fantasy

Book Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – ebook, Published September 10th 2019 by Orbit

At a time like this, I think we all need to be whisked away into another world. This book is perfect for that!

January Scaller is “a perfectly unique specimen”. In other words, she’s not white, but she’s not entirely coloured, either. Her father is a dark-skinned man from somewhere far away – January doesn’t know where – and her mother is no longer around. While her father travels the world for work, rarely returning home to her, January lives with the man who hired her father and practically saved their lives. His name is Mr Locke. He is wealthy, white, and the nearest thing January has to family most of the time.

One day January finds a book titled The Ten Thousand Doors. As she reads, she discovers the amazing truths about the world around her – and the thousands of others – as well as herself.

But January isn’t the only one who knows about the Doors to other worlds. It turns out the people closest to her already knew – and some of them aren’t happy about her finding out.

So January spends time in a mental asylum, is attacked by a man-slash-vampire, almost loses her beloved dog, and ends up travelling to places she could have only dreamt of.

This was a truly magical book. It had a sort of Inkheart-like vibe to me in some ways, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were twists and turns, beautiful imagery and emotional moments and development.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

As this was a sort of historical fiction novel, there was a lot of emphasis on race inequality. Sadly, this feels all too relevant right now. The difference between how January is treated when she’s with Mr Locke – wealthy, upstanding, and most importantly, white – compared to when she’s alone is shocking. But of course, it’s real. And it’s still happening to some extent today.

Anyway, I really liked this book. It took a little while for me to get into it, though, so I’m giving it 4 stars. Definitely worth a read!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Book Review: Mermaid Adrift

Mermaid Adrift by Jennifer Laslie – Published April 2018

I actually received an ARC of this book via the author’s newsletter almost two years ago, but I have so many books to read (and so little time) that I only got round to reading it now. Oops!

I have always been a huge fan of mermaids. One of my all-time favourite series, even to this day, is the Ingo series by Helend Dunmore. Not quite your stereotypical mermaids, but I adore it nonetheless.

As the title suggests, this is a story about a mermaid. It begins five years in the past when Meryia, our purple-scaled protagonist, encounters a ship caught in a storm. Humans are dangerous, but for some reason, Meriya is compelled to save the boy – she knows she is physically unable to carry the older man – and return him to shore. He seems to be unconscious so she is safe from discovery, but she bears a small tear to her tale. Likewise, the boy has a wound on his forehead as a memento of the day’s events.At the ‘current’ time, Meriya is betrothed to a boy who has teased and taunted her for years at school, she can’t seem to do magic – and every mermaid can do magic – and occasionally, she still wonders about that boy she rescued all those years ago.

When Meriya decides to study the underwater volcanoes near the kingdom for her school assessment, she finds herself witnessing a full-on eruption. After hitting her head and being badly burned, she wakes in a strange enclosure which she soon discovers to be a garden pool.

Rowan has been obsessed with proving mermaids exist ever since he was rescued by one the night he lost his father. So when he finds Meriya washed up on the shore, he can’t believe his eyes. As someone who works with marine animal rehabilitation and care, he takes it upon himself to keep her safe and attempt to help her heal. He decides to keep her in his saltwater pool and tend to her wounds while she’s still unconscious.

Without going too far into detail, Meriya treats her captor with a mix of fear, hostility and contempt for quite some time. She has heard too many stories about humans to be able to trust him that easily. Rowan does his best to show her that humans aren’t that bad, and even protects her from his rather nosey best friend, Nick.

A lot happens. Nick becomes more of a threat than Rowan anticipated, and Meriya hears news telepathically from Cayson that the eruption has wiped out almost the whole kingdom. There’s a lot more, too, but you’ll have to read it yourself to find it all out.

I did find this a little bit cliché and stereotypical at times. But then again, cliché isn’t always a bad thing! Sometimes it’s nice to have something a little more light-hearted, cute and magical and reminiscent of childhood fairy tales. Plus, Laslie included a rather unique element that I liked: the concept of the Ocean being Her own character. I’d be interested in learning more about Her!

So overall, I definitely did enjoy this. It has possibly rekindled my love for mermaids (not that it ever truly died) and I may have to go and re-read the Ingo series again sometime soon. (Because I definitely don’t have enough new books to read.) 3.5 to 4 stars for this book.

Book Review: The Winter Sacrifice

The Winter Sacrifice by Marisa Claire – Rise of the Dark Fae #1

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
I will not discuss the plot too much in my review, to avoid spoilers for any potential readers. (Plus, the blurb does a pretty good job of this.)
My main points of note are that this was simultaneously unique and rather stereotypical/cliche. That makes no sense, I know, but that’s how I felt. It’s like it was trying a little too hard to be different, you know? I can’t say I read very many books like this so I’m no expert in the genre, but still. That’s just how it came across to me.
That being said, I did actually really enjoy reading it. It was easy to read, and it was pretty fun. There were moments I didn’t see coming. I’m even considering getting the sequel.
One other criticism I do have, though, is that it felt a little amateurish at times. There were some typos that I noticed, but also some phrases or lines of dialogue that just felt off. While it was nothing major, I feel that little details like these can make a huge difference!
My rating is between 3.5 and 4 stars. I really did enjoy it, more than I ever would have expected. But there are definitely a few areas for improvement.

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – Published April 10th 2014 by Headline Review (Hachette)

This was everything you’d expect from Neil Gaiman: oddly fascinating, mildly disturbing, and utterly fantastic.
Our narrator – who remains unnamed throughout the entire book – gives his account of a peculiar childhood, where monsters are real and reality can literally be torn away. At seven, he meets a girl from down the lane, Lettie. She introduces him to a world of magic and wonder, taking him into a mystical wood full of strange creatures. It’s here that our narrator acquires a rather unique kind of hitchhiker, who makes itself at home inside his foot. This horrific creature wreaks havoc on our young narrator, who must find a way to banish it – with the help of Lettie, of course.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was captivating, with a strangely poetic feel to it. It certainly was a unique adult fantasy tale. Somewhere between 4.5 and 5 stars from me!

Book Review: The Astonishing Colour of After

The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan – Published March 22nd 2018 by Orion Children’s Books

Another book I read almost four months ago now (oops!). I think it’s time to get this review written!

I was immediately drawn to this book when I read the blurb. Leigh is a young woman struggling to accept her mother’s suicide. She finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her mother’s parents, where Leigh discovers more about her mother and her family than she ever expected.

This book was written beautifully, with colours expressing emotion. Leigh is an artist and thus pretty much thinks in terms of colour. It’s also an amazing mix of real-life, sorrow and loss, and fantasy. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but Leigh is convinced her mother is visiting her even after her death, but in a very different form.

As well as all the emotions surrounding the loss of her mother, Leigh addresses the issues around being a “half-blood”. As a child of mixed-race parents myself, I found some of the things in this book incredibly relatable. But it wasn’t an overbearing part of the story though, which I thought was fantastic.

This was a really emotional book, fantastically written. It was sad but heart-warming. 5 stars; I loved it!

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl – Published February 4th 2010 by Penguin Books (first published December 1st 2009)

So I finally got round to reading this a little while back. I’ve seen bits and pieces of the movie on TV, but never really knew what it was about. It is quite a romance-based story, but I enjoyed it more than I anticipated.
Again, I read this quite a while ago, so my review is only going to be short.
Ethan has nightmares where he loses someone – someone he’s never met before. And then one day she appears. She turns up at school, the niece of the creepy guy who lives in the creepy mansion. She’s not exactly normal herself, either. The other kids at school pick up on this immediately, and she becomes the centre of attention. And not the good kind.
I’m not going to tell you the whole plot, but it’s full of mystery and magic and a fair bit of romance. There’s even loss; there is one particular moment toward the end that I found particularly poetic. (If you read it, here’s a hint: it’s to do with Macon and rain.)
The ending in particular left me wanting to read on. I’m actually putting this series on my Christmas wish list! 4.5 stars.

Book Review: The Darkest Bloom (Shadowscent #1)

The Darkest Bloom (Shadowscent #1) by P.M. Freestone – Paperback, 448 pages – Published February 7th 2019 by Scholastic

This was another book I picked up from the library at random. The cover was beautiful, and the idea of scent-based magic was certainly intriguing. While it was a decent book, it didn’t quite live up to my hopes and expectations, sadly.

Most of the book follows Rakel as she tries to make enough money to purchase a cure for her father’s Rot. She has an expert sense of smell, meaning she is a fantastic perfumer, distilling her own creations and experimenting with different methods. But she becomes the suspect for a horrendous crime that leaves the Prince in a coma, and so she flees.

Ash is the Shield of the Prince, and his best friend. He doesn’t believe Rakel is to blame, however, and believes she holds the key to curing him. So he runs away with her, searching for a place that may not exist, and hunting down valuable ingredients for a poison that nobody even knows about.

I found this book quite slow at the start. It just didn’t excite me. There was nothing wrong with it, but it just wasn’t right. However, towards the end there was a far more exciting plotline added, involving Ash. The cliffhanger ending left me actually wanting to read on.

While I didn’t love this, there were definitely some good aspects. It was unique for sure, and I do think there’s a lot of potential for the rest of the series. 3.5 stars!

Book Review: The First Time Lauren Pailing Died

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd – eBook, Published July 11th 2019 by HQ

Wow. Wow.

I don’t like discussing the plots of books too much because of spoilers, but I don’t think I’d actually be able to describe this one even if I wanted to. There isn’t really a single plot – as there isn’t even a single reality.

At first, Lauren is a young girl who sees strange visions of different realities. Sometimes they include the people she knows, sometimes they’re complete strangers. Sometimes the worlds she sees look so similar to her own that she thinks she may be seeing the future.

As the title suggests, Lauren dies. But then suddenly she awakes in a slightly different world – one where her mother is slightly less pretty, and her accident was damaging but not fatal. She lives a wonderful life, despite feeling slightly out of place. But then she dies again, and wakes up as a mother of two children who she barely recognises. This time, her memories of her past lives slowly begin to make some sense.

I’ve focused on Lauren a lot there, but actually a large portion of this book follows other characters; her mother from one reality, her father from her first, and even her husband from her second life. It’s all rather confusing but there are small ties throughout the book which I found to be wonderfully clever.

It was amazing and surprisingly emotional to see all these different outcomes of everyone’s lives. Lauren’s mother goes on to have a wonderful life, while in another reality she can’t bear the grief and ends up committing suicide.

There is one constant throughout every reality, though; Lauren’s father’s boss, Peter Stanning, is missing. I’m not entirely sure why this became quite so important, why it was tied to Lauren’s strange situation. But I was relieved to find some closure for that particular thread of the story in the end.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

My two main criticisms of this book are that it is really quite confusing and hard to follow at times, and there are also a lot of mistakes and missing words. As I received an ARC I cannot be sure whether these mistakes will be printed in the final publication or not, though.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this. It was heartbreaking and lovely and unique and strange. 4.5 stars!

Book Review: All The Lonely People

All The Lonely People by David Owen – eBook, 320 pages – Published January 10th 2019 by Atom

This was quite different to how I anticipated it to be. In a good way, I think.

The protagonist is Kat, and young feminist who loves Doctor Backwash and the YouTuber Tinker. As a fan of Tinker, Kat becomes the victim of a lot of online abuse. Slowly, she has to delete her entire online presence, including her YouTube account and her personal, custom-designed website. For so long, the online communities have been the only place she really felt she belonged. Now it was all gone.

And so was she.

The ‘fade’ that Kat experiences is very interesting. Suddenly nobody remembers her. Except one of the boys responsible for her disappearance, Wesley. He’s determined to find out what happened. Even if it’s just to alleviate his own overwhelming guilt.

There are a lot of important messages throughout this book, mostly about feminism and masculinity. The theme of sexism and abuse is huge. I did feel like it was maybe a bit exaggerated in places, but actually it does happen like that, sadly.

Kat also finds herself building a vital relationship during the fade, with another girl who is fading. Safa was one of a group of people, called ‘the lonely people’, who actively tried to fade. Like Kat, she is all but forgotten by the rest of the world.

The magic realism was great. It really felt like this was possible, if rather improbable. It was intriguing and exciting, especially when Kat discovers that a extremely sexist YouTuber is planning something bad. How is she going to stop him when no one can even see her?

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

I really enjoyed this book. It had emotional moments, funny moments, and plenty of endearing moments. Wesley is a problematic character but he learns from his mistakes, and definitely grows more mature throughout the book. I’m giving this 4 to 4.5 stars.

Book Review: Dragon Called

Dragon Called (Deadweed Dragons #1) by Ava Richardson – eBook,

A huge thanks to Hidden Gems for providing me with a copy of this book!

This is the first book in a fantasy series by Ava Richardson called Deadweed Dragons. It follows a young woman called Dayie, who is working for a family of Dragon Traders that purchased her after the death of her foster parents. She finds herself stealing an egg from the Torvald dragon caves for them, which hatches prematurely. Miraculously, Dayie bonds with the dragon immediately, and within weeks it’s grown bigger than a horse.

Dayie travels to Dagfan in hopes of joining the Training Hall, but is disappointed when she sees the reality of it. With the help of her old owner’s son and a rather disgruntled young man named Akeem, Dayie attempts to fix the ways of the Hall, while fighting the deadly spread of deadweed.

This was a very enjoyable book, with an interesting plot and some good characters. There were a lot of mistakes that I noticed, but this may be due to my copy only being an ARC and not the final release copy. I also found some of the language to be awkward and unnatural, and there was some repetition in areas. Dayie and Akeem are both young adults, older than most protagonists of similar novels, but the writing was slightly young in my own opinion. Still, I did enjoy this book and am interested in finding some answers to a few things brought up by this book! So I’m giving this 3.5 stars out of 5.