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 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.