Book Review: The Stars Will Guide Us Back (2021)

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The Stars Will Guide Us Back by Rue Sparks

This is a collection of thirteen short, fantastical stories. I opted for the audiobook and I must say, I thoroughly recommend it! I’m supremely picky with audiobooks, and I’m delighted to say that Rue Sparks’ The Stars Will Guide Us Back was just wonderful! Lovely narrations by the two readers and exquisite prose by Sparks. I’m definitely going to be checking out Sparks’ next books.

Buddy read this book with The Book Trove. We’re hoping to shine some attention on independent books and authors. These books are picked totally at random and selected by vote amongst the group.

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Short Story Reviews: Battered Heart (2021) & On the Edge of Salt (2020)

Battered Heart by Maxime Jaz

Home. Tasting that foreign feeling word. Trying to forget that large house filled with sunshine and their love.

Oh, this short story was absolutely heartbreaking! It follows the last moments of an ending relationship and it’s just so shattering. Jaz writes wonderfully evocative characters that you just want to hug and protect. Definitely worth checking out!

On the Edge of Salt (Blood Brute #0.2) by Dixon Reuel

People might climb Holly Hill, might even pass through the ring of holly trees surrounding Owl Court. But nobody crossed that sacred boundary of their red brick wall. To Rise, it was an edge between worlds, marked by the coven with white, ancient salt rubbed deep into the brick foundations. Every dawn, the coven invoked a prayer in the Old Language to reinforce their sacred protection.

I haven’t read this series yet, but I saw the short story on my feed and it looked quite interesting, so I dove in face first like always with absolutely no context, haha. I really liked it!! Reuel’s writing is crisp and polished, and the characters are engaging. Very intrigued about the rest of the series! Definitely worth checking out!

Book Review: The Wolf and the Water (2020)

The Wolf and the Water by Josie Jaffrey

That was the point, of course: the people of Kepos didn’t understand that there was anywhere else to go. They were hemmed in by the cliffs, the wall and the sea. For as far as they could sail in their little fishing boats, there were only more cliffs and more sea.

Josie Jaffrey’s The Wolf and the Water takes place in a valleyed city inspired by Plato’s account of the island of Atlantis and has a lot of similarities to Ancient Greece. I’m used to reading Jaffrey’s vampires stories, so it was awesome to delve into another of her universes! In terms of genre, TWTW really reminded me of The Winner’s Curse in the sense of it being a fictional historical setting with a focus on the politics, engagements and troubles of city folk and the drama and machinations of those who want to rise higher and higher. Think Spartacus or Agora, with a new adult twist.

In Kepos, the story’s setting, our MC Kala is less than delighted by her mother’s remarriage after her father dies under questionable – at best – circumstances. Her new stepfather is abusive, murderous and disgusting. With the help of her life long friend, confidant and lover Melissa, Kala starts to delve into the mystery of her father and Kepos as a whole.

I adored Kala and Melissa, but Leon was a gem and a half. I just adored his characterisation. Can’t wait to get more of his banter in the next book ♡_♡

I also really appreciated the depth of the world-building in this tale and the detail Jaffrey put into developing the society and mythology. I did have a bit of a hard time keeping track of the names, titles and families, but there’s a helpful diagram at the start with all the family names and lineages.

Overall, I can’t wait to see where it all goes from here! Another Josie Jaffrey must read for sure!

Thank you to the author for an ARC.

Book Review Roundup

Tag and the Magic Squeaker by Sam Hundley

The illustrations in this book are made with scrap art and it’s honestly one of the coolest children’s books I’ve ever seen. The dog, cat and mouse are all made with different parts of metal, etc. I liked that the dog was made with a dog tag, haha. Very cute! The story is fun and endearing, too! Definitely worth a read!

Flower Crowns and Fearsome Things by Amanda Lovelace

never once has she felt as if
she’s interesting enough to be
the daring heroine of her own story,
& she’s oddly okay with that.
—she likes being nobody.

Amanda Lovelace is a new-to-me poet, but I’ve seen her works around. The covers are all cool and minimalist. I was instantly drawn in by the gorgeous cover on this one, too! The poems are short and punchy, focusing on loving yourself and putting yourself first. A good introduction to Lovelace for sure! I’ll definitely check out her other poems soon.

All The Colors of Life by Aisato Lisa

You feel like you don’t know the words to the song the grown-ups are singing.

Oh man. Oh man, this made me cry. I was not expecting this book at all. I picked it because the cover was really pretty. I was not anticipating the FEELS. It’s a long form illustrated book that contemplates the long winding road of life. That’s the best way I can describe it. Just give it a chance. Seriously. You won’t regret it.

The Little Lion That Listened by Nicholas Tana

Oh my, the artwork in this book is soooo good! I’m seriously impressed. Each page looks like a painting! The story is very sweet and wholesome, too! Little Leo is such a good listener and I liked how lovely and supportive his mother and siblings were.

His father was a bit frustrating, though. I do wish he apologised to Leo. It seemed like he was unsupportive of everything Leo tried to be, and only once Leo did what he wanted (roared), he accepted him. I didn’t like his characterisation much as a result. Kids should know their parents will love them even if they can’t reach a goal their parents want for them, so for a kids book, I’d want that scene of his father accepting him without him having to roar added in, you know? That’s my only nit-pick, though. The story is truly lovely and the art is gorgeous!

The Hiking Viking by Lauren Gehl

This has a similar message to another children’s book I just read, but it’s a very good one if done well: a young kid is different from their family and feels left out, the others learn to accept them for who they are, all is well by the end. It’s an important lesson for kids to learn and believe, and for adults to remember: there’s nothing wrong with being different from your family!

I really liked this book’s take: young Leif is a Viking who likes hiking. His father, mother and sister want him to train and fight so that their clan can win the Viking games! But it’s Leif’s appreciation for their homeland and all that they have which ultimately proves to be just as worthy as the ability to defend it.

I really liked that balance and the thought the book did it well. Given that it’s for a young age range, it’s short and sweet, but I do wish it had an extra page or two to draw out the ending. Just to give it that little bit of extra closure. That said, it didn’t detract from how much I enjoyed the book as a whole!

Overall this is a very cute, fun book! Definitely worth picking up! The artwork is absolutely precious, too.

Brian the Dancing Lion by Tom Tinn-Oisbury

Okay, this is simply lovely. A feel-good story of a lion who loves to dance and the fear he faces telling his friends about it. The reveal and twist are so sweet and wholesome. Cannot recommend enough!

Thank you Netgalley for the ARCs.

Children’s Book Review Roundup

Argyle Fox by Marie Letourneau

Okay, gosh, this is just adorable. We follow Argyle Fox as he tries, tries, tries, tries again to play outside with different toys and games, only to be thwarted by the blustery wind at every turn. Bless his heart!

This is great story about not giving up and the art is absolutely precious. Definitely recommend!

The Truth About Dinosaurs by Guido Van Genechten

This is super cute and very informative! It features a chicken explaining over various pages, and via cute little photo albums, their various dinosaur ancestors. I actually didn’t know all of the dinosaurs that chickens are descended from, so it was cool to learn more! Definitely recommend!

Olive and Ginger by Xenia Mesot

This is a lovely story about a toad and cat, and how they learn to consider things from different perspectives as well as learning to think before they speak. It reminded me of older stories with fables! The water colour artwork is simply gorgeous, and I liked how the book was set up in three acts, too. Overall very sweet and worth a read!

Gilbert the Ghost by Guido Van Genechten

The artwork in this story is absolutely lovely. The cover stole my heart and I immediately wanted to read it!

I thought this was a really cool take on ghosts! They aren’t dead people, but are born and go to Ghost School and learn how to haunt people. Ghosts that have learned to shriek loud enough, and spookily enough, are then sent off to become the resident ghosts of towns.

We follow young Gilbert the ghost who doesn’t like to scare people and doesn’t have a loud ‘Boo!’ and because of this, he’s ostracised at school. The (really horribly cruel) teacher sends him off to the Abandoned Tower because of this, where he meets a cat with whom he can be himself. Soon Gilbert is confident and chilling out with his cat friend and things get better.

I thought this was super cute, but I do wish it was a little bit longer and that maybe there was some resolve to address the teacher sending Gilbert away. He was just such a jerk and I wanted someone to address it with poor sweet Gilbert. Overall though, it was definitely a cute quick read for kids!

Thank you Netgalley for the ARCS!

Book Review: Paint Me Yours (2021)

Paint Me Yours by Rachel Bowdler

It hadn’t occurred to her that somebody might find beauty in her wobbly lines and accidental splatters. She didn’t know why. It wasn’t as though every painting, every artist, she had studied had been perfect. Perfect didn’t exist in the art world – and yet she expected it, had been taught to expect it, of herself. Why?

This is my first book by Rachel Bowdler and oooooh, it’s been too long since I read a good contemporary romance, this was just what I needed! ♡♡♡ This novella is short and sweet – a perfect summer read!

Benny was definitely my favourite character. My heart ached for him and I could not understand why everyone believed he was so awful. Like helloooooo, he’s fab. 🥰

I liked Eliza, but it frustrated me that she took so long to tell him the truth. I would have spilled that story from the get go. But despite my frustrations with Eliza’s hesitations, Bowdler had me rooting for them from minute one and I wish the book had been longer because now I want more :(((

Can’t wait to read another by this author! ♡

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Book Review: Untouched (2021)

Untouched by Jayme Bean

Paul once told me that it’s ‘inhospitable for anything other than the creatures that exist in the swamps.’

Untouched follows a small group of researchers as they embark into the Amazon rainforest. Things quickly become dangerous for the group when they realise that there’s more to the forest than they ever could have imagined.

“There are pirates, authorities that aren’t too keen on researchers like ourselves, and I’m sure we’ll come across villages who will be none too pleased to see us bringing foreign trash to their pristine wilderness.”

I’m so impressed by Jayme Bean’s debut novel! The rich imagery and detail is amazingly well actualised and the characters are excellently developed. David and Ben were definitely the highlight for me. OTP FEELS.

‘David could hear the smile in Ben’s voice. Normally, he would be pulling away and trying to avoid anyone being in his personal space, but Ben made him feel almost at ease.’

HEART EYES

This is a wonderful book and I definitely recommend it!

Also, love love love this:

“People say that, but they rarely mean it—bibliophile. They read three or four books a year and think they’re blowing through the library. Me? I feel like my entire life has been nothing but devouring books.”

Book Review: The Cracked Reflection (2021)

The Cracked Reflection by Terry Geo

“Once I’d gotten her to calm down a bit, she told us that her imaginary friend had punched her in the face and called her a bitch.”

Well, if that didn’t immediately give me the wiggins!

Imaginary friends, am I right? \o/

The Cracked Reflection moves along at a swift pace with a cracking dialogue. I do wish we’d had a bit more detail in some places, but as it’s a novella and teasing the larger story of book one, I have a feeling all my questions will be explained therein.

I can’t wait to dive into the next book and I think I want to reread this again after once I’m immersed in the universe! Can’t wait!

Book Review: To Be Taught, If Fortunate (2019)

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

I have no interest in changing other worlds to suit me. I choose the lighter touch: changing myself to suit them.

I got real Lost in Space meets Prometheus vibes from this novella, and I mean that in the best way possible. And oooooh, this story beautifully well written.

I haven’t read Becky Chambers before, although I’ve heard nothing but good things about A Closed and Common Orbit and the others in that series, but I haven’t had a chance to pick them up yet. I was delighted when I got To Be Taught, If Fortunate in a random selection of science fiction books from a local book shop. [Aside: It was super cute, they have an option of a surprise book set and ask you what genre you like and then they send three random ones. I also got The Chocolate War and Scythe, which I still need to read. Both also look great!

Firstly, the writing is fantastic and the philosophical questions posed are very thought provoking. I didn’t always agree with the characters’ choices and conclusions, but I loved how they were presented and argued. This is a book that really makes you think, consider, have patience. And I love books like that. There’s a huge focus on kindness, leaving no trace and seeking knowledge for knowledge’s sake, which I adored. I don’t know how I feel about the ending – but it did make me feel EMOTIONS. It’s the kind of ending that really sticks with you, which, again, I love.

It must also be said that the attention given to the planets and the focus on the different creatures was SO FREAKING GROOVY. Like, lads, the ‘rats’ are going to stay with me. Oh my gosh, the rats. The descriptions of their noises gave me chills. The sea world was intense, goodness. I also have a lot of thoughts on the stationary world. The way Chambers presented everything was brilliant, honestly.

If you’re a space fiction nerd like me, you will love this!