Blog Tour: The Blacktongue Thief

Today is my spot on the blog tour for The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman! As such, I received a copy of the book for free from Gollancz, in exchange for an honest review.

Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.

But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.

Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.

Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva’s. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford. 

I’ll be honest. I thought for a long time before I requested a spot on the tour, because I really wasn’t sure if The Blacktongue Thief was going to be my sort of book. It appeared to be traditional epic fantasy, and therefore, I assumed, full of the misogyny often found in those books. Fortunately that was not the case. Kinch, our main character, isn’t the most enlightened person, but he is a 23 year old, brought up in a thieves’ school and living in a world that has been ravaged by war, so I can forgive him some rough edges. It helps that Kinch is a great first person POV – he’s telling the story from some point in the future, and is happy to pass comment on the actions of himself and his companions, often in a very funny way. Because Kinch is telling his own story, we get to see his thought processes too, and I particularly liked that we got a lot of his backstory in a very organic way. There were two occasions when I thought this worked very well: his reaction to meeting Malk, and the guilt and shame it provoked; and when he meets a man who could possibly-maybe be his biological father. I also loved KInch’s relationship with his god, Fothannon, and the mischievous ways Fothannon would grant prayers.

KInch isn’t our only well-written character though. The rest of this band of adventurers have enough depth that I cared about what happened to them – even Galva, who barely speaks – and even the minor characters are memorable. The plot moves at pace, and it’s a credit to Buehlman’s writing that he builds the character development into the fast moving story. Also, the world building is phenomenal and again, is fed into the story in a really organic way. One of my favourite world building ideas was the Taker’s Guild and the way they’d spread around the world, as well as their policy of charging their members for the education they’d had no choice in receiving. Because Kinch is in debt to the guild, he has a tattoo on his cheek that allows anyone to slap him and claim a drink on the guild, and I loved this idea. It’s such a tiny thing on the face of it, but really illustrates what sort of world this is and where the power lies.

I will say that it took me a little while to get into the book. I’m not sure why that was, as the first scene is great, but it just didn’t immediately grip me, and I was worried that I was going to struggle to read it. However, it soon picked up for me, and I found myself cursing every time I had to put the book down! If you’re struggling too, just stick with it, because it’s worth it!

Overall then, I greatly enjoyed The Blacktongue Thief. It’s funny and fast moving, with a great set of characters and a well thought out, vivid setting. It’s definitely worth your time!


The Blacktongue Thief is out now

Blog Tour: The Time-Thief

My copy of the The Time-Thief was gifted to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

I thoughtThe Inifinite by Patience Agbabi last year was great, so I was thrilled to be invited to join the blog tour for its sequel, The Time-Thief! It was lovely to be back in the company of Elle and her friends and I loved that this time we got to go back to the past.

It’s midsummer’s day and thirteen-year-old Elle and her Leapling classmates are visiting the Museum of the Past, the Present and the Future. But on the day of the school trip, disaster strikes, and the most unique and valuable piece in the museum, the Infinity-Glass, is stolen! And worse still, Elle’s friend and fellow Infinite, MC², is arrested for the crime!

To prove his innocence Elle must leap back centuries in time, to a London very different from today. Along the way she will meet new friends, face dangers unlike any she has ever known, and face an old enemy who is determined to destroy her. Can Elle find the missing Infinity-Glass and return it to its rightful home before it’s too late?

It is such a pleasure to see a book with a Black, autistic main character. It feels like this is something really unusual in children’s books (although I acknowledge that it might just be I haven’t come across them), and I imagine there are a lot of kids out there who will be seeing themselves in a book for the first time. That’s such a big deal! I am in no way an own voices reviewer for this book, and so I have very little idea as to whether it’s an accurate depiction of autism, but it seems to be, and Agbabi also credits a sensitivity reader in the acknowledgements. I’d definitely be interesting in hearing what you think if you do have this knowledge!

I really enjoyed the story in The Time-Thief. Elle and her friends are Leaplings – all born on the 29th February in a leap year – which gives them the power to time travel. After the events of the first book, Elle and Ben are now Infinites, a secret group of Leaplings who fight crimes along the timeline. When the Infinity-Glass goes missing and their friend is arrested for stealing it, it’s up to Elle to prove his innocence. To do this, Elle must leap back to 1752, and I loved these parts of the story. Agbabi paints a vivid picture of 18th century London, and how it affects the Leaplings, both mentally and physically. Francis was also a great addition to the team we already know and love, and I liked the way Agbabi used his story to explore historical London and its prejudices.

One of the things I really like is the importance of wordplay to the characters and how this is threaded throughout the book. The fact that the bad guys are known as the Vicious Circle and all that implies about the difficulties of time travel really tickles me. The only thing that bugs me a little is that I’m not really clear on what’s motivating them. Is it just all about profit? An attack on the mysterious Infinity? The first book had a brilliant environmental message, where the future was green and the antagonists were trying to reverse that, but it wasn’t as clear in The Time-Thief, which focused on the theft of the Infinity-Glass. It’s a minor gripe, as although there is a through storyline, each book is complete in itself, but it is something I’d like to see more of in future books.

Overall, The Time-Thief is a great middle-grade book, with a diverse cast and interesting plot. The environmental message of The Infinite isn’t quite as clear here, but it’s still there, alongside themes of family and friendship, and how they can make it more difficult to do the right thing. However, it’s never preachy and I would definitely recommend it.


The Time-Thief is out now from Canongate Books. Thank you Canongate for my gifted copy!

Netgalley Catch-Up

I thought it was about time I did another Netgalley catch-up, as I am oh so far behind (I have to double my number of reviews on there to even approach a healthy ratio at the moment!), and I’ve been trying to clean up my netgalley shelf.


I absolutely loved Afterlove. It’s the first book I’ve read by Tanya Byrne, but it certainly won’t be the last! I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but I fell in love with Ash and Poppy, and really felt their struggles – and their love, I loved the concept of the book as well – some people become Reapers when they die, and guide others (usually people who have died unexpectedly) to their afterlife. Afterlove wasn’t quite what I thought it was going to be from the blurb, but it was so cleverly constructed and well written, I was with it all the way nevertheless. The way that we got to explore Ash and Poppy’s developing relationship made it all the more tragic when it was ripped away. Grief is ever present in this book – Ash is grieving her own lost life and potential, but we also get to see how her death has affected others – particularly Poppy.

I adored the relationship between Ash and Poppy. YA books with a relationship between two women as the focus still seem so rare, so it’s good to see one at all, but when it’s this well written, it’s a real treat. I can’t wait untl Afterlove comes out and I can buy a finished copy! 5/5

Perfect on Paper

I really enjoyed Perfect on Paper. It’s the story of Darcy Phillips, who acts as an anonymous agony aunt to the other students in her school via locker 89 – if you have a problem, you can write a letter, leave it in locker 89 with a tip and Darcy will use her copious, self-taught interrelationship knowledge and email you advice. No-one knows it’s Darcy who runs locker 89, until new boy Alexander Brougham catches her one day and asks her to help him win his ex-girlfriend back. Before she knows it, her entire life is unravelling and she has to think seriously about what she wants, and what she’s prepared to do to get it. I loved the characters in this book. Darcy is so flawed, but also quite self-aware. There’s a running plot point about how she used locker 89 in one particular case, and she knows she did something terrible and is wracked with guilt about it (although not enough to have come clean). Locker 89 also means she’s constantly keeping something from her friends, and although she doesn’t really notice the strain it’s putting on her friendship with Brooke in particular until Brougham comes along, the strain is still there, underlying all her interactions.

Brougham is also great. He has a terrible homelife, despite his family’s money, and is quite repressed in some ways, but his friendship with Darcy helps them both open up and share things they wouldn’t tell anyone else. He’s very sweet, and thinks about others more than himself, and I maybe fell a little bit in love with him myself. I’m not going to lie, the plot is kind of predictable in many ways, but it was well-written and I was engaged in what was going on throughout the book. I liked that Darcy was bisexual, but still working out what that means for her, and worried that if she ends up in a relationship with a boy, people will question her sexuality, and I liked that she was part of a LGBT+ community in school. Her sister Ainsley was also amazing, and I absolutely loved that it was such a non-issue that she was trans, and that she was never dead-named or misgendered. There’s also an adorable scene near the end of the book as Darcy tries to make amends which I really liked.

I definitely recommend Perfect on Paper. It was exactly what I expected, but that’s very much a good thing! 4/5

Here the Whole Time

This book was adorable. A queer love story between Felipe and Caio, the relationship between them was built really realistically. I very much related to the way Felipe saw himself, and how he was convinced that Caio couldn’t have the same feelings for him, even though it was obvious to the reader (well, me at least) that he did. I loved the slow burn of their relationship too, moving from almost-strangers to friends first, and how Felipe is really atrociously rude at first, because his summer plans have been changed without notice. This book is really all about the characters and I loved every one of them, except Caio’s parents, who are homophobic. Felipe’s mum was amazing though, and she was probably my favourite, although Caio’s friends Rebeca and Melissa were also fantastic. I think it can be so easy to isolate YA protagonists from their friends or family, and it was nice that this didn’t happen here, for the most part anyway. In fact, most of the side characters were not just completely supportive of the building love story, but actively trying to force the two boys together, which I also loved.

The fat rep was excellent. There was fatphobia from bullies, as well as internalised fatphobia rom Felipe himself, but it made sense and was addressed within the story, and it was obvious that Felipe was making a real effort to change his mindset.

I really enjoyed Here the Whole Time, and would happily read other books by Vitor Martins. I hope we get to see more of his work here in the UK. 4/5

The Henna Wars

I’ve been really lucky recently, as I’ve been able to read a string of really good queer YA romances, and The Henna Wars was another one. It tackles some difficult concepts (racism, cultural appropriation, and homophobia among others), but it does so in a really satisfying way, and the romance is lovely. There are a lot of obstacles in the way, but it works very well as a story.

NIshat isn’t the nicest person – she doesn’t really think about others and what might be going on with them, and she makes some very dubious decisions – but it is kind of understandable, because what happens to her is truly awful, and it’s good to see her grow as a person over the course of the book. I also liked that she refused to let the bullying and abuse get to her as much as she could. Flavia is also flawed – it takes her a long time to realise Nishat is correct about something, although she does apologise once she does realise. I loved Priti, Nishat’s sister and confidante, who knows NIshat’s a lesbian before anyone else, and gives her the support she needs when their parents don’t. They have a lovely relationship for most of the book, even if Nishat isn’t always aware of what her sister is going through.

The setting of The Henna Wars was a really interesting one, with the business competition turning Nishat and Flavia into rivals. It meant that there were legitimate reasons for Nishat ending up isolated for part of the book, and provided some tension.

I really enjoyed The Henna Wars, but the last 20% or so was my favourite. I’m not going to lie, it did make me cry, but I loved the way Adiba Jaigirdar tied all the loose ends together. It felt very satisfying, and if I’d had a physical copy of the book, I think I would have been clutching it to myself. I definitely recommend The Henna Wars to anyone looking for a queer YA romance! 4/5

Siri, Who Am I?

The concept of Siri, Who Am I is fascinating – Mia has had a blow to her head, has lost her memory and needs to use her social media to retrace her steps and try and work out who she is – but unfortunately, for me it didn’t live up to expectations. I just didn’t think the story made sense, and Mia should definitely be sueing the hospital who let her leave with no idea of even her surname, never mind where she lived. I don’t think it ever recovered from that point to be honest. Even taking into account Mia’s amnesia, I found her very annoying, although I liked her better by the end of the book.

I actually ended up enjoying Siri, Who Am I?, but it did feel like a struggle to get there. It’s not a bad book, but it was a disappointment for me, as I was expecting such great things from it. 3/5


I have loved the previous two Nevermoor books, so I guess it’s not a surprise that I loved Hollowpox too, although reading about a mysterious illness spreading among the Wunimals was certainly interesting in the middle of a global pandemic! Hollowpox does a great job at moving Morrigan’s story on, while exploring more of the world of Nevermoor, particularly the discrimination Wunimals face. All our favourites are back and are as wonderful as ever.

I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but it is a fantastic book, full of magic and wonder (and Wunder). Obviously you need to read the first two before Hollowpox, as it is a direct sequel, but I highly recommend the entire series. I can’t wait for the next book! 5/5

The Sad Ghost Club

I found The Sad Ghost Club a little disappointing if I’m being honest. I don’t know if it’s because of the way it was displaying in my kindle app, which made it difficult to read, but I never connected with the characters and it felt like I was reading for the sake of reading, if that makes sense, rather than because I was engaged in the story. I’d be quite interested in seeing a physical copy of the book so I can see what it shold look like though! 3/5

Book Review: The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

Oh Em Gee, am I actually writing a book review the day after I finish a book? What is happening to me?! Well, what’s happening to me is I got approved on netgalley for an e-arc of one of my most anticipated books of the year, and given I didn’t think I had any chance at all of such approval (my ratio is atrocious, and I’m not known to Hodder), I thought it was only fair to review it immediately!

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within was gifted to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.

At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.

When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.

I am a huge fan of Becky Chambers and her books. One of my friends once described The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet as a hug in a book, and it’s still the most perfect description of all of Becky’s books. The universe of the Wayfarer series isn’t perfect, but it’s a whole lot better than anything we have at the moment, and the impression you get is that they’re still working to make it better. Although each book has its own plot, the characters are the most important aspect, and The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is no different to the previous books in the series.

Each book in this series is a standalone, but there’s usually something which links back to previous books, and in The Galaxy, and the Ground Within we’re re-introduced to Pei, who we first met in The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. Pei finds herself stuck on Gora, a planet whose only purpose is serving as a pit-stop for intergalatic travellers, along with two other travellers, Roveg and Speaker, and her ground host, Ouloo and her child Tupo. Over the course of the book, we get to know these five people, each of whom has their own reasons for worry.

The thing that always gets me about Becky Chambers’ books, is that we do really get to know all the characters over the course of the book. I don’t know how she does it so well, and without you noticing, but suddenly something happens and you’re absolutely, completely invested in what happens to these people. Watching these strangers become a sort of family, over a very short time-span, despite some very deep differences, was such a wonderful experience. Ouloo was my favourite, absolutely determined to make sure the Five-Hop One-Stop catered to everyone. Her distress when she realised that she didn’t know how to make anything for Speaker’s species was palpable and it fuller endeared her to me. I loved her relationship with Tupo too – Tupo frustrated her, as I’m sure every teenager frustrates their mother, but her love for xyr was always visible. Tupo xyrself was adorable, desperate to know more about everything. In fact, I loved all the characters, and how they interacted with each other, and I cried when I had to say goodbye.

Something I really loved about this book was the way Chambers used her fictional world to reflect our own. This, of course, is what every good sci-fi book should do, but I’m not sure it’s ever been quite as obvious as in Speaker’s impassioned speech about how her species suffered under colonialism/imperialism, and how she can see the same things happening again under a different name. It is also made clear that the Galactic Commons continue to ignore the Akarak because they are different, while making excuses about not having the money to help them. Sound familiar?

I don’t think I have the words to do this book justice. Like all the Wayfarer books, it hooked me in and I felt like I was also part of that universe. The event that strands everyone on Gora is scary, but I still wanted to be there in Ouloo’s garden, getting drunk on Laru alcohol. I’m so sad this is the last Wayfarer book, but I’m glad it’s finishing on a high. If you haven’t read any of the other books, you don’t have to, as they’re all standalones, but I think you’ll get more out of the later ones if you’ve at least read The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. That said, I cannot recommend The Galaxy, and the Ground Within enough. Read it.


The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is published by Hodder and Stoughton and out on 18th February 2021

The Geeky Stitching Co’s Little Book of Cross Stitch

Today I’m reviewing an unusual type of book for this blog – it’s non-fiction and practical! I used to love cross stitching when I was younger, but somehow I can never find the time anymore, although I’ll often grab a small kit if I see one I like. When I was offered the chance to review The Geeky Stitching Co’s Little Book of Cross Stitch as part of the blog tour, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to jump back in! This book was gifted to me by Authoright.

You will find over thirty of our bestselling designs in this book as well as seven new patterns to stitch up, we have everything from rainbows to fluffy animals and not a country cottage in sight!

A great book for beginners as well as experienced stitchers who are fans of stitching cute stuff and fun puns.

The Geeky Stitching Co’s Little Book of Cross Stitch is full of great designs. Living up to the company’s name, there’s more than a smidge of geek about them, and I’m looking forward to having a go. I had hoped that by the time I was finishing this blog post off, I would have made one of the designs, but alas, time was not on my side. However, I got far enough that I can say the designs are easy to follow, the key for each thread is clear, and it’s full of useful information if you’re a beginner, such as how to actually stitch, what fabric you need etc. I really liked that the front page of each design was very specific on the hoop and fabric size.

I maybe would have liked some information on the colour of aida they’d used – I ordered the threads and fabric I needed from an online store, and ended up picking a fabric wasn’t purple enough. I’m sure it won’t matter once I’ve finished, but it would have been a nice addition. I will also point out (because I’m a pedant – sorry, I can’t help myself) that there are a couple of spelling/grammatical mistakes, but they don’t really detract from the book.

The important thing is the designs are cute, easy to interpret/read and the instructions are clear enough that you could pick this book as a complete beginner and still produce a cute cross stitch design. What more could you want from a cross stitch book?

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour!


The Geeky Stitching Co’s Little Book of Cross Stitch is out now from Clink Street Publishing. Many thanks to Blue and Authoright for the gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: London Made Us

A copy of this book was gifted to me by Canongate Books in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve never listened to Robert Elms’s radio show, but London Made Us sounded fascinating – a personal memoir, told through the history of London. Parts of it certainly were fascinating, but overall I found it a little bit disappointing.

‘London is a giant kaleidoscope, which is forever turning. Take your eye off it for more than a moment and you’re lost.’

Robert Elms has seen his beloved city change beyond all imagining. London in his lifetime has morphed from a piratical, bomb-scarred playground, to a swish cosmopolitan metropolis. Motorways driven through lost communities, accents changing, skyscrapers appearing. Yet still it remains to him the greatest place on earth.

Elms takes us back through time and place to myriad Londons. He is our guide through a place that has seen scientific experiments conducted in subterranean lairs and a small community declare itself an independent nation; a place his great-great-grandfather made the Elms’ home over a century ago and a city that has borne witness to world-changing events.

London Made Us is well-written, and Elms has a knack of carrying the reader with him through various, often bizarre or ridiculous, events. It’s full of local knowledge, and it’s clear that Elms loves this city with all his heart. As someone who loves her own city (and London) wholeheartedly, I could definitely relate to that. But all the way through the book, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Elms was almost looking down on those of us who aren’t from London. There’s a definite vibe of “London is best”, and I felt he sort of passed over some aspects of the darker side of the city.

I suppose, given it’s a memoir, I should have also expected the sheen of nostlagia that colours the whole book. Again, there’s a definite sense of the past being better than the present, and while I can agree in some ways (such as the destruction of London’s architectural heritage being a crime against the city – I have feelings about that), I do think it’s disingenuous to gloss over the many problems London has had in the last century.

I think that if I’d known of Elms, or listened to his radio show, before I read this book I would probably have enjoyed it more for what it was, rather than wishing for something different. I suspect that the tone wouldn’t have felt so snobbish if I knew how he sounded anyway. I know that a lot of people loved London Made Us, and I can see why, especially if you happened to be a Londoner yourself. But I hadn’t done any of that, and the book felt to me, as a northerner and more specifically, a scouser, less accessible because of it. And that’s why it was disappointing. You shouldn’t need to already know the author to enjoy reading their book.


London Made Us is out now from Canongate Books

Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

I was gifted a free e-arc of this book from the publisher, Titan Books, via Netgalley.

I don’t think anyone who’s read this blog would be surprised if I said I was a massive fan of V E Schwab. I love all her work, and I’ve been dying to read The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue since she first spoke about it. It therefore also won’t be a surprise when I tell you that I loved it with every fibre of my being.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever-and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore, and he remembers her name.

I don’t even really know where to start or what to say. Addie’s story spans 300 years, although we see the most detail from her first 100 years and the current time (which in the book is 2014), and I just loved it. I shared Addie’s hurts and frustrations, her loneliness and her shock at finally meeting someone who remembers her. I loved seeing the ways she adapted to her situation, finding clothes to wear and places to sleep, but never being able to leave a mark. I really, really loved the epigraphs that began each section, showing the impact Addie had had over the 300 years of her life.

I realise I’m not going into much detail here, but I do think you should experience this book as free from knowledge as you can possibly be. What you need to know is this: it is beautifully written. Seriously, so beautiful. One of my joys of the last 6 years has been watching V’s writing improve with every book – and she was brilliant to begin with. Addie LaRue is not like anything she’s ever written before though. It feels very different, but I’m not sure I can put into words why it feels so different so you’ll just have to trust me. If you’ve not picked up a V E Schwab book before, this is the one to start with.

The characters are fantastic. Not just Addie, Henry and Luc, but all the people we meet in the course of the book. Even the landlady who forgets Addie has paid a week’s rent in advance sticks in the memory, which is testament to V’s skills. I couldn’t put it down until I finished it because I needed to know what happened to these people. I’m not saying I didn’t guess some of the plot turns, because I did, but it didn’t matter.

I could carry on gushing about The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, but that seems a bit pointless, so I’ll end here. Just know that this is a wonderful, beautiful book that takes you on a journey with its protagonist that you will remember forever, and you will not regret picking it up.


The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is out today, 6th October, from Titan Books

Blog Tour: The White Phoenix

White Phoenix Banner2

Today I’m on the blog tour for The White Phoenix by Catherine Randall, thanks to Kaleidoscopic Tours who gifted me a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

The White Phoenix is a historical MG book, set in London in 1666, so I was sold immediately, and I really enjoyed it. Lizzie is a character you can really root for, and I shared her frustrations at the people and world around her.

The White Phoenix

London, 1666. After the sudden death of her father, thirteen-year-old Lizzie Hopper and her mother must take over THE WHITE PHOENIX – the family bookshop in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral. But England is at war with France and dire prophecies abound. As rumours of invasion and plague spread, Lizzie battles prejudice, blackmail and mob violence to protect the bookshop she loves. When the Great Fire of London breaks out, Lizzie must rescue more than just the bookshop. Can she now save the friend she wasn’t supposed to have? CAN THE WHITE PHOENIX RISE FROM THE ASHES?

Bookshops, London and the Great Fire – what more could you want in your book?! I did genuinely find the subject matter very interesting – I’ve always been fascinated by the Great Fire of London, and it was good to see it from the point of view of someone deeply affected by it. I hadn’t particularly been aware of the situation in which it occurred, with England at war with France and a general wave of suspicion being directed at anyone foreign (although I knew the fire was believed by many to have been started as a Catholic plot), so I enjoyed learning something new too!

As I said above, Lizzie was a great lead character. Only thirteen, she finds herself trying to keep the family bookshop going after her father’s death, against a number of difficulties, not least Master Pedley, the bookbinder next door. Pedley is creepy from the get go, and I was praying that Lizzie’s mother would not be taken in by him!

I really liked the way Randall was able to make the story very relatable, despite being set nearly 400 years ago. The attitudes towards foreigners displayed by many people in the book are, sadly, still prevalent today, as are some of the attitudes towards women. For many of the people around the Hoppers in the book, it’s unthinkable that a woman should attempt to carry on her husband’s business. And to be caught binding a Catholic prayer book?! It’s made clear that Lizzie’s parents do not share these attitudes – as long as a person likes books, they are welcome in the bookshop – but the fact that they are willing to entertain Catholics is something that can be (and is) used against Lizzie and the shop. And while Catholics might not suffer in England in the 21st century, it’s easy to see the same prejudices aimed at other groups. I think The White Phoenix would make a great starting point for a discussion with children in the target age group.

I very much enjoyed the actual story too. Knowing that it was leading up to the Great Fire lent the book a great deal of tension, which was only made greater by Lizzie’s friendships with both a French customer and the apprentice next door, who got a bit too caught up in conspiracy theories. There’s genuine danger too, and not just from the fire, and I raced through the book very quickly as a result.

I definitely recommend The White Phoenix to anyone with an interest in history but also anyone who enjoys a good story, well told!


The White Phoenix is out today from The Book Guild

Book Review: Bookish and the Beast

I was gifted a free copy of this book by the publisher, Quirk Books, in exchange for an honest review.

I was so excited to be given the opportunity to review Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston. Although Geekerella didn’t really spark joy for me, I loved the second book in the series, The Princess and the Fangirl and I was really looking forward to seeing what Ashley did with a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I wasn’t disappointed!

bookish and the beast

Rosie Thorne is feeling stuck—on her college application essays, in her small town, and on that mysterious General Sond cosplayer she met at ExcelsiCon. Most of all, she’s stuck in her grief over her mother’s death. Her only solace was her late mother’s library of rare Starfield novels, but even that disappeared when they sold it to pay off hospital bills.

On the other hand, Vance Reigns has been Hollywood royalty for as long as he can remember—with all the privilege and scrutiny that entails. When a tabloid scandal catches up to him, he’s forced to hide out somewhere the paparazzi would never expect to find him: Small Town USA. At least there’s a library in the house. Too bad he doesn’t read.

When Rosie and Vance’s paths collide and a rare book is accidentally destroyed, Rosie finds herself working to repay the debt. And while most Starfield superfans would jump at the chance to work in close proximity to the Vance Reigns, Rosie has discovered something about Vance: he’s a jerk, and she can’t stand him. The feeling is mutual.

But as Vance and Rosie begrudgingly get to know each other, their careful masks come off—and they may just find that there’s more risk in shutting each other out than in opening their hearts.

I think it’s important to be clear from the start that Bookish and the Beast is very predictable. I knew what was going to happen right from the start, and I’m not just talking about the romance. But I didn’t care, because the way it was written was so good I just wanted to lose myself in the story. I think this might be my favourite of the Once Upon A Con series, and whether that’s because it’s based on Beauty and the Beast, or it’s just my level of sweet romance I don’t know, but it is. Put it like this: it arrived at 10am, I started reading it at 3pm and had finished it by 5.30pm! It also arrived at the point where it was exactly what I was looking for in terms of mood reading, which probably helped.

I loved the two households we spent our time with – Rosie and her dad, and Vance and Elias – which both had a adorable family vibe (even if Vance and Elias aren’t a traditional family unit), and the moments when they interacted were some of my favourites in the book. But I also enjoyed the tension between Rosie and Vance and was rooting for them from the start, even while Vance was being a jerk and I loved that Rosie was a bookworm as well as a fandom nerd.

Speaking of being a fandom nerd, I have seen people saying that there were too many pop culture references in the book, and no one actually speaks to each other that way. Clearly those people are not members of SFF fandoms! I personally loved all the references, even the ones I didn’t get, because to me they showed a real love of fandom and what it means to people. This book was written by someone who gets it, and people absolutely do speak in quotes and references when they know the person they’re talking will appreciate it (and sometimes even when they don’t!).

There were a few things that stopped this being a five star read for me. There was a potential background queer romance that just seemed to get dropped, and I would have loved a bit more development on that. Also, while I liked Rosie’s friends, I don’t think we really got to know them well enough, which was a real shame, although I did enjoy their mission to take down the jerk who thought he was entitled to Rosie’s attention.

I should probably also mention the library, which sounded amazing. In fact, the entire house sounded amazing, and I am so jealous of anyone who gets to live in anything similar! I would maybe have liked slightly more at a con given that is the usual premise of this series, but the library definitely made up for it! And I thought the story fitted really well into the original Beauty and the Beast. Yes, it was obvious, but there’s nothing wrong with that!

Overall then, I really enjoyed Bookish and the Beast. I wouldn’t go into it expecting surprises, but if you want a lovely, bookish, nerdy YA romance then I definitely recommend it!


Bookish and the Beast is out in the UK today, 4th August 2020

Review Catch-Up: Titan Books

All books discussed in this post were gifted to me by Titan Books in exchange for an honest review.

I am so far behind in my reviews at the moment that I’ve decided to do a few publisher round-ups to try and catch up. This is the first, covering some of the books the very lovely people at Titan Books have sent me. I’m hoping that if I can clear the decks a bit, I’ll be able to actually post reviews at a point that approximates to the book’s release date. We’ll see how this goes.


Cursed ed. by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane

Cursed is an anthology of stories based on fairytales, edited by the same people who did the Wonderland anthology of Alice-inspired stories (see my review here). I’d really enjoyed Wonderland and was hoping for more of the same from Cursed, but unfortunately, this time the stories had a much stronger horror bent, and they weren’t really for me. I could see they were well-written, and I’m sure if you’re a fan of horror they were great, but my sensibilities are just a bit too delicate to have properly enjoyed the collection. Because of that, I found it a bit of a slog to get through but I still chose to rate it 3/5 because it wasn’t a bad book.

Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

I read Dread Nation last year and absolutely loved it. Zombies are not usually my thing (in much the same way as horror isn’t), but the whole idea of the dead rising at Gettysburg and then over-running the US is fascinating. The duology presents such a likely alternative history for those circumstances that, even though it’s horrific, you can’t help getting caught up in it. But more than that, I love Jane and Katherine and their reluctant journey to friendship (and maybe something more?). I think I loved Deathless Divide more than I loved Dread Nation, and that’s saying something. It’s up there as one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I rated it 5/5.

The Library of the Unwritten by A J Hackwith

I wasn’t sure what this book would actually be like when I read the synopsis but I did like the idea of it being set in Hell’s library, where every book never written is stored. But what happens when a character escapes? Well, the head librarian gives chase of course! There’s more to it than that but to give any more details would be to spoil the twists and turns, and I wouldn’t want to do that. I really enjoyed this book – it maybe dragged a little bit in the middle, but I liked the way we were given bits of the library’s history and the stories of those who came before Claire, our main character, and the main plot was good without losing character development – and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel! I rated it 4/5.

Skein Island by Aliya Whiteley

Well, this was a very interesting book! It kind of defies categorisation to be honest. It’s the story of Marianne, who is sent an invitaton to Skein Island, a private refuge for women. Normally, a woman applies for her place, and Marianne has no idea why she’s been sent an invitation – but she knows about the island because seventeen years earlier her mother visited it and never came home. The way Whiteley layers the story with flashbacks and interludes which slowly tie together is excellent, and it’s a genuinely fascinating book which looks at the roles we all play. It did take me a while to read it, because it’s quite a slow book, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I rated it 4/5.

The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner

I must admit, when I first requested this book, I was not expecting it to be a middle grade book. I didn’t even know Titan published middle grade! Fortunately, I love a good children’s book, and this was indeed a good children’s book. It was definitely creepy (in a good way), and I really liked the character development. I think if you were actually giving it to a child to read, you’d have to be pretty sure they could deal with the themes though – the main antagonist is essentially a Dr Frankenstein, creating children from bone dust, and there are some very creepy moments. I was a bit wary of reading it at bedtime, and I’m a fully grown adult! I rated it 4/5.

I quite like this short review format, so I might do this more often in the future, and not just as a way to get through more reviews! Let me know what you think of this review post format – yay or nay?