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: 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!

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: The Road to Vermilion Lake (Vic Cavalli)


Goodreads Link | Author Website

A love story that left me banging my head against a wall.

TL;DR – The tale of a blossoming romance between two unlikely lovers.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 2.5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I was lucky enough to have the author offer me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Story…

TW: Contains descriptions of bodily mutilation, sexual content, drug use, and sexual assault.

Thomas Tems is a blaster for a construction firm, building an idyllic residential area around a remote lake. Thomas soon forms a relationship with the architect behind the project, a brilliant young woman and devout Catholic, called Johnny.

The Road to Vermilion Lake explores their budding relationship, the difficulties that come from the clash of religious backgrounds,  and the troubled histories of the characters, and the frantic search for Johnny’s missing sister.

What I liked…

In it’s purest form, I enjoyed this story. I read it all over the space of a day, so something about it must have grabbed me.

I enjoyed reading about the building relationship between Thomas and Johnny. Johnny, as a devout Catholic, has a great deal of extra rules about what constitutes morality that are alien to Johnny, particularly around intimacy and sex. It was interesting seeing how the pair worked together to navigate a potentially difficult situation, even going so far as to create a map of morally appropriate places on Johnny’s body that could be touched before marriage. It was bizarre, certainly, but it was really nice to see a really thorough and clear example of how consent and communication can and should work in a relationship. Which, incidentally, is something I will come back to in a moment.

I also enjoyed, much to my surprise, the character building behind behind Thomas’ best friend Dave. Dave is introduced as the kind of man who ruts about the bars, having one night stands with women whose names he never bothers to learn. I was all prepared to hate him, which I suppose was very much the point. but Dave’s character is fleshed out, and we learn about his troubled past as a drug addict, ex-con and artist. He builds a relationship with Johnny’s sister while she is in the hospital, and falls apart when she leaves him to go to New York. His story is incredibly sad, and builds beautifully.

Finally, and I suppose this goes back to my first point a little, but I really loved the way this book dealt with the realities of love and lust, in particular with the theme of temptation. Cavalli introduces a character, Carol, who appears outside Thomas’ trailer on even, stinking drunk and looking for Dave. Carol is, by all accounts a beautiful woman, who basically throws herself on Thomas. Thomas’ temptation is explored at this point. He is madly in love with Johnny, who he is dating happily, but she is in New York, and he has urges. What I love about this scene is not the fact that he resisted, but the fact that he came so close to giving in, panicked and then ran off to make arrangements for this random drunkard to be cared for overnight. It’s so real and so human and it makes Thomas a stronger person when Carol comes knocking a second time.

What I disliked…

I have to preface this section with a quote from the book, you’ll see why in a minute.

“I was reading Faulkner’s Light in August. I’d never read him before and I was stunned by his genius. He’d just taken 10 pages to allow a mule to walk thirty feet…”

This quote comes in, according to my kindle, 89% of the way through the book. Which means for almost the entire book I found myself reading descriptions that where anywhere between somewhat excessive and needlessly clinical. The descriptions of gun related topic, for example, read like they were lifted verbatim from a gun catalogue. Don’t get me wrong, my favourite book (Les Miserables – Victor Hugo) is, at times, full of mind-numbing description that make you want to tear the book in half, so Cavalli is in not alone in a love for excess description, but it still bugged me. Hence the quote. It at least demonstrates that it was done on purpose for artistic reasons I don’t understand or appreciate.

Now we come to my big gripe and return to the concept of consent I mentioned earlier. Johnny sets out extremely clear boundaries as they begin their relationship, and I mean extremely clear. The map I mentioned earlier? Four perfect diagrams of Johnny’s body, front, back and both sides, show exactly where Thomas was permitted to touch and where he was forbidden. In terms of consent, this is about as explicit as it can possibly get. Which is why I was so furious when Thomas did this:

I gently caressed her there, knowing full well I was in a no entry zone…

Now after this, Johnny was more or less OK with this, but Thomas broke the explicitly stated rules of consent, so what this is, is a sexual assault. One that he knows full well he is committing and just doesn’t care, in fact he even seems proud of it, turning Thomas from a good, relatable character into someone I can’t stand. I know consent can change as things go along, but he makes no attempt what-so-ever to try and find out if it’s OK, presumably because he knows it won’t be.

There are a few other minor gripes like the use of the word “rump” which just made me laugh, but they are overshadowed by the last bit.

Final thoughts…

I enjoyed the story, I was bothered by the description and I hated the male lead. I’m not sure what to make of that. I feel a bit mean only giving this book a 2.5 rating, because I did enjoy the story itself. I think if the excess descriptions were cut down and it was made into a short story I would love it, but there you are…

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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: 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: Tardy Bells and Witches Spells (Sarina Dorie)

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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: 4.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of magical romance

About the Book…

Tardy Bells is the tragic story of a teenage nerd who wants to be a witch. Clarissa Lawrence is a geek. She loves Star Trek and Doctor Who and Lord of the Rings, and she loves magic. But her wish for magic turns sour when, after an incident at the Oregon Country Fair, where Clarissa’s sister becomes convinced she will be murdered by Clarissa before her 18th birthday.

What follows is a tale of magical discovery and teenage romance.

What I thought…

I really enjoyed this book, it was another one of those can’t-put-it-down reads where, had I not had other things to do, I would have read it all in one sitting. I hate how much I relate to Clarissa, the 14 year old girl inside me was crying out the whole way through screaming “Oh my god YEEEEESS!” She is a nerdy little girl who doesn’t fit in, struggles at school and has a group of weird friends. She is a total underdog and you can’t not root for her. Her sister is the preppy, beautiful popular cheerleader. Clarissa’s life reads like a story book, which for a character so heavily influenced by fiction seems highly appropriate.

It is established that Clarissa is geeky by namedropping all the various geeky things she enjoys, from Star Wars to My Little Pony. I understand why it was done, it was just super irritating.

Also, I hate Clarissa’s mother. I personally feel that the events of this story, much like the events in Disney’s Frozen, could have been easily avoided if the child’s parents weren’t total morons. Clarissa’s mother goes out of her way to make Clarissa think magic doesn’t exist, allegedly for her own protection. To whit, she has drugged her daughter since birth, and after an argument, literally burned every magic related item Clarissa owned, which was about 90% of her stuff. When Clarissa’s sister gets abducted at the Country Fair and comes home raving about how Clarissa is going to murder her, instead of sending the sister to a psychiatrist or something, the whole thing seems to be put on Clarissa. Her mum hates Derrick because she senses magic in him, and worries Clarissa’s magic will surface by association. Now to her mums credit, that is exactly what happened, but realistically if she had done the sensible thing and talked to her daughter about the situation like a normal person, the terrible things that happen throughout the book might have been avoided. Infuriating, but good reading.

The story is paced well and reads nicely. The writing style is informal, I suppose very much in the way you would expect a well-read 14 year old to recount things. It makes for very easy reading. I love Clarissa and Derick as characters, I see so much of myself in both of them, which was really nice. I just want them to be happy! I’m so pathetic!

Final Thoughts…

This really is a book for the outcast weirdos out there. This book is a fun little read, that I couldn’t put down. It’s a little weirdly written at times, and the constant name dropping bugged me, but I’m glad I read it and will definitely be reading the rest of the series (I have the next 2 downloaded already!)

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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: Dinosaur Jazz (Michael Panush)

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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: 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: 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!