NetGalley Review: Knightmare Arcanist (Shami Stovall)

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


Goodreads Link | Author Website

TL;DR – A superb start to what I’m sure will be a spectacular series!

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Ragdoll Rating: 5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Anyone who loves an easy-to-read tale of magic and heroism

About the Book…

Knightmare Arcanist is the first book in the Frith Chronicles series. It follows a Volke, a gravediggers apprentice who yearns to be an arcanist – a magician paired for life to a magical creature, capable of amazing feats. But the circumstances of his birth make this dream unlikely, until one day everything changes.

What follows is a tale of magic, mystery and heroism where friends can become enemies and enemies can become friends.

What I thought…

I absolutely loved this book. Stovall has created an engaging and wonderful world, filled with magic and wonder and well thought out characters abound.

I love the magic system. The idea of being paired with a mystical creature whose magic influences your own is a wonderful idea and I really enjoyed seeing how each magical creature approached problems in their own unique ways. I also particularly love Nicholin the rizzel (a magical creature). He’s cheeky and adorable and quite frankly, I NEED one.

Another thing I loved about this book was the way the characters interacted. The book starts on an island with Volke and his adopted sister paired against Zaxis and Atty, the islands snobby to-good-for-the-likes-of-you favourites. But it isn’t long before this dynamic starts to change in interesting and unexpected ways, and I can’t wait to find out where it goes.

This book was also incredibly easy to read. It was well paced and engaging throughout. I didn’t want to put it down and before I knew it, the book was finished!

Final Thoughts…

I didn’t want this book to end, and I will be eagerly awaiting the next instalment. In the meantime, I plan to get hold of Stovall’s other books Star Marque Rising and The Ethereal Squadron as soon as I am able!

Definitly give this book 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!

A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns (Archie Bongiovanni; Tristan Jimerson)

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


Goodreads Link

A cute and useful guide.

TL;DR – A whistlestop tour of They/Them pronouns and their use

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Ragdoll Rating: 4.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Everyone. Seriously, everyone needs to know about this stuff.

About the Book…

This book provides a very fast, bare-bones look at the usage of they/them pronouns and language. Lots of people (including me) use these gender-neutral pronouns, and it can be massively frustrating when people are either ignorant of gender-neutral language and pronouns, or worse, just refuse to use them. This book aims to remedy this by making they/them pronouns simple and easy to use.

What I thought…

I really liked this book, not just because it’s a subject close to my heart, but because it was really well executed. The book contains several pages of easy-to-use diagrams and tables to help make the concepts introduced as simple as humanly possible.

The book covers a lot of important areas, such as; How to use they/them pronouns, Miscellaneous gender-neutral language, WHY you should use gender-neutral language and so on. The content is presented by the authors in comic form, a non-binary hunkbabe, Archie, and a cis man, Tristan. Archie, who uses they/them pronouns allows the reader a real-life look at misgendering, and how it feels to not have your pronouns respected, while Tristan provides a look from the perspective of someone still learning about pronouns and non-binary folk. Tristan even admits at one stage to learning something new as the result of a mistake he made while writing the book, which I thought was a really good thing to include.

The book also briefly mentions other gender-neutral pronouns and demonstrates their use.

Final Thoughts…

This book breaks down a subject which a lot of people consider to be ‘too difficult to bother with’ into bite-size chunks, and demonstrates that gender-neutral language and pronouns are actually not that hard. Buy this book, give it to your friends. ❤

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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: I Wanna Be Well (Miguel Chen)

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


Goodreads Link | Author Website

Interesting reading, if a bit sweary.

TL;DR – Bite sized chunks of wisdom, spiritual insights and self-help guidance from the punk perspective.

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Ragdoll Rating: 4/5 Buttons

Recommended For: People with a more sceptical view of spirituality, who want to dip their toes in the water

About the Book…

I Wanna Be Well is sort of spiritual smorgasbord, in a good way. Drawing from a range of sources from Buddhism, yoga, the 12-Step program and others, Miguel Chen provides insights and advice, backed up by years of experience practicing what he preaches.

Each chapter takes up a specific issue, for example, breathing, compassion, forgiveness, and explains the concepts with reference to various spiritual traditions and Miguel’s own life story. Each chapter ends with a different practice for you to try, drawn from a number of sources.

What I thought…

I almost gave up on this book quite early on, because if I’m being completely honest, I was thrown by the authors use of swearing. I’m not opposed to swearing, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t swear myself, but for some reason it felt abrasive, and it made me uncomfortable. Having completed the book, I would reassess that position, and suggest that in reality it is just the way the author talks, and this book is written in an informal style to help better engage people who might find all this ‘spiritual talk’ dry and hard to follow if it was written in the style I am accustomed to. I’m still not sure I like it, but I do at least understand it.

The content of the book is actually pretty good. Miguel uses examples from his own life to explain various concepts in a simple and informal way, and offers regular reminders that none of the stuff in the book needs to be thought of as inherently religious or spiritual, it’s just useful things to help calm your mind and help you live your best life.

At the end of each chapter, there is a practice to do, broken down into simple steps and with a tl;dr after each if you just want an overview. I actually really liked this, as it tied everything together nicely. I imagine if you picked this book up and read a chapter a day, or every other day, by the time you finished you would have a really good set of tools to help you cope with life. There are also step by step pictorial instructions for the various sets of yoga practices the book contains, which I thought was another useful touch.

Final Thoughts…

I’m glad I finished this book. The writing style caught me off-guard, and kept me that way, but the practices and explanations contained in this book made that small discomfort worth enduring. Actually, thinking about it, I could have probably done with this book as a teen.

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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: 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.

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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!

Book Review: Interconnected (HH. The 17th Karmapa)

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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: 5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Anybody with an interest in Buddhism, self improvement and global fellowship.

About the Book…

In Interconnected, His Holiness invites us to explore the fundamental connections that bind us to everything else. The book explores all manner of themes, from our environmental impact to our interpersonal relationships. Through a mixture of personal anecdotes, musings and philosophy, His Holiness paints an insightful picture of our place in the world, and how we can improve it by switching our focus to the things that connect us, rather than those that divide us.

This book continues on many of the themes raised in The Heart is Noble. (Book Review: The Heart Is Noble (HH. The 17th Karmapa))

What I thought…

Interconnected is clearly a labour of love. These are the words of a man who truly believes the advice he gives, and follows that advice to the letter. As I have come to expect from His Holiness, this book is wonderfully written, in an insightful, wise and friendly manner.

Probably my favourite element of this book, among it’s many admirable qualities, is the way His Holiness speaks quite candidly about his own life experiences. We are treated, not just to tales from his childhood, but also to difficulties that arise from his position as a spiritual leader. Personal anecdotes are provided often as a demonstration of some of the more difficult elements contained within the book. For example, there is a wonderful passage about how freedom and responsibility are linked, which on the surface could be a difficult concept to grasp, as it appears to be quite a contrast to the common western notion of freedom. His Holiness illustrates this point by imagining he wished to exercise personal freedom, and start a game of basketball in the monastery – an act which would cause many others a great deal of problems, and not just those in the immediate vicinity.

Final Thoughts…

Some elements of this book will be easier to digest if you are a practicing Buddhist, since His Holiness is obviously heavily influenced by Buddhist thinking and refers to it frequently. Having said that, everything in this book could easily be understood and acted upon by anybody, and you certainly would not need to be a Buddhist to take a great deal of positive ideas from this book.

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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: Changing Ways (Julia Tannenbaum)

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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: 5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Anybody who wants to take a gut-punch to the feels (in a good way).

About the Book…

TW: This book contains details of self harm, anorexia and other mental health issues, psychiatric wards and hospitals.

For Grace Edwards, life is a bit of an emotional storm. Her father left after her mother had an affair. That, combined with the usual high school horrors would make anyone miserable. But it’s not all bad. Her dream of playing varsity soccer has just come true, and things are starting to look up. Then it all falls apart.

Grace finds herself hauled off to a psychiatric ward and gets hit with a scary diagnosis. Anorexia.

Changing Ways follows Grace through the early stages of her battle with her mental health demons.

What I thought…

I’ll start this section with a warning. I had to stop reading after a few chapters as I was in a bad mental health place myself, and if I’m honest, this book cut pretty close to the bone. Having now completed the book, I’m really glad I waited until I felt better. The content of this book is obviously emotionally complex and if you’ve been through something similar, can be difficult, even triggering to read. But it’s worth it, when you’re in a better head space.

My first impressions of this book were primarily curiosity. This book is set in the US, the land of private health care, and I’m in the UK where we have the NHS. I was really amazed at the difference in mental health provision between the two countries. I even took to twitter to ask for confirmation that this as an accurate representation of how things worked over there. Apparently it is! For those of you who are interested, I’ve been in a psychiatric ward twice in my life for various reasons, and it took an incredible amount of effort and problems to get there. Grace goes from being caught self-harming to a psychiatric facility in a matter of hours, which is apparently standard practice. It was quite the culture shock, but as it turns out this disconnect in experience really opened up the rest of the book for me.

Since Grace is whisked off immediately for observation, she really doesn’t want to be in the facility. She doesn’t see the point and she resists at every turn. The idea of the controlled environment and treatment plans makes her feel infantlized and robbed of her independence. Her diagnosis makes her feel broken, and it’s heartbreaking, but also infuriating because from the outside you can see how damaging it is. From my point of view, it was a really insightful look at how mental illness affects those around us which is so difficult to consider when you’re in the throws of your own crisis.

Eventually Grace is moved on to an outpatient program, and it would have been easy at this point, to want Grace to just get better and stay that way, especially considering how terrified Grace is about being forced back into hospital. But she doesn’t. As Tannenbaum so rightly suggests, recovery takes time, a lot of time, and you don’t just leave the hospital feeling fine. Grace finds herself in a program for people with eating disorders, and her struggles increase when she start comparing herself to other, thinner patients.

Throughout the book, Grace’s ability to cope and follow her treatment plan fluctuates. Sometimes she struggles, other times it’s a little easier. Grace’s recovery isn’t just a steady climb back to normal, and actually at the end of the book (If you want to avoid the spoiler, skip the rest of this paragraph) Grace finds herself back in hospital over Christmas, her worst fears realised, and obviously, she hates it. It sounds like a miserable ending, but actually it’s beautiful.

My favourite part of this book, I think, comes towards the end, when Grace is having one of her better periods, and she is sitting round the table waiting for another girl to finish her small meal for over an hour. This is something Grace has struggled with herself throughout the book, but she is infuriated. She wants to grab the girl by her shoulders and shake her back to sense. It’s a beautiful moment, because this was how I’d been feeling for most of the book, and Grace has the clarity of mind to notice that this is something she has found difficult.

“I wanted to shake her bony shoulders and exclaim, “Just eat already! Why can’t you just eat!?”
But I didn’t. Instead, I played with the new admission bracelet around my wrist and reminded myself that not too long ago, I was her; petrified of every bite, every calorie that entered my body.”

It was a wonderful moment, because this is such a difficult thing to come to terms with, and it made me hopeful that this knowledge would fortify Grace in her difficult periods.

Final Thoughts…

Changing Ways is a story of complex and difficult concepts, written in a way that is incredibly easy to read. It is emotionally draining at times, and beautiful throughout. I love it when I read something that makes me feel like the author understands a bit of my world, and that is exactly how I felt reading this book. I’m so glad I 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: Evenfall (Gaja J. Kos & Boris Kos)

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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: 3.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fantasy and magic fans

About the Book…

TW: This book contains descriptions of self harm and sexual assault.

“As if waking up in an unfamiliar world isn’t enough of a surprise, Ember gains a new title to her name. Savior.” (Goodreads).

Long ago, the world was fractured. Split into three parts across magical lines. And only Ember has the power to piece reality back together again. But to do so, Ember and her friends must steal an powerful artefact from the castle of the evil Crescent Prince.

Evenfall is chock-full of magic and adventure and has the potential to be a really fun series.

What I thought…

Here is a brief list of words I never want to hear again: Argent, Obsidian, Sapphire, Utterly. I’m starting with this because it annoyed me so much. There are a handful of descriptive words that are massively overused in this book and it just irked me something fierce. Now moving away from petty gripes…

The basic premise of Evanfall is actually something I really enjoyed. A world split along magical lines, each inhabited by a population with it’s own unique form of magic. A saviour that has to stitch the world back together or all hell’s going to break lose. Very much my cup of tea. Pure magical fantasy. The execution, however, left a little to be desired.

Actually, that’s not quite fair. There wasn’t a great deal wrong with the execution, it was just too fast! I really struggled to keep track of what was going on, even from one page to the next at times. The basics of the story I could follow, but the specifics I struggled with. It felt like it needed to be longer, just to slow the pace a little. I just found it too intense, and I hadn’t recovered from the last big thing before the next big thing kicked off.

I also felt confused, really quickly. Ember appears in a new world. Not a strange world, a world she literally had no idea even existed until right that second. She immediately meets someone who in no-time-at-all she is best friends with. A little later she encounters the Crescent Prince, the villain of the piece. Keeping in mind she has never heard of him before and only knows anything about him because of minuscule amount her new friend has told her. So obviously, she immediately fears him for no apparent reason. Then even later, she falls head-over-heels in love with him after being kidnapped by him, and completely changes her mind about the man she has been told is a bloodthirsty tyrant after a brief conversation about how much the rest of the world sucks.

Don’t get me wrong, if your negative opinions are based on basically nothing, then I absolutely see why you would change your mind almost immediately when confronted with new information, it just feels a little weird.

Final Thoughts…

Evenfall was an enjoyable, if intensely annoying, read. I’m not sure I’d read it again, but I would definitely read the next book in the series, so take from that what you will.

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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 Lady in the Cellar (Sinclair McKay)

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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: Crime fans, Victorian history fans.

About the Book…

A body is discovered in the coal cellar of a boarding house, and the lives of the Bastendorff family are thrust into the national press to be critiqued, analysed and slandered. Who was the mysterious corpse, what had happened to her, and who hid her body in the cellar?

What I thought…

I think this is probably the first ‘True Crime’ book I’ve ever read, and I’m not gonna lie, it took some serious work to get into it. Presumably if you’re big in to True Crime you are used to the line between fact and fiction being trod, the narrative reading like it came from a really good documentary. But I’m not, and it took some adjustment. Having said that, once I switched my internal voice to that of Tony Robinson (of Time Team and Blackadder fame) I found this book to be both enjoyable, and easy to read.

 

The book provides you with the facts of the case, alongside a smattering of Victorian history, which actually proved to be almost as interesting as the plot itself, but then I’m a bit of a history geek so…

The big problem I had with this book was the ending. There’s no spoilers here, it’s an unsolved case so there is nothing to ruin. Since the case is unsolved, the last part of the book is dedicated to what the investigating officer might have thought, if he even thought about it at all. It’s pure fantasy. I have nothing against pure fantasy, but I do have a problem with the only scenarios explored where ones where mentally ill characters committed a gruesome murder. It doesn’t sit right with me that out of the million and one ways the murder could have been carried out, only these two were selected for examination. In great detail I might add. It really spoiled the book for me if I’m honest.

Final Thoughts…

It took work to get into it, and I hated the ending, but I still think it’s worth a read.

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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!