Tuesday, 23 February 2021

REVIEW: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Pages: 501
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Simon & Schuster 
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: September 15th 2020
TW: Grief, Racism, Abuse, Ancestral Trauma
Buy the Book: Book Depository

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.

I’m a sucker for anything Arthurian, so I was immediately drawn in by the concept of Legendborn, but this story completely reinvents the legend in a new and exciting way. It follows a secret society consisting of Knights of the Round Table descendants, and those who share a bloodline with Merlin. Bree finds herself sucked into their world as she attempts to find answers about her mother’s death, uncovering family secrets and abilities she never knew she had. From the very start, this story is action-packed and filled with twists.

I would happily scream from the rooftops about how much I love Bree. She is certainly no damsel in distress and absolutely does not stand for the bullshit of others. Her determination to find answers leads her down some unexpected paths, but she takes everything in her stride and does her best to help in each situation.

Predictably, I adore Sel. There’s a specific type of character that I always fall for. Moody, misunderstood, has a softer side that only shows when their walls are down, you know the type. Sel is one of those characters. I knew he was going to be a favourite almost immediately. I’m so excited to discover more about his past and who he is as a person.

There are too many wonderful characters for me to talk about, so let me just say that I can’t wait to see what happens next for them, and to see how their relationships with each other shift throughout the series. Though romance plays a part in this story, there is a huge amount of importance placed on friendship and the bonds of family.

  • Bree’s Grief. I first started reading this book back in October, but at the end of the month, as some of you might already know, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and passed away not long after. When I finally got back to books at the start of this year and picked up Legendborn again, Bree’s grief struck such a chord with me. I absolutely needed to read about a young woman trying to navigate the world after such a huge loss. I’m so grateful to stories that discuss grief openly, that show us we’re not alone in this pain.  
  • Important topics. Whilst the story deals with Bree’s trauma from loss, it also highlights the racism and microagressions that she faces as a black woman.
  • World building. What I love most about Arthurian Legend is that it can be spun so many different ways, and this book manages to achieve a completely new take, weaving in other areas of history along the way. Though there were moments when I felt a little overwhelmed with the sheer number of characters and information, I did enjoy getting to know each aspect of the world.
  • The magic. I’m fascinated by the magic system with Legendborn. It was interesting to learn about rootcraft, and how Bree’s ancestors differed in their use of magic from the Order.

Legendborn felt familiar and new at the same time. It’s the type of urban fantasy story that makes me feel at home in the pages because it reminds me so much of the YA stories that first pulled me into the genre. But the characters and the plot were refreshingly different. An exciting start to a series I can’t wait to read more of, I’m so glad I picked up Legendborn and that it was able to give words of comfort to me at a time when I needed them.  

Royal Rating:

Monday, 22 February 2021

BLOG TOUR: Jenny Downham’s writing process and emotional journey for Furious Thing

Hello, fellow bookworms! Today I’m excited to be kicking off the blog tour for Furious Thing, with a guest post from Jenny Downham about her writing process for the book!

I never plot books in advance.  I use freewriting techniques instead.  This is where you write continuously for a set period without worrying about where the words are taking you. Do enough freewriting in enough locations over enough weeks and months and a story begins to emerge and themes, characters and location begin to clarify.   

With Furious Thing, I simply started with the notion of scapegoating – where one person in a family gets blamed for everything that goes wrong.  It’s something that’s always fascinated me.   

I wrote about a golden family, then a 15-year-old girl, Lexi, who was ‘different’ from this family.  She says, ‘I’m an ogre compared to the rest of them.’  

Then her anger unveiled itself and I realised that families who scapegoat one of their children often have something to hide.   And that sometimes the scapegoated child refuses to accept their role.   

Once I’m sure of the story’s direction and tone I begin to work on ‘main event’ chapters.  These provide stepping-stones for the whole.  For instance, I knew I needed a scene where Lexi flouts family rules and has to face the consequences.  I wanted a scene where she feels desperately alone and another where she feels hopeful and loved.  I take these first draft chapters to my writing group for feedback.  It’s incredibly useful to have your story reflected back at you.  Early readers often see things you don’t know are there and want to see scenes you might not have considered including.   

I have to keep my emotional distance, otherwise there’s a danger the writing becomes indulgent.  It’s important that I can step into each character’s shoes and find their motivation.  This means that even though I might love Lexi and want her to triumph, I also have to understand the people who stand in her way and why they act the way they do.   

Lexi was great fun to write though.  She’s so impulsive and writing from the point of view of someone who doesn’t consider outcomes before they act is enormously freeing.  She might not be as academic as her siblings, but she’s emotionally eloquent.  She was constantly getting into trouble for creating chaos and I had to get her out of it.  I loved that about her. 

Huge thank you to Jenny for the wonderful post! Be sure to check out the other blogs taking part this week: 


Thursday, 11 February 2021

LGBT+ History Month: Why Maurice is my Favourite Classic

Since it’s LGBT+ History Month, I wanted to take some time to talk about my favourite classic author, E. M. Forster

When I started my blog, a whole decade ago, it wouldn’t have been dramatic of me to say that I hated classics. We had a complicated relationship throughout high school, so I turned my back on them as soon as I finished education. There were a few moments over the years when I thought maybe, just maybe, I could try again. But each time I picked one up, I never got past the first few chapters. I tried Austen and the Brontes, I tried famous ones and lesser-known ones, but none of them stuck. Not until I found my way to Forster. 

It was during Pride Month in 2015, when I was looking for some new LGBTQ+ books to read. I always tend to stick to YA, so I wanted to challenge myself to pick up something a little different. I came across a list someone had complied of LGBT books they thought everyone should try in their lifetime. Maurice was on there. As someone who was interested in the Bloomsbury set of artists and writers, I was well aware of who Forster was, but I’d never read any of his work because, you know, I wasn’t a classics person. But Maurice piqued my interest, so it was time for me to give classics another try. 

My local library didn’t have a copy, so whilst I was waiting for them to order it in, I picked up A Room With a View instead. I flew through it in days, happy that I’d found a classic that I actually wanted to keep reading. When I finally got my hands on Maurice a couple of months later, I dropped everything to start it, and I was completely unprepared for the emotional rollercoaster it was about to take me on. 

What’s especially important about Maurice is that it ends as happily as it could for the time that it was written. In Forster’s notes for the book, he spoke about how he couldn’t have published it during his time without ending it tragically. Two men content in living out the rest of their days together, romantically, just wasn’t an option, not even in fiction. But he was determined to give Maurice his happy ending, so the story stayed hidden for the remainder of Forster’s life. After his passing, laws had been changing, opinions were ever-so-slowly shifting, and Maurice was finally able to hit the shelves. 

Reading Maurice gave me a whole new appreciation for classics, especially ones that were ahead of their time, giving messages of hope to those who felt like the lives they wished for weren’t possible. It’s been fifty years since Maurice was published, and it’s still as important today as it was back then. It breaks my heart that Forster just missed out on living in world where his gay love story with a happy ending could be published for people to read and take comfort in. 

Forster’s stories reintroduced me to classics, and I’ll always be grateful for Maurice appearing in my life when it did. Even though it’s set during a time completely different to ours, there are feelings and opinions that are timeless in terms of how we relate to them. Maurice will always hold a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf, and it’s the perfect story to pick up during LGBT History Month if you haven’t read it yet!

Thursday, 14 January 2021

BLOG TOUR: First Day of My Life by Lisa Williamson

Hello, fellow bookworms! Today I'm excited to be taking part in the blog tour for The First Day of My Life by Lisa Williamson. 

Pages: 375
Format: Hardback
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: January 7th 2021
Buy the Book: Book Depository

There are three sides to every story... It's GCSE results day. Frankie's best friend, Jojo, is missing. A baby has been stolen. And more than one person has been lying. Frankie's determined to find out the truth and her ex-boyfriend Ram is the only person who can help her. But they're both in for a shock... EVERYTHING is about to change.

This story is told in three parts, from the perspective of Frankie, her best friend Jojo, and then her ex-boyfriend Ram. Jojo has been distant, and Frankie is determined to get to the bottom of it, but the theory she has in mind couldn’t be further from the truth. 

First Day of My Life begins in the present, when Frankie is picking up her GCSE results, but we get to go back and see how the whole story unfolded for the other characters. It managed to capture my attention super quickly, and I flew through it in just a few days. The element of mystery in the first half regarding the missing baby had me questioning whether everything was what it seemed. 

It’s no secret that I absolutely adore stories that focus on friendship. Friends can be some of the most powerful relationships in a person’s life, and those we make during our childhood and teen years can help shape us for the future. We get to see that the bond between Frankie and Jojo is one that gets tested and strained over the course of the book, but is strong enough to overcome even the biggest obstacles. 

With the characters being so different from each other, despite how close they are, it makes for a more unique reading experience during each switch in narration. It was especially interesting to get Ram’s perspective because whilst he’s connected to both girls, he’s still outside of their close-knit friendship.  

  • Addictive reading. Once I got started, I couldn’t put the book down! The element of mystery that revolves around finding out each character’s backstory kept me reading until I found out more.  
  • Relatable. There will be so many readers who can see a part of themselves in one of these characters. It brings up important conversations about family and friends, education and the future.  
  • UKYA. I just feel so at home between the pages of UKYA books, and it’s so important that we support them.  

There are plenty of little threads that weave together perfectly before the end of this story, leaving me satisfying with how everything was wrapped up. I ended up reading this during one of the most difficult weeks of my life, and it provided the little dose of escapism that I needed, so I’m grateful that I got the chance to pick this up!

Royal Rating:

Be sure to check out the fabulous blogs taking part in the rest of the tour:

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Looking Back on 2020

2020, huh? You don’t need me to recap how truly awful this year has been. We’ve had Covid in the news every single day for the whole year, and we all know how bad the situation is. Instead, I’m going to talk about my own bookish year and also explain why I’ve been so quiet for the past couple of months. 

TW: I’m going to be mentioning illness and the death of a loved one in this post. 

If you follow me on Twitter, then you might already know why I haven’t been posting much for a while. In November, my dad was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, the type that typically doesn’t show symptoms until it’s far too late to treat. A matter of weeks later, on December 12th, he passed away in hospital. I don’t want to talk too much about it right now because it’s still very raw, but it has completely turned my world upside down. 

My dad was only 57. He had to spend in final birthday in hospital, alone because of restrictions. I’m devastated, I’m angry, and it’s happened so quickly that I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. I’ve been finding comfort in books over the past couple of weeks and it’s helping to provide a much-needed distraction, but I don’t know how much blogging I’ll be doing over the next few months whilst I adjust to this new chapter in my life. My dad was my biggest supporter in everything I did, and I know I’m going to struggle without him, but I’m trying my best to keep doing the things I love because I know that’s what he’d want for me. 

Despite all of the hard times this year, I feel like I’ve achieved a lot in terms of reading. For the first time since 2016, I hit my reading goal. It wasn’t a huge goal, but I reached it. This year, I stopped putting pressure on myself to read certain books, to wish I had the latest releases, and instead focused on picking up books that have been sitting on my shelves for quite some time. I finally ticked some long-standing books off the TBR list, like The Cruel Prince and Vicious. I actively sought out more black authors and Own Voices stories. I discovered some wonderful UKYA gems, like Heartbreak Boys and Loveless. I delved into more genres and styles that I tend not to read as much of. 

Looking back at the goals I set for myself in 2020, the major one was to redesign my blog and make it more mobile-friendly. After years of trying and failing, I finally managed to create a design I love. It was a learning curve with a lot of frustration included, but I’m so happy with the result, and proud that I can tick this one off the list. 

Over on my booktube channel, I got back to video-making and managed to film some videos I’ve been meaning to tackle for a while. I finally posted a bookshelf tour after five years! I’m beyond proud of the content I created, despite everything that was going on in my life. 

In terms of 2021, I think this might be a year in which I don’t set myself specific goals to achieve. The past year has been so brutal that I’d rather just take each day as it comes. All I want is to discover exciting new stories and discuss them with other readers. I’d love to connect with fellow bloggers because I often feel quite lonely on my little corner of the internet, so feel free to drop me a message on Twitter any time. Other than that, I’m just going to let things be. 

What I hope for is that 2021 is kinder to us all. If you’ve lost someone or something over the past year, I’m so very sorry. I hope that the stories you read manage to give you some comfort and hope. 

What have been your top bookish moments from 2020?

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

BLOG TOUR: Review of The Game Weavers by Rebecca Zahabi

Today I'm thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for The Game Weavers! It's been one of my favourite reads from this year, so I'm excited to finally be sharing my thoughts. 

Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Publisher: ZunTold Books
Genre: Contemporary, Magical Realism
Release Date: October 25th 2020
TW: Homophobia, Abuse
Buy the Book: Book Depository

Seo Kuroaku has it all. Adopted as a boy by the formidable Sir Neil, he's the youth champion of Twine, the high-pressured national sport. Played in arenas where thousands come to watch, weavers craft creatures from their fingertips to wage battle against fearsome opponents. But this is a Britain of much darker times - and Seo is harbouring a secret. 

When he is outed, Twine can't help him. With the help of his little brother Minjun and Jack, the man he can't decide if he loves or not, Seo has to find a way to get his life back on track, whilst facing the biggest match of his life. 

In The Game Weavers, Rebecca Zahabi has created a fantastical yet hauntingly contemporary narrative which is both love story and fable - The Game Weavers is a coming of age story about the importance of intimacy, family and self-acceptance.

This book. Where do I even START? There’s nothing I love more than a story that takes place in a world parallel to ours, but twists reality ever so slightly. In The Game Weavers, everything is the same except for the existence of Twine. I’m so in love with the concept of Twine. It was what initially drew me towards the story in the first place. In this book, people are able to craft creatures via their hands using threads. Those who are talented at weaving can compete in Twine tournaments, which have the popularity and the fan base that football does in our own world. Twine consists of two players creating a battle ground and creatures that fight against each other. Whoever has the most ground at the end wins the game

Seojun is a professional at Twine and extremely popular amongst the fans. Borrowing from examples we see amongst our own popular sports’ fans, the viewers of Twine tend not to be accepting of minorities within the game, so when Seo is exposed for sleeping with men, his manager and fans react badly. The story follows Seo’s journey to accepting himself and discovering what he truly wants

One of the more beautiful aspects of this story is how character driven it is. Though there is a big focus on Seo’s sexuality and his growing relationship with Jack, a boy he hooked up with when he used to hide his identity on a dating app, the most important relationship in the story is that of Seo and his brother Minjun. Due to Seo being quite a few years older than his brother, the contrast between their chapters is perfect for showing us how the events vary through their eyes. It’s their bond that helps both of them progress through the story, eventually allowing Seo to realize what’s important to him, and how Twine shouldn’t threaten that. 

We also have chapters that follow Jack throughout the story, and I enjoyed getting to see his side of things as someone who was completely outside Twine. His life is so very different to Seo’s, and he’s an important part of helping Seo to realise that he shouldn’t have to sacrifice his personal life and disregard his own happiness for the sake of his career. 

  • TWINE. In terms of the various fictional sports I’ve read about in the past, Twine has got to be on of my favourites. IT’S. SO. INTERESTING. Whilst the story itself read like a contemporary, Twine provided an interesting fantasy twist. It was described so vividly that every game played out like a movie in my head. 
  • CHARACTERS. The side characters are just as interesting as the main characters, especially Seo’s main rival. Do they have flaws? Yes. Does that only make them a more interesting character who you root for to work through their problems? Absolutely. 
  • DETAILS. There are so many little things in the background that help this story feel truly authentic. At one point there are protestors who think the weaved creatures have feelings and that Twine is cruel. It’s only mentioned in passing but it made me question whether they did. Small details like this help immerse us in the world even more. 
  • ATMOSPHERE. Whilst this book can be heartwarming, it can also be chilling too. Seo’s relationship with his manager, Sir Neil, had me on edge a lot of the time. And I also found it terrifying how in this world, acceptance towards the LGBTQ+ community had regressed. We are always so close to out own world taking steps back, and we’ve seen examples of just how much over the past couple of years, so it hits painfully close to home. 

The blurb for this book immediately called out to me with how interesting the concept was, but I didn’t expect to utterly adore it as much as I did. Injecting a little bit of everything, Rebecca Zahabi is a master at twisting the reality we know into something new and exciting. The Game Weavers is easily one of my favourites from the year so far.

Royal Rating:

Be sure to check out the fabulous blogs taking part in the rest of the tour:

Saturday, 31 October 2020

5 of my Favourite Villains 🎃

Happy spooky day, my fellow book lovers! I hope you’ve all enjoyed some creepy or autumnal books in the run up to Halloween. This past month has been a difficult one for me, so my reading motivation has been practically non-existent, which means I haven’t been able to update my usual list of Halloween reads. 

So for this year I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite villains instead! Whether you hate them, love to hate them, or just plain love them, villains are a huge part of a story. Whether it comes in the form of a magical being or a personal problem, our much-loved characters always have to fight against something. 

I’m always a sucker for a well written, in-depth villain, so here are just a few of the ones that have managed to shake me to the core.

The Darkling from Shadow and Bone

Listen, I’m not one of those people who defends his actions (i’m looking at you, Darkling stan twt) but he is undeniably a top-tier villain. I also think he’s one of the most interesting characters in the Grisha Trilogy because *dramatic pause* I find the other characters a little boring. Six os Crows is the superior Grishaverse story and I take no criticism on this opinion. 

The Wood in Uprooted 

Yes, a literal wood. Though the wood is only acting the way it does because it has been corrupted by people, we still spend the majority of this book fearing some damn TREES. It’s genius and refreshing, and absolutely one of the reasons why I love this book so much. 

The Mage from Carry On 

This book is genius in that it has you fearing the Insidious Humdrum throughout the story, only for the Mage, the character you feel like you should trust, to be an absolute snake. He’s the cliché man who thought he could change the world because his ideas were superior but the way the plot unfolds makes for such a rollercoaster of emotions.

Eli and Victor in Vicious 

Eli is trash, so jot that down, but let’s talk about Victor because I LOVE talking about Victor. He is a villain in his own right because he absolutely contributed to both the state he’s in and the mess that Eli caused in the first place. But he’s also the hero of the story. Not a hero in general, but the one who is fighting for justice in this particular situation. It’s such an interesting dynamic. 

Jonathan Morgenstern from The Mortal Instruments 

My favourite villains are usually the ones who have some redeemable qualities. Sebastian has precisely none. And yet he’s still one of my favourites for how genuinely terrifying he is. The scenes in City of Lost Souls in which he attacks Clary are some of the most uncomfortable moments in the whole series for me. He truly makes my skin crawl. 

Who are your favourite villains? Let me know in the comments!

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