April 2021

Another month has come and gone.

To think, this time last year dragged on so much, but this month has gone by in the blink of an eye. I guess pressing university deadlines will do that to a person though. I’ve also been up to other things, which you can find out if you carry on reading…

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To Kill A Kingdom Book Review

I’d been itching to read this book after reading the synopsis and hearing it was an enemies to lovers story. I enjoyed reading it, and I might read it again if I’m looking for an easy fantasy read, but it’s not a book I’m gushing about or leaping to read.

Synopsis

The Princes’ Bane is feared across the hundred kingdoms for killing princes mercilessly. But when the siren herself, Lira, becomes an ordinary human in a cruel twist of fate, she must take the heart of the siren killer himself, Prince Elian. Can she do so before the Sea Queen’s deadline?

First Impressions

I wanted to like this book, especially given the enemies to lovers trope, the witty banter and the pretty good ending, but there was something lacking for me and I can’t place what.

Thoughts

What I Liked:

  • Enemies to lovers – one of my all time favourite tropes
  • Elian and Lira – I loved their interactions with one another, especially the witty banter
  • The crew – I love a good found family trope, and this found family were great

What I Disliked:

  • The descriptions – they got better as the story went on, but I just didn’t like them to begin with
  • The resolution – don’t get me wrong, I like a happy ending, but I don’t think it was necessary to sum everything up the way it did? I would’ve been fine not knowing about Princess Yukiko

Characterisation: I love Elian and Lira together, much better than when they’re alone. I loved the witty banter, the comfort they felt around one another, trusting one another despite everything. God, I love it. I will say, I think the story could’ve worked just as well without the romance. I know it was building up a romance, but it missed something for me.

The crew were equally as brilliant. I loved Kye and Madrid’s relationship, and Torik in general. Even Kahlia, despite not appearing very often (for obvious reasons). I love the found family trope, and I love that they look out for and look after each other. Just… yes.

The Sea Queen felt more like a plot point than an actual character, which worked well if that was the case. But if she was supposed to be a substantial character, she fell flat.

Story Structure: I haven’t got much to say on the story structure really. It followed a basic story structure, with an identifiable inciting incident, lowest point, climax and resolution. Although, the inciting incident happened later than I thought it would, to the extent that I thought the blurb was purposefully misleading me. Patience is a virtue.

Other Thoughts: I didn’t like the writing style to begin with, but it improved as the story went along. It had quite beginner writer vibes, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but something I was taught (thoroughly) not to do. But I loved it towards the end, so I think it was just the writing style to begin with.

Summary

I enjoyed the story, especially the witty banter, the enemies to lovers trope, the found family trope and the pretty good ending, but there was something lacking for me. It’s the perfect book if you want an easy fantasy story to dive into (pun intended).

February 2021

February has been quite a month, both in the best and worst ways, but hey, life goes on.

It’s been a difficult start to the year for a number of reasons, but my degree has been keeping me busy. I’ve also been enjoying reading again, which has been the best escape. I’m honestly holding onto any and all good moments at this point because they’ve been lacking lately.

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Loveless Book Review

As someone on the ace/aro spectrum, I’ve acknowledged I’ll probably never find accurate representation of my sexuality within the media, but I’m always curious to read and watch asexual representation. I heard about this book and leaped at the chance to read it, and I’m so glad I did because it was written so well.

Synopsis

Georgia has never been kissed, let alone had a relationship, but she’s positive she’ll find someone when she goes to university with her two best friends, Pip and Jason. Except life is never that simple and the terms asexual and aromantic send Georgia on a whirlwind journey of self discovery. Can she maintain her friendships, or will her new identity change everything beyond repair?

First Impressions

This book triggered memories of my own self discovery journey with my sexuality (demisexual/demiromantic) and once again made me question whether I might be asexual (I’m definitely demiromantic though). I related to Georgia’s hopelessness and frustration towards her sexuality and hesitation/frustration towards explaining her sexuality all the time (seriously, it’s exhausting).

Thoughts

What I Liked:

  • Great asexual/aromantic representation – it’s so rare to read/watch, so I was ecstatic Alice Oseman did such a great job at writing this story
  • Georgia’s story arc – allowing her to be flawed and do shitty things because she was confused about her identity was so reassuring to read, and very realistic too
  • Georgia’s acceptance – the story raises a very good point that your happiness/success in life shouldn’t be based on whether you’re in a sexual/romantic relationship, and I very much appreciated that
  • The characters in general – they were all loveable, even when they were hurting or angry at Georgia, and I loved them all

What I Disliked:

  • It sometimes felt a bit overdramatic – I know stories would be boring without drama, but some of the events felt a bit too coincidental or over the top
  • The negative reactions to asexuality – this is more a general annoyance that the negative perspectives in this book felt all too real for me, and I hate that there is still so much hate for ace/aro spectrum people

Characterisation: Georgia is such a good, well rounded character. While her good traits outweigh the bad, hurting your friends while testing your sexuality is a really shitty thing to do, and I’m glad she realises that too. I’m glad she deals with the consequences of her actions, then tries to make it up to them.

Pip and Rooney are perfect for each other and I would honestly read an entire story about them. They just seem like such a perfect match since they’re both loud, dramatic, theatre lovers who call each other out on their bullshit. When they finally kissed, I paused reading to just grin widely and squee in delight.

Jason and Sunil are the best. I love their friendship, and I love how calm and collected they are, but are both capable of showing their more negative emotions (hurt, anger) when the situation called for it. They were just two awesome background characters I loved, and wish we could’ve seen more of Jason and Sunil’s friendship (I’d also read a story about that too).

Story Structure: the story structure is easy enough to spot, especially given the constant ups and downs, but in a YA romance novel, you expect constant ups and downs, especially in regards to friendships/relationships. The pacing was good and the occasional time jump was appreciated, which led to an overall solid storyline.

Other Thoughts: I thought Beth was Rooney’s secret girl crush or something, so I was disappointed when it was a best friend who forgot all about her. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of a friendship falling apart and how devastating that can be, but it felt like the build up was anti-climatic?

Summary

If you want an introduction into what asexuality is, or a story featuring a journey of self discovery, pick up this book immediately. It’s wonderfully written and is one of the rare forms of media that portrays asexuality in a realistic way. Cannot praise this book enough, nor the amazing author behind it.

The Mask Of Mirrors Book Review

I discovered BookBox on Instagram by accident and saw their January theme reveal post, which was based on the theme of masquerade. In hindsight, I now know they meant masquerade as in disguising one’s identity rather than as a masquerade ball. Intrigued, I read the blurb and was immediately sucked in, and that intrigue and curiosity stayed with me until the very end of the story. Seriously, this book is just so good!

Synopsis

Ren is a con artist who wants to pull off her biggest con yet: convincing a noble family she’s a long lost family member. But nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and a plot to destroy the city could lead to disastrous consequences, unless she can stop it. With help from friends and allies, she might just be the key to stopping it all from happening.

First Impressions

Fantasy names/places are difficult to read, but h o l y s h i t. Morally ambiguous characters, plenty of plot twists and mysteries, impeccable world building, a version of tarot and a mysterious character admired by the locals? This book genuinely has everything, and I absolutely love it.

Thoughts

What I Liked:

  • The mystery of The Rook – I fell for Ren’s guess the first time, but learned from that and didn’t try to guess again, so I was pleasantly surprised by the reveal
  • Morally ambiguous characters – none of them have clean hands, except maybe Giuna, and it’s refreshing to see how they adapt/grow as the story progresses
  • Multiple POVs – I love stories where we can see different character’s perspectives, and it just worked so well in this story, especially given what happens
  • Impeccable world building – it’s so rich and well developed, obviously drawing from real world mythology/cultures, and set during Renaissance times (or at least, I assume it is)

What I Disliked:

  • Story length – don’t get me wrong, I’m hyped this is a trilogy, but given how much was packed into this one story, I do wonder whether this might be better as a standalone (I hope I’m wrong)
  • Fantasy names/places – I did struggle with pronouncing half the words, but I know that’s just part of the fantasy genre, so that’s more something I can adapt to as I read more fantasy books

Characterisation: God, there are so many characters, but they’re all so distinct and different from one another that I love them all. I’m gonna go into detail here about the characters who feature on a consistent basis, but I’m gonna try to avoid spoilers. Prepare for a long section ’cause there are so many characters and I just… I love them.

Ren is the main character, as mentioned in the synopsis, but what I like about her is the moral ambiguity. She’s willing to do what it takes to survive, hence why she does the con in the first place, and she even admits to wanting to murder someone. But as the story progresses, you can see how her priorities shift because she doesn’t want to hurt several people, such as Donaia and Giuna. I love how she could don different disguises to get what she needed from specific people and how she almost lost everything due to being poisoned, but I also love her intuitive ability and the insights/backstory we get behind her and how she became the person she is.

Tess and Sedge create such a strong dynamic with Ren, and I really appreciate that despite them not actually being biologically related. Tess, who creates dresses and nurtures Ren when she needs it most, and Sedge, who protects the pair and doesn’t mind getting his hands bloody if it guarantees their safety. There’s so much more to say about them because they truly do make the story better, and I love their dynamic when they’re all together.

The Traementis family are complex and interesting. Donaia, who distrusted Ren, and Giuna, who loved and adored her, swapped places as the story progressed, and I actually really liked that. Leato – I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but I was devastated. I really loved him, and I’m sad with what happened, but I understand why it had to happen. Equally, Serrado is a complex character too, since he’s distrusting of Ren but warms up to her, and he does whatever he can to protect people and do his job, while also trying to remain loyal to his roots. All of them are wonderful characters, and I appreciate the time and effort that went into developing them all.

I can’t not mention Vargo, the infamous criminal mastermind. He’s a perfect match for Ren in terms of being a very manipulative person. The way he uses everyone to his own ends goes to show his ability to survive too, but I’m super intrigued by his spiritual connection with Alsius. I wanna know more! I want the backstory, to discover how their connection works. I like him in the same way you like a nefarious character, where you know you probably aren’t meant to like them but you just can’t help it.

Last but not least, one of my favourite characters, The Rook. The mystery behind him – ooh boy! The payoff was so worth it since I didn’t think we’d find out his identity until the second book, so that was a great surprise plot twist. I loved the mystery of trying to figure out who it was, and they gave us two curveballs. Although, after believing Ren’s assumption the first time, I didn’t believe the second assumption, which paid off since the actual reveal was a pleasant surprise. The hints weaved throughout as well about who The Rook is – it’s just so cleverly done!

I won’t mention the two villainous characters, partially because one of the villainous characters almost felt like they were shoved to the side? Especially compared to everything else that happened. The other villainous character is pretty well done, and I can see where mythology might’ve played a part in her story because she’s just so creepy! But I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave it at that.

Story Structure: Usually, a story is split into a three act structure, taken from theatre, but it’s not explicitly shown as parts unless the author chooses to do so. In this book, it’s explicitly shown as being split into four parts, which makes it easy to follow the typical three act structure. You can identify what the inciting incident, the lowest point and the climax are, but there are enough plot twists and mysteries to distract you from identifying much else, and the pacing generally stays pretty consistent throughout.

Other Thoughts: Their version of tarot is certainly interesting, and I’d honestly love it if the author(s) ever released their tarot deck because it just fascinates me so much. I’m so curious to know if their cards correspond with actual tarot cards, and in which, I’m dying to know which cards go with each other.

Summary

Expect me to go on about this book for the next year or so because I love it so much! It’s just great, with morally ambiguous characters, impeccable world building and so much story packed into it. There’s bound to be something you’ll like about it if you enjoy reading fantasy. Now just to wait for the next two books…

January 2021

I entered this year with zero expectations, knowing the first few months were gonna be rocky, but somehow even those expectations were too high. Thanks to complicated dental work, I knew I wasn’t gonna be optimistic for a few months. But an unexpected loss and a national lockdown just finished me off – hello depression and rock bottom.

Although it’s been a struggle to do so, I have still found small flickers of light in the darkness, and clung to them whenever they’ve appeared. It’s so easy to forget what you have when you feel like you have nothing, but there’s always something to be appreciative of, even if it’s just that you’re breathing.

If you wanna know what I’ve been up to, keep on reading. But I will preface this by saying, if loss is something triggering right now, please feel free to skip that particular section. I hope you’re all staying safe, and know there will be good times again… eventually.

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Vengeful Book Review

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

After finishing Vicious, I found out there was a sequel, so naturally I was itching to know what happened next. I’m a curious person and I fell in love with the characters, so it was a no brainer that I should buy it and dive in to see what would happen next.

Synopsis

Marcella Riggins, nee Morgan, is a power hungry woman on a mission, with two equally powerful EOs on her side. Not everyone is as thrilled by her power grab. Joseph Stell wants to put a stop to it, once and for all, with whatever means necessary… except use the one person he knows could end the situation.

Meanwhile, Victor Vale is struggling with his own problems. With his limited options running out, he discovers Stell’s plan and tries to put a stop to it. But with Victor Vale and Eli Cardale together again, will the plan go accordingly, or will the old enemies ruin everything?

First Impressions

I was still blown away by the ending, but the story lacked something this time. It didn’t flow as seamlessly, and there were too many characters to keep track of. But it was refreshing to see Victor and Eli plotting again, both trying to solve their problems.

Thoughts

What I Liked:

  • The ending – it still blew me away! How everything fell together, but also fell apart – it was just so good
  • The backstories – despite feeling almost like an info dump at times, they’re still compelling and intriguing
  • Victor and Eli – they are both still fascinating, complex characters who have problems they must solve
  • June – seriously, her ability is so cool! She’s such an interesting character, especially when you see her true colours
  • The found family trope – gah, I love Sydney, Mitch and Dol as their own family unit (and screw Victor for walking away from it)

What I Disliked:

  • Too many characters – I struggled to keep up with them all, let alone care about them all
  • The narrative didn’t flow as seamlessly – there were some parts that could’ve been cut and it wouldn’t have made a difference to the overall story

Characterisation: I loved reading about the original main characters again and actually learning Eli’s backstory. I loved seeing how the characters changed, especially Sydney, given Victor’s condition and what he was willing to do to live, which is ironic considering how he essentially became like Eli.

I didn’t need the details about EON, especially the soldiers who were forgettable, and I didn’t see the point in learning the backstory to a character who basically became a prop. Also, as much as I liked Marcella, she lacked something that Victor and Eli had – it would’ve been good if there was some weakness to her power, if she’d discovered this weakness by accident. Something.

June is an interesting character. Her power sounds simultaneously useful and horrible. To never be your true self, but to be able to slip between bodies so effortlessly – it’s a double edged sword. That, in a way, was what Marcella lacked. June’s changing allegiances made her a more compelling character, but like Victor and Eli, she showed her true colours, which again made her a delightful character.

Story Structure: Once again, the story is split into sections and goes back and forth in time. It works to some extent, but it felt almost like Eli’s backstory was dumped into one particular section, unlike in the previous book where the backstory weaved in and out of the first section of the story. I understand why since Eli was locked up in prison and there wasn’t much else to his story. But it didn’t work as seamlessly as before.

Talking of things not working as seamlessly, while I mentioned about Marcella lacking something, her story felt almost unnecessary at times. I didn’t care as much about the destruction of the mob, nor about her need for power. Similarly, as much as I like Sydney, her facing the decision to bring back her sister could’ve been a bigger deal, rather than one throwaway scene.

If there’s one thing I can’t criticise, it’s the ending. V.E. Schwab does a superb job at ending her stories. Well, the two I’ve read. She builds everything up in such a way that leaves you thinking ‘holy shit!’ but keeps information back until the ending to give you a sense of surprise. Little things that are hinted at that you don’t realise until the story mentions it again.

Other Thoughts: The blurb that’s provided on the book is a lie! They imply Marcella Riggins knows about Victor and Eli, but she’s clueless for a long time, and even then, she doesn’t try to pit them against each other. I hate when blurbs purposefully mislead you.

Summary

Despite the misleading blurb, the plot not flowing as seamlessly and having too many characters to keep track of, the overall storyline is good, as are several of the characters and the mind blowing ending that tied everything up so perfectly once again.

In Memory of My Grandad

Taken in 2013

I don’t usually like to post about deeply personal life events because I prefer to tell a select few people and work through it. However, my grandad deserves to be remembered, especially given how important he was to me, and to anyone who ever met him.

If I’d have known this time last year would be the last time I’d ever see my grandad, I would have taken a photo to cling onto. I’d remember every detail about his home, the place I’d grown up in, even given the state it was in. Despite feeling how fragile he was, or worrying he’d topple over if I let go, I still got my hug and heard him say ‘I love you very dearly. I want you to remember that’.

I always appreciated whenever my grandad told me he loved me because he put such importance in those words. It was never out of habit that he said it, never forced.

He said it because he truly meant it.

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2021: Goals & Aspirations

If the last few years has taught me anything, life never goes as planned.

Last year, I realised trying to plan for the long term just isn’t possible right now, so I’m taking baby steps and living year by year. Maybe someday I can look into settling down somewhere, but for this year at least, my priority is on completing my Publishing Master’s and figuring out where to go from there.

My Yearlong Goals:

  • Finish my Publishing Master’s
  • Write a 500 words (or so) story every day
  • Post a monthly blog post (at least)
  • Read a book a month (at least)
  • Meditate and journal daily

These goals should be achievable, especially as I’ve already been doing the monthly blog post and reading a book a month. But I don’t wanna pressurise myself because I was so burnt out by the time Christmas arrived and I can’t continue the way I was. If I need to drop things along the way, then so be it (except my Publishing Master’s). I’m hoping meditation and journalling will help in that respect.

My aspirations haven’t changed either:

  • Learn how to drive/cook
  • Find my own place
  • Pick up a new hobby
  • Go out of my comfort zone

This year, I’ve purposefully left off travelling because I’ll want to travel for the foreseeable future. Until my wanderlust ebbs away, I’ll always feel that need to explore somewhere new. I’m not the fondest of actually travelling, but once I arrive, that excitement and curiosity takes over and I just have to explore. It’s one of my favourite feelings.

I’ve also not put anything career oriented because I’m still not sure what I’ll go into with publishing. I’d love to do design work, but I don’t know if I have the skillset for it. I’m sure I’d be happy in editorial, but if I could, I’d love to see what the other roles are like. However, if my previous jobs are anything to go by, there’s no guarantees. You can’t be sure you’ll stay beyond your contract, or that you’ll get a job in the position you want. But that doesn’t mean it was all bad – if anything, it gives you invaluable experience.

Most of all, my main goals centre around seeing my friends and family again, especially if I haven’t seen them in over a year, and to travel to Ireland. 2020 was the first year since I was a baby I haven’t been, and it killed me knowing I couldn’t go to my favourite country in the world. I’ll be there at the first opportunity possible.

I hope you’re staying safe and I hope you can find a way to enjoy this year.