Book Review: Gathering of the Four (2021)

Gathering of the Four (The Serrulata Saga #1) by A.E. Bennett

Gathering of the Four is the first book in A.E. Bennett’s Serrulata Sage and is set in the Realm, a futuristic place where Xanthcraft, a sort of magic, exists. Those who wield Xanthcraft have different skills and abilities that are natural to them. This is a big book, coming in at over 400 pages, and I really wish I’d read it in paperback! I handle big, fantastical books better in paperback, so this is definitely going on my will-be-reread list for sure! ebooks are great, but for big fantasy, it takes me a long time to sink in to the story and I have trouble doing that without a paperback. ANYWAYS, I digress …

“But outside of the Realm, if they follow the calendar of the Ancients, it’s 4385.”

I really appreciated this line, as it gives you a sense of how far into the future the Realm is and how much things have changed. When Leora learns that her stepmother and her father plan to sell her into ‘servantry’, she runs away. She soon meets Roland Shallowbrook and the pair become fast friends.

“Before New Market, I thought—and I know this is so silly but—I thought I was the only one. I knew it wasn’t true, but I’d never seen anyone else with eyes like mine. And then I saw Xanthi in New Market, and now I’ve met you and, well…it’s been very nice.”

We get other characters and POVs as well. I really enjoyed the relationships Bennett develops between the characters and the world-building of the Realm. Each character comes from a very different place and you get to spend time with the characters before their paths and storylines start to collide. One of the romances took me by surprise in the best way, too. BUT I SHAN’T SPOIL! 😉

Each chapter also begins with an excerpt that adds to the worldbuilding and I seriously loved them. You start to get proverbs from the Realm towards the end of the book that were wicked cool.

The Capitol is not an easy building to navigate. Different wings were constructed at very different times throughout the Realm’s history, and it doesn’t take one long to figure out that each new wing was built without a care for what already existed. I do not recommend wandering around alone.

The setting reminded me of The Hunger Games and the Shannara Chronicles in the sense that it feels both new and old. This is only book one and I’m so curious to see where Bennett takes the storyline!

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: 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 Murder Next Door (2021)

The Murder Next Door by Sarah Bell

sapphic. mystery. 1912.

I don’t read a lot of historical mysteries (Agatha Christie would not be impressed), but the description was just so intriguing and I’m on a costume drama roll~ television wise at the minute. (Cable Girls, yo! More historical lgbt+ awesomeness!)

Right, so The Murder Next Door follows Louisa and Ada throughout 1912 as they try to solve the mystery of, yanno, the murder next door!

Bell’s writing and attention to detail shines throughout – very impressive for a debut! What I loved most, though, was seeing historical moments through a new perspective.

Sexology texts. All the theories she’d gathered to try to understand her lack of sexual interest. A search that only intensified when she first met Ada and realised she was falling in love but still with none of the subsequent desire attached.

I love this quote. So. Much.

It’s things like this that remind you why rep is so important. It reminds me of this timeless quote, actually:

So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone. – Roald Dahl.

Bell’s on page representation is just amazing, seriously. \o/ You can really feel how much Bell cares about her characters and the nuanced and kind way she approaches them, not to mention how well she draws you into their world.

For those who like historical fiction and crime solving ladies, check this one out!

Character Art for These Violent Nights [Thorn/Kol + Lucien/Nik]

My new fantasy novel These Violent Nights now has some fantastic character art for the main couples, drawn by the wonderfully talented Libra Illustrations. (Go check out her website!) I’ve imagined these characters in my head for so long that seeing them drawn for the first time is just absolutely amazing!

Meet Thorn and Kol, and Nik and Lucien!

[Goodreads | Amazon]

Book Review: Caught Inside (2016)

Caught Inside by Jamie Deacon

❧ audiobook review

Another Joe Jameson narration and an absolute find. [Other great Jameson narrations I’ve reviewed are: An Honest ManThe Prince of ThornsThe Last Romeo and The Magnificent Sons.]

THIS BOOK IS SUCH CUTE ROMANCE, UGH. ❤❤❤ Luke and Theo are fantastic together and so adorable. They have such good chemistry, it’s insane.

This is a perfect summer romance read! Beaches and new love. And the constant surfing descriptions just made me think of Shelter.

Totally a compliment, FYI. I adored this book so much. Jamie Deacon’s writing is so evocative and lush and lovely.

*SPOILERS BELOW*

This book totally stole my heart. That said, despite how shippable Luke and Theo are, I do feel bad for Zara. She really deserved much better than everyone keeping secrets from her. Giles was such a prick at pretty much every point, although he was a good friend to Theo.

Really hard not to picture Rupert Giles:

But this Giles was decidedly less Watcherly. I got so annoyed at him throughout the book. He’s a good character, though, so there’s that.

One of the things I loved, but found myself shaking my head and laughing at, was how Luke is so DRAMATIC. He ought to get an award for epic overreactions, yet he’s written so well and so sympathetic, that even when he is a DISASTER, you end up rooting for him. I really adored Theo, too, although a lot of his decisions left me so frustrated.

Meredith is definitely a queen ❤

[Audiobook Rec] Caught Inside (2016)

I came across a great audiobook yesterday for anyone who is looking for recommendations. It’s by one of my favourite narrators, Joe Jameson, and is a contemporary lgbt+ romance.

Caught Inside by Jamie Deacon

Luke believes he has his life figured out…and then he meets Theo.

It should have been simple—a summer spent with his girlfriend Zara at her family’s holiday cottage in Cornwall. Seventeen-year-old Luke Savage jumps at the chance, envisioning endless hours of sunbathing on the private beach and riding the waves on his beloved surfboard. He isn’t interested in love. Though his rugged good looks and lazy charm mean he can have his pick of girls, he has no intention of falling for anyone.

Nothing prepares Luke for his reaction to Theo, the sensitive Oxford undergraduate who is Zara’s cousin and closest friend. All at once, he is plunged along a path of desire and discovery that has him questioning everything he thought he knew about himself. No one, especially Zara, must find out; what he and Theo have is too new, too fragile. But as the deceit spirals beyond their control, people are bound to get hurt, Luke most of all.

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.

Indie Bites Vol. 2: Mermaids & Mythology OUT NOW!

The stories are free online to download in epub, mobi or pdf format; you can purchase the paperback here and the stories are also being released in podcast!

Graphic Novel Review: Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms (2021)

Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier, illustrated by Val Wise

Synopsis: Annie is a smart, antisocial lesbian starting her senior year of high school who’s under pressure to join the cheerleader squad to make friends and round out her college applications. Her former friend BeeBee is a people-pleaser—a trans girl who must keep her parents happy with her grades and social life to keep their support of her transition. Through the rigors of squad training and amped up social pressures (not to mention micro aggressions and other queer youth problems), the two girls rekindle a friendship they thought they’d lost and discover there may be other, sweeter feelings springing up between them.

Awww, this is such a cute graphic novel about two cheerleaders falling in love! Adorable. The artwork was bright and cheerful and the representation was wonderfully done, I must say. Definitely worth a go for anyone looking for a cheerful tale of love and pompoms! ❤

Thank you Netgalley for the ARC.