Kwik Review: Diana Princess of the Amazons (Shannon Hale & Dean Hale)

Kwik Reads


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A fabulous book to kick off my year!

TL;DR – A fun, super cute tale about Wonder Woman as a child!

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RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

What I thought…

OK, so I’ve been waiting for this book for some time, like, I heard about it sometime last year, saw the artwork and have been desperate for it to be released ever since. So on that note, I’m gonna start talking about the art in this book, by the fabulous Victoria Ying.

Turn to any page in this book and you will find beautiful artwork. Every panel is cute, fun and expressive. I am a huuuuge fan of this style of art generally, but the art in this book is just perfect. There is a set of 2 panels on page 51 where Diana and her new friend Mona have just done something they shouldn’t have and they look at each other and grin. Now I don’t know exactly what it is about these two panels specifically, but they really speak to me. Maybe it’s the expression on their faces and the obvious emotional connection between the two, I don’t know, I just know that I love it and this book is full of illustrations with the same energy. My hat is off to you Victoria Ying, your art is wonderful!

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Now on to the story. The book follows Diana, princess of the amazons and future Wonder Woman. Diana is, regrettably, the only child in her entire world and now she’s no longer a baby, she’s starting to feel like she doesn’t fit in. Cue a helpful storyteller who gives her an idea. Why not make your own friend, out of clay and sand! The sand friend miraculously comes to life and sets Diana off on a path of fun and mischief that, like most forays into the world of misbehaviour, soon goes too far.

The story itself is simple (which is NOT a criticism, just in case that isn’t clear) and a great deal of fun. Seeing Diana slip from feeling misunderstood to acting out and so on until she can be the heroine of her own story felt natural and exciting.

I also love – and I didn’t pick up on this until I started writing this review – how Diana starts of feeling out of place but seemingly confident, then she makes a mysterious friend. This is exactly what she wanted but has almost the opposite effect of what she hoped would happen. Instead of feeling wanted and respected she is gradually left feeling less and less important and valued, and I think that’s really clever and very well written.

Basically, I love this book, it’s story and art are wonderful and I highly recommend it to anyone.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. 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: Dinosaur Jazz (Michael Panush)

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


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Ragdoll Rating: 3.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of  classic fiction novels, action adventure and dinosaurs.

About the Book…

The island of Acheron is an incredible place. A land where all manner of prehistoric creatures live in conjunction with ‘ape men’ and humanity. Acheron is a hugely popular tourist destination, made all the more popular by the absence of prohibition. Drinkers, gamblers, cutthroats and gangsters mix with hunters, holiday makers and the wealthy elite all across this impossible island.

Sir Edwin Crowe (son of the island’s discoverer) is a dinosaur guide and gentleman adventurer. But when a sinister corporation tries to take control of his island home, Crowe and his rag-tag band of associates find themselves in the middle of a war.

This book runs strongly in the vein of classic pulp adventure novels.

What I thought…

I have some very conflicting thoughts about this book. It has me in two (or more) minds, and it was very hard to rate.

On it’s surface, I love it. I love the concept – think Jurassic Park in the 30’s with a big dollop of Indiana Jones thrown in and you’re not far off. The story is exciting – it’s definitely a page turner. Conceptually it’s right off my Christmas list. Which leads me to my other thoughts.

First off, let’s talk about racism. I get that it’s set in the 30’s (or 20’s, or whenever prohibition was), but when you’re telling a story about a time-travelling island full of dinosaurs and crazy warlords,  I think you’ve already thrown out enough ‘realism’ to avoid referring throwing in negro or oriental, or repeatedly calling one character the Jew lawyer. Call me ‘snowflake’ all you want, scream ‘historical accuracy’ until you’re blue in the face, but when you’ve got dinosaurs and time travelling magic ruins and a white dude who thinks he’s Genghis Khan reincarnate, you can afford a bit of racial sensitivity. Actually while I’m on the subject of race stuff, I may as well throw in that every single non-white or non-British/American is a criminal or a gangster or a smuggler. Every. Single. One. Plus the ‘Ape Men’ are treated as savages and servants etc. Don’t get me wrong, Panush was aiming for a certain literary style, and he absolutely nailed it, I just personally felt it was unnecessary.

That said the writing was, if a little weird at times, pretty solid and very enjoyable. The main character was actually kind of annoying, but that was more to do with my own personal taste than the writing. My favourite characters were, as far as I’m concerned, CRIMINALLY underutilised, but I’m hoping I might learn some more about them in the next book.

Final Thoughts…

Panush has absolutely nailed the feel of the genre, and written a really entertaining story to boot. It’s just a shame about the time period.

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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: Den of Smoke (Christopher Byford)

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


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Ragdoll Rating: 4.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of heists, anti-heroes and adventure.

About the Book

This book focuses on Jackdaw, a mid-level criminal the Morning Star‘s crew worked with in the previous book, and his gang.

When a man bursts into the gangs hideout brandishing a pistol and demanding money, Jackdaw finds himself a promising candidate for his criminal enterprise – he hires Cole immediately. Cole quickly makes himself a valuable member of the team as they go out committing their various crimes. But the new crime lord, Donovan, demands ever increasing tribute from Jackdaw and his gang, which leads them to attempt the most insane 1-chance-in-a-million heist anybody has ever conceived.

What I thought

For the first 60% of this book, the Morning Star and it’s crew don’t even get mentioned. This is exactly what I needed after finishing the previous book (for an explanation of why I hate almost the entire cast of the previous book, please see the full review here: Book Review: Den of Stars (Cristopher Byford)). It focuses on the Jackrabbits ad they go about introducing Cole to the world of crime. The remaining 40% also features barely any of the cast of the other two books – so heads up, if you loved the crew, you may miss them in this book.

I, on the other hand, did not miss the other characters. I LOVE, the Jackrabbits. They are great. They spend the entire book committing crimes, but without any of the problems I had with the crew of the Morning Star.

The book is exciting from beginning to end. It’s very action based – there is always something happening, from a bank heists to beatings. I personally think this story is less complicated than Den of Stars which for me is definitely a good thing. The motivations of the characters are simple, their responses make sense and it just makes for a much easier, more engaging read. It made the characters easy to relate to – so when Jack takes a beating, and that dude takes a lot of beatings, you feel sorry for him and want him to get his revenge.

It’s well written and entertaining, and most importantly, fun.

Final Thoughts

This book could, with minimal alteration, have not had the Morning Star cast in it at all. When I say it focuses on the Jackrabbits, I mean it – it is all about them – and personally I think that’s brilliant. It confirmed my suspicion that I hated Byford’s characters and not his writing, which as it turns out, I really enjoy. This book more than made up for my disappointment with the last one and you should definitely read it.

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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: Den of Stars (Cristopher Byford)

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


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Ragdoll Rating: 2/5 Buttons

Recommended For: I guess adventure fans.

About the Book

The Gambler’s Den has been reduced to a pile of smoking wreckage, the (now homeless) showgirls have taken to running their own restaurant, and the alleged deaths of Franco and Misu are mourned far and wide. But Franco won’t stay in hiding for ever – instead he has commissioned a new train, the Morning Star to carry on the show!

Wilheim Fort, the crime lord, has escaped from Jail and kidnaps Franco, and blackmails Misu – If she uses the Morning Star to deliver shipments of Red Root, he will return Franco in one piece. Misu does everything she can to get Franco back with unexpected results.

WARNING. Under absolutely no circumstances should you read this book if you find descriptions or situations of psychological or physical abuse to be detrimental to your health. The descriptions are not overly explicit, but they do lead to a mental atmosphere that could be potentially upsetting and triggering.

What I thought

The first thing you should know about this book is that the exciting climax rescue is really enjoyable, exciting and great reading. There’s heroism, daring raids on a crime lords stronghold and a whole host of kick-ass female characters. I really like that part of the book. The reason I’m starting by telling you about the ending is because the rest of what I have to say isn’t that favourable, and I don’t want you to get the impression that I didn’t like this book at all or that it isn’t worth reading. It almost certainly IS worth reading, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Now I’ll explain why.

The tagline for my review of the previous book in the series (Kwik Review: Den of Shadows (Christopher Byford)) was this:

There is a special place in hell for Franco de Monaire, I hope he finds it.

Franco was a jerk. Or at least, I thought he was. He gave Misu all kinds of grief for making a bad choice, a choice she was compelled to make by someone who had spent literally years abusing her and a host of other women. I make no bones about it, I can’t stand Franco.

I could probably adapt that tagline for use in this review, if I changed the words Franco de Monaire to basically every character. Especially Misu. I have to believe this wasn’t done on purpose – I don’t know why an author would want you to hate all of their characters intentionally. I’m not going to go through why I dislike basically all the characters (apart from Wyld), so I’m just going to complain about Franco and Misu for a while.

Misu – for reasons I cannot begin to imagine – finds herself under the thumb of Wilheim, her long time abuser. Franco has been kidnapped and in order to have him returned safely, Misu agrees to haul Red Root (or ‘super heroin’) all over the place. She does this without telling any of the other people on board, which, as one of the showgirls is quick to point out, turns every single last one of them into accomplices to the crime, because who is going to believe that nobody on board knew that they were transporting AN ENTIRE TRAIN CAR FULL OF DRUGS!? What’s more is we get a sort of explanation in the form of back story, where we learn that in order to survive under Wilheim in the first place, Misu ingratiated herself to the crime boss and was put in charge of a great deal of abuse and slavery of ‘weaker’ girls. I have such mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I absolutely understand the need to survive any way you can in that sort of situation, which is why I was still on Misu’s side during this back story, despite what seemed like a deliberate attempt to make me hate her guts. I get that it’s hard to trust people after that sort of thing too, but given that one of the main points of the previous book was the Misu did something terrible because of her past abuse, and didn’t bother to actually tell anyone – an act which causes the den to be blown up, the girls to go on the run, Franco and Misu to be considered legally dead and any number of other problems, I just cannot understand why she wouldn’t have mentioned it, or why she would go out of her way to cover the whole thing up. This serious character flaw is bought up constantly, with basically everyone hating Misu, and eventually you have little choice but to agree.

Also, Misu and Franco let the entire crew of the Gambler’s Den believe they were dead for two years – which is bad enough – but then instead of breaking the news gently, they rolled into the girls new place of business and just went Guess whose not dead! The crew are understandably livid. Jaqcues has become an alcoholic, drug addled vagrant – his life has been completely and utterly OBLITERATED trying to keep the promise he made to France, that he would keep the girls safe. They just appear out of the blue and their excuse was a vague notion of ‘safety’ as if Wilheim wasn’t the sort of person to punish associates of his enemies, regardless of whether that enemy was alive or dead.

Misu treats everybody like absolute scum the whole time. Before they discover the drug dealing, she is rude to them – she takes everything out on the new driver, who is basically a saint for taking it without some sort of outburst. But the worst of it is the attitude she – and Franco – have created on the trains. Somewhere in the middle of this book, a new character, Elizabeth, is having real trouble dealing with the fact that the defending the train can, and does, mean killing people. This wasn’t what she signed up for. Then another character starts talking about the expectations of the employees on the train. She shows Elizabeth a bullet wound received in the previous book (I think). She tells Elizabeth how fortunate she was to be on board the train, how Franco and Misu had bestowed some sort of great kindness on her and that people on the train has to ‘pay their way’ or ‘earn their place’ or some other similar expression. Pay it with blood. Now, Elizabeth and all the other girls are employed to work on this train. They all have talents that make them a valuable part of the staff. Elizabeth is a beautiful singer and they use her talents in the show, a show that earns Franco his money. She owes Franco nothing. She is paid to be there because of her skill set. Without people like her, the show stops and Franco and Misu would find themselves penniless and alone. But apparently this attitude that the girls on the train are so fortunate to be their – because what else would they do – is an attitude actively fostered on the train and re-enforced by the management. What make it worse is that this kind of rhetoric, that these girls don’t know how lucky they are to be taken from hardship and put to good use, is EXACTLY THE SAME as the rhetoric used by Wilheim to justify his slavery ring. Plus, Elizabeth notices that something is wrong, that it’s all secretive her concerns are dismissed and she is ostracised for daring to question authority – it is seen as a behaviour to be stamped out.

Finally (and I promise I will move on from this as soon as this paragraph is over), while planning the rescue of Franco, Misu is negotiating a deal with a mid-level member of Wilheim’s criminal enterprise. Seeing he has the upper hand, this criminal, Jackdaw, declares that he will only help if Misu agrees that at ANY POINT IN THE FUTURE he can call on Misu (and the rest of the staff) to do him a favour. Anything at all in the entire world, they HAVE TO DO and they cannot under any circumstances refuse. Misu, still recovering from a literal mutiny due to the fact that she made MASSIVE, LIFE-ALTERING, DANGEROUS decisions for the entire staff of the Morning Star, not to mention the aftermath of the previous book which was also made worse by her making bad decisions and not telling anybody, instantly agrees to this complete insane request, without speaking to any of the crew and asking what they think. It is even attempted to be justified as a reasonable action. As a narrative device, I can see understand what the idea behind this move was, it set up the sequel, but in terms of the characters? Misu will be insanely lucky if the crew doesn’t utterly destroy her in the most horrific fashion imaginable.

Final Thoughts

This book feels more ‘adult’ than the previous ones. It’s more sexual, the bad language is not excessively used but from what I remember there is more and worse language used than in the previous installment, and the whole book is based around drug dealing, one of the characters actually being a drug addict. This was not a welcome change for me – I liked the tone of the last book, which felt more like a classic adventure with some grit thrown in at strategic times, where as this book just felt gritty. I’m not so big on grit.

Also, this book just made me feel uncomfortable nearly the whole way through. I don’t understand the characters motivations, they all seem to hate each other and the author seems to want me to hate them! I couldn’t follow why people were acting how they were – their responses to things didn’t make sense to me at all. Maybe it’s because I’m autistic, I’m not great with that sort of thing, and the emotions involved were definitely complex, so maybe I just missed something other people would find obvious, but whatever the reason it just didn’t sit right.

Finally, the whole parallel ‘saviour’ narrative between Franco, Misu (the heroes) and Wilheim (the abusive, slave trading, drug dealing crime boss) just made me feel ill. The girls on that train were brought in to put on a show and from my perspective, abused. The basic story might have been really good but I couldn’t get past the elements of this book that I have mentioned. To be honest, it made me feel ill.

Just to end this review on a more positive note, because so far it’s been incredibly negative.

I really struggled to rate this book, and I’m still not convinced I’ve got it right. The parts I hated made me want to commit this book to the ‘do not read’ section and be done with it – but that seemed unfair. I finished the book in a few days, and the parts I liked, I really enjoyed, these are not the hallmarks of a really bad book. So I have given it 2 buttons in recognition of that parts I did like.

In addition, I have the next book on my kindle and I will be starting it in about an hour and a half. So it hasn’t written off the series. I guess what I’m saying is, this book really wasn’t for me, but it might be right up your street. So I don’t know, try it and see.

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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!

Kwik Review: Den of Shadows (Christopher Byford)

Kwik Reads


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There is a special place in hell for Franco de Monaire, I hope he finds it.

TL;DR – An exciting tale about travelling casino, a crime lord and an insane law man.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4.5/5 BUTTONS

What I thought:

I bought this book because I’ve been given the second and third books in the series to review and I thought I’d take the chance and read the first one to set things up – this was a good call on my part.

The story follows Franco, and his troop of showgirls in their train-mounted wandering casino. The Gamblers Den rolls from town to town along the frontier, bring a night of joy and release to the miserable folks that live there. All is going swimmingly until they hit a town called Windberg, and suddenly everything falls apart.

This book is a bit peculiar for me, in that the ‘main’ character, Franco, is the one I hate most and the supporting cast, who get less of a backstory, I really love. Franco is, with the best will in the world, a jerk! The way he treats Misu – a woman who spent 4 years under the thumb of a disgusting crime lord – is frankly despicable. And hypocritical. Maybe I missed something somewhere, but I fail to see how anybody could read this book and not want to slap Franco so hard he ends up in another dimension.

It’s an exciting tale, full of gun fights and flashbacks and fights between more-or-less-good and evil. It’s a lot of fun. The only thing that bugged me was the occasional use of peculiar language, or where sentences seemed to use words in an order I’m unfamiliar with – but nothing sticks out enough for me to remember specifics so it can’t have been that big a deal.

I’m looking forward to the next book!

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. 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: Exile of the Seas (Jeffe Kennedy)

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


Goodreads Link | Author Website

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Ragdoll Rating: 4/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of fantasy romance

About the Book

Princess Jenna has escaped from the clutches of her abusive and evil husband and headed across the seas aboard the Valeria. On the journey she meets a warrior priestess called Kaja who helps her conceal her identity and make her own way in the world. But her husband and his goons are never far enough behind.

This book is equal parts fantasy adventure and romance novel.

Trigger Warning: This book contains references to serious sexual assault, abuse and bodily mutilation. It’s not particularly graphic, but it comes up a lot and might be distressing (I certainly found it upsetting).

What I thought

It took me a little while to get into this book, and it wasn’t until I had finished it that it was the second book in a series, which explained why I thought the author assumed a whole lot of knowledge on my part when starting the book. My bad. But once I got my head around the setting I found it a very enjoyable read.

The book focuses on Jenna, beginning with her passage on the Valeria (under the name Brian), and quickly see’s her becoming an acolyte of the Goddess Danu, under a new name, Ivariel. We see Ivariel go from her sheltered, submissive (and horribly abusive) past life in Dasnaria to becoming a warrior and making her own way in the scary new world.

I liked the fact that Ivariel wasn’t just dumped in the world and competent. In fact she was beyond useless in most regards and stayed that way for most of the book. Her strengths came from the skills she actually had experience of. She was given a knife to practice with and couldn’t even grip it – but she was athletic and able to learn because of the way she was raised. This meant that Ivariel was believable and very relatable.

This book contains constant reference to the horrors of Ivariel’s old life – which as I mentioned above, is horrific – and it’s upsetting. Upsetting to the point where I’m not sure if I could read the first book because I’m worried what it might contain. That said, this book also tries to focus on her path to healing the wounds of the past, which is considerably nicer. Ivariel goes from mentally scarred and disassociating when sex is referenced, to having romantic and sexual feelings for another character. Which I can understand to a point, although one element did stick out like a bit of a sore thumb – please skip the following box if you want to avoid spoilers:

Spoilers: Ivariel takes a vow of chastity (and silence) and the start of this book, which she chooses to end over the course. The bit that stuck out for me is that the very last thing that happens in this book is that she gives up her vow of chastity – something she took because of how psychologically (and physically) damaged she was in regards to sex – and it seemed like an incredibly big leap for her to take for no apparent reason. Yes she’d just had her life saved, but her only ‘sexual’ interaction in the books at that point had been a kiss, where she had punched the kisser in the face, and a forced stripping where she killed everyone. I just can’t imagine that she would give up that vow just to say thank you, or because someone mentioned in passing that the vows were a sort of shield. But perhaps that’s just me.

I also liked that the romance in this was not too heavy. It was there and building the whole way through but it didn’t take precedent over the plot of starting a new life, which I worried it would.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed this book, although I could have done without quite so much horrible backstory. It’s a good read, but if you think for even a minute that the triggers I’ve highlighted might be an issue for you, then don’t risk it, otherwise it’s worth a look in.

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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: Foundryside (Robert Jackson Bennett)

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


Goodreads Link | Author Website

Book of the Month
Book of the Month (August 2018)

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Ragdoll Rating: Exceptional

Recommended For: Fans of fantasy and adventure. Also anybody else at all.

About the Book

Sancia Grado is a thief. A good thief. But she is also different. Tevanne is a strange land, that runs on a form of magic known as scriving. If you know the write sigils, you can alter objects and change their behaviour – legend has it that an ancient group called the hierophants could use scriving to bend reality to their will!

Sancia is a scrived human. The only scrived human. She started her life as a slave and she was experimented on – but the scrived plate in her head gives her some special abilities which make her an excellent sneak thief.

Sancia is offered the job of a lifetime – steal one item for more money than she could ever hope to see in her lifetime. She takes the chance, and then her world falls apart.

What I thought

I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed this book. I mean I really, REALLY loved it. It’s 512 pages long, and I must have read 350+ of them in one sitting – I would have read three quarters of the book in one day if I’d had the energy to keep reading. It was that kind of book.

First of all, we’ve got to talk about scriving. At first this seems like your pretty average magic stuff. Say the right words and it does what you say kind of thing. But it isn’t. It goes WAY deeper than that. Bennett goes into considerable detail over the course of the book about the mechanics of scriving, the theory, the practical uses and the history. It’s rare to find a magical mechanic in a story that has been this clearly thought out, which would be worth big points in my book on its own, but it was the way this information is relayed to the reader that really made this book stand out. We never get too much information in one go – it doesn’t feel like you’re reading fictional non-fiction – you get just enough information to understand without breaking the flow of things…and it’s just really cool.

I’m not sure if the following paragraph counts as spoilers, but I’m gonna talk a bit about why scriving is awesome:

  1. Scrived objects are logical and stupid – you can only change them in ways that make sense. For example, you can make wood stronger, by scriving it to act like stone, but you can’t make it melt by telling it that it’s ice, because that’s too different.
  2. BUT you can do cool things with it if you are clever. For example, you can make a cart propel itself by telling the wheels they are rolling down a hill and telling them how steep the hill is. This leads to some wild things later on.
  3. It’s hard work. You’ve read got to know what you are doing to make it work, and experimentation can be really dangerous because its so easy to get things wrong – because of this, it’s a rich mans game, which has led to a really horrible unequal society.
  4. It controls (almost) everything in Tevanne. It’s so understandable. Sometimes you read about something amazing in a story and wonder why it’s under utilised, like the Force in Star Wars. If I had the force I would never stop using it, all the time for EVERYTHING. But they never do. But in Foundryside, those who can afford scriving, use it for everything they possibly can. It supports buildings, changes weapons, powers foundries, it is everywhere, and that can lead to big problems.

I’m sure there is more I could say about why I like this element, but I don’t want to go on and on. Trust me though, it’s really cool and it stays cool all the way through.

Secondly, two words. Unexpected Queers. I’m not the only queer person who, unless explicitly told otherwise (and often even then), assumes every character in everything is 400% queer. Then I find out it’s not the case. Well guess what – there’s at least 3 actual, factual queers in this book (by my count). Which is GREAT. Not just because they are queer –  but because it’s written completely naturally. Nobody bats an eye. In Tevanne, it’s perfectly, completely and utterly normal to be queer. And that is so refreshing. It’s so nice to read a book that – to the best of my knowledge – isn’t presented as queer-lit where a characters queerness is just another part of their character. It was also really nice to be right for a change, after deciding a character was queer.

Thirdly, the plot. I am a big fan of the idea that if it’s gonna go wrong, it may as well go catastrophically wrong. I like it when things go to hell, real fast. It’s fun and I like seeing how it can get worse as much as I enjoy seeing how that characters fix the problems – and this book did not disappoint on that front. I found every page more exciting than the last (especially the pages involved in the previous paragraph 😀 ). Everything went from bad to worse, and was written really well so you actually care about it.

Finally, the mystery element. This book has a lot of folklore in it – tales of the Makers or Hierophants or Ancient Ones – a race of giants who could bend reality to their whim with scriving. It also includes a talking key and a bunch of weird artefacts which are all surrounded in mystery. You find yourself constantly guessing how the ancient mysteries actually work, and how to solves the puzzles the characters are trying to solve – and I was right about 50-70% of the time. Actually if I’m honest this was probably the only element (besides some peculiar phrasing at times) that I didn’t like as much – mainly because for some things (for example, how the ritual works), I knew how it worked so long before the characters I wanted to yell at them for being so dense! But I suppose that’s the advantage readers have over characters – we get the extra context.

Final Thoughts

I loved it and I think anyone with even a vague interest in the fantasy / adventure genre should read it immediately. Also, I cannot wait for part 2 in the series!

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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: The True History of the Strange Brigade (Short Story Collection)

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


Goodreads Link

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Ragdoll Rating: 3.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: People who have bought, or intend to by the game. People who like short adventure stories.

About the Book

This book is a short story collection about the Strange Brigade and how its various members came to join it. The Strange Brigade is – if I’ve understood correctly – a secret branch of the British Empire that fights demons and investigates the paranormal.

What I thought

Overall, I quite like this book. More often than not I found myself wishing the stories were longer, sometimes wishing I could have a whole book dedicated to one character – the stories of Anjali (Peccavi, Or If Thy Father by Mimi Mondal) and Nalangu (Nalangu’s Trials by Gaie Sebold) spring to mind.

Since this is a short story collection, I will try and briefly give my thoughts on each story.

Was Jerusalem Builded Here (Cassandra Khaw) – this may be my least favourite reading experience ever, and I am including the time I dropped a book in the bath. The story jumped all over the place, and I just barely finished it with an understanding of what the plot was. It also included some seriously weird writing…for example:

“…hair the hue of menstrual tissue…” and “Agatha snapped, quick as a crime”.

The first is just gross and the second doesn’t make any sense at all, and these are not the only examples to be found.

If I had to sum up this story using a quote from the story itself, it would be this:

“You’re still not making any sense. Gracie ventured closer, feeling out of her depth. “What are you talking about?”

Ripples in a Polluted Pool (Johnathon L. Howard) – This story follows Captain Fairburne from an ambush in Marseille to an outbreak of pacifism in India. It’s actually a shame this one was a short story. The first part was alright, and I lost track of things during the transition from British Army Captain to member of the Strange Brigade in India, but the second half was great and deserved to be told properly.

The Professor’s Dilemma (Tauriq Moosa) – This story has a hint of Indiana Jones about it, and I love it. A professor is all set up to go on an archaeological dig when his father goes missing and he is attacked by a vicious beast! This one was well written and definitely left me wanting more.

Nalangu’s Trials (Gaie Sebold) – This story follows Nalangu, a girl who becomes a demon hunter, and sets off on a quest to rescue a child from Leopard people. Some of the writing seemed a bit off to me at times, but the story itself was really good. Definitely wanted to know more.

Where You Bury Things (Guy Adams)  – A man on the run from British law finds himself seeking his fortune in Australia. We learn about his past ask he follows a group of strangers into a mysterious cave. The story started off interesting, and I liked the idea of it, but it sort of lost steam towards the end. It built itself up to be really interesting and then just sort of ended.

Peccavi, Or If Thy Father (Mimi Mondal) – Anjali is cursed – her whole family is cursed, and it’s her fathers fault. She is destined to be killed – her brothers have both just died, and her father is on deaths door. Reading that back I realise how terrible I’ve made this story sound, and I sincerely apologise to the author – but this story is actually my favourite one so far. I would really like to find out what happens to Anjali (and her other not-dead secret brother Mahesh) after this story ended, which I suppose is exactly what this book is supposed to be doing…

The Island of Nightmares (Patrick Lofgren) – Lieutenant-Commander Hachiro Shimizu and his squadron were sent on a mission – to capture a mysterious island and establish a base to help Japan run the Europeans out of Asia. But they’ve been captured by the cannibalistic inhabitants of the island. Just when Hachiro thinks things couldn’t get any worse, he learns that the ruler of the island plans to unleash the terrible monsters that live there on the rest of the world, killing everybody. Hachiro must find a way to stop this from happening. This story was pretty cool. It was well written and an interesting story, although I am left with one considerable query about just how the Bad Guys were supposed to carry  out their plans since you are not supposed to be able to sail out from where their ship is. But maybe I missed something. It also mentioned a cowboy member of the Brigade I have no memory of, which either I’ve forgotten or was never told about, either way I feel like I’m missing out.

Tessie’s Song (Joespeh Guthrie) – Tessie, pilot extraordinaire, is attacked by the undead in a bar, and promptly recruited to the Strange Brigade as a pilot. On her first mission she finds herself struggling to extract the Brigade from an island infested with undead and dinosaurs! This story was the only one that had the main character join the Brigade within the first few pages, it also felt like very little happened. I realise its a short story and you can’t cram too much into it, but in comparison to say, The Island of Nightmares which I had just finished, it just felt sort of hollow. It was fun, don’t get me wrong, was just a bit underwhelming.

Final Thoughts

I nearly stopped reading this book after the first story – and I’m glad I didn’t because the rest of it was enjoyable. Actually it seems quite odd to me that the first and last stories were the ones I enjoyed least, which is unfortunate, but then very few people enjoy every story in a collection of shorts by different authors.

I get the feeling that reading this book would be a lot better if you had literally any clue about the game it was written to accompany – which I don’t. That said, reading this book has persuaded me to look up the game and see what it’s about so I suppose it did it’s job quite well.

This book lost a few points in my ratings because of how much I disliked the first story, and a bit more because it felt a bit rushed. Please note, I am not saying it felt ‘short’. It’s a book of short stories, they are supposed to be short. What I mean is that many of the stories felt like the authors had a whole book in mind, and then were forced to condense it into a half-hour read, which led to a lot of things that weren’t explored in the way it felt they needed to be. I would have preferred to read a series of short books, or even a collection of slightly longer stories, just so the characters could have been done justice.

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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!

Kwik Review: Sky Chasers (Emma Carroll)

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Goodreads Link | Author Website

A fun little book that got me reading again!

TL;DR – The story of two children (and a duck, a rooster and a lamb) taking to the skies.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

What I thought:

I spent a whole week completely unable to read anything for more than a minute until one evening I picked this book off my shelf and just read. It came easily.

The book follows Magpie, child thief turned aviator. After a series of accidents, Magpie finds herself in the employ of the Montgolfier family, who happen to be attempting to achieve the first powered flight by use of a hot air balloon. What follows is a tale of adventure, discovery and excitement.

I loved this book. I always say that age ratings in books aren’t good for much. Just because you’re older (and in my case WAY older) than the age range for a book doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it and get a lot out of reading it. Reading should be for fun, and that’s what this book is. Fun. It’s a well written easy read, with lovable characters and an exciting plot.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Kwik Review: Lost Christmas (David Logan)

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Goodreads Link

This book reads like that list of ‘really bad metaphors’ that surfaces on the net every now and then – and I LOVE it.

TL;DR – This is the story about a boy whose life falls apart on Christmas eve, and if you’re wondering why I read a book like this at the beginning of July, I should point out that apart from the references to snow – which I don’t think I have ever seen at Christmas in the UK anyway – the book could have been set at any point in the year. It’s not just a Christmas story is what I’m saying.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4/5 BUTTONS

What I thought:

Goose’s parents both die in a car crash on Christmas eve, and in the following year his life has gone from happy and carefree, to casual criminal and a destroyed childhood. The only good things left in his life are his Nan and his dog. His Nan has Alzheimer’s, and he’s just lost his dog. Then this somewhat magical weirdo appears and turns things upside down.

The first thing that stuck out was on the first page – “His all-over-the-place hair was all over the place”. It’s childlike and weird, and it totally sets the tone for the rest of the book. It is written with a childlike quality that I really loved.

The next thing that stuck out was that I guessed the ending literally the second it was possible to do so. I’ve thought about it and I don’t know why it was so obvious, but it jumped out at me immediately. That said, I wasn’t disappointed to discover I knew the ending, and really enjoyed reading it.

The story is entertaining, the writing is funny, and the plot is quite clever, if a little cliche. It’s just a nice, easy read.

I can’t abide Christmas books – which is probably why I liked this one. If it wasn’t for a title and the occasional mention it could be just winter or any other cold place (that also happened to be called Manchester).

I recommend this one to anybody who likes a good story with a very casual writing style.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. 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!