Book Review || The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Girl and the Stars
{Book of the Ice #1}
Mark Lawrence
30th April 2020

I have heard a lot about Mark Lawrence in the past, particularly about the Book of the Ancestor series, and it sounded like he wrote some excellent dark fantasy. So when the chance came along to give the first book in his new series a go, I have to admit I was intrigued.

The Girl and the Stars follows Yaz, born into a tribe who live in a very cold place. Her tribe is known for being one of the toughest, as the live out on the ice and don't really see anything other than ice or feel much other than the unrelenting wind, except when travelling to hunt, or to attend the rituals of the people of this planet that happen every four years. To survive, everyone must band together and become a part of the whole, rather than an individual seperated from it - those who are deemed unsuitable for the life are thrown down a hole by one of the priests of their people - seemingly a quick death in comparison to the slow death of the cold.

Yaz knows she's different, and she knows she deserves to be thrown. But then a lot of really weird stuff happens.

I actually really enjoyed my time with this read - it was addictive, and I really wanted to keep picking it up. Yaz is an excellent main character to follow as she is unsure of herself almost all the time, but the is damn well going to do the best she can. And the writing style was immersive, with moments of great tenderness and wisdom scattered throughout. I also fell in love with some of the side characters, whom I won't mention because of spoilers. Everyone felt distinct and real.

However, sometimes things felt a little repetitive. This could have been because I devoured this book in a few days, but I felt like Lawrence told me the same thing about the same character about four times, and it started to get a little annoying - I do understand why the repetition is here, though, as there are just so many characters and things going on sometimes that it helps to have reminders. There's also some reverse-harem energies in this book that also got a bit annoying at times, and I found myself questioning them just a little. 

Another issue I had, which I suspected I might have with Mark Lawrence's work, is that it's maybe a little too grimdark for me. I think I can get on with grimdark sometimes (I love the Nevernight books by Jay Kristoff, for example, which have been referred to as grimdark on occasion), but sometimes I do feel it veers a little to far into the 'torture porn' category, where the main characters or characters just get beaten down into a pulp at every single opportunity - this can just make me feel defeated at times and make me lose interest, so I am aware that it's more of a 'me' thing than a true issue with the book itself. For those that feel similarly, though, I will say that this book has enough humour and strong characterisation to get you through, in my opinion.

Overall, aside from the grimdark and my irritations with some small things, this was an absorbing read, and I think I will be back for the next instalment - if only to sate my curiosity after that ending!

7.5/10 girls with stars.

I received a review copy of this book from Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own.

Book Review || Mammoth by Chris Flynn

Monday, April 27, 2020

Chris Flynn
28th April 2020

This is such a unique book with a lot to say - our main protagonist is certainly chatty and tells his story in sections, when he's not being interrupted by a Tyrannosaurus bataar (different from a Tyrannosaurus rex), or a mummified hand that can talk, or a penguin... There is so much that is strange and wonderful about this book, and I can see why it has so much excellent praise.

In case you can't tell from my first paragraph - this book relies on humour to carry the story along and, whilst it really did have me laughing at different times, often the humour fell a little flat for me - I found it wasn't my humour overall - but there's also a lot of other things going on. Our main character, Mammut, tends towards a more dignified tone (much of the humour comes from other characters interjecting), and tells his story with a lot of really interesting events. I really could almost believe that I was reading the story of an actual mammoth. So I think the interjections from other characters was good to keep the story flowing, but overall irritated me at times because they tended to think Mammut was being boring, whilst I found him fascinating and wanted him to continue uninterrupted. Alas.

There is definitely comment here on how humans have a tendency to destroy the very things we need to survive, and how we as a species bulldoze everything in our path in search for a 'better future' (or even just a instantaneous burst of pleasure), but the book overall felt hopeful to me, and I really loved that it struck that tone in the end. I feel it can be easy to make everyone feel like humans are the worst species ever, it's a lot harder to remind us that we're acutally pretty alright, sometimes.

7/10 well-preserved, but also sentient, stars.

I received a review copy of this book from University of Queensland Press in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own.

Book Review || The Cobra Queen by Tara Moss

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Cobra Queen
{Pandora English #4}
Tara Moss
3rd March 2020

First of all, let me state for the record that I haven't read any of the other Pandora English books, and actually had no idea they existed until I started seeing the cover of The Cobra Queen floating around here and there. I was a bit nervous to jump into a book so far into a series, but I have to say that Tara Moss does a good job of dropping hints here and there about what had happened in previous book. So, whilst I didn't know exactly what had happened in the previous three books, I felt fairly up-to-speed on what was happening.

Now, onto the book itself. I quite liked the characters - Pandora herself felt familiar and interesting, and I really appreciated hearing her inner dialogue at times and how she was unsure of herself and such. I also really liked Lieutenant Luke, though at times he didn't feel properly fleshed out (haha that's a joke because he's a ghost... sorry.) and didn't really have much personality on occasion.

What really let this book down for me, unfortunately, was the writing. At times I thought it was really good and could get lost in the story very easily, and then much of the rest of the time I just found the writing to be stilted and a little dull, honestly. In particular, in scenes when two characters were having longer conversations or there was a lot of dialogue, I just found like it read very strangely and just not very believable. In one particular scene, which I won't detail because spoilers, two characters discuss something that is about to happen, and I just didn't feel like they were really even in the same conversation - it was just so jarring. 

Having said all that, I did enjoy my time reading this for the most part, and I am definitely a fan of short paranormal fantasy/romance books like this. Still interested in where Tara Moss is taking this series, but still feel like parts of this need work.

6/10 ghostly, but still corporeal, stars.

I received a review copy of this book from Echo Publishing in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own.

Book Review || The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass by Adan Jerreat-Poole

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass
Adan Jerreat-Poole
16th May 2020

Eli is a girl, but also definitely not a girl. She is a made-thing, an assassin, a witch's tool. She can travel between the City of Eyes, where the witches reside, and the City of Ghosts, where the humans live, because she is of both worlds. And yet, there is change afoot.

This was a ride and a half. I want to make a special point of talking about the magic and the sheer imagination that went into this story - I loved so much of it, and a lot of elements that were added along the way just made me gasp in sheer delight at the wonderfulness of it all. And also the darkness of it, too. This is definitely my kind of book. The labyrinth in particular is actually something I'd love to know more about, but, to be honest, I feel like this author might be able to make an amazing world out of whatever they write.

Eli is definitely an interesting character to follow - she is so conflicted at times, and curses this as her 'human side', and at other times she curses herself for being a monster. The other characters, Kite, Tav, and Cam specifically, were all fantastic, flawed, real. At least, they felt that way to me. And the representation and diversity was fantastic. (Speaking as someone who identifies as non-binary, I appreciated the little bit of backstory we got for the enbie character, but also that it didn't devolve into a sort of 'torture porn' level of pain. There was more focus on the character stepping forward into who they were, and just being that person. I loved that.)

I have read that other people felt like nothing really happened in this book, and I am not really sure where that is coming from, however - I know that I like slower books sometimes, and I also love this quality that Jerreat-Poole has created throughout the whole book: dreamlike, magical, sort of flowy. One section will sometimes flow into a memory, and then back to 'current time'. Having said that, the last 25% or so was basically all action and I loved it all.

Very interested to see what Adan Jerreat-Poole does next! Someone to watch, methinks.

8/10 thorn, glass, and pearl stars.

I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own.

Book Review || Dewdrop by Katie O'Neill

Katie O'Neill
7th April 2020

This is one of the sweetest, most wholesome, and beautifully illustrated picture books I have ever set hands and eyes upon. It's no secret that I am a huge Katie O'Neill fan - her Tea Dragon Society books are incredibly important to me and make me feel cozy and seen all at the same time. So, when I learned that she had a picture book coming out this year, I did my best to secure a review copy for myself.

Dewdrop is a little Axolotl, or Mexican Walking Fish, who likes coming up with cheerleader routines, and supporting friends. Each of Dewdrop's friends wants to show off something special of themselves, but feel disheartened about their own abilities. Enter - Dewdrop. And all of the sweetness ensues.

O'Neill's art style is one of bright colours, sweet characters, and often causes lots of smiles to break out on my face. In Dewdrop, which I think would be great for kids of all ages, O'Neill really manages to take the essence of that age-old message - 'Just be yourself' - and cook it down into a lovely little bite of sunshine. I'm not sure I could love it any more, and I think I will revisit it whenever I need a little boost, or a reminder.

10/10 bright happy cheerleading pompoms!

I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own.


Friday, March 27, 2020
Hello friends. It's been a bit of a while since I popped on here and posted anything. I'm honestly not apologetic about that, as I think I've been needing some time to just be, and I'm not sure that period is over yet. 

I turned 30 at the beginning of March, and it was a quiet but lovely event. I was away on holiday for my birthday - the first time I've ever done that - and I have to say, it was lovely. It does feel a little as if my birthday has disappeared within the mess of what has come after, and as someone who has finally acknowledged that my birthday is quite important to me and I love to celebrate it (I don't always have the energy for one big event, so I tend to try and stretch it out over the course of many little events in a month), it was tough to feel like I just had a day in which to celebrate (which I really enjoyed, despite a really bad migraine in the middle of it). I'm still sorting out my feelings surrounding turning 30 and such, but I think it's okay to take my time with that.

I think part of the reason that I kind of stopped posting on a lot of my accounts (YouTube, Instagram (though I'm back on there now), here, my Patreon, etc.) is because I started to feel like there were just too many voices in the world, all saying what they thought and trying to swing people to their way of thinking. I didn't want to be that kind of person, and I still don't. I am still not sure what this means for myself, but being a little more quiet is helping me feel a bit calmer - I don't have to have an opinion on everything, and that's kind of wonderful to realise. (Though I do have to acknowledge the irony of stating what I think about people always telling you what they think. Ah, human brains. Weird things.)

I'm not sure where I'm going at the moment. And I think I'm okay with that. Everything is a little topsy-turvy for the world, and I just want to rest in who I am for a little while. I don't know if that means I will be back to posting regularly or not, or if I will put any of the thoughts/ideas I've had into action, but for now, I am waving hello to you across the abyss. Hope you're doing okay.

Love to all who read.

No Buy 2020 Check-In || February

Sunday, March 1, 2020
Hello friends! Here we are at the start of another month - and it's my birth-month, too! How exciting :) Once again, if you're not sure what I'm talking about when I mention my No Buy 2020, please head here to check out my initial post.

So, another month gone. And despite it being the shortest month of the year (even with this year being a leap year), it was still a bit of a doozy. I started off the month feeling a little low, and that mood kind of got worse and better at times. But when it was really bad? My desire to spend money was really high. It was really difficult during those times to remember why I was doing this (rereading my 'why' did help, but not as much as I would have hoped), and I'm not sure I would have managed had I not just fallen back on reminding myself to be compassionate - with myself, and with others. But it's still extremely difficult to challenge those habits that have formed over many years and try to direct them in a more helpful way. I absolutely don't deny that.

I did also realise that I kind of had to change the rules a little bit otherwise this whole experiment would feel more like a punishment than a joyful exploration. I feel okay about that, because honestly these rules are ones that I either made up myself, or took from someone else's no buy or low buy experiments, so it was kind of just a shot in the dark for me initially. These rules need to work for me rather than against me, and be the mst conducive towards me saving money rather than spending it (but also mostly being aware of my spending habits rather than just being mindlessly controlled by them). Here are the couple of changes I'm making:

~ One experience per month rather than per quarter. This still depends on whether Xin and I can afford it, but I didn't factor in dates with Xin, and those are really important - spending time with Xin is in my 'why' section, so cutting this out doesn't make a whole lot of sense!

~ If I don't use both of the coffee/tea dates in a month, whatever is leftover gets rolled over to the next month. I'm still spending the same amount of money here, just at a different time. 

~ There are a few intricacies in the way that Xin and I budget that have made me rethink my No Buy, and I'm not going to share those here because, well, I don't feel the desire to share my budget around on the internet, but basically I have opportunity to go out for more meals or tea/coffee if I'd like, but the money comes from a different part of the budget that I am more directly responsible for. This is my most wary rule-change, so I am keeping a sharp eye on it. I actually haven't used it as yet - in January I only used one of the coffee/tea dates and so had three at my disposal in February, so I haven't felt the need as yet.

I'm pretty sure I went over on the coffee/tea dates and eating out this month, but it was also a bit of a hard month in terms of my pain levels, and it turns out that's a big trigger for me - when I'm in a lot of pain for several days in a row, I want to buy things to ease my time a little bit. This often occurs with things like food, or drinks (bubble tea was my main thing in Feb, which was odd because I haven't had it in so long but in Feb I was just all about that boba). It also means I want to spend money on books, but I'm guessing those who know me or read this blog with any regularity will probably know that. I did buy one book - one I had on my wishlist, as per my rules - which was We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal. It felt really good to intentionally go into the book store and purchase a book that was on my wishlist, instead of impulsively buying it online because I was feeling bad.

Anyway, that's my update for February! I still feel pretty good about how this experiment is going, and it's really connecting in more with my word of the year (compassion) much more than I expected. I will try to keep checking in on the blog so any readers or those who are interested can see how I'm going, but I also want to check-in for myself. It helps to lay it all out a bit more generally, instead of just being stuck in my own head!

Love to all who read.

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