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!

Sunday, 20 September 2020

REVIEW: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's
Genre: Contemporary, Historical
Release Date: August 4th 2020
TW: Police brutality, Racism
Buy the Book: Book Depository

Los Angeles, 1992

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of high school and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

But everything changes one afternoon in April, when four police officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?
This story follows Ashley in the run up to leaving high school and takes place during the Los Angeles race riots of 1992, which began after the police who brutally beat Rodney King were acquitted. Up until this point, Ashley has remained in the safety of the bubble her lifestyle has created for her, In which she doesn’t join in with the other black kids in the school, she doesn’t stand up for change like her sister, and she doesn’t call out the words of her white friends.

At the start of this story, it’s fair to say Ashley is not a likeable character. With the friends she’s surrounded herself with and the blind eye she turns to the problems of others, she is a privileged teenager in a private school that her parents worked so very hard to get her into. The story is not just about the events that occurred that year, it’s also about how they changed people like Ashley for ever. Though she’s experienced racism before, it’s the riots that make her want to change things for herself and the people she cares about.

Who I love most in this story is Ashley’s sister, Jo, and I wish we’d have gotten to know more about her world. She’s separated herself from the lifestyle she grew up in and decided she can’t stand by and do nothing. Her attitude and determination is one of the most powerful parts of this book.

  • Learning about real historical events. As a kid in Britain, I wasn’t taught things like this in high school. It shouldn’t have to be the responsibility of authors to teach us about these events, but I’m so grateful to the writers who do incorporate real history into their books. It taught me a lot and encouraged me to do further reading once I’d put the book down.  
  • The writing style. I loved how the story went from Ashley’s present day to her recalling stories from the past. It was a perfect way to help us learn more about the side characters, like Lucia and Jo. At times, it could feel a little messy, but it worked well for the story.
  • Dropping toxic friendships and finding places to feel comfortable. We see examples of the everyday racism that Ashley faces from even people she considers friends. It’s inspiring to see her slowly realise that she doesn’t need all of these people in her life, and she is able to branch out and find people who respect her.

People will always need to read books like this. It’s not supposed to be comfortable; it’s here to make you listen and think. The Black Kids reminds us that we still need change. The real-life events in this story took place in 1992, and yet it’s eerily similar to what we’ve witnessed this year alone. We need to do more

Royal Rating:

Sunday, 6 September 2020

REVIEW: Loveless by Alice Oseman

Pages: 435
Format: Paperback
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: July 9th 2020
Buy the Book: Book Depository

Georgia has never been in love, never kissed anyone, never even had a crush – but as a fanfic-obsessed romantic she’s sure she’ll find her person one day.

As she starts university with her best friends, Pip and Jason, in a whole new town far from home, Georgia’s ready to find romance, and with her outgoing roommate on her side and a place in the Shakespeare Society, her ‘teenage dream’ is in sight.

But when her romance plan wreaks havoc amongst her friends, Georgia ends up in her own comedy of errors, and she starts to question why love seems so easy for other people but not for her. With new terms thrown at her – asexual, aromantic – Georgia is more uncertain about her feelings than ever.

Is she destined to remain loveless? Or has she been looking for the wrong thing all along?

As someone who is constantly calling out for books with asexual and aromantic rep, Loveless was easily one of my most anticipated reads of the year. Following new university student Georgia as she goes on a quest to fall in love, she slowly starts to realise that the romance she reads about in fanfiction might not be what she wants for herself. After several failed attempts at trying to prove that she can be attracted to someone, she must come to terms with the fact that her future is not going to look how she always thought it would.


When I say Georgia’s thoughts and feelings really hit home for me, I do mean it. She is everything I’ve needed as a character for a long time. Her journey is such an incredibly important one, especially as a character who discovers what asexuality is throughout the course of the book. It’s a reminder that there are so many people out there who might have heard the term in passing, but still don’t know anything about it. I’m so grateful to books like this for not only allowing asexuals to see themselves represented, but to educate people who might be confused about the label.

The friendship group in this book is WONDERFUL. A mix of different personalities, some who’ve been friends for years and others who’ve only just met, thrown together in the chaos of university, and it makes for such an entertaining story. Their relationships with each other tangle and get messy along the way, but it helps them to face the issues that have been tugging at them.

The bond that grows between Georgia and Rooney is much appreciated. To have completely different characters share a room and grow closer despite not having a whole lot in common is something I always enjoy reading about.

  • ASEXUAL & AROMANTIC REP. I mean it’s pretty obvious, but god did we need this book. Loveless seamlessly weaves important information into a gorgeous, character-driven story. I also adored how the book demonstrated that a person can be both aroace, but there is no ‘one size fits all rule’.
  • SETTING. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Durham through the eyes of Georgia. As someone who loves the aesthetic of old universities, I was all about this location. It did make me wish I was a uni student again though…
  • OLD & NEW FRIENDSHIPS. I enjoyed the mix of Georgia’s childhood friends and new people she meets at uni. Too often we see YA characters trade old friends for new ones in coming-of-age stories, so I appreciated how this story simply worked new friends into the current group. Yes, there’s drama, but the characters are able to work through it. 
  • RODERICK. Best fictional plant.

Easily one of my favourites from this year, Loveless delivers an adorable cast of diverse characters to root for whilst teaching us some important lessons along the way. Alice Oseman does a perfect job of making sure readers feel included and understood.

Royal Rating:

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