Monday, 27 June 2022

Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater

Pages: 305

Publisher: Little Brown Book Group 

Released: 30th of June 2022

It's difficult to find a husband in Regency England when you're a young lady with only half a soul.

Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment - a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season - but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.

If Dora's reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.

What I have to say

Two regency books in the last few months! What's going on with that! But Half a Soul is regency with a difference. It's a faerie tale that just happens to be set in regency England!

I really enjoyed it. Though I can't say it was an accurate reflection of the time period, or that regency fans would like it, I feel like fans of the fae and fairytales would really like it.

Though Dora has only half a soul and therefore doesn't feel emotions in the same way as everyone else, this book doesn't lack in emotion. She feels what she calls "long tailed emotions" like hurt and passion and slow burning anger.

What I loved most about her was her passionate anger when faced with the injustices of the workhouse and the world. I also felt that there are parallels between her and some neurodiversities!  I don't know if it was intentional, but some of the bluntness in the way Dora spoke and the way she saw the world around her felt really familiar to me and I couldn't help comparing it to my autism. In many ways this felt like a disability story as well. 

So read for: dark irredeemable faeries, swoon-worthy magicians and a sizable helping of magic!

My thanks go to Little Brown Books and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 20 June 2022

Bad Things Happen Here by Rebecca Barrow

Pages: 352

Publisher: Hot Key Books 

Released: 28th of June 2022 

The island of Parris: paradise or poison?

Luca Laine Thomas lives in Parris, the beautiful island plagued by the unsolved deaths of young women - most significantly, Luca's best friend. All Luca wants is to heal from the traumatic loss and leave her feelings of guilt and helplessness behind.

Then Luca comes home to find the police at her house. Her sister, Whitney, is dead.

Luca and Naomi, the new girl next door, decide to take the investigation into their own hands, and along the way their connection deepens. Soon, their casual touches and innocent flirtations become something way more real. But finding out what happened on the night of Whitney's disappearance reveals lie upon lie.

Nothing is as it seems. Will Luca's search finally reveal truth about her sister's murder? And will she unravel and escape the clutches of the curse and survive Parris?

What I Have to Say 

I didn't really dislike this book, but I wasn't into it. It fell very flat for me. I liked the relationship between Naomi and Luca in the first half and I was shocked when certain things were revealed. But everything else I just wasn't feeling. 

The main character annoyed me a lot at one point in the book. I felt she believed that a particular person had done it too quickly, even though there were reasons why I thought she should be less likely to believe it. It really put me off the character. I get the author's reasons for doing it and maybe it's realistic to life, but it annoyed me. 

I don't have anything more to say really. There was nothing bad about this book, I just wasn't into it. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Hot Key Books for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 13 June 2022

Escape to the River Sea by Emma Carroll

Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books

Released: 9th June 

In 1946, Rosa Sweetman, a young Kindertransport girl, is longing for her family to claim her. The war in Europe is over and she is the only child left at Westwood, a rambling country estate in the north of England, where she'd taken refuge seven years earlier.

The arrival of a friend of the family, Yara Fielding, starts an adventure that will take Rosa deep into the lush beauty of the Amazon rainforest in search of jaguars, ancient giant sloths and somewhere to belong. What she finds is Yara’s lively, welcoming family on the banks of the river and, together, they face a danger greater than she could ever have imagined.

Featuring places and characters known and loved by fans of Journey to the River Sea (including, among others, Maia, Finn, Miss Minton and Clovis) this spectacular new chapter in the story tells of the next generation and the growing threats to the Amazon rainforest that continue to this day.

What I Have to Say 

I haven't read the original Eva Ibbotson, Journey to the River Sea, but I loved Escape all the same. It had all the beautiful characters and engaging storylines you would expect from an Emma Carroll book. It is a great example of a children's book that has danger, emotional themes and heartbreaking scenes, but is still the sort of book that makes you feel happy and comforted. 

There was as much adventure as is expected from a book about the amazon jungle with plenty of danger and excitement. You can really get lost in the main characters reactions to everything and feel just as excited as her about all the animals she catches sight of. 

I also liked that she brought up the idea that wild animals shouldn't be kept in captivity without making it sound too preachy. 

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

Monday, 6 June 2022

If You Still Recognise Me by Cynthia So

Pages: 364 

Publisher: Little Tiger 

Released: 9th of June 2022 

Elsie has a crush on Ada, the only person in the world who truly understands her. Unfortunately, they've never met in real life and Ada lives an ocean away. But Elsie has decided it's now or never to tell Ada how she feels. That is, until her long-lost best friend Joan walks back into her life.

In a summer of repairing broken connections and building surprising new ones, Elsie realises that she isn't nearly as alone as she thought. But now she has a choice to make...

What I Have to Say 

This book was sooooo gay. I loved it. Not only was the main character bisexual, but they represented all manner of bi and gay people. It also shared something about the lesbian culture in Hong Kong and some of how they labelled themselves, which was really interesting to read about. 

It was full longing and crushes, which were beautifully written and I could not tell most of the way through who Elsie would end up with. 

It also had references to an abusive relationship, which the main character Elsie is still recovering from. It also showed the family pressures of not feeling entirely safe to come out around your family, both with the feelings of disapproval that Elsie gets from her own family and the out right homophobia from Joan's father. 

I also adored how much about fandom it was and especially that it was about fandom but without the main character being a writer. 

My thanks go to Little Tiger and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 30 May 2022

A Lady's Guide to Fortune Hunting by Sophie Irwin

Pages: 400

Publisher: Harper Collins 

Released: 12th of May 2022 

The season is about to begin—and there’s not a minute to lose.

Kitty Talbot needs a fortune. Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. This is 1818 after all, and only men have the privilege of seeking their own riches.

With only twelve weeks until the bailiffs call, launching herself into London society is the only avenue open to her, and Kitty must use every ounce of cunning and ingenuity she possesses to climb the ranks.

The only one to see through her plans is the worldly Lord Radcliffe and he is determined to thwart her at any cost, especially when it comes to his own brother falling for her charms.

Can Kitty secure a fortune and save her sisters from poverty? There is not a day to lose and no one—not even a lord—will stand in her way...

What I Have to Say 

I absolutely adore Kitty Talbot. She is manipulative, conniving and absolutely wonderful. In the book, she sets out to manipulate her way into the high reaches of society and she is damn good at it. It was also obvious from every step how much she loved her sisters and I think the fact that her motivations were to save her family were what kept her from seeming cruel. It was just so refreshing to see a character who was so set on reaching up to a level that wasn't given to her at birth. 

And it was not just Kitty I loved. Cecily was also a wonderful character. I loved the richness that the two girls brought to the plot as they took the London society by storm. The way it played out was satisfying and exciting with parallels to Austen that felt right to the story, while still bringing it's own original feminist twists to the telling. 

I haven't read much regency, I'll admit, but even I could tell that this one was something else. 

My thanks go to Harper Collins and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 23 May 2022

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

Pages: 368

Publisher: Pan Macmillan 

Released: 12th of May 2022

Chloe Green has spent the past four years dodging gossipy, classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that's kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal's perfect daughter.

But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.

On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she's not the only one Shara kissed. There's also Smith, Shara's longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara's bad boy neighbour with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara's trail of clues and find her. It'll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe - probably not, but maybe - more to Shara, too.

What I Have to Say

This is how you do enemies to lovers. It was clear from the start that Chloe's hatred of Shara Wheeler was based completely on the crush she had on her, which was so painfully obvious to absolutely everyone but Chloe herself. It was perfect, the way that the grudge was built up so beautifully that it led the reader to love Shara a little bit as well. 

On top of that, this book was so queer. I don't think a single one of the main characters was actually straight. It had representation for bi, lesbian, gay, non-binary and gender questioning characters and that's just what I remember off the top of my head. If you had any question that this book was gay (which how can you really considering the plot), let me assure you, this book was very, very gay. 

If I absolutely had to give a negative about the book, then maybe the mystery was all resolved a bit too quickly as the last half of the book is more about Shara and Chloe's relationship, but even then, I would have hated the book to end on finding Shara and the games between Shara and Chloe are just beautiful. 

All in all, this book was just perfect. A must read for anyone who loves the enemies to lovers trope. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Pan Macmillan for providing me this copy for review. 

Monday, 16 May 2022

The Dance Tree by Kiran Millwood Hargrave


Pages: 304

Publisher: Picador

Released: 12th May 2022

In Strasbourg, in the boiling hot summer of 1518, a plague strikes the women of the city. First it is just one – a lone figure, dancing in the main square – but she is joined by more and more and the city authorities declare an emergency. Musicians will be brought in. The devil will be danced out of these women.

Just beyond the city’s limits, pregnant Lisbet lives with her mother-in-law and husband, tending the bees that are their livelihood. Her best friend Ida visits regularly and Lisbet is so looking forward to sharing life and motherhood with her. And then, just as the first woman begins to dance in the city, Lisbet’s sister-in-law Nethe returns from six years’ penance in the mountains for an unknown crime. No one – not even Ida – will tell Lisbet what Nethe did all those years ago, and Nethe herself will not speak a word about it.

It is the beginning of a few weeks that will change everything for Lisbet – her understanding of what it is to love and be loved, and her determination to survive at all costs for the baby she is carrying. Lisbet and Nethe and Ida soon find themselves pushing at the boundaries of their existence – but they’re dancing to a dangerous tune . . .

What I Have to Say 

I liked this book but it didn't blow me away. It was a calm read for me. I wasn't desperate to find out what happened next, but I was interested enough in the characters and their stories to want to know how the story progressed. I really liked Nethe's character and I liked Lisbet's perspective and her relationship with the bees. 

I guessed very quickly what Nethe's "sin" was and was happy with the way it was revealed and the hints that were given along the way. I didn't feel cheated because I guessed it at all. It worked well with the theme of rebelling against the constraints of a very Christian society. 

I do wish there'd been a bit more lightness and hope at the end though. It was not a completely unhappy ending but it felt very futile and the characters seemed to have lost so much. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Picador for providing me this copy for review.