Books · Review

ARC Review: Cursed by Marissa Meyer (Gilded #2)

Goodreads synopsis:

It isn’t true, she wanted to whisper. To lean forward and nuzzle her cheek against his temple. To press him against the wall and mold her body to his. I am not his. I will never be his.

Serilda and Gild cannot break the curses that tether their spirits to Adalheid’s haunted castle. There they remain trapped for eternity. On the night of the Endless Moon, the Erlking means to capture one of the seven gods and so be reunited with his lover, Perchta, who has been banished to the underworld.

But it soon becomes clear that the Erlking’s hunger for vengeance won’t be satisfied with a single wish, and his true intentions have the power to alter the mortal realm forever.

Serilda and Gild have no choice but to thwart his plans, all the while solving the mystery of Gild’s forgotten name, and freeing all the ghosts kept in servitude to the dark ones. As the evil forces gather, it seems only their love is strong enough to sustain them . . .

*May contain minor spoilers for book one. Check out my review for Gilded here.

My thoughts:

After the cliffhanger ending of Gilded, I was desperate to know what would happen. This was probably my most anticipated read of the year.

Firstly, the pacing. After the ending of Gilded, I expected this to be quite fast-paced and action-packed. It’s the concluding novel in the duology. But this book takes a slower pace. It really felt like filler for the most part.

It was overly descriptive to the point where it just takes away from the plot. I like pretty descriptions and vivid writing, which was what I liked in the first book. It felt like a fairytale. However, this takes it too far. The descriptions overtake the plot and the characters. It slowed the pace too much, this sequel would’ve benefitted from some urgency in the pacing.

I found myself really bored through the first half. It took so long for stuff to happen and for the story to pick up. It didn’t feel like a final book.

The plot – as I said before is very slow and overpowered by the descriptions.
It had some interesting elements but overall pretty predictable. As it is a fairytale retelling, the plot is going to be a little predictable as they tend to follow a formula.

I did like the dark elements, it’s one of the darkest YA fantasies I’ve read. It really feels like the classic fairytales in that aspect, which I enjoyed!
How the Rumpelstiltskin aspect wraps up and the origin in the story was a nice twist. I loved the history side and the mystery of Gild – those parts were less predictable. I did guess Serilda’s mother, that didn’t surprise me at all. It was well foreshadowed, not sure if it was easily predictable or I’m just a good guesser haha.

The ending – It did have some good moments once the pace picked up and some action took place. The ending wrapped things up nicely, it took a while to get there but the ending was sweet. As it is a fairytale retelling, it did end with the happily ever after as you would expect.

Overall, I’m a bit disappointed. I expected more. It was just an okay read. I was hoping for a new favourite but alas, it did not make it. I think if the filler parts of Gilded and Cursed were taken out and these two books combined, it could’ve been an amazing standalone.

Rating: 2.75 – 3 Stars

Cursed is out tomorrow! (November 8th)
You can get these beautiful copies with sprayed edges now!

*Cursed was gifted by the publisher. All views are my own.

Audiobooks · Books · Review

The Perfect Autumn Read | Book Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers (audiobook)

Goodreads synopsis:

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial-like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

My thoughts:

It’s an ugly tale, told so amazingly.
It gives the harsh reality of girls that go missing, and the book’s ending reflects that.

This is not an easy read at all. It’s very graphic and violent and definitely not for everyone. I will list triggers at the end of my review, there is a lot! It’s gritty, dark and devastating – It will really move you. It’s a book I will never forget reading, will likely reread it in the future.

This book can only be described as heart-wrenching.
The characters and the story feel so real, it was like listening to a documentary. I felt so deeply invested in Sadie’s story. This is the kind of book you cannot get out of your mind while reading it. I just needed to know more, I was both horrified and hooked throughout. It’s a hard listen but also I couldn’t stop.

The podcast element really shines in the audiobook.
Had I read this physically, I’m not sure I’d feel the same. The story lends itself to being heard rather than read.
The narrators were great! It has an excellent cast of voices, it all felt so real.
Rebecca Soler does Sadie’s chapters – She’s one of my favourite narrators having listened to a good few books she’s narrated.

I appreciate the representation in this story, I have never read/listened to anything with the main character having a stutter before. I can’t comment on the accuracy side as I don’t have one. From what I can tell it was well portrayed.

Trigger/Content warnings: Pedophilia, ableism, grief, death, murder, abandonment, assault, sexual assault, substance abuse, explicit violence + more (basically very very dark and all the triggers you can imagine)

Rating: 5 Stars

If you’re looking for a dark, mystery book to read this Autumn/Winter – I highly recommend this.

Books · Graphic Novels · Judging Book Covers · Review

Book Series Review: Paper Girls by Brain K. Vaughan | Graphic Novels Vols 1-6

Goodreads Synopsis:
(Vol 1)

In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.

My thoughts:

I picked up this series as I love Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and needed to pick up more by him! Plus 80s, sci-fi and time travel – sounds so good, right?!

You’re thrown right into the story right away from vol 1.
The pace is pretty fast and for a while, I had no idea what was going on. (But in a good way) The plot does all make sense with each volume.

The focus of this story is definitely the friendship between the girls. With the time travel element, they are thrown into unknown times and have to work together to try and get back to the right year.

As expected, it is not an easy journey. It has twists and turns all throughout. It really keeps you on the edge of your seat. You will definitely need all volumes to hand as you’ll need to know what happens next!

The ending was a little meh. Bittersweet. Not sure whether I liked it or not. It was a weird and wonderful series, it didn’t quite go out with a bang like I expected.

It’s a great series to just binge. I borrowed all volumes from my library, luckily the series is complete and no wait for the next volume! It’s something I would definitely consider rereading in the future.

Series Rating: 3.5-4 Stars

A TV series was released on Amazon Prime, I might have to check it out. (I always say this about adaptations but I’m not much of a TV/Film watcher) However, I did like this series and the show has diverse casting, so I might give it a go.
Updated since I first started writing this post, Amazon have now cancelled Paper Girls. Very disappointing to see they won’t be making more seasons. A lot of shows with diverse casting and rep seem to not get renewed.

Books · Review

Book Review: Gallant by V.E. Schwab

Goodreads synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Olivia Prior is missing three things: a mother, a father, and a voice. Her mother vanished all at once, and her father by degrees, and her voice was a thing she never had to start with.

She grew up at Merilance School for Girls. Now, nearing the end of her time there, Olivia receives a letter from an uncle she’s never met, her father’s older brother, summoning her to his estate, a place called Gallant. But when she arrives, she discovers that the letter she received was several years old. Her uncle is dead. The estate is empty, save for the servants. Olivia is permitted to remain, but must follow two rules: don’t go out after dusk, and always stay on the right side of a wall that runs along the estate’s western edge.

Beyond it is another realm, ancient and magical, which calls to Olivia through her blood…

My Thoughts:

First of all, the writing. V.E. Schwab’s writing never misses. It’s always beautiful, lyrical and utterly captivating. The writing here was wonderful as expected!

The story itself – Interesting and gripping from the beginning. It was mysterious and dark. I’m not usually a fan of horror/creepy books but this worked for me, maybe because it’s YA.

The main character, Olivia, was an easy character to like. I found her pretty relateable and easy to emphasise with. She’s mute and cannot speak, I’m not sure how accurate the representation for this is and cannot comment on that aspect. As someone who struggled to talk to people growing up, I could relate to the frustration of wanting to say something but just couldn’t.

Plot-wise, it started off really well.
The concepts and ideas are always brilliant with Schwab, but I do tend to find her endings fall a bit flat. This was the same for me. I really enjoy the beginning, it slowed down towards the middle and then the ending felt a bit off.
There was just *something* missing from this story. I expected more and it just didn’t reach that for me, personally. I cannot really pinpoint what exactly it needed but it just needed something.

Overall, it was a decent read. I liked Olivia as the protagonist and I loved the gothic horror vibes. It was atmospheric and its strengths definitely lay with the writing, worldbuilding and main character. I don’t mind the more vibes driven novel, but I feel like there could have been a bit more to the plot.

It’s described as The Secret Garden x Crimson Peak – that is a very accurate description. If that sounds like your thing, this is well worth a read.

Rating 3.5 Stars

* Thanks to Titan Books for gifting me an ARC and pins. All opinions are my own and I bought the special edition with my own money.

Books · Graphic Novels · Review

Book Review: Chef’s Kiss by Jarret Melendez (Graphic Novel)

Goodreads Synopsis:

Now that college is over, English graduate Ben Cook is on the job hunt looking for something…anything…related to his passion for reading and writing. But interview after interview, hiring committee after hiring committee, Ben soon learns getting the dream job won’t be as easy as he thought. Proofreading? Journalism? Copywriting? Not enough experience. It turns out he doesn’t even have enough experience to be a garbage collector! But when Ben stumbles upon a “Now Hiring—No Experience Necessary” sign outside a restaurant, he jumps at the chance to land his first job. Plus, he can keep looking for a writing job in the meantime. He’s actually not so bad in the kitchen, but he will have to pass a series of cooking tests to prove he’s got the culinary skills to stay on full-time. But it’s only temporary…right? 

When Ben begins developing a crush on Liam, one of the other super dreamy chefs at the restaurant, and when he starts ditching his old college friends and his old writing job plans, his career path starts to become much less clear. 

My thoughts:

A cute and fun graphic novel with great rep!

The main character, Ben is a bit geeky and awkward but adorable!
He’s a relatable character, that has finished college and struggling to find a job after finishing his English degree. (Hits way too close to home haha)

The food aspect of this graphic novel was awesome! I felt genuinely hungry at times. I like the whole dynamic between Ben and the other chef’s. (Apart from the scary head chef)

There’s not only a bit of a slow burn romance (LGBT) but there’s a huge focus on friendships – which is nice to see! The romance actually isn’t a massive part of this, at least in my opinion. It takes a while for any romance to happen. It’s more about Ben learning about himself and where he wants to go in life; while dealing with pressures from family and juggling his friends and new friends.

Illustrations: GORGEOUS!
I love the art style here. It reminds me of older comic book and cartoons drawing style.

Overall, definitely worth picking it! Light fun read that does deal with some deeper topics. A well balanced story!

TW: Overbearing/controlling parents, unemployment stress, homophobia

Rating: 4 Stars

*ARC from Netgalley
Chef’s Kiss is out April 12th!

Audiobooks · Books · Review

Mini Audiobook Review: Empress and Aniya by Candice Carty-Williams

Audible Plus Free Audiobooks | Brian's Book Blog | Week of October 10th


When Empress starts at Aniya’s school, they’re not exactly best friends. But, when the two teenage girls accidentally cast a spell on their 16th birthday and end up switching bodies, they quickly learn that friendship is the most important magic of all.

South London’s answer to Freaky Friday, Empress & Aniya is a moving portrayal of the importance of real friendship and the ups and downs of being a teenager.

My thoughts:

It’s a quick easy read/listen, I really enjoyed listening to it. The story is about friendship – such a nice thing to see! No romance just pure platonic love! We definitely need more friendship based YA stories.

I like the magical, body switch element – it was interesting to see the girls from two completely different backgrounds be thrown into the others’.

Is it basically just Freaky Friday? Yeah, but I loved it!

It did touch on heavier topics such as class, poverty and parental relationships. The way Empress and Aniya live was an interesting juxtaposition. Aniya is from a wealthy family and has never wanted for anything. Empress is from a poor background with a mother who is rarely present.

The narrator was really good, really brought the characters to life and was a joy to listen to! I binged the whole thing. It’s very short but punchy. Highly recommend grabbing the audiobook, it’s available on the Audible Plus catalogue if you subscribe.

Rating: 4.5-5 Stars
I can’t really fault it, I have nothing bad to say!

Books · Review

Book Review: The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea eBook : Oh, Axie: Kindle Store

Goodreads Synopsis:

Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.

Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.

Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.

But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking…

My thoughts:

After reading and enjoying XOXO by Axie Oh last year, I just knew when this book was announced I had to read it. It’s a YA fantasy inspired by Asian (specifically Korean) mythology! It’s also a retelling of the Korean tale of Shim Chong – which I’m not familiar with but very happy to be introduced to!

From what I’ve read about Shim Chong – this was an interesting mix of the tale and Axie Oh’s original ideas. I can’t speak on the faithfulness nor accuracy, as I said I wasn’t familiar prior to picking up this novel.

The novel is also described as being similar to Spirited Away, I haven’t seen that film since I was a child, so cannot comment on that aspect either. Both deal with a character being thrown into the spirit realm, so I kinda see the comparison. I guess it’s time for a Spirited Away rewatch!

The writing was so beautiful.
It almost reads like a fairytale, it’s very magical and pretty. Everything about the story was stunningly written. I thought the characters were all well written and I enjoyed Mina as a protagonist, I just kind of wish there was more backstory for Mina.

We jumped straight into the plot – which I like if the story is going to be fast-paced. This, however, was a tad on the slow side, to begin with. The pacing was a bit all over the place, one of the few faults. Some parts were pretty slow and some over too quickly.

The romance, I really enjoyed. Subtle and not overbearing, it was very sweet and wholesome. A little slow burn, which is my favourite, I’m not the biggest fan of instalove. It also didn’t take up the whole plot – it definitely takes the back seat for the majority of the novel.

Part of me is happy it’s a standalone, due to the lack of commitment but it was so good I wish there were more. However, the story wrapped up so perfectly, it was a joy!

I look forward to reading more from Axie Oh in the future.

Rating: 4 Stars

*Book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for a review.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is out Feb 22nd!

Blogmas · Books · Review

The Disappointment is REAL | Blogmas Day 11 – Book Review: Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson | Waterstones

Warning this review may spoil Skyward + Starsight
You can click the titles for my reviews of those!

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Spensa’s life as a Defiant Defense Force pilot has been far from ordinary. She proved herself one of the best starfighters in the human enclave of Detritus and she saved her people from extermination at the hands of the Krell—the enigmatic alien species that has been holding them captive for decades. What’s more, she travelled light-years from home as an undercover spy to infiltrate the Superiority, where she learned of the galaxy beyond her small, desolate planet home.

Now, the Superiority—the governing galactic alliance bent on dominating all human life—has started a galaxy-wide war. And Spensa’s seen the weapons they plan to use to end it: the Delvers. Ancient, mysterious alien forces that can wipe out entire planetary systems in an instant. Spensa knows that no matter how many pilots the DDF has, there is no defeating this predator.

Except that Spensa is Cytonic. She faced down a Delver and saw something eerily familiar about it. And maybe, if she’s able to figure out what she is, she could be more than just another pilot in this unfolding war. She could save the galaxy.

The only way she can discover what she really is, though, is to leave behind all she knows and enter the Nowhere. A place from which few ever return.

To have courage means facing fear. And this mission is terrifying.

My thoughts:

Where to begin…

This was probably my most anticipated read of the year and it is now my biggest disappointment of the year. It pains me to say it but wow, this was not it.

Firstly, this did not feel like a Brandon Sanderson novel?? It was boring. It felt so much like filler and fluff. Were there some important reveals? Yes. But they were at the very end.

This is a YA series but this felt really childish/ridiculous. The tone and writing felt so different to the previous two. Everything was so off. It didn’t seem to fit with the other novels. Starsight took a bit of a different direction from Skyward but this just went crazy off. After the cliffhanger of Starsight, I expected an amazing sequel and i eagerly awaiting forever for this.

The whole Nowhere was interesting enough but spending the whole book there was a bit of a bore. I found I was dragging myself through this novel. I didn’t want to pick it up and I rarely reached for it. It took over 2 weeks for me to finish and that is so unusual for me. If it hadn’t been a Sanderson, I’d have DNF’d. But I do want to complete the series when the final book comes out, so I persevered.

I even switched to the audiobook to get through the last 150 pages, which helped me read quicker but also kind of ruined it further. Did not like the narrator’s voice for MBOT – a Scottish woman?? It just didn’t seem to fit to me. Definitely not how I had previously imagined the voice. The narrator wasn’t bad at anything else, just wasn’t my personal preference. I definitely will not be reading the next one on audiobook.

The redeeming qualities were the characters, Spensa’s character development is one of the best things about the series. I know a lot of people find Spensa unlikeable – I don’t and never have. She’s a bit odd and quirky but she’s entertaining!

The last 100, maybe 75 pages were definitely the best part. There were some good, Sandersons style twists – which I didn’t see coming. Things did begin to add up towards the end.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

(it physical pains me to give my favourite author less than 4 stars)

Books · Review

Criminally Underrated Classic | Book Review: Passing by Nella Larsen



Irene Redfield, the novel’s protagonist, is a woman with an enviable life. She and her husband, Brian, a prominent physician, share a comfortable Harlem town house with their sons. Her work arranging charity balls that gather Harlem’s elite creates a sense of purpose and respectability for Irene. But her hold on this world begins to slip the day she encounters Clare Kendry, a childhood friend with whom she had lost touch. Clare—light-skinned, beautiful, and charming—tells Irene how, after her father’s death, she left behind the black neighborhood of her adolescence and began passing for white, hiding her true identity from everyone, including her racist husband. As Clare begins inserting herself into Irene’s life, Irene is thrown into a panic, terrified of the consequences of Clare’s dangerous behavior. And when Clare witnesses the vibrancy and energy of the community she left behind, her burning desire to come back threatens to shatter her careful deception.

Brilliantly plotted and elegantly written, Passing offers a gripping psychological portrait of emotional extremity.

My thoughts:

Wow! What a read.
The reviews for this one have been less favourable and so I just expected an okay read. However, this blew me away by the end!

It was such a fresh and interesting story – especially for a classic.
I’m not normally one to enjoy fiction set in the early 20th century but I really like this setting. It’s set in the 1920s and is written from the perspective of a mixed race/ biracial (African American and white) woman – something I’ve never read from prior.

There’s a lot going on in this very short novel (maybe novella). It’s a lot the unpack and I found it very thought-provoking. I was fascinated by the concept of mixed race/biracial living and acting as white – completely shunning the African American side as Clare does in the novel. It’s interesting seeing the racial prejudice of this time period and the racism Clare has internalised. Clare uses Irene as a way back into the Black community. Irene, though light-skinned is not ashamed of her heritage and does not live as white – marrying a Black doctor. While there seems some conflict within Clare, she’s married to an openly racist white man and actively shuns her origins but inserts herself into Irene’s life to reconnect with the Black community she has dismissed for years.

The two main characters, Irene and Clare are both great to get to know over the course of the story. They’re two very different and contrasting characters, both of which are fascinating.

The story was engaging and well-plotted – a little slow but nothing too bad. It’s a great story with realistic characters, the story feels so real. It’s a shame it’s so short, a longer story would’ve been amazing!

However, the ending… it’s quite abrupt and jarring – I’m not quite sure if I loved it or hated it. I was shocked, to say the least. I couldn’t really believe what I was reading. For the most part the novel’s pace was slow – the ending was so fast and out of nowhere. It’s a very dramatic close to such a short novel. Surprising!

Overall, this is definitely worth a read! A criminally underrated classic, in my opinion. Definitely needs a) a higher rating on Goodreads b) More awareness!!
Classics by POC definitely need more hype and attention in general.

It’s also now a film on Netflix, I’ll have to give it a watch and see how it compares!

Rating: 4 Stars

Books · Diverse Reads · Graphic Novels · Review

Graphic Novel Review: The Tea Dragon Society by K. O’Neill

From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.

My thoughts:

Oh my goodness, where to even begin. I don’t have the words to express how adorable this graphic novel is!

It’s middle grade graphic novel with LGBTQ+ & disability rep and the most wholesome vibes ever. Despite being for children, anyone could pick this up and enjoy it. It’s such a lovely, comforting read. Honestly, I was just in awe of the cuteness throughout.

It’s all about dragons – Tea Dragons, to be more specific. It’s such a cute and cool concept. Who doesn’t love dragons?! It’s also about friendship and love and it’s just a beautiful story about finding your place in the world. *sheds tear*

THE ARTWORK – Oh how I wish I could draw even half as well as K. O’Neill. The art is simply stunning.
Here are some examples (taken from the Amazon preview):

I am obsessed with this cutesy art style! It’s so beautiful. Such a joy to look at!

Rating: 5 Stars