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!
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!
Babel by R.F. Kuang. Where do I even start with this incredibly hyped and very popular book? With editions from Illumicrate, Fairyloot, Waterstones and Barnes & Nobles it looked like everyone had this book!
This dark academia fantasy novel is set in Oxford in the 1800s following international students in a translation college at the uni. In this world, silver working provides the power that was made possible in the real world through the industrial revolution. This involves matching similar words across languages and utilising their meanings. But despite relying on foreigners for this work, the English still maintain their “superiority” over people of colour and look to exploit them and their work for their own gain.
The etymology side of this book is absolutely fascinating. The sheer research that Kuang must have done on such a large range of languages is incredibly impressive and really demonstrates the beauty of language.
Kuang also integrates the colonial ideals of exploitation of non-whites for the gains of the empire throughout this novel, and the impact both mentally and physically this takes on people of colour who have been taken under the wings of the empire. These people have been given the privilege of an education not offered to the rest of their countrymen, and they feel like they should be grateful for this. But they were only given this because there was a “use” for them that white students couldn’t provide. And none of the innovations developed will be passed on to China, India, the Caribbean – the places which provided our main characters with the culture and language that Oxford and the Babel Institute finds so useful. Seeing this complex play of emotions and manipulation through the lenses of our characters throughout the novel is fascinating and heartbreaking.
I really enjoyed how Kuang interlinked real history, historical events and technological innovation, with the magical potential discovered in this world. It adds an extra weight to the racism and sexism portrayed, as the reader can’t escape by thinking this is just a fantasy. These events happened, in a slightly different manner, in real life.
I really cannot speak truly to everything this book contains and all of the aspects of it. This book is a work of art. Also, as a white woman I’m not going to be impacted in the same way that others will be. But. This book is god damn gorgeous. I will say, for the reading experience, it is a very slow read. That is usually something that I really don’t enjoy out of a book, I like a fast paced read. However, it works absolutely perfectly within this book. I found myself wanting to savour and relish every sentence and I was more than happy to make my way slowly through this book. So go into this expecting it to be slow, but don’t let that put you off if you’re usually a fast paced reader like me.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 10, Atmosphere: 9, Writing: 9, Plot: 9, Intrigue: 9, Logic: 9, and Enjoyment: 10 which gives a score of 9.29 and a 5* rating!
Highlight here for content warnings: racism, colonisation, racial slurs, death, violence, xenophobia, classism, child abuse, grief, war, sexism, suicide, murder, gun violence, misogyny, death of parent, emotional abuse, enslavement, torture, physical abuse, cultural appropriation, hate crime, islamophobia, trafficking, gaslighting, addiction, confinement, drug abuse, infidelity, self harm, kidnapping.
In my opinion? This book is 100% worth the hype. It’s a gorgeous, multi-facited, read that has inspired me to reach for more books from R.F. Kuang. I’m hoping to read The Poppy War in December! This will sit pride of place on my shelves and is a definite contender for my book of the year!
Set mostly in the UK, with a small sojourn into the Nordic realms, this is a post-pandemic dystopian novel. One that isn’t suitable for some at this time, but that I thought handled the topic well and should be readable for almost all.
I went into this book reasonably blind, and I was surprised by some of the themes and content. There are heavy themes of motherhood (in both an adoptive and birth capacity) that as a child-free person by choice, were unexpected. I think anyone who has children may get more out of this aspect of the novel than I did.
I had actually expected this, from the synopsis, to be a fantastical read. For our MC to be some other species. It’s not, it’s definitely more in the “survival novel” bracket and is as realistic as possible for a scenario that isn’t occurring in real life.
I did really enjoy the world building within this book. How it sets up our main character to be realistically isolated from the general population and therefore to survive the pandemic. I also liked how Hale had our MC traverse and reach the north west of England, it shows her understanding and familiarity with the land and how one could eek out survival upon it.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 6, Atmosphere: 6, Writing: 5, Plot: 6, Intrigue: 5, Logic: 6 and Enjoyment: 6 with an average of 5.71 and a 3* rating.
Highlight here for content warnings: death, animal death, bullying, gore, medical content, grief, pregnancy, suicide, homophobia.
This is a decent wee book, but not a new favourite. It’s also one that I won’t be recommending to everyone, as I don’t feel like it has the widest appeal. But it is an interesting book and if it’s piqued your interest I do recommend picking it up!
Is this tbr a little late? Yeah! But better late than never 😅
October did not go great for me reading wise, but it gave me the reality check I needed that reading is a hobby that I’m supposed to enjoy, not stress about. So although I’ve got a fairly big tbr for November, I’m not going to stress if I don’t manage to read all the books.
I’m also transferring books over from last months tbr, so let’s start with those before I move onto the new books on the list.
Dracula by Bram Stoker is a well known Gothic classic, and one that I got over halfway through in October. I’m really enjoying it so far and looking forward to finishing up the story.
Illumicrate’s book for last month, The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean is a horror standalone set mainly in the north east of England (love) about people who eat books and people who eat minds. I’m only about 20% of the way into this one but it’s another I have high hopes about enjoying.
And then Goldsboro’s GSFF book last month was Mindwalker by Kate Dylan. A YA Sci-fi with Marvel vibes, this is definitely a fun one and I’m looking forward to the conclusion.
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb is one of my “12 in 12 months” books and I’d like to be able to at least make a good dent in all of those. It’s also a high fantasy, which I’ve not read for a while.
And the last for transferred books is How To Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie. I only read 35 pages of this last month so I’ve barely scraped the surface of this one, but I’m intrigued and always down for a death themed read.
Now onto the books that are new for this month.
The wonderful people over at Footnote sent me Between Starshine and Clay by Sarah Ladipo Manyika, which is a non-fiction work where Ladipo Manyika has conversations with people across the African diaspora. It sounds completely fascinating and I’m really excited to dive in.
Then we have this month’s Illumicrate read: The Whispering Dark by Kelly Andrew. This has own voices deaf representation and seems like it’s going to be a dark read. Right up my street.
Goldsboro GSFF for this month is Silver Under Nightfall by Rin Chupeco. I loved The Never Tilting World so I’m excited to read this vampire book from them, I’ve not read a vampire book in years!
Then Dune by Frank Herbert is also on my “12 in 12 months” list so I’m trying to squeeze this one is as well, buddy reading it with Eleanor and Chels. This is a classic sci-fi space opera and the first time I’ve dove into one of those. Hoping I enjoy it!
And the final book on my tbr is Erotic Stories for Punjabi Women by Balli Kaur Jaswal, one that Hannah from Ladette M put on my tbr for this month. This is a contemporary, which I don’t usually read. But I trust Hannah so I’m looking forward to diving into this one!
And that’s the tbr! Like I said, if I don’t read these books it’s not the end of the world. Fingers crossed I do but I’m just taking it easy and looking after my mental health.
With us being almost half way through the month, I hope that your tbr is going well! Good luck for the rest of November!
Bitter by Akwaeke Emezie is the prequel to Pet, a dystopian (utopian?) YA novel that follows a mute transgender girl named Jam who discovers that her utopian city isn’t as perfect as she was lead to believe. Bitter follows Jam’s mother, Bitter, when she was a teen and shows us how the world came to be as it was in Pet.
This book doesn’t have to be read after Pet, but I personally think that’s the better choice as we meet some of the adults in Pet as children in Bitter.
I really enjoyed how this novel tackled the trauma of dealing with racism, and how activism and rallies and marching aren’t an option for everyone. But how those people are still valid in each and every way they help. I also adored Bitter’s friends, they’re such supportive people and although they’re human and they make mistakes they always come through in the end.
This book is darker than Pet. Pet reads as young YA or older Middle Grade. Bitter, however, is firmly within the YA bracket. There’s a fair amount of violence depicted, as well as the way that topics are discussed being more in depth. Something to be aware of going in, especially if giving this book to a younger reader.
The monsters present in this book are a little darker than in Pet, but I still enjoy how they are used to demonstrate how certain people and groups react. They’re an exaggeration (mostly) but show the possible consequences and how things can go too far. But also how going too far sometimes is the only option. Emezie is able to use them to add this nuance into the narrative without distracting from the intended message by introducing complex human choices into the mix.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Writing: 8, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 8, and Enjoyment: 8 for an average of 8.14 and a 4.5* rating.
Highlight here for content warnings: police brutality, violence, death, blood, panic attacks, self harm, gun violence, murder, war, racism, child abuse, death of parent, abandonment, classism, ableism, mental illness, emotional abuse, homophobia, bullying, medical trauma, lesbophobia.
This is a really fantastic prequel. It tells us a lot more about the history of the characters and the political and personal climate around them, whilst still remaining very close to the individual characters and their stories. If you’ve read and enjoyed Pet then this is a worthwhile novella that you’ll be so glad you picked up.
Have you read this or Pet? Did you love them too? Let me know!
This wasn’t my favourite of all four books (that was The Travelling Cat Chronicles 😍) but I did enjoy it a lot! It was the first of all four to be truly fantastical. Our main character is a young boy who has just lost his grandfather, the man who was raising him, and is closing up the bookshop he used to run. He is greeted by a talking cat who takes him through four labyrinths in order to save literature.
I enjoyed that the four labyrinths linked to the Greek minotaur and that they all had our protagonist fighting the antagonists with his pure love of books. But I did find that Natsukawa’s message was hitting us over the head just a bit. There was no real nuance in the message, instead it was very obvious that this man was using this as a vessel to complain about current reading trends. Do I disagree with his points? No! But it was still quite heavy handed.
I also felt a little called out at points 😅 we’re so focused on reading as much as we can (okay me, I’m focused on reading as much as I can) that we don’t take pleasure in slowly revisiting a past book, time and time again. I think I need to reread this short novel at some point to really get the idea into my head that it’s okay not to be reading new books all the time!
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 7, Writing: 7, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 7, and Enjoyment: 7 giving an average of 7.29 and a 4* rating.
Highlight here for content warnings: death, kidnapping, grief, death of parent.
Overall, this is a sweet book with a very strong message. One that heavy readers will likely appreciate but that those who don’t devote their life to reading may find overtly over the top. If you’re reading this blog? You’re likely to be a heavy reader, so try this book out! It’s a short one and you might end up loving it anyways, like me!
The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco was a duology that was on my radar but I hadn’t thought to dive in. That was changed when Kari sent me both books (thank you!) and I knew that I’d enjoy them if they were recommended by her.
Enjoy this I did! This is a fantastic mix of sci-fi and fantasy. We’re in a world that has stopped spinning on its axis, meaning one half is frozen and the other burns under the sun’s heat. To fix this? Magic.
There are multiple POVs through this book, and whether they’re in the dark or the light is signified by a moon or a sun at the chapter start. But there are two characters in each hemisphere and there’s no distinguishing mark between them. That was my one frustration with this book, having to figure that out through context. Other than that, I adored our 4 POVs. They all brought really unique aspects and viewpoints to the story, without having unconvincing miscommunication.
The magic and science within the book were fascinating too. One hemisphere being boiling and one freezing is what would happen to the earth if it stopped spinning on its axis in real life, and I love that this was brought into the novel. But I also really enjoyed the magical aspect and how that was what caused the Earth to stop rotating in the first place (as well as being an aspect of the high born’s daily lives)
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 8, Atmosphere: 8, Writing: 8, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 8, Enjoyment: 8, with an average of 8 (no surprise) and a 4.5* rating!
Highlight here for content warnings: abuse (mentioned), animal death, death (discussed), gore, harassment (mentioned), PTSD depiction, sexual assault (mentioned), violence, war themes.
This is such a great first book in a trilogy. I think the first two sentences of my original goodreads review sum it up well. “I have passed. I am deceased”.
Raging Star by Moira Young is the third and final book in the Dust Lands trilogy, a YA dystopian series that first released back in 2011. And I’ve finally finished the trilogy! Took me long enough 🤣
Blood Red Road was a fantastic start to this trilogy, unfortunately this book? It was an abysmal ending to the trilogy. There was so much potential to this book, the plot that Young has created is fantastic but the execution was so poor that it all but nullifies the interest the plot generates.
The character development throughout the book was almost null, with a lot of the characters making nonsensical and quite frankly confusing decisions despite the events of the previous two books. No one seems to have learnt from the prior events at all and the same mistakes are repeated. Additionally, Young tries so hard to create a group dynamic that will engage the reader. Unfortunately this pretty much fails, with the group not getting on, even a little bit, and there being little to no chemistry present.
Honestly? If this hadn’t been the final book in a trilogy I would have DNF’d this book. It was a pretty big waste of my time, but I’m a completionist so I just needed to get it done! What a disappointment for the end of this series!
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 5, Atmosphere: 4, Writing: 4, Plot: 6, Intrigue: 3, Logic: 2, and Enjoyment: 3 with an average of 3.86 and a 2.5* rating.
Highlight here for content warnings: graphic violence, birth, child taken, death.
I am so disappointed with this book, and so glad that the series is over. If you don’t have the completionist streak like I do then I highly recommend you don’t finish out the series! Save yourself the disappointment and read something else!
Failure to Communicate by Kaia Sønderby is an indie published sci-fi novel that was recommended to me a few times and was bought for me by the wonderful Veronica. I just had to give it a go and I’m so glad I did!
This indie published Science Fiction is such a fun read. We follow Xandri, an autistic woman in a universe where humans selectively altered genetics to remove neurodivergencies, meaning that she is just as, if not more, misunderstood to neurotypical people as today. She works as a Xeno-Liason, communication between her crew and any new species they discover and her methods are unique.
I really adored learning more about the characters as we progressed throughout this book. They really develop, both individually and also as a cohesive group. The different cultures that were present on the various planets that they visited were also fascinating. I have to admit as well that I adored the ship, and that was what solidified the Murderbot-esque feelings I got from this book. If you liked one I definitely think you’ll like the other!
I was recommended this book by two autistic reviewers, Bekka and Veronica, and they’ve stated that they love the representation in here. It’s not something I can speak on, but as someone who isn’t autistic I can say that it’s a fantastic delve into the internal workings of someone’s thoughts. And knowing that my friends say the rep is good? It just added an extra level.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9. Atmosphere: 9, Writing: 8, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 8 and Enjoyment: 8 giving an average of 8.29 and a 4.5* rating.
Highlight here for trigger warnings: ableism (intolerance of autism & neurodivergence), bullying, childhood (sexual) abuse, disordered eating, genocide (mentioned), gore, gun violence (mentioned), violence.
I’m so glad that I was pushed to pick up this book because I enjoyed it so much! I will definitely be picking up the sequel to this, and I’ll probably try out anything else written by Kaia Sønderby because I just enjoyed this book so much!
Have you got any books with good autism rep that you recommend? Have you picked up this book or anything else by this author? Let me know!