Book Review: An Argumentation of Historians (Jodi Taylor)

Goodreads Link |  Author Website

“Adventures of the Time Travelling Arsonist” ~Rejected title (probably)

TL;DR – Think ‘Female Indiana Jones’ + Time Travel and you’re pretty close to the premise of this book. A real fun read.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

Did you read my “TL;DR”? How was I not gonna read it! Seriously though, I love historical fiction, I love time travel and sci-fi…it was just an obvious move for me.

Also it was in the “A Book Published This Year” category of my reading challenge. One thing I should mention at this point is that this book is part of a series and I wish I had started at the beginning.

The Story…

An Argumentation of Historians is the 9th book in the series The Chronicles of St. Mary’s. Unfortunately I haven’t actually read the rest of the series, so I can’t give a great deal of overview but I’ll do my best.

Historian Max works at St Mary’s, travelling through time in order to document as much of history as possible. After the unexpected appearance of an illegal time traveller during a visit to Tudor England, Max persuades her coworkers to lay a trap to catch the villainous Clive Ronan (who I have to assume is well established as a nemesis in the previous books).

Unfortunately, the trap fails and Max finds herself stuck with no hope of rescue in the year 1399. Despite being stuck in an unfamiliar time, fortune smiles upon Max by dumping her at St Mary’s…or at least, the St Mary’s of 650 years ago. The story follows Max and her attempts to survive in a harsh new environment, and hope for a rescue that might never come…

What I liked…

The premise is perhaps the part I like the most about this book. As I said above, I love time travel and historical fiction, so the combination of the two was never going to be a hugely difficult sell (although it wouldn’t be the first book I’ve read with this premise that I completely hated).

The story itself is fun, the character of Max is entertaining, and the story is written as if Max was telling it to you in person one evening round a camp fire. I personally am I big fan of informal writing, however this isn’t for everyone so be warned.

There were a lot of references to the previous books in the series during this book. Something about different worlds, or possibly different realities; more time travel; an Arch Nemesis and also a whole host of characters who got little interesting teaser lines which would make sense if you had read the rest but made little sense to me…but I enjoyed those because it still fleshed the world out a bit and it made me want to know more about the St Mary’s setting.

It seems a little odd to say this about the final book in a series I haven’t actually read yet, but it left me wanting more. I want to read both the next book, whenever that comes out, and all the previous ones too. The story references the previous books quite a lot, which is a bit of a pain if you haven’t read them, but not so much that it becomes unreadable. You certainly could read this book as a standalone, but unless it turns out that the other books are terrible I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing so.

What I disliked…

There was nothing about the story I disliked – apart from the fact that I didn’t know who anybody was or what the setting was, but that was entirely my fault for starting at the end of the series.

However, I’ve rated this book 4 buttons out of 5, and the reason for this is presumably more the fault of the publishers than the author, but you never know.

Specifically, this book could have done with another run through by a proof reader (assuming it actually had one) and another look by an editor. The first thing that struck me was that the text was slightly offset on the page – presumably intended to compensate for the binding, but it was too much and it looked really strange. I got used to it, but it really bugged me when I started reading. That in-and-of-itself wouldn’t have lost the book any marks, but then came the spelling and wording errors.

I get it, spelling errors happen. Sometimes you just miss things – I’m sure there are spelling errors on this site! That said, I’m neither a profession author, nor a proof reader, I’m just some mug on the internet with nothing better to do. I can take the odd error here and there, in fact I wasn’t even going to mention it originally, but by the third time I’d seen the word “off” spelt “of” (and this was far from the only problem) it had annoyed me so much I couldn’t not say something.

In addition there was a phrase to the effect of “There is no hard evidence for a sixth sense” which massively irritated me, since I would have thought most people by now where aware the the ‘5 senses’ thing we were taught as children is bunk. There were also a few occasions where it felt like the author had rewritten a sentence, but failed to properly delete the previous attempt and ended up with a garbled mess – a mess which apparently nobody at the publishers caught.

Having said that, I realise these complaints are – despite taking up most of the review space – fairly minor on their own. They just really bugged me. Hence the lost Button in the rating. It’s not something that would stop me reading the series or recommending it to others.

Final thoughts…

When all is said and done, I really enjoyed this book and I intend to read this rest of the series, copy errors be damned.

I would recommend this for historical fiction fans who like a bit of science fiction (because if you hate sci-fi, you probably won’t enjoy reading this much). Just remember to be warned about the writing style – it’s not for everyone!

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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: The Grantchester Mysteries – Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death (James Runcie)


Goodreads Link | Author Website

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Book of the Month (May 2018)

“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy…except in Grantchester apparently…” Obi Wan Kenobi

TL;DR – If you like the whole “Sleepy little town has more murders than small countries” genre, and you like priests you’ll probably like this book.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I absolutely adore the TV series Grantchester (Al Weaver’s  Leonard is totes adorbs), and I’ve been wanting to read the books basically since I saw the first episodes. Also, it conveniently falls into the “A book made into a TV show that you’ve seen but haven’t read” category of my reading challenge.

Plus I just generally enjoy the easy-read detective story genre so it just seemed like a good idea for a read.

The Story…

The book focuses on “Canon Sidney Chambers”, man of God, turned amateur detective. It is set in 1950’s Grantchester and Cambridge.

There are 6 different short stories in this book, following the fairly simple theme of “Someone in Grantchester got murdered” (or kidnapped, or what-have-you), and Sidney, together with his police chum Geordie Keating are going to figure out who-dunnit.

The is not just a series of short, disconnected crime stories though (although you could probably read them that way if you chose). The ‘main story’ as it were, follows Sidney Chambers life and struggles with romance, friendship, the church, his housekeeper and his dog.

What I liked…

This book was a nice, easy read – it is absolutely perfect for the casual or time-poor crime fan. The stories and characters and engaging and likeable which goes a long way to making this book a low-stress read.

I like the fact that the book is broken up into 6 different parts, but has a sort of ‘main story’ as I mentioned above. A lot of writers would have been tempted to drag each of the 6 stories in this book out into a whole book so in order to try and find a balance between the crime themes and Sidney’s personal and professional life, but Runcie has done the opposite – finding a good balance by saying less. There is a lot to be said for short-and-sweet.

I enjoy the characters, mainly because I know them from the television programme, however I am particularly enjoy the character of Sidney and his relationship to the Church and Christianity in general. I personally really enjoy reading about peoples interaction with and interpretation of their personal faith, and this book has plenty of it – although I am cautious to add, not so much of it that it detracts from the other themes of the book!

Finally, I enjoy the setting – mainly because Grantchester is only a few miles away and I know most of the place names! It makes things slightly entertaining for me…

What I disliked…

There are a handful of times where I found Runcie’s method of description a little peculiar, but not so much that I can remember exactly what bothered me, and certainly not enough to stop reading.

Also it bothers me the way the characters talk during a discussion about homosexuality, but frankly that’s my bad for reading a book set in the 50’s. Having said that, Sidney is very progressive in this regard which makes these passages easier to digest.

Final thoughts…

This book was an easy and enjoyable read. Each story was entertaining, and due to the format of short stories, the romantic subplots I usually can’t stand were engaging, but not drawn out.

The characters are lovable, although not hugely developed in many cases (again, due to the short-story format) but with 4 further books in the series, there is plenty of room for expansion. That said, the crime plots are the real selling points of this book. They are well thought out and a joy to read.

I strongly recommend this to anybody who enjoys a simple crime read – particularly those who are casual readers, are strapped for time, or struggle with longer stories.

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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!

Series Review: The Pirates! In an Adventure with… (Gideon Defoe)


Goodreads Link

“Not since Moby-Dick… No, not since Treasure Island… Actually, not since Jonah and the Whale has there been a sea saga to rival The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists…” ~Goodreads

TL;DR – If you like light reading, humour and pirates, give this series a try.

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Series details…

Released: 2004-2012.

“The Pirates…” series is made up of 5 books; The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (2004); The Pirates! In an Adventure with Whaling (2005); The Pirates! In an Adventure with Communists (2006); The Pirates! In an Adventure with Napoleon (2008); The Pirates! In an Adventure with Romantics (2012).

The story…

“The Pirates!…” books focus on the tales of a typical pirate crew, and their fearless and ruthless captain; The Pirate Captain! With his pleasant open face, stentorian nose and luxuriant beard, the Pirate Captain leads his fearless – and only slightly inept – crew on a series of adventures throughout the globe.

The books contain a host of lovable heroes and contemptible villains, from Number 2 (the only competent pirate on the boat), to the dastardly Black Bellamy (Pirate Captains Arch Enemy / Long Standing Friend) to the cynical, realistic (and therefore much loathed) Pirate in Red.

The Stories all follow a similar format; The Pirate Captain and his crew are bobbing along through the high seas, with no particular aims or goals in mind – they just like being at sea. (Never before has a single group of people more fully embodied that fine old hymn “Yo ho; Yo ho; A pirate’s life for me”.) The crew find themselves embattled in important philosophical debates – such as the best way to cook a ham – when the Pirate Captain himself enters majestically, and settles the matter once and for all, with an observation so wise and logical, you are left wondering why you never realised it before! Then – usually due to the Pirate Captain’s boredom or generalised moping, the crew set off on a wild adventure, featuring a host of famous figures from history. For example:

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (2004) – In an attempt to score some major treasure, the Pirates attack a vessel belonging to the Bank of England, transporting oodles of gold and treasures to wherever it is the Bank of England hordes it’s treasures. Unfortunately for the the Pirate Captain, this vessel contains less gold and more brilliant naturalists, in the form of Charles Darwin. Never one to back away from a challenge, The Pirate Captain concocts a scheme to use Darwin to make a fortune in London – leading to an exciting (and utterly bizarre) mystery that only the Pirates can solve.

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Napoleon (2008) sees a depressed Pirate Captain give up the salty world of professional pirating, to follow his life-long (read: half-hour long) dream of being a bee-keeper. He buys an island – which the brochure says is ideal for bee-keeping –  from the devilish Black Bellamy, and (much to the misery of the crew) set’s sail for his new Island – Corsica. Shortly after arriving, a new resident arrives – none other the Napoleon Bonaparte, freshly exiled. The Pirate Captain and Napoleon hit it off badly – two powerful personalities on a small, raggedy island (that is useless for keeping bees on) constantly at each others throats. The pair set about proving once-and-for-all who is the better man, with hilarious results!

Why did I read them…

My first exposure to this series came from the movie adaption – The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (Movie – 2012) – which remains one of my Top 5 movies of all time. After watching it a few times and looking on the ‘net, I discovered the books and bought them all. The books did not disappoint.

Why I love them…

The main (and most non-specific) reason is because I enjoyed the books so much. “The Pirates!…” books are the only series I can think of that I have read 3 or more times. I enjoyed The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (2004) so much that it is my go-to book for reading when I’m in a difficult head-space and need something to soothe and give a little spark of joy. It also holds the #1 spot in my Top 5 ‘light reading’ list.

Secondly, the characters. This series has characters I can really picture and enjoy (which was definitely helped by the movie adaption). I love the Pirate Captain most of all.

The Pirate Captain stands out for me because of the way his character reacts to the world around him. He is a Pirate because he loves the idea of being a pirate. He loves the treasure, and the pirate boat and the running people through. He loves the tattoos and the shanties and the roaring. He is married to the sea and is mostly faithful to it. He loves pirating – he just isn’t very good at it.

For starters, he’s really bad with names (so relatable) so he uses descriptions instead – The Pirate in Green, The Albino Pirate, The Pirate Who Likes Kittens And Sunsets. He also doesn’t know how nautical instruments work; be it an astrolabe or an honest-to-goodness map, the Pirate Captain doesn’t know how to use it properly. But he tries his best, and goes out of his way to make it sound like he knows exactly whats going on – even, and indeed especially, when he has absolutely no clue. The Pirate Crew love him in spite – or perhaps because – of this (except the Pirate in Red who tried to undermine the Pirate Captain whenever he can).

The Pirate Captain is not a man with a plan. He prefers to get an outline (catch the white whale) and fill in the details later. This leads to a series of amusing, over-the-top and mostly ineffective schemes as part of a totally bizarre and wonderful adventure.

Things usually work themselves out in the end, in one way or another, and you never stop rooting for the magnificent Pirate Captain and his rag-tag crew of lovable idiots.

Finally, the stories themselves. The plots are silly. The writing is silly. The characters and situations and footnotes are silly – and that is fantastic. These books don’t take themselves seriously – there’s no worrying about realism or historical accuracy or on occasions, common sense. It’s just fun. Fun for adults, and fun teens, fun for all!

Recommended for…

Most ages: Certainly fun for adults and older children. (Probably find for younger children but use your own judgement).

For readers of: Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams etc. Similar sort of humour and writing. I personally rank my Top 3 ‘humour’ series as #1 Discworld (Pratchett), #2 The Pirates!… (Defoe), #3 The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Adams).

Final thoughts…

The Pirates! series is equal parts funny, weird and wonderful. With situations and characters that are easy to love. They are written in a humorous and easy-to read way (complete with interesting and amusing foot-notes).

The stories are short, and sweet and funny. You really can’t ask for more.

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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: Coding Unlocked: Scratch and Python: the basics (Hywel Carver)


Goodreads Link

“Oh man this is fun! I made squid-Pong!!” ~Me post-book

TL;DR – A great little introduction to coding with Scratch and Python. Everyone buy this for your kids!

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RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I was well and truly bored out of my skull since finishing university – then I saw on the news that the world needs more folk with coding skills. We happened to have this book lying around for some reason, so I thought I’d work through it.

This was added to the “A book that will make you smarter” section of my reading challenge.

The Book…

This book gives you an absolute bare-bones introduction to computer coding. It teaches the absolute beginnings of Scratch and Python.

Scratch is a visual coding language; you drag and drop different elements into sequences and build your code that way. It is a very clever tool for developing the kind of structured, critical thinking required in order to use the other parts of the book – Python.

Python is your more traditional coding language. Typing in symbols and words that might as well be an alien language if you don’t know how to use it.

The book starts by introducing you to what coding means, and what it is for. Then it moves on to introducing some basic concepts. Each section has a series of tasks for the reader to complete and understand before moving on which consolidate all that has been covered so far in the book, gradually building and building.

By the end of the book, readers have created a couple of little games using Scratch and several little programs using python.

What I liked…

The book is written in a really easy-to-follow style. It gives you some code, explains what it does and then tests you to see if you can apply what you’ve just learned. It does this through a series of little tests. In Scratch, you are guided gently into creating an extremely simple animation, which makes a cat speak, and gradually you build up to making a fully functional game of Pong. In Python, you are told to solve a series of puzzles, by writing a program and inputting data.

Probably the best thing about this book is the way it uses Scratch to teach you the way to think about using python. Every concept is introduced in Scratch and you are taught how to piece your code sequences together with a drag-and-drop interface, and a cartoon cat that does what you tell it to. This teaches you the way the code operates, and how to split down a big instruction such as “Answer this number puzzle” into the simplest set of instructions possible – then you are shown how to use these ideas and turn them into python code. The transfer from one language to the other feels very natural, and and very simple.

Finally, it is really good fun. I felt an immense sense of accomplishment as I was working through this book. Completely each chapter feels like a real achievement because you can see it working – everything you learn has a purpose and you can watch it work.

What I disliked…

Code elements are printed in green text on a black background. __Like This which can be a little difficult to read at times, especially if you don’t have good light.

I also would have liked more of it, but it was a book aimed at children so I really can’t complain much that front. However, there could have been a ‘next steps’ or ‘further reading’ section, which it unfortunately didn’t.

Final thoughts…

This is a brilliant little book for learning the absolute basics – a perfect first step into the wonderful world of computer code. It is encouraging and challenging in all the right ways, and gives you a great sense of accomplishment.

If your child (or indeed you yourself) are interested in what makes computers work, then you can’t go wrong with this book. I cannot recommend it strongly enough as a starting point.

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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: Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters (Mark Dunn)

Goodreads Link

“Inventive and impressive … as politically engaging as it is fun.” ~ Big Issue

TL;DR – This book is a strange little treasure. A must read for lovers of words.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I honestly have no idea how I came to own this book – I just remember one day I didn’t own it, the next day I did. I assume tumblr had something to do with it. I assume that I read about how unique it was somewhere and thought I’d give it a shot.

Also, it was a the “A book I by an author I haven’t read” category for my reading challenge.

The Story…

Off the coast of America is an Island called Nollop. Named for the revered Nevin Nollop (deceased), creator of the pangram “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

Nollop is not an advanced nation – it’s not even keeping up with the rest of the world. But what Nollop lacks in technological advancement, it’s makes up for with the adoration of language. The Nollopian’s adore words – especially Ella. They adore words, and they idolise the aforementioned Nevin Nollop. A monument to his linguistic prowess stands proud for all to see – tiles with individual letters spelling out the famous pangram.

One day, a tile falls from the monument – the letter Z. The governing body of Nollop – being so fanatically devoted – declare the falling of the tile to represent an instruction from Nollop himself! The message is interpreted to mean the Nollopians should never used the letter again. Not in speech, not in writing…and those who break this divine law are severely punished.

The book is written as a series of letters from various Nollopians. As more tiles fall from the aging monument, the Nollopians are forced to abandon the variety of words they adore so much, until they can take no more…

What I liked…

The book itself is an example – albeit a very strange one – of totalitarian government, fanatical religious leadership and censorship. As the letters fall from the monument, so too are they removed from the book. Dunn writes very cleverly, managing to keep as much variety and love of language in each letter, despite the every increasing pressure caused by the rapidly decrease pool of usable letters. It is clever, not just because it is a physically difficult task, but also because Dunn manages to express so much emotion in so many ways, and when Ella’s heart breaks, my heart broke too.

The format itself, a series of somewhat connected letters, is a very novel and highly effective form of delivery. It was not just a gimmick – it brought the story to life. It took me a little while to get my head around it, and might have been irritating if the story wasn’t so engaging.

Finally, I loved the variety of ‘authors’ for the letters. The letters are written by many different characters; all with different views and ways of dealing with an incredibly difficult situation. Perhaps one of the most difficult, but most rewarding things about this book is that you find yourself questioning which of the characters approaches you think you would follow if you were in their place. Questions like this are what usually make books about totalitarianism very difficult, and often soul crushing to read – but the admittedly bizarre situation allows you to consider these ethical dilemmas, something which I find really important.

What I disliked…

Nothing. I loved it.

Final thoughts…

This book seems really strange. The premise is strange, the way it uses an ever decreasing pool of letters is strange. The use of letters instead of ‘normal’ prose is weird. BUT it is beautiful. It is challenging. It is insightful. It is art.

This book may be better suited to those with an appreciation for linguistic acrobatics, and the art of words, rather than the casual reader – but I would still encourage the casual reader to try it and see. It’s more than worth the effort.

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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!

Coming Soon(ish)!! – Watch this space!!

Coming soon – a reading challenge for all.

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Will you take the challenge? 24 individual categories plus a special bonus wildcard category for the holidays!

Sound overwhelming? Perhaps you don’t read much yet, or you don’t have much time. Maybe you read slowly, or just feel like something a little simpler! HAVE NO FEAR! At ragdollreads.co.uk, we’ve got your back! We made a 12 category (plus smaller, but just as special wildcard) challenge JUST FOR YOU!!

Whatever your level, we want to get you reading! So stay tuned, and get ready to take the plunge into reading next year!

Book Review: Bodhisattva Ideal: Wisdom and Compassion in Buddhism (Sangharakshita)

Goodreads Link | Sangharakshita Website

“To consider the Bodhisttva ideal is to place one’s hand on the very heart of Buddhism, and feel the beating of that hears.” ~Extract from the blurb

TL;DR – A fascinating read. Don’t read this unless you have at least some idea about Buddhism beforehand.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4.5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I’ve been fascinated by the concept of the Bodhisattva from the moment I first heard about it, and this seemed as good a place as any to start.

As it says in my introduction, I am a practising Buddhist. I have started to read a chapter of a book on a Buddhist topic every day before meditating.

Also, it was on my Reading challenge list.

The Book…

This book is an intended as an introduction to the concept of the Bodhisattva – which simply (and completely underwhelming put), is a being who seeks enlightenment for all sentient beings, rather than for themselves.

The first chapter takes you briefly through the origins of this ideal – detailing the differing opinions of Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism. This history is filled out a little more in the following chapters to provide you with a neat little guide to the origins and reasons for the rise of this ideal.

The remaining chapters are a fascinating account of the qualities of a Bodhisattva, and detailing how one becomes a Bodhisattva.* Chapter 2 introduces and explains the concept of Bodicitta and how it applies to the ideal. Chapter 3 introduces the Bodhisattva vows, and so on and so fourth. Each chapter introduces further qualities and concepts and explains them all.

*NOTE:- when I say ‘how one becomes…’ I do not mean to suggest this book is a sort of spiritual ‘how-to’ guide, nor that it pretends to offer a ‘quick’ guide to enlightenment.

What I liked…

I enjoyed the writing style. It was – for the most part – quite clear, and made use of metaphor, and drew parallels to other things in order to try and make difficult concepts clearer. I found the book mostly easy to read and to digest – the chapters are about 25-30 each, which was perfect for the way I chose to read this book.

Obviously I enjoyed the content. Going in, I was primarily interested in finding some explanations as to how a Bodhisattva functions – unlimited compassion and seeking enlightenment for all sentient beings is a lofty ideal, and something that I find both interesting and inspiring. I found some good information in this area, and the rest of the book was just as interesting. The historical aspects in particular were very enjoyable.

I also liked that the book was well referenced throughout, pointing to Buddhist. It’s usually a good sign to have proper referencing in a factual book.

Finally, there is a neat little Further Reading section at the back, which is something I always like to see.

What I disliked…

I would have liked a glossary of terms at the end – all the non-English terminology is translated and explained within the text, it just would have been nice. That said, there is a fairly big index that appears to contain all the non-English terminology (and a whole lot more) so it would not be difficult to research.

I found it a little difficult at times to grasp some of the concepts, and on occasion I was confused about the point being made – however this almost certainly has more to do with the complexity of the topic, the difficulty of explaining concepts that by their are difficult do understand from what I would term ‘the normal level’, and also inexperience on my part – as such, I would warn that this is not a book for the beginner; some knowledge of Buddhism is (I would think) essential, before reading this book.

Final thoughts…

I really enjoyed this book. I found it a very enjoyable and fairly simple read, and it answered a lot of questions – of course it also raised countless other ones, but that is definitely a good thing. It has inspired me to further reading on the subject of the Bodhisattva ideal, and also Buddhist history.

The book loses half a star, purely because it was not always as beginner friendly as I hoped. However, it will be going on my ‘read again’ list for a time when I will understand it better.

I would definitely recommend this book to anybody interested in the subject – providing they have some prior knowledge of Buddhism or don’t mind a doing a little bit of research.

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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: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (Michael Chabon)


Goodreads Link | Michael Chabon Website

“Maybe I missed something somewhere…” ~Me, post-book

TL;DR – I liked this book enough to finish it, but not enough to read it again. Recommended for crime fans.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 3.5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

It won the Hugo for Best Novel -2008  (Reading challenge category)

I wouldn’t say I’m ‘big’ into crime novels – I enjoy them, but it’s not my usual area. Having said that, I’m a sucker for alternate history, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

The Story…

Alternate History – The state of Israel collapsed in 1948, and for the Jewish people in diaspora moved  to (and thrived in) a temporary new homeland – The Federal District of Sitka, Alaska. The district is due to revert to Alaskan control.

Alcoholic cop, Meyer Landsman is woken one morning in his flea-bag hotel room and informed of a murder in another room. Together with his partner Berko Shemets, Landsman sets about solving the case – and gets much more than he bargained for!

What I liked…

My first impression was the setting. As I say, I’m a sucker for alternate history, so this gave me something to sink my teeth into right from the start. It was, admittedly, quite a culture shock, what with me knowing very little about Jewish cultures, and even less about Yiddish terminology, but once I got my head around the basics everything settled nicely.

Secondly, the plot. It’s difficult to say what I particularly liked about it without giving away more than I am comfortable about the story itself. I enjoyed how the story progressed – it was entertaining, and kept the air of mystery about it as the case slowly unfolded – needless to say I absolutely did not guess ‘who dunnit’.

What I disliked…

The ending. I’m not going to say what happens and ruin it for anyone. I’ll also say right now that the ending wasn’t necessarily bad. As I said in my quote at the top, I feel like I must have missed something because I was left feeling like the story had just lost steam by the end.

The case was progressing, and I was enjoying it. Things were escalating and it was exciting. Discoveries were being made and everything looked great. Then it just sort of ended. This is why I think I missed something. As far as the plot goes, it makes sense to have ended where it did – I guess I just expected it to go another way. I could read the last few chapters again – and indeed I might – but for the moment, the vague sense of disappointment.

Another minor thing – the case had a chess theme, and often there were descriptions of chess moves, or terminology that admittedly flew right over my head. This isn’t a criticism of the writing itself – I’m quite sure if you’re slightly more familiar with chess than I am those parts would make perfect sense – it was just something that made little bits harder to follow.

Final thoughts…

When I started reading, I was having fun – and I really wanted to enjoy this book more than I did. Frankly, if it wasn’t for the ending – which I remind you, wasn’t necessarily bad, it just wasn’t what I was expecting – then this would have got a solid four buttons. Unfortunately, the fact the I got to the end with my interest waning knocked off some points.

One final point. When I started writing this review, I gave the book a 3 button rating. However, as I was writing, bits of the book I had enjoyed kept coming back to me and the rating seemed unfit – it didn’t do it justice. This book isn’t a bad book – I would recommend it to a crime fan – it just didn’t hit the right buttons for me!

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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: Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)

Goodreads LinkTomi Adeyemi Website

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Book of the Month (April 2018)

“Oh my goodness, this book is AMAZING! You have to read it!” ~ My sister (Age 15)

TL;DR – Buy this book, read it, then buy it for all your friends.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I’ll admit right off the bat there were 3 reasons I bought this book:

  1. It sounded pretty cool (Can’t go wrong with a bit of magical fantasy).
  2. It was published this year – 2018 (Reading challenge category)
  3. My library (with the exception of manga) is pretty monochromatic, both in terms of authors and characters.

I mention this to begin with for one reason. Because I initially struggled with this book.

I know I’m not the only person in this world whose book collection consists of almost exclusively white authors. It’s not intentional – but there is no way justify that fact that doesn’t sound terrible. And it IS terrible. The amount of POC (or any minority) authors I have been exposed to is comparatively small – and that’s a damn shame.

When I started reading, I was plunged into the world of Orïsha, and I am ashamed to say I struggled to picture it consistently. My frame of reference is ‘white people’ and it shouldn’t be. Every so often I found my image of these characters reverting to what I shudder to call my ‘default’.

BUT, not for long.

I usually struggle to imagine characters without reverting to the handful of famous actors I really like – but this wasn’t an issue while reading this book. The world and it’s characters were bought to life by Adeyemi, and by the end of the first few chapters I had a beautiful (and cruel) new world whirling around in my head.

The Story…

Orïsha was a world of magic – until the Raid. Now Zélie wants to bring the magic back.

It’s a story about magic, evil kings and heroic teenagers – but it’s also a story about oppression. People with the capacity for magic (divîners) are born with white hair – before the Raid, this was seen as a good thing – since then, it’s has been something to hate. The peoples connection to the gods has be severed, and as a result, the magic is gone. Now divîners are ‘maggots’, heavily taxed and massively abused.

A young divîner, Zélie, soon learns of a secret ritual which could just bring restore her connection with the gods, and bring the magic back to Orïsha. She sets off, with her brother and a princess, on an epic quest to right the wrongs of the kingdom.

What I liked…

As I’ve mentioned, this book took me far out of my comfort zone, and plunged me into a beautiful, magical world. The writing is wonderful – it’s easy to read and the story is gripping. I finished it in 2 days – I think my sister read it all in one sitting. We were both hooked, from start to finish and begging for more!

I usually find I enjoy the plot more than the characters in most stories, but this wasn’t the case. The characters in Children of Blood and Bone and amazing. The two main characters (Zélie and Princess Amari) are strong women – both physically and spiritually – and the supporting cast is full of strong women too. This is also a refreshing change from the usual mostly male cast and (if you’re lucky) supporting damsel dynamic. But they are also beautifully written. The characters feel real – you understand their motivations and their desires and their pain. This is true of all the major characters – none of them feel like ‘set dressing”.

The premise is fun – magic and fantasy are an enjoyable medium – but it has this strong theme of resisting oppression that is really compelling. At no point would you say this story was ‘frivolous’ or a ‘fun romp’, it’s set in a fantasy setting, but the issues are hard-hitting and real.

One of my favourite elements of storytelling is world building – if an author manages to construct a world that you can really believe it is a joy. If an author leaves you begging to know everything about the world, the mythology and the people it is a treasure – and on these points Adeyemi really delivers! There is so much about the world of Orïsha you want to explore (and a whole world beyond). The mythology she has created (and I must admit mythology is one of my true pleasures) is beautiful in it’s presentation, and I could happily read any number of books detailing the creation stories and magical practices that are part of this book.

Finally, the ‘villains’. I am a firm believer that a good villain is not someone you are told is bad, and are left to hate without reason. The villain is important and the writing should reflect that. The ‘villains’ of this story – King Saran and his armies – are as well written as all the other characters. You see their motivations, their desires and fears – you are led to try and understand their position and I suppose, to make up your own mind.  Well written villain makes for a compelling story, and this book does not disappoint.

(On a playful note – I also loved the word “Baboonum” (sp?), and have chuckled to myself several times as it randomly resurfaces in my brain!)

What I disliked…

I wasn’t a fan of some of romantic elements – however I must stress that this is because I find romantic plots uninteresting personally, not because they were badly written!

Other than that, I really can’t this fault this book.

Final thoughts…

Basically, I adored this this book. It is well written, highly engaging and left me wanting more. I have been able to recommend it to my younger sisters, and they have also loved it. It is listed on Goodreads as a ‘Young Adult’ book, however I would strongly recommend this to any adult who wants a gripping, fantasy action novel.

If you like magic, rich worlds and strong characters – buy this book immediately.

I cannot wait for the sequel!

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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!