Book Review: The Near Witch

Before I start this review, I would like to tell you a little story. It starts nearly five years ago, when I was attending Worldcon in London, and I happened to attend a panel on urban fantasy (or possible YA), because some of my favourite authors were on it.* Also on that panel was a 27 year old author I’d never previously heard of, even though she’d already published five books. And she started talking about one of those books, and how it was about a library of the dead, and I was completely and utterly sold. I quite liked the sound of her other books too – the already published creepy superhero book, the forthcoming fantasy book which featured four different Londons, and her debut, about witches and fear and consequences. The Near Witch was already out of print at that point, and almost impossible to find, so I was pretty certain I’d never get the chance to read it. And then suddenly, Victoria/V E Schwab became a (well deserved) phenomenon, and even her more recent books were being published in collectors editions, so it was kind of inevitable that her debut would eventually join them. Thank goodness for Titan, who were also kind enough to gift me a copy of The Near Witch in exchange for an honest review.

the near witch

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. 

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. 

There are no strangers in the town of Near. 

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. 

But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true. 

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. 

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

First of all, can we take a moment to appreciate that cover? When they announced it, I thought it was a bit weird, but now I love it! It’s so striking. If you’re not aware, there are actually three covers – the one above is the standard edition, there’s a grey one exclusive to Forbidden Planet (which is the one I pre-ordered – they now come signed too!) and a yellow one that’s exclusive to Barnes and Noble in the US. The boards underneath the dustjacket are also beautiful – the standard edition is a deep maroon with a silhouette of Lexi in gold and it’s gorgeous.

Second of all, if you follow me on twitter, you may have seen me tweet that the introduction to this book made me cry. Yes, the introduction. It’s Victoria talking about how sad she was when The Near Witch originally went out of print, and how unusual it is for a book to get a second chance like this, and it just made me very emotional, ok? I am, if you haven’t guessed already, a huge fan of Victoria. I think she’s amazing, not least in the number of books she has published in the last eight years, and I think it’s wonderful that her debut is getting a new lease of life.

Third of all, it’s actually time for me to talk about the book itself. I know. It’s taken a little bit to get here – I hope you’ll forgive me. So, personally, I loved The Near Witch. If I didn’t know it was a debut, I wouldn’t have picked it up from the writing, although it’s clear that Victoria’s writing has improved with each book. It is quite slow to get going, but to me it was a very lyrical style of writing, and it suited the pacing. I know that’s not for everyone though, so bear it in mind if you’re thinking of picking it up.

The Near Witch is essentially a fairytale, and that’s exactly how it reads to me. The town of Near has a legend that comes with a song even the smallest child knows, and that song is often carried on the wind (incidentally, I’m writing this as Storm Gareth rages outside and the wind is whistling and howling, which seems very appropriate and not a little creepy!). There are no strangers in Near – everyone knows everybody’s business – but that means that when a stranger does appear, he is immediately suspect. The fact that he appears just as children start going missing does not help! Only Lexi is convinced he’s innocent, but she has her own problems, and it’s not easy for her to prove it.

I really liked Lexi. She’s confident in her own skills, but frustrated by the patriarchal society she’s a part of. Her family, particularly her little sister, is her world, and her devastation at the death of her father is an ever-present undercurrent to the story. I was less convinced by her love story with Cole, the stranger who appears one night, but that’s ok, because even Lexi and Cole are tentative about it. I’ve seen some people describe it as instalove, but it didn’t come across that way to me. As it’s a book written in first person, from Lexi’s point of view, we only find out information about Cole as she does, and so he doesn’t have as much depth of character as Lexi, but I liked his story too, and we get to find out more in the novella that’s been packaged in this edition, The Ash-Born Boy.

I thought the world of The Near Witch was beautifully evoked. I live in a city in the north-west of England but I’m close enough to the Yorkshire moors to be able to picture the setting exactly. And I think that’s one reason I liked it so much. It’s never stated where Near is, and I’m sure if you live elsewhere, you can imagine it to be somewhere near you, but for me, it was definitely northern England, and I always have a soft spot for books set in the north!

I’m going to stop rambling on now, but I really loved The Near Witch. It may have been V E Schwab’s debut, but it’s definitely stood the test of time. I’m now sad that it didn’t get the life it deserves the first time round too, but this is a beautiful edition of a beautiful book, and it’s well worth your hard-earned cash. You might think I’m biased, but the only way you can tell for sure is by reading it yourself, so why don’t you?

4.5/5

The Near Witch is out now, from Titan Books

*I didn’t get to spend much time at that Worldcon, thanks to ending up in hospital, and my second most vivid memory of the panel is that the moderator was terrible. But I’m so glad that panel was one I managed to attend anyway, because otherwise, who knows how late to the V E Schwab party I might have been?
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Blog Tour: The Everlasting Rose

I am thrilled that today is my day on the blog tour for The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton! I really enjoyed The Belles last year, so I was very interested in seeing how the story was resolved in The Everlasting Rose. Many thanks to Patricia at Gollancz for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review!

image001

Camellia Beaureguard is a Belle. She can make you beautiful. Though there is always a cost. With a price on her head, the evil Queen Sophia out for blood, and no idea who to trust, Camellia must race against time to find the ailing Princess Charlotte, who has disappeared without a trace. Sophia’s imperial forces will stop at nothing to keep Camellia, her sister Edel, and her loyal guard, Rémy, from returning Charlotte to the palace and her rightful place as queen. With the help of a secretive resistance movement called the Iron Ladies – a society that rejects beauty treatments entirely – and the backing of underground newspaper the Spider’s Web, Camellia must use her powers, her connections, and her cunning to outwit her greatest nemesis, Sophia, and restore peace to Orléans.

So, I actually think The Everlasting Rose is the better book of the series. I did enjoy The Belles, but it had a lot of setting up to do. Clayton is excellent at building her world, don’t get me wrong, but it can slow the plot down, so it was nice to be able to jump straight in to the action. And oh boy, do we jump straight in. The Everlasting Rose starts more or less where The Belles left off, with Camille, Edel, Amber and Remy in hiding from the despotic new queen. There’s very few reminders of what happened in the first book, so you really do need to read that one first if you want the faintest idea of what’s happening!

Having said that we get straight into the action, I don’t want you to think that the worldbuilding is lacking, because it isn’t. We get to visit a lot more of this world this time around, and all of it is stunningly described. We also get to find out more of the history of the world and where the Belles came from, and there’s definitely a part of me that hopes we might one day see a prequel covering this in more detail.

I loved that Camille’s primary motivation was to get the people she loved out of danger. The fact that that involved overthrowing a evil queen was definitely just a side show for her, but it showed us the main facets of her character very easily. It was interesting to see how her situation had changed – now in possession of knowledge she didn’t really want, she has to shoulder a lot of responsibility, and she doesn’t want to let her burden rest on her friends and sisters as well. I also liked that it was Edel we spent most time with, because she was a complete contrast to Camille.

I did think it sagged a little bit in the middle, and I would have liked to have seen more of the Iron Ladies and how they envision the future actually coming to pass, given that their ideas are very different from the way things currently are. But overall I thought it was well paced and definitely a page-turner – I raced through it in a couple of hours because I needed to see what happened, and I found the ending very satisfying. If you enjoyed The Belles, you’ll definitely enjoy The Everlasting Rose!

4/5

Spotlight on the Backlist: The Relic Guild Trilogy

Welcome to the first post in my new occasional series! Well, it’s intended to be a series, but the last one I started didn’t fare too well, so we’ll see how this one goes quite frankly.

The idea behind these posts is to give older titles a bit of love. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding that I’m always attracted to new shinies instead of giving older books a bit of attention, particularly on the blog when you have a pile of review copies which need to be read and reviewed. So this series will highlight some of my old favourites, as well as books that have been around for a while that I haven’t read.

We’re going to start with a series that falls into the latter category. When I started going to conventions more regularly, in 2014, there was a lot of chatter about The Relic Guild by Edward Cox. Ed was actually a participant at some of these conventions, and I remember listening to him talk about his book, which was his debut, and thinking ‘oh, I need to read that’, and then I didn’t. Because I’m a terrible person whose TBR pile was already a mountain. I did buy it on kindle, but see above re new shinies taking priority. So when I got an email from Gollancz (in August. I’m so sorry this is so late!) offering the chance to read and review the entire trilogy, just as I was thinking of starting this series of posts, well, it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. I’m very glad I did jump at the chance!

(The Relic Guild Trilogy was gifted to me for free by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review)

Magic caused the war. Magic is forbidden. Magic will save us.

It was said the Labyrinth had once been the great meeting place, a sprawling city at the heart of an endless maze where a million humans hosted the Houses of the Aelfir. The Aelfir who had brought trade and riches, and a future full of promise. But when the Thaumaturgists, overlords of human and Aelfir alike, went to war, everything was ruined and the Labyrinth became an abandoned forbidden zone, where humans were trapped behind boundary walls a hundred feet high.

Now the Aelfir are a distant memory and the Thaumaturgists have faded into myth. Young Clara struggles to survive in a dangerous and dysfunctional city, where eyes are keen, nights are long, and the use of magic is punishable by death. She hides in the shadows, fearful that someone will discover she is touched by magic. She knows her days are numbered. But when a strange man named Fabian Moor returns to the Labyrinth, Clara learns that magic serves a higher purpose and that some myths are much more deadly in the flesh.

The only people Clara can trust are the Relic Guild, a secret band of magickers sworn to protect the Labyrinth. But the Relic Guild are now too few. To truly defeat their old nemesis Moor, mightier help will be required. To save the Labyrinth – and the lives of one million humans – Clara and the Relic Guild must find a way to contact the worlds beyond their walls.

People, the lack of love for this series is criminal! It’s so good! I’m not sure in which subsection of fantasy it should be classified – probably epic, but that doesn’t feel quite right as Labrys Town is dark and dirty – but however you want to class it, if you’re a fantasy fan, this series should be on your TBR. I raced through all three books and loved the characters and the settings. I especially loved seeing the younger versions of the Guild back in the last days of the war and realising how decisions made 40 years earlier had affected the present.

Labrys Town is a really interesting setting. Although The Cathedral of Known Things and The Watcher of Dead Time open things out somewhat, Labrys Town is always the centre of the story, and it’s a fascinating place. Cut off from all outside influences, surrounded by demons, and essentially reliant on one man for 40 years, it’s exactly the town you would imagine would develop under those circumstances. While it’s not somewhere I would like to live, it’s definitely the sort of place I like to read about! I also found the effect that living in a place like that had had on our heroes was interesting – the present day versions are much harder and tougher, not to mention more bitter and cynical, than the people we meet in the earlier story, and while I think this happens to everyone with age, to some extent, it was clear the circumstances of the last 40 years, and of course the losses they’d experienced during the war, had had a huge impact.

The story was well paced over the three books, and the two different chronologies worked very effectively in building the world and emphasising the terror engendered by the villains. There were many points in the plot where I couldn’t see a way out, and obviously that heightened the tension to almost unbearable levels. I’ve mentioned before that I’m pretty good at seeing where a book is going, but this series had some twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting at all, and I love it when that happens!

I’m so glad Gollancz offered me the chance to read The Relic Guild trilogy. It gave me the kick up the backside I needed to read the series. I’m not sure I’d have ever got around to it otherwise, and I would definitely be missing out – as are you if you haven’t picked it up yet either!

4/5

Book Review: The Ruin of Kings

A free copy of this book was gifted to me by Tor UK/Pan Macmillan and Jamie Lee Nardone in exchange for an honest review.

Oh, The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons is a difficult book to review. The basic storyline and the characterisation are excellent, but kind of hamstrung by the execution. I started reading an e-ARC from Netgalley and ended up having to beg for a physical copy of the book, because I just couldn’t keep track of what was happening on my kindle. Fortunately, the experience of reading it did improve with a physical copy, and I enjoyed the book very much, but I am hoping the next book in the series is written in a different format!

ruin of kings

What if you weren’t the hero?

Kihrin grew up on tales of long-lost princes and grand quests – despite being raised in a brothel, making money as a musician and street thief. One day he overreaches by targeting an absent noble’s mansion, hunting for jewels. There he witnesses a prince performing a terrifying dark-magic ritual. Kihrin flees but he’s marked by a demon and his life will never be the same again.

That night also leads to him being claimed as a lost son of that prince’s royal house. But far from living the dream, Kihrin finds himself practically a prisoner, at the mercy of his new family’s power plays and ambitions. He must also discover why his murderous father finds Kihrin more valuable alive than dead. Soon Kihrin attempts to escape his relative’s dangerous schemes, but finds himself in far deeper waters.

He becomes tangled in a plot to kill the Emperor, rob the Imperial Vaults, claim a god-slaying sword and free bound demons to wreak havoc across the land. Kihrin also discovers the old tales lied about many things: dragons, demons, gods, prophecies, true love – and the hero always winning. But maybe Kihrin isn’t fated to save the empire. He’s destined to destroy it.

That synopsis makes it all seem so straightforward, doesn’t it? It’s not. It is, as I said above, a cracking story but it’s told from two different points of view, on different timelines, in alternating chapters. Yeah. It also has footnotes. Now I love a good footnote, but combined with the alternating viewpoints, these just made everything confusing. Partly this was my own fault – there’d been a gap between me starting it on my kindle and carrying on in paperback and I’d forgotten who was writing the footnotes. But I do also think it was inherently confusing anyway, especially as the storyline involves multiple instances of body swapping. One of the alternating viewpoints is Talon, a mimic who eats people and absorbs their memories, personality and the ability to look like them. She’s using her stolen memories to tell the early part of Kihrin’s story, while he tells the more recent story. (His part of the story also involves people swapping bodies, which actually confused me more than Talon’s tale!)

It’s certainly a different style of storytelling, but I’m not sure it served the story terribly well. Which is a shame. Once I’d mostly got my head around the different chronologies (which did start to make sense, especially in hindisght) and who was who, I really enjoyed The Ruin of Kings. It has a full, vibrant cast of characters and excellent worldbuilding, to the extent that three days after finishing it, my brain is still partly in that world. I loved Teraeth, the Black Brotherhood and Kihrin’s time on the island in particular. Once I was into it it was difficult to put down, as most chapters left on a cliffhanger and I needed to know what happened next. I still need to know what happens next and I will be reading the next book as soon as it comes out!

So The Ruin of Kings is epic fantasy as epic as it comes I suppose. Despite my difficulties with the format, I don’t want to put anyone off reading it, because it is a great story, which is why I rated it as highly as I did. It’s definitely worth picking up, but I would recommend a physical copy if it’s possible for you – kindles and foototes don’t mix!

4/5

 

Top Ten Tuesday: The Ten Most Recent Additions to my TBR

top ten tuesday

I wasn’t planning on doing a Top Ten Tuesday post this week, but then I saw everyone else’s posts crossing my reader, and I couldn’t resist the theme. Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and this week’s theme is the ten most recent additions to my TBR. I’ve decided to do the ten most recent (physical) books I’ve acquired, because yep, there have been more than ten of them in January. I don’t think I’ve got the hang of reducing the TBR pile!

1. King of Scars

Bought today. Well, technically bought a few weeks ago, because I pre-ordered this one, but I collected it today. I’d say I can’t wait to read it, but I need to finish the Grisha trilogy first!

2 . The Curses

3. Oh My Gods

4. Fierce Fragile Hearts

5. Shadowscent

All bought on Sunday after the Waterstones Deansgate bloggers meet-up (more of which in another post soon)

6. Women: Our History

7. The Feminism Book

Kindly gifted to me by DK Books, as they sponsored the aforementioned bloggers meet-up.

8. This Is What Happy Looks Like

9. Afterworlds

10. The Monsters We Deserve

All gifted to me by other bloggers on Sunday as part of our unofficial book swap.

Oh my goodness. I’ve acquired ten books in the last three days! I didn’t even get far enough back to include the books I picked up at the Headline New Voices event last Wednesday. Oh my goodness. This is why I have huge book piles in front of my bookcase!

So, ignoring my unfortunate book habit, anything on my list also on yours? Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments!

(I’m just going to go and cry in a corner while I try to figure out where I’m going to put all these books!)

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Meant To Read in 2018 But Didn’t Get To

top ten tuesday

I was determined to finally write a blog post in 2019, and I was trying to decide which of my extremely overdue reviews I was going to type up, when I realised that Top Ten Tuesday would be the perfect kick up the backside I needed. When I toddled off to That Artsy Reader Girl to see what this week’s topic was, I was overjoyed to find it was books I meant to read in 2018. It will surprise absolutely no-one to know that there are a lot of books which fall into this category for me!

1. Vengeful

I have been looking forward to this book for years. Actual years. And now it’s out, and I still haven’t read it. Sort yourself out Donna.

2. Dread Nation

This book looks so interesting and it’s had amazing reviews. I had it on my wishlist for ages and no-one bought it for me, but now I have a copy from the library, so hopefully it won’t be too long before I read it!

3. The Dark Days Pact

Yeah, so this book was also on my 2017 books I should have read list. I still haven’t read it, and the third book in the series is out now. I should probably get round to it.

4. Our Dark Duet

The second V E Schwab book that I really should have read by now. One day!

5. Competence

I am a HUGE fan of Gail Carriger and her Parasol Protectorate series and spin offs, so why haven’t I read her latest book yet? (Because it’s on my kindle and I get too distracted by shiny physical books, is the answer, if you’re wondering.)

6. Witchsign

I was desperate to read this before it came out. I bought it on release day. It’s still sitting in the TBR pile.

7. The Bitter Twins

From one co-founder of the SRFC to the other. I adored The Ninth Rain, the first book in this series, but The Bitter Twins is huge and intimidating, which is the main reason I haven’t read it yet. I need to soon, because the third book will be out this year!

8. The Malice

And The Seven come to that. Had them both for a while. Still not read them, although I have read Pete Newman’s latest book, The Deathless. I’m not the best at prioritising.

9. Before Mars

Well, having mentioned Pete Newman, it would be rude not to mention Emma, right? Oh god, these last three entries are three of my favourite authors – how have I not managed to read these yet?!

10. The Girl in the Tower

I adored The Bear and the Nightingale. I was overjoyed when I got The Girl in the Tower before the UK release date in a book box in December 2017. Still haven’t read it, and The Winter of the Witch is out now. I really need to catch up!

So there you have my top ten books I meant to read in 2018 but didn’t. Maybe I’ll get round to them this year?

Do you have any of these books on your list? Let me know in the comments!

Netgalley Reviews Catch-Up Part 2

My last Netgalley reviews catch up was books I’d read mostly around the time of release, but never got round to reviewing. This post is the books I’ve read more recently – and yes, most of them came out months and months ago. Sometimes life happens.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

midnight bookstore cover

I have to admit, this book was not what I expected at all, but I enjoyed it a lot once I got into it properly. That did take a significant portion of the book, but there was a moment when it all just suddenly clicked and I didn’t want to put the book down. Set primarily in the bookstore of the title, our lead character is Lydia, one of the booksellers. The Bright Ideas Bookstore is something of a haven for people who don’t quite fit in, or are acing hard times, and one night, as she’s closing up, Lydia comes across the body of one of these people after he’s hanged himself. This prompts Lydia to find out what would lead Joey, her favourite ‘bookfrog’ to do such a thing, but it leads into her own past in ways she could never have imagined. Matthew Sullivan is brilliant at drip-feeding bits of information throughout the story, and although I did guess some of the conclusion slightly before the end, I was utterly gripped by the mysteries unfolding in front of me. I highly recommend it, just be aware that it’s slow to get into, and parts of it are quite explicitly gory.

4/5

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

eleanor oliphant cover

To be fair to myself, I will point out that I didn’t get this one until a few months after its original release, so I’m not quite as late as I look. I wish I’d read it sooner, because it really is as good as everyone says it is. It’s a really hard book to try and review, because I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but it’s a proper life-affirming story. Eleanor is prickly and yes, a little bit strange, and she has no idea how to navigate social situations (for reasons that become very clear during the course of the book), but she’s a brilliant character with so much to love and she’s so relatable in many ways. To see her start venturing out of her comfort zone, even though it’s for slightly dubious reasons, feels like I imagine watching your child take their first steps does. There is a plot, but really this book is absolutely character driven, and it’s utterly wonderful. Read it.

5/5

Paris For One and Other Stories

paris for one

I’ve never read a Jojo Moyes book before, so I thought short stories might be a good way to start, but unfortunately I didn’t really connect with any of the stories. I suspect this is more me than Moyes, since I know short stories often aren’t enough for me, but I also think that romance stories aren’t a good fit for me in general. Although I will say that romance in these stories is very much a subjective thing. The ones I liked most were the two longer stories – the title one, and Honeymoon in Paris (which is apparently a prequel of sorts to one of Moyes’ novels). I don’t think there’s really a lot else I can say about about this book though. It was an enjoyable enough read for 90 minutes, but I’m probably not going to search out the author’s other books.

3/5

Book Review: Spinning Silver

I actually can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to get round to reviewing Spinning Silver. I loved Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, so I was very much looking forward to Spinning Silver and it did not disappoint. I think I might even have liked it more than Uprooted. I certainly fell for the characters in a much deeper way.

spinning silver cover

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

First of all, can we talk about that amazing cover?! I love it so much, and it is, in my opinion, so much better than the US cover. Everything you need to know about Spinning Silver is right there on the cover. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but you totally could here.

Anyway, to the actual book. The story is very loosely based on Rumpelstiltskin, but Novik twists it to become the story of Miryem, Irina and Wanda, three very different young women whose lives intertwine in unexpected ways. It’s clearly Eastern European inspired, and it’s clearly a fairytale, but it’s very much also based in reality. I was horrified at the way the other villagers treated Miryem and her family, just because they were Jewish, but it’s a matter of historical record that this was happening all over Europe during the period the book is set. Irina and Wanda, too, have stories that ring historically true – the daughter of a duke, forced to marry a monster in order to raise her father’s stature, and the daughter of a drunk abuser, forced to scrabble in the earth for anything she can find so she and her brothers can survive. I loved the way these stories intersected, especially how Miryem claiming what she was owed gave Wanda hope and love.

I loved all three women with all of my heart. They were fantastically well-written, and I honestly felt bereft after I finished the book because I had no more time to spend with them. When I was reading Spinning Silver, I was so totally engrossed that it was a surprise to raise my head and find myself still in the office at lunchtime. I was utterly transported. I also loved the way Novik changed my opinions of the Staryk king and Mirnatius, the tsar Irina is forced to marry. They’re not good people, but they have their reasons and they can change. It was really interesting to get point of view chapters from both of them, considering they were the villains of the piece.

The writing is beautiful too. The settings are vividly evoked, to the extent that even now, months after I read it, I can still picture some scenes in my head. It reads like a true fairytale, and I didn’t want it to end. Obviously it did though, and although I know some people who did’t like the ending, I thought it was perfect for the story that had been told.

In short, what I’m trying to tell you is that you need to read this book. It’s definitely up there as one of my favourites of the year (and it’s had some stiff competition) and if you like books that sweep you away to somewhere new, Spinning Silver is definitely for you.

5/5

A copy of the book was sent to me by Jamie at Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. Thanks Jamie!

Book Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

So picture books aren’t normally my thing. I can appreciate the artwork, but they’re not something I usually review, because they’re not something I read. But when I was offered the chance to read this picture book, well I couldn’t resist! Buffy the Vampire Slayer is incredibly important to me as a show – I was roughly the same age as Buffy when it was airing, and for all that I wasn’t fighting monsters every night (or living in California), she was a very relatable character. I watched every episode, bought most of the merchandise and just generally basked in the awesome that was Buffy and her friends. So of course I had to read Buffy the Vampire Slayer – the picture book!

buffy cover

The cult classic ’90s TV show is now a charming book for the youngest fans in the Buffyverse!

In this new picture book story brought to life with enchanting, colorful illustrations, kid readers can learn about what the world’s strongest vampire slayer was like when she was a kid! What’s that strange sound coming from inside the closet? Join little Buffy, Xander, and Willow as they investigate bumps in the night, seek advice from their school librarian Giles, and encounter all your favorite Buffyverse monsters. Complete with gorgeous illustrations by Pop Classics artist Kim Smith, this sweet, silly, and not-so-scary book makes a perfect bedtime story.

Just look how cute it is! The illustrations are great throughout, and it’s a charming little story about what might be hiding in 8 year old Buffy’s closet. Personally, as a fan of the show, I had issues with the chronology and continuity of the show being messed about with, but no child is going to care about that. Just be aware if you’re an adult reading it to your children that you might feel a little frustrated.

I don’t have kids myself, but I know someone who does, so I took Buffy the Vampire Slayer round to read to little A, who is almost four. She wouldn’t admit it, but I think she did find it a bit scary, despite what the blurb says above. Even though she was scared though, she still loved the book and wanted to read it again, which I think is the ultimate seal of approval! I’ve read books to A before and she’s always got a little bored, but she was completely engaged with Buffy for the whole story and started trying to read it herself. She was also completely ready to fight any monsters she might find!

I gave Buffy the Vampire Slayer 3/5, mostly because of the continuity issues I mentioned above, which is probably slightly unfair, but I couldn’t get past them. However, from a child’s point of view, I’d say it’s probably at least a 4/5 – it’s fun and a little bit scary, with a good message about being kind to others and asking for help if you need it. Kids will love it!

3/5

A copy of the book was sent to me by Jamie at Quirk Books in exchange for an honest review – thanks Jamie!

Netgalley Review Catch-Up Part 1

It will surprise none of you to learn that I’m very behind on my Netgalley reviews. Well, all reviews actually (also not a surprise I suspect). I was determined to make an effort to read more of my netgalley shelf this month, and I don’t think I’m doing too badly. That does mean I need to get some reviews actually written though, so time for a mini review catch up I think!

Clean

clean cover

I have a confession to make: Clean is the book that sent me into a massive blogging slump months ago. I just couldn’t figure out how to review it, and I felt guilty for not writing a review of a book I very much enjoyed, by an author I like a lotSo I just ended up not writing anything at all, apart from blog tour commitments. I’m not sure anything has changed really. I still have no idea how to review it! Clean is the story of Lexi, the daughter of a London-based Russian oligarch, who’s been left to her own devices for most of her life. Aged 17, she accidentally overdoses on heroin and her brother decides enough is enough and packs her off to a very exclusive rehab. There, she tries to put her life back together and meets a group of people who all have their own demons to fght. It’s an excellent book, which doesn’t pull any of its punches when it comes to the effects of addiction – any addiction, although the focus is obviously on Lexi. I definitely recommend it, but it’s a hard book in many ways, and if you’re going to pick it up, I’d absolutely recommend a bit of research into its contents to make sure you’re ok with it.

4/5

Unveiling Venus

unveiling venus cover

Unveiling Venus is the sequel to Following Ophelia, which I’d really enjoyed last year. Both books follow Mary Adams and her transformation into the mysterious Persephone Lavelle, the toast of London’s artistic circles. Unveiling Venus sees Persephone travel to Venice with her friend Kitty, where things don’t go as expected. I must admit it’s been a long time since I read the book now, and I don’t remember that much about it. I know I didn’t enjoy it as much as Following Ophelia, I think because I missed a lot of the supporting characters back in London, but also because Mary/Persephone doesn’t always act very sensibly. And of course she doesn’t – she wouldn’t have ended up as Persephone if she always took the sensible route! But it did seem like she was almost a different person to the one we’d previously met. However, the author did bring the setting alive, and I still very much enjoyed Unveiling Venus.

3.5/5

The Wren Hunt

wren hunt cover

I loved The Wren Hunt when I read it earlier this year. It’s full of magic and mystery, a sweet romance and family dynamics, and it’s beautifully written too, so it feels magical. Wren is an Augur, a group of people who used to have powerful magic. Their magic is fading because their enemies, the Judges, now control the sources of it in a bid to destroy the Augurs themselves, and it’s up to Wren to find the information her family needs to stop the Judges. The only way she can do this is to take on an internship with the important Judge Cassa Harkness. When she does so though, Wren finds that things are not always as they seem. The Wren Hunt is a great book which gripped me from the beginning and then didn’t really let go. There’s a real sense of the danger Wren is in duing her internship, and I really felt for her as she tried to reconcile the information she’d found with what she already knew. Highly recommended!

4/5

The Smoke Thieves

smoke thieves cover

I have another confession: I’m not a huge fan of Sally Green’s work. I only made it halfway through Half Bad, which I know so many people love, and I felt bad about it because she’s kind of local. But The Smoke Thieves seemed much more my kind of thing, so I was excited to give it a go. And it was pretty good. There is some problematic stuff in there, but generally it’s solid epic fantasy, with a bunch of ragtag misfits slowly coming together to fight evil rulers. It was nothing special or different though, and parts of it were quite slow. As with any book featuring multiple points of view too, there were characters I wanted to get back to and characters I couldn’t wait to get away from. I’d have liked a book with more focus on Catherine in particular, as she had the most interesting story in my opinion, but I’m sure there are people who hated her and prefered another character instead. In short, I’m glad I got to read it, but I’m not sure I’ll be desperate to read the sequel.

3.5/5

Almost Love

almost love

Some of you will know that I’m a huge Louise O’Neill fan. Asking For It and  Only Ever Yours are stunning books, so I was really looking forward to reading her first adult novel, Almost Love. Sadly, I didn’t like it as much as her YA novels, but it’s still an excellent portrayal of a kind of love we don’t really get to see much in fiction (or I don’t anyway). Almost Love is the story of Sarah, and it switches between Sarah as a 24 year old, in an obsessive relatonship with an older man, and Sarah in the present, about 5 years later, in a different relationship. Sarah is very much not likeable. She makes appalling decisions, and her obsessiveness over Matthew, the older man she met at 24, is incredibly annoying, especially as it’s still affecting her life five years after they split up. But that’s because we see it from the outside. It’s perfectly clear to us that Matthew doesn’t love Sarah, or even want to be in a relationship with her, he just wants to use her. To Sarah, that means he wants her, and she’ll do anything to be wanted. I thought it was a compelling book, and it’s definitely worth a read.

4/5

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these! What did you think of them?

All books featured in this post were provided by the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.