Book Review: Usha and the Big Digger (2021)

Usha and the Big Digger by Amitha Jagannath Knight

Around the world, different cultures see different pictures in the same stars.

OH. MY. GOSH. SO. FREAKING. CUUUUUUUUUUUUUTE. Every single page of this book was just so filled with joy and dance and cartwheels and stars. The artwork in this kind of reminded me of She’s Charmed and Dangerous, a card game I played when I was really little. Which is to say that I *adored* the artwork in this.

A great book about stars and perspectives for young kids!

Thank you Netgalley for the ARC.

Latest Additions to the TBR List.

Of Blood and Deceit by Rachel A. Collett

Magic runs in the Drakara bloodline. To seventeen-year-old Ilianna it’s a curse. Born a bastard and raised by an abusive uncle, she struggles to conceal her late-bloomed gifts, but it’s hard to hide when your uncle is king.

The kingdom of Eira recovers from over a decade of warring an overseas enemy. Ilianna trains from youth to fight in her uncle’s militia, to keep her people from the grip of the Wraith Queen, even if she’s feared by everyone except the one that controls her. When it seems that peace is assured, her uncle offers her up to be married to their neighboring realm. However, Ilianna has no intention of accepting and flees the king’s rule only to wind up captured by the very enemy she was promised to.

Prince Castiel, a powerful leader and cunning strategist, recognizes a disguised Ilianna the moment he sees her. When his strange prison guest does nothing but patiently wait for three long months, he forces her to make her move. Ilianna must tame her fears and control a rogue power before her uncle kills her for disobedience or worse, reclaims her and her magic.

A Handful of Souls by Stephen Rice

Mud, gold and lies. That’s all you get in Branera. You’ll find no better expert on these things than Lily Kale-Tollworth. Yet she has no clue of the events already in motion around her.

Weeks ago, a murderer with a bleeding grin was released from the Mountain Head. Lily doesn’t know this pale-skinned giant has been writing to her. She doesn’t even know he’s coming to find her. But as her father, Husker Tollworth feels like it’s his right.

Days ago, a tax patrol was slaughtered. Lily doesn’t know her brother’s corpse was pulled from a ditch, stolen by a man who can raise the dead. Lark Kale-Tollworth will follow this bizarre scholar to the Southlands. He will forget how many times he’s died.

Hours ago, an informant showed Lily’s stepfather an incriminating note. Branera has taxed its villages too hard. An uprising is massing in the Northlands – and they have a noose with Josef Kale’s name on it.

At this very moment, Josef is frantically packing their coach, while Lily is drinking whisky in a brothel. She’s met the arrogant idiot who will be their guide south. She doesn’t know he has a hollow soul, filled with thousands of spirits. She doesn’t know his mouth is filled with as many lies.

But if there are three things Lily’s good at, it’s mud, gold and lies.

Windborn by Alex S. Bradshaw

Drowning is only the beginning…

Edda Gretasdottir is a raider, a fell-handed shield-maiden, feared along every coast. Hers is a life woven in battle scars.

But she never wanted to walk the warrior’s path. All she wanted was freedom, to earn enough gold to buy her family their own remote farm, and to escape their oppressive chieftain. Now, she has enough plunder so that she can finally hang up her shield and live in peace.

That peace is stolen from Edda, however, when raiders burn her home, destroy all that she loves, and toss her, wounded and bleeding, into the ravenous ocean.

But the fates are cruel and this is not the end for Edda: she rises from the bloody surf as a Windborn, a cursed warrior whose supernatural gifts are a poor exchange for everything she has lost.

Fuelled by rage and armed with strange new powers Edda will hunt for whoever sent the raiders, for whoever is responsible for taking everything from her. She will show them the sharp edge of her axe… or die trying.

Windborn is a dark, character-driven Norse fantasy packed with emotion, deadly foes, and vicious battles.

Daughter of Flood and Fury by Levi Wallace Jacobs

Aletheia Vjolla is a walking heresy: a girl born with a man’s magic, she studies among the city’s revered monks only on the authority of her father, head seer of the temple. Already disliked for her gender and blasphemous magic, things fall apart when her father is deposed and murdered. Searching for answers to his sudden death, Aletheia stays on at the temple only by being the best—and by burying her grief in the quest.

It isn’t enough.

Enemies in her class bring her to the new head seer, who publicly sentences her to death while privately admitting he killed her father. Calling on those few loyal to her father, Aletheia manages to escape, but finds herself alone in a hostile city, unsure how to survive and unable to hide her heritage. Hunted by the temple and darker elements in the city, to vindicate her father she must first learn the lesson he couldn’t teach her: how to find the strength in her heresy.

Where the Waters Turn Black by Benedict Patrick

When gods and monsters battle, her music will not protect her…

What lurks beneath the waves?

The Crescent Atoll is a remote string of tropical islands, connected by long canoe journeys and a love of stories.

When Kaimana, a young ocarina player, discovers the lair of a taniwha – a legendary monster – she finds herself inspired. The song she is composing about their encounter will be her masterpiece, but her disturbance of the beast attracts the ruining gaze of the god of war. She must convince the taniwha to trust her if they are both to survive.

Where the Waters Turn Black is a standalone novel from Benedict Patrick’s Yarnsworld series. Inspired by the myths and legends of South Pacific island cultures, this book is perfect for those seeking fantasy stories with a hint of the unfamiliar.

Earthly Bodies by Susan Earlam

It is 2058. Rebecca, a widow, receives an invitation to leave Earth and start over, but nature has evolved and is tagging along for the ride.

Earthly Bodies is a dystopian eco-horror story that spans the ages, where strangers reveal their contribution to an extraordinary act of survival.

An artist ahead of his time crafts a new way of painting portraits, causing outcry and claims of heresy.
A military man becomes obsessed with growing something he found on manoeuvres far from home.
A lonely geneticist helps her brother with his plan to save humanity; secretly selecting humans to join a mission and escape a ravaged Earth.
Rebecca seeks a fresh start, away from her devastating loss.

Harmony with Nature is everyone’s wish. It’s time to be careful what you wish for.

Readers of speculative fiction and feminist horror will enjoy this novel.

Earthly Bodies echoes the visionary environmental scope of The Overstory and Annihilation, with the horror of Naomi Booth’s Sealed, and a structure more like Station Eleven. 

Highland Court Chronicles by Farida Mestek

Almendra Ravenlock, a seventeen-year-old ruler of the Upper Kingdom, has never set foot outside the grounds of the royal castle, believing that beyond its gates lies a deadly curse left behind by the same group of rebels that attacked her kingdom and sent her mother to her early doom fifteen years ago.

Isolated from the rest of the realm, with only her cranky granny and her loyal wolf for company, she waits for Prince Frederick of the Lowland Kingdom to come and set her free. There is a prophecy that strongly suggests that he is the one to win her heart and save her kingdom.

However, when an unexpected messenger arrives and tells her that the prince is at death’s door after an attempt on his life and that she is the only one who can save him, Almendra grabs at the chance to fulfill the prophecy on her own terms. As she travels through the realm with her wolf and her new friend, Almendra unearths a horrifying secret buried deep under the rebels’ lair, discovers that her life and her kingdom are in as much danger from them as ever, and that the prince she is determined to save might not be the one meant to save her or her kingdom after all.

The Roots That Clutch by A.E. Bross

Theia is an unforgiving world, one of sand and heat. There are no rains, and what water there is trickles from dying springs and wells. Those who control the waters control all. They are the god-kings. These tyrants of the last remaining city-states have shackled their subjects and depleted world, enslaving all by the might of their false divinity. Above all, they control thaûma—Theia’s magic.

For anyone on the desert planet unfortunate enough to possess the ability to wield thaûma—called thaumaturges—only indoctrination and servitude await them at the hands of the god-kings.

This is Tirzah’s curse. Tortured by a sadistic older sister and kept locked from sight by her sycophant father, Tirzah’s life is one of shame and cruelty. Even the awakening of her thaûma brings her no respite, and she is soon used as a “gift” to curry favor with the nearest of the god-kings. She narrowly escapes her bonds with the help of a member of the insurgent thaumaturge order known as the Shadow Collective. After the rescue, Tirzah finds a new life among the outcasts of Theia’s wastelands.

Yet the deserts are no place to hide, and before long the brutal realities of Theia threaten to shatter her fragile freedom, and drag her back into the shadows of the god-kings themselves.

Chasing Ghosts by Dean Cole

Haunted pasts. Terrifying apparitions. Dark secrets.

Quentin Strange is … well, strange. But it isn’t just his anachronistic sayings and dress sense, the fact that he’s a socially awkward, book-loving loner who’s possibly still a virgin at nearly thirty. He’s seeing and hearing things. Odd things. Ghostly things.

Getting the gig as photographer for The Cricklewood Gazette, he travels with his new partner, journalist Katrina (make sure you call her Kat) Brannigan, to Hilderley Manor, an enormous manor house nestled in the remote countryside of Northern England that is believed to be one of Britain’s most haunted buildings. The pair join a ghost hunting team and a group of fellow guests for a long weekend of ghostly activities.

But something dark haunts the draughty corridors of the house. And it links to a decades-old mystery that is about to be uncovered.

A mystery like no other. A story of the supernatural. Of death, and what it does to the living. The first book in a new series, Chasing Ghosts is a quirky British mystery that explores the supernatural elements of our world with touches of LGBT romance, humour and horror. 

Untouched by Jayme Bean

Dr. Julia Morrow and her graduate students, David and Marisol, embark on a research trip to explore a remote section of the Amazon rainforest. When their trails seem to change direction at will and they find themselves lost and without communication, the trio worry they may be in for more than just the latest scientific discovery.

Banding together, they’re left deciding which is more important – finding out how to escape the unexpected horrors lurking within the rainforest or getting back home in one piece. The deeper they travel into the jungle, the more they realize that some places are meant to remain untouched.

A Wind from the Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree

Hunted by demons. Lost in time.

Welcome to the First Crusade.

Syria, 636: As heretic invaders circle Jerusalem, young Lukas Bessarion vows to defend his people. Instead, disaster strikes.

His family is ripped apart. His allies are slaughtered. And Lukas is hurled across the centuries to a future where his worst nightmares have come true…

Constantinople, 1097: Ayla may be a heretic beggar, but she knows one thing for sure: nine months from now, she will die. Before then, she must avenge her father’s murder–or risk losing her soul.

Desperate to find their way home, Lukas and Ayla join the seven armies marching east to liberate Jerusalem. If Lukas succeeds in his quest, he’ll undo the invasion and change the course of history.

But only if he survives the war.

Only if his enemies from the past don’t catch him.

And only as long as Ayla never finds out who he really is.

The Murder Next Door by Sarah Bell

July 1912
Leeds, England

A man is found dead on his study floor and his now-missing wife is the obvious suspect. To their neighbour, Louisa Knight, it’s a shocking piece of news but nothing more. However, when she tells her ‘companion’ over breakfast, Ada Chapman nearly breaks their teapot and looks ready to run out the door.

For Ada watched Mrs Pearce leave from the window of her painting studio. A moment’s glance of a fearful face brings back old memories and gives her doubts.

As far as the more pragmatic Louisa is concerned, Ada’s determination to investigate is bound to lead them into trouble. Again. Yet Louisa’s curiosity cannot be denied, and as the pair delve deeper into their neighbour’s life what they uncover only clouds the issue further. The question soon becomes not just ‘Who killed Mr Pearce?’ but also ‘Does that person deserve to hang for it?’

Even if the couple can find the guilty party, will they be able to agree what should become of them? 

Has anyone read any of these? I’d love to know! 🙂

Book Review: Paper Castles (2021)

Paper Castles by B. Fox

Maybe the most beautiful things in the world are not meant to be owned or conquered or even touched. Like a rainbow or a starry sky, watching them is all you can do. And sometimes that’s enough.

\o/

Every time I find a new awesome author, I am basically Cookie in Atlantis.

There are so many wonderful lines in this book that need highlighting, but amongst my favourites are:

I always seem to be daydreaming, one foot in the ordinary and the other in an imaginary world. I’ve sat in this park countless afternoons, imagining things that I’d like to see and things that I’d like to build someday.[hard same]

&

I’ve gone from being excited about life to being afraid of it. [I know the feeling ;_;]

&

I have a weakness for monuments from old times. [ugh, yes, 100%]

&

A little fantasy never killed anyone, did it? ♡♡♡

The real world problems James faces are immensely, and painfully, relatable i.e. debt, your place in the world, love, family and loss. There were lots of really hard hitting moments that were almost too real. ;_;

This is a great first novel from Fox and I can’t wait to see what he writes next!

Book Review: Dancing in Thatha’s Footsteps (2021)

Dancing in Thatha’s Footsteps by Srividhya Venkat

Tapping quick adavus with his feet, shaping delicate mudras with his hands, and showing expressive bhavas with his eyes—everything about bharatanatyam filed his heart with joy.

This is a lovely story of young Varun, who is desperate to learn to dance and finds everything inspiring, but is made fun of by the girls at the dance school. His grandfather inspires him to dance and follow his dream. It’s super sweet and wholesome!

I really loved that Tamil dance terms are used throughout! It’s great learning new words. And there’s a helpful guide at the back for those looking.

I thoroughly adored this little book about acceptance and dance. Let all those who love to dance, do so!

Thank you Netgalley for the ARC.

Book Review: An Honest Man (2019)

An Honest Man by Ben Fergusson

❧ audiobook review

THAT ENDING THO

IT’S PERFECTION.

I didn’t think I was going to be okay with the ending. I was really, really worried about the ending for a second there.

This book is set at the end of the Cold War, in the heart of Berlin, as Ralf and Oz fall in love.

But of course, in the end, 1989 meant neither of those things. It just meant Oz and espionage – how grand that word sounds now. And, I suppose my family, and the terrible things we did.

Angst and espionage, you say?

(I’m not sure I ever recovered from the gut-punching angst that was London Spy, but sure, I figured let’s give 1989 yearning and secrecy a try.) This is another Joe Jameson narration, and it is a truth universally acknowledged that if Joe Jameson narrates a book, I will listen to it. (If you’ve been following my reviews, he’s one of my favourite audiobook narrators so far. He voiced The Prince of ThornsThe Last Romeo and The Magnificent Sons. Three amazing books, by the way. Deffo check them out!)

This book was a wonderful historical fiction about young love and family obligations. Fergusson’s writing is lovely and I’m so glad I gave this book a chance! Oz and Ralf are wonderful characters!

Also, his description of his mum at the start straight up gives me Sex Education vibes.

I really enjoyed this book and I’m definitely going to look out for more books by Ben Fergusson in future.

Book Review: 7 Days in Hell (2020)

7 Days in Hell by Iseult Murphy

“Run,” screamed the primal, fight or flight part of her. “Run before they eat you.”

I don’t read a whole lot of horror. (I still need to finish The Exorcist, which I’m like 1/3 of the way through.) But pitch me a horror novel (really, a novel, poem, song, etc) set in Ireland and I’m so there.

This book follows Vicky and Irene, twin sisters, and their dog Ronnie, as they take a sojourn to a small Irish town and quickly find far more than they bargained for.

DUN DUN DUN.

THINGS GET SCARY QUICK, M’KAY???

I loved how immersive Murphy’s writing is. There’s such great detail and atmosphere in the scene setting. She really paints a vivid, terrifying tale. Poor Irene, Vicky and Ronnie 😦

This is a book horror fans should definitely check out – and it appears there’s a sequel, too!

Show Review: Superstore (2015)

I love a lot of sitcoms: Friends, Schitt’s Creek, Raising Hope, Happy Endings, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, etc, so I’m always on the lookout for more good ones. One that I discovered in lockdown is Superstore. AND IT’S SO GOOD. There’s something truly special about this show, honestly. The plot follows a group of employees at an American superstore and the struggles they face trying to make ends meet and keep good humour in the face of tremendous odds. The plot lines focus on issues like immigration, minimum wage, health care, maternity leave, cost of college, and even the pandemic in the final season (which needs to be added to Netflix because I WANT TO SEE IT). But even when the topics are serious, the show takes a really wholesome, kind, honest stance on everything.

Like, I’m not sure there’s a nicer, kinder, sweeter character on television than Jonah Simms. Behold:

(gifs not mine; source.)

All of the characters are honestly great, though. Amy is so wonderful and inspiring and I JUST LOVE HER. Jonah and Amy’s relationship is straight up GOALS. Their first kiss is absolutely epic, too. Dina and Garrett are also a hilarious couple and their scenes are everything. Glenn, the manager at the start, is freaking hilarious and charming and so, so kind. Cheyenne and Bo always make me giggle. Mateo is so snarky and hilarious, too. It’s a show of simply likeable characters and you want good things for all of them.

Has anyone else watched this show? If you haven’t, you must!

Book Review: Jinnik (2020)

Jinnik: The Asset: A Cold War Memory by Gideon Asche

a soldier’s code to live by; a soldier’s code to die by

This story is set at the height of the Cold War, where tensions are running high between the US and the USSR. It reads like a memoir, although the epilogue notes that it’s historical fiction inspired by real events. There are also really interesting photographs included.

The atmosphere Asche sets draws you right in, especially with the added footnotes that give additional information, making this a good blend of fiction/non-fiction, both in the tale itself and in the presentation. There’s also impressive technical details, like car types and numbers, which went right over my head, but show the depth of Asche’s research and memory. There are also a lot of rough and brutal scenes that broke my heart, made me wince and were hard to read, and a few passages definitely made me cry, which says a lot about Asche’s storytelling abilities.

Definitely worth checking out!

Thank you to the author for the ARC.

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Film Review: Bad Samaritan (2018)

David Tennant and Robert Sheehan are two of my favourite actors, so of course I was excited to watch Bad Samaritan when it popped up on my streaming site. I didn’t really know what to expect, though. I didn’t read the summary or watch the trailer beforehand, so I wasn’t expecting David Tennant to be playing a serial killer called Cale Erendreich, who Robert Sheehan’s character, Sean Falco, gets on the wrong side of. For some reason I was expecting a horror-comedy, which this most definitely wasn’t! The movie got so gripping so fast!

*MINOR SPOILERS*

The plot follows Sean, a young man who has a side job of robbing rich drivers he valets for. When he steals rich guy Cale’s keys and goes to his house, he stumbles across a girl locked up. Sean immediately tries to free her, but he can’t get her out and she warns him that Cale has a camera on the room. Panicking, Sean leaves the house and returns to his friend at the restaurant, just in time to get the car back to Cale, who’s growing suspicious. Sean calls the police but Cale is two steps ahead of him. Determined to help her, Sean goes to the police station himself, and then the FBI. All the while, Cale’s figured out that Sean’s on to him and he’s moved the girl, Katie, and is doing his utmost to wreck Sean’s life.

I felt so awful for Sean’s girlfriend Riley throughout the entire film. Derek, Sean’s best friend and partner, is a great side character, too. Cale was a truly terrifying character, but David Tennant is such a great actor. Honestly. Robert Sheehan is as brilliant as ever and I really liked his character Sean.

This film is definitely worth a watch! It was very well written and directed, and I enjoyed the performances of the entire cast.