Wednesday, 27 September 2023

Sun of Blood and Ruin by Mariely Lares

Pages: 384 

Publisher: Harper Voyager 

Released: 28th of September 2023 

Rumor has it on the streets of sixteenth-century New Spain, there's a new vigilante in town serving justice. This reimagining of Zorro--featuring a heroic warrior sorceress--weaves Mesoamerican mythology and Mexican history two decades after the Spanish conquest into a swashbuckling, historical debut fantasy with magic, intrigue, treachery, and romance.

A new legend begins...

In sixteenth-century New Spain, witchcraft is punishable by death, indigenous temples have been destroyed, and tales of mythical creatures that once roamed the land have become whispers in the night. Hidden behind a mask, Pantera uses her magic and legendary swordplay skills to fight the tyranny of Spanish rule.

To all who know her, Leonora de Las Casas Tlazohtzin never leaves the palace and is promised to the heir of the Spanish throne. The respectable, law-abiding Lady Leonora faints at the sight of blood and would rather be caught dead than meddle in court affairs.

No one suspects that Leonora and Pantera are the same person. Leonora's charade is tragically good, and with magic running through her veins, she is nearly invincible. Nearly. Despite her mastery, she is destined to die young in battle, as predicted by a seer.

When an ancient prophecy of destruction threatens to come true, Leonora--and therefore Pantera--is forced to decide: surrender the mask or fight to the end. Knowing she is doomed to a short life, she is tempted to take the former option. But the legendary Pantera is destined for more than an early grave, and once she discovers the truth of her origins, not even death will stop her.

What I Have to Say 

This was so good. If you want a tale of mixed race heroes fighting against colonialism then this is the book for you. It was so great at showing the many sides that Leonora had in her, showing her torn between her Spanish identity and her Native Mexican identity. I loved how it gave her the perfect place to hide in plain sight while still getting back to her mother's roots in the form of the vigilante Pantera. 

Though I really liked the plot, I did find that the fight against the Spanish was kind of lost towards the end. I feel like I would have been happy with just the Spanish as the enemies instead of bringing in demons to try and end the world. 

The characters in this were the best though. I loved Leonora's character so much as well as the love interest who was also many sided and sassy. I loved the banter between them and as well as Pantera's come backs when talking with the general. 

All in all, this is a really strong fantasy. If you have any interest in Ancient Mexico and the Nahau, don't hesitate to pick this up. 

4 stars 

My thanks goes to Harper Voyager and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 25 September 2023

The Silver Road by Sinéad O'Hart

Pages: 230 

Publisher: Piccadilly Press 

Released: 28th of September 2023 

Myth and magic combine in this unforgettable adventure drawing on Irish folklore, f rom award-winning author Sinéad O'Hart.

The seandraiocht - the Old Magic - isn't remembered like it once was. Its power is fading...

When Rose is entrusted with a powerful stone by a Frost Giant, she is swept into an adventure full of danger. The stone can be used for great good or great evil, depending on its keeper. It leads Rose to discover the magic that runs through all of Ireland. A magic that is threaded together beneath the the Silver Road. But the Silver Road is under threat.

Now Rose must keep the stone from falling into the wrong hands and embark on a quest to find its rightful owner and keep the magic alive . . .

A stunning new fantasy adventure for children, drawing on Celtic folklore. Perfect for fans of Catherine Doyle and Ross Montgomery.

What I Have to Say 

A sweet story about believe and friendship and Irish Folklore with a really strong message of conserving nature. I really enjoyed this book. I liked Rose a lot, the only problem I had was that she didn't really do much. For most of the book we were waiting for the action to start and then in the final battle at the end, she mostly just sat on the side-lines and watched except for a things. 

Other than that, I don't really have a bad word to say about this book. I loved the Irish folklore and the emphasis on sharing and telling the old folklore. I loved the Not- Cat with it's little fern ears and the stag that came in a the end. I think there's a lot in this that kids would be interested in.

Read for Irish culture, a strong environmental message and cute animals. 

3 stars 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Piccadilly Press for providing me with this copy for review. 

Friday, 22 September 2023

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (audiobook)

Pages: 236 

Publisher: Quercus 

Released: 7th of September 2023 

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

What I Have to Say 

This is my second time reviewing this book. The first review can be found here

I wanted to reread this book so when I saw the audiobook up for request, I jumped at the chance. I feel like a lot has changed since my first read. I wasn't so swept up in the humour and the comfort of it. I still think it's written in a very light-hearted style but man this one plays with your emotions. 

I liked the narrator a lot, she had a good voice for the character and her terrible accents for the English characters didn't grate on me as much as I thought they would at the start. I don't have much to say about her beyond that, but I would definitely read another book narrated by her. 

One thing I did pick up on, which while being a bit of a mistake, I find really funny is the times in the book. At the start of each chapter the time is said in each time zone that the book takes place in, but while it's summer in the book and therefore the British time should be in BST, it's not, it's written in GMT. 

I maintain my comment from the earlier review that this book would be absolutely perfect for a plane ride. 

5 stars 

My thanks got to Quercus and Netgalley for providing me with a gifted copy of this audiobook to review. 


Wednesday, 20 September 2023

The Society for Soulless Girls by Laura Steven (audiobook)

Pages: 406 

Publisher: Electric Monkey 

Released: 7th of July 2022 

Ten years ago, four students lost their lives in the infamous North Tower murders at the elite Carvell College of Arts, forcing Carvell to close its doors.

Now Carvell is reopening, and fearless student Lottie is determined to find out what really happened. But when her roommate, Alice, stumbles upon a sinister soul-splitting ritual hidden in Carvell’s haunted library, the North Tower claims another victim.

Can Lottie uncover the truth before the North Tower strikes again? Can Alice reverse the ritual before her monstrous alter ego consumes her? And can they stop flirting for literally fifteen seconds in order to do this?

Exploring possession and ambition, lust and bloodlust, femininity and violence, The Society of Soulless Girls is perfect for fans of Ace of Spaces, The Secret History and The Inheritance Games.

Trigger Warnings: Animal Death, Blood consumption, abuse

What I Have to Say 

I really liked the atmosphere of the book, but the ending let it down. I wanted more from it. I wanted a solution to the mystery that was as clever and well worked as the premise, but it just felt too easy, they didn't even try that hard to find out who the killer was, it just dropped into their lap. 

Also, not everything was explained. There was a whole bit with the cat that they gave no explanation for at all. It was built up but then was just left completely unexplained. This frustrated me the most because I hate when they just leave stuff hanging in books, it felt like the author just forgot about it. 

The narrators were okay. The two different voices were good to distinguish between the two girls and they did a good job of making it creepy and disturbing, but one of them couldn't pronounce Jekyll and said it wrong several times. 

In all, this book is good if you want just a creepy read, but don't expect much from the ending. 

3 stars 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Electric Monkey for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 18 September 2023

If I Have to Be Haunted by Miranda Sun

Pages: 369

Publisher: Magpie 

Released: 14th of September 2023 

Your first love will always haunt you…

The most haunting, heartwarming debut of 2023. Perfect for fans of strong female leads and supernatural stakes in Buffy, with all the sweetness and romance of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

Cara’s just trying to stay on top of all her classes, excel at her extracurriculars, and prepare for college – which means not speaking to the dead, an ability she inherited from her grandmother. Ghosts are trouble, and Cara doesn’t need to add their problems to her own.

But then she stumbles upon the body of Zach – the super popular but very newly dead high school golden boy – in the woods, and guess what? He wants her to resurrect him.

Cue trouble.

Miranda Sun’s debut touches on the power and conflicts in a mother-daughter love, first romance – and finding your place in the world while honouring your culture. Full of heart, humour and thrills, If I Have to be Haunted will put a spell on you.

What I Have to Say 

This one let me down a bit. I was hoping for more sassy banter and back and forth, which is the best thing about any enemies to lovers, but most of it just seemed to be them telling the other how much they hated one another. Then there was the romance, which employed my favourite trope of them refusing to say that they like the other or see that the other clearly likes them when it's so obvious. I just wanted to bash their heads together to make them see sense. 

I really liked the ghosts though. The ghost lore with the silver around so you could tell they were ghosts was really interesting and I liked seeing what they could and couldn't interact with. Like the fact that they could touch Cara but Cara couldn't touch them back. It was an interesting take on ghost lore that I've seen elsewhere. 

I also liked the adventure. I liked seeing the different places they went to, especially the extinction meadow which is now one of the top places in a book that I'd like to visit. 

All in all, this could have been better. It was mostly the romance and the lack of banter I didn't like, though that was because it was employing a trope I don't like. So if you like the trope, you might have a better time of it than me. 

3 stars 

My thanks go to Magpie and Netgalley for providing me with this gifted copy for review. 


Friday, 15 September 2023

Impossible Creatures by Katherine Rundell

Pages: 368 

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books 

Released: 14th of September 2023 

It was a very fine day, until something tried to eat him.

A boy called Christopher is visiting his reclusive grandfather when he witnesses an avalanche of mythical creatures come tearing down the hill. This is how Christopher learns that his grandfather is the guardian of one of the ways between the non-magical world and a place called the Archipelago, a cluster of magical islands where all the creatures we tell of in myth live and breed and thrive alongside humans. They have been protected from being discovered for thousands of years; now, terrifyingly, the protection has worn thin, and creatures are breaking through.

Then a girl, Mal, appears in Christopher's world. She is in possession of a flying coat, is being pursued by a killer and is herself in pursuit of a baby griffin. Mal, Christopher and the griffin embark on an urgent quest across the wild splendour of the Archipelago, where sphinxes hold secrets and centaurs do murder, to find the truth – with unimaginable consequences for both their worlds. Together the two must face the problem of power, and of knowledge, and of what love demands of us.

What I Have to Say 

What I love most about Katherine Rundell's writing is the characters. Mal is a wonderful, slightly feral child who cares deeply about the things that matter to her. Things like the Griffin who has become her companion. While I wish that there had been more from her perspective in the book, I enjoyed getting to know her from Christopher's point of view. The few scenes that were from her point of view were some of my favourite in the book. 

I loved all the descriptions of the creatures in through the story. It was nice to see the pieces about them at the start and then be reintroduced to them as we went along. I especially liked how alive they felt. This didn't feel like she was including the creatures just to bulk out the fantasy world or because she wanted to show off her creations. They felt necessary and important to the very core of the story and like I said, completely and utterly alive. 

There's a few bits that disappointed me, which I can't really go into without spoiling the book, but at least one of them, I think will have disappointed a lot of readers. If it weren't for those bits I would give this five stars. 

Read for inventive creatures and thrilling adventure. 

4 stars 

My thanks go to Bloomsbury Children's Books and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Wednesday, 13 September 2023

Every Exquisite Thing by Laura Steven

Pages: 326 

Publisher: Electric Monkey 

Released: 14th of September 2023 

A feminist YA horror-thriller-romance retelling of The Picture of Dorian Gray by the TikTok sensation and author of The Society for Soulless Girls… 

Penny Paxton is the daughter of an icon. Her supermodel mother has legions of adoring fans around the world, and Penny is ready to begin her journey to international adoration, starting with joining the elite Dorian Drama School. 

When Penny’s new mentor offers her an opportunity she cannot refuse, to have a portrait painted by a mysterious artist who can grant immortal beauty to all his subjects, Penny happily follows in the footsteps of Dorian’s most glittering alumni, knowing that stardom is sure to soon be hers. 

But when her trusted mentor is found murdered, Penny realises she’s made a terrible mistake – a sinister someone is using the uncanny portraits to kill off the subjects one by one. As more perfectly beautiful students start to fall, Penny knows her time is running out . . . A seductive and searing exploration of beauty, identity, and what the pursuit of perfection can truly cost.

TW: Eating disorder, Death, Mental illness

What I Have to Say 

I much preferred this to Society of Soulless Girls. I wasn't going to read another Laura Steven's book after how the first one went, but the fact that it was a retelling of Dorian Gray swayed me. I'm really glad I picked this one up because a lot of the problems I had with Society, I didn't have with this one. The ending was satisfying and thrilling, the characters were interesting and intriguing and I really liked the romance. 

I haven't read Dorian Gray, I only know the story from various retellings over the years, so I don't know how close to the original tale it was, but I really enjoyed the suspense over who the masked painter was and who was killing off the people in the paintings. 

I also really liked the modern day twists with the alopecia and the eating disorders. It was a commentary on our society and what it's like the be a women living today with all the pressures put upon us. It was a really fitting theme to have in the book. 

Overall I enjoyed it. Definitely try this one even if you hated Society of Soulless Girls because it's way better.