The Flatshare Review

While dealing with hard truths and the struggling reality young people face as they first venture into the world The Flatshare is real and emotional at times yet offers a comforting, cheery and overall uplifting read centring around a unique premise.

Desperate to get away from her toxic ex boyfriend Justin and facing London’s discouraging housing situation, Tiffy Moore accepts an unusual living situation: a Flatshare with palliative care nurse Leon. Leon works nights and spends weekends with his girlfriend Kate meaning the flat is his prospective roommates at all times except 8-6 during weekdays. As Tiffy’s bubbly personality and unfortunate taste in blankets slowly start to encroach into Leon’s small flat he begins to wonder if he really thought this offer through. Slowly, the two begin to share note written jokes and left over dinners as they realise that you can’t remain a complete stranger to you flatmate forever.

The setting was perfect for this novel. As a young graduate, fresh from university and working in London I couldn’t relate more to the subtle humour and added gripes about the capital the novel presented. From business men on scooters to basically working for free in the creative industries to the struggle it is for Londoners to find a place to live the novel encapsulates everything any young twenty year old feels after university when moving or working in the capital. The setting is relatable, realistic, unique and refreshing to see as London was brought to life under O’Leary’s creative hand.

Tiffys character presented a snarky, emotive and humorous monologue that was the backbone of the Flatshare. Riddled with sarcasm and self discovery her chapters present the complex character of a young woman slowly realising she is an abuse victim, the pressures she feels as she suddenly finds herself single and the positive steps she takes like going into therapy, ever guided by her supportive friends. As her character develops throughout the novel the story arc is heartwarming and empowering, this young protagonist perfectly encompassing the realities and struggles of being a young woman in the current day in an honest, light hearted and entertaining manor.

Leon I found harder to connect with. In both his notes, narration and his life he is more guarded than Tiffy, the reader is shown little of his past besides the odd comment about his childhood with Richie and his mum, he rarely shares with the reader his feelings. His curt decisive monologue was almost jarring compared with Tiffy’s bubbly and personalised chapters. Although his chapters were less entraining they do progress the plot and his character does slowly become more outgoing as his relationship with Tiffy develops, the humour he slowly begins to demonstrate in his notes and the epilogue a testament to this.

The pacing of the novel was well done. The novel covers nearly a year in our young protagonists lives, separated into months, however the reader never feels rushed between scenes, only guided by the calendar. The timing was crucial to the novel and what made Tiffy and Leon such a good couple: the slow burn romance and time and space they give one another as they navigate their previous relationships. Furthermore the stretch the novel takes on time means the reader can truly see these protagonists developing, it is clear that Tiffy is not healed instantly from her toxic relationship with Justin and shows the reader that time does eventually heal all wounds. The care and attention the author takes to restore her young protagonist and the strength Tiffy learns to show is an encouragement to the reader as Tiffy rediscovers and falls in love with herself again.

The plot of the Flatshare centres on more than just Tiffy and Leon’s romance. Leon’s brother being in prison, a hunt for a dying man’s lost love and Tiffy launching a new book called ‘Crochet your Way’ are all central to the events of the novel. The reader receives a rounded view of Tiffy and Leon’s existence as we are introduced to their work places, social scenes and, of course, the flat they are sharing. The novel does well to show the reader a year in their lives as our protagonist grow together their character arcs and development central to the plot.

The writing style was wholly dependent on the narrator. Tiffys chapters are light and bubbly, full of her personality, worries and sarcasm. These were my favourite chapters. Meanwhile Leon’s tone felt clipped as he briefly describes what he is doing without personal pronouns and minimal embellishments. This made him a more difficult protagonist to connect with. The note passing between the two, including funny cartoons and left over tiffin, really brought the novel to life, the silly quirks and little comments adding to the humorous tone O’Leary writes in.

Having read the novel on audiobook I recommend this as a way of digesting Flatshare, however Tiffy and Leon’s characters were narrated by two separate people and it was difficult to relate Tiffy in Leon’s chapters to Tiffy herself and vice versa as the voices were different. Nevertheless the audiobook still wraps the readers attention but I’d say doesn’t add anything to the experience.

The Flatshare will have readers laughing, cheering and glaring as they witness a year in Tiffy and Leon lives. From blossoming love to an unwanted proposal broadcasts across YouTube the Flatshare encompasses everything from the bizarre to the mundane, O’Leary always throwing a good level of sarcasm and charisma on top of any situation. I recommend it to any young adults at the cusps of their careers, espcially if you work in London, as you’ll get a good dose of feels and a hearty round of relatability.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

You can find more of my reviews here and also over on my goodreads.

Normal People

Never before has romance become so real. Gone are the fluffy lines and sweet moments as Sally Ronney drags her readers kicking and screaming back to reality. Revolving around two young people that perfectly encompass all the hurt and pressure the world places onto fragile lives, it’s no wonder that Normal People was such a hit when the TV series was released earlier this week.

Marianne spends her lunch breaks reading and her free time studying in her parent’s expensive mansion, reclusive and misunderstood. Connell’s mother cleans Marianne’s mansion. Bright and athletic Connell is loved and respected in his school community which is why, when a relationship sparks between the two, he insists on secrecy. Achieving the top grades of anyone in their year the two leave for Trinity College University in Dublin, stepping away from the small town and everything they’ve ever known and hurdled into the reality of adulthood. As social class and privilege stretch between them, the reader can only watch as they learn who they are and what they deserve in simple yet dramatic tale.

Marianne’s difficult home life and the rejection she feels from those around her leaves her vulnerable and unsure of what she deserves. Her lack of social experience leads her to toxic, dark and unhealthy relationships and friendships. While she appears confident and comfortable with herself to Connell it is clear from her own narrative that she still seeks to find her self worth in others and is less comfortable than she demonstrates. Her narrative takes a darker turn as she seeks to be degraded by others, struggling to find what she deserves and how she should be viewed. With these heavy undertones her story is confused and powerful, highlighting what wealth can and can’t buy you as the cracks beneath her confident mask begin to show, her character development an emotive backbone to Normal People.

Connell, our second narrator, is shy and lonesome. Set apart from his childish peers while still humouring them to remain well liked he considers Marianne’s confidence and worldly rapport his superior. As he steps from his popular bubble at school into university he struggles to decide who is, realising his social standing sets him apart from his wealthier peers at university, and discovering that the facade he uses to gain popularity leaves him without any meaningful friendships. Connell struggles with depression and self worth, his critical nature of his own character and offensive self reflection make his chapters a stirring and poignant monologue. While more concerned with his image than Marianne the two share a similar, over arching worry of not being good enough as they face common challenges and homogeneous pressures instilled by society.

Normal People presents its readers with a unique writing style. The use of pronouns instead of character’s names and lack of speech marks can make the novel difficult to read but should not put any reader off. Although this style is difficult to adapt to the words are artfully crafted and the personal perspective each chapters gives, providing an insight into our protagonists’ personality and feelings gives readers a strong apathy with our narrators. The language the novel uses is simple, favouring sparse descriptions and precise details artfully dotted throughout the plot, creating a sense of the scenes while never dwelling on any particular setting. The novel keeps emotions and it’s characters at its core which balances well with the sparse, almost diary like prose it uses.

The novels setting varies often as the characters progress through life. The small town where Marianna and Connell met and grew up is, of course, poignant to both their stories but neither feels a particular affinity for it when they leave for university. While at university the characters move between a variety of locations: Marianna’s flat, other friends houses, Marianne’s summer home and the university itself. All these settings are described in brief, enough detail given that readers get a sense of the location, it’s wealth and part in their story, but not a complete description. The backstory of each character is mostly shown, our narrators will rarely explain to the reader their social status, family dynamic or friendships but rather leaves readers grasping the situation based on what they can see, making the tale engaging and quick to read.

The theme of class weaves itself through our young protagonists lives. Marianne’s rich family gives her certain advantages as she moves through the world: never needing to work while at university, pursing a subject that interests her without worries about a future career and applying for scholarships out of pride rather than need. Parallels are drawn between Marianne and Connell as he struggles with the practical problems of paying rent and affording his tuition. While at school these differences make little impact on their lives but when they step into university suddenly it opens chasms between them. It was refreshing seeing this aspect that is certainly true for many students appear in literature and I was only disappointed that Rooney did not continue to explore this theme as the characters enter their final year of university and navigate the months after, where class and privilege continue to severely impact a young person’s future.

Mental health is another prominent and important theme Normal People highlights. Depression is a fact seldom acknowledged yet it effects many people. Through Connell’s visits to the doctor and prescriptions he admits after a friend’s suicide that he might be struggling, to Marianne who shows her own struggles as she reflects on her character and upbringing. Poor mental health effects most young people at university yet it is still often seen as a taboo topic and rarely explored in literature. The portrayal in Normal People was realistic as it uncovered the struggles both protagonist go through and the reflections they gain as they navigate a stressful yet pivotal time in their lives.

The novel felt well paced and the plot is engaging, it’s not necessarily fast but instead leaps from scene to scene, which can be somewhat disorientating yet still part of the novel’s charm as the short tale attempts to cover years in our readers lives, each scene beginning with the reader not quite sure where our protagonist is. The reader is given the opportunity to intimately know these characters as snapshots of their lives through school and into university are presented, covering their struggles and their successes, showing the fleeting or permanent impacts of the friendships and relationships that shape Connell and Marianne’s world.

Normal People is not a life hearted read. It’s as real as life itself, covering themes of depression and suicide, dealing with the baggage that Connell and Marianne carry with them and demonstrating a plethora of unhealthy and toxic relationships. The target audience would be anyone at university and above, offering adults and young adults a chance to reflect, relate and emphasise with the difficulties Marianne and Connell face.

Normal People is romantic, complex and dark all at once and any reader must go in prepared to grapple with the reality Rooney artfully illustrates in such a simple way. With uplifting undertones and difficult realties this novel cleverly encompasses so much of what it means to be a young person while only really skimming the surface of the two young lives and the future ahead of them that this novel revolves around. Nothing is resolved yet it is still perfectly complete, desperate, lonely and real Normal People is an emotive novel any reader will enjoy.


Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo Review

Alexandra Christo’s first novel, To Kill a Kingdom, was a fairytale. From the blossoming romance, sarcastic quips and relatable characters it wove magic and adventure throughout a charming, compelling storyline. Into the Crooked Place is a nightmare. Full of burnt magic, twisted characters, underhand dealings and powerful threats it presents a dark and unexpected tale that drags any reader into its sinuous depths.

Decades ago Crafters, a race powerful enough to create magic, were forced to make a monster: Dante Ashwood, ruler of the realms’ underworld, has stolen their magic to the point of twisted madness. While he will stop at nothing for his mad desire for power it is only when he threatens to destroy the realms and drag the underworld with it that Wesley, Ashwood’s protégé, knows he must be stopped. Unable to watch the realm crumble that Wesley spent everything building he decides to fight his deadly boss with just a group of loyal buskers, a fistful of charms and a team of unpredictable Crafters bent on vengeance. But can Tavia, Saxony, Karam and Wesley, enemies thrown together with one deadly goal, defeat this wicked monsters, or will they loose themselves trying?

“The realms make monsters of us all,” Eirini said.
“It’s not the realms.” The blade felt too light in Saxony’s hands. “It’s the people in them.”

The four protagonists of Into the Crooked Place will snatch any readers attention. With four main narratives, written in third person but infused with individuality and perspective, Christo’s vivid writing allows readers to become intimate with each protagonists’ ambitions and fears, while keeping their personalities complex enough that the plot is peppered with the unexpected. Wesley, Ashwood’s protégée and betrayer, is dark and troubled. Marred by choices and allegiances he’s grown to regret his dark narrative drags readers into his sinister world, showing them his elusive motives and insufferable charisma. Saxony, meanwhile, will go to any lengths to restore what little is left of her family, her chapters sharp with determination and ringing with passion for a war that is more than justified in her opinion. As the fight becomes ever more personal her unpredictability and continual fight morphs as she develops throughout their perilous journey.

It’s through Tavia, Wesley’s best busker, the reader is introduced to the five realms and it’s underbelly, hazy with her jaded moral compass, desperation for escape and regret at the decisions she’s been forced to make. Her longing for freedom and misplaced loyalty makes her chapters unique and uplifting. Our final protagonist, Karam, is Wesley’s boxer. Sworn to protect the magic Ashwood is abusing Karam is spoiling for a fight and desperate to prove herself, her monologues depicting the pain of her past and her need to justify it. Together these four contrasting characters drag the reader through their pasts and present in an intimate yet unreliable journey where readers are never truly certain they understand these characters’ motivations. The choice to show each protagonists biggest regret further deepens the already poignant understanding between the reader and each personality. A plethora of side characters are included to further the plot but remain mostly undeveloped making it clear the readers focus is to remain on Saxony, Wesley, Tavia and Karam.

“If my Kin dies, I will drag you into the doomed spiritlands myself,” Arjun said to Wesley.
“You won’t need to. You’ll be there right beside me.”

In such a complex world Christo weaves a simple yet harrowing plot. The single aim our heroes share: to defeat Ashwood gives their group and the novel structure and purpose. Although this goal is simple it is wrought with complexities that leave nothing to certainty as Karam, Wesley, Saxony and Tavia take a precarious journey to fight an impossible war they cannot afford to loose. A foreboding tone is conjured throughout the novel from its inception when Tavia accidentally coerces a doomed prophecy from a dud orb, which only adds to the haunting tone. Combined with the treacherous mission it becomes immediately clear in this battle, the stakes are high. The pacing, too felt well done as the novel never drags: danger and action balanced well with monologues from characters or scenes from the past. Christo artfully tells her tale with equal parts anticipation and fear, producing a compelling and haunting read.

Cristo’s writing style in Into the Crooked Place is darker than To Kill a Kingdom. Dotted with poetic prose and beautiful imagery the reader sees darker twists and graphic scenes, brutal fights and desperate hopes as they are guided between each dramatic event. At first the multiple often changing viewpoints accompanied by shifting tones made the plot confusing as the reader was slowly introduced to the realms. However, as the novel progresses the internal monologue of each character draws readers into the storyline and their individual struggles while striking the perfect balance between delicate composition and intense action to further the plot. The personal relationship each reader builds up with each protagonist as they follow this dark tale creates a powerful connection that makes each difficulty even more poignant. The writing was beautiful yet purposeful crammed with plot, description and personality that makes it captivating for any reader.

“Magic was a language made from wishing, with glyphs in desire and consonants shaped from dreams.”

The setting of this novel is extremely complex and it is occasionally difficult to fully comprehend the extent of the realms and their powers. Christo attempts to introduce her readers to four multifaceted heroes and their backstories, an unconventional magic system, four realms, an unorthodox government and an underground criminal network. The imagination of her creation is remarkable and the effectiveness and simplicity with which Christo carries out the daunting task of Into The Crooked Place’s world building is impressive. The writing never tends towards clunky as the reader is drip fed information, but they must accept to not fully explore the extent and intimate complexities of Christo’s setting. The vastness of the complex world laid out in Into Crooked Place, impossible to fully probe in just 400 pages, leaves readers yearning for it’s sequel.

Apart from an already saturated genre Into the Crooked Place does not use romance as plot motivation. Although romantic relationships are portrayed throughout the book it is rarely focussed upon in our heroes’ motives. Meanwhile, strong bonds form slowly between this haphazard group, highlighted particularly between the surprising friendship crafted by Karam and Tavia, exploring a new and refreshing trope: enemies to friends. Through Karam and Saxony an LGBT relationship is depicted and it becomes clear to the reader that this is accepted within all the realms. Finally the tension between Tavia and Wesley, as they ponder whether their friendship could be something more is woven cleverly throughout the plot adding a layer of excitement from the potential slow burn romance brewing while not detracting from the events taking place.

“She stiffened but Wesley stayed still, staring at his hand on hers, wondering who would walk away first. One of them always walked away.”

It is not just Tavia who questions the integrity of her world. Morality is a key theme throughout the novel as each protagonist almost compares themselves to one another, questioning how similar they are to Ashwood’s twisted personality. They strive to make the correct decision while weighing up the consequences of each choice, internal turmoil interweaving throughout their stories. Combined with their unsightly underworld origin and complex character this theme is conjured often throughout the course of the novel.

Dark themes persist throughout Into the Crooked Places. There are trigger warnings for murder, madness and suicide. Although disturbing at times and containing graphic battles it is not horror and should be considered a darker fantasy. The target audience is older YA/adult. I managed to win an advanced reader copy of this novel, it will be released in all its glory October 2019.

Overall I would highly recommend Into the Crooked Place, coming out in October. It’s poignant protagonists, captivating plot and enchanting writing make it a firm favourite and I look forward to reading whatever else Christo writes.



Jumping onto the ever popular fairytale bandwagon, Uprooted takes it’s reader to a magic realm ruled by an enraged king loosing an impossible war against the monstrous wood that stole his adulterous queen. With its fairytale backdrop and an enchanting premise it presents a popular read to ample waiting readers.

While feudal lords commonly demanded taxes or soldiers, Agnieszka’s village pay a rare price: once a decade the Dragon chooses a seventeen year old girl to live in his tower with him. The girls are often pretty, always exceptional and exactly like Agnieszka’s best friend, Kasia. But when the impossible occurs and Kasia isn’t chosen Agnieszka is faced with a daunting ten years, all the while questioning why the Dragon would choose her instead?

What an unequaled gift for disaster you have.”

Despite being presented as her principle, and apparently only, flaw clumsiness gives our chaotic protagonist Agnieszka no hindrance. She excels at defeating all offenses the Wood throws at the realm and her aptitude with magic was prevalent from the beginning. Agnieszka disheveled appearance and disregard for pretty dresses, presenting a ‘tom boy’ persona, gave the all too familiar whiff of the overused ‘not like other girls’ trope, each character being besides themselves to express how special she is. This uniqueness in the eyes of the Dragon and her mother was disappointing to read as it implies that feminine qualities possessed by other girls make them weak.

The Dragon’s character was guarded and difficult to engage with, his dialogue always clipped and often cruel, calling Agnieszka demeaning and insulting names, made him difficult to like. I was disappointed by the minimal character development shown by these two pivotal characters, adding to the overall feel that Agnieszka is already perfect in every way. The Dragon’s dry, indifferent and cruel interactions with Agnieszka also remained constant making it difficult for readers to believe in the romantic undertones of the tale.

Kasia, meanwhile, presented a strong female lead. Her humility, selfless attitude and bravery made up in ways Agnieszka’s character was lacking and the friendship between Kasia and Agnieszka was thankfully pivotal to the plot. The dynamic between the two friends provided a refreshing and heart warming embellishment to Uprooted.

And I wasn’t old enough to be wise, so I loved her more, not less, because I knew she would be taken from me soon.

The fairytale setting of Uprooted is the novels best feature. Although not unoriginal, the quant villages, picturesque valleys, ominous wood and medieval court created an exciting fantasy location. The familiarity of this setting gave rise to uncomplicated world building as Novik embellished an already familiar setting.

The relationship between Agnieszka and the Dragon felt uncomfortable. The Dragon being over a hundred Agnieszka being just seventeen made the romance difficult to read, coupled with the teacher student, lord and peasant power balance the two maintained throughout the novel. Novik is careful to include explicit consent between the two lovers, but this didn’t make the romance feel any less like a teenage girl being manipulated by an old man. With this uncomfortable backdrop and power dynamic it was difficult to see genuine chemistry between these two characters, the reader having to be told explicitly by the narrator that love is in fact blossoming. No clues are given within the prose itself: the Dragon’s closed character making his feelings difficult to discern while Agnieszka appearing nothing more than belittled in his presence.

I leaned against his side, his irritation oddly comforting. After a moment he grudgingly put his arm around me.

Like in many fairytales, family and community are persistent themes throughout Uprooted. Agnieszka leaving her community leads to the internal conflict and turmoil featured often in her narrative. Furthermore the Dragon being abandoned by his family at an early age and the complex relationship between Kasia and the mother who gave up on her are briefly noted. From mothers sacrificing their lives for their children, sisters morning one another to brothers quarrelling for a thrown a plethora of family dynamics are presented to the reader and explored throughout the events of the novel, adding an extra gravitas to a theme so rarely seen in YA novels.

The writing style was digestible enough. Simple descriptions with a fairytale like narrative from Agnieszka’s perspective. A dislike of this disheveled yet always exemplary protagonist made her narrative infuriating to read at times. The pacing felt slow at first, Agnieszka’s initial stay with the Dragon and her time at court feeling unnecessarily drawn out. However this wasn’t necessarily to the novels detriment as it added crucial world building and gave the author space to demonstrate the development of the relationship between the Dragon and his seventeen year old ward.

The premise of Uprooted was intriguing and the wood made a formidable enemy, it’s unknown powers and mysterious origin being a source of anxiety to the characters. However it was difficult to feel invested in the crises of the novel when Agnieszka simply always came to the rescue, her seemingly limitless magic often failing her just after she’d saved the day. There were clear inconsistencies in her powers: she’d struggle to do a simple spell one day, then defeat a great evil the next and return to struggling with simple spells after, which made it difficult for her and the reader to be invested in any struggles struggles presented.

As Agnieszka is seventeen the novel is probably aimed at teenage fantasy readers. With an explicitly described sex scene and graphically detailed, gory battles it would be for older, more mature teenagers and young adults.

Overall, Uprooted is disappointing. With an interesting premise and exciting plot it’s despondent there is not a more complex and unique protagonist narrating the tale.


Circe Review [Audiobook]

The story of Circe has been retold throughout the centuries, famously depicted in Homer’s Odyssey. Madeline Miller’s interpretation is presented to the reader in this popular novel.

Circe is daughter of Helios, an undesirable nymph raised in her father’s cruel court. Desperate to not be as atrocious as her godly family she is depicted as a free spirit, helping her grandfather during his calamitous punishment from Zeus and falling in love with a selfish mortal who finds another, more beautiful nymph. But when her rage forces her to exile she is faced with the realities of the gods and horrors of mortals alike.

But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth

The novel centres entirely on Circe’s character. Her cold rage, arduous existence and struggling humanity provides the narrative to a plot woven from the Greek myths. Throughout her exile her character grows, understanding more of the gods’ personalities from mortals as she comes to realise who she is. With only fleeting glimpses of other characters who briefly touch her immortal eternity Circe’s character development is the nucleus of the tale.

Circe’s sense of integrity and remorse sets her aside from the gods she grew up around and becomes a prevalent theme throughout the novel. The freedom Circe comes to enjoy in her exile and the space she is given to grow and study magic further emphasis this theme, as she struggles to help the mortals her family so desperately want to manipulate.

It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures, flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment’s carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did.

In some accounts of the tale Circe’s ability to turn men into animals was akin to a temptress, leading men astray, however in this retelling it is characterized as justice. This sense of transformation persists not only when Circe turns rapists and thieves into pigs, but when Scylla becomes a monster, insinuating that their images now reflect their personalities. This theme builds up throughout the novel becoming increasingly evident to reader, foreshadowing the ending the author has chosen.

This novel draws on different historical retellings of this myth as the basis for the plot: Telegonus’s meeting with his father, Scylla’s monstrous transformation and even Odysseus’s crew being turned to pigs. The hapless presence of these events, strung together from individual stories, made the plot feel disjointed and often I struggled to engage with the wider storyline when a self contained allegory concluded.

But he was a harp with only one string, and the note it played was himself.

The combination of different retellings negatively effects the pacing also. I found it difficult to engage with each new chapter of the story when the last ended so decisively. However the story is well crafted and, given the unusual premise, the juddering pace was understandable. The events of the novel take place over hundreds of years which meant, despite the pace not feeling smooth, the plots of the novel never felt unnecessarily drawn out.

Miller’s writing style is unique and excellently shaped for this style of novel. Her allegories are precise and to the point, enabling the plot to cover such a complex and long history, while also being peppered with beautiful descriptions and intricate details. The writing radiated a story telling vibe, feeling almost akin to the Greek myths themselves, which felt appropriate given the subject.

Perhaps no parent can truly see their child. When we look we see only the mirror of our own faults.

The setting of this novel is the Greek island of Aeaea, where Circe is exiled to. It’s untamed woods, streams and rocky outcrops make it a wild paradise much like Calypso’s island in the original myths. Circe roams this wildness barefoot, highlighting both her invulnerability as a goddess and her freedom as an exile. The island is stark comparison to Circe’s father’s halls, which is beautiful in design and allows nymphs to safely roam and sunbathe openly. Despite the island being untamed and filled with wolves and lions it still feels safer to Circe than the manicured halls she grew up in.

I listened to this novel as an audiobook, which I would strongly recommend. It adds to the story telling tone of the novel and aids the reader in difficult Greek pronunciation from the original myths. The reader, Perdita Weeks, is clear and encapsulates Circe’s personality perfectly in a delicate and clear tone. Occasionally Circe would speak more softly than her companions which made the volume difficult to accurately determine, but otherwise the reading was perfect.

“Some people are like constellations that only touch the earth for a season

I would suggest Circe to adults with an interest in the Greek myths. It’s drawings on popular tales and well researched plot lines will be more enjoyable if you have a basis of the original myths and histories of the time. Graphic scenes of rape, childbirth and murder should deter younger readers.

In conclusion, Circe is a powerful and thought provoking novel. The enchanting descriptions, carefully crafted characters and detailed references to Greek mythology make it an enjoyable read, let down only by the disjointed plot and pace.


Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor Review

I had been told this novel was good, and that’s undeniable. The imaginative world, creative plot and exceptional writing dragged me straight into this exceptional story.

Our heroine, Karou, is a Prague teenager with lapis lazuli coloured hair who sketches mythical beasts that live behind magical doors and collect teeth. Her class, and the reader, believe she simply has a strong imagination, but it is soon revealed her secret world exists and is much more sinister than anything she has drawn. But when Karou is mysteriously cut off from her secret world she must finally face the question that has always plagued her: why was she raised by beasts?

“Work? Since when do you work?”

“I work. What do you think I live on, rainwater and daydreams?”

Half the novel is told in the present- following Karou and her mystical life in Prague, and her role in the teeth trade, while the other half tells Madrigal’s story, set in the past, who she is, and what life is like in her world. While I do enjoy a good backstory I found this novel lingered too much in the past. It felt less personal than the story being told in the present and had little details of Madrigals inner thoughts, although it did still touch on these. I didn’t like that we dipped away from the action in the present day, that had captivated me so much, to follow this backstory for so long. It felt a bit like starting a new novel right as the one I was reading got interesting- I wasn’t ready for more world building and character introduction. However, it was still an entertaining and a well written aside.

As the novel is split into these two dialogues it’s pacing is difficult to judge. While the parts that centre on the backstory felt a little longer than needed, mostly because I was desperate to get back to the present and read about Karou’s story, the parts that follow Karou was well paced and intriguing. I liked how the world building was done: first perceived through Karou’s sketchbook, and then through her own eyes. I particularly enjoyed descriptions of Karou’s life in Prague, with the ghost tour host of an ex boyfriend and bowls of Goulash with her best friend. Madrigal’s timeline was a little tricky to nail down as there were glimpses of her story interwoven throughout the novel. Her story was well written, but felt less personal than Karou’s as it wasn’t grounded in the real world, which made Karou’s story slightly more relatable.

It is a condition of monsters that they do not perceive themselves as such. The dragon, you know, hunkered in the village devouring maidens, heard the townsfolk cry ‘Monster!’ and looked behind him.

The novel’s plot is fast paced and exciting, mostly revolving around Karou discovering the secrets of her mysterious life. There isn’t a build up to a big fight at the end or any kind of resolution, the entire novel centers around Karou discovering who Madrigal was. The twist at the end wasn’t exactly surprising but I didn’t mind since it was designed more to shock Karou than the reader. The novel is clearly building up to its sequel and, although it doesn’t involve any finite resolution, the author tells an exciting mystery interwoven with lots of action and revelations, making the novel entertaining in its own right.

What really made this novel was the writing style. Beautiful descriptions, delicate imagery and vivid scenes are dotted throughout the novel. Some scenes and backstories were a bit graphic for me, making me feel a little uncomfortable (I’m not a reader for gore). The sense of foreboding throughout the novel is always present in Karou’s story, giving the novel a haunting aspect. The writing style is creative and the author balances well personal thoughts, banter, descriptions and world building.

She moved like a poem and smiled like a sphinx”

I’d say this novel is aimed at older readers. The atmosphere is sinister at times and some scenes are more graphically told than I would have liked, as mentioned. It felt more like New Adult (if only it were a proper genre, alas) than young adult, although it doesn’t contain any sexual content.

The theme of good and evil is prominent throughout the novel. Karou is often questioning if her boss and father figure, Brimstone, is good and the novel holds the overall message about not judging too quickly. Karou delves into Christian imagery often when debating Akiva and his kind but the novel didn’t take any religious turns, thankfully. Karou constantly wonders what the teeth are being used for and often addresses how the sentient beasts she calls her family would be considered monsters in her world. References to real life prejudices and war made me think the author was trying to make a point, reinforced by the Romeo and Juliet type plot, but this wasn’t explored too much within the novel.

Have you ever asked yourself, do monsters make war, or does war make monsters?

In this novel we only meet a handful of characters, but all of them are well developed. Even Madrigal’s sister’s, Chiro’s, motives and thoughts are explored which makes the characters powerful and personal to the reader. I liked Karou’s dry wit and sarcastic narrative, but found Madrigal complacent in comparison- she showed a lot less spunk in her narrative. Karou’s best friend, Zuzana, was an easy favourite for me, with her quick humour and quips, the slightly dark banter between the two girls being a real highlight of the novel. It was a shame she was only in half the novel, although this couldn’t be helped, and I’m hoping to see more of her in the sequel.

It’s not like there’s a law against flying.”

“Yes there is. The law of gravity.

Overall I did enjoy this novel. It is well written and the characters were easy to like and well developed, the mystery complete and insolvable. My only criticism would be that Madrigal’s chapters could have been more dotted throughout the novel than all in one chunk. I did like that they explained a lot of things in Karou’s present but it felt too much like tangent being placed directly in the middle of Karou’s story.


A Darker Shade of Magic Review

Completeness is, weirdly enough, a mathematical word. It’s talking about logic, a theory is complete when it can always be derived. And as a mathematician all I can say is I like my blog how I like my logic: complete. So here is a dusty old review for a book I read in 2017 publishing before it’s sequels review.

A Darker Shade of Magic follows Kell, a man with magic powers and an ever changing coat who has the rare ability to travel between worlds. He lives in London and the world’s he visits all portray a slightly different version: his own, Red London, is glistening and full of magic. White London is starved of magic and dying, while Grey London is our own London just set slightly in the past. But what happens when White London attempts a hostile takeover in a desperate attempt for survival?

I’m not going to die,” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”
“Seen what?”

Her smile widened. “Everything

As my first step into adult fantasy I was a bit nervous picking up this many paged tiny print novel, back in January 2017. In hindsight, my worries were all pointless- A Darker Shade of Magic was a brilliant read.

Adult fantasy is not that big a leap from YA fantasy. The main characters are a little older, but the whole thing feels very similar- creative plots, spunky heroins, and easily accessible. This book is doesn’t take itself too seriously, there’s still humour and an engaging plot which I was slightly worried it would lack. It’s very readable and digestible, I’d say it’s a good bridge between fantasy YA and adult fantasy (not that I’ve read much of the later).

VE Schwab has the power to make time slow down with her writing. The events of the novel take place over a mere two days yet are so exciting and enthralling that I didn’t feel the plot was dragged out at all. So much happens in such a short time: epic fights, characters fears and flaws, and even a classic ball scene in a mere two days. This novel is remarkable.

“I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still”

This quote sums up Lila perfectly. She’s a girl who tags along with Kell, desperate to leave her mundane life in Grey London and longing for something new. Also she dreams of being a pirate- definitely my kind of heroine. What I liked most was how Lila reacts to the masquerade ball in this novel. Similar to the classic trope she gets all dressed up, a tailor specially making her outfit and picking out her mask. But unlike other novels she doesn’t wear some massive, flowing, princess dress. Because that’s just not Lila. She gets some proper boots, a nice suit, a scary mask: practical attire for the night ahead. It’s so true to her character and so unexpected, one of my favourite book ball scenes.

Kell’s character is more serious and determined. Confined to his job he has one small act of rebellion: smuggling trinkets between worlds that later lead to dire consequences. It’s nice to watch how Lila and Kell’s characters grow together and how they come to care for each other as the unlikely partnership forms.

Rhy laughed silently. “I apologize for anything I might have done. I was not myself.”

“I apologize for shooting you in the leg,” said Lila. “I was myself entirely.”

The final character I particularly enjoyed was Rhy, Kell’s brother and the crown prince. His charming exterior hides his fear for lacking magic, making him a complex and funny character to read who instantly comes alive on the page. The brotherly relationship between Kell and Rhy is sweet and adds more tenderness to an otherwise sharp novel.

Overall I’d recommend this novel to any fantasy fan. It is slightly more gory than younger YA is, but is very accessibly written for older readers who haven’t read much adult.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hero at the Fall Review

Hero at the Fall has undoubtedly been my most anticipated read of 2018. So anticipated that I put reading the book off until now.

That may seem strange but here’s the thing: what if it had been a disappointment? I’d heard mixed reviews and this series has been one of my favourites over the last few years, I wasn’t quite ready to be disappointed when it was first released over summer, and I definitely wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Amani and her rebellion.

However my worries for it being a disappointment were totally fruitless in the end, because I loved this stunning conclusion to an incredible series. Amani and friends left with a bang, in a cloud of gun smoke and dessert dust which couldn’t have been more perfect.

We would be stories long after we were gone. Imperfect, inaccurate stories. Stories that could never even come close to reality

The story itself opens with the rebellion at it’s worse: moral is low as a valuable rebel demendji has just been executed, most of the important players have been captured and the Sultan is at his most powerful, with an army of unstoppable clay men at his side. It seems Amani stands no chance when she steps up to lead what is left of the rebels.

While the first novel showed us Amani’s bravery, and the second demonstrated her loyalty, this novel tests her determination. With the tides turning against the rebellion and every decision she makes seeming to be the wrong one, it proves difficult for them to hope to find their leader, and even harder for her to find him alive. To make matters worse she can’t forget the rebellion’s overall aim, which is to remove the Sultan from power, another seemingly impossible task.

“We were like faded pictures in a book that had lost a lot of its gilt” -Amani

The writer has chosen to develop an unusual plethora of characters in this novel. We don’t see the struggle that Shazard or the Rebel Prince go through, instead we watch Amani, Sam, Jin and Hala learn how to lead the rebellion, testing their loyalty and friendship to ultimately prove they can win alone. Because the novel is centred on so few characters their development is clearly marked and the reader can understand their aims and personal struggles better. The loyalty they show, the sacrifices they make and characters they become make it even harder when the reader is faced with their losses.

The characters lives and deaths are sometimes narrated in ‘aside’ chapters in a story tale fashion. These chapters, dipicting how these characters’ stories are later told throughout Maraji, further add to the reader’s perception of the characters and gives the novel a story telling vibe. More of this world’s folk lore is interwoven in the plot of the novel also compared to the others in the series, adding an unusual element. I’ve read reviews that have found these chapters detracting from the novel but I, personally, found them powerful. Depicting a character’s death in this way made it even more shocking and the short snippets of stories provided a fresh style that I haven’t read before.

“But even if the desert forgot a thousand and one of our stories, it was enough that they would tell of us at all.”

I have two small gripes with an otherwise fantastic novel. My first would be the typos. I am not normally a reader who picks up on typos but I found the book riddled with them and wondered, in places, if the writing could have been neatened up. I don’t know if this is true, but the novel read like it had been written in a rush. The elegant phrases I had come to enjoy in Alwyn Hamilton’s writing became sparse in this novel and the descriptions more clunky in places than necessary. This wasn’t a massive issue because the plot was still good and character’s felt fleshed out, but their was an element of finesse this novel lacked that felt prominent in its predecessors.

My second would be Leyla. She seemed like a strong character bent on survival at the end of Traitor to the Throne, but she became weaker as the plot went on, reduced to traipsing behind the rebellion while whining until finally falling on seduction for her survival. Perhaps because she was an engineer, I felt she could have been a strong female character (because, after all, strong female characters don’t always have to be good) but instead felt like she was the embodiment of the stereotypes this novel has done so well at fighting. I felt her putting up more of a fight, verbally if nothing else, wouldn’t have removed anything from the plot but would have made me endlessly happier.

However, these are minor details and overall I enjoyed the novel a lot. In an attempt to end my review on a good point I’ll finally touch on Jin and Amani’s relationship. In my review for Traitor to the Throne I said I found them annoying but in this novel I think this was redeemed. I thought it was refreshing in YA to read about a relationship after the girl has snagged the unbelievably handsome prince. It wasn’t pushed to the side like other novels I’ve read, they were still struggling to make it work and it was nice to have the odd detail dotted in that this was a worry for them. It wasn’t too prominent in the novel and didn’t take anything away from the plot but I liked the fact that their personal lives was a consideration and their overall worries about making it work out felt very normal.

But he wondered if a boy from the sea and a girl from the desert could ever survive together. He feared that she might burn him alive or that he might drown her. Until finally he stopped fighting it and set himself on fire for her.

Overall I’d give this novel 4 stars, but very close to five and recommend the series to anyone. I think it will be a firm favourite with me for quite a while.


Let’s Compare Notes

Have you read this novel or any in the series? Is it on your tbr? What do you think of my review? Would love to hear your opinion in the comments section!

Best Books I Read in 2018

Can you believe it’s 2019?! 2018 was such a rollercoaster for me, with striking university lectures, stressful dissertations, panicking about jobs, the roller coaster that was the world cup, house hunting, living in a building site for three months and finally being where I am now. It’s mad to think back on it all and it feels sort of unreal, so much has happened.

But if one things stayed pretty stable it’s my love for books. So here’s a Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader, listing my top ten reads of 2018.

1. Children of Blood and Bone

Easily in the top ten and possibly first place, I adored this novel and can’t wait for the second one to come out in 2019. This novel was so big it defined my start of summer reading. I read it in an Air B and B in Brussels, between goals while watching the world cup, on the hot and stuffy replacement bus to YALC and while doing my summer job, waiting for kids at airport terminals.

2. To Kill a Kingdom

If you read my review you’ll know I loved this novel. It was fantastic, enchanting, funny, well written with a plot that will always keep you on the edge of your seat!

3. All Quiet on the Western Front


This emotional rollercoaster of a book saw me through several long train rides into work. It showed me a perspective on the First World War that I’d never read or understood before.

4. Traitor to the Throne


How can this author make politics this entertaining to read?! This novel drew me into reading when I was drowning in dissertation stress and wading through job applications. A great read but a less fun memory.

5. Caravel


Beautiful descriptions, intriguing characters and an intricate plot made this novel amazing. It’s also the novel I decided to take up to Manchester with me on my first visit so I distinctly remember it for that.

6. Ace of Spades


The first novel I read since starting my first full time, permanent, real life not ending and is now my life job on that long train ride up for my first day. I remember feeling just as lost as Ennie stepping into New Reynes on my first day at the office.

7. The Exact Opposite of Okay

This funny yet important read was short and light hearted, perfect for the stress of my dissertation and exams. While panicking about striking lectures, impending deadlines and postponed courseworks all appearing at once I could at least comfort myself with Izzy’s humour and staple love of milkshakes.

8. Flawed


I read this dystopian on many a replacement bus, since I read it on the week the trains stopped running, and it will do nothing but remind me of large busses turning in small country villages.

9. The Bone Season


It was during the cold March snow that I read this action packed gem. I followed Paige through the dingy halls of Oxford colleges while I was freezing in my cold student house and wishing my stingy housemates would put the heating on. Luckily the university library always had my back.

10. Hero at the Fall

Because I adored the conclusion to the novels that ensured my love of reading during university. It may not have been perfect but it was good enough.

Let’s Compare Notes

So there you have it! Ten reads I loved in 2018. I can’t wait to see what magical books 2019 will present me with. Any 2019 releases you’re excited for? Or books you’re planning on reading? What was your favourite read of 2018? Feel free to drop an opinion or link to your post in the comments section!

Review: Caravel by Stefanie …

With the recent release of Legendary, the sequel, I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and polish of Caravel- a novel that screams the enchantment of The Night Circus but is stuffed with more action, adventure and even more plot twists.

This circus-esque novel follows two sisters in their attempts to flee from their abusive father by entering a dangerous yet enchanting game- Caravel, a travelling circus where the main attraction is watching half the audience attempt to solve clues to win a prize. This years prize: a wish.

He’d heard every person gets one impossible wish—just one—if the person wants something more than anything, and they can find a bit of magic to help them along.

But when older sister Scarlett enters this mystical game, in the hope of winning the wish and escaping her abusive father, she soon finds the price for playing is higher than she realises and the game more deceptive than she thought.

Caravel is a light and easy to read YA fantasy that hooked me in from page one. With rumours and half truths flying left right and centre, all covered by the dazzle of Caravel, the book is well paced, intriguing and well written. I particularly enjoyed following our guarded main character, Scarlett, as she attempts to make sense of the game that has swallowed her plans and sent her future spiralling out of her grasp.

Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything”

The descriptions in Caravel are sparse and delicate, one of my few critisms I have of this novel. Each chapter is dotted with intricate detail, as I’d expected, from describing the buttons and bows that adorn Scarlett’s dresses to the strong perfumes of a potion stand. The writer included a lot of finer details to embellish the plotline.

But I was struggling to picture Caravel in all it’s glory. For a girl who has dreamed of visiting the game all her life, Scarlett does very little adventuring of her own. The reader doesn’t get elaborate descriptions of the circus or how others are playing, Scarlett only tries foods when she must and only explores what is required by the plot. The book felt a little short, it could have easily been bulked out with a few more descriptions of the glamouress Caravel and the unimaginable sights that were too often mentioned but not shown without detracting too much from the plot.

However, this is a minor detail. And although the lack of description of Caravel itself annoyed me a bit it does keep the plot quick and fast paced- a feat I know many readers would enjoy. It is gripping and what descriptions there are are certainly not lacking.

Every touch created colors she had never seen. Colors as soft as velvet and as sharp as sparks that turned into stars.

Caravel’s plot is as straight forward as the game the novel is named for. As Scarlett second guesses each and every half truth she is told so does the reader, and the confusing mixture of clues our protagonist receives are somewhat difficult to follow and even harder to spot. But with the insistence that Caravel is “only a game” and Scarlett’s tentative nature of second guessing each action or motive the twists and turns embellish a story that is clearly better explained than guessed.

“It’s better this way, sister. There’s more to life than staying safe…”

The sisterly bond between Tella and Scarlett was refreshing in YA. More often do characters act out of romantic love or spite in this genre and it was nice that this novel touched on a new motive. Although we do see Scarlett’s motherly nature towards Tella, a relationship similar to that of Katniss’s and Prim’s, we also see that they are friends and catch glimpses of their childhood where they played games and heard stories together. This adds a soft edge to Scarlett’s otherwise seemingly reserved and nervous character.

I would recommend Caravel to anyone looking for a short, fun read. It’s quick, enchanting, and like the circus, it’s over too quickly.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ /5

Let’s Compare Notes

Have you read Caravel? Do you agree with me? Have you ever read The Night Circus, or anything similar? Would love to hear from you in the comments section!