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Book Review: The Boy Who Could See Demons

Image resultTitle: The Boy Who Could See Demons

Author: Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Horror, Mental Health

Nobody needs to be taken to Hell to experience it. We just grow despair inside the soul until it becomes a world in and around a human.

INFO | Goodreads

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After Alex’s mother attempts suicide again, Alex meets child psychiatrist Anya to deal with his mental health issues – since his Dad left he has been experiencing frightful hallucinations of demons.  Battling issues of her own, Anya soon begins to wonder whether Alex’s demons really are just a symptom of mental illness, or if there is any truth to them.

The book was fascinating to read, first and foremost because it has a lot of parallels with the novel I am writing!  The story unraveled in a very interesting way, split between Alex and Anya’s perspectives, and kept the reader constantly wondering if Ruen, Alex’s demon friend, was real – even to the end, this was kept as an uncertainty.   It is easy to forget that children can suffer from mental illness too, and it was wonderful to see this highlighted in the book.  Though personally, I think the demons were real.  Anya never explored how Alex could have known some of the private information he did and her justifications for some of his behaviours were weak, so I’m still not convinced.

I also think it was very clever of the author to add such a tragic background for Anya, which is revealed slowly as the story progresses – this made Ruen’s existence even more of a mystery, and put Anya’s own mental state into question.

I loved the setting of the book.  It was interesting to bring in aspects of Ireland’s political history, and I was really excited when it actually became a major theme of the book.  I’ve become so accustomed to books being set in America that it made a refreshing change.

However, I do have one major criticism.  I felt there were a few parts of the story that confuse me even now.  At one point Anya sees Ruen in a music room, and collapses as a result.  The figure she saw is later loosely explained as being a visiting professor (and not a demon at all) but it is puzzling why he displays the features of a demon, and I felt the whole scene was a bit of a muddle.  If Anya really had hallucinated it, she would be far more concerned, especially with the history of mental illness in her own family… surely?  Instead, I felt this was swept under the rug and not elaborated on enough.

Otherwise, this is a brilliant and thought-provoking story, and I’d love to know your thoughts if you’ve read the book – are the demons real or not?

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆ (4/5)


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October 14, 2016

Book Review: The Trees by Ali Shaw

The Trees by Ali ShawTitle: The Trees

Author: Ali Shaw

Genre: Fiction, Adult, Fantasy, Magical Realism

Source: Net Galley (I received a copy of this for free in exchange for an honest review)

“There are no good men and there are no bad. Good and bad are just ideas, made up by priests and the power-mad. There is just earth and appetite, nothing more.”

INFO | Goodreads

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Those who follow me will know that I have been reading this book for a long, long time.  Even though it was an ARC when I received it, it was released way back in March, and I’ve been trying to finish it ever since to get this review out there.  But despite my leisurely reading pace, this book is well worth taking the time for.

“You can’t wait for the world to be perfect before you start living in it.”

Apart from the beautiful work of art on the cover, it really was the premise of the book that gripped me.  One night while he is sleeping, the anxious and pessimistic Adrian Thomas is awoken by a rumbling, as from the ground bursts a forest – in moments, the world has changed.  But this is not an ordinary forest – something lurks within, something ancient and magic that seems to be watching.  Terrified, Adrian quickly teams up with nature lover Hannah and her computer tech son, Seb, who are soon joined by Hiroko, a feisty Japanese student.  Each person must come to terms with this new world, where morals have shifted and only the strongest survive, as together they set out to reunite Hannah with her brother, and Adrian with his wife.

There is so much depth to this book, and the summary I’ve just given really only skims the surface.  In terms of character development, Shaw successfully carries the four characters through a number of physical and emotional challenges, forcing each one to come face-to-face with their flaws.  For example, Adrian must travel overseas to find his wife, but with their marriage on the rocks last time they spoke, will she even be glad to see him?  As a group, they make an unlikely combination, but somehow this aids their survival.  I couldn’t even tell you which character was my favourite – they all brought something completely different to the table.  Saying that, I did have a soft spot for badass Hiroko, and enjoyed the Japanese references and her fox companion.

“Look the world in the eye, Carter had always said. It keeps no secrets from you.”

This book is very thought-provoking, and there is an almost post-apocalyptic feel to some of the scenes.  Violence and panic are not uncommon, and there is conflict between what was right in the life before the forest, and what is right for survival now.  Hannah in-particular struggles with this moral question, and it is horrifying to see such a bright and optimistic character fighting with the choices she makes.  As readers, we are perhaps able to make the most objective judgement of all, but even I felt really conflicted about some of the behaviours I witnessed – it certainly opens the door for some great philosophical debates.

My only criticism really is that some minor plot elements were overworked, whereas some major plot features (like the huge magical forest) were incomplete, in my opinion.  We still don’t understand the trees, or the magic they hold, and I feel that even though the ending is rounded off nicely, it needs a sequel to tie up those loose ends.  We may never know why the trees came, but I would be interested to know what Adrian’s incredible decision at the end of the book means for him, and how that affects the rest of the world.

Star Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5/5)


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August 24, 2016

Book Review: The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

The Sleeper and the SpindleTitle: The Sleeper and the Spindle

Author: Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell (illustrator)

Genre: Fiction, Retelling, Fantasy

“There are choices,” she thought, when she had sat long enough. “There are always choices.”

INFO | Goodreads

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The Sleeper and the Spindle takes aspects of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and weaves them into a new, dark story in this twisted retelling.

Immediately, I was struck by how beautiful and unusual this book was – not quite a graphic novel, but not quite a typical storybook either; I think the novelty alone of reading it deserves some merit.

The illustrations, done by Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell, are stunning – in fact, I spent more of my time admiring the fine details than on the story itself.  I just love how you can see every pen stroke – everything has been put together with so much thought.

Sadly, the story itself didn’t quite live up to expectations, though it was still very good.  I felt the story jumped a bit randomly from scene to scene in the beginning, though this does smooth out as the book goes on.  However, the interweaving of the two fairy stories is very cleverly done, and I loved the way that some of the traditional story conventions were challenged, showing that Queens are just as capable as Handsome Princes at saving the day.

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆½ (4.5/5)

Happy reading!


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July 28, 2016

Book Review: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona by Noelle StevensonTitle: Nimona

Author: Noelle Stevenson

Genre: Fiction, Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Young Adult

Format: Paperback


INFO | Goodreads

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Ballister Blackheart is a supervillain, and with his new shapeshifting sidekick Nimona in tow, they are an unstoppable force of evil, set on bringing down his rival Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and the Institution.  But with Nimona’s mysterious magic powers getting out of control, and the Institution not the lawful good they seem to be, friendships – old and new – will be tested, as the true villains are revealed.

This book is nothing short of fantastic.  Noelle Stevenson has managed to successfully write an extraordinary graphic novel with hilarious dialogue, gorgeous drawings and a gripping plot.  It’s a true talent to have readers laughing through some pages and to be on the edge of their seats through others!

The story features dragons and laboratories, perfectly combining elements of science fiction and fantasy into an engaging plot of some considerable length for the genre.  I found this allowed the relationships between the characters to be thoroughly developed, and I particularly loved the history between Ballister and Ambrosius – their rivalry, and Ballister’s inability to let go of the past were some of my favourite themes in the book.

But Nimona herself steals the show!  She is witty, mischievous, and the deliverer of some of the greatest lines I’ve read this year.  Her injection of humour in the story balances out the stern-faced Ballister perfectly.

I can’t recommend it enough – go, get your hands on a copy!

Star Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)


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July 11, 2016

Book Review: The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

The Girl of Ink and Stars ReviewTitle: The Girl of Ink and Stars

Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Genre: Fiction, Teen, Fantasy, Adventure

“All things have a cycle…a habit of returning the way they came. Seasons, water, lives, perhaps even trees. You don’t always need a map to find your path back.”

INFO | Goodreads

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When the tyrannical Governor’s young daughter goes missing, Isabella feels it is her responsibility to bring her back.  Disguising herself, she manages to join the Governor’s search party, navigating the group through the Forbidden Territories with her cartography skills passed down to her by her father.  But Lupe’s disappearance isn’t the only concern – a darkness is sweeping across the island, one that can be traced back a thousand years, to a fire demon who is finally stirring from his slumber.

Aesthetically, you couldn’t ask for more from this book.  My edition had colour maps on the inside pages, and every single page of the story itself was illustrated with ink drawings.  It really brought home the cartography element, something that I thought was original and fascinating to read about.

I also enjoyed the mythological elements of the story, and liked that for much of the book it is unclear whether or not the stories Isabella has heard about as a child have any truth to them.  I would have liked to have seen even more of the fantasy elements come to life – the Tibicena were really exciting, but the scenes with Yote seemed quite brief despite such a build up.

There were a few things lacking for me, unfortunately.  Isabella’s narration comes across as very young, and I’m not sure who would read this book and relate to her voice – I know thirteen year olds who would find her too immature.  Also, I wasn’t really convinced by her friendship with Lupe.  Considering they were best friends, I didn’t feel any real connection between them, and spent a lot of time arguing instead and being annoyed with one another.

I also felt for similar reasons like it wasn’t clear whether anything was going on between Pablo and Isabella – I sensed that she viewed him as more than just a friend.  Was there a spark between them, or just a brother-sister thing?  I was quite disappointed in the end that nothing was developed either way.  However, I appreciate that the book is not a romance – it was nice to see qualities such as friendship, family and inner strength taking priority, and in that sense it carries a good message to younger readers.

Overall though, it was a nice little read.  I’d certainly read a sequel if ever there was one, but I disagree with Goodreads defining this as part of the ‘Young Adult’ genre, despite some themes of violence, and the ending which is quite dark.  So, I wouldn’t know who exactly to recommend it to, but if you’re a fan of myths and magic, there might be something for you in this short fantasy novel.

Star Rating: ☆☆☆ (3/5)


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June 30, 2016

Book Review: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Anya's GhostTitle: Anya’s Ghost

Author: Vera Brosgol

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fiction, Fantasy, Horror

“You may look normal like everyone else, but you’re not. Not on the inside.”

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository

reviewFeeling lonely and unpopular at school, Anya isn’t too impressed when a ghost follows her home and wants to be her friend.  But maybe things aren’t too bad – Emily offers her boy tips and style advice, and even Anya’s grades are looking better.  When Anya swears to solve the mystery of the ghost girl’s death, she uncovers more than she bargained for.

The story was very enjoyable, though I think some parts of the plot could have been expanded.  For example, I think Elizabeth and Anya could have developed a friendship after their conversation at the party, but that all seemed to end quite abruptly.  I was surprised that the main theme of the book was more about Anya settling in at school and finding herself than of the supernatural – but I actually quite liked that.

I wasn’t as keen on the style of art compared to some other graphic novels I’ve read recently (Nimona, for example), but the drawings and colour schemes do seem to fit the mood of the story.  It also makes the scenes in the well and Emily’s ghostly presence pretty spooky.

Speaking of spooky, I actually found the ending quite scary as I read it alone at night; it certainly does its job as a horror story.  There are a fair few creepy scenes actually, and Emily’s wide empty eyes reminded me a bit of Coraline in terms of style.  Though these details were drawn well, I felt other parts, like the character Siobhan, looked sloppy in comparison.

Star Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5/5)


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June 21, 2016

Book Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and FuryTitle: A Court of Mist and Fury

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

I was a survivor, and I was strong.
I would not be weak, or helpless again.
I would not, could not be broken.

INFO | Goodreads

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A Court of Mist and Fury is the second part of Feyre’s story.  Her wedding to Tamlin is approaching but she struggles with the memories of being Under The Mountain, and feels suffocated by the Spring Court.  Swept away by Rhysand to uphold the bargain that saved her life, she must survive the mysterious Night Court, and learn not only how to control the new powers she has gained as a Fae, but how to stop the nightmares in her head of those awful months with Amarantha.  Meanwhile, a terrible war is stirring, and Feyre’s new powers may just be the key to stop it…

As I read this book, I had decided already in my head that it was an instant five stars without question.  It had reduced me to tears after all, and surely a book that can create such an emotive response is a good book?  I was flying the Team Rhysand flag high, right up until the final chapters.  You see, nearing the end of the book, I began to feel that I was flying the Team Rhysand flag not through choice, but because Tamlin’s character had been utterly destroyed by the author, and I had been pushed into a position where it was wrong to want to root for Tamlin.  Is this an example of a poor plot?  Or was it done intentionally?  I can’t decide.  Feyre’s integration into the Night Court changes her entire outlook – she learns things about both Tamlin and Rhysand that shock her, and I wonder if her changing allegiance is less a reflection of Tamlin’s behaviour and more a reflection of Feyre’s perspective changing.  The story is told in first person, after all – we are receiving her biased account of the story.  Or perhaps this is just me trying to justify bad writing?  Who knows…

I also can’t help but make comparisons to the first book, which in my eyes was a near-perfect piece of YA Fantasy.  The writing was a little sloppy in book two compared to A Court of Thorns and Roses.  It was repetitive too in its use of language – too much purring and growling. Speaking of which, there was an awful lot of sex in the book and sexual innuendos (more erotica than anything else at times).  I know the Fae seem like quite sexual creatures, but a lot of the word count did go into these themes, when maybe more development was needed elsewhere.

Clearly, I could write an essay of criticisms for this book, yet… I still loved it.  Loved it despite all those flaws.  I just love the world and the lore.  Feyre is feisty and strong, hungry to be active and fight for herself; she is a truly badass heroine.  Brought back to life by the high lords at the end of the first book, she possesses a unique kind of magic that has so much potential, and it is exciting to see her attempts to wield that power. I think visually the magic would work really well on film, so I’m really hoping they adapt the series at some point.

I also thoroughly (and maybe reluctantly, too) enjoyed learning about Rhysand and his backstory.  I did feel however that his character was mostly boosted by the presence of his four friends, who added some comic relief to the story too.  The moments of banter among the members of the Night Court are some of the best moments of the book for me, as I loved the chemistry of the group and found myself laughing along at their mischief.  However, I did find that I was often more engaged by what was happening between Mor and Cassian and Azriel (and their confusing love triangle) and Amren’s ancient power than I actually was by the protagonists.

If I’m being honest with myself, I really don’t know if this book is even worth the 4 stars I am going to award it.  However, there are some interesting chapters – the Weaver and the Bone Carver were particularly excellent – and clearly there was enough in the book to keep me reading like a maniac whenever I could to get the book finished.  I know a lot of fans will be upset with the book, but that certainly won’t stop me from waiting eagerly to read the third installment (out in 2017).

Star Rating: ★★★★ (4/4)


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June 16, 2016

The Girl of Ink and Stars: Halfway Checkpoint


It isn’t too late to join us for this month’s read-along!  Click here to catch up with the Introduction post, and read The Girl of Ink and Stars with Wandering Words, The Geek Undergraduate and special book club guest, The Teacup Library!

The Girl of Ink and Stars - Book Club

Reading Status: Chapter Ten

It’s been fifteen days; I was sure I would have been finished with this book by now.  Chapter Ten is just under halfway through, and the action is just beginning!  I’ll be interested to see how the rest of the book is paced, as the first third of the book is very much about setting the scene.

Visually, this book has been a delight to read, and the novelty of the drawings on each page has yet to wear off.  I love reading about the cartography elements too – I’ve never read anything with this sort of skill set in before.  I think it is very poetic and beautiful.

Due to the nature of life on the island, the characters are very secretive – this makes it hard to know who to trust, and even who is good and who is bad.  I have a few theories about characters and stories, but I’ll have to keep on reading to see if I am right or not.  I’d also say without a doubt that this is aimed at younger readers (early teens), but that hasn’t affected my levels of enjoyment at all.

How’s everyone else getting on with reading?


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June 15, 2016

Book Review: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky

Title: All the Birds in the Sky

Author: Charlie Jane Anders

Genre: Fiction, Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy

First Published: January 2016

“When the world turns chaotic, we must be the better part of chaos.”

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


(From Goodreads)

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together–to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.


I’ll be honest upfront here – I couldn’t finish the book.  I felt so completely uninterested in the events and character’s lives that I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it.

My fear since I first heard about this book was that there were just too many genres being crammed in at once – science fiction, magical realism, romance (is that what that was?) and dystopian. I just don’t think it worked.  The premise was excellent, but the execution was poor.  I have to be fair and say I felt things picked up a bit somewhere in the middle of the book, but on the whole I do unfortunately have a big list of criticisms for this one.

One of the things that also appealed to me was that the book was advertised as being for adult readers.  Having now read it (as an adult) I feel it was written in a style more appropriate for young teens.  Perhaps themes of violence and sexual references have resulted in it being labeled as ‘adult’, but I am not convinced it should be considered anything more than ‘teen’ for its writing style, even if it does go off at technical tangents sometimes:

Not for the first time, Laurence thought this was one of the annoyingly incommunicative features in the English language.  Much like the inability to distinguish between “x-or” and “and/or,” the lack of delineation between “x-we” and “in-we” was a conspiracy of obfuscation, designed to create awkwardness and exacerbate peer pressure—because people tried to include you in their “we” without your consent, or you thought you were included and then the rug got pulled out from under you.

I’ve never seen so many unlikeable characters in a book before!  Some were so unbelievably horrid that I couldn’t help but imagine Theodolphus (the assassin) resembling some kind of cartoon villain not unlike Gru from Despicable Me.

“I don’t deserve this ice cream,” he kept repeating with each bite until he started crying. “I don’t deserve this ice cream.” He sobbed.

As kids, the protagonists suffer from awful relationships with their completely irrational parents, who put no effort into actually having any level of communication with their children about why they might be misbehaving.  Poor Patricia also has to tolerate a truly evil sister tormenting her and her beloved animals.  Laurence and Patricia are bullied at school too, and picked on by teachers.

I can’t deny there are a few merits, though not many. There are a few good quotes now and again and some thought-provoking and occasionally funny conversations between Patricia and Laurence.  I’d love to say I’ll read it to the end, but I know I’ll never get those hours of my life back, and there’s still 50% to go.

I can safely say that I have never read anything like this book before, if that can be considered a merit; it certainly was unique. If you’re looking for something utterly bizarre, then this mix-match of genres is for you. I’m just sorry for those doing book club this month that I even picked this – I hope you all had better luck with it than I did.  Judging by the Goodreads reviews, people are either loving it or hating it. Unfortunately, I know where I stand.

Star Rating: ★ (1)


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May 31, 2016

Book Review: In Real Life by Cory Doctorow

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow

Title: In Real Life

Authors: Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang (illustrator)

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy

First Published: 2014

“This life is real too. We’re communicating aren’t we?”

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository | Amazon


In Real Life is a stunning graphic novel about teen Anda and her time spent on the MMORPG, Coarsegold Online.  Initially joining a clan to eliminate players who break the rules, she soon befriends one of the players she has sworn to destroy – he teaches her that things aren’t always as clear-cut as they appear, and that behind the game avatars are real people.

I was intrigued by this story since I’d first heard about it – I was curious to see how the online world would be portrayed.  I’ve dabbled in MMORPGs before and agree with the benefits of online gaming (and can also sympathise with the misunderstanding parents conundrum that Anda faces).  I thought the book approached gaming from a fair and neutral perspective; it showed the benefits of the community and the real friendships online gaming can forge, and also presented the downsides, exploring such things as cultural differences.  It appreciates the immense power of the Internet, and how online communications can affect real life.

Don’t just think because it’s video games people can’t get hurt.

The story was shorter than I had expected.  Events seemed to happen very quickly, and there are some areas that could have benefited from further development.  For example, I think I would have liked to have seen the friendship between the two main characters grow outside of the game; I would certainly buy any sequel produced that continued their stories.

The illustrations were one of the best parts of the book – the character creation page was particularly fascinating to look at, and the busy fantasy world scenes were colourful and exciting.

Overall the story was easy to read, and I finished it in just over half an hour.  I would read it again, but the plot wasn’t quite as exciting as I had expected.  Considering the landscape they had to play with, I was hoping for something more like Username: Evie, but instead IRL focused more on morals and culture than adventure.  It’s a shame that the story didn’t quite meet my expectations, as paired with those gorgeous drawings, it could have been a winner.

Star Rating: ☆☆☆½ (3.5)

Have you read this book?  What are your thoughts on it?


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May 16, 2016