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    Criers War: Review + Favourite Quotes

    Criers War: Review + Favourite QuotesCrier's War by Nina Varela
    Published by HarperTeen on October 1st 2019
    Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
    Pages: 448
    Format: eARC
    Source: Publisher
    Purchase from: Amazon
    Add to Goodreads

    After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

    Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

    Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

    Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.

    If you’re looking for an F/F fantasy then look no further because I have the book for you! Packed with revenge, betrayal and socio-politics, Crier’s War is an alternate future where alchemists have crafted Automaes, a species of mechanical beings who rise to power and enslave humanity.

    Crier is an Automade and the daughter of Hesod, the sovereign. Built to carry his powerful legacy, she’s betrothed to a man who promises to help hone that power for the both of them. However, a possible flaw in her design alters her disposition towards humans.

    Ayla is a human girl who’s had everything taken from her by the Automades. Obsessed with getting her revenge against the tyrant Hesod, Ayla works as a servant at the House of Sovereign, bidding her time until she can kill Crier.

    Things start to get interesting when instead of killing Crier, Ayla saves her life. Crier offers her an opportunity of a lifetime: to become her handmaiden, a position of high honour for humans. And what comes after is the slowest, most angst-filled enemies to lovers story between two women of colour! Are you buzzing yet? Because you should be. (The handmaiden / lady dynamic seems to be the trend for sapphic romances at the moment or maybe I just haven’t read enough of them yet).

    Though a little hard to get into a first, the worldbuilding is on another level. When you consider that this is a debut… that level grows ever bigger. Varela poses the question of what it means to be human, what it means to be alive, and what it means to have free will.

    All in all, this is a truly excellent debut and I am already itching to get my hands on its sequel.

    Trigger warning: war themes, abandonment, blood, animal death/gore, violence, loss of loved ones

    Representation: lesbian MC’s, f/f romance, #ownvoices author

    Favourite Quotes

    “It was never really a choice, was it? Wanting her. Killing her.”

    “A thought came to her: a story of its own, one that only just began writing itself in her mind: a story of two women, one human, one Made.”

    “Like she was more than a human girl. Like she was a summer storm made of flesh.”

    “Crier was beautiful. Created to be beautiful, but it was more than that. […] It was the way her eyes lit up with interest, the way her fingers were always so careful, almost reverent, as she flipped the pages of a book.”

    “A drop of water gleamed on Ayla’s lower lip. Strangely, it made Crier want to–drink.”

    Meet the Author

    Nina Varela is a nationally awarded writer of screenplays and short fiction. She was born in New Orleans and raised on a hippie commune in Durham, North Carolina, where she spent most of her childhood playing in the Eno River, building faerie houses from moss and bark, and running barefoot through the woods. These days, Nina lives in Los Angeles with her writing partner and their tiny, ill-behaved dog. She tends to write stories about hard-won love and young people toppling the monarchy/patriarchy/whatever-archy. On a related note, she’s queer. On a less related note, she has strong feelings about hushpuppies and loves a good jambalaya. CRIER’S WAR is her first novel. 

    You can find Nina at any given coffee shop in the greater Los Angeles area, or at www.ninavarela.com.

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    Kingdom of Souls blog tour: Review + Favourite Quotes + Giveaway

    Kingdom of Souls blog tour: Review + Favourite Quotes + GiveawayKingdom of Souls by Rena Barron
    Series: Kingdom of Souls #1
    Published by HarperTeen on September 3rd 2019
    Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
    Pages: 496
    Format: eARC
    Source: Publisher
    Add to Goodreads
    Rating:

    Magic has a price—if you’re willing to pay.

    Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. But each year she fails to call forth her ancestral powers, while her ambitious mother watches with growing disapproval.

    There’s only one thing Arrah hasn’t tried, a deadly last resort: trading years of her own life for scraps of magic. Until the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, and Arrah is desperate to find the culprit.

    She uncovers something worse. The long-imprisoned Demon King is stirring. And if he rises, his hunger for souls will bring the world to its knees… unless Arrah pays the price for the magic to stop him.

    This is the West-African inspired fantasy we all deserved!

    Deeply complex and rich with magic and deception, Kingdom of Souls is a deliciously dark take on African mythology. Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah is desperate to come into her powers and perform magic. But after years of failure, Arrah is willing to try one last thing to get what she wants: trade years of her life for magic. Naturally, all is not what it seems. When children start disappearing, Arrah is transported on a dangreous journey where she must discover who and what she is.

    You’re intrigued, right? Strangely enough, this book reminded me of Northern Lights by Philip Pullman until things took a very dark and interesting turn when who and what had the children was revealed. That was when I felt truly hooked on this book. It opened a very interesting dynamic between Arrah and another character (who I shall not name for fear of spoilers), and opened one hell of a shit storm that would be the second half of this book. At this point, I was rubbing my hands together thinking, ‘at last! Some real excitement!’

    My main issue with Kingdom of Souls was the pacing (and the ending). There was a lot happening in this book that dragged when it shouldn’t have. There were demons, blood sacrifices and evil creeping at every corner but it lacked conviction in places – particularly the middle. And then there was the end… what a lacklustre and confusing mess that was. After all the grand reveals were made, it had felt like we’d met a natural conclusion a number of chapters before the end. Everything after that felt like an attempt to stretch this book into a series.

    With changes to the ending, Kingdom of Souls could easily have been a (much improved) standalone. I’m not sure how keen I am to see where the next book goes because I didn’t care much for this particular villain… but it’s likely that I’ll read it all the same.

    All in all, Kingdom of Souls was an exceptionally fleshed out and dark tale of sacrifice, magic and relationships. Although it takes time to feel invested, it’s definitely worth it! The twists and turns will leave you wanting to turn the pages for more.

    Triger Warning: blood sacrifice, parental abuse, death of a child, deception used to have sex

    Favourite Quotes

    Picking my ‘favourite’ quotes from this book was a hard task because this book wasn’t written in a way that was particularly beautiful or quote worthy. There was no poetic purple prose. It used its basic functions to tell the story in the least descriptive way possible and that was that. Having said that, there were the odd bits here and there that I could pick out (mostly towards the second half of the book)….


    “I’m falling, falling, falling through stars.”

    “I am nowhere and everywhere at once. I am no one and everyone.”

    “The ground shakes beneath my feet, and I descend upon my sister like a raging firestorm.”

    “Fire tears through me and awakens the voices. They whisper of thunder and lightning. They whisper of firestorms. They whisper of murder.”

    “Before the Orishas, it created order and chaos. From order came time, and from chaos came life and death. The whispers in my head are so feverish that they make me feel like I’m falling into the Supreme Cataclysm too.”

    Meet the Author

    Rena Barron grew up in small-town Alabama where stories of magic and adventure sparked her imagination. After penning her first awful poem in middle school, she graduated to writing short stories and novels by high school. Rena loves all things science fiction, ghosts, and superheroes. She’s a self-proclaimed space nerd. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading or brushing up on her French. Follow her at @renathedreamer and renabarron.com.  She is represented by Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.

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    Poet, Diplomat, Politician: Pablo Neruda and I

    This piece was first published on Proofed, a Boydell and Brewer blog.

    Poetry arrived in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where it came from, from winter or a river. I don’t know how or when, no, they were not voices, they were not words, nor silence, but from a street I was summoned […] there I was without a face and it touched me.”
    – Pablo Neruda, Poetry.


    There is a beauty in poetry that is not often found in books. Wild, explosive and untamed, poetry is like a painting made of words. It allows us to see the world in varying technicolour, rich with imagery and feelings of belonging or alienation, love or loneliness, fear or happiness. Language almost becomes magical.

    I have spent many years at high school, university and beyond reading and loving poetry. Trying to read as widely and voraciously as possible. I have adored many poets in my short lifetime: Lord Alfred Tennyson, W.B. Yeats, Edgar Allan Poe, John Keats to name a few but Pablo Neruda has always been amongst my favourites.

    Regarded as the greatest poet of the 20th century, Pablo Neruda is a complicated man with a complicated history. Born Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, Neruda’s literary career began early, at the age of 13, with contributions to local publications and journals. His father’s disapproval of literature and poetry (believing poets to be ‘cissies’) drove the young Basoalto to write under the pseudonym of Pablo Neruda, which he officially adopted in 1946 after his father’s death.

    Selling his belongings to publish his first book, Crepuscularia, in 1923,Neruda would go on to publish what would become his most popular collection at the age of 20, Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada (Twenty Love Poems and Song of Despair). Euphoric and sorrowful, this collection mixed adolescent thoughts of love and sex with descriptions of the Chilean wilderness. Despite its critical acclaim, it faced years of censorship for its eroticism. Today it remains one of the best-selling Spanish poetry books almost 100 years after its initial publication.

    Neruda’s body of poetry is so rich and varied that is defies easy summary. He explored themes of love, time, destruction and loneliness in all its varieties. His poetry filled with both harmony and anguish, also raged with political energy, ideas of social decay, isolation, alienation, communism and oppression. The Uruguayan critic and poet Eduardo Milan believed that “Neruda is, at the least, two: the author of Residencia en la tierra and the author of the rest of his work”.

    Neruda at his core is a Romantic, however, his experiences as a diplomat and affiliation with the Communist party greatly influenced his later works. He came to believe “that the work of art and the statement of thought—when these are responsible human actions, rooted in human need—are inseparable from historical and political context,” and began to use his work to advocate for social change. This was most evident in Canto general, a Whitmanesque attempt at reinterpreting the past and present of Latin America, detailing man’s struggle for justice in the New World.

    In celebration of Pablo Neruda’s 115th birthday, I share a few of my favourite poems:

    EVERY DAY YOU PLAY…

     “My words rained over you, stroking you.
    A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
    Until I even believe that you own the universe.
    I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells, dark hazels and rustic baskets of kisses.
    I want
    to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.”

    I’d accidentally stumbled across this poem or more accurately, the last sentence whilst I was browsing through quotes on Pinterest a few years ago. There was a purpose to it, I assure you. The line in question was: “I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees” and it remains the one singular line of Neruda’s poetry that I remember word for word and my favourite. I love the sentiment it conveys, this idea of helping your significant other blossom into something exquisite.

    Who would have thought that one session on Pinterest would have led to me reading as much Neruda as possible? Not me.

    Want to read a full version of the poem? Every day you play… can be found online here.

    One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII

    “I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,   
    I love you directly without problems or pride:
    I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
    except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
    so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
    so close that your eyes close with my dreams.”

    I have yet to read Neruda’s full collection of sonnets (even though I’ve been itching to) but Sonnet 17 is one that has always stuck with me. Quiet and intense, uncomplicated and overwhelming, this poem is naked in its honesty. It’s a poem about a love forged so deep, the lovers cease to be two separate beings but one.

    Want to read a full version of the poem? Sonnet XVII can be found online here.

    Walking Around

    “It happens that I am tired of being a man. 
    It happens that I go into the tailor’s shops and the movies
    all shrivelled up, impenetrable, like a felt swan
    navigating on a water of origin and ash.”

    I was surprised when I first read this, as with many others included in my copy of Selected Poems, published by Vintage Classics. It’s easy to forget that Pablo Neruda wrote more than just love poetry if you didn’t know any better.

    Originally published as part of Residencia en la tierra (1935), Walking Around dramatizes the conflict between man and society. The poet is tired of entering urban spaces transformed by technological advancements leaving him detached from nature and the physical world.

    Want to read a full version of the poem? Walking Around can be found online here.

    Tonight I can write…

    “Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
    To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

    To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
    And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.”

    There is something inexplicably beautiful about sad love poems. Perhaps it’s simply the process of taking one’s pain and crafting something precious and heart-wrenching out of it that makes it so appealing. Simple yet exuberant in its melancholy, Tonight I Can Write… explores the theme of yearning and the narrator’s eventual acceptance of his lover’s absence.

    Want to read a full version of the poem? Tonight I can write… can be found online here.

    Do you have a favourite poem by Pablo Neruda?

    Let me know your favourites in the comments below.

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    Spin the Dawn Blog Tour: A Review

    Spin the Dawn Blog Tour: A ReviewSpin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
    Series: The Blood of Stars #1
    Published by Knopf on July 9th 2019
    Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
    Pages: 400
    Format: eARC
    Source: Publisher
    Purchase from: AmazonBook Depository
    Add to Goodreads
    Rating:

    Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

    Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she'll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There's just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

    Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia's task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

    And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor's reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

    Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

    I received this book from the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review and forms part of the ‘Spin the Tour’ blog tour hosted by The Fantastic Flying Book Club.

    Spin the Dawn caught me by surprise. It’s Mulan meets Project Runway which meant two things: excitement over what essentially is a Mulan retelling and a loss of that excitement when I realised the central theme would be clothing. If there is ever a ‘type’ of Young Adult book I avoid like the plague, it’s the ones where clothing becomes a core part of the storyline. But like I said, Spin the Dawn caught me by surprise. This book was so much more than clothes. It was a book about magic, love, family, quests, freedom, compassion.

    In this sweeping fantasy, Maia Tamarin has a dream of becoming the Imperial Taylor of A’landi but her gender works against her. The Imperial Taylor must be a man. In the aftermath of war, Maia’s father, a renowned tailor in his own right, is summoned by the royal court to compete for the title of Imperial Taylor and clothe the Emporer’s new bride. Sick and decrepit, Maia’s father is unable to make the journey leaving one solution: Maia decides to pose as her brother to protect her father, save the Tamarin name and save her family from poverty.

    What starts as a Mulan retelling quickly becomes something more, something other. Mulan’s world is reimagined into something completely new in this brilliantly vibrant and well executed world woven expertly throughout the narrative. You can feel the magic being brought to life on the page.

    Readers will fall in love with a certain enchanter, and his mysterious and sassy ways. He was definitely the highlight of this book and made things a lot more interesting. I’m intrigued to see how his story-arc pans out in the next book… (just please don’t kill him).

    All-in-all, it was a fun and fast-paced read and the romance will leave you a puddle of emotion. If you love Renée Ahdieh, then you’ll love this!

    About the Author

    Elizabeth Lim grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age 10, when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars, and posted them online to discover, “Wow, people actually read my stuff. And that’s kinda cool!” But after one of her teachers told her she had “too much voice” in her essays, Elizabeth took a break from creative writing to focus on not flunking English. 

    Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer, and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing, and turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel — for kicks, at first, then things became serious — and she hasn’t looked back since. 

    Elizabeth loves classic film scores, books with a good romance, food (she currently has a soft spot for arepas and Ethiopian food), the color turquoise, overcast skies, English muffins, cycling, and baking. She lives in New York City with her husband.

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    Monthly Wrap-Up: March 2019 Edition

    I haven’t forgotten, I promise. March has been a month. My poor wittle website got hacked (How? I don’t know?) and I spent what felt like 3,000 years of my life trying to remove malicious code and installing firewalls. But huzzah! It is fixed and I feel like a genius.

    I’ve done a lot of reading this month, mainly because I continued my Harry Potter re-read I never bothered to finish last year, and let me tell you! I forgot how much I love and treasure these books! I’ve read each book a minimum of 15 times at this point and I still get emotional over these characters.

    There have been a few other titles littered amongst the Potter – mainly Thrillers (what a surprise!). Excluding Enchantee which I’ve just started reading I have yet to read a YA Fantasy book this year which, for me, is a bit of a surprise.

    I’ve only read one short story collection this month and that was Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark in preparation for Del Toro’s adaptation coming this August. Let me just tell you… reading this in the dark before bed is not the best idea if you don’t want to have series of weird dreams/nightmares.

    1. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz ● rated 4 Stars

    1. Connections in Death by J.D. Robb ● rated 4 Stars
    While I enjoyed the 48th instalment of this series it was by no means my favourite of the series (or the best). Probably one of the most linear storylines Robb has churned out, I want a return to high-stakes, strained relationships and interesting things happening that I can fully invest myself in.

    2. Betrayal by Harold Pinter ● rated 4 Stars
    I get to see this performed in theatre in 2 months time (aaaaahhhhhh!) starring Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Cox and Zawe Ashton (cue more screaming – aaaaaaaaaaaah)! This play is quite literally a series of shitty individuals lying and deceiving each other in 144 pages. I can’t wait to hate everyone all over again.

    3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling ● rated 5 Stars
    All my little babies – so sweet, so pure, so innocent.

    4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling ● rated 5 Stars
    Excuse me while I get emotional over Remus, Sirius and Dumbledore for the nth time. I just want my precious children to live long happy lives but we all know how that turns out.

    5. Misery by Stephen King ● rated 5 Stars
    Misery was twisted, dark, and to put it plainly… terrifying. King didn’t need to include the supernatural to make the hairs on your arm stand on end. He just needed humanity or the lack of it.

    6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling ● rated 5 Stars
    I’ve forgotten how much of this book I’ve, well, forgotten. It’s been too long. But it was also great because I got to be hella emotional again over the end! Sirius seeing Harry after the third task. Fawkes comforting Harry after the third task. Sirius with his face in his hands after Harry mentions James. I’m not okay, you guys. I’m not.

    7. Lullaby by Leïla Slimani ● rated 3 Stars
    After an explosive opening, Lullaby ended on a lackluster and disappointing note. I was expecting something akin to Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage but was sorely mistaken. This is not a thriller but a character study. Lullaby touched on themes of racism, class, mental health and the loneliness of being a parent. If, like me, you read the blurb/first chapter and expected a book chock full of twists and turns, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

    8. Batman Damned: Book One by Brian Azzarello ● rated 2 Stars
    I’m really not sure what I expected here? But I defintely expected better. A “visceral thrill-ride” that explores the events that take place in the wake of the Joker’s death as Batman is unable to recollect whether he commited the crime or not is not what I got. While the artwork was stunning, the narration dropped the ball and made this a tedious read. Frank Miller can’t be imitated.

    Here I am with the same set of books on my ‘next-to-read’ list for the third month in a row (well, almost the same set). I’ve managed to read Misery (which was A+++ everyone read it) and I’ve made a start on Enchantee (which so far is pretty so-so).

    1. The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea (ARC)
    2. The Orphanage of Gods by Helena Coggan (ARC)
    3. The Furies by Katie Lowe (ARC)
    4. Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

    How was your bookish March?

    Read any of the books above or a choosing to in April? Got a book you think I’ll be interested in? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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