Grab a coffee and a book…

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The Horseman by Christina Henry -may contain spoilers

I came for the spooky fairytale and stayed for the trans representation.

The Horseman is an incredible story featuring 14 year old Ben whose life becomes dangerous when something is awoken in the woods and starts killing children. It takes their heads and hands and the grim detail is enough to make you fearful of reading this book in the dark.

I utterly adore Ben’s strength throughout this, especially because everyone sees him as a teenage girl called Bente and his struggle and fight with that was heart-breaking, however he showed so much courage and would not let anyone break him down, including his own grandmother.

There is more to fear than just the monster though. Superstitious and ignorant villagers, brutal men who believe in witches and teenage bullies. A shadow seems to stalk Ben everywhere he goes and what I love is that not all of the pieces of Ben’s story is revealed until the very end, making the ending truly amazing.

Ben is not the only character I fell in love with. As much as I hated Katrina’s views at the start, she really was a fierce woman with more internal strength than anyone in this book, and she had such loyalty to her family that I couldn’t believe how much she’d already endured and was still continuing. Henry writes such strong, well rounded characters that come alive from the page.

I would definitely recommend The Horseman for such incredible content and the twists that permeate each chapter.

Thank you so much to Titan Books for the free copy to review.

Full rating: 5/5 stars.

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Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Being Good

Thank you so much to Louie Stowell for a copy of Loki in return for a review.

I had been eagerly awaiting this book as I was so hyped for more Loki content after the new Disney Plus series, and let me tell you, it is worth the wait.

Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Being Good features our favourite trickster as a young boy who has to prove to Odin that he can be good. With the threat of eternal damnation and torture on the cards if he doesn’t get enough points, Loki must navigate school, homework and house chores without causing any more trouble.

This book was gloriously nostalgic. It was the right kind of humour I hunted for in books as a child, and made me think of the Dennis The Menace cartoons or even The Simpsons. The illustrations are an absolute laugh and I love how the jokes are the ones adults will appreciate greatly.

Loki is also an utter sweetheart (though maybe just in my eyes, I really am fond of him) and I love how you can feel so fond for a character who can be an absolute lost cause at times. Stowell has kept his character true whilst turning a God into a child, and although he is a far cry from the one we see in Marvel movies, the spirit of Loki is very much alive in this book.

What’s refreshing is that we see all the other character’s from Loki’s perspective and it certainly changes things up a bit -I loved how Heimdall went from a fierce warrior to a grumpy old man hooked on parenting books!

I read this book in one go, it was so funny and brightened my day, so any reader who loves Loki and Norse Mythology will get so much joy out of this, it’s something light to read that will leave you smiling for hours afterwards.

Final rating: 5 stars.

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Book Review: Book of Baku

Thank you to Sarah from Titan Books for an Arc of Book of Baku to review.

This novel is a thrilling tale of the nightmares of children and a mythical creature who takes away those nightmares, but then becomes the nightmare itself.

After losing his mum, Sean moves in with his Grandfather and finds a book called The Book of Baku. He begins to dream of the nightmares described in the book, but then begins to dream of children he has not yet read about. Slowly, the Baku is becoming more of a reality…

I found this book so chilling. The slow hints of something bad happening definitely got my attention and I loved the back and forth from Sean’s old life to his new one. The details such as the garden slowly rotting was so effective, and in some way even more frightening than the gruesome stories Sean reads from the book.

I like that the book didn’t just feature a horror story. There was a lot of development with Sean’s relationship with his Grandfather and how he dealt with the loss of his mum and moving away from home. The way the author pays attention to Sean’s love of art speaks volumes, as it often conveyed how Sean was feeling and added more drama at times.

There was one bit of the book which disappointed me, however, as Sean encounters some thugs who use the R slur and kill a defenseless animal in such a brutal way. As a Disabled person myself, I feel the use of the R slur is such a lazy way of adding shock factor to the story and it is now becoming tiring to read. I also thought such a brutal killing of an animal wasn’t needed at all. The book already had a shock factor to it in a rich and creative way, so the tone dropped horribly in that scene and I felt more sad than anything.

It is Sean’s personality that kept me reading though, as grief has followed him and yet even in a place of such horror, he has so much empathy and even extends that empathy to what might be evil. At times I wanted to cry for him and I admired him greatly.

All in all, I did enjoy the book and loved the horror aspects to it, though there was an unnecessary laziness when adding shock factor that spoilt the story a little.

Final rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟

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Ghost Bird by Lisa Fuller

I so wanted to love this book, and the fact that I couldn’t seem to understand the plot was so frustrating. This was a book that was so hard to rate, because it wasn’t as if the book or story was bad, but because I couldn’t form a single opinion on what was happening.

Ghost Bird seems to be about the beliefs of First Nation Australians, but also centres on their community and the racism they face outside of their community. When Stacey’s twin, Laney, goes missing, the plot switches between the danger of racist thugs having taken her, or old stories of creatures that have haunted the girls since being young.

My biggest peeve is that I couldn’t seem to learn anything, because the topics switched up too often to be able to understand what the reader was supposed to learn. There were no real details on the different families and their pasts or history, just that two of them had a feud. I couldn’t get a clear picture on the old beliefs as it was just a topic that the families called taboo even though these creatures popped up towards the end of the story.

The only real clarity I had when reading this was that these children were living at a disadvantage. They were in a truly racist town with poor education, some had families who abused them and they weren’t sure who they could trust or what stories they could rely on. Whilst that did break my heart, it still didn’t match up with Laney’s disappearance.

I think the mesh of topics weren’t blended well together at all. Everything jumped into something else too quickly and too vaguely and even at the end, I still didn’t understand what I’d read. Why had Laney gone missing? What took her and how did she escape? I was still asking these questions once I’d finished the story.

The plus points are that the characters really are great. May was my favourite of them all and I loved her approach to everything, even when she was scared or felt defeated. I do wish I’d have understood the story better so that I could understand her part in it more.

Final rating: 2 stars.

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The Prince of the Skies Review and Blog Tour

Today is my stop on the Prince of The Skies tour; a huge thank you to Random Things and Pan Macmillan for a copy of the book in return for a review.

We all know the story of The Little Prince (at least, I hope we do) but do we know much about the author?

I certainly didn’t, and dived at the chance to read about him in Antonio Iturbe’s The Prince of the Skies.

Iturbe has managed to capture much of the poetic beauty that was in TLP when writing about Saint-Exupery, especially his romance with Louise. As soon as I had read their love story and its demise, I knew immediately where the story of the rose came from and felt so much love, angst and sorrow.

Much of the book features a love of flying, and how the characters cope when they cannot fly. The magic of flying is not something I understood until I picked up this book, however Iturbe gives such fantastical perspective to being a pilot that for a second, I wanted to be up in the air too.

What surprised me most was that Saint-Exupery did not seem to be a born writer. Instead, you get this slow burn to how he became an author that is delightful but at times, heart wrenching and humble. I was particularly surprised to see a throw away comment about Thoreau, who could be Henry Thoreau, described as just a passing traveller than a great man. It gives the book this refreshing perspective that at one time in history, these men were just humble men instead of the great authors we see them as today.

There are of course sad aspects to the book and a lot of hardships, but as a reader you can pull through those times with the close bond the men have. The relationship between reader and character is not always smooth sailing, however, as I found them to be trying men who had a lot of ego and learning to do. I did find a love and respect for them though, as they began to learn and grow.

Though Saint-Exupery’s ending was not a happy one, I am honoured to be able to read about him in this book and am forever grateful for The Little Prince. I feel closer to the book and it’s author after reading The Prince of the Skies and can now see the comparison between Saint-Exupery’s experiences and what he wrote,

Thank you to Antonio Iturbe for bringing such clarity to the life of an incredible legend, and thank you for writing such a beautiful book.

Final rating: four stars,

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Assembling the Wingpeople -book tour

Thank you so much to Love Book Tours for a copy of Assembling the Wingpeople by Nicky Bond.

This book focuses on three main characters who are past middle age and seem to be questioning what to do with their life, now that they aren’t young anymore. With romances, old friendships and jobs adding more turbulence than clarity, it takes a high school reunion for our characters to decide on how to move forward.

The two main characters I loved were Bea and Tilda. They have a wonderful friendship, and despite not being close to each other due to Tilda moving away, they still managed to lift each other up from afar. I loved Tilda’s journey in finding herself and how settling into a new town doesn’t always mean settling down. I certainly related to getting a flat on your own but struggling to make it your home!

The character I struggled with, however, was Stewart. He truly is loathsome and I honestly wished he wasn’t in the book. Not only was his attitude towards to women in his life truly reprehensible, but he is extremely spoilt and entitled. Wanting to sack his cleaner because he didn’t recall her working hours, treating Rosie like dirt despite the fact she was holding his business together and thinking Tilda owed him her time when he was pretty much a stranger to her left me with no sympathy at all towards him. In fact, he reminded me of all the men I’ve come across who like to be the focal point in a woman’s life but have no reason to be that at all. He is aggressively upfront and I truly felt sorry for all the other characters who had to deal with him.

Stewart aside, Bea and Tilda made up for his presence and I truly loved how Freya was able to slip in without there being a threat to anyone’s friendship. There is a lovely reflection on how mature adults meet new people who their friends know, and how it is naturally a bit awkward but they’re able to build up to a good relationship with each other.

I think, in conclusion, books like these are valuable for realising that it’s not just young people who make new friends and begin new adventures, but people of any age, and it gives a great insight to the social expectations older people face when beginning new lives or changing careers.

Final rating: 3 stars.

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The Book of Uriel -book tour

Thank you to The Write Reads and Elyse Hoffman for a copy of this book in return for a review. Today is my stop on the tour and I absolutely loved reading this book in preparation.

The Book of Uriel follows a little boy (Uriel) whose home and family have been destroyed during World War Two. As Uriel is Jewish, his family were hunted down and killed and you witness first hand the brutality and evil of the Nazis.

Uriel is tasked with finding the Archangel Michael, and what I love most about this book is it doesn’t try to turn what happened during the Holocaust into some sort of fairy tale. The book is very true, heartbreakingly so, but has this amazing second plot to it which shares Jewish beliefs and stories.

Uriel is mute, but the author is very clever in making his personality shine through. What I love especially is that although Uriel is tasked with this big thing of finding an Archangel. he isn’t turned into a warrior or a ‘chosen one’. He still remains a little boy with a lot of innocence, and the small acts of him messing up a bookshelf or laughing at birds during this dangerous time makes my heart ache.

There are some moments that made my blood run cold, and you do get the full horrifying reality of Nazi Germany. It is especially hard to see Uriel’s rescuer, Uwe Litten, fight with his morals but also work with the Nazi’s even though at times he had no choice. The relationship that builds between Uwe and Uriel is a powerful one, and you’ll find yourself holding your breath many times.

About the author:

Elyse Hoffman strives to tell historical tales with new twists: she loves to meld WWII and Jewish history with fantasy, folklore, and the paranormal. She has written six works of Holocaust historical fiction: the five books of The Barracks of the Holocaust and The Book of Uriel.

Rating: three and a half stars.

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My last time in the World of Mages

Waiting for Any Way the Wind Blows was excruciating -I’m not known for patience. However reading Rainbow Rowell’s third and last (although please write a fourth!) instalment of the World of Mages was something else entirely.

Having gotten through Simon’s depressive episodes in Wayward Sons, I wasn’t prepared for the triple dose of angst that this book brought. My heart was already cut up by their almost break up and I wanted Simon and Baz to sort their relationship out quickly. It took many angsty chapters, me aggressively drinking tea to cope and having to take breaks because oh my goodness, these two are such wild fires that you can’t even read about them without being scorched.

The plot itself was a good wrap up to the last two books. I liked that Agatha got a good amount of scenes without having to be a damsel in distress, and I absolutely adore Shephard and Penny’s growing relationship. Penny was absolutely BAMF and I’m actually a little afraid of her, but adore her nonetheless.

Although I believe there could be more stories to this series, AWTWB is a good ending and I like that it doesn’t close the door fully. It gives fans something to think about and leaves that world open to interpretation.

I fully adored my time with this book. I cried, I laughed, I threw tantrums when characters were being frustrating and I was fully invested. Thank you so much to Rainbow for creating a series that I could fall in love with so easily.

Simon and Baz Playlist

Never Enough -Loren Allred

Could Have Been Me -The Struts

Too Much To Ask -Niall Horan

Hold On -Cord Overstreet

Carry On Wayward Son -Kansas

Still Falling For You -Ellie Goulding

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An open letter to the Neurotypical World

Dear Neurotypicals,

Before I was diagnosed, when you thought I was just like you, you tried to tell me a) that I could be anything I wanted to and that b) words would never hurt me if I didn’t let me.

That was before you knew I was autistic.

As soon as you knew, that’s when the trauma began. It’s when I began to be verbally abused by teachers, ableist parents and children who would copy their parent’s actions. I became the trouble maker in class because I wouldn’t communicate or sit in the way you wanted me to. My way of communication didn’t matter, which was strange because you are a world that prides yourself in learning different languages, but you didn’t want to learn mine.

To some, I was a marvel, constantly used as inspiration porn because I “hadn’t let my autism hold me back” when as a matter of fact, if I wasn’t autistic I might not have achieved half as much.

I was nineteen when I realised the lesson of “you can be anything you want to be” was a complete lie, when I was fired for being too anxious. The reality? I didn’t verbalise the same way as my neurotypical boss, I didn’t use the right facial expressions and I couldn’t overcome burnout and chronic fatigue to be the bubbly extrovert they wanted me to be. I didn’t get fired because I was anxious, I got fired for being autistic.

In 2016, your world pushed me to attempt suicide. I had no support system, no one I could turn to who would understand and no one who could fix the issues I was facing -everyone I knew was neurotypical, you see, so how could they fix the issue of their world not being accessible to me? That year I learned that the second lesson was a lie. Words do hurt, and so do actions. I heard every whisper about me and my personality, saw the eye rolls and the laughs. I shouldered the comments of “everyone gets tired, it’s not a case for special treatment” when pressing burnout and the implications of masking to fit social standards meant I needed different accommodations. It took from the age of 16 to 21 to realise this would never get better: I would face ableism wherever I went. I would face it from the people who were nice to me, the people I called friend, and family.

I was a traumatised child having grown up in an ableist system, now growing up to venture out into the even more ableist society. I was not meant to win.

In my late 20’s I honestly tried. I became an activist and advocate for my community and I began trying to educate people and push for better accommodations. My advocacy lasted a few months before I gave up in defeat, as my words were used against me and I would have to prove myself as valuable before anyone would even begin to care about what I needed to survive. I became a nuisance because I was being so obviously different as I was trying to not mask -but it seems neurotypicals would rather you use a trauma response to get by then understand. I ended up quitting a lot of things, and received the response that it was expected of me to quit. I’d hung on for so long, screaming into the abyss and it was only when I’d fallen that neurotypicals would admit they knew I needed help all along.

Nowadays, I cannot fight for myself. I’m a burntout shell having survived 20 years of ableism and trauma. I battle pain daily because I don’t have the accommodations to manage it, and I’m no longer able to mask my obvious lack of social skills and major anxiety. I’m well aware that such a blatant show of neurodiversity could cost me a lot in life -I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop and for people to decide I don’t fit in. I stand to lose everything for being different.

When I see an article about another young autistic committing suicide, I’m obviously heartbroken but I’m not surprised. This world is in no way accessible and we are thrown into trauma and abuse from a young age. Our community is finally having the conversation about “what does an untraumatized autistic person even look like?” but all these important conversations are still happening solely in the autistic community. With no education and no progress from neurotypicals in properly understanding autistic people and casting aside old abusive stereotypes, languages and practices, the age autistic people commit suicide at is getting younger.

Neurotypicals like to shudder away in horror when we mention the S word, but to that I would say get a fucking grip. You all created this world, you started the pathway to our deaths.

I don’t plan on reaching 40. How can I? By 16 I was already experiencing daily burn out and being ostracised to a major degree. By 18 I knew I would never fit into neurotypical spaces and by 21 I was fully aware I had suicide ideation. At 26 I have constant chronic pain, chronic depression that started as a teenager has depleted my memory and capacity to handle even the basics of adult life, and I have the constant knowledge that if I even try to educate people and ask for help, no neurotypical will listen.

You were never going to give me the tools I needed to live a full life, only enough to put me into this half state of survival. And the sad truth is, I’m not alone in feeling like this.

I don’t expect this letter to invoke change. I don’t expect teachers, doctors, police or employers to start to fully educate themselves. I definitely don’t expect autism mum blogs to delete their blog and start respecting their child. All I can hope from this is that one person reads this letter and understands we are being let down constantly and something needs to change.

I hope for an ally who will be outspoken enough, that it will invite more educated allies to speak out and help us. Maybe then, we can get a break.

I’m proudly autistic, but I’m also dying in your world. I hope you can fix it so that one day, you’ll finally see what a happy, healthy, untraumatized, fully supported autistic person looks like.

Luce x

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Recipe for Mr Perfect by Anni Rose

In a time where it seems like the most hyped up books are about fairy-tales, warrior princesses or aliens jumping into parallel universes, it is a huge relief to pick up a book and realise it’s just about normal life. Much like your own life, in fact.

I cannot tell you what a relief it is to read about a woman who works in an office, hates cheery people on a Monday, and just wants to sit in her flat and watch Bridgerton with her cat. The fact I can relate so hard to this book makes it instantly brilliant. Although I don’t have a cat, I do have a baby Yoda doll and we have spent many evenings watching Daphne and the Duke fall in love, so I get the appeal.

The story follows multiple characters throughout work, relationships, drama and finding your dreams. The focus is mostly on Jess, Maggie and Sarah who work with each other and get to know the ins and outs of each other’s relationships.

It may be a book on finding Mr Right, but it is the down-to-earth realness of the group that makes me love this book the most. Office chats over fresh coffee, ringing IT when the equipment breaks and wondering if the pot plant is still alive might seem like such trivial things, however its these things that feature so heavily in the fabric of reality and so gives the book life. If asked, why should I read this book? I would happily tell anyone that it will get how you feel in your day to day life, and you will be thankful for it.

The romance aspect of this book is done slowly but brilliantly. I mean, a dashing stranger rescuing you from an embarrassing moment and then rushing off before you got his name? It does seem very Regency level romance, but instead of being silly it just makes you settle in with a glass of wine and the hopes that these two characters will bump into each other again soon. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a sucker for a good slow-burn.

I love how this book also touches on real life issues, such as how creatives are working in office roles and doing their passions on the side to pay the bills. How dating apps can be a complete failure, and how the post always needs to be in by four at the latest (this bit made me laugh so hard, it really is like that.) I loved that none of these people are boastfully successful or on top of everyone else, and there’s that special bit of insight into working life, of how your colleagues can be open enough to be work friends but private enough for you to never see the inside of their house. It’s those little touches of reality that make me really appreciate Anni’s writing.

A special thank you to Love Book Tours, Anni Rose and Choc Lit UK for a spot on the tour and a copy of this book.

Final rating: four stars.

You can order Recipe for Mr Perfect here.