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!

War and Peace, a review

This review can’t do this book justice. The book is too big. Too many topics are covered. But as you most likely already know, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is a Russian classic centred around the invasion of Napoleon into Russia in 1812.

The title of this book is actually quite literal. With us following characters both in the warzone and on the front lines of this battle, as well as back home in the estates and the cities. The two parts were often quite separate, and overall we (give me a mo) preferred the peace sections over the war sections, pretty much every time.

The “we” is because I buddy read this with the wonderful Olivia-Savannah from Olivia’s Catastrophe through most of 2021. We started out reading one chapter each day on the 1st January, and thanks to us switching it up and reading two chapters on weekends we finished the book on the 28th September rather than the 31st December!

Reading this along with Olivia had a large role in my enjoyment of it. It adored discussing the book with her every day, with it often being the highlight of the day!

Now onto the actual book. There was some fantastic character development through this tome, with us following some from childhood into adulthood and some from adulthood into old age. Tolstoy managed to make these characters progressions feel real, it wasn’t idealised, nor was it over exaggerated. Instead it felt like a realistic evolution based on each individuals circumstances.

My two favourite characters were Pierre and Nat, pretty much from the start! I did also love Boris at the start, but liked him less as the book went on. And I didn’t like Andrew at the start, but definitely liked him more as the book progressed.

In fact me and Olivia frequently mentioned that with the peace chapters they often felt a bit like a British soap opera, like Coronation Street or EastEnders, in how dramatic the individual plotlines were! It was so entertaining!

However, the plot wasn’t as strong for me as the characters and there reactions were. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty going on. These characters lives were set around the very real events of 1812, which was in the recent past for Tolstoy as he wrote this in 1869, and lots of details in regards to the war and the response from those “back home” were included. It wasn’t as in depth as the characters though, and it didn’t feel as well rounded. I think Tolstoy may have been relying on a level of intimacy with the events that the Russians he was writing for would have, and that your modern day Western reader doesn’t posses. So I wont fault him for this, but it is something to be aware of going in.

On CAWPIILE I rated this book: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 6, Writing: 7, Plot: 5, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 8, and Enjoyment: 5. An overall score of 6.86 being a 3 star read.

For me the war chapters brought this book down from a possible 4 star rating. But the nail in the coffin was the epilogue. The epilogue (at least in the Maude translation) is split into two. One part looks ahead to the characters futures, the second is a philosophical discussion. To quickly and succinctly tackle part one? It ruined a lot of the character development for me. The development we saw through the whole tome isn’t present here with the characters reverting to previous iterations of themselves or evolving into something utterly unrealistic. I personally have just “forgotten” about this ending and leave it where it was at the end of the main text.

Now onto epilogue two. This is basically the entire reason Tolstoy wrote this book. He originally wrote an essay on his thoughts on Napoleon and the war, but no one wanted to publish it. So in order to get his thoughts out he instead wrote this entire massive book. That’s also part of why I didn’t like the war sections, they were often filled with the same thing as this second epilogue: philosophical discussions on the war from Tolstoy’s point of view. What he thinks of Napoleon (he really doesn’t like him and boy does he make that clear) as well as the Russian’s tactics and how they won the war. He just goes on and on, repeating the same point with different words about the philosophy of history. And these chapters (because of course the epilogue is more that a chapter long each) feel like Tolstoy is beating you over the head with a philosophical hammer. It absolutely ruins the rest of the book.

I understand many people are completionists. I am too. But if you can bare to not read the epilogue, or to just skim read it, I really recommend doing that. You’ll have a much more positive view of the book overall!

I’m still very glad I read this classic though. There are so many interesting discussion to be had, I adored the chats that me and Olivia had each day, and it’s a chunky classic that’s off of my shelves! I really do think that it’s a good book and for the experience it was worth the long read. Just beware the epilogues!

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