Book Review: Fringe War (Rachel Aukes)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

Interesting, but a little overwhelming.

TL;DR – Freedom fighters kick back against the government that oppresses them, war ensues. Full of plotting, politics and spaceships.

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Ragdoll Rating: 3.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of sci-fi

About the Book…

Fringe War is the fourth book in a series I haven’t read. It follows the story of a group of freedom fighters in their struggle to wrestle control and a better life from the hands of a corrupt – and evil – government. It’s your classic space-based underdog story.

What I thought…

I’ve given this book 4 stars, although if I’m honest I feel I should give it three. I’ll explain that first and then move on to the book itself. I personally felt that there were too many characters and names being thrown about it this book – I really, really struggled to keep track of who was who, and even now I could only name two characters, and I only really know who one of them is. For this reason, I would have rated this book a three – however, I am erring on the side of caution, as this could just be my own issue rather than a genuine problem with the book so I would encourage you to make up your own mind on that front.

The story itself – or at least, the bits I could keep track of – were very interesting. I enjoyed reading about the political landscape of The Collective, and the unpleasant motivations of Heid, who seems to run the parliament. There were a lot of references to things that must have happened earlier in the series that influenced a lot of the decisions made by the characters, and I would definitely consider picking up the rest of the series to learn about them.

I think the story had a good balance of action and political thought, which made for an easy read, aside from the issues addressed above.

Final Thoughts…

This book definitely seems to have the potential to be really enjoyed by someone who can get their head around all the characters. So if that sort of thing isn’t a problem for you, I’d recommend you give it a try.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Nighthawks (Jeremy Flagg)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

I wanted to enjoy this more than I did.

TL;DR – A book about super-humans, government oppression and revenge. An enjoyable concept I just couldn’t get in to.

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Ragdoll Rating: 3/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of X-men type novels

About the Book…

In the world of Nighthawks, super-powers exist and are heavily resisted by the American government. Powered humans (or, Children of Nostrodamus) are locked up, killed or forced to live in an uninhabitable wasteland – shunned by society. A powerful psychic made sends out a number of letters before her death, letters that bring together a group of Children who find themselves working together to fight back against their oppressors.

What I thought…

Nighthawks follows a fairly classic formula that I personally really enjoy. Powered humans are oppressed by somebody and spend the rest of the book fighting back. This is exactly my kind of plot, and because of this, I had high hopes for this book which unfortunately weren’t met.

My first issue, which admittedly was the smaller of the two, is that the action sequences, particularly the fight scenes felt a little sterile. I’m not sure if it was a language or a pacing issue, but for whatever reason, I felt distinctly underwhelmed after the various fight scenes.

The bigger issue came from the fact the I really – and I mean really – struggled to follow the story as it moved along. The story uses multiple points of view which I found a little confusing at times given the authors tendency to switch POV and then spend a little while using impersonal pronouns (she/he) instead of names. In addition, I struggled to follow the plot from one point to another. At times it seemed to leap ahead – the final section of the book, where the characters invade a prison seemed to come out of nowhere and left me wondering if I’d skipped several chapters by accident. If I’m honest, I would struggle to give more than an extremely broad-strokes recap of the plot of this book.

Oh yeah, and one final thing. This book also contained the phrase “Conthan stood up and Dwayne gave him an awkward male-on-male hug.” A sentence I hate so much I almost knocked a Button off the rating for.

That said, I did enjoy elements of the book. I particularly enjoyed the way the Children’s powers work. They are each unique, and range from the mundane to the devastating. I liked that the powers had a downside to them, that prevented their over-use, the characters had to be careful using their powers or they would lose control. It was an interesting mechanic. I also enjoyed learning about the way society treats the Children of Nostradamus, and the interplay between government thugs and civil rights groups, something I would like to see explored further.

Final Thoughts…

I’m not sure, personally, if I would continue reading the series. My reason for this is that I’m not sure I could deal with the writing style, rather than the content itself. As such, you might find the writing suits you perfectly and enjoy this book a great deal, so I suppose you should give it a shot and find out.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Queen of Zazzau (J.S. Emuakpor)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

Totally kick-ass!

TL;DR – A smashing tale of war, love, magic and gods, with seriously strong female characters

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Ragdoll Rating: 5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of historical fantasy, fans of strong female leads

About the Book…

Amina is a princess, heir to the throne of Zazzau and a destiny of war and bloodshed. Amina must prove herself as a warrior and lead Zazzau against hordes of foreign enemies and strange magic. But the god of war has his sights set on Amina, and ruling the nation soon proves to be far more complicated than Amina could have possibly imagined.

Queen of Zazzau follows Amina from her beginnings as the heir apparent, through war and love and impossible bargains. The book takes place over some 80 years, during which Amina becomes a strong military leader, a Queen and the wife of a god. It is full to the brim with battles and magic, gods and romance.

What I thought…

I put off reading this book for a while as it is pretty long, clocking in at 510 pages – and what a selection of pages they are!

My favourite thing about this book is its lead character, Amina. Amina is a wonderful example of well-rounded, strong female lead. She’s powerful, clever, loving, dedicated – she is brilliant. We get to explore so many facets of Amina’s character as the story progresses, from romantic interests, battle tactics, diplomacy…even an unexpected pregnancy. Life throws so much at Amina, and she doesn’t take it lying down, but at the same time, she has this fragile side that feels so real – she struggles to keep going at times, allowing fear and panic to take hold of her. Amina is such a great character for so many reasons, and I’m super pleased to have read her story.

Another thing I loved was the way religion is explored in this book. Strictly speaking, the Zazzauwa are Muslim, but for many, if not most of them the old religion still exists – a host of other gods hold some sway over the workings of the world and I found it really interesting to see how the two quite disparate set of beliefs gelled together into a functioning belief system.

My only complaint about this book was the ending. Now, I need to say before I go further, that I did like the ending – I’m just not sure I’m comfortable with it. Feel free to skip this paragraph as it does contain spoilers and isn’t hugely important.

So an old prophecy has linked Amina and the god of war for years, and when he first appears, Amina wants no part of it. She’s quite happy as she is, she is already in love with someone else but the god of war insists that she will be his eventually. This turns out to be true, but when she finally does go to him, she offers herself in exchange for his influence over a battle that will decide the fate of her kingdom and everyone in it. So Amina becomes his wife, and then the god drops the bombshell that she will now feel intense sexual desire, which he will only satisfy when he feels like it. She is free to sleep with other men, but they MUST die afterwards. I think we can all agree this is beyond creepy and straight up abusive – but that’s gods for you, those guys are jerks. Anyway, because of this, Amina is prevented from properly experiencing love for her entire life – which, incidentally, is spent eternally young, so for 80 years she can’t allow herself to love another man, instead of taking a number of ‘temporary husbands’ and killing them, or periodically having sex with the god of war. Which brings us to the end. Turns out, after all this, she completely loves the god of war and they ride off into the sunset together.

OK spoilers over, on to my point. As I’ve said in other reviews, I’m autistic – I have trouble understanding how other peoples minds work. But to me, the end doesn’t make sense. I’m not sure what I would have wanted in its place, and I’m not begrudging the bitter-sweet ending, but still, it doesn’t sit quite right with me. But that could just be my weird interpretation – don’t let it prevent you reading the book and making up your own mind.

Final Thoughts…

This book is an epic tale with so much to love about it. I’m really pleased I read it and will definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for anything J.S. Emuakpor might release in the future.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Cretaceous (Tadd Galusha)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link

For the dinosaur lover in your life.

TL;DR – A superb book about living life, the dinosaur way.

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Ragdoll Rating: 5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Dinosaur fans, folks who appreciate the comics as a medium

About the Book…

Cretaceous is my best guess at the perfect use of the comics medium. The story follows a t-rex as he goes about his daily life, doing t-rex things in a t-rex way. It’s full of dinosaurs and drama and it’s super freakin’ sweet.

What I thought…

The first thing that needs to be said about this book is it includes no dialogue. Not. One. Word. No speech, no narration, NOTHING. And yet this book is absolutely soaked in drama and emotion.

We follow a T-rex, a loving, family-oriented T-rex, who goes out hunting to support its family. But disaster strikes! His partner and babies are slaughtered by opportunistic dinosaurs! Tragedy! What follows is an exploration of life in the past, mixed with a tale of revenge. We also follow a triceratops in its battle for survival.

The art in this book is beautiful and so expressive – it moves me better than words ever could. I felt like I had a deep understanding of the characters by the end of this book, and they don’t even have names. Galusha expertly uses his art to tell stories of love, revenge, survival and family, all without saying a word.

To top it off, at the back there is a little section telling you what all the creatures were and compares their height to an average human, which was a great touch.

Final Thoughts…

I loved this book, and if you appreciate the comics medium, you should definitely give it a go.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Pilu of the Woods (Mai K. Nguyen)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

Intensely beautiful in every way.

TL;DR – A beautiful story about overcoming your demons

Book of the Month
Book of the Month (November 2018)

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Ragdoll Rating: Exceptional

Recommended For: Anybody who struggles with the nasty voices in their heads.

About the Book…

Poor Willow. Life feels so hard. She runs away from home into the forest after an argument with her sister, where she makes a discovery. Willow finds a forest spirit, Pilu, crying in the woods. Pilu has run away too, but now she is lost. Willow knows the woods better than anyone and offers to return Pilu to her home safely. The pair become firm friends immediately but the monsters are not far behind.

What I thought…

This book is so beautiful. Willow has these monsters in her head, monsters that make her angry and aggressive. She tries to bottle them up, to keep them subdued and hidden – an attempt at being strong. But it doesn’t work. The monsters get angrier the more they are resisted and then they burst out and take over, causing Willow to do things she really regrets.  But with Pilu’s help, Willow learns to overcome the monsters through compassion and understanding. This book shows a real deep, clear understanding of what it’s like to live with little demons in your head – monsters that don’t feel part of you, creatures you despise. It’s something I go through constantly, and to see Willow work through things compassionately is so close to my own personal experience it genuinely made me weep.

The story also deals with loss, feelings of isolation, and friendship. It’s so wholesome and heartwarming.

I’m making a complete pig’s ear of explaining the story, but trust me, it is wonderful.

The illustrations, also, and so pretty. Nguyen’s art style is adorable, and the characters are all so sweet, you just want to hug them until everything is alright again.

Final Thoughts…

This book was completely beautiful in every way, and I will absolutely be buying a physical copy as soon as I am able.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: St Paul’s Labyrinth (Jeroen Windmeijer)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

Interesting story, but not my cup of tea.

TL;DR –A story of conspiracy, kidnapping and alternative theories on Christianity

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Ragdoll Rating: 2.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: People who enjoy religious conspiracy

About the Book…

When an unknown tunnel is discovered under the streets of Leiden, it’s an exciting time for historians. But when one colleague winds up dead, and another kidnapped, Peter de Haan’s life is about to get difficult. Peter is forced to follow a trail of clues to rescue his friend, and finds himself learning more and more about the mysterious cult of Mithras.

St Paul’s Labyrinth is story of religious conspiracy, and devotes a long time to offering an alternative explanation for the history of Christianty – so obviously, if that’s going to rub you the wrong way, probably best to avoid it.

What I thought…

This book has me split down the middle, and I’ll tell you for why. I picked up this book hoping for your standard religious conspiracy treasure hunt style story, which is exactly what I got. I just found myself hopping between liking and hating bits really rapidly.

What I liked about this book was the alternative history it provides. The book suggests, among other things, that Jesus and the rest of the Jewish people were totally fine with each other, until St Paul got spurned and humiliated by a Jewish priest and decided he was going to destroy Judaism. He did this, according to the book, by re-tooling the concept of Jesus, to fit around the existing story of Mithras, and then spreading it around. This caused a big divide in the Jewish faith, and sparked of Christianity which really is just a collection of rituals and stories about a completely different god. This is explored in considerable detail during the course of this book, and that’s sort of what bugs me. If you’d handed me this book and said “Here is a well referenced work of non-fiction explaining many of the inconsistencies in early Christianity” I would have eaten it up with a spoon. Religious history is my JAM. But it was a bit much in the middle of a fiction work, and I personally found that the story was less interesting than the religious history element, which was a bit jarring.

What I didn’t like was the quantity of analogies. This book is full of them, for completely random things. Things you would never think needed an example. Everything is ‘like’ this and ‘like’ that. I found it really, REALLY annoying, and I know that’s pretty petty, but it wrecked the flow of the book for me.

I also struggled to follow the book itself. Each chapter has a date, and they jump all over the place, but also I struggled to understand the motivations. The main character, for example, seems to be expecting some sort of religious quest to drop into his lap, as he is waaaay to into the whole thing long before his colleague is kidnapped. He runs from the police after his other colleague disappears for no apparent reason at all, and then keeps going. Also, the book declares that Peter is not a Robert Langdon-esque super genius, and yet he still manages to solve a myriad of random clues in no time flat, something I don’t imagine your average professor would be able to do. I don’t know why this bothered me.

Final Thoughts…

I personally would have loved to see this book split into two, a fiction book containing a heavily reduced quantity of religious explanations, and a non-fiction book giving the background to the whole thing. Alas, it was not to be.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Quantum Mechanics (Jeff Weigel)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

I got me a new favourite graphic novel!

TL;DR – A pair of young mechanics are kidnapped by pirates. Adventure follows.

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Ragdoll Rating: Exceptional

Recommended For: Fans of comics, especially girls ’cause it has 2 awesome female leads!

About the Book…

Rox and Zam live and work, tinkering around in a space junkyard. One fateful day, a real pretty ship comes asking for repairs, but is turned away. The girls offer their services, but find themselves quickly kidnapped by the most feared space pirate of them all.

What follows is a brilliant tale of underdogs fighting the system.

What I thought…

Let’s just go through a quick checklist of things I already loved about this book, long before I finished it:

  • 2 female leads, one of which is fat (and a lizard), both genius mechanics who are totally brave and crazy and totally awesome
  • Space pirates
  • A ship shaped like a skull and crossbones
  • Brilliant, cute artwork

I’m not gonna lie, it would be very hard for someone to put those things in a book and have me hate it – but I don’t just throw that ‘Exceptional’ rating around for just anything.

This book is funny, it’s got plenty of action and it’s totally ridiculous. The main characters, Rox and Zam, are totally awesome female leads. Cool and fun, super smart and totally adorable – and they make excellent pirates! I love the addition of the baby Zolorians (lil’ baby lizard mechanics) – they are so cute and silly. I love them partly because they are about as far away from ‘serious’ as you can get. They are vaguely telepathic, have an affinity for mechanics and eat power cells, and they wind up playing a pivotal role in the story despite being babies. It’s just hilarious and I love it.

Final Thoughts…

If you like space silliness, then you HAVE to read this book, then come back here and tell me all about it. Definitely getting a physical copy of this ASAP.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Miraculum (Steph Post)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

A tattooed female lead? Yes please!

TL;DR – A story of good and evil with a freak-show background.

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Ragdoll Rating: 4/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Folks who like mysteries and mythology

About the Book…

Ruby is a freak – literally. She works as snake charmer as part of a circus sideshow. Life is normal, or as normal as circus life gets, until the day a performer commits suicide. The geeks replacement, Daniel, is an unusual man who doesn’t seem to belong. But he also harbors a deadly secret that turns Ruby’s life inside out.

What I thought…

I was really enjoying this book, right up until the end. I must say, before I go on, that the reason for this is that what I wanted to happen, didn’t happen, the ending was perfectly fine otherwise.

Miraculum starts off as a bizarre mystery over the backdrop of a travelling circus, and morphs into a wild and creepy occult battle of good versus evil. The book goes pretty deep into a sort of voodoo / occult area, which I struggled with a bit as I understood almost none of the words being thrown around.

The whole book is entertaining, and also pretty tragic in places. I love the main character, Ruby – and the way she interacts with a world she has no place in. It’s pretty upsetting to read about the treatment of the freaks, although the book doesn’t dwell on that too heavily.

Final Thoughts…

It’s a fun book and definitely worth a read if you like fantastical stuff in a historical setting.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: We Are Mars (Cheryl Lawson)


Goodreads Link | Author Website

A city on mars! What could possibly go wrong…

TL;DR – A super space thriller, full of excitement and wonderful characters.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I originally bought this book as a sort of weak thank you after Cheryl very kindly offered me some excellent advice on kicking writers block. Though I would have bought it either way, because it sounded exciting and I love a good sci-fi novel!

The Story…

Rubicon was once the pinnacle of human achievement. A city on Mars with with best technology and brightest minds all in one place. But that was years ago. After the expedition failed to discover evidence of life on Mars, funding dried up and Rubicon began to stagnate.

After a biological contagion is discovered in the drinking water, Rubicon descends into chaos – and that’s only the beginning.

We Are Mars is an wonderful science-fiction thriller.

What I liked…

We Are Mars explores a side of space exploration that often gets neglected in the sci-fi genre. Rubicon was once a technological marvel, but it’s systems are now becoming antiquated, and the supply ships that arrive every six years are more inclined to bring branded drinks dispensers than vital mission supplies to the Red planet. Rubicon is thrown into complete disarray when the aging water filtration system fails to prevent an outbreak of an unknown toxin to the drinking water, made worse by the completely unforeseen medical problems in genetically engineered humans.

The numerous tragedies that unfold during the course of the book, provide a wonderful backdrop to the interrelationships of the books main characters. One particularly interesting relationship builds between Jaxon and Dana, who prior to the outbreak constantly butted heads as Jaxon did all he could to rebel against the authority Dana represented, and Dana tried desperately to reign Jaxon in and maintain order. But as the pair find themselves forced into an impossible situation, they find themselves showing qualities that were hidden or ignored, and their working relationship becomes strong, building throughout the book. I enjoyed the way the characters evolved as the book went on, and the gravity of their situation hit them in unique and interesting ways.

Finally, I loved the world building. Rubicon has clearly undergone a considerable level of thought, avoiding the ‘generic space city’ vibe and instead becoming a believable and fascinating location. The rules and regulations imposed upon the inhabitants are infuriating, but completely understandable given the mission parameters. It is, as the book says, more scientific experiment than living city, something that Jaxon and his cohorts find themselves desperate to change.

What I disliked…

Each chapter focuses on one (or more) characters, and it took me some time to wrap my head around who was who. Each time the narrative switched to someone I hadn’t heard of, I got a bit confused, and then when it switched back to someone I did know, I couldn’t remember who they were – although this became easier as the book went on, and I would chalk this up to an issue with my comprehension ability than the book itself.

Final thoughts…

We Are Mars is a really fun and exciting read, that sets itself up nicely for the sequel (which I cannot wait to read). The plot and characters are excellent, and the world building is top-notch.

SUPER SPECIAL BONUS: AUTHOR INTERVIEW!!!

Twitter is an awesome place sometimes. This time it’s awesome because I managed to get We Are Mars author Cheryl Lawson (@WeAreMarsBook) to answer some questions about her work, which I’m super excited to present to you here!

Cheryl Lawson

1) What inspired you to write about disasters on a Martian colony?

I decided on a Mars drama because of two things: 1. The isolation of a Mars colony makes it vulnerable and 2. Mars is such a hostile place, I felt there was already a lot to work with. I’ve realized, while writing both books, that there are dozens of ways to die on Mars and it provides a lot of opportunity for an exciting and dramatic narrative.

2) If you had to pick two parts of We Are Mars you like more than any other, what would they be and why?

Firstly, the characters stories are my favourite part of the book. They are complex and the pressure of they are put under reveals unexpected traits and behaviours. Second, the ending – which is more of an opening to Storm at Dawn – is my next favourite part. It gives a clue for the coming crisis.

3) I see from twitter you have recently completed your first draft of Storm at Dawn, the second book in the Rubicon Saga. Is there anything in it that you a really excited for people to read?

Yes! The characters relationships are severely tested and the threats abound in Storm at Dawn. There’s a significant plot twist towards the end that opens the plot for the next, as yet untitled, third installment of the Rubicon Saga. It’s going to be a cracking read!

4) Finally, is there anything you’d like to tell my readers?

We Are Mars is not all about the science. It’s about the people and the character cast is richly diverse. The science sets the stage for some amazing interpersonal drama and if your readers enjoy complex, layered characters, they will love the Rubicon Saga.

Thank you so much Cheryl, for answering my questions.

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Please note: I know the author on twitter, however I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Mirai (Mamoru Hosoda)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link

One of my favourite books ever.

TL;DR – A wonderful, beautiful story about family, sibling rivalry and love.

EBBannerRagdoll Rating: EXCEPTIONAL

Recommended For: Anybody who wants a beautiful story and isn’t put off by a bit of confusion.

About the Book…

Life is pretty good for Kun, until his sister Mirai is born. Suddenly his parents seem irritable, and have less time to spend with him, and poor Kun struggles to adapt to his new reality. He hates his new sister, he hates his parents and he hates his new life. Kun’s world has been turned upside down in an instant. But after an impossible encounter with a future version of his new little sister, Kun is thrown into an even more impossible journey and nothing will ever be the same.

What I thought…

Let it be known by one and all that I want to kiss Mamoru Hosoda and his beautiful mind. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this strange little book is one of the best I have ever read.

I don’t know what it is about this book. Perhaps it’s got something to do with being the eldest of four children, perhaps it has something to do with my own internalised difficulties with perceived rejection and change, perhaps it’s something else, but this book reached out and touched my very soul (an impressive feat considering I don’t believe in the soul!). Kun is such a relatable and believable character. He is flawed, what child is perfect, but everything he does, from his initial negative, even violent reactions over the arrival of his new sister, to the results of his dream-like journey…I just felt it, deep down inside me, that I knew exactly how he felt, and how he was hurting.

Kun is a lost boy, trapped in a scary world of conflicting emotions and change and that hits me where I live. Seeing his journey, meeting members of his family and learning from them, and then losing himself completely and almost irretrievably was heart breaking, and completely poetically beautiful. I refuse to tell you much about the ending, all I can say is that if I hadn’t been convinced by the story up until that point (which I absolutely was) the final few chapters would have swung it.

My only critique about this book is that the dream-like encounters come out of nowhere. You’re reading a slice-of-life story, and all of a sudden things get weird and sci-fi. I still have no idea what was going on, and a little bit of me wants an explanation, but a much, MUCH bigger part of me doesn’t care. Just be aware of it, and if it bothers you, please just accept it and keep reading, it is SO worth it.

Final Thoughts…

I genuinely did not expect the reaction I got from this book. It is currently 3:30AM, and I hauled myself out of bed as soon as I finished reading to write this review because I felt an overwhelming urge to tell anyone and everyone who would listen to read this book. I love it, and I really hope you’ll give it a try.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!