April Wrap Up

Well. It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, isn’t it? As much as lockdown in the UK is for a terrible reason, I appreciate actually having time to do everything I want to! My blog has been terribly neglected for, well, most of its existence if I’m being honest, for various reasons, but hopefully this enforced period of staying at home will get me into better habits!

So, April. I know a lot of people have been finding it difficult to read at the moment, but I don’t appear to have the same problem. In fact, if anything, I’ve had the opposite problem – I read instead of doing the many, many other things I should be doing! As a result, I have read twenty-five books in April. Twenty-five! I usually manage somewhere between ten and sixteen, so twenty-five is a bit ridiculous. I’ve also found myself reading a lot of adult romance, which is not something I pick up very often, but has very definitely suited my mood in the latter half of this month.

april books

Five Star Reads

  • The Pieces of Ourselves by Maggie Harcourt. I love Maggie’s books, and this was no exception. In some ways it’s quite different to her previous two books, but it has a wonderful romance at its heart and I absolutely loved learning the history that Hal had come to uncover. Flora, the main character, has also been diagnosed with bipolar ii, and I thought the impact of that on her was explored really well.
  • Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger. So, confession time – I was sent this a really long time ago by Gollancz and had just never got round to reading it. I’d heard lots of good things about it, but it had been buried in the TBR pile, and having excavated it at the end of March, I decided it was time to finally read it. And it blew me away. I loved the way the four main characters’ stories interweaved, and the character development was fantastic, as was the world building. It did actually feel like a saga in the way it was written too.
  • Hold Back The Tide by Melinda Salisbury. I’m a huge fan of Mel, and so I can say with confidence that this is by far her best book yet. The setting, the characters, the plot, all of it was amazing and I was genuinely creeped out, even reading it on a bright sunny day. Also, can we talk about that ending?! Brilliant.
  • Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans. I talked about this in my Easter readathon wrap up. Weird but brilliant is a good summary though.
  • Before Mars by Emma Newman. Also in my Easter readathon wrap up.
  • The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman. Reviewed here.
  • Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert. This was the start of my adult romance kick. I’d seen a few people talking about this, and it was only £2.99 on kindle so I thought I’d give it a try. And it was brilliant. Chloe Brown is a plus-sized, chronically ill person of colour, and a complete disaster. I laughed out loud many times at the situations she found herself in, but the romance was also wonderful. I’m so glad I picked it up!
  • Wonderland by Juno Dawson. I received an early copy of this via Netgalley, and it was actually the last book I read in April. I thought it was fantastic, and is possibly Juno’s best. It’s an Alice in Wonderland retelling, and the way Juno weaved in the original plot and characters while staying true to the story she was telling, was amazing. I loved Alice, with all her secrets and self-doubt, and I really liked the way it tied in with Clean (and, to a lesser extent, Meat Market). It’s out at the end of May, and I definitely recommend you pick it up, although be aware that there are a number of content warnings listed at the front of the book.

Four Star Reads

  • Boy Queen by George Lester. Easter readathon again!
  • The Rules by Tracey Darnton. And again!
  • Harley In The Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman. Another one from the Easter readathon!
  • Atlas Alone by Emma Newman. I love Emma Newman (pretty certain I’ve mentioned this before) and her Planetfall books have all been brilliant, covering a wide range of mental health issues, just in a sci-fi setting. I’ve rated all the previous books 5 stars, but I’m not sure what it was about this one that just didn’t click as well. Maybe because it’s the first one that’s a direct sequel? It can still be read as a standalone, but we’re with characters we met in After Atlas (which is my favourite of the series) and I just found it a bit more difficult to read. I enjoyed the spaceship and gaming setting though, and it was still good, just not as good as the prevous three books. I was sent this as a review copy by Gollancz (although I also bought a copy because I’m an idiot).
  • The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman. This was a reread after I finished The Deck of Omens, because I wanted to spend more time in Four Paths, and I greatly enjoyed going back to the beginning of the story.
  • Hex Life, edited by Christopher Golden and Rachel Autumn Deering. This was a review copy from Titan Books, and I started reading it in October. And then my dad died and I really didn’t feel like reading about witches anymore. I finally picked it back up a week ago and finished it, and I enjoyed it a lot. There were some stories in there that I hated, but there were a lot more that I liked, and a couple that I loved (but most of them I read in October and I have no chance of remembering which ones now!). It’s a really well put together anthology, and even though not all the stories were for me, there was enough good stuff for me to rate it 4 stars.
  • 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne. I got this out of the library after a friend had been raving about The Hating Game by the same author (which the library didn’t have). It’s another adult romance, and although the main character is rather abrasive, I liked her, and the story,  a lot. I notice from goodreads that a lot of people who read this after The Hating Game were disappointed, but without having read that first, I thought 99 Percent Mine was great.
  • The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren. So many people have been raving about this, and as it was only 99p on kindle and I’d loved Autoboyography by the same authors, I thought I’d give it a go. And it was good! But I didn’t love it, and I downright hated the way Olive is treated for good portions of the book. Still, it was good enough overall to merit four stars.
  • That Kind Of Guy by Talia Hibbert. This was the fifth Talia Hibbert book I read in April, and my second favourite. It’s part of the Ravenswood series, set in a small English town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. By the time I got to this book, I knew almost all of the characters already and I don’t know if that made me more invested in the relationship than in the prevous three books, or if it was the fact that Rae, the main character, was my age and therefore more relatable than another 20-something. Whatever it was, I really enjoyed this book and would love to see more of the central relationship.

Three Star Reads

  • Word Nerd by Susan Nielsen. I read this right at the beginning of the month in an attempt to clear some of my TBR. The idea was to read a chapter and decide if I wanted to carry on with, except I couldn’t bring myself to stop. This was a nice enough read, nothing special, but I did like Ambrose as the main character.
  • Sky Thieves by Dan Walker. Read for the same reason as above. This was so nearly a four star book, but it didn’t quite make it. Very enjoyable though, and I’d be interested in reading the sequel.
  • The Girls’ Guide To Summer by Sarah Mlynowski. Again read for the same reason as the above two, again it came close to getting four stars. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, because I’d heard not great things about it, but it was a fun, summery YA read. I’m not someone who has a huge problem with instalove though, so that might be why!
  • The Other Half of Happiness by Ayisha Malik. I talked about this in my Easter readathon wrap up.
  • All Out edited by Saundra Mitchell. This is an anthology of LGBTQ+ historical stories, and I so wanted to love it. Sadly, for me, the quality of the stories just wasn’t consistent enough and I was quite disappointed. Some of the stories were great, but it really was a minority.
  • A Girl Like Her, Damaged Goods and Untouchable by Talia Hibbert. Grouping these together because my thoughts are pretty much the same on all of them. They were fun stories, I like that Hibbert’s characters have a lot of things going on with them, and the romances in all of them were incredibly hot. There just wasn’t the same depth in these stories as there was in That Kind of Guy or Get A Life, Chloe Brown, hence the three stars.


  • I didn’t finish The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart. It wasn’t bad, I just got 100 pages in and realised it really wasn’t my thing and I didn’t want to waste time reading it. It’s a shame, because I’ve met Martin and he was lovely, but this type of book just isn’t for me.

And that’s it for April! I can’t tell you how many books I’ve acquired in April because I completely failed to keep track, but there’s at least seven in the above list, plus I pre-ordered a copy of The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L D Lapinski, which arrived on the 30th.

I suspect May will be a quieter reading month, not least because I’m back in the office two days a week instead of sitting at home constantly. However, I did finish a book this morning and I’ve bought four which are all due this month, so maybe it won’t be as quiet as I expect!

Let me know in the comments if you a) managed to make it through that screed, b) if you’ve read any of the above books, or c) what you’ve been reading!

Book Review: The Deck of Omens

Thanks to Titan Books for sending me a copy of The Deck of Omens for free, in exchange for an honest review.

I will give you a sneak preview of what I thought of this book: after I’d finished it, I went back and reread The Devouring Gray, and I still wanted more about Four Paths and its residents. It’s like The Deck of Omens stuck its fingers into my brain and won’t let go!

deck of omens

The teenagers of Four Paths must save their home.

Though the Beast is seemingly subdued for now, a new threat looms in Four Paths: a corruption seeping from the Gray into the forest. And with the other Founders preoccupied by their tangled alliances and fraying relationships, only May Hawthorne seems to realize the danger. But saving the town she loves means seeking aid from the person her family despises most–her and Justin’s father.

May’s father isn’t the only newcomer in town–Isaac Sullivan’s older brother has also returned, seeking forgiveness for the role he played in Isaac’s troubled past. But Isaac isn’t ready to let go of his family’s history, especially when that history might hold the key that he and Violet Saunders need to destroy the Gray and the monster within it.

Harper Carlisle isn’t ready to forgive, either. Two devastating betrayals have left her isolated from her family and uncertain who to trust. As the corruption becomes impossible to ignore, Harper must learn to control her newfound powers in order to protect Four Paths. But the only people who can help her do that are the ones who have hurt her the most.

With the veil between the Gray and the town growing ever thinner, all of the Founder descendants must put their grievances with one another aside to stop the corruption and kill the Beast once and for all.

But maybe the monster they truly need to slay has never been the Beast.

It’s very hard to review a sequel without spoiling the first book, so this will, by necessity, be quite vague about plot points! I loved The Deck of Omens though. Maybe not quite as much as I’d loved The Devouring Gray, but I found myself whizzing through it as I was desperate to know what happened.

That’s mostly down to the brilliantly written characters. We have new focus points this time – the Hawthornes and Sullivans – along with Harper dealing both with what happened at the end of the last book and the new threat to Four Paths.  Violet is obviously still aroud, but we see much less of her and her family this time. I love all these characters – there’s been so much growth for all of them over the two books – although Harper and Isaac are my favourites. I really enjoyed their parts in the story, and I loved the reveals about Isaac and his family in particular.

One of the things I really liked about The Deck of Omens is how much the town feels like one of the characters. Christine Lynn Herman is fantastic at creating atmosphere, and I loved all the town’s history we learned during the course of the book. The thought that has gone in to making Four Paths seem like a real place, albeit one with a Beast and various bits of magic, is amazing.

I also liked that, although the kids are the focus, the adults aren’t just ciphers. They’re also fully characterised, with their own (often suspect) motivations and history. This also contributes to that feeling of Four Paths being a real place of course. As a whole, the worldbuilding is fantastic.

There were a few moments which I felt didn’t mesh with what had happened in The Devouring Gray, which is one of the reasons I ended up rereading that book. There were just points with the Beast which seemed to contradict the lore we’d already heard. However, I’m also happy to accept that unreliable narrators are at the core of both books, and it’s probably a case of me misunderstanding where the line is between what we know and what we’ve been told by others rather than a plot hole.

All told then, The Deck of Omens is a wonderful sequel to one of my favourite books of last year. It builds on what’s come before and produces a very satisfying conclusion to the duology. I very much want to know what happens to everyone after the book ends, but I guess that’s what fanfiction is for! If you haven’t read The Devouring Gray yet, I highly recommend you do so, but make sure you have a copy of The Deck of Omens to hand so you can carry straight on. You won’t be disappointed!


The Deck of Omens is out now from Titan Books

Easter Readathon Wrap Up


I’m a teeny bit later than I planned to be in writing this post, but this is such a strange time all round, I’m going to give myself a break on that one!

The Easter readathon is an annual readathon hosted by Kate at Reading Through Infinity, which takes place over the Easter bank holiday weekend. I posted my TBR here, so check that out if you haven’t seen it, or carry on reading to see how I got on.

There were five prompts, and I chose a book for each of them. I could have combined a few, but I knew I’d probably be able to read five books in four days, and I did!


wed wabbit cover

Prompt completed: Read a book that’s under 250 pages

I absolutely 100% loved this book. I had no idea what to really expect when I went into it, but it felt like a properly traditional children’s book that was a bit daft, a bit silly, and very weird, but in the best way. It reminded me a lot of books like Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood, or The Wishing Chair, but without all the racism and classism. Fidge is a fantastic main character. Wed Wabbit has been on my shelf for years, and I’m so glad I finally got round to reading it! 5/5

other half of happiness cover

Prompt completed: Read a book that gives you spring vibes

I picked this book for this prompt because it look kind of spring-like on the cover. Ultimately, it was a bit disappointing for me. I adored Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged, and this sequel had been on my shelf for about as long as Wed Wabbit had. It was interesting in that it showed you what can happen if you marry someone on impulse without actually knowing that much about them, but I loved Sofia and Conall’s relationship in the first one, so to see what happens to them in this one just made me sad. It’s still well written though, and I can’t say it’s not realistic. Still disappointing though. 3.3/5

the rules cover

Prompt completed: Read a book involving family/friends

To be fair, I think every book I read for the readathon covered this prompt, but I’m glad I chose to read this one specifically (sent to me for free by Little Tiger). I’ll review this one in full closer to publication date, but Oh. My. God. I was so surprised by this book and how much I enjoyed it. You definitely need to be keeping an eye out come July! 4.5/5

harley in the sky

Prompt completed: Read a bok with a yellow or green cover

Confession time: I was on the street team for this book and absolutely failed at doing anything to promote it. I’m so sorry Akemi! Having finally read it, I really enjoyed it – more than Starfish, less than Summer Bird Blue. Harley is a bit of a brat, but her character development is beautiful, and I loved the way Akemi showed Harley’s struggle with mental health and connecting to all the different aspects of her heritage. The love interest was also perfect! 4.5/5

before mars cover

Prompt completed: Read a book about new beginnings

I’m not a big sci-fi reader generally, but I love Emma Newman and her work with a fiery passion, so I will read anything she writes. I was a bit behind with the Planetfall series, but I’ve now caught up, and this book was as stunning as the two that came before it. The science mostly goes over my head to be honest, but I love how Emma can write it in detail, without the fact that I don’t get most of it affecting my enjoyment of the book. This is such a good series – I highly recommend it.

boy queen cover

Prompt completed: None

So this wasn’t on my TBR, but I hadn’t finished it before the readathon started. It would have nicely fit the family and friends prompt, or the new beginnings one, as we meet Robin, just as he’s rejected from all the drama schools he’s applied to and he realises he doesn’t know what to do now. This was a netgalley copy provided by Pan Macmillan for free, and as the book isn’t out until August, I’m not going to spoil my review here. I enjoyed it a lot though, and it very much reminded me of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, one of my favourite musicals. 4.5/5

I also started Atlas Alone, the sequel to Before Mars, but I didn’t finish it and so I’m not including it officially. My review of it should hopefully be up soon though, if you want to know what I thought!

So I completed all the prompts, read all the books on my TBR, plus one, and rated all but one of them above 4 stars. I think that’s pretty good going! I also had things I needed to do on the Monday, so I only really participated until the Sunday evening, but it was lovely to spend most of three days just reading. Many thanks to Kate for hosting!

Let me know in the comments if you participated in Easter Readathon this year, or if you’ve read any of the books above!

Blog Tour: Rebel With A Cupcake


Today I’m excited to be opening the blog tour for Anna Mainwaring’s new novel, Rebel With A Cupcake. I really enjoyed Anna’s Tulip Taylor last year so I was looking forward to reading Rebel. It didn’t disappoint!

(I was gifted a copy of this book as part of the blog tour, but all opinions are my own.)

Rebel with a cupcake high res

Jesobel Jones is bold and brash, the daughter of a hand model and a washed-up rock star. Jess sees no need to apologize for her rambling house, her imperfect family, her single status … or her weight. Jess is who she is. She makes her own cupcakes and she eats them, too. No regrets.

That is, until Own Clothes Day rolls around at school. Jess and her friends dedicate the requisite hours of planning to their outfits, their hair and their makeup for the one day they are free from school uniforms. But a wardrobe malfunction leaves Jess with a pair of leggings split open at the worst spot, and a mean girl calling her the one thing that’s never bothered her before: fat.

The encounter shakes Jess’s formerly iron-clad confidence, and she starts to wonder if she’s been just a little too comfortable in her own skin. When the boy of her dreams invites her to a party, she must decide whether to try to fit in for the first time in her life, or remain true to herself — whoever that really is.

I must admit that, at first, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Rebel With A Cupcake. I didn’t want to read a book where the fat protagonist loses weight and everybody suddenly realises how pretty she is, but fortunately, that’s not what this book is. Part of the storyline does involve Jess trying to lose weight, but she’s actually pretty confident in the way she looks until a perfect storm of events has her questioning her outlook on life. I actually really liked that even when she is trying to lose weight (to fit into a dress her mum deliberately bought in a size too small), she’s conflicted about it all the time. She knows she’s only doing it because it’s what people expect, and there’s a part of her that hates it. I also liked that even when she couldn’t be positive about her own body, Jess was still all about body positivity for others.

I liked Jess a lot. I liked her friends a lot too – always supportive, willing to call Jess out when necessary, and ready to listen. I did not like Jess’s mum and sister, who were obsessed with Jess’s weight. If my mum had bought me a dress that she knew was too small to try and make me lose weight, I would have been devastated. It’s such a passive aggressive thing to do! Cat, Jess’s sister, wasn’t much better, although it was clear her attitude sprang from her own issues, and when she was given the chance to support Jess, she took it. Jess’s Gran, on the other hand, was amazing and I loved her. I would talk about the staff at Jess’s school, but they made my blood boil, and I think it would end up a rant, so I won’t!

In terms of actual plot, the romance storyline did feel a bit obvious, and I got annoyed at Jess for being so oblivious to thngs that seemed so blatant to me, but I realise that Jess is only 16, and Matt is really the first boy she’s had a major crush on, so I guess I can forgive her. And I suppose we all know how it feels when that person, you know, the one that has always seemed so out of your league, pays you a bit of attention and you can’t believe your luck. I thought Mainwaring showed that really well and I was definitely getting flashbacks to my own teenage days.

I enjoyed Rebel With A Cupcake a lot. Jess is a great protagonist, with a great message for her YA audience. I did find it difficult to get into at first, as I was still getting to know the characters, but it’s worth sticking with because I grew to love both it and Jess. A very entertaining read!

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


Rebel With A Cupcake is out now. Thanks to Faye Rogers and Firefly Press for sending me a gifted copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Wonderland

Sometimes you read an anthology just because you like some of the authors involved. In the process you discover many new potentially favourite authors, and that’s what happened with Wonderland, an anthology of stories inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published by Titan Books in September. Titan were kind enough to send me a copy for free in exchange for an honest review and look, I’m only two months late reviewing it. Go me!

(I was only two months late reviewing it. Now I’m seven months late because I didn’t realise I hadn’t actually finished and posted this. Oops?)

wonderland cover

Join Alice as she is thrown into the whirlwind of Wonderland, in an anthology that bends the traditional notions of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel. Contributors include the bestselling M.R. Carey, Genevieve Cogman, Catriona Ward, Rio Youers and L.L. McKinney.

Within these pages you’ll find myriad approaches to Alice, from horror to historical. There’s even a Wild West tale from Angela Slatter, poetry, and a story by Laura Mauro which presents us with a Japanese folklore-inspired Wonderland.

Alison Littlewood, Cavan Scott and Catriona Ward make the more outlandish elements their own, while James Lovegrove instead draws on the supernatural. Cat Rambo takes us to a part of Wonderland we haven’t seen before and Lilith Saintcrow gives the legend a science-fiction spin. The nightmarish reaches of the imagination are the breeding ground for M.R. Carey’s visions, while Robert Shearman, George Mann, Rio Youers and Mark Chadbourn’s tales have a deep-seated emotional core which will shock, surprise and tug on the heart-strings.

So, it’s time now to go down the rabbit hole, or through the looking-glass or… But no, wait. By picking up this book and starting to read it you’re already there, can’t you see?

I wasn’t sure how much I’d actually enjoy Wonderland, as it seemed to have quite a horror bent, and that’s not my thing at all. Fortunately, although there is a fair bit of horror in this anthology, it’s not overwhelming, and I enjoyed almost every single story. That’s quite unusual for me with anthologies, but each author had such an interesting spin on Alice. My favourite was probably The White Queen’s Pawn by Genevieve Cogman, but each story was interesting in its own way. At least part of the fun is working out the spin the author is taking – some base their story on the real Alice, others concentrate on Lewis Carroll, or just give the original story a new setting, like a dreamscape on a spaceship to keep the crew sane while they’re in deep sleep for three thousand years. Some of them are a bit strange, I’m not going to lie, but I enjoyed them nevertheless.

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this anthology. I loved seeing how each writer interpreted the brief, and I highly recommend it, whether you’re a fan of the original or not!


Wonderland is out now! Thanks again to Titan Books for the gifted copy!

Blog Tour: Fierce, Fearless and Free

Fierce ,Fearless and Free Banner2

Today I’m on the blog tour for Fierce, Fearless and Free, by Lari Don. Many thanks to Bloomsbury and Faye Rogers for the gifted copy to review!


A brilliant, inclusive collection of traditional tales from around the world featuring amazing women and girls. Once upon a time, there was a handsome prince who – no, that’s not right! Once upon a time, there were strong, fierce women who plotted, schemed, took action, showed kindness, used magic and trickery, and made their own destiny. From the long-haired Petrosinella who escaped the tower and broke the spell that the ogress had cast over her and Nana Miriam who beat a hippo using politeness and magic, to Kate Crackernuts who tried to save her stepsister from her mother’s curse, these are stories of girls doing it for themselves! With stories drawn from all over the world, including China, Scotland, Armenia, Italy and Nigeria, Lari Don presents heroine stories that don’t leave girls sitting around waiting to be saved by the handsome prince.

When I was asked if I wanted to be part of the blog tour for Fierce, Fearless and Free, I jumped at the chance. I love books that purposely centre women in stories as more than just a love interest, and Lari Don did that really well in this book. It’s aimed at a slightly younger age group than I would normally read, but I still enjoyed it and I think kids of about 7-10 would also really enjoy it. I really loved the choice of stories too – they come from all over the world and therefore there’s a good chance that you won’t have come across most of them before.

The best thing about the stories in Fierce, Fearless and Free is that every single one of them features a girl saving herself, or her family, or her friends. These are girls who see a problem and find a solution, whether that’s building a wall of sand or wrestling a mountain. Some of our heroines have to fight to be seen or valued by others, but they all know their own worth, and I can’t think of a better lesson for children, both male and female.

All the stories were easy to read and I got the impression that Don really knows her audience. The book is engaging and fun and would be a wonderful addition to any bookshelf!

Thanks again to Bloomsbury and Faye Rogers for allowing me to be part of this tour. Don’t forget to check out the other bloggers taking part, and check out my twitter for a chance to win your ow copy of Fierce, Fearless and Free!


Book Review: The Deepest Breath

Can you tell I’m trying to play catch up with my reviews? The Deepest Breath is an utterly gorgeous novel in verse by Meg Grehan, which came out in…May. I mean, at least it was this year, right?

the deepest breath

Stevie is eleven and loves reading and sea-creatures. She lives with her mum, and she’s been best friends with Andrew since forever. Stevie’s mum teases her that someday they’ll get married, but Stevie knows that won’t ever happen. There’s a girl at school that she likes more. A lot more. Actually, she’s a bit confused about how much she likes her. It’s nothing like the way she likes Andrew. It makes her fizz inside. That’s a new feeling, one she doesn’t understand. Stevie needs to find out if girls can like girls – love them, even – but it’s hard to get any information, and she’s too shy to ask out loud about it. But maybe she can find an answer in a book. With the help of a librarian, Stevie finds stories of girls loving girls, and builds up her courage to share the truth with her mum. 

I adored The Deepest Breath. I read it so long ago now, but it’s stayed with me since. I definitely remember that it made me cry a lot, in the best possible way of course. It’s written from Stevie’s point of view as she tries to understand her feelings for Chloe, a girl in school. She doesn’t know if it’s ok for girls to like other girls like that, but she doesn’t feel like there’s anyone to ask. And Stevie likes to understand things. She asks questions. She reads huge non-fiction books, full of facts, because understanding things makes life that little less scary. So not knowing what the way she’s feeling means is terrifying for Stevie. And no matter how hard she tries, she doesn’t seem to be able to ask her mum, or make her understand.

The relationship between Stevie and her mum was one of my favourite things. There’s a bit towards the end of the book when the loveliest librarian ever written thinks Stevie’s mum has rejected her because she has feelings for a girl, and I wanted to shout no! She just hasn’t understood what Stevie’s trying to tell her! Because Stevie’s mum is not the sort of person who would reject her daughter for anything. Their closeness is evident in every line, and you can see that they mean the world to each other. They get each other through the tough times and it was just lovely to see that sort of relationship on the page.

The writing in The Deepest Breath is just gorgeous too. It’s a stream of consciousness from Stevie, full of feelings and sadness and questions and, maybe above all else, love – for her mum, for her friends, for Chloe. It is really quite breathtaking how much of Stevie we get to see in a relatively short book, and I love all of her.

I really can’t recommend The Deepest Breath enough. I am so thankful for the gifted copy because I know it wouldn’t have crossed my radar otherwise, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s also one of the most important – I don’t think there’s enough LGBT+ fiction aimed at this age group (the younger end of YA), especially this well written. Please do yourselves a favour and pick it up. I promise you won’t regret it!


Many thanks to Nina Douglas and Little Island Press for the gifted copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Girl Squads

Girl Squads was sent to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

I’m going to be honest with you: when Girl Squads by Sam Maggs (illustrated by Jenn Woodall) arrived on my doorstep *cough*last year*cough*, I had absolutely no memory of requesting it. I still don’t know if I requested it or was sent it unsolicited, but I don’t really care, because this is a fab little book, full of real-life women making a difference in a range of fields. I like to think I’d have picked it up at some point if it hadn’t been sent to me – it’s exactly the sort of thing I like, and goes very well with my copies of Rejected Princesses and Bygone Badass Broads – but it probably wouldn’t have been top of my wishlist and I might not have noticed it.

girl squads

A modern girl is nothing without her squad of besties. But don’t let all the hashtags fool you: the #girlsquad goes back a long, long time. In this hilarious and heartfelt book, geek girl Sam Maggs takes you on a tour of some of history’s most famous female BFFs, including:

• Anne Bonny and Mary Read, the infamous lady pirates who sailed the seven seas and plundered with the best of the men
• Jeanne Manon Roland and Sophie Grandchamp, Parisian socialites who landed front-row seats (from prison) to the French Revolution
• Sharon and Shirley Firth, the First Nations twin sisters who would go on to become Olympic skiers and break barriers in the sport
• The Edinburgh Seven, the band of pals who fought to become the first women admitted to medical school in the United Kingdom
• The Zohra Orchestra, the ensemble from Afghanistan who defied laws, danger, and threats to become the nation’s first all-female musical group

And many more! Spanning art, science, politics, activism, and even sports, these girl squads show just how essential female friendship has been throughout history and throughout the world. 

My favourite thing about Girl Squads was the way we didn’t just get stories about “important” women. We had athletes, artists and scientists, as well as activists and warriors, and there was a wide range of countries and cultures represented as well. I also liked that it wasn’t all historical, there were some very modern entries that readers might not have heard of, such as the Zohra Orchestra. There were a few people that had come up in other books of this type, but a lot of them were new to me, and I love learning new things.

The one thing that really, really bugged me though was the insistence of using terms like squad and BFF and the like everywhere. I know I sound like a grumpy old woman, but it really pulled me out of the text. I get that that’s probably just me though, and I’m sure the younger audience at which Girl Squads is aimed don’t get annoyed at it.

I did also find some of the entries a bit too long, and they felt like a chore to get through. However, most of the entries held my interest and I certainly finished the book with a better knowledge of the people featured, even those I’d previously heard of.

I defnitely recommend Girl Squads if you’re looking for a light, non-fiction book. It’s easy to just read one entry if you have limited time, or pick and choose according to what interests you.

It’s not my favourite of these types of books, but Girl Squads is definitely an interesting read and well worth picking up!


Many thanks to Jamie-Lee Nardone and Quirk Books for my gifted copy of Girl Squads

Blog Tour: Angel Mage


Today is my turn on the massive blog tour for Angel Mage by Garth Nix. I’ve never read a Garth Nix book previously, but I know so many people love them, so I was excited to head into this one. I wasn’t disappointed!

angel mage

More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of her country, Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.

Liliath’s quest centres round four young Sarancians, all seemingly different but who share something very important. There is Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic.

The four feel a strange, immediate kinship for each other from the moment they meet, but they do not know why, or suspect their importance. Only Liliath knows their secret, and she aims to draw them in to her complex plot, just as she manipulates the Queen and her musketeers and everyone else around here.

The four friends must learn to rely on each other and each of their unique skills if they’re going to stand a chance to outwit Liliath and the angels she commands.

I really enjoyed Angel Mage. Standalone fantasy books are such a rarity these days that it was just nice to read something that ended. That’s not to say there isn’t room for more, because there definitely is, and I would like to read it should Garth Nix ever decide to write it, but the story is nicely self-contained. I would love to learn more about Liliath’s life prior to the start of the book, but we’re given enough information that we can piece it together ourselves, and sometimes that’s good too.

It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that Angel Mage is a retelling of The Three Musketeers, but my entire knowledge of the musketeers comes from watching Dogtanian 30 years ago, so don’t be expecting any clever comparisons!

We have four protagonists in Angel Mage, each of whom has their own flaws and good points, and I thought the differences between them were well written and very clear. My favourites were Simeon and Dorotea, I think because they genuinely just wanted to get on with their vocations and really didn’t appreciate being caught up in the adventure. Agnez and Henri were after glory and fortune – there’s nothing wrong with that, and they each have perfectly respectable reasons for it, but it does make them slightly less sympathetic.

I’ve seen a lot of people talking about how good the magic system is Angel Mage, and I have to agree with this. Magic is provided by angels, each of whom has their own scope and strength, depending on where they sit in the hierarchy. However, there is a cost – the summoning of an angel is powered by your life force so the more powerful the angel you summon, the more years of your life you lose, which results in mages dying young, looking three times their actual age. I loved this aspect of the magic! The cardinal, for example, has to really need the angels, because she knows the next time she summons one, it will probably kill her. This in turn leads to her authority dwindling, because her enemies know she can’t act against them unless she’s willing to die for it. I found this fascinating, because it had such an impact on the politics of the city, especially considering the queen, king and church were all vying for control.

I liked that we got point of view chapters from all four protagonists, and the antagonist. I always enjoy reading the antagonist’s point of view – why is Liliath doing this? What does she ultimately want? – and I particularly enjoyed being able to anticipate the outcome of events based on reading all the points of view.

Pretty much my only gripe with Angel Mage was the pacing. I found some of it very slow indeed, (I won’t lie – there were moments when I’d put it down and couldn’t bring myself to pick it back up) and then the ending seemed incredibly rushed, and I think the pacing could have been improved. I really enjoyed everything else though!

If you’re already a Garth Nix fan, you’ve probably already picked Angel Mage up. If you’re not, then I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in it as an adult fantasy book!

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


Angel Mage is out now. May thanks to Gollancz for the gifted copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour: Bright Steel

Bright Steel blog tour graphic

I’m thrilled that today is my stop on the blog tour for Bright Steel, the last book in the Masters & Mages trilogy by Miles Cameron. I reviewed the first book in the series here, and hopefully my review of Dark Forge, the second book in the series, will have been posted by the time you’re reading this. I have, with a few caveats, really enjoyed reading this series, and I’m actually feeling quite sad to say goodbye to Aranthur and co!

bright steel

Every war come down to the flash of bright steel.

Even when the air is full of magic . . .

Aranthur and his friends have come together across different continents and realms with one purpose: to strike back against the forces which have torn a hole in the heavens and threaten to tear the world beneath them apart as well.

With time running short, and treason at home, there are battles to be fought on the field, in the magical arena, and in the ever-deadly realm of politics, and they cannot fail anywhere or everything will fall. Victory will require enemies to trust one another, old foes to fight together, spies to reveal the truth and steadfast allies to betray long-corrupt rulers.

Is Aranthur, a twenty-year-old student, really the master strategist to bring it all together?And can he and his friends build enough trust to overcome aeons of lies when their plans inevitably fall to pieces?

Do they even know, for sure, who the enemy is . . . ?

It is, I think, going to be very difficult to review Bright Steel without spoiling the first two books in the series. As is the nature of series, the stories follow on, and I can’t really explain this one if you don’t know what came before. I will, however, say that this is the best of the series. It’s exciting and breath-taking, and you know the characters well enough to properly care about what happens. Aranthur’s utter despair at what war is making of him is as heartbreaking as if Cameron had decided to kill the character. I’ve watched Aranthur grow from a naive farm boy to a hardened soldier and battlemage, and it hurts to see him hurting (and boy does Cameron put him through the mill in this book!). It’s not just Aranthur of course, but Dahlia, Sasan, Drako and Inoques, and Aranthur’s loyal band of soldiers under his command. Some of them we know more than others, but we know enough to worry about them.

I did find some of the book confusing, as I did with the previous two. I think it must be something about Cameron’s writing style that doesn’t quite mesh with my brain, because I sometimes feel like I’m being asked to make leaps of logic that there’s no evidence for. It’s also, purposely I think, choppy. While this can be a bit frustrating, I think it also emphasises how Aranthur is feeling and how his brain works. Those leaps of logic that I struggle with? They’re how Aranthur keeps going, and how he makes his plans, some of which are more successful than others, and so I’m more at peace with the style than I was when I read and reviewed Cold Iron.

The world-building is less obvious in Bright Steel than the previous two books. They’ve already done all the heavy lifting, and so Bright Steel is able to concentrate more purely on the story. However, the descriptions are as lush as ever, and Aranthur’s continued development of his magic as he gains knowledge from his travels and merges different styles of magic makes perfect sense. I loved the period we spend in the Emperor’s palace, especially all the polictical machinations, and I also really liked his realisation of exactly why the Empire has its rules for magic, and the consequences his work could have in the future. It felt like something the story had been building to and not something thrown in as an afterthought. The other thing I really liked was Aranthur’s sword. I can’t tell you why without spoiling both Dark Forge and Bright Steel, but I loved it.

I would have liked a bit more information at the end about what happened next, but I suspect Cameron is saving that for his next series. This might be the last book in a trilogy, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be a new trilogy a bit further down the line with new characters and cameos from our favourites. If such a thing came to exist, I’d definitely be picking it up!

Bright Steel is a fantastic book, full of adventure (although with more than a smattering of gore). It ties up almost all of the loose ends of the trilogy, and has some great callbacks to events in the first book. It’s a fitting end to the Masters & Mages series and I’m very glad I got to know Aranthur and his friends.


Bright Steel is out on 22 August. Many thanks to Waseem and Stevie at Gollancz for the gifted copy of the book, in exchange for an honest review.