Review: The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Goodreads: The Other Black Girl
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.

Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.

It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.

Review: I received this digital copy in exchange for an honest review, thanks Bloomsbury.

The Other Black Girl is the first book since The Binding that I’ve desperately wanted a physical arc of, but just like with The Binding I ended up with a digital copy instead. The concept of the physical arc was just so beautifully executed, and when I found out that this was a thriller set in the publishing industry I knew I had to read this early.

This review is actually going to be kinda short because I don’t want to risk accidentally spoiling any part of this excellently constructed thriller. Zakiya Dalila Harris perfectly executes a slow-burn that leads to a deeply unsettling ending, and it’s worth mentioning that this book is much more like Get Out than The Devil Wears Prada; think insidious and dark thriller rather than seductive office drama. The Other Black Girl really is a slow-burn that favours a building sense of menace around Nella, Hazel, and their office rather than a fast-paced thriller and it works perfectly. Watching as Hazel invades Nella’s life, as she gets on better with her boss and friends at the company, and Nella’s reputation plummets as her paranoia rises. The rising sense of menace is so well executed that I was gripped despite not a whole lot actually happening, and I was desperate to uncover the mystery behind the arrival of Hazel.

The Other Black Girl also highlights the tokenism and microaggressions that Nella experiences at her all white office, but as one of those white girls in publishing I’m not going to comment on whether or not this was executed well. It did add to Nella’s feeling of “otherness” in the workplace, and threw a glaring light onto the continuing lack of diversity in the publishing industry.

Harris has constructed an excellent slow-burn thriller with a unique concept that had me rushing towards the end, The Other Black Girl is an uncomfortable read but it’s so worth it!

Recommend: If you’re a lover of slow-burn thriller with some excellent social commentary thrown in then this is worth the read.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review: Threadneedle by Cari Thomas

Series: The Language of Magic #1
Goodreads: Threadneedle
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Buy: Bookshop.org UK 
Synopsis: Within the boroughs of London, nestled among its streets, hides another city, filled with magic.

Magic is the first sin. It must be bound.

Ever since Anna can remember, her aunt has warned her of the dangers of magic. She has taught her to fear how it twists and knots and turns into something dark and deadly.

It was, after all, magic that killed her parents and left her in her aunt’s care. It’s why she has been protected from the magical world and, in one year’s time, what little magic she has will be bound. She will join her aunt alongside the other Binders who believe magic is a sin not to be used, but denied. Only one more year and she will be free of the curse of magic, her aunt’s teachings and the disappointment of the little she is capable of.

Nothing – and no one – could change her mind before then. Could it?

Review: I received this digital copy in exchange for an honest review, thanks HarperVoyager.

It’s so lovely when a publisher invites you to review a book that’s been on your to be read since they announced it, and ho boy was I excited to immerse myself in a modern witch aesthetic set in London. It’s also really rather nice when the book actually manages to live up to the pre-release hype, which for me Threadneedle managed to do.

Firstly, I think it should be mentioned that Threadneedle has the feel of a young adult novel rather than the adult fantasy it’s been marketed as; it is a first in series so maybe it’ll get more adult as it goes along, but for now, this book reads a little young to sit firmly in the adult fantasy category. That’s not to say that this detracted from the story, Threadneedle is excellent, but if you’re not a lover of a very teenage voice then it’s something to consider.

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Review: Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Series: King of Scars #2
Goodreads: Rule of Wolves
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible. 

The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.

The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.

King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.

Review: Alright here we go, lets talk about the grand finale of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse or at least the final book for now. I couldn’t figure out how to do this without spoilers so there’ll be spoilers below for Rule of Wolves, King of Scars, and the other books that make up the Grishaverse.

The Nikolai duology and I have really not gotten on, and Rule of Wolves really does follow the same pattern unfortunately. This book feels almost like fan service, all your faves will appear here including The Darkling (he even gets his own pov chapters) after his revival in King of Scars, and if you love a story based around bringing together all the characters for one last hurrah then you’ll probably love this. I, unfortunately, loathed this feature because it meant that the book was stuffed so full that most plot points ended up being meaningless or forgotten after a few pages. In Rule of Wolves you’ll get, without adding in the huge spoiler plot points:

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Review: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Series: King of Scars #1
Goodreads: King of Scars
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: The dashing young king, Nikolai Lantsov, has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war–and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, Nikolai must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha general, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried–and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

Review: So I finally sat down and read the Nikolai duology all in one go. I’d been saving it because I know Leigh is partial to a cliff-hanger and I wanted to avoid that whole experience, so I waited patiently for Rule of Wolves and now I’m going to release the reviews back to back too! There’ll be a few spoilers for other novels in the Grisha series below.

Right, first things first, this book was a surprisingly mediocre experience for me, just so we’re both on the same page before we get into things. King of Scars and I just did not click. I’d been really looking forward to a narrative based around Nikolai but I think he ended up getting the least amount of character development, and that’s not to say I didn’t love the addition of Zoya and Nina’s perspectives, it was just unexpected. In fact, Zoya completely steals the show from Nikolai and her story-line and characterization just feels better than his, to the point where I kind of wish this book was completely Zoya focused. Zoya is powerful, talented, and her snark with Nikolai was right up my street. I really feel like Bardugo excels when it comes to dialogue and relationships between characters, and it’s always a joy to read the characters interacting with each other.

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Review: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Series: The Locked Tomb #1
Goodreads: Gideon the Ninth
Publisher: Tor Books
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.
Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.
Of course, some things are better left dead.

Review: Gideon the Ninth has been on my to be read since its release back in 2019, I mean who can say no to lesbian space necromancers? not me. I’ll admit though that I found this harder to get into than I thought, but I think the fault lays entirely with my kindle and my goldfish sized brain. This book introduces so many new terms and characters, and if I’d picked up the hardback I would have easily been able to flick to the back and enlighten myself, but instead I was reading on my kindle and didn’t realize there was a glossary until I’d finished the whole thing. My single brain cell really let me down here so I’m not holding it against Gideon, and I really did love this book (to the point where I’m probably going to attempt a Harrow cosplay build).

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Review: Reaper of Souls by Rena Barron

Series: Kingdom of Souls #2
Goodreads: Reaper of Souls
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: After so many years yearning for the gift of magic, Arrah has the one thing she’s always wanted—at a terrible price. Now the last surviving witchdoctor, she’s been left to pick up the shattered pieces of a family that betrayed her, a kingdom in shambles, and long-buried secrets about who she is.

Desperate not to repeat her mother’s mistakes, Arrah must return to the tribal lands to search for help from the remnants of her parents’ people. But the Demon King’s shadow looms closer than she thinks. And as Arrah struggles to unravel her connection to him, defeating him begins to seem more and more impossible—if it’s something she can bring herself to do at all.

Review:  I received this digital copy in exchange for an honest review, thanks HarperVoyager.

So, when I got an email from HarperVoyager offering me an eARC of Reaper of Souls I swiftly broke my Netgalley ban so I could read it. I managed to win a physical ARC of Kingdom of Souls back in 2019 (you can read my review here), and it was a series that I definitely wanted to continue reading.

Reaper of Souls picks up pretty much where Kingdom of Souls left off, so just in case you hadn’t realised there’ll be spoilers for the first book ahead! Arrah is dealing with the fall-out after her families betrayal and attempt to free the Demon King, and with her role as the last remaining witchdoctor. In this book we also get a few other perspectives in the form of her love interest Rudjek and the Orisha Dimma’s memories, their perspectives are a great and necessary addition as Arrah and Rudjek split from each other and go on their own journeys.

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Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Goodreads: Mexican Gothic
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemí’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

Review: It’s rare that a book becomes a five star read for me just a few chapters in, but this book is one of those few. Mexican Gothic is the haunted house thriller I’d always dreamed of, it’s so unassuming and just as you think you know what’s happening this book will twist round and bite you.

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Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Series: These Violent Delights #1
Goodreads: These Violent Delights
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Review: I received this digital copy in exchange for an honest review, thanks Hodder & Stoughton.

I’ve been struggling with this review in the same way I struggled to finish this book. I think it may be a case of covid brain and an ill-timed Hades play-through that meant I read this in bits and couldn’t settle into it, but I’m going to try my best to explain why I didn’t click with this book.

The Shanghai that Chloe Gong developed was so intricate and interesting, and I really felt as though I was walking the city streets alongside Juliette and Roma. It’s vivid, and the clashes between the different cultures alongside the colonisation of Shanghai, and Juliette’s discomfort with the westernisation of her home is palpable. Juliette was certainly my favourite part of the These Violent Delights. She’s tough, whip smart, plus I loved the fact she was torn between her loyalty to the gang and working with Roma to save Shanghai. Juliette returns to the city from America with something to prove and a lot to lose, and you can really feel how on edge she feels walking round an often unfamiliar Shanghai. She’s wonderfully well developed, and I was always disappointed when we moved away from her perspective!

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Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Goodreads: Piranesi
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

Review: This book, gosh this book it’s just so gorgeous. The world that Susanna Clarke builds in Piranesi is so sumptuous and mysterious, I was instantly drawn in and this book effortlessly became a five star read for me.

The novel is actually a set of journal entries written by Piranesi himself. This format can be a little jarring, but Piranesi is so knowledgeable and fascinating as a character that this feeling left as soon as it came. Piranesi makes you take your time reading it, I’m a notoriously quick reader, but my pace dramatically slowed so I could absorb all of the details. Our protagonist takes his time explaining his world and how it works in minute detail, and so despite it’s short length the story feels so fleshed out and gorgeous.

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Best of 2020

Soo normally I’d split this out into a few smaller posts about the books, games, and films I’ve loved this year, but instead I’ve decided to pull together a big behemoth post about the things that have touched my ice-cold heart!

Books

So this years first place on Nia’s list of absolutely amazing reads was hotly contested. I have read some absolutely wonderful mind-bendingly good books this year, but one really stood out for me.

Eliza Clark’s incredible debut novel Boy Parts published with Influx Press is my book of the year! This book was a perfect example of unreliable narrator done well, and the book itself feels more than a little hallucinogenic. Boy Parts will be one I’ll come back to again and again just to drink in the detail, it’s dark, gritty, and I cannot wait to read what Clark writes next.
My Full Review
Buy Direct from Influx

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