Sunday Shorts: 3 Mini Reviews (08.12.19)

Good evening all and welcome back to Sunday Shorts! I’ve decided to try and run this section of the blog bi weekly and see how I get on. This week I have another novella, short story and a graphic novel for you all. And before you ask, yes. Neil Gaiman is in this one too.

In the wake of his infant daughter’s tragic death, Steve Brannigan is struggling to keep himself together. Estranged from his wife, who refuses to be inside the house where the unthinkable happened, and unable to work, he seeks solace in an endless parade of old sitcoms and a bottle of bourbon.
Until one night he hears a sound from his daughter’s old room, a room now stripped bare of anything that identified it as hers…except for her security blanket, affectionately known as Blanky.
Blanky, old and frayed, with its antiquated patchwork of badly sewn rabbits with black button eyes, who appear to be staring at the viewer…Blanky, purchased from a strange old man at an antique stall selling “BABY CLOSE” at a discount.
The presence of Blanky in his dead daughter’s room heralds nothing short of an unspeakable nightmare that threatens to take away what little light remains in Steve’s shattered world.
Because his daughter loved Blanky so much, he buried her with it.
  • Title: Blanky
  • Author: Kealan Patrick Burke
  • Genre: Contemporary horror

    After reading Sour Candy for the last round of Sunday Shorts I thought this would be the best follow up to reading Kealan Patrick Burke. Unfortunately this was a bit meh for me and it was a slog to finish. One aspect of the book is the discussion of grief and particularly the death of an infant. I do think that was handled very well but the story itself was not as good as I expected and the plot lacked in places. I still intend to read more of Burke’s work but this one was not for me.

★★★/5

In this standalone short story by N. K. Jemisin, author of The Fifth Season, the winner of this year’s Hugo Award for Best Novel, New York City is about to go through a few changes. Like all great metropolises before it, when a city gets big enough, old enough, it must be born; but there are ancient enemies who cannot tolerate new life. Thus New York will live or die by the efforts of a reluctant midwife…and how well he can learn to sing the city’s mighty song
  • Title: The City Born Great
  • Author: N.K Jemisin
  • Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

    This was a nice story and a bit of a different work than what I’m used to from Jemisin. This is set in a modern day as opposed to a further future that we saw in her Broken Earth trilogy for example and it is wonderful. For such a short work there is a great discussion of homelessness ,racism and police brutality towards black men. This is the shorter work that has beget Jemisin’s new novel due out in 2020, The City We Became and I can’t wait to see how she continues it.

★★★★/5

THE SANDMAN: THE DREAM HUNTERS is a comics adaptation of Gaiman’s original prose novella by the same name illustrated by Yoshitako Amano. This graphic novel was illustrated by the legendary P. Craig Russell. A humble young monk and a magical, shape-changing fox find themselves romantically drawn together. As their love blooms, the fox learns of a devilish plot by a group of demons and a Japanese emperor to steal the monk’s life. With the aid of Morpheus, the fox must use all of her cunning and creative thinking to foil this evil scheme and save the man that she loves.
  • Title: The Sandman: The Dream Hunters
  • Authors: Neil Gaiman, P.Craig Russell
  • Genre: Graphic novel, fantasy, horror

    This is an obvious fact by now that The Sandman is my favourite series of all times in terms of comics and this one is the latest I have read in order to have the entire universe read and covered this year. This story, will hurt you. I cried like I did when I read The Kindly Ones and this story isn’t even about Dream. This story focuses on the characters that Morpheus just happens to find in his realm and as usual, what his duties really entail which we all know is making tough decisions.

★★★★★/5

That’s it this week for Sunday Shorts! Maybe next time I may have a few more works since I plan on introducing single issue comics to this too and I have a MASSIVE comics TBR at the moment. Tell me some of the shorter things you have read recently! I’d love to hear what I could read next.

Blog Tour: Unprotected by Sophie Jonas Hill

Good evening dear readers and welcome to stop on the ever fabulous Random Things Tours blog tour for Unprotected by Sophie Jonas Hill!

She’s fighting to save everyone else, but will she have anything left to save
herself?
Witty, sharp and sarcastic tattoo artist Lydia’s life is imploding. Her long-term relationship has broken down after several miscarriages and she’s hiding from her hurt in loss and rage. After a big night out she wakes beside a much younger man who brings complications she could really do without.
As her grief about her lost babies and failed relationships spirals out of control, she obsesses about rescuing a wayward teenage girl she watches from her window and gets more involved than she should with her charming but unstable young lover.
Unprotected is a raw and punchy story of love, family and accepting yourself
for who you really are.

This kind of book is not usually my cup of tea but I still wanted to give it a try and unfortunately, I was correct that this was not to my tastes. BUT that does not mean I didn’t admire the writing of this book and the raw story woven with it.

The book is written almost in a stream of consciousness, patterned with Lydia’s thoughts and memories throughout the course of the story. Lydia is at a very low point in her life that I think we can all empathise with. The very honest discussion of miscarriages and how it affects both mothers to be and their relationships is an aspect I thought was particularly important. Too long the suffering of women has been ignored and hidden due to ‘shame’ and social norms that are nothing but harmful and old fashioned.

The plot can be difficult to follow in places due to Lydia’s point of view being affected by several factors. At one stage at the start of the novel she is taking MD at a fetish club and its very easy to lose track of what is happening. However it works very well for this book since Lydia as a character is intended to be a flawed, broken character on the very edge of discovering the self she truly is.

Something that I really took from the book was a story Lydia tells is that of a ballet class of when she was young and how she ended up playing a mushroom instead of a fairy in the big performance. All in all I could feel that sense of awkwardness and being the biggest misfit among girls my age come rushing back when I was that age. One quote stuck with me:

That’s what it’s like, when you’re a mushroom girl. You have to be grateful for the role life has handed you, because it is a pivotal role.

This is something I struggled with when I was younger, that you should be grateful and not complain about what you have been given in life. Fuck that. There is no need to ever settle for unhappiness, and Lydia does exactly this. She breaks out from her mould and embraces a side of herself that in doing things that may be harmful or excessive, she figures out her own pace and embraces her traumatic past to rescue herself.

A bold tale of rescue that even though it takes confronting the darkest corner of yourself to embrace what you truly are. Like I said, these kind of books are way outside my comfort zone but I felt deeply for Lydia and moments of the book have really stuck with me.

★★★.5/5

About the author:

Sophie has had what might be politely described as a varied career, which has seen her be a black-smith, silver-smith, jewellery designer, pattern-cutter and wedding dress designer, home help, teacher, extreme knitter, burlesque performer, artist and various combinations of the above. Her one abiding passion alongside drawing has always been writing, from her early work in year four producing hand bound novellas mostly written in crayon, to the inevitable fantasy epic which pushed 500 pages and, thank goodness, has never seen the light of day.
She began focusing on her writing after the birth of her first child, and has been working on it ever since, losing hands down to the publishing industry’s gatekeepers and Gorgons, until she met fellow traveller Amanda Saint, who as the name suggests, was something of a shining light on the path.
She is currently studying an MA in illustration and discovering how much she hates academic writing, and what a wise move it was to give someone else the task of designing the cover for her first book with Retreat West, Unprotected. She lives in Kent with her long suffering husband, two children and a very handsome cat.

Thank you very much to both Anne and Retreat West for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! Unprotected comes out today, November 28th.

The Beautiful- Renée Ahdieh ARC Review

‘I should hope so. Knowing who you are is necessary in order to determine who you want to be.’

Please let it be noted I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much to NetGalley and Hodder&Stoughton.

It feels very fitting that the first ARC I ever review is the book that ticks so many of my boxes. Vampires, New Orleans and morally grey characters? Its like the book was written for me.

It’s 1872 and Celine Rousseau is fleeing to New Orleans. Abandoning her life in Paris as an accomplished dress maker she takes refuge in an Ursuline convent as she restarts her life among her fellow society sisters. What first seems to be a city of decadence and luxury quickly shows itself to be run by something entirely darker. Who are the Court of Lions? And what connection do they have to the murders that have began to plague the city?

I thoroughly enjoyed the world woven by the author. The sheer glamour of New Orleans is captivating and I love how real the city feels as the novel goes on. The descriptions of the clothes, the food and the parades are so immersive and I could even feel the humidity described in the city. The location was important and I really felt it was written very well.

Overall we have a wonderful cast of characters. Celine is fanastic protagonist with a stubborn streak and an even sharper tongue. Her interactions with the male characters are the best since she refuses to be treated as anything but an equal to them. She is educated, she is stubborn and she doesn’t care about what you think of her. The female friendships gave me a lot of hope for future YA books in the genre and especially for representation. There are many characters of colour in this book and some very worthwhile discussions are brought up.

Now we have to talk about the vampires. The creatures of the night. The undead. One of the issues I did have with the book over all was how there is no confirmation or presence of what I consider vampires until at least half way through the book. I feel like the vampire aspect of the book is pushed very heavily in marketing and is not a big part of the story. This will definitely change I think in future books but for this one be aware.

The other issue I had with the book is the pacing of the plot. Where I went into this expecting a dark, gothic stort with vampires, a murder mystery all taking place in a convent I got more of a feel that this was a murder mystery with a romance. And some vampires later on. The first half of the book is definitely a lot slower than the second which is far better but I do think this book is a good foundation for what is going to be a more expanded world overall.

Overall this is a highly enjoyable that starts off slow but definitely delivers in the end. The writing is intoxicating with some wonderful characters but definitely is lite on vampires if like me, that’s what you came for. It’s still a book I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys books like The Diviners.

The Beautiful is due out on 08/10/2019.

★★★.5/5

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

‘ ‘And they do say the p-pen is mightier than the sss-
‘-sword,’ said Esk ‘All right, but which would you rather be hit with?’ ‘

Welcome back to the Discworld! This is part of my return to the Disc to finally finish the series so I am very excited to review this to begin the entire journey here on the blog.

The eighth son of an eighth son is a powerful thing living on the Disc. The eight son of an eighth son is destined to be a wizard, but what if that eighth son is not a son? Meet Eskarina Smith! She is going to be the first lady Wizard, but women can’t be wizards can they?

This book got off to a slower start than the previous two books in the series but has quickly become my favourite. In terms of worldbuilding, the groundwork has already been laid in the previous novels, namely A’tuin and the Disc but Esk’s (Eskarina) home is in a new part we have yet to see. Esk lives in the town of Badass (haw) in the Ramtops. The Ramtops are the mountains, 500 miles Hubwards of the city of Ankh-Morpork which is the main setting for many of the Discworld novels. It was very entertaining to see that small village mentality in action and under the hand of Pratchett.

The plot itself is pretty well contained and follows the journey of Esk and Granny Weatherwax as they make their way to Unseen University so Esk can be trained as a wizard. It does have a slower build up to the climax and it speeds up very suddenly when it does arrive. This didn’t really impact my enjoyment much but it did make it seem a bit like it was slogging in places but it still works perfectly for a Discworld novel.

At last, the characters are WONDERFUL. We meet our first witch on the Disc, Granny Weatherwax. Granny is honestly my favourite character in the story, I love Esk too but I really loved the way Granny was written. She is the resident witch of Bad Ass and when she takes Esk in she struggles with how to navigate dealing with someone Esk’s age (she is nine years old). Esk is the kind of little girl we all wished we could be, taken in by a witch with a big set of powers passed on to her and a bigger undertaking for being the first girl to enter the Unseen University. Granny and Esk develop a close bond as the novel progresses and its honestly heartwarming. We do meet other characters at the University but since this is a story focusing on feminism and women most of all I feel that Granny and Esk stand out in a way they are supposed to.

This is not a perfect book by any means but it still has all the elements of Discworld that I fell in love with in the first place and it further expands the world for us. The wit is razor sharp, the characters fall out of the book and on to your desk while you’re eating your lunch and we continue to learn more of the ways of this world. This was only the third book in the series aswell so I think it’s only fair to give Pratchett the benefit of the doubt on this one.

★★★★/5

Brown Girl in the Ring- Nalo Hopkinson

The African powers, child. The spirits. The loas. The orishas. The oldest ancestors. You will hear people from Haiti and Cuba and Brazil and so call them different names. You will even hear some names I ain’t tell you, but we all mean the same thing. Them is the ones who does carry we prayers to God Father, for he too busy to listen to every single one of we on earth talking at he all the time. ‘

Welcome to my first review on the blog! I find it extremely satisfying to review a book by an author on my radar for so long and to read a book that appeals to me so much as a reader and that really captures my tastes in genre.

‘Brown Girl in the Ring’ is set in a dystopic Toronto where the city is now ruled by violence and murder. Those of money and privilege have long fled, those left behind having to navigate a ruined world . At the heart of it stands Ti-Jeanne, a new mother finding with her own place in society and her struggle to accept the ways of her own people. When Ti-Jeanne finds herself at the heart of a wicked scheme she must learn to accept not only her own power but that sometimes the old ways are the most reliable.

First off to talk about the world, I found it very easy to picture the slums of Toronto despite never being there. There wasn’t much world building needed because it is a real city. I think was a good move since the book spent more time as a result establishing the culture and the characters which the novel really depended on.

On that note, the book draws heavily from Afro/Caribbean culture. Hopkinson herself is Jamaican born Canadian and spends a lot of the book describing figures from Caribbean folklore. Some of my favourite parts of the book are the descriptions of the various deities and creatures that Ti-Jeanne encounters. The story doesn’t shy away from graphic violence or gore either, so if you are anyway upset by blood magics or gory rituals this may not be for you. I particularly loved the Duppy spirits and the depiction of some of the Gods such as Legbara and Eshu. One of the stumbling blocks I had in the reading was the language used by Ti-Jeanne and the others in her community, mostly because I am obviously not from the relevant background. However I did like one moment when Ti-Jeanne’s grandmother, Gros-Jeanne , switched to a more standard English when talking to some quote ‘non-Caribbean people’. I like the fact it is acknowledged that when the characters are at home that they have their own language that is specifically for them and their own community.

Finally, I want to talk about the characters. Ti-Jeanne is the hero of the novel but we do meet other characters in her life including her grandmother Gros-Jeanne, Tony her ex lover and the novels main antagonist Rudy Sheldon. We meet Ti-Jeannes baby son also but since he is unnamed for the whole novel we just meet him as ‘Baby’. I liked the characters most of all, Ti-Jeanne and Gros Jeanne being my favourites. Ti-Jeanne goes through a lot of growth in the book and her grandmother functions as her main mother figure as well as the voice that educates us on her culture and her ways.

Ti-Jeanne as a character is not only very believable but also very easy to empathise with. I really enjoyed the brutal honesty of how she is struggling with motherhood. It also presents a very real scenario of how Ti-Jeanne finds it hard not to blame her son for her loss of freedom or resent him for needing all her attention. I think also by the end of the story we finally see Ti-Jeanne accept her own life for what it is. She also manages to discover her own voice over the course of the book and take back what was robbed from her.

There is a strong theme of feminism in this novel, obviously focusing on women of colour and the power they can have within this world so it will come as no surprise that Rudy is presented as the main antagonist of the plot, aside from Toronto itself. Rudy is a vengeful, bitter control freak who uses abuse and violence to maintain his hold on people. As the plot reveals more about him we come to understand how awful he truly is and how he really maintains his power. The eventual crossing of paths that brings Ti-Jeanne to Rudy’s attention is what ultimately leads to her own self discovery and how she needs to motivate herself to defeat Rudy. It’s this confrontation with control that I think really displays how easy power can be taken away from those who bully others to keep it and how much those who are at the bottom of society really have when they take their power back.

Overall I absolutely loved this book, it was so easy to read and once I got used to the language I flew through it. It helps I also like more complex protagonists like Ti-Jeanne. This is a must read for fans of Octavia Butler and Nnedi Okorafor and I can’t wait to read more of Hopkinson’s work.

★ ★ ★ ★ /5

Welcome to Hedwig’s World

Good Evening! My name is Kayleigh, but you can call me Hedwig. Welcome to my blog!

I’m delighted to finally have a blog up and running at last. I’ve wanted to set one up for a while now and it is here at last. First of all, I love books. I adore reading and living between the pages of another world is my ultimate love. That is why I have created this blog primarily, to write reviews, share my opinions and just meet more bookish folk who understand my love of reading.

I’m also a big fan of comics, conventions, Dungeons&Dragons and horror movies. I’m a massive nerd basically. I aim to discuss these things on this blog too if they interest you! In terms of book genre, I mostly read fantasy, sci fi and horror but read a lot of graphic novels/comics, non fiction and literary fiction too. Variety is important to me and so is learning new things.

I’m an artist also, but I’m currently working in administration to take a break from 4+ years in art education/work. Feel free to find me on Twitter and Instagram if you want to talk more but overall, thank you for reading and I can’t wait to get started here! (Yes that is Spike. I am am big Buffy nerd).

Stay spooky!