling of dinos? One of only two things I didn’t like about this book. Because I loved that section!!! But it felt far too short, as though the publishers made Riddle cut out an entire section of the book. I would have loved if this novel had been 100-200 pages longer just to include more time in 201,320,641 BC. I really enjoyed the survival aspect being mixed with the mystery and I need more of that in my life! (and the dinos of course).

Lost in Time by A.G. Riddle (Goldsboro GSFF cover)

Despite me missing the lack of dinosaurs, the mystery section of this book back in AD 2027 is absolutely absorbing and I could barely put the book down! The twists and turns, the time travel and the knowledge we have compared with what we don’t? It was balanced beautifully by Riddle and I enjoyed every second. This was the massive redeeming factor for me, against the two things I didn’t like as much about the book.

That second thing? (the first being lack of Dinos god damnit) How the book ended. There is already what I would consider a good ending in this book. But there’s another couple of chapters after that, where Riddle ties everything up in a nice pretty pink bow and I just… that wasn’t needed. The readers are more intelligent than he’s giving them credit for. We can envision how things could progress. We don’t need the happy, cliché, ending handed to us on a platter. Or at least I don’t. It really brought the end of the book down for me. Thankfully it would’ve had to have been something huge to counterbalance the really well done body of the book.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 8, Writing: 9, Plot: 7, Intrigue: 9, Logic: 8, Enjoyment: 9, with a total of 8.43 and a 4.5* rating.

Highlight here for content warnings: death of parent, cancer, death, terminal illness, grief, murder, drug abuse, addiction, alcoholism, car accident, abandonment, false conviction.

This is a fantastic read, it’s not quite perfect but it is a wild ride that I really enjoyed! I’m glad I’m getting into some more Sci-Fi reads! Will you pick this one up?

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy, a review

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jenette McCurdy has a title designed to shock and intrigue, and it does that well, but the content inside of the book lives up to the title. It’s a dark, humorous, and sad look into the life of an unwilling child star, one who a lot of us grew up with on kids channel Nickelodeon.

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

As soon as I heard about this one, I knew I wanted to grab it. I had heard some about how Jennette’s life had been, but this title meant I knew I would learn so much more. This is an incredibly in depth memoir, Jennette doesn’t hold back. She talks about how her mother’s controlling attitude to Jennette’s stardom impacted her career and her life, as well as her body and her mental health. But she doesn’t shy away from the mistakes that she made herself, making her very human to the readers eyes and for me at least this heightened how much I could empathise with her.

Jennette’s mother wanted everything from her. She wanted her to be a best friend, an eternal child, she wanted to live vicariously through her in child stardom and to dress her up like a doll. Jennette learnt early on how to react to make sure her mother was happy, no matter her real emotions.

McCurdy mentions being discouraged from writing when she was younger, because her mum thought it would take her away from acting. I’m glad that this has been a breakout success because her writing is fantastic! I was completely engaged throughout this book, unable to put it down. I read it over two days, and even then only because I had to go to bed (it was 3am to be fair).

Whilst those of us who watched Jennette as a child star will find it really interesting to learn about the behind the scenes of iCarly, I think those who didn’t know about her stardom will also gain a lot from this book. It discusses child stardom and child abuse in a way that is not specific to that one show, and is something that we still need to think about in this day of TikTok and YouTube channels that are dedicated to children and run by their parents. How would McCurdy’s mum reacted to TikTok if she’d had Jennette now?

On CAWPILE I rated this: Credibility: 10, Authenticity: 9, Writing: 9, Personal impact, 9, Intrigue: 9, Informativeness: 9, and Enjoyment: 9, giving an average of 9.14 and a 5* rating.

I always include trigger warnings, but this book is very heavy so please do check these out before diving in (highlight them to read them, they’re hidden for those who really oppose any sort of spoiler): eating disorder, child abuse, death of parent, vomit, alcoholism, cancer, body shaming, mental illness, grief, panic attacks, addiction, sexual assault, gaslighting, fatphobia, domestic abuse, schizophrenia, self harm, adult/minor relationship, drug abuse, suicidal thoughts, dysphoria, rape, paedophilia, infidelity, religious bigotry, stalking, ableism, homophobia, misogyny, abandonment, classism, confinement.

This is a dark book in places, and not a light-hearted read. Yet McCurdy manages to make her writing so engaging and so personal that the impact isn’t so rough on the reader. This is one of the best written memoirs I’ve ever read and I’m so glad I listened to the hype and picked this one up.

Are you going to read I’m Glad My Mom Died? And did you watch iCarly when you were younger? I used to love the show!!

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin, a review (Tales of the City #1)

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin was gifted to me by Alex from On This Gay Day, and I thought that it wasn’t going to be for me. It’s very different to my usual reads, but I wanted to give it a shot. And I’m so glad I did!

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

This book is set in 1976 San Francisco, and follows multiple POVs of people living their lives. Like I said, not usually my vibe (I’m a heavy SFF kinda gal) but I ended up falling in love with these people and being so invested in their stories!

We start out by following a naïve young secretary, she has just moved away from her home to SF and is very much not expecting the life that is about to come her way. Laundromat Lotharios, pot-growing landladies, and it seems every nice man in this city bats for the other team. This LGTBQ+ book has fantastic representation in it. Especially considering it was first published in ’78, when we tend to assume things are white, straight, and cis, instead this book has a wide cast of characters which is so refreshing to read.

I adored learning about all of these characters too. Not all of them are good people, in fact most of them aren’t and make pretty big mistakes through the book. But at the same time, I just felt like I knew them so intimately. Maupin manages to place you headlong into their lives and I very much felt like a fly on the wall, in the best way. There is a plot lacing through this book, but it’s not the primary focus, instead very much being a character based read. Despite that? The plot is a really interesting one, and my one issue is that I wish it was developed just a little further! That’s totally a personal preference thing though, for those of you who completely go for character based reads? This is perfect.

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

Highlight here for trigger warnings: mentions of paedophilia, adultery, death.

This is an absolutely fantastic modern classic and I’m so grateful it was introduced to my life! I am of course going to be continuing with this series and I’m excited to spend more time with these characters! Also, there’s a Netflix series adapting this book that stars Elliot Page and you best bet that’s going on my watch list!

Fake Law by The Secret Barrister, a review

Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies by The Secret Barrister, is the second book by this anonymous author I’ve read (the self titled The Secret Barrister being the first). A non-fiction title, by a currently serving British Barrister, explaining in more depth the truth behind those astonishing sounding news articles.

Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies, by The Secret Barrister

We see so many news articles, especially since the prominence of social media, announcing that the state has stopped deportation of a terrorist because he owns a cat, and that they refused to treat your dying baby. But what is the legal truth behind these inflammatory headlines? Surprising few of you, they don’t tell the full truth. They barely tell any truth at all.

This book was fantastic, if anger inducing. Secret Barrister (SB) touches on so many points that the right wing fanatics have attempted to weaponise to further their own aims. SB breaks these down and instead shows the truth of these events. The terrorist with a cat? The cat was mentioned in passing as showing their deep roots, with a partner and a house, in Britain. And they weren’t even a terrorist. The refusal to treat a dying baby? That’s because there were no available treatments left, and it is usual to confirm that with a court order. The media just saw that as clickbait and ran with it.

With so much of the British Justice system rooted in Royal courts and approvals, it was odd to be reading this over the dates of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, with the mention of the Queens Courts, which are of course now the Kings. Something that most likely won’t bother anyone not British/in the Commonwealth, but just a little jarring to read on the day of her death and the days afterwards.

SB does a fantastic job a breaking down the law into something that regular civilians can comprehend, with citations added for those who wish to look into things in more detail. With his unique position of anonymity (he mentions his gender near the end of this book) it means that he can provide insight into how our courts are currently operating without having to pander to anyone.

I was already sceptical of these clickbait articles that we see everywhere on social media and in headlines, but Fake Law has solidified that scepticism. These articles always, either on purpose or through lack of legal knowledge from the reporters, miss out vital information that completely change the perspective.

SB uses some very high profile cases in his examples (Baby P and Jamie Bulger for example) which had a large amount of misinformation around them in the media. With these, and the other cases used (anonymised unless already in the public eye) the book is incredibly interesting. Learning more about these cases that I’ve been brought up with and have seen time and again on the news. But also just seeing how the British Justice system actually functions. Something that common folk don’t usually get to see.

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

Highlight here for trigger warnings: misappropriation of the law, discussions of child death, child abuse, sexual assault, incarceration.

This is an absolutely fascinating book. Of course for those interested in legal proceedings around the world, but also for those who want to know just how badly the media manipulate information surrounding high profile cases. I’m very glad that I picked this up and I’m definitely going to be picking up any other books SB has or will publish.

Timefulness by Marcia Bjornerud, a review

Timefulness by Marcia Bjornerud is a non-fiction on Geology that discusses how the Earth’s temporal rhythms are critical to humanities survival. This was gifted to me by the lovely Kari who is always here to encourage me to read more non-fiction and geological reads.

Timefulness: How thinking like a geologist can help save the world, by Marcia Bjornerud

I will start with something bad for this book, unfortunately. And frustratingly it comes from the third page from the end of the damn book. So annoying! The final paragraph for this section contains ableism directed towards autistic people. I’m going to include the quote beneath so you can see it.

As members of a technological society that can keep Nature at arm’s length most of the time, we have an almost autistic relationship with the Earth. We are rigid in our ways, savants when it comes to certain narrow obsession, but dysfunctional in other regards, because we wrongly view ourselves as separate from the rest of the natural world. Convinced that Nature is something outside us, a mute and immutable thing external to us, we are unable to empathise or communicate with it.

Timefulness by Marcia Bjornerud, end of Chapter 6, p179 in my paperback edition.

Thank you to Veronica and Bekka, two autistic bookish creators, who looked at this paragraph for me to confirm that it is icky from an own voices POV. Of course they are only two individuals out of a collective, but their voice is more meaningful than mine. Please check out their links and follow them as they’re wonderful people with great channels!

So. There’s that. Which immediately negated all the positives I had gained from this book. Personally? I can no longer recommend the book. But if you’d like to know my thoughts on the rest of the book, then the review continues below.

If you’re coming into this with minimal geological knowledge then don’t be concerned, as Bjornerud explains everything in the depth required to understand her points. However, it does use some more scientific terminology than I would expect from a base level book (not even geological, electrocariograms anyone?).

It does discuss the benefits of geology as a more mainstream discipline, along with mentioning the time timeline of geology itself. Something that seems to be common in quite a few geological non fictions but doesn’t seem to be all that pertinent to the authors intended thoughts here. However, if you’re wanting to know more about geology as a whole but don’t want to dive into a textbook? This could be a good shout!

This is very much a plead to humanity to recognise the speed at which alterations are happening to this planet. Faster than we’ve measured in prior geological timescales. And whilst the planet will endure long after we are gone, human bodies, and other living creatures on this floating rock, aren’t able to adapt to these conditions quickly enough and our lives with be snuffed out.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Research: 7, Uniqueness: 6, Readability: 5, Personal Impact: 5, Intrigue: 6, Informativeness: 6, and Enjoyment: 5, which gives an average of 5.71 and a 3* rating. But of course this is not inclusive of that very end section.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: ableism.

Unfortunately this is not a book I will be recommending. I think I’ll keep it on my shelves for a while, as it did have good points that I’d like to return to. But that ableism? Please, if you want a book like this yourself, look at picking a different one up.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, a review

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a historical fiction set during World War II, following POVs from both sides of the war. This is a book that had been on my owned tbr since 2016 so I was glad to be able to get to it thanks to the MiddleEarthAThon and the Mary-Shelley-A-Thon!

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

As mentioned there are 2 POVs in this book (as well as the occasional other POV to add context). The first is a young Parisian girl, Marie-Laure, who went blind at around 6 years old, her father made a detailed model of their area of Paris so that she would be able to learn her way around. The second point of view is from a young German boy, Werner, who is an orphan living in a rural coal town. Both end up being more involved in the second World War than they had expected, just trying to survive.

The character building throughout this novel, as both of our main characters grow from young children to young adults, is done so well. They are both growing up under awful circumstances which shape who they become, and it’s fascinating to see how their thoughts alter and change over time. Marie-Laure’s POV is crafted carefully, because she loses her sight early on her navigation of the world around her is done through her other senses. Doerr writes this so fantastically that you don’t even notice the lack of sight. Werner’s POV is a lot more naïve, he believes a lot of the traditional values that he was taught and seeing the world through this lens is incredibly interesting.

The core of the plot is one we all know, but the intricacies are done incredibly well. I was so invested in the personal lives of Marie-Laure and Werner and those they’re close to. I wanted to know how their lives were impacted by the war and this was done in a more unique manner than I’ve read before. I don’t want to ruin anything, so no spoilers here! But I do think this was done beautifully.

This book is also incredibly readable. The writing is engaging, with descriptive sentences packed into very short sections. Two pages is the average length for each section, and so you feel like you’re absolutely flying through the book despite its 500+ page length. I didn’t want to put this book down.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 10, Atmosphere: 10, Writing: 9, Plot: 9, Intrigue: 9, Logic: 8, and Enjoyment: 9 giving an average of 9.14 and a 5* rating!

Highlight here for trigger warnings: death, violence, war, genocide, rape, antisemitism, bullying, child death, gun violence, sexual violence and assault, torture, racism, religious bigotry, death of parent, murder, ableism, xenophobia, grief, body horror, cancer, child abuse, confinement, gore, mental illness, physical and emotional abuse, terminal illness, psychosis.

If you couldn’t tell? I adored this book! It’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read and I am so mad I left this on my shelves for SIX YEARS!! But now it lives on my 5 star shelf of fame 😍 Thanks MiddleEarthAThon and MaryShelleyAThon!

Have you read this book, or anything else by Anthony Doerr? I definitely want to grab Cloud Cuckoo Land now!

The River and the Book by Alison Croggon, a review

The River and the Book by Alison Croggon is my first book by her since I read the Pellinor Series. We all know how much I love that series (check out my handle) so I was super excited to dive into more from her!

This is a short, but beautiful, book that has solidified my love for Croggon’s writing. We follow a young girl named Simbala who is very important in her village. She can speak to the Book, which answers the villagers questions. It’s an honoured position and one that she understands the weight of. The river is also incredibly important to the village, but they notice that it is not as prosperous as it used to be. In fact the river seems to be poisoned from the cotton plantations upstream which don’t care about what they pump into the river. One day a western woman comes to the village, looking into the damage that the river pollution is causing. But she is the biggest danger of all to the village.

This book has important and nuanced discussions on white saviours and their “good” intentions versus the negative impacts that they leave in their wake. Simbala spends years attempting to correct the impact of this western woman, but nothing will ever be the same again.

From a literature perspective we get to see so much character development from Simbala, she starts off not knowing anything about the outside world. Because she doesn’t need to. But as that need changes she slowly learns more and sees others reactions. She still maintains her convictions and her beliefs, whilst becoming a different person than she was when she left her home. There is also fantastic worldbuilding. Whilst this is a very mild urban fantasy, Croggon still does a fantastic job of embellishing and explaining the world and I feel so invested in the lives of these people.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 8, Writing: 8, Plot: 10, Intrigue: 9, Logic: 8, and Enjoyment: 9 giving an overall score of 8.71 and a 4.5* rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: a passing mention of rape, poverty depicted, cultural appropriation, death of a parent, colonialism, xenophobia.

I loved this read and I’m so so glad that I finally delved into more from Croggon. This is a beautiful book and I really do recommend picking it up! (as well as obviously the Pellinor series – duh). Have you read anything from Alison Croggon before? Are you going to now? Let me know!!

The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi, a review (The Ending Fire Trilogy #1)

The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi was my Goldsboro GSFF box book, and it is absolutely stunning in its slip case. I was super excited to delve into this African and Arabian inspired fantasy that explores a world divided by the colour of ones blood.

The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi, standard UK cover

There are three blood types in the Empire. Red of the Embers, the ruling class. They have access to magic and complete control. Blue of the Dusters, the working class. They work on plantations and in factories and are treated as though less than human by the Embers. Clear of the Ghostings. They have their tongues cut out and their forearms cut off in penance for an uprising over 400 years ago.

First of all, the representation within this book is fantastic. Unless I’m mistaken every single character in this book is Black. There is also great LGBTQ+ representation, both in romantic and sexual relationships (enemies to lovers anyone?) and also in having transgender and non-binary/multi gendered people. And just to top it all off there is disability rep from the Ghosting characters who have been mutilated. However, they have developed their own language and have adapted their tools to work for them. Now I know that representation doesn’t make a good book, but in a good book? Well it just makes it even better!

We follow a drug addicted woman who has red blood but was raised as though she was a Duster. She was supposed to be the chosen one, but things don’t go her way and she misses her chance. She struggles with her addiction and also with her place in this society. She was raised to hate those with red blood, but that includes herself. We also follow a young woman living a life of plenty, the daughter of one of the most powerful women in the Empire. But she is hated by her mother, and lacks skills in the BloodWerk magic that other Embers can do. Finally, we follow another woman, this time one with transparent blood. She is a slave, as are all of her kin, but with how little the Embers notice her she is able to slip in and out of places she should never be. There is a lot more to her than meets the eye.

So not only is there the conflict present between the different classes of people, but there is the tidewind. It blows each night and is strong enough to rip the skin off of a person. If you get caught in it? You’re dead. It used to follow a pattern, you could make sure you were inside on time. But lately? The tidewind has been getting more powerful, more unpredictable, and more dangerous.

I adored the character development within this book, it’s pretty strong from two of our main characters and seeing their change and growth throughout the book is incredibly satisfying (as well as allowing us to learn more about this world along with them). I also need to know more about this world. I don’t want to spoil anything but there are so many secrets partially revealed and mysteries to unravel and I just need the second book already!

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

Highlight here for trigger warnings: addiction, violence, slavery, blood, classism, death, racism, torture, murder, child abuse, confinement, grief, ableism, alcoholism, emotional and physical abuse, genocide, police brutality, suicide attempt, colonisation.

If it wasn’t already obvious, I adored this book. We have politics, characters, a slow burn romance, and fights for human rights along with a mystery about the rest of the world. I LOVE IT. Please let me know if you have read this or if you’re thinking about it. Because I need to chat with people about this book!!!

Fire by Kristin Cashore, a review (Graceling Realm #2)

Fire by Kristin Cashore is the second book in the Graceling series. It’s also actually a prequel, being set before the events of book one – Graceling. I read Graceling earlier this year and really enjoyed it so I was excited to dive into Fire when it came up as my August tbr jar pick.

Fire by Kristin Cashore

I really enjoyed this book! I was forcing myself to put it down and go to bed each night! In this we follow a young woman called Fire who is half human, half monster. But in this world being a monster means being irresistible and Fire has to work hard to stop every person around her throwing themselves at her feet.

This is more than just about her dealing with her monstrous influence, however. It’s also a book about war, spies, friendship, love, and learning about yourself. Everything you need in a good YA fantasy! I adored seeing Fire’s growth throughout the book and I was incredibly invested in her relationships with those around her. From her father figures, to possible romantic relations, to her guards who cared for her separately from her monstrous influence.

This book also calls back (or forward?) to Graceling, with at least one recognisable character from the previous book present. I don’t want to spoil anything by saying who that is, but they’re mentioned in the prologue so it won’t take you long to find out.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 9, Writing: 9, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 9, and Enjoyment: 9 with an average of 8.71 and a 4.5 star rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: animal abuse, animal death, animal torture, assault, attempted sexual assault, death (parental), gaslighting, grief, murder, rape (mentioned), suicide (discussed), torture, violence.

My only complaint about this series so far is that it has me caring about and being deeply invested in the lives of one set of characters – and then completely moves in time in the next book! Book 3 is set a fair few years after Graceling apparently and I just need more of Katsa and Fire!! (I’m not actually mad at this, if it wasn’t clear. I just want more from these young women!)

Have you read any of the books in this series? Let me know your thoughts!

🎇I’ve FINALLY read it!🎇

It’s slightly ridiculous that it’s taken me this long, but I finally read The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, the first of three parts of The Lord of the Rings. This is a classic high fantasy that defined the genre, and for some reason I never read it when I was younger. Well at least I’m starting to fix that now.

I had been worried that I wouldn’t get on with this book. I’ve been told there’s excessive descriptions of the environment, and as a character driven reader that can be pretty boring for me. But I actually ended up really enjoying the reading experience. I think part of this is because I listened to it via audiobook. I got to have someone telling me these details, and in that way it felt like less of a chore and more of a story.

Tolkien was able to lay so much foundational work in this first third, with emotions set and plotlines started for stories that I know continue throughout the next two thirds. It was also a delight, as someone who enjoys reading high fantasy books, to see the inspiration that so many of my favourite authors had drawn from this book. From the music and the taverns, to the monsters and the hero’s.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 7, Atmosphere: 8, Writing: 8, Plot: 9, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 7, and Enjoyment: 7, giving an average of 7.57 and a 4* rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: child abuse, kidnapping and captivity.

I’m so pissed that it took me this long to get around to these books! I enjoyed The Hobbit too (also via audiobook) and to think I could’ve read these years ago! I just need to finish up the books and delve into the movies now!!

Have you read these? And if not do you plan to or are they not on your tbr? I’d love to know your thoughts on this classic high fantasy story!