Book Review – The Second Mango by Shira Glassman

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Queen Shulamit never expected to inherit the throne of the tropical land of Perach so young. At twenty, grief-stricken and fatherless, she’s also coping with being the only lesbian she knows after her sweetheart ran off for an unknown reason. Not to mention, she’s the victim of severe digestive problems that everybody thinks she’s faking. When she meets Rivka, an athletic and assertive warrior from the north who wears a mask and pretends to be a man, she finds the source of strength she needs so desperately.

Unfortunately for her, Rivka is straight, but that’s okay — Shulamit needs a surrogate big sister just as much as she needs a girlfriend. Especially if the warrior’s willing to take her around the kingdom on the back of her dragon in search of other women who might be open to same-sex romance. The real world outside the palace is full of adventure, however, and the search for a royal girlfriend quickly turns into a rescue mission when they discover a temple full of women turned to stone by an evil sorcerer.

Review:

I bought Tales from Perach yesterday which made me realise that as much as I enjoyed the series, I hadn’t reviewed any of the Mangoverse books so time to fix that now because I highly recommend them!

Now, I’m a huge fan of books with dragons and while having a browse for more, I discovered this book and to be honest, I wanted to read it just for that cover alone! I mean who doesn’t want to read a book with a cover featuring two woman on a dragon?

Everything about this book is just great. The worldbuilding, the characters, the diversity – I loved it all. It’s super sweet and my only complaint is that it was so short and that I finished it too quickly! Indeed, as soon as I finished the first book I went straight away to get the second as I wanted more! It’s just such an enjoyable, fun read.

Although this is a fantasy setting, Perach is a Jewish land and all the characters from there follow Jewish traditions which is incorporated really nicely. For example, Shulamit can’t take part in some due to her digestive issues.

The characters are just fantastic. I think this is definitely one of the first times I’ve seen a character with digestive issues in a book, especially in a Fantasy one! Shulamit is delightful and I really liked her, and I just adore Rivka and I really enjoyed reading a book that focuses on female friendship as the first part of the book focuses on them travelling around trying to find anybody interested in girls, like Shulamit is. The characters are all very diverse and reading it just gives you such a happy feeling as you’re so happy when the characters are happy. I felt like the end was a bit rushed, and I would have liked to have had more time for things to develop but at the same time, it was such a nice ending that stretching it out might have made it less enjoyable.

This is a book that I’d definitely recommend, as the whole series is just fantastic and I can’t wait to read the collection of short stories! It’s also one I’d warn not starting too late, because I read it in one sitting as I just didn’t want to put it down.

Book Review – The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Following directly on from the events of TO GREEN ANGEL TOWER, the Norns and the Storm King Ineluki have been defeated at the Battle for the Hayholt; Seoman and Miriamele, the new king and queen, order their victorious armies to shadow the retreating Norns.

One of the enemy group is escorting the huge funeral cortege of one of their leaders, on their journey they become detached and trapped in the ancient fortress of Tangleroot on the frontier. As well as their dead lord, they carry a great magical artefact, a stone called the Heart of What Was Lost, one of the last relics of their ancient civilization. Soon the fortress is invested, the battle commences, and bloodshed and magic flow.

Review:

It’s been a long time since I read the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series but I adored it, and when I heard Tad Williams was finally returning to the world of Osten Ard I was very excited.

This novella is set directly after the end of the first series showing what happens between the Norns and Isgrimnur’s human army. The story is told through several viewpoints, including that of both the humans and that of the Norns which helped you to sympathise with both sides. One thing I particularly enjoyed was that despite my memory of the original series being quite faded, I was still able to enjoy the book and it was able to jog my memory quite a bit. I feel that even if I hadn’t read the original series, I would still have enjoyed it due to the excellent writing and setting. The fact it was Osten Ard was just a bonus.

Due to the fact that this is set after the end of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, I don’t wish to talk too much about it as I don’t want to spoil the series, which is one of my favourites, as even just discussing characters would potentially give away spoilers. The characters were all fantastic though, and it was very interesting to see into the society of the Norns and how it was structured around different groups (if this was something we’d already seen, it’s something that I’d completely forgotten)

I really enjoyed this novella and it has also made me want to go back and re-visit the world of Osten Ard by re-reading the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series because it reminded me just how much I enjoyed it. I would definitely recommend this novella to fans of the series, and to those who haven’t read it, I would recommend reading Memory, Sorrow and Thorn first then coming to read this.

Book Review -The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

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So this is another book I read for #DiverseAThon – I picked it up from Waterstones as the cover was just enchanting and as a big cat lover, I couldn’t resist a book about a cat.

This novella follows a couple who have moved into a small guesthouse in Tokyo and both work from home. Their neighbours adopt a cat who slowly starts to come visit them. The story follows the visits of the cat as they get more frequent and as the cat gets more bold until they even start feeding the cat and create a little bed for it.

As a fan of cats, I adored the cat, nicknamed Chibi, in this book and the interactions between the couple and the cat was charming. The book was a delight to read and went into such depth and detail that it was wonderful. The translation was very well done as it still felt very Japanese but that didn’t affect the readability of it. The writing is magical and I absolutely adored everything about this novella and really enjoyed the small snippets of the characters lives that we got to see.

I would highly recommend this novella, especially since it’s quite short so doesn’t take long to read and the cover is gorgeous.

Book Review – Second-Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A poignant story of a resourceful Nigerian woman who overcomes strict tribal domination of women and countless setbacks to achieve an independent life for herself and her children.

Review:

This was the final of the three Buchi Emecheta books I took out from the library which I saved until last due to the fact that this one was set in 1960’s London rather than in Nigeria. This focuses on the story of Adah, a young woman who fulfils her dream of moving to London only to discover that there, due to the colour of her skin, she is regarded as a second-class citizen. She works hard at a library and raising her five children while her husband is lazy and relies on her for her income. While in the hospital after giving birth, he barely even visits and is not supportive of her dreams to become a novelist.

This tale, focusing on a Nigerian immigrant, is actually based on the life of the author herself and it includes discussing the writing of her first novel, The Bride Price, and of the events that eventually led to her leaving her husband. It was particularly powerful due to the fact I knew it was all based on a true story and it was a very interesting insight into the life of a Nigerian immigrant in London and the struggles associated with that. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Adah’s journey and despite knowing how things turned out, due to it being autobiographical, I still really enjoyed it all and loved the ending.

Buchi Emecheta was a remarkable woman and an excellent writer and I would definitely recommend her novels. If I had to pick just one, it would definitely be this one but I find it hard to imagine that after reading this, readers wouldn’t be interested in reading more of her work.

Another thing to recommend this novel is the fact that it also fits perfectly for challenge number 4 of BookRiot’s Read Harder challenge – as it was both written by an immigrant, focusing on the story of an immigrant.

Book Review – Imperium in Imperio by Sutton E. Griggs

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Self-published in 1899 and sold door-to-door by the author, this classic African-American novel—a gripping exploration of oppression, miscegenation, exploitation, and black empowerment—was a major bestseller in its day. The dramatic story of a conciliatory black man and a mulatto nationalist who grow up in a racist America and are driven to join a radical movement dedicated to the creation of an all-black nation in Texas, Imperium in Imperio had a profound influence on the development of black nationalism.

Review:

This was the first book I read from my list of five free books by black authors and I’m very glad I chose it as it was a very good, very engaging read and a fascinating insight into the views of Sutton Griggs at the end of the 19th century. I also feel it is a very important novel regarding Black History, and would definitely recommend it as reading for Black History Month.

As the synopsis says, the novel follows the story of two men from childhood as they grow up in the American South. Belton is the son of a poor mother who recognises the importance of education and ensures that he attends school and learns as much as he can. One of his classmates, Bernard, is the son of what appears to be a single mother but is later revealed that his father was white and for appearances sake, can not acknowledge his wife or son however he uses all his resources to help him succeed. The two children are both incredibly intelligent and upon graduation, Belton goes to Stowe College while Bernard attends Harvard. The two eventually meet again when Belton gets into some legal troubles and again when he invites Bernard to join the Imperium in Imperio, an organisation dedicated to supporting their fellow black citizens and attempting to better their lives.

Throughout the novel, both characters have to deal with a lot of racism, both institutional and personal. It’s particularly noticed when Belton is in Louisiana where they are even more racist than his home as he is ejected from the first class carriage on the train that he was riding. The novel addresses issues that face those that are educated as they are blocked from most jobs requiring a degree due to the colour of their skin, but they can’t take menial labour jobs as they are too educated as it would be seen as throwing away their education. The themes of this novel are very strong and both characters have very strong views on the empowerment of their race although they differ on how this equality is to be achieved.

The story alone is an enjoyable read and the writing is very good, however the underlying messages and ideas are incredible and I really enjoyed the emphasis it placed on the importance of education. This is definitely a fantastic and worthwhile read and I would definitely recommend it to everybody.