That Dreaded TBR #3

It has been way too long since I did this – the last one was back in November. But since then I’ve been trying to catch up and keep ahead of the reviews. And now I’m in a position where I don’t currently have reviews to write for the blog. Weird. Anyway, Part 1 and Part 2 both helped me cut down my Goodreads TBR a little bit, so let’s do this again.

I originally saw this on Becky’s Book Blog

Rules

Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
Order on ascending date added.
Take the first 5/10/however many books. If done again, start from where you left off.
Read the synopses of the books
Decide: should it stay or should it go?

#1

don quixote

Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Don Quixote has become so entranced by reading chivalric romances that he determines to become a knight-errant himself. In the company of his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, his exploits blossom in all sorts of wonderful ways. While Quixote’s fancy often leads him astray—he tilts at windmills, imagining them to be giants—Sancho acquires cunning and a certain sagacity. Sane madman and wise fool, they roam the world together, and together they have haunted readers’ imaginations for nearly four hundred years.

With its experimental form and literary playfulness, Don Quixote has been generally recognized as the first modern novel. The book has been enormously influential on a host of writers, from Fielding and Sterne to Flaubert, Dickens, Melville, and Faulkner, who reread it once a year, “just as some people read the Bible.”

This is one of those books that, for years, I’ve thought, “I should read that.” But I’ve yet to pick it up, and to be honest there are constantly so many other good books being released, I only have so much patience for ‘Classics’. This one goes.

#2

flowers in the attic

Flowers in the Attic – V.C. Andrews

Such wonderful children. Such a beautiful mother. Such a lovely house. Such endless terror!

It wasn’t that she didn’t love her children. She did. But there was a fortune at stake—a fortune that would assure their later happiness if she could keep the children a secret from her dying father.

So she and her mother hid her darlings away in an unused attic.

Just for a little while.

But the brutal days swelled into agonizing years. Now Cathy, Chris, and the twins wait in their cramped and helpless world, stirred by adult dreams, adult desires, served a meager sustenance by an angry, superstitious grandmother who knows that the Devil works in dark and devious ways. Sometimes he sends children to do his work—children who—one by one—must be destroyed….

‘Way upstairs there are four secrets hidden. Blond, beautiful, innocent struggling to stay alive….

I actually tried to read this book many, many, many years ago. Well, no – my mother tried to make me read it, when I was way too young. I didn’t even get to the worst parts, wouldn’t find out for years after what actually happened in that attic. I just remember being extremely bored by the first few chapters. And then I had nightmares about something happening to my dad. So I put it down and have never picked it back up. By this point, I don’t think I ever will. This one goes, too.

#3

the corrections

The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen’s third novel, The Corrections, is a great work of art and a grandly entertaining overture to our new century: a bold, comic, tragic, deeply moving family drama that stretches from the Midwest at mid-century to Wall Street and Eastern Europe in the age of greed and globalism. Franzen brings an old-time America of freight trains and civic duty, of Cub Scouts and Christmas cookies and sexual inhibitions, into brilliant collision with the modern absurdities of brain science, home surveillance, hands-off parenting, do-it-yourself mental healthcare, and the anti-gravity New Economy. With The Corrections, Franzen emerges as one of our premier interpreters of American society and the American soul.

Enid Lambert is terribly, terribly anxious. Although she would never admit it to her neighbors or her three grown children, her husband, Alfred, is losing his grip on reality. Maybe it’s the medication that Alfred takes for his Parkinson’s disease, or maybe it’s his negative attitude, but he spends his days brooding in the basement and committing shadowy, unspeakable acts. More and more often, he doesn’t seem to understand a word Enid says.

Trouble is also brewing in the lives of Enid’s children. Her older son, Gary, a banker in Philadelphia, has turned cruel and materialistic and is trying to force his parents out of their old house and into a tiny apartment. The middle child, Chip, has suddenly and for no good reason quit his exciting job as a professor at D—— College and moved to New York City, where he seems to be pursuing a “transgressive” lifestyle and writing some sort of screenplay. Meanwhile the baby of the family, Denise, has escaped her disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain of an affair with a married man–or so Gary hints.

Enid, who loves to have fun, can still look forward to a final family Christmas and to the ten-day Nordic Pleasurelines Luxury Fall Color Cruise that she and Alfred are about to embark on. But even these few remaining joys are threatened by her husband’s growing confusion and unsteadiness. As Alfred enters his final decline, the Lamberts must face the failures, secrets, and long-buried hurts that haunt them as a family if they are to make the corrections that each desperately needs.

I don’t know why this is on my ‘Want to Read’ list. Looking over the blurb – why is it so long? – it might be one of those books I maybe saw a review for, thought, “Oh that looks good” and added on, but I honestly can’t see me ever getting to this one. Like the other two, it goes.

#4

canada

Canada – Richard Ford

“First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.”

When fifteen-year-old Dell Parsons’ parents rob a bank, his sense of normal life is forever altered. In an instant, this private cataclysm drives his life into before and after, a threshold that can never be uncrossed.

His parents’ arrest and imprisonment mean a threatening and uncertain future for Dell and his twin sister, Berner. Willful and burning with resentment, Berner flees their home in Montana, abandoning her brother and her life. But Dell is not completely alone. A family friend intervenes, spiriting him across the Canadian border, in hopes of delivering him to a better life. There, afloat on the prairie of Saskatchewan, Dell is taken in by Arthur Remlinger, an enigmatic and charismatic American whose cool reserve masks a dark and violent nature.

Undone by the calamity of his parents’ robbery and arrest, Dell struggles under the vast prairie sky to remake himself and define the adults he thought he once knew. But his search for grace and peace only moves him nearer to a harrowing and murderous collision with Remlinger, an elemental force of darkness.

A true masterwork of haunting and spectacular vision from one of America’s greatest writers, Canada is a profound novel of boundaries traversed, innocence lost and reconciled, and the mysterious and consoling bonds of family. Told in spare, elegant prose, both resonant and luminous, it is destined to become a modern classic.

A literary coming of age novel, I think. And there are so many good fantasy and horror coming of age books, that I can’t imagine myself picking up a ‘literary’ one. Plus, whenever I do pick up something ‘literary’, I often find myself getting frustrated at the way the author writes women. Canada might not be bad in regards to that, but I have no interest in checking it out. This one goes.

#5

unexpected gifts

Unexpected Gifts – S.R. Mallery

Can we learn from our ancestral past? Do our relatives’ behaviors help mold our own? In “Unexpected Gifts,” that is precisely what happens to Sonia, a confused college student, forever choosing the wrong man. Searching for answers, she begins to read her family’s diaries and journals from America’s past: the Vietnam War, Woodstock, and Timothy Leary era; Tupperware parties, McCarthyism, and Black Power; the Great Depression, dance marathons, and Eleanor Roosevelt; the immigrant experience and the Suffragists. Back and forth the book journeys, weaving yesteryear with modern life until finally, she gains enough clarity to make the right choices.

I have to admit, I’m a little torn on this one. It sounds intriguing, for sure, has an interesting premise, and the reviews on Goodreads all look really positive. So for now, this one can stay.

Well, 4 out of 5 gone. Not bad. I might actually be able to get my Goodreads TBR – if not my actual physical TBR – down a fair bit if I keep doing this. Might stop things like recommendations glitching on me (I always live in hope).

Have you read any of these books? Think I made the right decisions?

The Darkwater Bride – Marty Ross [Books]

darkwater bride

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Audible Studios

Rating: starstarstarstar

Katrina believes her father to be a good man, honest and hard-working. He promises her he has to make one last business trip to London, and then he’ll never have to leave home again. But when his body is pulled from the Darkwater, Katrina travels to London to find out what exactly happened to her father.

This is another full cast audio production, and it works really well. The characters are fully fleshed out, emphasised by the voice actors, from the innocent Scottish Katrina to the maybe a little naive policeman Cully, to the gruff old detective and the various others who inhabit this world.

Katrina and Cully retrace her father’s footsteps, revealing to Katrina that she, ultimately, didn’t know her father at all. Overshadowing all this is the The Darkwater Bride, a mysterious figure mentioned in passing, who Katrina becomes convinced is tied directly to her father’s death.

Along with the characters, the story weaves in and out of various locations in London, with Cully forever insisting Katrina remain behind, and her determined to move ahead and confront exactly who her father was. I have to admit, this back and forth got a little tedious at times, a touch repetitive, but the voice actors dealt with it well and the interactions between the pair were still entertaining, even if we’d heard something similar shortly before.

It really was the voice acting that made this a 4 rather than 3 star. The story is good, but does get a little repetitive – characters go to dodgy places, discover Katrina’s father went to these places, find out he did something bad there. At times, Katrina comes off as too naive, and at others, so does Cully, whereas in other scenes we see the opposite.

The Darkwater Bride is definitely enjoyable, with the mystery of the bride building up, and there’s a lot in here about the way women are treated, what women must do to survive and the sort of thing they have to put up with to just keep going. The ending felt a bit forced, but overall this was a good production with a good cast, and an interesting story.

The Ringmaster’s Daughter – Carly Schabowski [Books]

the ringmasters daughter

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bookouture
Release Date: July 7th, 2020

Rating: starstarstar

Michel enjoys his life in Paris, working with horses and living near his dearest friend. But the Nazis are edging closer to the city, and even if Michel doesn’t want to leave, his friend knows he must. Michel ends up on a train heading south, only to discover the train belongs to a circus. Michel joins the circus to look after their horses, despite the hostility from the ringmaster. And Michel falls in love with the mysterious trapeze artist, although he feels she can never really be his.

Okay, firstly: I liked the first part of this book. Enjoyed it, and until about halfway through it would have maybe been a 5 Star, but everything felt off after that. The description at the start was intriguing, Michel a likeable if dim character, and the situations presented with the Nazis drawing ever closer made for some good tension.

But almost as soon as the threat itself is pressed on the characters, it lost the things that made it good in the first place.

Firstly, the title is The Ringmaster’s Daughter, but Michel spends a vast majority of the book not realising the woman he loves isn’t his boss’s wife. It would have been handled better if he found out sooner, but instead it’s stretched out for so long it becomes frustrating, it’s treated like a huge reveal, and even the conversations that take place regarding her are confusing. The way Michel talks makes it clear what he thinks, but not a single person corrects him.

And it’s built up as a great big love story, but Michel barely even speaks to her, just spends half his time lusting over her while sleeping with someone else.

The actual female characters here aren’t great. The two main women exist solely for Michel, never interacting with one another, and the others are barely existent in themselves, like mannequins that only come to life when looked directly at. By about three-quarters of the way through this book, I was frustrated. The dialogue was bland, the interactions between Michel and his ‘love’ felt like two fish who kept headbutting each other in a bowel, and the fact this was during World War 2 seemed forgotten for the most part, unless it was required for the plot.

So much of this story hinged on the idea of a ‘mysterious circus’, but we don’t even get to see the circus itself, and things are only a mystery because Michel cannot be bother to do much of anything. He goes from dim but likable to just dim and boring, never really doing much except reacting to what was happening.

This is set in France, when the Nazis invade, but you’d be forgiven for forgetting that during the book’s meandering plot. Michel, for the most part, seems happy to ignore what is really going on, to not pay attention to the way others are reacting, to ignoring the news they get filtered through to them. He just doesn’t seem to care about much of anything.

And then there’s the ending. The ending, which could have been really strong and redeemed the book, instead felt like it was tacked on, like the author had an idea in mind for how to end, but changed it at the last minute. The last section feels both rushed and too slow, with no real reason for it.

I was really keen to give this book a try. I thought there’d be a bit of magic to it, a grand romance, an intriguing setting. Instead, this book let me down, and it could have been so much better than it really was. I felt like the author had the ability to create something really compelling, but got bored of their own story, right when things should have got interesting.

 

Penny Dreadful, Volume 1 [Books]

penny dreadful

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Titan Comics

Rating: starstarstar

I really liked the TV series Penny Dreadful. (Not the ending though, but I can’t remember the last time a TV show ending actually left me satisfied) Penny Dreadful is what a good The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen adaptation should look like. Vanessa, in particular, is a fantastic character throughout the series, and I was keen to check out the graphic novel that explored the events prior to the start of the TV show.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think this really added much, and felt more like rehashing what we’d been told within the show itself. The book is marked as ‘1’, but as far as I can tell it’s a standalone graphic novel, whereas there’s another series that continues on from the show itself, which I’d still be interested in checking out.

The artwork is beautiful and Vanessa looks exactly like Eva Green. However, a large amount of the artwork is obscured by darkness. It gives the same effect as trying to watch dark scenes on TV with the curtains wide open.

You can probably tell by now how much I adore graphic novels. And I suspect a glance over my Goodreads will show I give a majority of them 4 or 5 stars. It’s rare where I read one and get frustrated, or start thinking about the next one on my comics TBR before I’ve even finished what I’m reading.

With this, I found myself increasingly bored. There were some good moments, and it was interesting to get a proper look at Harker, but most of the time it felt like it was dragging on – perhaps because of the previously mentioned problem where it was actually difficult to see what was happening in different panels.

I feel like there were much better directions this could have gone, and overall although I sort of enjoyed reading it, it was a little disappointing. Like I said though, it hasn’t put me off checking out the other Penny Dreadful series, though I hope the scenes in the other one are easier to see.

A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians – H.G. Parry [Books]

a declation on the rights

Genre: Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: June 23rd, 2020

Rating: starstarstarstarstar

As you can see above, I’m trying something a little bit new with the reviews on the blog. Please do let me know what you think about it.

Thank you to Orbit for providing an ebook version of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

William Pitt and William Wilberforce are old friends, drawn together by their careers and enjoying the last years of their youth. But a trip to France, shortly before Pitt becomes Prime Minister, sees them encountering something strange and deadly. Meanwhile, Robespierre discovers his own magical abilities, and uses them to light a spark to France’s revolution. In Jamaica, Fina’s body starts to rebel against the potion that keeps her and other slaves unable to do anything but obey the men who run the plantations.

A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians is a book which covers the growing abolitionist movement in Great Britain, the French Revolution, and the slave uprisings in the Caribbean, with the addition of magic. In this world, the aristocrats are able to essentially use magic freely, as long as their form of magic isn’t too dangerous. The commoners, however, are tested when born, and if they are found to have magic, The Knights Templar – who oversee the use of magic – attach a bracelet to them, which alerts them and injures the wearer if magic is used.

Many of the main characters are dedicated to trying to eradicate this system, seeing it as unfair and cruel, while Wilberforce is particularly troubled by the treatment of slaves. There are many historical names that crop up during the course of the story, and it’s clear the research done for this novel is solid. Parry makes it feel like this book could have been lifted from 18th century. The way magic presented is interesting, but the majority of the book, admittedly, is taken over by dialogue and politics.

This book is politics heavy. It’s something I really liked, but I can imagine would put other readers off. I liked the discussions between the characters, the talks over morality and freedom and responsibility. There were still some tense action scenes too, but most of the big action was sort of shifted off-screen slightly, with the POV characters only taking small roles and not witnessing much of the actual action.

I really enjoyed the verbal exchanges between various characters, which at times felt like reading a dance or sword-fight, as characters untangled their words and tried to plot their next steps.

My only (minor) complaint was that the novel finished really abruptly, but I was very relieved to find out this was the first in a duology.

In a lot of ways, the book reminded me of Johnathan Strange & Mr Norrell, another book I really loved, with the time period and the weaving in of magic with actual historical events. But in A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians, the scope is wider, the story more sprawling, and it covers more aspects than Susanna Clarke’s novel.

I’ll be eagerly awaiting the sequel to this novel, and if you like Historical Fantasy with a heavy dose of dialogue and politics, definitely pick this one up.

May 2020 Reading Wrap Up – Part Two [Books]

May 2020 2

JanuaryFebruary / March Part 1 / March Part 2/ April Part 1 / April Part 2 / May Part 1

Black Dogs, Black Tales – Edited by Tabitha Wood & Cassie Hart

black dogs

Review Coming Soon on Dead Head Reviews

This is an anthology you should definitely pick up. 17 authors to represent the 17% of people in New Zealand with mental health problems, and with profits going towards a New Zealand Mental Health Charity. Even without that awesomeness, the stories here are brilliant, powerful, moving, and creepy. And best of all, the dogs all survive.

American Gods – Neil Gaiman

american gods

My Review

I read this book years ago, but revisited it via Audible. The version I listened to was full cast, and was really good. Turns out there were some parts I remembered really cleary, and others I didn’t, but it was still great to slip back into this world.

From Twisted Roots – S.H. Cooper

from twisted roots

Review coming soon on Dead Head Reviews

I will never stop talking about good Cooper is. Her work is fantastic. Her short stories are really unique in their style and range, with a lot falling into that strange sub-genre of wholesome horror. From Twisted Roots takes a lot at families, at relationships, some with supernatural horror elements, and some where the horror comes from the humans themselves. Definitely worth checking out.

Devolution – Max Brooks

devolution

My Review

Although I didn’t like this as much as World War Z, I still really enjoyed it. It’s a fantastic book, using that ‘found text’ style, and where WWZ read like a history textbook (in a good, OMG this feels like it happened kind of way), Devolution takes a more singular, personal approach, and presenting it as a journal works really well.

Spider-Man/Deadpool Volume 1: Isn’t It Bromantic

spiderman deadpool

My Review

I love a good graphic novel and this one did not disappoint. Teaming up the wise-cracking Spider-Man with the Merc with the Mouth results in some funny, some heartwarming, and some damn scary moments. The way they riff off each other just feels natural and I’m keeping hope we eventually get to see these two in a film together.

Breakfast at Bronzefield – Sophie Campbell

breakfast at bronzefields

My Review

A woman’s experiences in two British women’s prisons, this is a book I would strongly urge others to pick up. Campbell explains the treatment she received in prison, as well as providing facts and statistics where they are related. It’s eye-opening, and makes the argument for reform really well.

Zombieville – C.V. Hunt

zombieville

Review Coming Soon on Dead Head Reviews

This was one where I listened to the Audiobook version. It’s an intriguing story with two interesting point of view characters – Chris, who is a zombie, and Raven, a young woman who has just moved to town, and has no idea what she’s really getting into. The only let down in this was the narrator really, but I go into that more in the actual review.

Writing the Other – Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward

writing the other

My Review

Another book I honestly think everyone should read. Everyone with an interest in writing, anyway. This book doesn’t talk down to the reader, explains that yes, when writing outside your experience you will make mistakes, but if you do what you can to mitigate that, it’s better than not trying. I really would urge writers to pick this one up – it’s one of the strongest craft books I’ve read recently.

So there we have it. The second half of my May wrap up. I read 16 books in May, and my current total on Goodreads (at time of writing on 12/06) is 66/75 books read for 2020. I originally set my goal at 50 with the plan being to revisit it this month, but I upped it previously as I’d exceeded 50. If I managed to hit 75 this month, I’ll be amending my goal to 100. Let’s see how that goes.

How did your May go? Did you read everything you wanted to? Anything unexpected you really enjoyed?

May 2020 Reading Wrap Up – Part One [Books]

May 2020JanuaryFebruary / March Part 1 / March Part 2/ April Part 1 / April Part 2

This will be another two parter, as I ended up reading 16 books in May. So I’m not going to even speculate here and say, “Oh I probably won’t read as many in June” because I have now done that twice before and I did, indeed, read as many. So, we’ll see. But as of the time of writing this, I am currently all caught up with my reviews! Which is annoying because it means I’ll have to think of other content to fill up the time between reviews.

A Cosmology of Monsters – Shaun Hamilla cosmology of monsters

My Review

A fantastic, haunting tale of a family haunted by monsters, told through the eyes of the youngest member. This was one of my first NetGalley reads, and it’s from my favourite publisher (Titan) – it definitely did not disappoint.

A Collection of Dreamscapes – Christina Sng

a collection of dreamscapes

Review Coming Soon on Dead Head Reviews

I touch on it more in my review, but I’m not the biggest fan of poetry. A Collection of Dreamscapes, however, might have converted me. Sng gives us a solid, varied collection, a mixture of dark fantasy and horror, and one which I devoured really easily.

Venators: Promises Forged – Devri Wells

venators 2

My Review

I read this as part of a blog tour. It’s the sequel to the fantastic Venators: Magic Unleashed, and it was great to get more into this world and see more of these characters. I think I preferred this one to the first – there was just more to it, rather than having to spend more time setting things up. Definitely a series I’ll be sticking with.

How to Write Your First Novel – Sophie King

how to write your first novel

My Review

A writing advice book I didn’t find particularly helpful. I love books about the craft of writing, but I’ve been increasingly disappointed by them. I’ll keep reading though, and you’ll definitely hear about it when I find good ones, like one I read later in the month.

So This Is Love – Elizabeth Lim

so this is love

My Review

I love the Twisted Tales series. And since reading the Mulan tale Reflection, I have absolutely loved Lim’s writing, including her non-Disney debut novel, Spin the Dawn. The latest addition to the series, So This Is Love, looks at what happens if Cinderella never tried on the glass slipper. It’s another example of Lim’s fantastic, wonderful writing, and she pulls you so completely into this world. Cannot wait for her next book, whether it’s the Spin the Dawn sequel or another Twisted Tale.

New York City in 1979 – Kathy Acker

new york in 1979

My Review

This is one of those books I feel like I should have liked more than I did, and if I wasn’t trying to use it as research, I maybe would have. This very much falls into the category of experimental writing, with snapshots of conversation sprinkled in with images and some description. I don’t think this was a case of ‘not for me’, but more that I picked it up at the wrong time.

The Dark Continent – Scott Reardon

the dark continent

My Review

This was one I wasn’t fussed on. It was a little too ‘action’ based for me, too repetitive, and too long. ‘Continent’ is overstating things too when the area affected by events in the novel is a section of the USA. But anyway, that aside, as I say in my review I can see the appeal for some readers, and I think there are those who’d likely get a kick out of this.

iZombie, Volume 1: Dead to the World

izombie

My Review

I really enjoyed this graphic novel, and liked the mix of different ‘monsters’. It’s vastly different from the TV show (I’m now on season 2), but the TV show does have slight nods to the graphic novel. Both are very good though, and I’m excited to check out volume 2.

So there’s the first 8 for May! Keep an eye out for part 2 soon.

Writing the Other – Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward [Books]

writing the otherThere have long been discussions surrounding representation in books, and those discussions have increased recently. Fact: We need more diverse people in publishing, in various roles, including as agents, editors, in marketing, in buying, in selling. We need people who aren’t going to tell Black men and women they didn’t connect to the ‘voice’ of their character. (What does that even mean?) I wrote a post recently (which you can read here) touching on why we need to actively search out books by diverse authors.

If you’re a writer, as well as a reader, you might now be wondering about your own writing. Is your cast of characters diverse? Do they reflect the world we live in, or are the characters carbon copies of the person writing them? (I’m talking specifically to white, cis authors here, by the way)

There are some stories that are not ours to tell. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t include characters who are different than us in our own stories. Writing the Other gives a brilliant idea of how you can start with this.

In this book, Shawl & Ward do not shy away from hard topics. They outline to us, the reader, why diversity is important, as well as touching upon the fact that not trying is almost worse than getting it wrong. They also briefly discuss the fact that yes, we will get it wrong, we are human, but it’s important to acknowledge that if and when we do and to strive to do better.

My personal opinion is, if you are writing outside your experience, use sensitivity readers. (And pay them) This book is, however, a fantastic starting point, giving direction and guidance on where to start, on what to take into consideration, and there are great exercises included if you like doing that sort of thing.

This book will help you look at your writing (and perhaps the writing of others) in a different light, and help you create a more diverse cast of characters in your fiction. I strongly suggest making this the next writing book you pick up.

Breakfast at Bronzefield – Sophie Campbell [Books]

breakfast at bronzefieldsBreakfast at Bronzefield is an honest account of a woman’s time spent in two women’s prisons in the UK. Campbell (a pseudonym) isn’t just upfront about what she experienced in prison, but is very much clear in her accounts of herself, the people she dealt with in the court system, the lawyers, and her own family.

Some people writing a similar account might try to paint themselves in a better light, justify their actions, try to ignore their own faults. Campbell doesn’t do any of this. She confronts everything, telling us readers exactly what she did and her reactions to certain situations, without really making excuses, but providing context. Although she gives no details of the crime that saw her locked up, she does explain it was GBH and assault on a police officer, though she does clarify a little on what actually happened with the officer.

I really admire Sophie Campbell. It’s hard not to. The book reveals her determination, her strength, and her attitude of ‘treat me as you want to be treated’. She presents information alongside her own experiences, providing statistics and quotes from reports, as well as putting forth her own ideas on how prisons can be reformed.

She talks about her actions in prison, the attitude of the guards towards the women, the way other women acted, and the version of a ‘typical female prisoner’ versus the reality. For Sophie, the problem is twofold. Because she is in prison, and because she is Black, no one expects her to be highly educated. Some women act up to the impression the guards hold of what a female prisoner should act like, with middle-class women putting on more lower-class accents. Sophie does not do this, and admits she may have been treated worse because she does not conform to the guards’ stereotypical views.

There’s a lot of issues raised throughout this book, and I really hope it gets the attention it deserves. It shows how much is wrong with the current system, and though Campbell is aware there are no simple solutions, she makes the case for reform really well. And really, just because the solutions aren’t simple doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

She details her treatment, and explains why having more women in guard roles and more BAME people is not the solution to many of the problems faced by women in prison. Instead, Campbell’s book points out why total reform is required, with more focus on providing women in prison with training and education, with actual skills they can utilize on leaving, and why training needs to go above a Level 1.

Overall, this is a really good book that provides a detailed account of life in the prison system. Sophie Campbell mixes narrative and facts in a way that makes the book almost fascinating to read, and through this book and the battle to get it published, she has shown herself to be a strong woman who won’t let anyone silence her, and won’t let anything stand in her way.

As I said above, this book deserves attention, because of the subject matter and engaging tone. Changes need to be made, at every level of the criminal justice system, and Campbell outlines this really well. This is definitely a book worth picking up.

Thank you to Sophie Campbell Books for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Venators: Promises Forged – Devri Wells [WriteReads Ultimate Blog Tour]

Goodreads Summary

It has been mere days in the world of Eon, where Rune Jenkins, her twin brother Ryker, and their friend Grey have been trapped, fighting for their lives. After discovering the truth of their ancestry, the three are far from home, and far from anything resembling their mundane lives of the past.
While Ryker is still held captive by the eerily beautiful Zio and her goblins, Grey falls into the clutches of Feena, the Fae queen. She begins to drain his soul bit by bit to feed her dark underground garden, and Grey has no hope of escaping on his own.
It is now up to Rune to save Grey, as his precious time slips away inexorably. But the Council has denied her permission to embark on a rescue mission, until she can harness her Venator gifts and prove herself capable of venturing into the Fae queen’s territory. As Rune discovers that promises in Eon are forged with life-or-death consequences, she realizes that she must act quickly, or else be swallowed – and Grey along with her – by the dangers of Eon.

venators 2

Review

So today is my stop on The Write Read’s Ultimate Blog Tour for Venators: Promises Forged. I was really excited for this, after being part of the tour for Venators: Magic Unleashed, and absolutely loving that book.

It did not disappoint.

The first book left things fairly unresolved, and the second picks up immediately after the first, with the characters recovering from their adventures. They have to deal with the fallout of their actions, and both Rune and Grey realise the world they’re in is a lot more complicated than they initially thought.

Promises Forged does a great job of deepening this world, revealing more of the politics and customs surrounding the council and the various situations likely to affect these characters. We also get glimpses of Ryker, seeing what effect his imprisonment and the strange world he’s found himself in are having.

We get to see more of Rune and Grey, as well as witnessing the consequences suffered when they rush into situations without fully understanding them. Rune, though desperate to get her brother back, knows she cannot do her job without Grey. And Grey still just wants to help people, but through the course of book 2 they both learn how they might be able to use the various rules and constrictions to their advantage.

I really enjoyed seeing more of the characters around Rune and Grey in this book, as well as the further worldbuilding that takes place. There’s some interesting antagonists introduced, and the last third contained enough twists and turns to make it feel almost like a rollercoaster.

Sometimes, in a trilogy, the series starts out with a strong premise that maybe falls a little flat in book 2. It’s the second book which will convince people to read the next, and even if the series is longer, I think it’s the second book which can really hook people in and make them stay for the duration. It can be dangerous territory, but Wells pulls it off really, really well.

Promises Forged delivers on, well, it’s promise. It does exactly what a second book needs to do; it resolves some situations, while leaving others open to be continued in the next book, it deepens our understanding of the world and develops the characters further, while putting them in even more danger than the first book.

I liked the first book, but I loved the second., It was a fun, enjoyable read that does a lot for this series, and now I feel completely engaged with Rune and Grey’s story, caught up in this world and the possibility of what might happen to them. Both Magic Unleashed and Promises Forged, with everything you could want from a portal fantasy and more.