REVIEW – Cauldron’s Bubble by Amber Elby

I will openly admit to being one of those school students who completely devalued the work of Shakespeare just because I didn’t comprehend the language. As an adult, I understand that perhaps delving into his works might be too time consuming amidst our fast pace lives. However, I do think that if you have a love of literature, reading one of his plays surely must be something you ought to try and do.

Not that I can talk. My teachers didn’t exactly light the spark that I needed to become an avid Shakespeare reader and once I finished school, I didn’t feel the need to pick another play up. That’s not to say I won’t. I have plenty of them on my TBR, but they’ve fallen so far down the pile now that I needed something to inspire me to bump them back up.

Cauldron’s Bubble may have just been that something. It follows a young girl named Alda, who suddenly discovers an object that holds the power to transport her to different times and places. Alongside a cabin boy named Dreng, they must navigate their way through different conflicts and a large cast of characters taken from the original works of William Shakespeare. This first book features elements of The Tempest, Hamlet and Macbeth.


I knew only the very basics of each Shakespeare play upon delving into Cauldron’s Bubble and at no point did I feel lost or unsure of what was happening which is a huge testament to Elby’s writing capabilities. This is a woman who KNOWS Shakespeare and her love of the playwright shines through on every page.

The story line itself was fast paced and action packed although if I did have any criticisms on that front, I do think it could have been a much longer book. I didn’t feel like I got to know Alda and Dreng all that much, and the world building could have used some more groundwork, but if my only complaint is that it should have been longer then I think we’ve got a strong debut on our hands!

Ultimately, if these issues were fine tuned, I think Elby has the potential to do what Rick Riordan did for Greek Myths. Turn what is considered a boring school subject into something gripping, educational and fun for a variety of ages!

I eagerly await the sequel!


A huge thank you to Amber Elby herself for sending me a copy to review. All thoughts are my own.

Review – The Things We Learn When We’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw

I’ve often felt unsure of whether I’m on the right path in life, as I’m sure many of you have too, and despite considering myself a good person, I can’t count the amount of times that I have ruminated on past events only to come to the conclusion that maybe I’m not.

Your twenties are all about questioning yourself and it can sometimes seem that you’re already falling behind on the decision making.  Do you want kids? Do you want to be with your current partner forever? Do you actually still want to do the career that you’ve worked your arse off at university for?

Our main character asks herself a couple of these questions during The Things We Learn When We’re Dead. After waking up in a hospital on a spaceship named HVN, and informed that she died after being hit by a car, Lorna must reflect back on her life and figure out why she’s been brought there. With only a hippy God as their Captain, a Kate Winslet doppelganger named Irene and an AI named Trinity to help her, does she have all she needs to figure out who she really is and ultimately, make an important choice.


First thing’s first, I’m going to get the obvious out of the way. If you happen to have heard about this book anywhere, you will see that it has been marketed as having elements of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, The Lovely Bones and The Wizard Of Oz. Please go into this book without these comparisons in mind, because I think you’ll probably enjoy it more for doing so. Yes, the were subtle references to The Wizard Of Oz but aside from that, I think the other two were pretty unfounded, although I understand they were to do with the publishers marketing strategy rather than Charlie himself.

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is probably seventy five percent contemporary, and twenty five percent sci-fi which was a really intriguing mix. I definitely think Laidlaw excels at writing the contemporary sections better, but the scenes that took place on HVN were completely original and incredibly bizarre. As a lover of all things weird, this was definitely right up my alley.

The memories that Lorna was regaining throughout the course of the novel were exceptionally written too. I laughed, I felt sad, and I developed a deep connection with the protagonist because of her experiences on earth. I was hooked and it’s rare that scenes in a contemporary setting have that impact on me. I suppose to put it simply, this is going to be a book that you’ll oddly be able to relate to.

Now I’m pretty certain that this is considered adult literature but we’ve been screaming out for early twenties female protagonists in YA and so far, I think this has been one of the most accurate representations I’ve ever read. Quite an accomplishment given that Charlie Laidlaw himself has two grown children and well..is a man. So, even if you don’t typically branch away from YA all that much, this comes highly recommended.


Thank you to Charlie Laidlaw himself for sending me a personalised copy, and thank you so much to Accent Press for creating such a lovely feeling book to hold in your hands!

REVIEW – Drift Stumble Fall by M. Jonathan Lee

The monotony of daily life can often make you wonder about the possibilities of running away from it all and starting your life over. The dreams you’ve always brushed off as being unrealistic, suddenly transforming into a potential reality,  brushing amongst the generic thoughts of work, taxes, family and marriage. Most of us have been there, right?

Suddenly we see ourselves living in a forest somewhere, relying on nature to keep us alive. Or maybe you’ve always had dreams of running to LA and chasing the fantasy of becoming a star. Everyone has a dream of how their life would look if there weren’t constraints holding them back, but rarely does anyone actually give it a go.

However, for Richard Brown – a husband and parent to two children – his plot to escape has now become a reality. He plans to leave within the week.


The author, M. Jonathan Lee is a mental health awareness campaigner, and it was quite obvious to me from his writing that he knows what he’s talking about. It’s refreshing to see mental health appear in a book without being openly discussed. For those who have no experience with it, perhaps Richard and his wife Lisa were just an unsuitable pairing, and Rich was simply a coward for wanting to disappear. To me, he showed signs of anxiety and depression whereas Lisa’s issues reminded me of my struggle with OCD. I have experience with all three of these things, and they were very accurately portrayed. Maybe I’m reading too much into their behaviours but that’s what I took from the story groundwork.

Drift Stumble Fall is not a fast paced novel. It’s written about the mundane tasks, the restlessness, the theory that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. In a lot of ways it’s actually very bleak. However, at no point did I ever want to put the book down. I NEEDED to know how his escape was going to pan out, and with every turn of the page I found myself becoming more and more involved in Richard’s life. A few tears were even shed.


Ultimately, this is one of those rare books that makes you question your entire existence. From the moment we leave the womb, society tells us to aspire to finding a great job, to marry someone you think you could put with for the next fifty years and soon after, to become a parent. But what about those of us who feel suffocated by the norm? This one’s for you.


Many thanks to Hideaway Fall and M. Jonathan Lee for providing me with an advanced copy! All thoughts are my own.

REVIEW – Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

DISCLAIMER – I do my best to understand different cultures and traditions, but I may not ever be at the stage where I know everything regarding them. Please do not be offended if I get something wrong, but please do correct me and let me know so I have a better understanding for future reference. Thank you!


Love, Hate & Other Filters follows the main character, American born Maya Aziz during her last few months of high school. She must navigate her way through parental and societal pressures, Islamophobia and first love all whilst trying to stay true to herself.

I’d been highly anticipating a YA novel that’s told from the point of view of a Muslim teen. Islamophobia only seems to be getting worse and it’s a perspective that needs to be read from. Unfortunately, I don’t think it was quite as well executed as it had the potential to be. I gained a very good understanding of Indian culture throughout it’s entirety but failed to gain any knowledge regarding Muslims, which as far as I could tell was what the book had been marketed as doing.

It felt strange to me that there was never any moment during the book where Maya prays, or even mentions Allah. It’s not even like she questioned her faith at all and that was why those elements of her religion went unwritten. There was little to no evidence of Maya being a Muslim, and if it hadn’t specifically stated it, I wouldn’t have known. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t people that consider themselves Muslims but don’t practice their religion in an overt way because there obviously are but this wasn’t what was advertised on the cover, and I felt a bit misled. There was also an instance where Maya is shocked that a love interest in the novel, Kareem is drinking wine. He proclaims that ‘at least he isn’t eating pork’. Um… aren’t both equally bad? Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty certain they’re both just not allowed, full stop.

There were also segments before each chapter following the terrorist who commits the act during the novel. As far as I’m concerned, these were pointless because it felt like they were only there to try and humanise him. Of course, he is a human being but I’m not here to feel sorry for this person, and ultimately these sections stopped the book from flowing better.

In reality, Love, Hate & Other Filters ended up being a fluffy contemporary with a small hint of grittiness thrown into the equation. However, it didn’t stop me from loving the book. I genuinely flew through this within a few hours, and I adored the characters, I’m just somewhat disappointed that it wasn’t the hard hitting novel I had expected it to be.

REVIEW – The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart

Back in 1982, five friends chose sacrifices to put into a mysterious box and vow to never return at night, never to visit alone and never to take their sacrifices back. Flash forward four years, the friends no longer speak and someone has broken the rules. Strange and eerie events keep happening, people are dying and the five must band together again to stop it.

Firstly, yes..there are lots of similarities between IT and The Sacrifice Box. They both follow a group of predominantly misfit kids/teens as they try to solve a horrifying mystery and it’s also set in the eighties. Stewart also takes seemingly innocent, and non-scary things and distorts them into something very unsettling.

Sep was a charming lead and I really began to care for him as the novel progressed. The other four in the main group were good characters, but unfortunately I don’t feel like they had enough of a focus, believing for once that this could have benefited from dual perspectives. There were some strong foundations for characterisation there, but it didn’t quite reach it’s full potential on that front.

Martin’s overall writing style is beautiful though. His descriptions are mesmerising and he has some of the funniest dialogue I’ve read in a YA novel for quite some time. The plot was a tad predictable and I could have done without the flashbacks, but it was a fun, spooky read. Nothing more, nothing less.

I’m a little disappointed that it didn’t live up to my personal expectations, but I know a lot of people who will enjoy this book more than I did and I can’t wait to recommend it to them!


Thank you to Netgalley, Martin Stewart and Penguin Random House for giving me a review copy!

REVIEW – Everless by Sara Holland

Without further ado, here is my long overdue review of Everless by Sara Holland! Now, I’m sure if you’re an active member in the book community, you will have heard of this by now. I think it’s safe to say that the plot (which I will get to in a second) has intrigued the minds of plenty. If you have been living under a rock, the story follows a girl named Jules, in the kingdom of Sempera – a land where time is currency. The time is extracted from blood and made into coins. It is then consumed to add that time to one’s life span. However, politics and the hierarchy play a massive part in Everless, and the rich are keeping themselves alive for years, whilst the poor are dying because their time has run out due to their blood extraction. Unfortunately, Jules and her father cannot afford their rent and she must travel to work at an estate owned by Sempera’s aristocratic family in order to preserve her fathers remaining time. But is everything quite what it seems? DUN DUN DUN!

In all honesty, I haven’t felt this strongly about a book in a long time. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was so easy to read, and the world building left nothing to be desired. Right from the get go, you’re thrust into this land and you know exactly the way the world works. For such a complex story line, Holland’s execution was flawless. I could probably even give you a guided tour of the Everless estate and be pretty confident about it!

As a debut especially, the characters were very well fleshed out. Jules and her father were delightful, and their relationship reminded me a lot of Belle and Maurice from Beauty & The Beast. She would occasionally pass over into the whole ‘I, and I alone, must save the world’  stereotype, but predominantly she was just trying to solve a mystery, and remained down to earth and relatable.

The supporting cast of characters were equally great. I originally thought I was going to hate Ina as I expected Holland to make her the ‘bitchy blonde’ stereotype, but she veered well away from it thankfully and ended up being lovely. The two brothers Roan and Liam reminded me heavily of the Salvatore’s from The Vampire Diaries. This wasn’t necessarily a negative, but it didn’t feel particularly original. There are also hints of a love triangle and a hate-to-love trope in there too, but these weren’t fully fledged out…yet.

Unfortunately, there was just something stopping me from giving this a full five out of five. The writing was very stereotypical of a YA fantasy, which despite the fairly original plot, was disappointing. The genre is clearly HUGE right now amongst this age group, but almost all of the releases are starting to blend into one another. There was also a very small dip in excitement towards the end of Everless. So many things were happening at once, and I think it all wrapped up too quickly, especially given how much of a slow burner the story could be at times.

Overall though, this could potentially be one of my favourite books of 2018! Perhaps lacking in originality at times, but an excellent debut nonetheless.


Thank you to Netgalley, Sara Holland and Orchard Books for giving me a review copy. I have already gone and purchased a physical copy and it’s so beautiful!

 

WIN A BONUS CHAPTER OF THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF OKAY!

So, if you weren’t already aware, I am on the street team for the lovely Laura Steven’s book The Exact Opposite Of Okay. It’s a YA contemporary that deals with sexism, feminism, revenge porn and tackles ‘the nice guy’ stereotype. With society being what it is today, I can assure you that this will be one of the most important books you read this year and I highly suggest you pick up a copy!

ALSO if you have proof of a pre-order, you will win an exclusive bonus chapter detailing the main character Izzy’s first time and believe me, once you’ve finished the book, you’ll be struggling to wait until 2019 for the follow up, so make full use of this opportunity and PRE-ORDER. Send proof to theexactoppositeofokay@gmail.com

You have until March 7th to send an email, and don’t forget that the book itself releases on March 8th! I genuinely cannot wait to hold that finished copy in my hands!

Haven’t pre-ordered yet? GO, GO, GO! What are you waiting for?

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