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: 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: A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair

Series: Hades and Persephone #1
Goodreads: A Touch of Darkness
Publisher: Self Published
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: Persephone is the Goddess of Spring by title only. The truth is, since she was a little girl, flowers have shriveled at her touch. After moving to New Athens, she hopes to lead an unassuming life disguised as a mortal journalist.

Hades, God of the Dead, has built a gambling empire in the mortal world and his favorite bets are rumored to be impossible. After a chance encounter with Hades, Persephone finds herself in a contract with the God of the Dead and the terms are impossible: Persephone must create life in the Underworld or lose her freedom forever. The bet does more than expose Persephone’s failure as a goddess, however. As she struggles to sow the seeds of her freedom, love for the God of the Dead grows – and it’s forbidden.

Review: I’ve recently descended into booktok hell and alongside that swift descent I rekindled my love of Greek mythology, so when A Touch of Darkness popped up on my for you page it felt like fate. A spicy Hades and Persephone retelling while I’m gripped by Lore Olympus, yes please, but this book ended up being a major flop for me.

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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: 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: Into The Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Goodreads: Into the Drowning Deep
Publisher: Orbit
Book Depository
Synopsis: The voyage of the Atargatis set off on a journey to the Mariana Trench to film a ‘mockumentary’ bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. She was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart, this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found beneath the waves.
But the secrets of the deep come with a price . . .

Review: So this book was recommended to me by the wonderful Moose, and oh man am I glad they pointed it out to me. How could I resist an LGBTQ+ horror with fricken mermaids man.

Trigger warnings: gore, violence, death, and your usual horror stuff

This book is just plain fun, it’s a fantastic example of a horror with heaping’s of tension. The story is initially kind of slow and probably could have used some trimming, it takes a while to get to the mermaids after they’re introduced in the opening chapter, you know where the book is going and it’s a shame it takes so long to get there. Once Into the Drowning Deep gets going though its an unstoppable force, Grant gives the book the momentum of a boulder rolling down a hill and I couldn’t put it down.

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Review: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

Goodreads: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me
Publisher: First Second Books
Book Depository
Synopsis: All Freddy Riley wants is for Laura Dean to stop breaking up with her.

The day they got together was the best one of Freddy’s life, but nothing’s made sense since. Laura Dean is popular, funny, and SO CUTE … but she can be really thoughtless, even mean. Their on-again, off-again relationship has Freddy’s head spinning — and Freddy’s friends can’t understand why she keeps going back.

When Freddy consults the services of a local mystic, the mysterious Seek-Her, she isn’t thrilled with the advice she receives. But something’s got to give: Freddy’s heart is breaking in slow motion, and she may be about to lose her very best friend as well as her last shred of self-respect. Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends, and the insight of advice columnist Anna Vice, to help her through being a teenager in love.

Review: trigger warning: abortion, emotional abuse

This gorgeous Graphic novel has been on my list for so long that it’s become slightly embarrassing, I fell in love with the art but never managed to find a copy in my local bookshop. Eventually, I caved (lock-down broke me) and ordered it from Waterstones, so now I can finally say I’ve finished the absolutely gorgeous Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me.

The detail, the art style, the clever use of pink to make certain panels pop, this is undeniably one of the prettiest graphic novels I’ve ever read. I fell in love before I’d opened it up, and the artwork within did not disappoint.

It’s just a gorgeous novel following a girl just trying to figure out love, and the emotional turmoil that comes with it’s challenges.

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