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review 2018-12-05 19:27
Review: Girls of Paper and Fire
Girls of Paper and Fire - Natasha Ngan

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I went into reading this one with minimal expectations, sounded good but wasn’t really expecting much as I have read so much fantasy this year, and most of it has been a mixed bag. The premise was interesting enough as was the Malaysian inspired premise – but reading in the blurb protagonist chosen to be part of a king’s harem and does the unthinkable – falls in love with someone else.

 

Initially there was a bit of eye rolling on my part and a guess – oh she’s going to fall for some guard or male servant or a prince who’s going to wind up helping her some way. Did I ever get a surprise on that department!

 

I found myself absolutely loving this book. I had started reading by ebook review galley, to find this was the book of the month in my Fairyloot subscription box and got a signed edition with the prettiest cover and pink sprayed edges. This is one of my top ten books of this year.

 

Trigger warnings – sexual assault. There is actually a warning for this on the inside cover of the hardback.

 

The world building is rich and well developed, in this fantasy there are three castes – Paper, the lowest caste, the humans, Steele – half human, half demons  - the middle cast – these people have demoneseque features and powers. Moon caste are the highest – complete demons form. The demon form is usually some sort of animal basis.

 

The heroine Lei lives a hard but happy life in her village with her father in his shop, they are both Paper, they live with her father’s assistant, a Steele class lady who has worked there as long as Lei can remember and is like family to them. Lei’s mother disappeared 10 years ago, taken by a demon army.

 

Every year a number of girls are chosen (read taken) by the Demon King’s army to be Paper Girls – the King’s Concubines – it’s not a request if you’re chosen. Lei finds herself taken by the army, she has unusual gold eyes – goddess touched – which earns her the army chief’s attention and he takes her thinking he can gain favour with the king.

 

Lei’s world is shattered. Lei has a strong voice and is fiery and determined. She was a brilliant lead, full of personality and promise, without being overly head strong or making stupid decisions and rash actions. She’s naturally completely against being a Paper Girl but figures once she’s at the Imperial Palace she might be able to find out what happened to her missing mother.

 

Paper Girls for this year’s crop have already been chosen so Lei’s addition is unusual. Her goddess touched gold eyes make her a viable option. Some of the girls there have been training for this for years and are from high class families, and your typical mean girls. Others are colder and more remote, and one girl is nice and friendly, if very naïve.

 

Lei reluctantly starts to settle into life at the Palace – an elevated life of culture and learning. The girls have a maid who helps them, and lessons, it’s very exclusive and luxurious – but there’s something quite oppressive about it as well. As there is always the threat of the reason why they are there – to serve as concubines to a demon king who doesn’t care if this is something the girls want or not.

 

The girls have to attend various Court events after they are presented to the King. The King makes his choices and one by one the girls are called on to perform their duties. The reactions they have after their night with the King is different for each girl. It’s very uncomfortable to read about.

 

The King is a young man, very handsome, but brutal, a bully, he has moments where you think there might be more to him than a cold ruler who has very little thought for anyone else other than what he wants. But just as quickly as you get that glimpse – something happens and he’s horrible again. And gets worse and worse throughout the novel.

 

While regular Paper Girl life is going on Lei finds herself becoming enamoured with one of the other Paper Girls. This is one the best slow burn romances I’ve come across in a long time. It’s so so slow but the build of anticipation is brilliant as Lei gets to know the girl, Wren. Wren was one of the ones who was cold and dismissive at first, but Wren is as mysterious as she is beautiful. Lei’s yearning comes through so vividly, as she tries to figure out her ceilings, worrying about waiting for her own turn with the king.

 

As the romance slowly blossoms, Lei starts learning some of Wren’s secrets. The plot starts picking upwards the end. There’s a few mysteries and some plot twists and a good burst of action towards the end. And a really WTF cliffhanger at the end. Just when you think everything might actually be okay… of course it’s not!

 

I can’t find enough words for how much I loved this book. There’s not much more I can say without being overly spoilerly about the overall plot. It’s hard to read in some places and deals with some serious issues. It gets uncomfortable. Other places it’s beautifully written with a moving romance, and some lovely female friendships.

 

I can’t wait for more of this series.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2018-04-03 11:54
Review: Dear Sweet Filthy World
Dear Sweet Filthy World - Caitlín R. Kiernan

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This particular author is one of my favourites of dark and bizarre fiction. Most of the time I love her work, there are the odd ones that I really don’t like or get at all. This collection of short stories has been on my radar since I heard about it. I was thrilled when I got approved for it on Netgalley (a hardcover is nearly $30). After reading a few of the stories I knew I had to have a finished copy and  I did purchase a finished Kindle version.

 

Stand out stories for me were:

 

Werewolf Smile – a narrator’s flighty girlfriend posing for a series of disturbing photos based on a Red Riding Hood theme. There was something so dark and powerful about the prose that made this story stick with me more than the others. First story in the collection.

 

Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint – this is about a dude who picks up a random girl hitchhiking and finds himself sharing her memories of violent acts throughout history. Very vivid and uncomfortable.

 

The Eighth Veil – I loved this one, I wanted a full novel of this one. A group of weird people gathering in a bar to watch some sort of stage show which seems to be an execution.

 

-30- This one is about a woman who receives an anonymous photo of some sort of monster – is it real? Where did it come from? Who sent it? What is it? An intriguing mystery though was a little disappointed with the end.

 

The Carnival is Dead and Gone – This was another favourite, dude and has friend visiting a carnival of oddities and freaks head into a special area where the strangest of creatures are held including some sort of quivering mass with theatricals that resemble a giant vagina following some strange sex act. It was another one that was quite uncomfortable but utterly compelling and erotic as it was disturbing. It feels wrong but you can’t take your eyes away.  The audience of the show seemed to find it really erotic.  Something like this should not be erotic, but it was and what does that say about the state of my mind?

 

Interstate Lovesong (Murder Ballard No 8) Two sisters who pick up randoms and kill them on their journey get a shock of their own when they pick up a girl with an attitude of her own. Gory and fascinating.

 

These were the stand outs for me.

 

This collection is a host of stories from the strange, the weird, the bizarre, disturbing, erotic and sometimes just plain what the fuck was that? 28 of them. Some of them I loved, some of them I hated. Some of them were just bland. One in particular - Tempest Witch - I read the whole thing and didn’t get a word of it.  The writing is beautiful and lyrical, dark and dreamy.

 

A good mixed bag.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Subterranean Press  for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-10-31 11:48
Review: There's Someone Inside Your House
There's Someone Inside Your House - Stephanie Perkins

 

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I was so excited for this book. It was one of my most anticipated releases of this year. I had pre ordered months in advance. I did a happy dance when my e arc request was approved early. Only to find this is one of my biggest disappointments of the year.

 

I really just didn’t like it much at all. Didn’t particularly care about the characters, wasn’t really that invested in the plot and the big reveal for the why of the whole thing was dull and anticlimactic.

 

It tells the story of Hawaiian teen Makani who has moved in with her Grandmother in a small town in Ohio. She has made some new friends, has a potential new relationship. She’s dealing with difficult parents who are in the middle of a bitter divorce, and is clearly hiding something bad that happened in Hawaii, the main reason she’s moved in with her grandmother.

 

A girl from the drama club has been viciously murdered, the small town is in shock and everyone’s gossiping about what could have happened and why. Before long another teen is murdered, a boy from the football team. So it continues. Random kids are dropping like flies in increasingly gory and violent murders. But there’s seemingly no connection between the victims. The novel focuses on Makani and her friends and her new love interest trying to figure out what’s going on, suspicions abound.

 

I just didn’t care. About any of it. I was bored. Teen slasher movies are one of my favourite things. Maybe I’m just jaded from having seen so many slasher movies raging from good to bad to what the fuck was that? It’s hard to compare not to compare this novel to a movie. That’s the feeling it gives.

 

Unfortunately, this book just didn’t work for me. Which sucks because this is one of my favourite authors.  

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Pan MacMillian for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-02-18 20:24
City of the Lost - A Review

Casey Duncan has three things in her life she cares about: being a detective, her best friend Diana and her no-strings-attached sometimes lover.  She also has one big secret.  When it seems like her past is catching up to her and Diana’s present is getting dangerous she realizes that they both have to disappear.  No place better than Rockton …

 
THE CITY OF THE LOST by Kelley Armstrong.
 
Rockton is a unique place.  It’s in the middle of nowhere and you will not find it on a map anywhere.  Somewhere in the Yukon, Rockton is filled with people who found it necessary to disappear from their lives … some for their own protection and some to evade the law.  Each must go through a vetting process and possess a significant amount of money to be accepted but only the Sheriff knows who is there and for what reason, yet even that information may not be trustworthy.  As each person arrives they are given tasks according to their particular skill set so Casey quickly becomes a deputy … just in time to help solve a gruesome murder.
 
In this, the first book of her new series, Ms. Armstrong once again does what she does so well – build a fictional world that is believable and unique.  Whether it’s her “Otherworld” or Rockton she takes us just far enough out of reality to make it ring possible.  An isolated town, a murder mystery and a little romance thrown in make “City of the Lost” an excellent read.  Originally published as six mini novellas I’m sure the reader was kept in suspense from one installment to the next.  I waited until all six parts came out in book form and am glad I did so.  Although, let’s face it, it’s a great marketing ploy but I would have found it frustrating to read it in bits and pieces.  Can’t wait for the next book in the series.
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her website)
 
I’ve been telling stories since before I could write. My earliest written efforts were disastrous. If asked for a story about girls and dolls, mine would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to my teachers’ dismay. All efforts to make me produce “normal” stories failed. Today, I continue to spin tales of ghosts and demons and werewolves, while safely locked away in my basement writing dungeon.
 
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review 2016-12-13 11:41
Review: Heartless
Heartless - Marissa Meyer

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I adored the Lunar Chronicles so naturally have been very excited for another Marissa Meyer novel. I had already pre ordered before I was lucky enough to get a Netgalley copy of Heartless. Though more than a week after finishing I’m still not sure what to make of it. I generally like fairy tale retellings. Though admittedly, my knowledge of Alice in Wonderland is limited to the first Disney movie. I never read the original.

 

The biggest issue I had with this one, is it’s the origin story of the Queen of Hearts, so no matter what, you know something is going to go hideously hideously wrong. Catherine Pinkerton is actually a fairly nice girl when the novel starts, with dreams of opening her own bakery with her best friend, her maid Mary Anne. Catherine is a fabulous baker full of delightful ideas, and Mary Anne is the more practical minded one of the two, good with money and logical thinking. Though Catherine knows her parents would never approve. Her mother is overbearing and bossy though puts it all in a “mother knows best” context and wants to see Catherine settled down with a rich husband.

 

Catherine isn’t interested in a husband, and becomes distressed by the fact that the King of Hearts clearly has a huge crush on her. He’s a big fan of her baking, her parents are thrilled, Cath, not so much. The King of Hearts is much older, nice, but as dumb as a bucket of rocks. Cath knows that if she marries, she’ll never get her bakery. She’s quite an interesting character, clearly with brains and a bit of a sassy attitude at times. And also stubborn, she can be very stubborn.

 

Wonderland has a fantastic cast of colourful characters, though the talking animals are a little weird to get used to, mixed with human characters. The setting is delightfully done, it’s very whimsical, very creative, though because of the fanciful nature, I did find it rather hard to picture.

 

As Catherine schemes to find ways to open her bakery and convince her parents that’s what she wants, as well as ducking the attention of the King, dealing with dances and parties and high society life, she finds herself drawn to the charms of Jest, the Court Joker. They hit it off immediately.

 

Which of course sends warning bells, at least to me, because as I said early, it’s obvious that something is going to go wrong. And on top of Cath falling more and more for Jest, who introduces her to the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, and other Wonderland characters, there’s a beast attacking the land of Hearts, the Jabberwock, which seems to attack at large gatherings, and the King of Hearts doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it.

 

It did feel a little long winded and kind of repetitive. A circle of Cath trying to deal with her feelings for Jest as well as dealing with her mother pushing her towards the king, and trying to find ways to open this bakery when the parents just are not budging. With a Jabberwock thrown in for a few good battle scenes. Though it was nearly 75% in before it got to a have to know what happens next. It did get quite dark and somewhat twisted just before the end. Beautifully written, but something was missing for me.

 

I didn’t love it, I liked it. A little predictable in parts, but still left an - ah, so that’s how it happened.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Pan Macmillan for approving my request to view the title.

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