Review: The Walking Dead: Compendium One

You think that we hide behind walls to protect us from the walking dead? Don’t you get it? We are the walking dead!

I think it was 2014 or 2015 when I caught up with The Walking Dead TV show. I was obsessed and I’m not even joking when I say that. I was sharing Daryl Dixon pictures on my Facebook page, I bought the Telltale game (which I have yet to play fully) and you can guess the rest. Then the show tanked, it got so bad and the only good things left were Michonne and Negan. It’s taken me until now to read the comics. Surprise surprise, they are far better.

In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living. With The Walking Dead #1-48, this compendium features more than one thousand pages chronicling the start of Robert Kirkman’s Eisner Award-winning story of zombie horror, from Rick Grimes waking up alone in a hospital, his band of survivors seeking refuge on an isolated farm and the controversial introduction of Woodbury despot, The Governor.

*****Trigger Warnings for body horror, gore, mutilation, death of a parent, rape, physical and sexual assault, suicide, self-harm and domestic abuse******

So lets get this out of the way first, this is a complete tome that is over 1000 pages and I was reading this for a while. However, something I really enjoyed was once I sat down and opened this sheer brick of a collection, it was very easy to be sucked in to the story. So if the sheer length of it scared you, it is very easy to sail through it.

This is a sad and bitter world with people reduced to relying on survival instincts. Trusting your fellow man isn’t an option and there are no laws or government. Nothing of our old world remains and there is this constant unknowing if there is a government still there and if society will return if at all. I really liked the bleak reality of it and it was done far better in the comics. I think this has a lot to do with the pacing (more on that shortly) but there is less exposition on when things will be fixed which I do prefer and more ‘we need to survive this, let’s get moving.’ to the world as a whole.

This is mostly told from Rick Grime’s perspective and the creators have advised before that this is his story. Rick is the main focus of the plot driving the whole story as he begins in this compendium as the small town cop who is looking for his family and how he becomes the ruthless leader of a group of survivors. Rick has always interested me since he can be very realistic, and he is by no means an always good man. He has genuinely frightening moments that make him just as much of a problematic character as the people he is trying to defend himself from. Kirkman made a really good point about Rick in an interview where he described him as much more of an every-man who is very gentle, making him the perfect one to challenge in this world where the zombies don’t disappear after the credits roll. This series is what happens after that.

Obviously the “zombies” aren’t the main threat, more of an annoyance and a challenge for these people. If you like genuinely scary villains with messed up agendas and stories that really go there, you will probably love this. In terms of story arc, this book covers Rick and his awakening from his coma to the end of The Governor story line. The Governor wasn’t as compelling to me in the show the further it went on but the comics go there. He is frightening right from the start , he does everything the vilest human being you can think of could do and he takes it that step further. There is also the best damn revenge plot for him I will add. If it spoils sorry, but you might need to know.

Some smaller things stopped me from giving this a full 5 stars. One of them being that there are a few characters that are a bit too weird for me, not helping that I am comparing them to their TV counterparts. The other small thing I did have an issue with was the lack of emotional connection I had with any of the characters with how fast the plot moved. But that is to be expected so that’s just me.

The art is standout in this book. It’s black and white, totally scaled back and it really works to keep you consistently engaged in the story. This was a choice on behalf of the creators for both budget and the level of gore they wanted to go for. But even besides the fact it hides the very large amounts of blood, it really fits the mood of the story. You’re not going to care if this was done in any colour scheme once you get sucked into this story. Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard after him really managed a feat here with defining characters with limited options which does not take away from defining each character from each other. Yuo can easilt tell who is who and their feelings, it’s literally perfect.

This is the first 48 issues of the series and the culmination of the story cut through me. I honestly can’t wait to start the next compendium (thank you to my friend who lended these to me and who is super patient with me reading these slowly) Again, the size of these shouldn’t put you off. These are perfect for starting off while also being easy to get into. Do let me know if you are a fan! Happy reading all!

★★★★/5

Blog Tour: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Hello fellow readers! Today on the blog, is my review for the blog tour of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia!

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

I pray I’ll see you again. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.

******Trigger warnings for the following: Racism, rape, body horror, cannibalism, incest, eugenics, white supremacy, death of a parent and siblings and miscarriage.

I have never read the author before and this was honestly such a good introduction to her work. This is an intense creepy story that never fails to make your skin crawl or wonder what is going in with this damn house. The constant claustrophobia and anger felt by both the protagonist and the reader certainly stay with you off the page.

Its hard not to feel that you are locked in the crumbling mansion that is High Place. Long gone is the grandeur of Manderley and all that is left is the rotting, moldy remnants of an English family home. I am a big fan of house as character tropes and while I never felt the house was it’s own character, I definitely felt the sense that it wouldn’t let me go. From the silver laden cabinets to the enforced silence of dinner times it’s clear this house is insanely corrupt. The author went straight to the point, not once taking the attention away from High House or it’s dreary residents. For what we see of even the local town, you never spend long enough there to escape the house and that made this all the more creepy.

While investigating this weird family and this even weirder house, it’s hard not to connect with the characters or even have an emotional reaction to them. I loved Noemí right from the start. She never backs down and refuses to settle for anything less. While she can be both capricious and shallow it only strives to enforce her wonderful character more. She is pure steel with a strong sense of family, she never fails to try and challenge anyone who either offends her or stands in her way. She is the first to call out the patriarch, Howard, on his clear racism and discussion of eugenics.

Upon meeting Virgil and his family, the whole story gets even creepier I think. Is there anything creepier than racism, old English attitudes and the ideas of a superior race? I truly didn’t think this would have such relevant themes to the current climate but Virgil and his Usher style folks are a bignred flag from the get go. Except Francis. He must be kept safe at all costs.

Now I will say this isn’t going to be a nail biting read with moment after moment of shocking horror. What this truly is a gothic tale taken right out of the classics and is set in 1950s Mexico with a very unsettling story. There are some genuinely disgusting moments in this story and it didn’t help that one of the more fungal aspects of the house, is something I have a bit of an aversion to already so my reaction was a lot more visceral. There are some moments of body horror too which I was not expecting when the plot took a certain turn but it definitely added to the building tension and worked in the authors favour.

If you are a fan of creepy stories or gothic narratives or even want a story that is a welcome and refreshing take on both of these, then this is definitely for you. I read this in a day which is testament to how hard it is to put down as well.

Thank you to both Netgalley and Jo Fletcher Books for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for a review. Thank you also for having me on this blog tour!

Mexican Gothic is published today the 30th of June!

Review: Rosewater by Tade Thompson

I can read minds but I still don’t understand women. Or men. Humans. I don’t understand humans.

This book has been sitting on my TBR forever. I bought a Kindle copy ast year and never got around to it between starting this blog and various life things. I picked up a physical copy back in February (forgetting the Kindle copy clearly) and have finally read it. Definitely the kind of scifi I need in my life right now.

Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless—people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers.

Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn’t care to again—but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realization about a horrifying future

I really enjoyed this. I have found that my taste in scifi is leaning far more towards ‘new weird’ or just generally narratives that focus more on far more diverse stories in the last year. Lagoon was a huge favourite of mine from last year and Rosewater definitely captured some similar aspects of an alternative Nigeria but manages to keep you at arms length to maintain the mystery of both Rosewater and Kaaro.

The prospect of a city like Rosewater is so completely fascinating and terrifying to me. This city exists due the the third appearance of an alien known as Wormwood as it manifests as a biodome in Nigeria. Once a year, this dome opens and people flock to it to be healed and changed by entering the dome. Thompson explains this so well, I had no problem entering the story whenever I had put it down. What I really liked as well was the description of how psychic powers work and how they are tied into the existence of the biodome. It added an extra layer to the world building that I found impressive.

Kaaro is a protagonist I would usually find it hard to gel with. When I said that we are kept at arms length, it is mostly from Kaaro. He is a powerful psychic, if not the best, who has not always used his powers for totally honorable reasons. He is narrating this story and since we get this story in different time jumps, for example the plot as it’s happening now to events that happened before Kaaro became a government agent and how he became one. The book lets you get right to that part of his past that will answer a question that you have and then the chapter will end. However far we are kept from Kaaro, he does have a fantastic characters arc and the various time jumps across his life do give him a sense of growth that I don’t see often with male characters. He is flawed yet sympathetic and I find it very interesting how his masculinity in particular is challenged and discussed at various points of the story.

The time jumps in the story are work very well with this story, There is the perfect blend of scifi meets mystery here, with the mystery kept in the dark for all the right reasons. The pieces of the plot do come together perfectly and it becomes clear that Kaaro is more involved with various events than even he realises and how his powers are at risk as well as his life. It’s also a big difference to rad a science fiction story where America isn’t a huge factor in the plot. American in 2066 having shut down after Wormwood hit is a very different and welcome direction for the plot to take. I’d also like to thank Tade Thompson for mentioning the fate of my own home of Ireland and how it shaped up!

All in all, I did thoroughly enjoy this book, my only very mild criticism that the antagonist of the plot (or at least the main source of conflict) was dealt with very cleanly. Other than that, I am really looking forward to reading the other two books in this trilogy and discovering what is to come from Rosewater next.

Thanks for checking in guys, let me know if you have read this! Happy reading!

★★★★.5/5

Review: Page by Tamora Pierce ( The Protector of the Small)

If we pick a fight, then we’re just as bad as them. Combat should be used just to help people who can’t defend themselves, period.

This seems to officially be a Terry Pratchett and Tamora Pierce stan account these days (more on the Discworld Project next week). I picked this up directly after finishing First Test so you can imagine how much that shows I’m enjoying this series.

As the only female page in history to pass the first year of training to become a knight, Keladry of Mindelan is a force to be reckoned with. But Kel’s battle to prove herself isn’t over. She must master
her paralyzing vertigo, the gruelling training schedule and the dark machinations of those who would rather she fail.

But in times of danger, Kel shines.

The kingdom’s nobles are beginning to wonder if she can succeed far beyond what they imagined. And those who hate the idea of a female knight are getting desperate – they will do anything to halt her journey.

A powerful classic that is more timely than ever, the Protector of the Small series is about smashing the ceilings others place above you.

For some reason and I can’t place why, this book reminds me a lot of reading Assassins Apprentice by Robin Hobb. Now this is nowhere near the level of grimdark that Farseer reaches but I think it might be that this time, the time scale of Kel and her training is sped up significantly. First book of course did cover that year of probation that Kel had to suffer through and this book covers from her second year as a Page to when she is finishing her exams to progress to a Squire.

As a result of that, we get to see Kel as she matures into a teenager. Within a world like Tortall, you wouldn’t expect to see in depth about the joys of puberty and every thing that a young girl might experience during that. But you forget, this is Tamora Pierce. This books are different. I was so relieved that there was a good detailed discussion about periods. Yep, this book has details about getting periods among other details. What a relief! I don’t think I can think of one fantasy book that details this without the value being around virginity/purity. Nope, this is your normal, inconvenience of having one when you really don’t meed one. And there is a discussion about them with Kel and her maid Lalasa which needs to be more common. Something small, I know but anything that will destigmatise basic bodily functions is fine with me.

Since there isn’t a lot of world or expansion of the world building of the previous book, this book functions mostly as both a character study and a coming of age story for Kel and her friends. We obviously get the period stuff I mentioned but just other small things that add to the other characters growth too. Her changing feelings for Neal being one and her discovery of a solid, female friendship with Lalasa as well. This is probably the part I loved the most. Lalasa is a welcome addition to the story and watching Kel teach her physically how to defend herself while reminding her that harassment is never okay and has to be challenged, well, it felt very relevant to be honest. Even more so at the moment.

As far as the story is concerned, it is as tight and concise as the first. I felt the climactic point of the plot was both obvious while also kind of being a thing that I didn’t think would happen. That Keladry succeeding threatened others that much and that they had to be so malevolent about it. The last few chapters were so gripping that I was getting worried while reading it and even if it does seem like she is always going to make it sue to the quartet existing, I still had my doubts for a second. That to me is great plot work.

I can’t move on without the mention of best boy Jump. A dog is a welcome addtion to any story, especially such a good boy like him. I really liked seeing even Lord Wyldon make a tiny fuss of him and agree he was vital to the entire castle. Thank you Tamora Pierce for not having the dog die as well. I don’t care if that spoils the book, I know others will want to know.

I haven’t picked up Squire yet just due to some mood reading and blog tours but that and Lady Knight will be up next on my TBR very soon. I will have considerable space after recent revelations. Thanks for reading this review and happy reading. Most of all know, I hope everyone is safe, practicing self care for their mental health and is doing okay.

★★★★★/5

Blog Tour: We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson

Hello fellow readers, today is my stop on the Orbit Books blog tour for We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson!

In the midst of a burgeoning war, a warrior, an assassin, and a princess chase their own ambitions no matter the cost in Devin Madson’s visceral, emotionally charged debut.

War built the Kisian Empire. War will tear it down.

Seventeen years after rebels stormed the streets, factions divide Kisia. Only the firm hand of the god-emperor holds the empire together. But when a shocking betrayal destroys a tense alliance with neighboring Chiltae, all that has been won comes crashing down.

In Kisia, Princess Miko Ts’ai is a prisoner in her own castle. She dreams of claiming her empire, but the path to power could rip it, and her family, asunder. In Chiltae, assassin Cassandra Marius is plagued by the voices of the dead. Desperate, she accepts a contract that promises to reward her with a cure if she helps an empire fall. And on the border between nations, Captain Rah e’Torin and his warriors are exiles forced to fight in a foreign war or die.

As an empire dies, three warriors will rise. They will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.

‘There are no Gods. Only men. But if you can give people hope…You can become something close to divine.’

I don’t think anyone will be surprised to hear that I thought this is honestly an amazing book with a great start to a new series. This book has a lot of my buzz words, but the second I heard there was a princess tearing stuff down from the inside and an assassin who could hear the voices of the dead that was me on board.

Set in the Eastern inspired world of Kisia, straight away from the get go the world building was solid. I don’t think I struggled once to understand the various locations of the 3 main characters as we moved across this war torn land. From the varying customs that were stark comparisons between the Levanti and Kisians or the different lives led by Cassandra as both a sex worker and assassin Princess Miko having to pretend her archery skills were half what they were, the world is so clear it was hard to step away. To be fair, I read this in 2 sittings but I still had no problem stepping back into the world when needed.

World building aside, the characters are the true standouts here. We get the 3 varying points of view here that all transition very smoothly between each other and there are obviously going to be favourites. Cassandra was honestly my favourite. What’s not to love about a sex working assassin with a very murky past, has necromantic powers and has the voice of something in their head? Cassandra is a bit unlike the other characters where she doesn’t really care about the looming war and she’s just looking to be paid. Which is fair enough to be honest. She does have this interesting arc with the voice of the creature she talks with in her head and I’m really curious to see where that goes.

Princess Miko has such a great development form start to finish that has left me so satisfied, I’m afraid I won’t be able to get this into words. This novel by the way opens with one of the best lines I have read in a long time, and comes directly from Miko;

They tried to kill me four times before I could walk.

I honestly think I don’t see enough power hungry princesses in fantasy. Here Madson has managed to make Miko as a character so sympathetic and so totally believable that her goals are very hard not find yourself agreeing with at times. She is above all intelligent, growing up in her brothers shadow while also being that same shadow. She has had to watch every single move she ha made, every word spoken for fear that there will be no support for her should her brother be heir. She is also totally able to adapt and use whatever she is given to an advantage. Hard to forget as well is her relationship with her mother, the Empress, and how she uses that too to gain what she needs but learn that to rule an empire your parents might not be the best role models to look up to.

Hard to mention Miko without mentioning her mother. Empress Hana is seen by both Cassandra and Miko’s POV but both totally differently. I don’t mean like one sees “mother” and one sees Empress. They both see her as the Empress Hana of Kisia but one is a cold, shrewd tactician and the other is a Cersei type ruler who will have you dead before you can blink. That worked super well and for a character who spends very little time actually in the story I was highly impressed with her.

The characters and the world blend seamlessly with the constantly racing plot that had me totally absorbed the entire time. There was no room to breathe or stop (second sitting needed so that I could sleep) and wonder on a death or a big event since something else was always coming and it flows so well with a conclusion that is very satisfying. That being said, I need book 2 immediately and want to start reading it yesterday. Jokes aside, I do find it hard to find first books in fantasy series that are so well executed so for that alone, the book is highly enjoyable.

We Ride the Storm comes out the 25th of June.

Thank you to both Nazia and Orbit Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a review. This is up there with The Wolf of Oren Yaro by totally resetting my expectations for upcoming fantasy novels. The fact this began as an self published book too makes me sad I didn’t find it prior to this but I would highly recommend this for any fantasy fans looking for something new. happy reading guys!

Devin Madson is an Aurealis Award-winning fantasy author from Australia. After some sucky teenage years, she gave up reality and is now a dual-wielding rogue who works through every tiny side-quest and always ends up too overpowered for the final boss. Anything but zen, Devin subsists on tea and chocolate and so much fried zucchini she ought to have turned into one by now. Her fantasy novels come in all shades of grey and are populated with characters of questionable morals and a liking for witty banter.

Extract Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

‘Piranesi. It is what he calls me. Which is strange because as far as I remember it is not my name.’

This was a nice, short and sweet extract from one of my most anticipated releases this year, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. Thank you to both Netgalley and Bloomsbury for the exclusive extract of this book!

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house-a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

I think this is the perfect little taste to get of this book. but it’s also agonising since September feels so far away! From reading here we get a clear view that the House mentioned, is a bit of a TARDIS case. It looks to be bigger on the inside. Our narrator, the man of the title Piranesi, mentions halls of statues, rolling tides flowing through the House and secrets he ponders each day as he explore the House.

I’m fascinated by this introduction to Pitanesi and what possibilities lie behind him as a character. There is very big potential here that he could be either an unreliable narrator or that this book is possibly one that could break the fourth wall after concluding on this wonderful line:

The Sixteenth Person.

And You. Who are You? Who is it that I an writing for? Are you a traveler who has cheated Tides an crossed Broken Floors and Derelict Stairs to reach these Halls? Or are You perhaps someone who inhabits my own Halls long after I am dead?

I can’t wait to read this and September can’t come soon enough. Piranesi is out on the 15th of September from Boomsbury. Check back in here for my inevitable review.

Review: First Test by Tamora Pierce (The Protector of the Small)

‘I’ve watched Lady Alanna fight for the crown. I saw her majesty and some of her ladies fight in the Immortals War. I know women can be warriors.’

I’m back! Apologies for my sudden absence, a combination of work and personal things coupled with the world being totally on fire at the moment have lead me to fall behind on the review here. Well I’m back with my journey to Tortall and the first book in The Protector of the Small quartet.

Keladry of Mindelan is the first girl who dares to take advantage of the new rule that allows women to train for knighthood.

But standing in Kel’s way is Lord Wyldon the training master, who is dead set against girls becoming knights. A woman should be lovely. A woman should be charming. A woman should not be deadly.

Wyldon demands Kel pass a one-year trial that no male page has ever had to endure. It’s just one more way to separate Kel from her fellow trainees. Kel must prove herself twice as good as her male peers just to be thought equal. But she is not to be underestimated.

Kel will fight to succeed, even when odds are stacked against her. Book one of a powerful and classic fantasy quartet about smashing the ceilings others place above you, by the bestselling author of the Song of the Lioness series and Tempests and Slaughter.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows how much I loved my read of the Immortals quartet last year that returning to this world was highly enjoyable for me. I love Tamora Pierce’s writing from my first read of Wild Magic and I feel it only gets better with each series.

This book expands on the world building of Tortall from the previous 2 series but there is no issue for a reader to begin reading from here. There are details and spoilers from the Immortals quartet as well as appearances of characters from there and the world left changed after the Immortals War. It’s a nice reward for anyone who has read it but it really makes the world larger and we learn of the Yamani Islands which are based on Japan and Japanese culture. Kel having spent time there gives us some brief insight into their traditions and ways of living.

Kel is only 11 in this first book but already she is pretty fearless. During the constant harassment from the male Pages, her training mater and the general struggle of becoming a Knight, she doesn’t give an inch and refuses to compromise. From the start of the book she is clearly a character that is more aligned with Alanna than Daine where she is more physical and commonly sports black eyes and bruises from various fights. I think out of all the characters Pierce has written, Kel is one I relate to the hardest. I’ve so often been in the situation (as many people have) that I’ve had to work harder just to get what I want and it’s refreshing she is not a ‘chosen one’ either.

We met some other great characters along the way. Besides the reappearance of Daine, Numair and other big names, there is the introduction of Lord Wyldon and Kel’s main ally, Nealan of Queenscove. Clearly Wyldon is as biased as he is tough but I thought by the end of the book, he certainly took on a more relatable light and changed a lot. I like seeing characters change their attitudes and just grow out of them. It needs to be normalised a lot more in fantasy books. Neal is hilarious and a great friend to Kel but there is clearly some set up here for later books I feel with his character so I’ll talk about that as I read on.

This is a nice quick read with a smooth cohesive plot that really works as both a primer for the world and a refresher for returning reader. I am giving it such a high rating for mostly enjoyment purposes but do still think this is a very solid first book for a series. Also, Kel saves kittens. She was a fave right there and then.

Thank you for bearing with me fellow readers. Rest assured I have a lot of stuff coming up these next couple of weeks including my review of the second book in this series, Page. So keep an eye out for that and do tell me, are you a fan? Have you read this series? Happy reading everyone!

★★★★★/5

Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

In the land of Ingary where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.

I think we all have those books sitting on out shelves for a while that we all KNOW we will love but we don’t read them right away? It’s almost like a stubbornness from people suggesting it or hearing about it all the time? I bought Howl’s Moving Castle almost a year ago, and have only got around to reading it now as the lockdown in Ireland continues. And yes I did love it.

“How about making a bargain with me?” said the demon. “I’ll break your spell if you agree to break this contract I’m under.”

In the land of Ingary, where seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, Sophie Hatter attracts the unwelcome attention of the Witch of the Waste, who puts a curse on her. Determined to make the best of things, Sophie travels to the one place where she might get help – the moving castle which hovers on the nearby hills.

But the castle belongs to the dreaded Wizard Howl whose appetite, they say, is satisfied only by the hearts of young girls..

Can I start off with Sophie being the eldest and just say SAME GIRL. Diana Wynne Jones is also the eldest of her siblings and a lot of what she writes into Sophie, I felt was very applicable to me. I’m not cursed, neither have I sought my fortune but there is still a strong feeling of being seen. The more I sit on this, the more I feel I needed this when I was younger.

I went into this totally blind. I have not seen the full movie and I only knew vague plot elements about Howl mostly and that really did help here. This is another well loved fantasy classic that I feel has stood the test of time. I am currently focussing on women fantasy authors and older, back listed titles a lot more and this was definitely up there in that category.

The world itself is wonderfully painted and so whimsical it was heart warming. As said in the synopsis and the quote from the book, this is a world where seven league boots, witches and wizards who eat girls hearts live among us. There is however a nice tie to the world as we would know it, “the real world” even which I thought was written really well.

I really love Sophie. She reminds me a lot of Daine in The Immortals Quartet in the way that she is so incredibly caring, mostly towards her sisters and step mother, but she is not at all willing to accept things just as they are. She it outspoken when she needs to be and I feel she really embraces that side of her when she goes to Howl to seek help.

We have to talk about Howl Pendragon. What a dramatic, man child who can’t cope with any kind of inconvenience. Another thing I didn’t know at all was the kind of character Howl was. I think I got the opposite of what I was expecting but I’m kind of glad I did? He’s this powerful wizard who always avoids a direct answer and you never truly know what he is up to. Sophie is not taking his shit at all either which is so entertaining to read, especially when they bicker.

This is a great story, no doubt about it and there is a sense of the story being complete with how everything turns out. This is a book I would have happily recommended to anyone at the start of the pandemic as a book where nothing really bad happens and it is a pure piece of escapism. There are 2 sequels but you could totally read it as a standalone story but I do intend to read more of Diana Wynne Jones so will probably read them.

Now I shall finally watch the movie as it is my day off and might so another blog post on that. Happy reading folks!

★★★★★/5

Review: The Fireman by Joe hill

“There are no unselfish acts. When people do something for someone else, it’s always for their own personal psychological reasons.”

I don’t think a book has taken me this long to finish in a while and it has nothing to do with the length of it either. I started this book on audio the week that I was sent to work from home due to the current pandemic. And this is a book that concerns a pandemic style event. Bad timing?

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

So poor timing aside, this is definitely up there with Horns for me as one of Joe Hill’s best works (outside of his work in comics). I think he has a true gift with novels that he sometimes lacks with the shorter stories and here it really shines through.

Here we have a world ravaged by a spore that manifests on peoples skin and can cause them to abruptly burst into flames. There is a phenomenal amount of detail put into how the spore infects and progresses. Dragon Scale is a deadly and fascinating disease, with as much detail as Hill was liable to give. Within the world of this book there is many theories that seem plausible for how the Scale works but within a world that is also falling apart and turning into a full scale apocalypse there is very little science to distinctly ground them. I found it reminding me of watching ‘The Walking Dead’ that way (when it was good) and it worked super well for the world building since it somehow made everything that little bit more real.

There is no way that I was getting through this review without talking about Harper. The book is very cleverly structured and timed around Harper’s pregnancy and within the 9 months it is fair to say that she achieves a very emotional character arc. Joe Hill writes wonderful mother figures and Harper is no exception. She is cheerful even in the face of danger but she is far from stupid, with an inner strength that never wains no matter who she is facing down. Although this is a global event, this is very much her story more than the actual story of the total apocalypse and it is handled very well.

There are several other wonderful characters I grew deeply attached to such as the Fireman himself or Nick, a young deaf boy Harper meets at Camp Wyndham. Something I found endlessly interesting was some of the antagonists, like Jakob (Harpers husband) or Carol Storey, another character from Camp Wyndam. Without giving much away, both are very real. Too real, especially Carol.

Hill is truly a master storyteller, no surprise with his parentage but he stands on his own two feet here and not for the first time. I can’t give away any other details about the story without spoiling it but this story is captivating, tragic, optimistic while being realistic and bleak all in one. The book wraps up so well and I can’t praise it enough. I went between the audio and the physical book here again and you are in for a treat with Kate Mulgrew narrating.

This should be a five star book but I had to take off a star for how long this took me and my poor choice for reading it during a pandemic. I will probably come back and change it but don’t let it put you off reading this great story. Thanks for tuning in guys! Happy Reading!

★★★★.5/5

Blog Tour: The Wrongful Death (The Great Devil War III) by Kenneth B. Andersen

Hello fellow readers and yes, I did accept all my blog tours for one single week it seems! My organisational skills aside, today on the blog I am on the tour for The Wrongful Death, the third book in the Great Devil War series!

An unfortunate chain of events makes Philip responsible for the untimely death of the school bully Sam—the Devil’s original choice for an heir. Philip must return to Hell to find Sam and bring him back to life, so that fate can be restored. But trouble is stirring in Lucifer’s kingdom and not even Philip can imagine the strange and dark journey that awaits him. A journey that will take him through ancient underworlds and all the way to Paradise.

Well this one really took me by surprise. This is a series I have really enjoyed since the first book and this being the third, I was worried that I was going to have to expect the same plot beats but kind of hoped if it was, it would be in the way that this book was parodying itself. Holy shit I was so wrong.

WE GET TO GO TO ANOTHER UNDERWORLD. I’m sorry, did I say that out loud? Yes. I was thrilled. I am not even mentioning where or why or how but this is something my little heart jumped for. I am a long time fan of chthonic Gods, Goddesses, underworlds, necromancy (GIDEON!!!) and just anything like that, my gothy soul calls for it. This was such a great surprise and I hope we get to visit more.

The characters as always are a dream. I’m delighted Sam finally had his moment. I always found his and Philip’s relationship both fascinating and very real. Yes Sam is a bully who is utterly horrible to other kids but it’s like Philip brought out an element of warmth in him somehow. It is comedic as well at times how well they work too and how they balance each other out. Also can I please have dinner with Satina’s parents? They are so wonderful.

Now, the main event. Out of all these books I have read so far in this series, I did not expect this one to go how it did. Like I mentioned at the beginning, I expected something similar where each book might be a Groundhog Day/Spinal Tap and their drummer style set up where the same thing happens but that is part of the enjoyment. BUT NO. NO. I’m not saying how or where but this story and how it all wrapped up has me so pumped to read book four.

This series is definitely taking a wonderful turn that I think is necessary but also right up my alley so if you wish to know which book is the best in the series is so far? It’s definitely this one. Thank you so much to Dave at the Write Reads and Kenneth Andersen for having me on these tours and an ecopy of this book for review!

The Wrongful Death is out now!

About the author:

Kenneth B. Andersen (1976) is an award-winning Danish writer. He has published more than forty books for children and young adults, including both fantasy, horror, and science fiction. His books have been translated into more than 15 languages and his hit-series about the superhero Antboy has been turned into three movies. A musical adaptation of The Devil’s Apprentice, the first book in The Great Devil War series, opened in the fall 2018 and film rights for the series have been optioned. Kenneth lives in Copenhagen with his wife, two boys, a dog named Milo, and spiders in the basement