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: 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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Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist 2021: Book Haul

Recently I’ve been falling a little in love with literary fiction. I’m not usually the biggest fan, and I don’t normally review this genre on the blog, but lockdown has got me stepping outside my comfort zone. It all started with Boy Parts back in August (which I did review btw), then I went on to read Breasts and Eggs, and after the Women’s Prize for Fiction’s longlist was announced I figured I’d pick up a few of the nominated titles.

I decided I would pick the books based entirely on the blurbs, no reading other peoples reviews, so it would feel like I’d wandered into Waterstones and happened upon them. Is this the best way to buy books? maybe not, but it has made me really excited to sit down and fully immerse myself in their worlds. So, I figured I would make a little list of my purchases so you can see which blurbs ended up catching my eye, and what I’m planning on reading before they announce the winner in a few months. I may have already finished Luster and I’m about halfway through Detransition, Baby so I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to rise to this challenge!

Luster by Raven Leilani
White book cover with a picture of the lower half of a black woman's face, she is wearing read lipstick. 
White text reads: Luster
Orange text reads: Raven Leilani

Edie is just trying to survive. She’s messing up in her dead-end admin job in her all-white office, is sleeping with all the wrong men, and has failed at the only thing that meant anything to her, painting. No one seems to care that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing with her life beyond looking for her next hook-up. And then she meets Eric, a white, middle-aged archivist with a suburban family, including a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have a single person in her life who can show her how to do her hair. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscape of sexual and racial politics as a young black woman wasn’t already hard enough, with nowhere else left to go, Edie finds herself falling head-first into Eric’s home and family.

Goodreads: Luster by Raven Leilani

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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: 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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Review: Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Goodreads: Cinderella Is Dead
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: It’s 200 years since Cinderella found her prince, but the fairytale is over.

Sophia knows the story though, off by heart. Because every girl has to recite it daily, from when she’s tiny until the night she’s sent to the royal ball for choosing. And every girl knows that she has only one chance. For the lives of those not chosen by a man at the ball . are forfeit.

But Sophia doesn’t want to be chosen – she’s in love with her best friend, Erin, and hates the idea of being traded like cattle. And when Sophia’s night at the ball goes horribly wrong, she must run for her life. Alone and terrified, she finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s tomb. And there she meets someone who will show her that she has the power to remake her world.

Review: This book was so unexpected. I’d managed to completely dodge spoilers, and was honestly expecting something along the lines of The Selection but this book is not that.

I think everyone and their mother has reviewed this diverse retelling of Cinderella, and I’m definitely going to do the same. This book was a surprise to me and I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to enjoy it, but Bayron really managed to make me do a full uno reverse and love this.

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Review: Boy Parts by Eliza Clark

Goodreads: Boy Parts
Publisher: Influx Press
Buy the Book from Influx and support an Indie Press
Synopsis: Irina obsessively takes explicit photographs of the average-looking men she persuades to model for her, scouted from the streets of Newcastle.

Placed on sabbatical from her dead-end bar job, she is offered an exhibition at a fashionable London gallery, promising to revive her career in the art world and offering an escape from her rut of drugs, alcohol, and extreme cinema. The news triggers a self-destructive tailspin, centred around Irina’s relationship with her obsessive best friend, and a shy young man from her local supermarket who has attracted her attention…

Review: Trigger warnings: Violence, drug abuse, sexual assault, and Alcohol abuse

This book definitely isn’t my usual shtick but it caught my eye on twitter, and it came with an adorable tote that definitely doesn’t reflect the tone of the book, but I had to have it! It has been a while since a contemporary has affected me quite so deeply, so I felt I just had to review it on the blog.

Boy Parts is a three hundred page hallucinogenic trip filled to the brim with dark humour. It’s unflinching in the way it tackles female rage and I’ve honestly never read anything like it so of course, I absolutely devoured every word.

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Review: If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha

Goodreads: If I Had Your Face
Publisher: Viking
Book Depository
Synopsis: If I Had Your Face plunges us into the mesmerizing world of contemporary Seoul – a place where extreme plastic surgery is as routine as getting a haircut, where women compete for spots in secret ‘room salons’ to entertain wealthy businessmen after hours, where K-Pop stars are the object of all-consuming obsession, and ruthless social hierarchies dictate your every move.

Navigating this hyper-competitive city are four young women balancing on the razor-edge of survival: Kyuri, an exquisitely beautiful woman whose hard-won status at an exclusive ‘room salon’ is threatened by an impulsive mistake with a client; her flatmate Miho, an orphan who wins a scholarship to a prestigious art school in New York, where her life becomes tragically enmeshed with the super-wealthy offspring of the Korean elite; Wonna, their neighbour, pregnant with a child that she and her husband have no idea how they will afford to raise in a fiercely competitive economy; and Ara, a hair stylist living down the hall, whose infatuation with a fresh-faced K-Pop star drives her to violent extremes.

Review: I was provided with this digital copy in exchange for an honest review! Thanks, Viking.

If I Had Your Face takes a long, hard look at the harsh beauty standards that South Korean women face, and how so often they resort to invasive surgery to maintain these ideals. The book itself doesn’t hold back, following the story of four different young women as they try to navigate a complicated society driven by wealth and beauty.

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Review: The Story of Silence by Alex Myers

Goodreads: The Story of Silence
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Book Depository
Synopsis: There was once, long ago, a foolish king who decreed that women should not, and would not, inherit. Thus when a girl-child was born to Lord Cador – Merlin-enchanted fighter of dragons and Earl of Cornwall – he secreted her away: to be raised a boy so that the family land and honour would remain intact.

That child’s name was Silence.

Silence must find their own place in a medieval world that is determined to place the many restrictions of gender and class upon them. With dreams of knighthood and a lonely heart to answer, Silence sets out to define themselves.

Soon their silence will be ended.

What follows is a tale of knights and dragons, of bards, legends and dashing strangers with hidden secrets.

Review: I received a digital copy in exchange for an honest review, Thanks Harper Voyager!

I’m a sucker for a good Arthurian legend, especially the courtly romances that appeared in the 12th and 13th centuries! The Story of Silence is based around one of those romances, Le Roman de Silence if you want to get specific; but admittedly this was not one I had read before or one I included in my dissertation so I was excited to pick up this modern retelling.

This book is so so easy to read, and wholly enjoyable. It’s so lyrical and smooth that I would love to hear it as an audiobook, and the writing style feels like a bardic tale rather than a modern novel. I also thoroughly enjoyed the pacing, its admittedly rather slow and not a lot happens, but it was paced so well that this didn’t bother me too much.

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Review: The Damned by Renée Ahdieh

Series: The Beautiful #2
Goodreads: The Damned
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Book Depository
Synopsis: Following the events of The Beautiful, Sébastien Saint Germain is now cursed and forever changed. The treaty between the Fallen and the Brotherhood has been broken, and war between the immortals seems imminent. The price of loving Celine was costly. But Celine has also paid a high price for loving Bastien.

Still recovering from injuries sustained during a night she can’t quite remember, her dreams are troubled. And she doesn’t know she has inadvertently set into motion a chain of events that could lead to her demise and unveil a truth about herself she’s not quite ready to learn.

Forces hiding in the shadows have been patiently waiting for this moment for centuries. And just as Bastien and Celine begin to uncover the danger around them, they learn their love could tear them apart.

Review:  I received this digital copy in exchange for an honest review!

So at the end of my review of The Beautiful I said that I felt the series had a lot of potential, and despite not being wild about the book I was rather excited for the sequel. I figured The Damned would put Celine at the centre of a Vampire vs Werewolf conflict, and in some ways I was right, but at the same time so, so, wrong.

I asked for more vampires and The Damned definitely delivered. The lack of vampire action was one of my biggest issues with The Beautiful, but this book has supernatural creatures in spades. There’s a whole lot of world development in this one, some of which should have been mentioned in the first novel, but this book really revealed New Orleans’ supernatural underbelly and I loved it.

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