It’s hard to review a book like Stephen King’s It, because there is nothing I can possibly say about it which hasn’t been said before. Despite that, I thought I’d share my thoughts on this tome, because I’ve spent the past three weeks gradually clawing …
Tag: book review
Establishing a centuries-old conflict between the two countries of Kalyazin and Tranavia, Wicked Saints is a dual perspective novel following a Kalyazi cleric and the Tranavian prince. When we meet Nadya she’s in the cellar of the monastery where she lives, peeling potatoes as a …
After finishing Dear Martin back in July, I wondered why it was getting a sequel. Justyce’s story resolves neatly in the first book in this series, and I couldn’t for the life of me see where the story could go from there.
Little did I know that the sequel was going to end up impressing me far more than Dear Martin. In fact, I think Dear Justyce is probably the most important book I’ll read this year.
If you’ve read Dear Martin, you’ll know that a large part of the story is told through letters. Justyce writes to his idol Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asking for advice after being racially profiled, questioning the way that the justice system treats black teens and confiding his attempts to be a model citizen in the hopes that he’ll never have another run in with the law.
In Dear Justyce, instead of focusing on Justyce we focus on Quan, a background character from the first novel. Quan has been arrested for the murder of a police officer, and he’s facing life imprisonment. Quan starts writing letters to Justyce and eventually tells him the story of the night that changed his life, and it turns out that things aren’t as clear cut as they seemed…
I think the reason this sequel works so well is because in some ways it’s telling the other side of the same story. In Dear Martin, Justyce is a straight-A student from a well-off family and he gets treated terribly by the police. Dear Justyce takes things one step further, exploring what happens to the Black student who is flunking out and living on the rough side of town when they come up against the long arm of the law.
In a year when the public scrutiny of the actions of police officers has reached new heights, it would be brilliant if I could say that the events in Dear Justyce were unrealistic. Sadly, this is the reality faced by all too many young men due to systemic racism in American law enforcement. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if cases were handled incorrectly – in fact, hardly handled at all – and coercion was used, because once a decision has been made (and has usually been made based off of the colour of someone’s skin), it’s nigh on impossible for the black mark on their record to be completely removed.
Nic Stone does a wonderful job of exploring the motivations behind Quan’s actions, and the way that the daily instances of microaggressions combine to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people constantly treat you as though you’re stupid, as though you can’t succeed, as though you’re destined to become a lifelong offender, then soon enough you’ll start believing it, no matter how hard you try to defy them.
This is one of the most necessary sequels I have ever read, and I am so grateful to Simon & Schuster for allowing me to read an advanced copy via NetGalley. I couldn’t see a way that Dear Justyce could surpass Dear Martin, but this book is uplifting and hopeful, focusing on the importance of friendship and having a strong support system in the face of corrupt power structures.
If you’ve been wondering whether it’s worth continuing on with Justyce’s story, I can confirm that it 100% is.
Dear Justyce is released in the UK tomorrow, so make sure to pick up a copy and support a very important novel.
Hello, and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Firstly I’d like to say a huge thank you to The Write Reads for allowing me to get involved in this blog tour. This release has been …
Hey everyone! I am SO excited to be taking part in the blog tour for The Ship of Shadows, and I’d like to say a huge thank you to The Write Reads for having me on board. I first read the swashbuckling adventure back in May during Believathon, when I wrote a little review of it, but today I’m diving back in and sharing my deeper thoughts on this nautical novel.
As always with my blog tour posts, I’m going to share a little bit more about The Ship of Shadows with you before I jump into my thoughts, so grab your cutlasses and follow me!
Aleja whiles away her days in her family’s dusty tavern in Seville, dreaming of distant lands and believing in the kind of magic that she’s only ever read about in books. After all, she’s always being told that girls can’t be explorers.
But her life is changed forever when adventure comes for her in the form of a fabled vessel called the Ship of Shadows. Crewed by a band of ruthless women, with cabin walls dripping with secrets, the ship has sailed right out of a legend. And it wants Aleja.
Once on board its shadowy deck, she begins to realize that the sea holds more secrets than she ever could have imagined. The crew are desperately seeking something, and their path will take them through treacherous waters and force them to confront nightmare creatures and pitch-dark magic. It will take all of Aleja’s strength and courage to gain the trust of her fellow pirates – and discover what they are risking everything to find.
Before I review this book, can we all please just take a moment to appreciate how gorgeous this cover is? I went in to Waterstones last week and saw a finished copy in the flesh for the first time and it is SUBLIME. Mad props to Karl James Mountford for designing such a stunning cover.
“You all have such adventurous stories.”
At it’s heart, The Ship of Shadows is a story about stories.
Aleja has always wanted to be an explorer, living for the tales that are told in the local taverns and the books she devours from the university library. She loves stories so much that she uses them to teach herself multiple languages, which is why Captain Elizabeth Quint notices her in the first place – the Ship of Shadows has just lost its linguist, and Aleja is the perfect replacement.
Not only are stories very important to Aleja, but they’re important to the Ship of Shadows itself. It’s powered by magic that is born from the legends and tales that are spread about the ship and its crew, causing new rooms to pop up as the rumours about the legendary ship travel and morph.
Of course, if you’re picking up The Ship of Shadows it’s likely that you’re a reader too, so I’m glad that Maria Kuzniar chose to make her protagonist such a bookworm. It gave me something that made me relate to Aleja, as I don’t relate to her thirst for adventure – I’m a total homebody!
However the gang on the Ship of Shadows made me reconsider that, because this crew of characters is so dynamic that you find yourself desperate to befriend them. My favourite character is unquestionably Frances – a bespectacled pickpocket who is absolutely addicted to cake and other sugary treats – but this is one of the most organically diverse casts I’ve encountered. We have characters from Norway, Sweden, Spain, Africa, London, as well as an LGBTQ+ character and characters with disabilities (because pirates don’t live the safest lives!). If you like reading books that have a very interesting range of characters represented then this is definitely the book for you. I’m not normally a fan of novels which introduce lots of characters very quickly, but Maria Kuzniar makes sure that all of her characters are such individuals that it’s extremely easy to keep track of them all in your mind, which is a huge skill.
I hope that we’re able to join Aleja and the crew on many more adventures in the future. As far as I’m aware nothing has been confirmed regarding a sequel yet, but as I said back in May, this story needs to be continued. I think this could end up being one of my favourite middle grade series of all time, as this is a remarkably strong debut.
I ended up giving in four stars, and the only reason it didn’t get to the five star mark was because I felt as though the ending was a little bit rushed compared to the pace of the first half of the novel. However, I was tempted to bump it up to five stars on my reread, and if I read it again I probably will cave and rate it that little bit higher.
Maria Kuzniar spent six years living in Spain, teaching English and travelling the world, which inspired her debut novel The Ship of Shadows. Now she lives in Nottingham with her husband, where she reads and writes as much as she can and bookstagrams at @cosyreads. She is always planning her next adventure.
Once again I’d like to that The Write Reads for allowing me to get involved in this blog tour. The Ship of Shadows has quickly become one of my favourite middle grades, and I can’t wait to see what Aleja and the gang get up to next.
See you next time!
Hello, and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Kate McLaughlin’s What Unbreakable Looks Like. First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Meghan from Wednesday Books for reaching out and inviting me to take part in this blog …
When The Beautiful was announced, everyone I heard talking about it said it was a duology. Alas, after finishing The Damned I have realised that that is not the case – in fact, it’s rumoured that there are another two books to come in The Beautiful saga.
That might be one of the reasons that I didn’t enjoy this book anywhere near as much as I was hoping to.
The Beautiful was a five star read for me. I thought the marketing was all wrong and that it should have been pushed as a murder mystery rather than as a vampire story – the vampires aren’t explicitly revealed until towards the end of the novel, so if you’re only there for the vampires you’re going to be disappointed – but I thought the murder mystery aspect of the plot was gripping, and I loved Celine and the Court of the Lions (and the various other characters we were introduced to throughout).
Unfortunately, The Damned is the complete opposite.
There just isn’t much plot to the first half of the novel, because we’re so focused on the Court of the Lions and their vampiric ways. One of the main characters (I won’t say who, just in case you haven’t read The Beautiful yet – if not, what are you doing here?!) was turned into a vampire at the end of the first novel, and it feels like an interminable amount of complaining along the lines of, ‘Woe is me! Why am I a vampire? Why didn’t everyone just let me die?!’. I can understand why someone might be feeling that way, but it is painfully repetitive.
I never felt bored during the first book and was picking it up in every spare moment because I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I was struggling to motivate myself to continue reading The Damned.
Things do eventually pick up, but Renée Ahdieh tries to cram too much into this novel. I thought that made sense because I was still assuming it was a duology – of course she’s rushing to get all the threads of the story tied together neatly! – but after I’d finished reading and I realised that that wasn’t the case I just couldn’t understand why the story was told in this way. All of the action happens in the last 10% of the novel which makes the first 90% a slog because nothing is really happening, but then when everything kicks off it isn’t satisfying at all because it’s over as soon as it starts.
One of the most frustrating aspects is the rapid fire visits to the Sylvan Wyld and the Sylvan Vale. Ahdieh has crafted an intriguing paranormal world of mirrors and portals, but the time she spends there is over almost before it has begun. I am glad that there are going to be more books in the series because I’m hoping we’ll be able to explore these locations more: when I was still under the impression that it was a duology it all seemed a bit pointless, because they are described so vibrantly and the characters leave them almost immediately to head back to New Orleans.
Meanwhile, there are two characters in this book who should have been utilised far more effectively, but they’re treated as an afterthought. When you’ve got two antagonists and the reader finds themselves regularly forgetting that either of them exist? There is something horribly wrong there.
If I’d been expecting a straight up paranormal romance I would have been satisfied, because the relationship between our two main characters is the main focus (to the detriment of every other aspect of the plot). I was wholly satisfied with the love story – although I’m not sure why Ahdieh felt the need to try to shove in the world’s least convincing love triangle – and that’s the main reason that my rating of The Damned ended up sitting at 3 stars.
I was disappointed with the main plot, but I was invested in the characters and I did appreciate the amount of development that they all went through between books one and two. The Court of the Lions are fleshed out far more than they were in book one – I couldn’t even remember Hortense or Madeleine being mentioned before, but I did read The Beautiful almost a year ago – and I really enjoyed learning more about Arjun and Jae, who are two of the strongest members of the Court.
There is still a lot of potential here, so I will be continuing on with the later books in The Beautiful saga as and when they are released. I just wish I’d known it was going to be a lengthier series when it was first announced, because it might have softened my disappointment while reading The Damned!
I hope you enjoyed my review of The Damned. Have you read The Beautiful yet, and if so what did you think?