Book Review – Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik


Goodreads Synopsis:

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.


Took me a while to get around to this, but I absolutely adored it. The story was absolutely delightful and the setting was so charming. I was so hooked I had to force myself to put it down as I knew if I didn’t, I’d stay up all night until I finished.

The setting, like Uprooted, is absolutely charming and I love the Slavic influences. It still retained the fairytale like feel throughout the novel despite the length of it and I was completely carried away into the story.

The highlight of this novel though is definitely the fantastic female characters. The three main ones are all brilliant in their own ways and I also really enjoyed the fact that Miryem actually has both her parents and a happy family. Miryem is also Jewish which is an integral part of her character and is shown observing Shabbat.

There are a couple different plot threads that weave together and interlink and I really enjoyed watching them come together at the end. As mentioned, I really struggled to put this down as it was one of those “just one more chapter” books – especially as it jumped between the characters so I’d tell myself “Oh I’ll just read this next bit”.

As this is a standalone, it’s a fantastic book to start with if you’ve not read anything by Naomi Novik yet. It’s difficult to decide which I liked best – this or Uprooted but I highly recommend them both.


Book Review – In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard


Goodreads Synopsis:

From the award-winning author of the Dominion of the Fallen series comes a dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land…

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village’s debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets…


So, after my long hiatus I’m back to blogging! This is the first book I read in 2019 and I figured what better day to break my hiatus and blog about it than on the start of the Lunar New Year.

This is a beautiful f/f/ retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a Vietnamese inspired setting that is enchanting. The Vanisher’s Palace is an incredible setting and very bizarre but interesting to read about.

I loved all the characters, although as it’s a novella I felt we didn’t get enough time with them all. Their character growth was a bit rushed and I would have liked more time with them, although that’s a testament of how much I enjoyed it as a good book always leaves you wanting more.

I’m a huge fan of Aliette de Bodard’s work and would definitely recommend this as a nice taste of her work. Really though, I’d recommend everything I’ve read by her so far with my favourite definitely being the Xuya Universe.

Book Review – The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson


Goodreads Synopsis:

The rule is simple: don’t bleed.

For as long as Molly Southbourne can remember, she’s been watching herself die. Whenever she bleeds, another molly is born, identical to her in every way and intent on her destruction.

Molly knows every way to kill herself, but she also knows that as long as she survives she’ll be hunted. No matter how well she follows the rules, eventually the mollys will find her. Can Molly find a way to stop the tide of blood, or will she meet her end at the hand of a girl who looks just like her? 


I picked this up thanks to this Tor article about the NOMMA award. It won the Novella category, beating Binti: Home which I adored so figured I had to give this a try as the premise sounded fascinating.

The plot of the Novella follows the life of Molly as she grows up dealing with a very strange issue – her blood causes identical versions of her to form which then attempt to kill her. We see her as a child and follow her as she grows up and learns more about how to behave and deal with the Mollys – even if she doesn’t always follow that advice!

As Molly is a girl, this naturally makes it much harder to avoid bleeding and the fact that this is tackled in the Novella is something I really enjoyed given how it’s often overlooked. Her teenage years were really interesting to read about and I was constantly hooked right up until the end and left wanting to know even more.

Throughout the Novella we get a few glimpses of the worldbuilding which is very intriguing and something I’d definitely like to see more of in the sequel which is due to come out in 2019. I’m super excited to return to the world as it was a fantastic read and very creative premise.

It’s way past Halloween now, but I’d definitely recommend this to anybody looking for a short, spooky read. It’s also very well written and I would recommend it to anybody who enjoys darker Fantasy stories.

Book Review – Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce


Goodreads Synopsis:

Arram. Varice. Ozorne. In the first book in the Numair Chronicles, three student mages are bound by fate . . . fated for trouble. 

Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie. 


I was beyond excited to receive this as an ARC because growing up, I absolutely adored Tamora Pierce’s books and the Immortals quartet was my introduction to Tortall. If you haven’t read any of her books before, you can still read this as it’s the backstory to one of the characters in the Wild Magic trilogy who isn’t from Tortall.

I both loved and was upset about the different setting – it was great seeing more of the world but I did miss Tortall and all the characters I loved. It was interesting getting to see Arram as a child and Ozorne and I loved a lot of the side characters. We also get to start learning a bit about the Immortals.

Unfortunately, not much really happens in this book. It’s literally just Arram going to school and his day to day life. Now, that can be interesting but at times it was just a bit too mundane. One aspect I did like was that it focused a lot on the fact he was a young teenage boy and all the issues that he faced as part of growing up – I think that will really help young boys that read the books, as it’s something I’ve not seen much in YA fiction.

I’ll definitely still read the next one because it seems like this book was mostly just laying the groundwork for the next book as there are a lot of things that need resolved. In the end, I came away rather disappointed by this as I was hoping for much more.

As much as I love Tamora Pierce, I would only recommend this to fans of the Immortal Quartet. If you’ve never read her books, I would highly recommend starting with any other series because this one is definitely not her best work.

Book Review – The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang


Goodreads Synopsis:

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.


So this is yet another very delayed review from #readtheworldathon – this time for the ‘Celebrate WOC’ square. I’d owned this for ages, having actually received it as an ARC but I forgot all about it until suddenly I started seeing hype for it everywhere and knew I had to read it.

This book can be split into several parts and so just when you think you know what’s going on, things take an unexpected turn and suddenly it’s a completely different novel. I adored this book for a multitude of reasons and it’s hard to narrow it down.

Firstly, this book is incredibly heavily inspired by Chinese history and culture which makes the world so rich and interesting. Some of the events are inspired by real events (I won’t say what because of spoilers, but suffice to say that a lot of the “bad” things that happen are based on real events) but as well as big things like that, it was also nice spotting the much smaller references. For example, the Keju is clearly inspired by the Gaokao and then there are throwaway remarks such as warning Rin to be careful of ‘gutter oil’. There’s probably way more references that also completely flew over my head due to my lack of in-depth knowledge about China and I definitely think I’m going to want to read this again to try and spot as many as I can.

The novel starts off with Rin at her academy and I’m a huge fan of novels that involve studying (I love school) so the setting appealed to me straight away. We don’t stay at the school for the entire novel, but the other settings are just as interesting. The characters are all very interesting too and it’s really rewarding to watch Rin evolve as a person throughout the novel.

There’s a lot I could say about this book, but I’m aware of the levels of hype surrounding it and I want to avoid saying too much because of potential spoilers. All I’ll say is that I highly, highly recommend it and have been recommending it to a lot of people. Indeed, the only people I wouldn’t recommend this to are those that don’t enjoy books with a lot of violence.

Book Review – The Half Killed by Quenby Olson


Goodreads Synopsis:

Dorothea Hawes has no wish to renew contact with what lies beyond the veil. After an attempt to take her own life, she has retired into seclusion, but as the wounds on her body heal, she is drawn back into a world she wants nothing more than to avoid.

She is sought out by Julian Chissick, a former man of God who wants her help in discovering who is behind the gruesome murder of a young woman. But the manner of death is all too familiar to Dorothea, and she begins to fear that something even more terrible is about to unleash itself on London. 

And so Dorothea risks her life and her sanity in order to save people who are oblivious to the threat that hovers over them. It is a task that forces her into a confrontation with her own lurid past, and tests her ability to shape events frighteningly beyond her control.


I started reading this months ago but put it down as I didn’t really get into it. I recently remembered about it so gave it another go and ended up really enjoying it. It’s a bit slow to start and I wasn’t sure if I enjoyed it at first as it’s a slow build up but once I got further in I was hooked and couldn’t put it down.

The plot revolves around finding the cause of a mysterious murder which is supernatural in origin. The main character, Thea, can hear the dead and so Chissick, a detective, has asked for her aid knowing that she can help more than anybody else. The pacing is quite slow which might not appeal to everybody, but it worked really well for this novel as the slow pace allowed the creepy factor and a general sense of unease to build while reading. We don’t know what the cause is, but we don’t like it and you start to dread to moment when we’ll face whatever entity is causing this.

The book is very well written and I love the interactions between the characters. The setting of Victorian London works really well and if I didn’t know better, I could easily believe this was a genuine Victorian novel.

I would recommend this book to anybody that is a fan of Victorian literature, and to anybody who enjoys the subgenre “Fantasy of Manners”. It’s also fantastic for those who want a nice slow and immersive read – this is definitely the kind of book I’d enjoy reading while curled up in front of a fire.

Book Review- A Russian Doll and Other Stories by Adolfo Bioy Casares


Goodreads Synopsis:

This collection of traditional and experimental stories by Argentinian novelist Bioy Casares ( The Adventures of a Photographer in La Plata ) offers sophisticated, seamless prose, as well as magical realism and biting political satire. His characters are motivated by lust, avarice and vanity but elicit sympathy because of their vulnerability. In the title story, a fortune hunter joins an ecological expedition in pursuit of a millionaire’s daughter; but the father is swallowed by an enormous pollution-feeding caterpillar, and when the daughter takes over her father’s factory, she renounces her former ecological stance. In another story, a notary public recovering from hepatitis stays near a lake and meets Doctor Salmon’s niece, who asks him to prove his love for her by letting her uncle transform them both into fish. Many of the stories are fantasies, often centering on shocking events–an actor is shot by supporters of a dictatorship for playing a republican who cries, “Oh liberty!” and an angelic-looking girl breakfasts on her parents after being given an appetite stimulant. Throughout Casares surprises and entertains in these suspenseful stories.


Here is another of my #readtheworldathon books, this time for the square located furthest away from me. I’d already read The Invention of Morel and adored it so figured a collection of Casares short stories would be a perfect choice.

What I love about Casares is that his stories are just so strange and full of surprises. It’s hard to describe really, but the stories are full of magic and creativeness. They don’t quite live up to The Invention of Morel but were still a very enjoyable read. I won’t say too much about the stories themselves as that would risk giving away some of the twists.

Overall though, this was a fantastic collection for those wanting to read more magical realism stories. I would recommend this, however if you’ve not read Casares then I would first direct you to The Invention of Morel which is a brilliant novella and then, if you enjoyed that, you can come enjoy these stories too.

Book Review – Stranger Tales of the City ed. by Elizabeth Evershed


Goodreads Synopsis:

The knights hospitaller have just woken to a second life in a City the size of a galaxy. 

Two strangers from a far-distant future are flung together on Resurrection Day. 

A window-seller visits a claustrophobic suburb and finds it full of mystery. 

A Remake gunslinger seeks a new role from the one he was always meant to play… 

In this, the sixth anthology in the City of the Saved series, we meet a host of human and not-so-human characters getting to grips with life in the afterlife: alien adoptees with no previous experience of human cultures; Citizens permanently missing and not merely misplaced; priestesses of long-forgotten religions; posthumans with their own baffling version of the Civil Tongue; a viral strain of humankind that has never known community… 

The City is full of strangers and these are their tales.


This is the sixth book in the City of the Saved series which is based on the premise that “Everybody has died and woken up together in a huge city”. The short stories all feature different characters and how they deal with their new life. It’s a fantastic setting which gives a lot of freedom to the authors which is definitely shown in this collection where all the stories are very different from each other.

Now, I may be slightly biased here because my partner is one of the authors featured here (his is the story about a window seller in suburbia) however even without his story I still loved this collection. The stories were all so varied and dealt with a variety of themes.

The stories themselves are all linked by a frame tale featuring the Knights Hospitallers which I really enjoyed, and I loved the majority of the tales. Ironically, the one I enjoyed least was all about language (which, for those that know me, is very odd given how much I love studying languages and linguistics).

Despite not having read any of the previous books, I still found this very accessible. The only issue I had was understanding what a ‘remake’ was since they appear in several stories (one focusing heavily on them) but I was able to get enough information from context to understand the story.

I would definitely recommend this collection of short stories to Sci-Fi fans, although I need to point out that it’s not available on Amazon and you have to go straight to the publisher if you want an ebook which seems a bit of a strange marketing decision (and unfortunately means I won’t be buying any other books in the series as I make my purchases using Amazon Giftcards to control my spending on books)

Book Review – One Hundred Shadows by Hwang Jungeun


Goodreads Synopsis:

An oblique, hard-edged novel tinged with offbeat fantasy, One Hundred Shadows is set in a slum electronics market in central Seoul – an area earmarked for demolition in a city better known for its shiny skyscrapers and slick pop videos. Here, the awkward, tentative relationship between Eungyo and Mujae, who both dropped out of formal education to work as repair-shop assistants, is made yet more uncertain by their economic circumstances, while their matter-of-fact discussion of a strange recent development – the shadows of the slum’s inhabitants have started to ‘rise’ – leaves the reader to make up their own mind as to the nature of this shape-shifting tale.

Hwang’s spare prose is illuminated by arresting images, quirky dialogue and moments of great lyricism, crafting a deeply affecting novel of perfectly calibrated emotional restraint. Known for her interest in social minorities, Hwang eschews the dreary realism usually employed for such issues, without her social criticism being any less keen. As well as an important contribution to contemporary working-class literature, One Hundred Shadows depicts the little-known underside of a society which can be viciously superficial, complicating the shiny, ultra-modern face which South Korea presents to the world.


This is another book I picked up for the #Readtheworldathon, this one for the “short hop” square. I’ve actually already read a book from South Korea recently but I didn’t let that stop me as it sounded so interesting.

This is a short novella primarily focused on the interactions between Eungyo and Mujae and so it’s hard to really give a review as there is nothing that jumps out at you as instead it’s just a beautiful journey with excellent prose in a very fluid, lyrical format. It’s focused heavily on the small details of life rather than big overarching plots which I really enjoyed and in particular it was a great way to see glimpses of South Korean culture.

As this is such a quick read, it’s something I would recommend to everybody wanting to expand their horizons and read more translated literature. It’s a fantastic look at the lives of two everyday people and yet is so much more than that.

Book Review – The Teacher of Cheops by Albert Salvadó


Goodreads Synopsis:

This is the history of the time of Pharaoh Snefru and Queen Hetepheres, the parents of Cheops, who built the largest and most impressive pyramid of all. It is also the story of Sedum, a slave who became Cheops’ teacher, the high priest Ramosi, and how the first pyramid came to be built. 

Sebekhotep, the great wise man of that time, said, “Everything is written in the stars. Most of us live our lives unaware of it. Some can read the stars and see their destiny. But very few people learn to write in the stars and change their destiny.” 

Ramosi and Sedum learned to write in them and tried to change their destinies, but fortune treated them very differently. This is a tale of the confrontation between two men’s intelligence: one fighting for power, the other struggling for freedom.


So, this was my pick for “Small Country” in the #Readtheworldathon challenge as the author is from Andorra and I couldn’t find any other book available. It’s historical fiction about Egypt and I love historical fiction so figured it would be a good read.

I was wrong. I was very, very wrong.

I almost put this book down in the first few chapters as it starts off with a graphic sex scene between a child slave and a man who snuck into her tent. No, the man did not rape her as this child slave was very happy and willing to have sex for the first time with this complete stranger. At that point I lost all respect for the author and his writing and only continued to see how much worse it could get.

That was the worst part, but the rest of the book was not much better. I found it incredibly boring, badly written and I’d definitely say this is one of the worst books I’ve ever read. I only finished it because of my challenge to read something from around the world.

I do not recommend this book to anybody. If you are trying to read around the world and want to read something from Andorra then I recommend leaving it until last in the hopes that something else will become available because this is trash. I don’t say that very often about books (indeed usually when I don’t enjoy a book I recognise that there will still be plenty of people that will enjoy it) but I can not in any good conscious recommend a book that believes a child slave would willingly consent to sex with a random stranger. The author is disgusting and should be ashamed of himself.