books, fun stuff, Illumicrate, lifestyle boxes, reviews

Illumicrate #13 Clever Ruse

This month’s Illumicrate has arrived! Yay and it’s a really cool one too.

There are 2 exclusive editions inside along with a host of bookish goodies.

Empress of All Seasons – Emiko Jean. This gorgeous hardback edition has an exclusive cover, sprayed edges and a signed bookplate.

Wild Magic – Tamora Pierce. An exclusive edition of one of my favourite books by one of my favourite authors.

Circus Top Banner designed by @Illumicrate – inspired by The Night Circus and Caravel. I’m going to transfer all my book related pins to this.

Stag Amulet Necklace designed by @fableandblack – this was the first item I picked out of the box – I don’t think it’s something I’d wear but it will look excellent hung up in my book lair.

Diner Drink Cosy art work by @gicatam – this made me squeak out loud. I love To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, both the book and film so this is super cute.

Warcross Woodmark artwork by @chattynora – I read Warcross with my book club earlier this year and found it interesting. I collect bookmarks and this is going to hang out with its new pals.

Mulan inspired scarf artwork by Feifei Ruan @ruan0v0 – this is beautiful. Silky and soft, I can’t wait to gently tuck this in around my neck.

Bonus items: The Poppy War, This Mortal Coil.

I loved this box, a beautiful mix of books and lovely items all lovingly designed and curated. The Illumicrate team are doing a fantastic job putting these boxes together for all of us book loving souls.

books, reviews

Book Review; The Relic Guild Trilogy – Edward Cox

The first Relic Guild book (called The Relic Guild) introduces us to the remaining members of the Guild, 40 years after they last worked together.

Their old enemy Fabian Moor has reappeared in Labrys Town and chaos follows in his wake. The Guild must come together again and find a way to defeat their enemies one last time.

Flipping between the present day and the events of forty years before, this three book fantasy romp heads into the labyrinth surrounding the town and worlds beyond it.

Each volume rachets up the adventure and peril as our heroes race against time to stop an army of demons from destroying everyone in the town and beyond.

To begin with I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this series as I felt the first book was a bit slow getting going (I am an inpatient reader) and it took me a while to get into the plot. However once it did I raced through it and was eager to get into book two (The Cathedral of Dead Things).

books, reviews

Book Review: Empress of all Seasons – Emiko Jean

Set in an alternative feudal era Japan-like country, this story follows Mari, born a yokai or demon, and her attempt to become Empress.

The Emperor has had built 4 rooms, one for each season, that prospective empresses must conquer to win the hand of the reluctant Prince Taro.

Mari has been trained for this her whole life by her mother, an Animal Wife – who seduce wealthy men, marry them and steal their fortunes before retreating to their secretive village in the mountains.

Meanwhile in the capital city yokai are forced to wear iron collars that cause them pain and serve the humans. However a revolution is brewing and Mari’s friend Akira is drawn in.

This is a really interesting book, Japanese mythology is rich with unusual creatures, ghosts and monsters. Emiko Jean has woven just a few into this tale of survival – ancient beings against the humans who would wipe them out or enslave them.

The plot is gripping, with shades of the Hunger Games, drawing on the rich mythology and geography of Japan’s islands. The characters are well rounded and likeable.

The way it ends suggests there could be a sequel but it can also be read as a standalone novel.

It’s refreshing to have a different traditional backdrop in YA, rather than the Western mythos that has been common over the last few years (minus a few books like the excellent Jade City). I’m interested to see where the author goes next.

books, Christmas, gift guide

Under the Tree: coffee table books from Thames & Hudson

I don’t own a coffee table but I do have a few hard to buy for relatives. Books like these can suit those with tricky tastes. I can imagine a few family members who might appreciate these. As do I.

The Face and The Bestiary are produced in conjunction with the British Museum. Containing images of some of the intriguing artefacts housed in one of Britain’s oldest and most eclectic museums.

I can spend a whole day wandering the galleries and still have only seen a fraction of the treasures it houses. These books are a great way to see some of the artefacts that you might have missed.

If I hadn’t been very kindly sent these books to share with you in the run up to Christmas, personally I’d be really chuffed to receive them as they’re beautiful objects as well as fascinating reads.

To buy your copies, you can order direct from the publishers or contact your local book shop. Priced at £16.95 each.

blog tour, books, reviews

Book Review: Defense of an Other – Grace Mead

Written by a practicing lawyer this novel is very heavy on the legal details and arguments, which at times made it a struggle to read.

However it was at least an interesting case to build a story around.

Matt is a young lawyer in New Orleans who after visiting a gay bar is attacked by three thugs. Defending a new acquaintance, he kills one of the thugs and is arrested for murder. The plot follows his trial and time in Angola state prison, notorious for its human rights abuses and extreme violence.

There is a lot of legalese used throughout, having so many of the characters be lawyers means it seems natural for them to speak like that, but harder for the lay person to understand. Especially the verbatim Supreme Court transcript.

Set in 2007 before several changes in law and culture, including marriage equality, Matt’s chances of leaving prison rest on arguments around whether or not a gay person can be sentenced by a bias jury; or should be a protected characteristic like gender and race (you can’t have an all white jury if there’s a black defendant for example).

Most of my legal knowledge is, like many people’s, based around watching a lot of crime shows and hours of Law & Order. The author however went to law school and works for a large Miami firm, having done similar jobs as her character.

Overall I found this book a little hard going at times (must watch more L&O) but certainly interesting. I would suggest reading it but not when you’re a bit sleepy, you need to be wide awake to follow the legal arguments being made.

This review is part of a blog tour, check out the rest of the tour.

books, reviews

Book Review: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna – Juliet Grames

I was very lucky to get a copy of this proof, it’s not due to be published till next May.

Stella Fortuna is born in a small village in Calabria, Italy, the second child of Assunta and Antonio, but the first to survive childhood.

Named after her deceased sister, and possibly haunted by her, Stella leads a life marked by the seven (or eight) almost tragedies.

A mix of family saga, immigrant story and a sprinkle of magic realism; this book was a brilliant read. I was completely hooked.

Stella’s familial relationships are key to her story, especially that with her younger sister Cettina – who serves as the secondary protagonist. These are beautifully written and the characters come to life on the page.

I highly recommend pre-ordering this one because it is excellent.

blog tour, books, reviews

Book Review: Skyward – Brandon Sanderson

Spensa dreams of flight, soaring past the debris that litters the skies above her home on Detritus, into the open stars. Like her father she wants to be part of the Detritus Defence Force and protect her people from their enemy the Krell. Only her father was branded a coward and the admiral doesn’t want her anywhere near the DDF.

Spensa gets into the training program and starts to uncover the truth about her father and in doing so finds a few things out about herself too.

Sanderson is a well known and rather prolific writer of fantasy and science fiction, I first read his Final Empire trilogy, enjoying his strong world building and well written characters, something Skyward shares.

I really enjoyed this book, Spensa is a strong protagonist and it is easy to empathise with her story. The plot is pacy and even all the flight school simulation bits are enjoyable and fluid. Some of it is also very funny.

The ending is quite open and this book feels like the beginning of a series, fingers crossed I’m right.

This post is part of the blog tour for Skyward – check out the rest of the tour.