I finally read City of Ashes! A Review

I first read City of Bones by Cassandra Clare in May of 2018, it took me over 2 years to pick up the sequel! I read City of Ashes to fulfil the fuck book elitism prompt for the Fuckathon hosted by Noria Reads, because these books are absolute trash. Ab. So. Lute. Trash. And yet I’ve rated the both of these books 4/5*! They’re just so enjoyable despite the writing being so bad!

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In the second book of the Mortal Instruments series we follow our main character Clary as she gets used to being immersed in this supernatural world that she had never heard of before as well as seeing character development from her and the others around her.

From a critical point of view? This is so badly written. The writing style is undeveloped and incredibly simplistic and the plot points are incredibly predictable. BUT just from an entertainment point of view? They’re so much fun! I sped through City of Ashes just like I sped through City of Bones and I’ve found myself invested in the story of these characters! I don’t care for Clary at all, if I’m being honest, but I really want to learn more about all of our side characters and I’m definitely more interested in finishing up the series now and reading more of Cassandra Clare’s tie-in books!

I also am hoping that Clare’s writing will improve as I go further through the books. She has the entertainment factor down, and these were her first published books (I believe) so there is definite room for improvement here and all of my fingers are crossed for it!

Have you read this series? How do you feel about it?

The Clocks by Agatha Christie, a review

The Clocks is the 37th book in the Poirot series, but you don’t need to read them in order. Thankfully because I don’t have all the prior 36 books! I’ve been grabbing Christie’s works from charity shops as and when I spot them and this was the last one I owned that I hadn’t read yet. As always I sped through the book and I really enjoyed it!

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I read this book for the fuck ageism prompt for the Fuckathon hosted by the amazing Noria at Noria reads. Poirot is over 60 in the first book of the series, so I think I’m pretty safe in assuming he’s an older main character and because I always speed through these books it was a great choice for a readathon!

These later Poirot books don’t involve Poirot straight away, they start out following the other characters within the crime and the story. I really enjoy this story style, as we get to learn more about all of these individuals and I personally became more invested in the story and in the character arcs.

For this story we follow a young man who is drawn into an investigation of a murder carried out in a blind woman’s house. Not only has this murder been committed but clocks that were not there previously have been left around the room. But the owner of the house has no way of knowing they’re there. She can’t see them.

As always with Christie’s Poirot tales there are other undercurrents running along in the background and I really enjoyed how these accumulated into one main story and how the threads tangled together.

Unsurprisingly this was another wonderful work by Agatha Christie, I gave it 4/5 stars and my only negative is that I don’t have any more of her books on hand to read! I’m looking forward to post-lockdown when I can peruse charity shop shelves and look for secondhand books again!

Did we need a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale?

That was the first thing anyone asked when this book was announced. Do we need it? So many years after the first book was published, is a sequel necessary to the story? Straight up? No. No, it’s not necessary in the slightest. You can read The Handmaid’s Tale and get a complete story without even touching The Testaments. It does, however, give more insight into Gilead. Its formation, its running, and how the outside world perceives it.

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This sequel picks up more than fifteen years after Offred’s story takes place, following three women and their interactions with Gilead. We follow one of the highest “Aunts” who runs the women’s side of things in Gilead, or at least tries to. We follow a young girl who is growing up as a commander’s daughter within this country and knows nothing else. And lastly we follow another young girl who lives in Canada, who is taught about Gilead in school, who thinks they should be stopped.

I love how well Aunt Lydia was fleshed out, we get to learn so much about her backstory and also through her about the inner runnings of how the system treats women. I was hooked throughout her chapters and lapped up every drop of information that she gave us. Through Aunt Lydia we saw more of the “eyes are everywhere” aspect of Gilead and how this worked behind the scenes. It was incredibly interesting. Showing her in a truthful light, showing the horrendous things that she did alongside helping girls and women really made her feel real. In real-life people are often multi-faceted.

Daisy is our Canadian and this was my least favourite point of view to read from. Whilst interesting at the start to see how outside countries were reacting to Gilead in terms of trade and opposing their treatment of people, I wasn’t all that interested in her plot line. I’ll delve more into that in a second.

Lastly we have Agnes Jemima, a privileged young girl who should end up with a high placed husband due to her father being a Commander. Although I didn’t enjoy Agnes’ viewpoint as much as Aunt Lydia’s, I did prefer her sections to those of Daisy. There was more to be learnt about life in the home in Gilead here as well as other sections of life in Gilead that I don’t want to mention as it would spoil the book.

Back to Daisy now, because her primary plot is what really ruined this book for me. Up until around 70/80% of the way through I was engrossed, I could barely put the book down. And then I reached a point where I felt like I was done. And after finishing the book I can tell you I wish I had stopped there. The ending of the book felt forced and oh so typical, not at all what I was looking for when reading the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. I can see that the current climate would want a happy ending to this story, but I think Atwood went slightly too far and reached glossy Hollywood fakery levels. Stopping after a slight improvement for those we’ve been following would have been enough for this tale in my opinion.

Margaret Atwood herself said: “Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.” and whilst I appreciate the last sentence and agree that the world we currently live in does indeed provide inspiration, I do wish she hadn’t bowed to pressure. To all the people writing her letters since Handmaid’s was first published. I can understand why, she’s been bombarded with these letters for decades now, and surely must just want to get some sort of conclusive ending out there for people. This for me, though, was such a disappointing ending to a book. It was so predictable and made that end 20/30% genuinely difficult to get through, there were no surprises, just sad realisation that she was taking this exactly where it felt like.

If I ever re-read this book I will be stopping before the end. Before it’s all wrapped up in a shiny bow. I’ll probably skip Daisy’s chapters too. I have heard that to get the full story Atwood is telling you should watch the TV show as well as reading the books. I’m a completionist and do want to see how the original book was adapted so I will watch the show at some point. I’m not exactly expecting to love it though. Overall I gave this 3.5/5, rounding up to a 4 on Goodreads. This is purely because of how much I was enjoying Aunt Lydia and Agnes’ sections for the majority of the book. I’m glad I read it, but I’m also disappointed.

Mermaids with a Dark Past

The Deep by Rivers Solomon is a book that I’m mad I didn’t hear about sooner. Inspired by a song from Clipping for the “We Are In The Future” of This American Life (I had never heard of it before, blame me being British), this book follows the water-breathing descendants of African enslaved women who were tossed overboard from ships. They have built up their own society deep beneath the waves, but they don’t interact with their past. One individual holds all of the memories for their people, and we follow Yetu as she tries to cope with these traumatic memories invading her head since she was young.

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This is a short story, at only 166 pages, but it packs a heck of a punch. Talking in an indirect way about the intergenerational trauma that Black people in the US face and how this can weigh too heavily on one individual.

Yetu, our protagonist, is just a young girl and yet the Wajinru have made her become the holder of all of these memories. She can feel them inside of her at all times and it hurts. I enjoyed seeing Yetu coming to find herself, with this being done surprisingly in depth considering the short length of the book.

I also really liked lots of the small details, like the Wajinru speaking using vibrations and scales rather than above-surface methods that you can figure out all too easily wouldn’t work if you stick your head under water and try to talk. The way in which the Wajinru came to be is also explored, I love the story of survival and how within the realms of fantasy it could actually make sense.

All in all this was an amazing book and one I urge you to pick up. It was a clear five stars for me and I look forward to reading more from Rivers Solomon and seeing what else they publish!

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed | A Review

I don’t read a lot of contemporary, so when I do I like it to be hard hitting. Hence why most of my contemporary is YA, those markets have so much potential when it comes to important issues. The Black Kids is a book about Ashley, a high school teenager in LA. She’s Black, and she’s in a predominantly white private school. Her parents have made their way in the world and they’re rich. The year is 1992, and the LA riots have started due to the murder of Rodney King by police (and unsurprisingly the perpetrators were acquitted). To avoid spoilers I won’t say anymore, but I’m sure you can guess the direction that this book goes in.

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As soon as I found out it was set in ’92 I assumed there wouldn’t be any LGBTQIA+ representation. Thankfully I was wrong! This book is wonderfully diverse, with various LGBTQIA+ characters and it also has diverse rep in terms of race.

One thing I adored about how Christina Hammonds Reed crafted the story is that she was able to give us multiple different viewpoints on the riots and race in general just from one main character. Ashley has been friends with a group of white girls since she was little, and they’ve been dating white boys. However, as she moves around different circles of people as the book progresses we also get to see what she thinks when within lots of different groups with different races, monetary status and more. This skilful writing really makes this book what it is and is a key part to why I loved it so much.

Our protagonist is the victim of microaggressions as well as blatant racism. You probably could’ve guessed that already. But she isn’t perfect herself. She actually, throughout the course of the book, does various things that we the reader will judge her for. She doesn’t shy away from this, she doesn’t pretend like she’s perfect, and that makes her so much more relatable as a person. We all fuck up, we all make mistakes.

This book also taught me about a number of events in US history. One obvious one that isn’t a spoiler is the ’92 LA riots. As a white Brit who was born in 1996 I genuinely didn’t know as I read through this book whether the riot was fictional or real. I of course did research and discovered that this was a very real riot that occurred and that Rodney King was in fact murdered by police. I have also since done research on other events that happened both in the US and elsewhere that the book mentions. I don’t know why I had never learnt about these. Whether it’s because I’m white or because I’m British (I’m assuming a mix of the two), but I’m so so grateful to this book for bringing these to my attention.

I was able to read an advanced copy of this book thanks to NetGalley, I only picked this up because it was available through the “read now” section rather than requesting it. I won’t be requesting diverse books and will only read those available on my “read now” tab as I am white and I don’t want to take the opportunity to read a book away from an OV reviewer. I can always pick it up once it’s been published!

I ended up giving The Black Kids 4 stars out of 5. I think that if I had been from the US I would have rated this the full 5 stars, but I just didn’t have the cultural connection to the book (I’m British if you don’t know). As it is I can’t actually think of anything negative so it is just that spark that’s missing for me. I really really recommend picking this book up, it comes out on the 5th August and you should definitely get a delivery from your local bookshop!

A Review of Dark Intent by AB Endacott

 

Welcome to the Third Country! Yet another book by the amazing AB Endacott, I have adored reading her works lately! This follows the woman councillor seen in Queendom of the Seven Lakes (review here) who is a healer named Freya Kuch. She lived in the Third country where a brutal takeover has occured from the Kade population which has left the Pious people as second class citizens. Freya, through determination, has managed to become the perfect Kade citizen. This is torn apart, however, when she is caught up in an explosion detonated by those less happy to be subjugated. From this point onwards her view of the world and her place in it is to be tested to the limits.

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I adored this book, getting to delve into yet another section of this beautifully imagined world was a delight and I was quickly fully invested in Freya’s life and seeing her open her eyes to the truth in her country was so engrossing. I love how fleshed out all of the characters are and how much I was able to imaging the world in my head without there being any info-dumping.

The blurred lines between good and bad that are ever present in our day to day life are explored within this fantasy text in a way that can be extrapolated to real life. The contrast starts out quite strong, but quickly delves into the deep greys that come with life and show that nothing can quite fit neatly into a box. I love how Alice showed this and how it was interwoven into the story.

Freya’s relationships with both Simon and Ashtyn were really interesting and so different. I won’t tell you the nature of them in order not to spoil anything but I loved seeing the two very different sides to her and how she reacts differently to them both as the story goes on and she learns more about the country that they are living in and how they are all complicit.

The ending of this book is quite the cliffhanger! I’ve seen some reviews where people love it and some where they don’t. Me? I loved it! It turns out that it was actually an accident when this was uploaded and the ending was originally intended to be a little further into the story but I love the need to continue that this left me with and I’m so excited to pick up Dark Purpose soon and carry on with the series!

I of course adored this book and really really recommend picking it up!! (which you can do here, not affiliate I’m just lazy and assume others are too!)

Strong women in media

 

Matt Killeen is an author I love from his Orphan Monster Spy WWII YA series, so when I saw that he had a small (like 45 pages small), free, eBook I knew that I needed to pick it up! It’s a collection of short essays about the strong, powerful women portrayed in media and how it shaped his childhood to end up in him becoming a feminist.

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I will be honest and say that I hadn’t heard of all of these women. I don’t watch many movies, so that was part of it, but also just from exposure to different media. I did, however, really enjoy learning about them and I can see how this would be a great book for teenagers to delve into and find more women to admire.

This is a short review for a short book, but overall I believe you should pick this up. It’s free and quick to read so there’s no loss to you if you don’t like it, and it mentions some fantastic women who should be praised more often.

Exploring the Fourth Country

I went on an AB Endacott binge in a pretty short period of time! Next up is The Ruthless Land which is the first book I’ve read from Alice that isn’t set within the Second Country and that has a different narrator. Although I’m sad to be leaving Elen-ai and Gidyon behind I have loved exploring more places within this beautifully written world.

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Within The Ruthless Land, set in the Fourth Country, we follow Lexana as she is sent to the Academy atop a mountain, and filled with monks, in order to learn and develop knowledge that will be useful in running her family’s business that she is the heiress to. While there she starts to connect with Jaxen, one of the teachers in the Academy. When the worst happens in regards to her family, Lexa must leave to find her family and escapes down the mountainside and begins to make her way across the Fourth Country with Jaxen’s help.

Parallels can be drawn between the Fourth Country and countries with mandated face coverings for some of the population. Unlike most countries in real life, where women are the ones made to cover themselves, the Fourth Country insists that men cover themselves, showing that men have a lower status in society here similarly to in the Second Country. This was explored in such an interesting manner by Alice and I really loved the conversations she brought up about it.

Watching Lexa and Jaxen make their way across the Fourth Country avoiding bandits and roaming gangs, as well as keeping Lexa’s identity under wraps so that those who would be hunting her don’t find and kill her, was so engrossing and I found myself speeding through this book. I was so invested in all of the characters and their relationships and the only negative I can say is that I wish I had gotten to learn more about the Academy and the monks and teachers that lived there.

The book is set after the events of the Queendom duology and I love the links that Alice made between the two, one character in particular appears in both books and I was really surprised when I came to love her in this book! I love the different viewpoints that Alice has managed to show of this person and their role in the world. This can be read completely as a standalone book set in the Godkissed Continent (the same continent as Queendom) so don’t worry about that, and I absolutely recommend picking it up, along with everything else Alice has published! She is one of my absolute favourite authors (and a lovely person to boot!).

Buy The Ruthless Land here!

Trapped in the King’s Cage

It took me long enough but I finally got around to reading the third book in the Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard, King’s Cage. I know that some people aren’t keen on this series but I’ve really enjoyed it so far (reviews for Glass Sword and Cruel Crown) and was excited to dive back in. This is gunna be a short review as I don’t want to spoil anything for the previous books and therefore I can’t say much!!

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I really enjoyed the character development that we got throughout this book, both for our main characters but also those who were introduced in Glass Sword, as well as learning a little more about the world as the characters stray further into it. I feel like the world building was done well and wasn’t just dumped on the reader.

For me, though, once reaching the end quarter of the book I was suddenly not enjoying it. In fact it was making me annoyed. I didn’t want to take my time with the writing anymore I just wanted to get it over with and finish the damn thing. The last 50 pages in particular were quite a drag for me. I’m still not entirely sure why this was, I would probably have to re-read the book to find out and I’m in no hurry to do that. But it was a surprise when I had been enjoying the rest of the book so much to suddenly really not wanting to be there. Fingers crossed that for the next, and last, book I enjoy it all the way through!

An addictive series by AB Endacott!!

Once I finished up Queendom of the Seven Lakes (review here) I knew I just had to carry on with my re-read and pick up book two, King of the Seven Lakes! This is the second time I’ve read this book (original review here) and I think I love it even more than the first time through if that’s even possible! From here on out there will be spoilers for the first book so go and read that and then come back here!38918798. sy475


Although Gidyon has been coronated, there are still those who oppose him ruling because he is a man. One family is taking advantage of this and attempting to usurp him, meaning to put his female cousin on the throne but her grandfather would be the ones pulling the strings behind the scenes. Elen-ai, Gid, and his Uncles who are his royal advisers, are all working to stop this attack.

The further world building in book two is absolutely gorgeous, really developing the world and adding extra nuance to it. I also really love the portrayal of religion. I myself am not religious but the way in which Elen-ai and Gidyon’s religions are portrayed (they prey to different Gods who bestow powers upon the worthy) has given me the closest understanding of how those who strongly believe feel. It really makes you understand how close these people feel to their God at all times. It’s quite beautiful.

There are moments of lightheartedness throughout which are placed incredibly well in order to break up the heaviness of this battle they are trying to win and I love the various facets we get to see. There isn’t just one fight here.

This is another amazing work of fantasy from Alice and re-reading this book only cemented my love for it even further! I one million percent recommend picking this book up!!

Buy King of the Seven Lakes here!

Buy Queendom of the Seven Lakes here!

Buy the combined duology here!