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Review: The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín

Marketed as “genre-changing blend of fantasy, horror, and folkore” (and no that typo is not mine, it’s from the blurb), The Call 100% grabbed my attention from the concept alone. In this version of semi-dystopian Ireland, the Sidhe are targeting teenagers; “calling” them to their world for three minutes before sending them back. Almost none return home alive. And protagonist Nessa may be disabled, but she is determined to train, determined to win, and to be one of the few to survive The Call.I was simultaneously impressed and disappointed by this novel. What I loved was the concept; the idea of The Call felt very Hunger Games, very Maze Runner-ish. And it was exciting: who’s going to be called? When are they going to disappear from their world and appear stark naked in the Grey Land, the grotesque world of the Sidhe and have to run/fight/hide for their life?? And the world-building was incredible; such an imaginative world to place us in, inhabited by fantastic villains who genuinely frightened me a little bit! It was so refreshing to read a story about murderous, evil Fae, instead of the romanticised, sparkly Fae that dominate the YA genre these days. This was different, and brilliantly portrayed. I was hooked from page one, and the pacing kept me enraptured, kept me guessing and kept me scared.

But that didn’t hold out forever, unfortunately. I think my biggest issue was that the protagonist, Nessa, didn’t really feel like a protagonist. On paper, she sounds awesome. Badass disabled teen who slaps a guy in the face with her crutch – what’s not to love! But in the end, we barely even passed surface level with her. She felt about as developed as the rest of the characters around her, which isn’t saying much truth be told. She didn’t really have any influence over the story or even accomplish that much throughout – and there was no character arc, no progression of her personal story. I feel like the author ticked all the boxes but then sort of forgot to follow through, which is a real shame because it did end up affecting my enjoyment of the story. By the end, I just wanted her to participate in the story more and I was just waiting and waiting and … then I did some more waiting until finally … she sort of did a thing. And then that was it. Utterly anticlimactic and actually quite frustrating.

At the end of the day, I think this book was written for the mass-market: readers who want a fast pace, some high stakes and a little bit of a shock factor. And that, it does well. But for my tastes, it didn’t quite deliver, and it absolutely did not live up to the rave reviews on the blurb – “perfect for fans of Game of Thrones“!? Buzzfeed, what were you thinking? Nevertheless, it was enjoyable for what it was. It was thrilling and creative, and a little bit of a scare. I just think if the plot had been restructured a bit and more time was spent on the main characters, this one would be a real winner.



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10 Years, 10 Books: Best of the Decade

Switching it up this year! Instead of posting a yearly round-up (because, to be honest, I haven’t had the most fulfilling reading year in 2019!), let’s talk about my absolute favourite books published in the last ten years. That I have read. Obviously.

 


The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boroson

This book was everything I didn’t know I wanted; a proper little gem picked up on a whim just because the literary Gods smiled upon me one evening. I did not expect to get so into it, but when your protagonist is a martial arts expert with astral projection abilities who can see into the depths of the supernatural underworld of 19th century Chinatown in San Francisco … I don’t believe it’s possible to go wrong.
Inspiring, thoroughly entertaining, something a bit different and completely unexpected. Plus, it’s always good to support small presses! This book totally makes the list.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Another ghost story has made the list, this time taking place in a dystopian futuristic London/Oxford. Spirits, dreamwalking, clairvoyancy, all that good shit – mixed with some crackin’ characters and world-building that made me put down the book and announce to my empty bedroom, “that was fucking brilliant“. There are to be seven books in this series, with three out currently. And while the two sequels to The Bone Season weren’t quite as riveting as the first in my opinion, I still think it’s a cracking urban futuristic fantasy, and there’s nothing quite like it out on the scene.

_A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas

Sarah J Maas exploded onto the YA Fantasy scene at the start of the decade and has churned out two of the most successful series in the genre. Both the Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses series are fabulous and well worth a read. Her masterful world-building and character mastery give me life. If I were to pick a favourite of the 10+ novels Maas has released this decade, A Court of Mist and Fury takes the top spot. I had all of the emotions while reading this book. I may have cried. It was an intense 600+ pages and I highly recommend them all.

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

In a world where the end of days isn’t just a threat but a guarantee, where the latest apocalypse is triggered by a powerful madman looking for revenge and the arcane obelisks that float above the Earth are beginning to shift, the heartbreaking story of Essun unfolds. And it was brilliant. It’s another example of world-building that leaves you speechless, characters that never leave you, and a story that wraps you in its thorn-prickled arms and refuses to let you leave. Every book in this trilogy has won a Hugo award, that might give you an idea of how damn good this story is.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

This is 100% a Marmite novel: you either love it or you hate it. And in my case, I was enthralled. Oh so enthralled. Objectively, I know that this book wasn’t terribly well-written: the plot and world-building are basically non-existent, and the purple prose bordered on ridiculous at times. But oh my days, the characters, especially MC Juliette; Tahereh Mafi portrayed her struggle with life and mental health absolutely perfectly. The romance even stole my heart as well, not an easy feat. I completely loved this story. 10/10 would be fatally wounded by this beautiful book again.

Angelfall by Susan EE

I raved about this book. I gushed and babbled about how much I loved it. I called it “the pinnacle of dystopia” with amazing characters, plot, pacing, world-building – the lot. I still remember it fondly – it came out when the PNR (paranormal romance) hype had turned from vampires to angels and wow did the genre capitalise (and fair play, indeed). Angelfall is definitely the best angel book I read during the craze – perfect for fans of The Hunger Games, as it boasts a similar vibe. And … it was an indie book! Love when I find a really amazing self-pubbed book.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Hardcore survivalism? Interesting and different location. High stakes, excitement, a protagonist that makes the Book Boyfriend list? Oh hell yeah. Now I am pretty damn fond of my survivalist literature and I think The Martian may actually be my absolute fave of the genre. I loved every minute I spent with this book, and Mark Watney, one of my very few book boyfriends (I’m highly exclusive). This book was so popular they made a film, and I need to point out that the film is VERY DIFFERENT to the book. The film was boring, the book was amazing and hilarious, read it.

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer. What a woman. What an absolute legend. This is hands-down the best autobiography/self-help book I have ever come across, and it reads as if you’ve gone out for coffee with Amanda Palmer herself and just … having a good old chat about the world. It was not only really interesting to read about Palmer’s life but I loved learning about her philosophies. Her voice resonated so deeply with me and I do think her words have changed my outlook on some things. Ff anyone has an interest in psychology and self-awareness, this is a great one to pick up. Loved it. Absolutely loved it.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I’m crying just thinking about this one. I never wrote a full review (I think I read this before I became a reviewer), but my Goodreads review features a gif of a blue blob with its jaw on the floor. So there’s that. There’s not an easy way to explain how this book made me feel. It was wholesome and pure while also being heart-wrenching in its existentialism. It was depressing in a way that I would totally put myself through that again. This was just John Green all over, him at his absolute finest.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Hello, this is my favourite Neil Gaiman story. We’ve all got one, this is mine. What a whimsical, wholesome, disturbing-yet-relateable, quirky little story. A short, but it packs a punch, and it’s even better as an audiobook read by Gaiman himself – those sultry tones heightened the atmosphere of the story tenfold. It’s one of those stories that don’t have a clear plot, don’t have a clear destination, but the journey is 100% one you want to be on with these characters, just seeing what happens next. Wonderful book, beautifully written, would recommend to anyone.

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2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018



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Most Anticipated Reads of 2020

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five.

But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.

N.K. Jemisin is a fantasy master. Her Broken Earth trilogy is critically acclaimed – each of the books has won the Hugo award for Best Novel, which I don’t actually believe has been done before. I’m really looking forward to something new from her – a bit of an urban fantasy which I haven’t seen before from Jemisin. And that premise sounds goooooooood.

Malorie by Josh Malerman

Say what you want about the film Bird Box, the book was brilliant. Easily the most terrifying book I have ever read (Stephen King, who?) and a cracking central character in Malorie.
As of right now, there isn’t much information on the plot of the story, save that Malorie takes “centre stage” in this novel (I mean, she did in the first one, but anyway). Regardless, I’m excited. And I’m more than ready for the next chapter in this horror-post-apocalyptic tale, where you must remain blindfolded to survive. Just don’t reboot the Bird Box Challenge, we’ve had quite enough of idiots walking out into traffic with sleep masks on, thank you.
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Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.

And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.

I feel like I have been waiting forever for Lori M Lee to bring us something new! I adored Gates of Thread and Stone, but that came out in 2014 and its sequel in 2015 – a five year gap is just cruelty! A fantasy spy novel is right up my alley, and I already know Lee can deliver. Just can’t wait until I get this one in my hands!

Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender

An ambitious young woman with the power to control minds seeks vengeance against the royals who murdered her family, in a Caribbean-inspired fantasy world embattled by colonial oppression.

I adore Caribbean-inspired fantasy; and this one feels like it’s ready and primed to rock my world. Magic, murder, manipulation and morally-grey characters? Sign me up, please!

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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will revisit the world of Panem sixty-four years before the events of The Hunger Games, starting on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games.

It’s the prequel none of us asked for but, let’s face it, the one we’re all going to read. Did the Hunger Games series need to be revisited? Probably not. Will Suzanne Collins deliver? I bet she will. The Hunger Games will always be a firm favourite of mine – to this day I’m still blown away with Collins’ story-telling ability. I think this prequel, with younger versions of characters we have already met, could easily be a great addition to the world. I think it’ll be a ‘fun’ survivalist read – just maybe we shouldn’t all take it too seriously.

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas

#1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas launches her brand-new CRESCENT CITY series with House of Earth and Blood: the story of half-Fae and half-human Bryce Quinlan as she seeks revenge in a contemporary fantasy world of magic, danger, and searing romance.

I have stalked Sarah J Maas’s Pinterest page for basically 85 years at this point and there has been some stunning book inspo pinned all over for absolute yonks now. Whatever this “Crescent City” board was, it intrigued & confused me for years until finally, many years later, the first book in the series will definitely, actually, 100% certainly and officially be releasing next March. Probably. And it’s an adult series. I’m so ready.

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho

A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.

I may not have read any Zen Cho yet (I know, shoot me), but I’m pleased as punch to be starting with this one. A wuxia fantasy – one I’m excited to read as I’ve only every watched wuxia, never read – slated to be brilliantly written with fab characters and touching themes of identity and self-love. And damn, I really want to know the meaning behind that cool-but-also-weird-and-overly-long-title. Summer 2020 cannot come soon enough!



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Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

“Months passed, winter easing gently into place, as southern winters do. The sun, warm as a blanket, wrapped Kya’s shoulders, coaxing her deeper into the marsh. Sometimes she heard night-sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land that caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.”

I was completely entranced by this story, in ways I never expected to be. It was memorable, both in character and in content, and though it was only a story about one little girl in one small part of the world, it swept me off my feet as if it were a saga. It’s books like these that prove stories do not to be epic in scope to pack a punch. You can still fall in love with a character and their journey, and that’s exactly what I did. If you’re a fan of utterly moving character-driven dramas a little bit à la Celeste Ng, Where the Crawdads Sing may be the book for you.

At the tender age of six, Kya Clark watches as her mother walks away from her family. One by one, the rest of the Clark family follows in her footsteps, elder siblings walking out of Kya’s life one day at a time. They leave Kya alone in a run-down shack with her father who negligent at best and abusive at worst. Kya is left to raise herself in the deep marshes of Barkley Cove, North Carolina, alone and unloved. What follows is a story of survival, of loneliness and human connection, the story of an innocent girl who did not deserve such a start in life.

“Alone for hours, by the light of the lantern, Kya read how plants and animals change over time to adjust to the ever-shifting earth; how some cells divide and specialize into lungs or hearts, while others remain uncommitted as stem cells in case they’re needed later. Birds sing mostly at dawn because the cool, moist air of morning carries their songs and their meanings much farther. All her life, she’d seen these marvels at eye level, so nature’s ways came easily to her.
Within all the worlds of biology, she searched for an explanation of why a mother would leave her offspring.”

I did not expect to love a story set in the depths of North Carolina marshland. The ‘deep south’ has never been an appealing setting for me, and still isn’t if I’m honest, but Barkley Cove seems to be the exception. These marshes are written as their own character, full of life and personality. They are as much of a part of the story as Kya is, and together they make a heart-melting duo.
Kya herself is one of those ‘good and pure’ protagonists. I wouldn’t say she’s fraught with complexity, she’s a very innocent and naive child entangled in a survival story, and that just makes her insanely likeable. She’s a kid surviving in the wilderness on her own, you can imagine what a satisfying read that is. I felt myself cheer when she prevailed, I felt my heart sink when she didn’t, and goddamn it I cried when she cried – and I do not let the tears fall for just any book, I can tell you.

At the crux of her story, though, is a murder mystery. Not a big one, it teases its way into the plot bit-by-bit. This is where the story fell short for me. I didn’t mind this crime-y subplot, but in the end I just felt like it could have been executed better. I found myself wishing it was either more ingrained in the story or just left out entirely, but that was really my own qualm about the book.

In all, a massively engaging read, and well-deserving of the accolades it has already received. I’d recommend picking this up if you are a fan of Little Fires Everywhere or The Great Alone, or if you’re looking for someone who inspires you to keep working hard, no matter the circumstances, and prevail when everything else seems against you.



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My Top 10 Most Anticipated Books of 2019

10. Teeth in the Mist by Dawn Kurtagich

Before the birth of time, a monk uncovers the Devil’s Tongue and dares to speak it. The repercussions will be felt for generations…
Sixteen-year-old Zoey has been fascinated by the haunted ruins of Medwyn Mill House for as long as she can remember–so she and her best friend, Poulton, run away from home to explore them. But are they really alone in the house?
In 1851, seventeen-year-old Roan arrives at the Mill House as a ward–one of three, all with something to hide from their new guardian. When Roan learns that she is connected to an ancient secret, she must escape the house before she is trapped forever.
1583. Hermione, a new young bride, accompanies her husband to the wilds of North Wales where he plans to build the largest water mill and mansion in the area. But rumours of unholy rituals lead to a tragic occurrence and she will need all her strength to defeat it.
Three women, centuries apart, drawn together by one Unholy Pact. A pact made by a man who, more than a thousand years later, may still be watching…

9. The Cerulean by Amy Ewing

Sera has always felt as if she didn’t belong among her people, the Cerulean. She is curious about everything and can’t stop questioning her three mothers, her best friend, Leela, and even the High Priestess. Sera has longed for the day when the tether that connects her City Above the Sky to the earthly world below finally severs and sends the Cerulean to a new planet. But when Sera is chosen as the sacrifice to break the tether, she doesn’t know what to feel. To save her City, Sera must throw herself from its edge and end her own life. But something goes wrong and she survives the fall, landing in a place called Kaolin. She has heard tales about the humans there, and soon learns that the dangers her mothers warned her of are real. If Sera has any hope to return to her City, she’ll have to find the magic within herself to survive.

8. Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose,” people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.
As Tracker follows the boy’s scent–from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers–he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?

7. Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.
A prince in danger must decide who to trust.
A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.
Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.
In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light.

6. Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

No one in modern-day Seoul believes in the old fables anymore, which makes it the perfect place for Gu Miyoung and her mother to hide in plain sight. Miyoung is a Gumiho, a nine-tailed fox, who must eat the souls of men to survive. She feeds every full moon—eating the souls of men who have committed crimes, but have evaded justice. Her life is upended when she kills a dokkaebi, a murderous goblin, in the forest just to save the life of a human boy. But after Miyoung saves Jihoon’s life, the two develop a tenuous friendship that blooms into romance forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s.

5. The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju, are best friends that come from very different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective, led by Young-sook’s mother. As the girls take up their positions as baby divers, they know they are beginning a life of excitement and responsibility but also danger.
Despite their love for each other, Mi-ja and Young-sook’s differences are impossible to ignore. The Island of Sea Women is an epoch set over many decades, beginning during a period of Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s, followed by World War II, the Korean War and its aftermath, through the era of cell phones and wet suits for the women divers. Throughout this time, the residents of Jeju find themselves caught between warring empires. Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, and she will forever be marked by this association. Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers in their village. Little do the two friends know that after surviving hundreds of dives and developing the closest of bonds, forces outside their control will push their friendship to the breaking point.
This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a world turned upside down, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children. A classic Lisa See story—one of women’s friendships and the larger forces that shape them—The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce and unforgettable female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.

4. Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.
Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.
Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant and alluring investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?
In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.

3. Crescent City by Sarah J. Maas

Set in a world where humans struggle to survive amid intricate hierarchies of demons, shifters, angels, and countless other magical creatures, Crescent City tells the story of half-human, half-Sidhe Bryce Quinlan. After the brutal slaying of her best friend, Bryce joins forces with a powerful warrior-angel to hunt down the killer, leading them toward a treacherous enemy that could destroy the fabric of their world. The series will feature an array of captivating new characters, including a spitfire heroine who will stop at nothing to avenge her friend and protect her vibrant city, an epic world on the brink of war, and Maas’ signature heart-pounding romance.

2. The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang

In the aftermath of the Third Poppy War, shaman and warrior Rin is on the run: haunted by the atrocity she committed to end the war, addicted to opium, and hiding from the murderous commands of her vengeful god, the fiery Phoenix. Her only reason for living is to get revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold out Nikan to their enemies.
With no other options, Rin joins forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who has a plan to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new Republic. Rin throws herself into his war. After all, making war is all she knows how to do.
But the Empress is a more powerful foe than she appears, and the Dragon Warlord’s motivations are not as democratic as they seem. The more Rin learns, the more she fears her love for Nikan will drive her away from every ally and lead her to rely more and more on the Phoenix’s deadly power. Because there is nothing she won’t sacrifice for her country and her vengeance.
The sequel to R.F. Kuang’s acclaimed debut THE POPPY WAR, THE DRAGON REPUBLIC combines the history of 20th-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating effect.

1. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.
The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

What are your most anticipated reads of 2019?



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The ads below help to pay for this website. If you can see them, thank you for not using an ad-blocker. If you’re a fan of my content and you would like to support a self-employed writer further, please feel free to share the love and buy your girl a coffee. The caffeine jolt may just get me through my final edits!
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