This year, my New Years Resolutions are all about blogging. Did you know that the nearly halfof people give up their goals after just one month? I’m not the most organizedperson, but hopefully I’ll be able to commit to these goals until at least March!
This is a post is to celebrate the new year. But I can’t do that without reflecting on last year – and my Goodreads Reading Challenge 2022. All I really can give you is the number, so I’m proud to announce I read…
books read last year! I’m proud of it, and managed to try some pretty incredible reads. You can find my Top 22 Books of 2022 here.
As for last year’s resolutions, I managed to complete all of my goals. My biggest achievement is reading some incredible ARCs (check out my favourite No Good For Maidenshere ) and reaching 500 followers. I couldn’t have done it without you, so thank you so much. To every person who reads my posts, to every comment and to every blogger and reader out there, I wish you all a wonderful 2023.
Which leads me into my last point. Part of why I love reading is because I get so much out of it. It’s a full immersive experience… but only because you put so much into it too. Reading can be pretty draining. Trying to remember all the characters, the plot, on top of made up countries and magical systems? It takes a lot of effort.
But most of the time, it’s worth it. So this year, I think I’d like to focus on enjoying and putting effort into reading – it might mean that I read fewer books, but hopefully instead of rushing through books to tick them off a list, I’ll have a better experience reading. I’ll properly understand the books. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
New Years Resolutions for 2023
1. Read 52 books. Every year my target number goes down, are you the same? But I think a book a week will certainly challenge me!
2. Continue to support Own Voices and Indie publishers. Especially foreign books – I’d love to try a translated work as well. What’s your favorite translated book?
3. Reach 700 followers on this blog. Can you help me reach this target? Every like, subscribe and comment is very much appreciated.
What are some of your New Years Resolutions? Let me know in the comments!
The moment has finally arrived: the moment to reveal my Top 22 Books of 2022. It’s been an interesting year book wise; I’ve tried to meet my 2021 resolution to read more from Own Voices and Indie publishers. I didn’t get around to reading any translated works – do you have any recommendations? – but got to finish new and old favourite series. This year, I’ve read some books that did not meet my expectations (check out my reviews of Aurora Rising and She Gets The Girl). However, there’s also been some stunners.
I can’t wait for what the New Year will bring!
Click on the pictures to read my reviews – how many have you read? What are some of your top books of the year? Let me know in the comments. 🙂
This book is insane. Insanely good and also just plain insane. Here’s why…
Name: Nona The Ninth
Author: Tamsyn Muir
You need to be mentally strong to get through this book.
Nona the Ninth is insane. Insanely good and also just plain insane. But you just accept it because this is the third book in an equally mad series. Remind yourself of the Locked Tomb in my reviews of Gideon the Ninth here and Harrow the Ninthhere. Those two books sieved out who wouldn’t like this stuff, so if you’re reading Nona the Ninth, you’re invested in these characters.
And Muir is going to make you pay for that.
“We were children – playing in the reflections of stars in a pool of water. Thinking it was space.”
– NONA THE NINTH
The premise of this book is that our two main characters have completely disappeared, leaving Nona – a brand new MC – who has an ambiguous connection to our previous characters. She’s being looked after by two and a half side characters from book 1, presumed dead. And they’re working with the Blood of Eden, the previous sworn enemy of Harrow and the Lyctors.
Oh, and the world is ending.
Tamsyn Muir is so good at ripping up the foundations of the story… then rebuilding something incredible from the debris. Nona the Ninth feels more like blowing up incredible world building for no reason.
Nona The Ninth is the Rogue One of the Locked Tomb Series. It’s like in Star Wars: this is an extra side mission that means we get from A to B. I can imagine Cam saying in an off hand comment wow wasn’t the Troad mission hard and then five years after the end of the series, Nona comes out. The Locked Tomb was meant to be a three book series – skipping straight to Alecto the Ninth – and sometimes it was hard to see why Muir added Nona. We get from A to B plot wise, but it could have been explained in the first chapters of Alecto.
“Life is too short and love is too long.”
– NONA THE NINTH
Pyrrha says “I’ll keep loving you—my problem is I don’t know how to stop.” Honestly, that sums up my relationship with this series. The Locked Tomb is insane and horribly good, and doesn’t give back as much as it takes from you. But I love it.
There is so much in Nona about found family and love. In a game with no rules and a world that is ending, all they have left is love. The life Nona’s carved out with Camilla and Palamades and Pyrrha is heart warming, as is Nona’s childlike and sunny nature.
The writing style is simpler and more childlike to reflect Nona as the MC which I thought was interesting. There’s certainly a tonal shift in this book away from the big-stakes games of Lyctors and Necromancers… to actual games Nona and her (exceptionally named) friends play in the playground. I agree with other reviews I’ve read that it gives a much more human quality that we haven’t seen before.
“You’ve got two scientists and an engineer and a nun and a lawyer and a banker and a cop and an artist. That’s not a defence force, that’s a cop and six different kinds of nerd.”
– NONA THE NINTH
The absolute redeeming factor of the book: God’s villain origin story. We learn in segments that John’s apotheosis was because of capitalism and climate change. It’s glorious. It’s eco sci-fi, anti capitalist scripture (almost literal scripture, cheekily titled like Bible chapters). It’s insanely good – I could read a three book series just on John’s story. INSANE. I was holding my breath when reading, waiting John; they collide our modern 21st century world with that of the necromancers in ways I’d never considered. Utterly flawless.
I also liked that Nona is very casually gender queer – but when we’ve got soul swapping and the universe is ending, no one really minds what your pronouns are. It’s subtle but there is some playing around with gender. Beautiful Ruby is a guy and the women are princes. It’s almost unnoticeable but adds to the futuristic setting – is this how it should be?
“Nona had kept giggling, and that got her told off because Harrowhark Nonagesimus didn’t giggle.”
– NONA THE NINTH
Blood of Eden: it’s also very interesting to see the opposition to the Lyctors on their home turf. The apocalypse is well written and oddly human – we get descriptions of people picking up litter and stopping at traffic lights when the universe is ending. It furthers this idea of this book being the nitty gritty, quotidian one.
But while I enjoyed the suspense at the start, the not-knowing became tedious. We’re kept in the dark about SO MUCH; I was confused about everything. And that meant the story became quite disjointed. This may only be me, but I was left with so many questions – Is the next book going to be written in Medieval style? Is Noodle okay? What genuinely happened in the last 150 pages?
“You told me, Sleep, I’ll wake you in the morning.
I asked, What is morning? and you said,
When everyone who fucked with me is dead.”
– NONA THE NINTH
To sum up, yes this book wasn’t was I was expecting. But yes, I will be continuing with the series without a second thought. The apocalypse is perfectly written as is everything about John’s story, but my confusion often ruined my motivation to actually read the book.
Muir is an incredible writer who draws you into her insane worlds and doesn’t let you leave. However, for me, it will take at least another reread to understand what just happened…
With an electric performance at Manchester O2 Ritz, indie rock group Beach Bunny proved that they are a band to watch.
I thought I’d mix it up a little and review a concert instead of a book this week. I was lucky enough to see TikTok Sensation Beach Bunny live last week and it was the best gig I’ve ever been to. Read on to find out why…
🎸 🎸 🎸
The crowd was full of anticipation during the support act: the softly spoken Siv Jakobsen who’d come all the way from Norway for the gig. Whilst a tight band with gorgeous harmonies, Jakobsen was pretty different to the pop-punk chaos of Beach Bunny and not quite what I was expecting. However, the contrast may have been a strategic move from the band as the crowd was filled with energy when Beach Bunny finally took to the stage.
Opening with their most streamed song ‘Prom Queen’, Beach Bunny immediately captured a crowd who shouted every word. Unsurprising, as this was the song that shot the Californian-based rock group to fame when it went viral in 2018. Bands who found fame on TikTok sometimes lack the stage presence or the back catalogue to engage crowds – I haven’t heard amazing things about Wet Leg or Inhaler’s live performances. However, despite opening with their biggest song, the band proved that they could continue the energy and power packed into ‘Prom Queen’ for an entire set.
Through the next few songs, the band showcased their capacity for combining catchy melodies with meaningful lyrics. The real queen of the band is the lead singer, Lili Trifillio, who formed the band in 2015 and writes most of the songs. She effortlessly merges bedroom pop with indie-rock (I’ve heard Beach Bunny described as pop-punk but they’re a bit classier than that). Come for the music, but stay for the lyrics…
Appealing to a crowd of mostly early 20s at the O2 Ritz, Trifillio captured the joy and insecurity of teen love in songs like ‘Boys’ and ‘April’. Playing whilst wearing a ‘Prom Queen’ sash made by a fan, she regularly checked in with the audience, sharing insight and jokes. ‘You’ve turned my day around’ she once shouted to the crowd. At another point, she conducted us in ‘Happy Birthday’, which is a great example of how friendly and supportive the crowd was. It was clear everyone was having the time of their lives.
Undeniably, this feeling of closeness was emphasized by the iconic venue. A Manchester staple, The O2 Ritz has hosted some of the best bands of the last century, from The Smiths’s first ever gig to New Order and the Stone Roses. Beach Bunny brought some California sunshine to the venue and the crowd was one of the most energetic I’ve ever seen at an indie gig. At Trifillio’s command, the crowd would transform into a pulsing mosh pit across the Ritz’s iconic wooden floor. Even more unexpected was a ‘Wall of Death’ mosh near the end of the set – how many of them have you seen at a bedroom pop gig?
Arguably, the drive and edge behind songs like ‘Oxygen’ are lost in the Spotify recordings – I wasn’t expecting the crowd to be as lively they were. However, the sharper sound better suits the coming-of-age pain and power Trifillio evokes.
The set ended with Beach Bunny’s feminist anthems ‘Blame Game’ and ‘Good Girls Don’t Get Used’. Trifillio’s ability to transform a crowd on the verge of tears, phone lights in hand, into a screaming circle pit highlights the band’s power. The night finished triumphantly with an encore to the fan favorite ‘Painkiller’, leaving the crowd buzzing and exhausted.
Whatever the song may say, it’s clear that Beach Bunny are worthy of the title ‘Prom Queen’.
🎸 🎸 🎸
What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to? Are you a fan of Beach Bunny’s music? What do you think about bands who’ve found fame on social media? Let me know in the comments!
This weeks Top Ten Tuesday prompt is about series you’re mid way through and I thought it would be a good chance to recap on series I’ve begun and never finished… And there’s a lot more than I originally thought!
As always, this great tag was originally created by The Broke and the Bookishbut is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. I know some people have to finish a series if they start it – what about you? It doesn’t really bother me to never find out how a series ends, are you the same? Let me know in the comments!
1. The Dark Artifices Trilogy
Who hasn’t got at least one Cassandra Clare series on the go? Life gets in the way, or you run out of money because her books are so expensive. Or, in this case, you learn how many pages are in the last book – 900! – and think you’d rather not…
But I did love the first two books of this series, and will definitely finish it some day! Find out why I fell in love with the characters of Lady Midnight here.
2. The Infernal Devices Series
Again Cassandra Clare! I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first book in this series, The Clockwork Angel – find out why in my review here. But I read it immediately after the The Mortal Instruments so I needed a bit of a break from the author. How many of her series have you read? She has so many I honestly lose track…
3. The Eldest Curses Series
Who doesn’t love Magnus Bane? The Bane Chronicles were so, so fun (find my joyful review of the llamas and loafers here) and The Red Scrolls Of Magic was even better. Time runs away from me – I can’t believe it’s been a year since I read the first book in this series and I must get round to the second one!
(Cassandra Clare’s series win the prize for the most obscure names for her series. I really don’t get how a lot of them relate to the books, and get them all very confused, do you?)
4. The Aurora Rising Series
Like The Infernal Devices, I was a bit put off the series by the first book, Aurora Rising. Amongst other things, the Percy-Jackson-Wannabe writing style irritated me – find out my other problems in my review here. However, you guys have said brilliant things about the series as a whole in my comments, and implored me to keep reading. When I get a chance, I might pick it back up again!
5. The Locked Tomb Trilogy
I haven’t finished this series, but not for want of trying. I’m so excited for book three! However, due to Waterstones’ shipping problems, I still haven’t received Nona The Ninth but I can’t wait can’t wait can’t wait to read it. I’m obsessed with this addictive, beautiful series – find my rant on these badass bone nuns in Gideon The Ninthhereand Harrow The Ninthhere.
6. The Dreamer Trilogy
Maggie Stiefvater is my favorite author. Even further than favorite books, she is so consistently amazing that I know anything she writes will be superb. Stiefvater has my favorite style, my favorite writing, my favorite author. Her books don’t fail to captivate and terrify and entice; the Dreamers Trilogy is no different. I can’t wait to read the Greywaren, what about you?
7. The Serpent And Dove Series
I’m not sure why I ever finished this series? I really enjoyed Serpent and Dove (find out why in my review here!) but it was never really a priority to finish. I suppose when series don’t end on a cliffhanger you’re not that incentivized to finish it…
I know some people have to finish a series if they start it – what about you? It doesn’t really bother me to never find out how a series ends, are you the same? Let me know in the comments!
Can you write a complex murder mystery only using emails? Well, the answer is yes and no…
Name: The Appeal
Author: Janice Hallet
In a town full of secrets… Someone was murdered. Someone went to prison. And everyone’s a suspect. Can you uncover the truth?
Dear Reader – enclosed are all the documents you need to solve a case. It starts with the arrival of two mysterious newcomers to the small town of Lockwood, and ends with a tragic death. Someone has already been convicted of this brutal murder and is currently in prison, but we suspect they are innocent. What’s more, we believe far darker secrets have yet to be revealed.
Throughout the Fairway Players’ staging of All My Sons and the charity appeal for little Poppy Reswick’s life-saving medical treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. Yet we believe they gave themselves away. In writing. The evidence is all here, between the lines, waiting to be discovered. Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth?
From the blurb, it sounds as if you’re going to be playing Cleudo. Originally, I felt far too lazy to solve the mystery myself – isn’t that what the characters are for? But I was soon immersed in the hierarchal and tangled web of the Fairway Players, and thoroughly enjoyed this thoroughly unconventional mystery.
The Appeal is a bit like a murder mystery in reverse. Written entirely in emails and the occasional text message, it is a ‘modern take on the epistolary novel’. Two law students are given correspondences leading up to a murder to deduce if someone is wrongfully convicted. (Wow! Like an Appeal!). The idea was that the students go in blind and objective, so Femi and Charlotte are presented with the same information as the reader, which was very fun.
While Femi and Charlotte make some impressive deductions that I had no hope of catching, the mystery itself felt a little predictable. Around half way, the narrative became a bit stagnant and repetitive now that the characters personalities had been set out. I wanted more explanation of the law students – what is their relationship to each other? Did they struggle to solve it? Why is their boss Mr Tanner so emotionally involved in the case?
In short, a lot was riding on the eventual reveal. However, to add to the author’s commitment to defying conventions, the ending wasn’t all over in a few paragraphs. Femi and Charlotte would present a theory that you’re sure is the truth, but Tanner would supply a non chronological piece of the puzzle that would change the whole picture. I loved how the explanation blossoms for about 100 pages – you’re drip fed all these clues; little reveals after little reveals.
‘Dearest Helen, Martin and family, I am in shock. Poor Poppy. My heart goes out to you all. Send my love to Helen and Paige. Assure them that if they need anything, however small, you know where we are. I remember when Harley fell off his bike and had a severe concussion. It was the worst few hours of my life, so I know how you must be feeling.’
– The Appeal
Any review of The Appeal wouldn’t be complete without talking about the ’email’ discourse structure. I was surprised with the amount of personality conveyed from just emails. It’s like being inside the characters’ heads, and the emails were cleverly written. Effective and often funny. They add a distinct human quality to the characters and I can imagine a lot of the interactions actually occurring – like in the quote above, discussing a cancer diagnosis… A lot comes from a little. Some personalities shined through; Issy and Martin had really strong voices but some, of the many, many characters, fell a little flat or felt irrelevant.
It is a big cast; it detracts from dramatic reveals when you can’t remember who the characters even are, doesn’t it? Some readers may find the various different storylines overwhelming. But while there are a lot of characters, it’s manageable if you put a bit of work in. Aside from that, The Appeal is quite an easy read and I flew through it.
I fluctuated between 4 and 5 stars throughout reading. Admittedly, the ’email’ discourse structure sometimes felt a little lazy. Some plots were left ambiguous or not properly concluded because of the excuse of the information not being something you’d mention in an email. However, almost every review of The Appeal begins with groundbreaking or revolutionary, and they’re not wrong. I can see the temptation to write in this format – why ever bother with prose again? Emails are much more common in out daily lives and, as Janice Halley has proven, they can create rich and vibrant characters.
What do you think: could this format be the future of the murder mystery?
The Witch King is original. Truly something special. What makes it so different is…
Name: The Witch King
Author: H. E. Edgmon
Published: June 2021
To save a fae kingdom, a trans witch must face his traumatic past and the royal fiancé he left behind. This debut YA fantasy will leave you spellbound.
In Asalin, fae rule and witches like Wyatt Croft…don’t. Wyatt’s betrothal to his best friend, fae prince Emyr North, was supposed to change that. But when Wyatt lost control of his magic one devastating night, he fled to the human world.
Now a coldly distant Emyr has hunted him down. Despite transgender Wyatt’s newfound identity and troubling past, Emyr has no intention of dissolving their engagement. In fact, he claims they must marry now or risk losing the throne. Jaded, Wyatt strikes a deal with the enemy, hoping to escape Asalin forever. But as he gets to know Emyr, Wyatt realizes the boy he once loved may still exist. And as the witches face worsening conditions, he must decide once and for all what’s more important—his people or his freedom.
Romantic and fantastical and fierce: let me introduce The Witch King by H. E Edgmon. Alongside amazing trans representation is a powerful cast, a fiery fantasy world and a heartfelt romance.
This year, I’d seen so many gushing reviews of The Witch King, but hadn’t seen the book in any English bookshops. My hunt for the sequel has proved that this series is almost as difficult to get in the UK as decent weather, but I haven’t given up looking! It was only when I went on holiday abroad that I actually found the book… so I had to buy it. And I’m so glad I did! Read on to find out why…
The Witch King is original. Truly something special. What makes it so different is how the author mixes technology in with a portal fantasy setting to create this (hilarious) blended magical world. As far as I’ve seen, technology and fantasy is rarely done outside the realms of sci-fi and I really enjoyed it.
Who doesn’t love a dark, fast paced fantasy? The whole concept feels genuinely unique – fae and witches have been done a million times, but I feel like rarely with so many queer characters and identity exploration (LOVE LOVE LOVE). As well as a complicated plot and complex characters, you can find strong plot twists and politics. As part of his magical gifts, Wyatt can sense people’s energies – like an aura – which wasn’t overcomplicated but felt really different.
“I am not the golden goose. I am more like an actual goose, hissing and honking and attacking small children who just want to give me bread.”
― We <3 Wyatt,
Wyatt was one of the highlights of the book. He was written so well – there’s enough page time given to exploring his trans identity so that he feels fully realised, but without decimating the story with deadnaming and misgendering. Personality wise, Wyatt was also really likeable and had strong character development.
There’s more to his character than being trans. Unfortunately as opposed to other books I’ve read with trans MCs, it felt refreshing and again sets the book apart. The Witch King is not a queer pain story. As well as arson and political rebellions, it’s a book about love – for others and for yourself.
I was absolutely rooting for Wyatt’s romantic plot – I’ve haven’t been this invested in a romance for ages. Such a heartfelt love story. A few of the scenes were a little cliched, but I think the author knew what he was doing… Whose really complaining about the ‘only-one-bed’ trope or the old ‘long-lost-fiance’. They’re classics for a reason…
So if you’re lucky enough to have The Witch King in your local bookshops, first I’m jealous, and also buy it buy it buy it. Entertaining, funny, powerful; I absolutely sped through it. There are plot twists galore, it’s genuinely interesting and so well put together. I think the reason I’m struggling to find this book is because of its indie publishing. It’s vital to support smaller publishers and Own Voices authors so they can keep creating great books like this one!
This is so cool – I love that you can educate people and share book recommendations at the same time! I’m honoured to be nominated by the creator The Corner of Laura and you can find their post here.
I think it’s so important to keep sharing queer books during and especially after June, to be Proud after pride and to keep supporting indie authors. This tag taught me a few things, and I hope you learn something too!
Also, it’s not a book but I just finished the Heartbreak High reboot on Netflix and it was SO GOOD. It’s the sort of programme you can just lose yourself in (ie, it’s trash, but it’s great trash) and the queer rep is phenomenal. Have you see it? Let me know in the comments!
My favorite proper book of poetry is Emily Dickinson, Assorted Poems by Ted Hughes. It’s such a gorgeous mix of poems, and I’m pretty sure Emily Dickinson was also queer, so it fits really well with the prompt!
There were many characters in Girl Woman Other who had a pretty tricky lot, but what was so powerful about the book was how they faced it. A truly incredible read – find out why this book genuinely changed my life in my review here.
I’m obsessed with the cover for Casey McQuiston’s I Kissed Shara Wheeler and the contents are just as gorgeous as the cover. I think their books are getting prettier and prettier they gainpopularity and I can’t wait to see what their next book is like! Find out why I think Shara Wheeler deserves more hype here.
Do you have books that never really left you? I read The Memory Book aeons ago, but every so often I remember it… and I remember how it honestly broke me. It’s clever; the dairy entries of a terminally ill teenager, but written in the present tense as she takes her laptop everywhere she goes. And the ending… it was so long ago but I think I can still remember every line. Find out why in my review here.
One of the most romantic and fantastical and fierce and fiery books I’ve ever read: The Witch King by H. E Edgmon. Alongside amazing trans representation is a powerful cast, a portal fantasy (my favorite) and a load of magical powers that I would definitely want on my team. Unfortunately, it seems you can only get the sequel in America but I haven’t given up looking! Review incoming…
I finally read The Secret History! I don’t think you can get any more academic than that book, and while the setting was flawless (I could almost smell the dusty, damp colleges) I didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I would. While the vibes were immaculate, the substance wasn’t really there, and as Shakespeare said, ‘A book don’t work on vibes alone’. Find out why in my review here!
Ooooh this was a tricky one? I have to go for Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (although it may be in the second book 😬) because Adam’s court scene with his father honestly moved me to tears. I love The Raven Boys so much… and am unbelievably excited for the third and final Dream Thieves book this month.
They’re so special to me that I haven’t many of them because it’s too hard to express my love without turning into incomprehensible fangirling. But you can find my (reasonably understandable) comparison of my experience reading The Dream Thieves vs audiobooking The Raven Boys here!
You! Why not give this tag a go? Let me know in the comments if you want to and I’ll add your site to the list so more people find your post ☺️
Did I enjoy The Secret History? No. But were the vibes immaculate? Yes.
Name: The Secret History
Author: Donna Tartt
Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and for ever.
Maybe to say I didn’t enjoy it is a little dramatic; I’ve read worse. But it’s the sort of book you appreciate more after you’ve read it than during.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt is tantalizingly character based. While this is fascinating to analyze when you’ve finished the book, but for me, it didn’t make for a gripping read. When something did happen in the plot, combined with the previous character studies and powerful writing style, it was amazing. I sailed through the last 60 pages, and felt genuinely scared when Bunny died.
But the rest of the book? It was the five getting drunk and passing out, or getting drunk and going for a walk, or getting drunk and arguing. Julian wasn’t this mastermind he was set out to be and the weather had as much page time as Francis.
The biggest disappointment? I have to admit, The Secret History is the epitome of ‘Booktok made me read it’. I’d seen so many raving reviews praising the atmosphere that I went into reading with high expectations. I’d expected a pretentious read – sure, there’d be lot of classical references but enough substance to pull through.
And yes, in some ways, The Secret History was worth the hype. A few passages will stay with me for a very long time, and I’m left with a very strong impression of youth and classical civilization and murder and cold weather. But whilst reading? Boring as anything.
What about you? Have you had a similar experiences where Booktok let you down? Or any other overhyped books that just weren’t as good as you expected? Let me know in the comments!
If you wanna find more of this type of content, check out my Worth the Hype series here! From The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo to Red White and Royal Blue, I’m reading popular books so you don’t have to. To answer the question once and for all… are any of these books really worth the hype?
Not for the faint of hearts or weak of knees, this is an incredibly visceral, brutal book. In short: bi panic means aunt is nearly eaten by sexy goblins, while her ace niece uses ace superpowers to avoid goblin seduction… but her family cracks under weight of witchy lies.
Name: Not Good For Maidens
Author: Tori Bovalino
Publish date: 13th September 2022
Louisa doesn’t believe in magic, until her teenage aunt Neela is kidnapped to the goblin market.
The market is a place of magic, where twisting streets, succulent fruits, glimmering jewels, and death are on offer to the unwary human. An enticing place that her mother and aunt barely escaped seventeen years ago, paying a terrible price.
With only three days before the market disappears, Lou must navigate the treacherous market, controlled by bloodthirsty goblins who crave vengeance against her family. She must learn the songs and tricks of the goblins to save Neela, or the market might just end up claiming her too.
Thank you to the publishers for providing me with an ARC copy through Netgalley in return for an honest review.
Are you a fan of fairytale retellings? Amidst the popularity of A Court of Thorns and Roses and The Lunar Chronicles, we’re certainly seeing a rise in YA authors putting their own spin on old tales. However, Not Good For Maidens veers away from romantic retellings, standing apart as a bloody retelling of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”.
Set amongst the cobbled streets of York, this book follows two generations of girls who are seduced and subsequently destroyed by the Goblin Market. With brilliant queer representation, this book explores identity and its relation to sexuality, family and place… as well as its relation to witchy covens and underground goblin markets.
The best part? It’s crammed with strong female characters. There’s a very heavy family focus and I enjoyed Lou’s exploration of her identity. Casually queer, I loved Lou and Neela’s supportive relationship. Instead of predictable, Lou has an inevitable character development, although I feel the author could have pushed her eventual empowerment a bit more.
My other favourite thing was the magic. Not Good For Maidens has excellently researched and thought out lore, which I always love – with modern covens and modern witches. How cool is the idea that all the witches, all the police, all of York even, is banded together against the Goblin Market? If you’ve ever been to York, you’ll have felt the old magic in its old streets, and the supernatural underbelly of old English cities is perfectly encapsulated in this book. While Lou’s nationality appeals to American readers, Not Good For Maidens is rooted in England. If you’re a Northerner and enjoy YA fantasy, this is a must read.
“She didn’t want to feel the pull of the market. None of them did. May left the Witchery as the sun sank lower snd lower and dyed the sky red. She slipped into the twilight, into the hour that was not good for maidens, as the stars blinked and cluttered the night sky.”
– NOT GOOD FOR MAIDENS
However, my biggest issue was that despite being marketed as such, this isn’t horror. This isn’t horror because that implies tension – ‘Not Good For Maidens’ relies instead on gore. Rather than the lingering fear embedded in horror, this was a few seconds of blunt impact. Not for the faint of hearts or the weak of knees, this is an incredibly visceral, brutal book, but I would class it more as thriller or a gory fantasy book than horror. The writing falls on the ‘tell not show’ side, which does take away some of the suspense. Horror should be about the unknown.
I also wish the goblins had a more dominant characteristic. Like how Holly Black’s faeriesare beautiful and cruel, or Cassandra Clare’sfae can’tlie. The goblins were compellingly written (Eitra and May are really vibrant and moving at points, as forbidden love always is) but I wanted something more. However the whole premise is pretty original and I haven’t seen goblin markets before in Young Adult books. Have you? Let me know in the comments!
This is quite a simple book, but that’s not necessarily a fault. Not Good For Maidens isn’t the sort of book with elaborate plot twists – or any plot twists really. As there are two storylines alternating between the past and present, you can assume or have already been told exactly what will happen. But overall, it’s not a bad thing. The simplicity matches the overall feel of the book; the blunt writing and the archaic, brutal goblin magic.