Book Review: Old Country by Matt & Harrison Query

Happy Thursday everyone!
Last week, I was extremely hyped over the upcoming Pokemon Scarlet & Violet games in November, but in the last few days, I’ve been thinking more and more about Square Enix’s debut into the life/farm simulation world with Harvestella, also coming out in November. It’s going to be a hard hitting month on my wallet!

For this week’s review, I’m sharing my thoughts on Old Country by brothers, Matt & Harrison Query!

Book Title: Old Country
Author: Matt Query & Harrison Query
Length: 341 Pages
Published: 26 July 2022
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy > Paranormal, Fantasy > Supernatural, Horror, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Adult

Disclaimer: Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for this gifted copy! All opinions are of my own.

Goodreads: >LINK<
Grand Central Publishing: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

Based on the Reddit sensation, a horror thriller of a young couple who buys the perfect, secluded house—only to discover the terror within.

It’s the house of their dreams. Former marine Harry and his wife, Sasha, have packed up their life and their golden retriever, Dash, and fled the corporate rat race to live off the land in rural Idaho. Their breathtaking new home sits on more than forty acres of meadow, aspen trees, and pine forest in the Teton Valley. Even if their friends and family think it’s a strange choice for an up-and-coming pair of urban professionals, Harry and Sasha couldn’t be happier about the future they’re building, all by their lonesome.

That is, until their nearest neighbors, Dan and Lucy Steiner, come bearing more than housewarming gifts. Dan and Lucy warn Harry and Sasha of a malevolent spirit that lives in the valley, one that with every season will haunt them in fresh, ever-more-diabolical ways. At first, it seems like an old wives’ tale. But when spring arrives, so does the first evil manifestation, challenging everything Harry and Sasha thought they knew about the world.

As each season passes, the spirit grows stronger, the land more sinister, and each encounter more dangerous. Will Harry and Sasha learn the true meaning of a forever home before it’s too late? Haunting and bone-chilling, Old Country is a spellbinding debut in the horror genre.

This book had its ups and downs, and most of the downs revolved around a particular character, but otherwise, it was actually a pretty good read and I enjoyed the general theme and atmosphere as well as intrigued over the different rituals that were needed to appease the spirits in each season. I generally space my books over the course of a single week (two weeks if they are longer fantasies), but I managed to eat through this book to finish it up early. There were moments when I noted that it was kind of slow, and almost felt like the [in-book] days was dragging on and felt repetitive, but it’s followed by moments and chapters that kept me flipping through the pages like a mad woman, eager to see what happens next; cliffhanger chapters that make you gasp and all.

That’s a lot of swear words. It’s amusing.

The second half of the book felt like it had a slightly different writing style than the first half. This was the case in not just the story, but the characters and tone as well. I’m always curious how the writing in books with multiple authors, are split up; whether one person did all the writing and the other added bits in, or they split up sections to each other. The first half was sprinkled with swear words in a way if you were to hand the toppings to a kid and told them they had free rein to the ice cream. Don’t get me wrong! I have nothing against swears, I just happen to take notice of repeating words (there were 71 fucks/’ers/’ing in the first 100 pages alone!). It was amusing, to say the least. The only other thing I noted was, despite there were two POVs (Harry and Sasha), the two seemed to meld into each other. There were times I’d flip back to check on which POV I was reading in.

I mention writing styles because towards the middle, the swearing suddenly dies down by quite a lot. The tone feels different, the characters feel slightly different, and I’m able to start recognizing which chapter is narrated by which person. Rather than having a hard time distinguishing the two from each other, Sasha’s side of the story really felt like Sasha and Harry’s his.

Regardless of how it’s written or split, it’s easy to read and I enjoyed the book thanks to other aspects. The descriptions are fantastic and it doesn’t matter if it’s visual and something the characters see or if it’s physical and something they felt, everything they experienced is right there for you to experience with them, and it’s not pretty.

Seasonal manifestations of a malevolent spirit older than you can imagine!

There are four main characters in this book. There’s Harry (Harold) and Sasha (the two protagonists) and their neighbors, Dan and Lucy, who is this adorable and caring older couple that immediately takes a liking to Harry and Sasha, making sure to provide them with tips and tricks on both this new country lifestyle they’re living (both Harry and Sasha were city folks, so this rural ranch life is new to them) and, most importantly, the rituals that Harry and Sasha must follow.

In this valley, there is a malevolent spirit that manifests itself in different ways across the seasons, with winter being the only time it seems to take a vacation and not bother most of the residents of the town. With each different manifestation, there were rituals that Harry and Sasha must follow in order to not face its wrath.

In spring, when a light appears in the pond, you must light a fire in your house. If you don’t, you will hear drums outside your house and at that point, you’d better prepare to hunker down and bear the “storm” that follows.

In the summer, a bear will chase a man wearing his birthday suit, both running out of the forest in an almost slow jog. The man will be screaming his head off (as one would expect of a guy being chased by a hungry bear) and you must put a barrier between you and the man, not the bear. There’s no extra special ritual to follow other than to make sure that the man doesn’t get a hold of you. But, to purposefully sit, watch, and not interfere with a man being torn apart is definitely hard to watch.

The autumn one (which I thought was the creepiest) involves waking up to a scarecrow standing somewhere on your property, and you must burn it before sundown of the same day. There will be short bursts where the scarecrow will come alive and beg for its life, but, like the screaming crying man, you must ignore its pleas.

“‘How the hell is it standing like that?…It looks like it’s gotta have a frame or something to hold it up.’

That was, indeed, perhaps the most abnormal characteristic of the scarecrow. Its weird, lumpy feet were barely touching the ground, yet it stood upright, healthy posture and all.'”

The manifestation and rituals themselves were probably the most exciting part of the book. Knowing that each season will be worse than the last, you start to wonder what will happen next. The first season is the easiest, the second was kind of scary, so by the time you’re mid-book, it’s already a gripping tale because what is the last hurrah before the spirit, apparently, takes a break until spring?

I hated Harry from the beginning to almost the end.

Where I had the most problem were the characters, or rather, the one character of Harry (Harold). He and his wife, Sasha, are the two prospective in this book, and I actually kind of liked Sasha. She felt a bit flat and almost boring, though this begins to improve towards the end when Harry is nearly emotional incapacitated due to consequences of his own actions, and she starts to take charge of the situation for him. However, from the start, she was immensely more careful regarding the spirit. Of course, the disbelief was still there, but at the back of her mind, the spirit always lingered. She would ask Harry to at least humor Dan and Lucy and maybe entertain the idea of “but what if it’s real?” She always played it somewhat safe and this made me like her so much more than Harry.

Harry though, was nothing more than this stereotypical angry frat boy jock from the movies that somehow is always alive and kicking. Maybe a bit bruised up and scared, but still very much breathing. He’s so angry, can be mean, gives no chances to people, has no patience to speak of, doesn’t trust anyone, so reckless, and there are even times when he’s pretty childish. Because of this, he ends up putting multiple people in danger, including Sasha, the one person that he goes on and on about protecting.

From the start, Dan and Lucy try to talk to them about these rituals and what needs to be done each season to ward off harm. I get it. I really do. Imagine moving from the big cities to this rural countryside and your only neighbors, who, at first appeared to be this sweet old couple, turns out to be loons telling you about some crazy spirit of the valley. Of course there would some doubts that will surface! But, before they can even finish their next sentences, Harry has already unceremoniously booted them from his land.

At least, until the first signs of the spirit (light in the pond) begins to manifest themselves and suddenly things are starting to feel very scary and very real. There are still doubts and even when the town sheriff drops by to warn him that they’d better follow the rituals, thus confirming the spirit’s presence. From there, Harry turns his anger from disbelief into bullying the spirit. There are times when he mocks and taunts the spirit, and he doesn’t do it just once, but twice! The first time he taunts the spirit, he immediately knows he messed up big time…he could feel it…and then he does it again.

He kind of grows towards the end and learns from his mistakes. It’s hard not to when the consequences slap you in the face like a truck on fire. The part where a character rips into him and tells him he’s gone and messed up hard with disastrous results to follow was the single most satisfying moment of the book. Dan and Lucy, as well as Sasha and Dash (their golden retriever) are honestly the only reason he’s alive when he should’ve been dead ten times over.


The mood was creepy and kind of somber; so many bad things have happened in this valley and land in the past that the residents almost seem to just accept their shitty haunted life as normal. When it comes to acres upon acres of ranch land in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and you have like…one pair of neighbors that stops by? It’s creepy and feels so isolated! There are more people towards the end (like…two extra) and there was one sheriff towards the beginning, but that’s about it. In that general area? It’s Dan, Lucy, Sasha, Harry, and their dog (and their farm animals). You get this vibe where, you know you need to take care of each other because were anything to happen, things get really lonely really fast.

The spirit manifestation changing between the seasons and the rituals you have to perform were scary and interesting to read. The descriptions of the spirits and its wrath is bone-chilling. There’s a bit of mystery too, Dan and Lucy having their own secrets to hide. This secret and the history of the property is unknown to Harry and Sasha, so throughout the book, you get to have your own wild guesses about it until eventually things are revealed.

I kind of wish there was more lore regarding the spirit, but overall, it was a good book. I enjoyed some of the characters and certainly enjoyed the atmosphere around the settling as well as the different manifestations across the seasons. It wasn’t as creepy as I thought it would be (I’m a huge chicken when it comes to horror) so even the scare level was perfect for me.


Book Review: The Noise by James Patterson & J.D. Barker

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥!
Happy Thursday! I have a lot of cleaning to do in anticipation of a family gathering next week, so I know what I have to look forward to this weekend.

Yesterday was Pokémon Presents, and I haven’t played the series since [the original] Pokémon Pearl (though I did play the remake version recently). None of the new games have appealed to me except this latest Scarlet & Violet that’s coming out in November. There’s not a single word, or even a string of words, that I can use to show my excitement. I’m practically vibrating!

Today’s post is this week’s book review and today, I’ll be featuring The Noise by James Patterson & J.D. Barker.

Book Title: The Noise
Authors: James Patterson & J.D. Barker
Edition: Kindle & Audiobook (Libby/Library Copies)
Length: 422 Pages / 11 hours and 48 minutes
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, Mystery Thriller, Horror

A mysterious explosion kills thousands in the Pacific Northwest—and only two young girls survive. The newest in psychological suspense from the mind of James Patterson.
Two sisters have always stood together. Now, they’re the only ones left.

In the shadow of Mount Hood, sixteen-year-old Tennant is checking rabbit traps with her eight-year-old sister Sophie when the girls are suddenly overcome by a strange vibration rising out of the forest, building in intensity until it sounds like a deafening crescendo of screams. From out of nowhere, their father sweeps them up and drops them through a trapdoor into a storm cellar. But the sound only gets worse…

James Patterson’s astounding imagination has made him “a legendary novelist” (CNN). Now from its darkest corners comes The Noise, a thriller that takes hold of the emotions, defies the senses, and is like nothing you’ve ever read before.

The stink of death in the air came in ebbs and flows, and as they followed Holt across what was once the village center, it grew worse. She couldn’t help but think about what Fravel had said. Was it physically possible for a human body to disintegrate from pressure?

I can picture it all.

I’ve only ever read one or two other of James Patterson’s books, but that’s pretty few in numbers and J.D. Barker is an author that’s new to me, completely! Still, I really enjoyed this book for many things, including the writing. Whenever I see that chapters will reach up to the hundred some-odd mark, I know I’m in for tiny chapters, and man were they TINY chapters. If you toggled the font size and font and read on an iPad, some chapters were small enough to be displayed on a single page! I actually ended up really liking this kind of form splitting because everything’s bite sized and the pacing isn’t affected by it. Sometimes, we leave on some insane cliffhangers that make you want to keep reading on and on and this was how The Noise had me feeling. Trying to eat three slices of chocolate cake can be too much, but have you ever stopped at just a single Reese’s cup? As someone who likes to stop my daily readings at the full chapter mark, it really helps that the chapters are small.

The writing was also vivid and detailed. Every emotion and horror that our characters felt and saw was fully displayed in my mind. The ear-splitting noise, the feeling of running out of time and unease through most of the book, the sit of people whom are not exactly dead, the absolute chaos and madness that happens around you such as what must’ve been the most horrific image of hundreds of thousands of unfeeling human running at breakneck speed, the sights of people running even though they may be missing limbs, the dripping of the blood down ears, eyes, and noses. It’s all so clear and the book makes for some scary nightmarish fuel if nothing else.

I had borrowed both the audiobook and kindle versions of this book and both were fantastic versions of The Noise. The narrator, Amanda Dolan, I thought did a terrific job with reading the passages and the dialogue. Especially whenever a possessed person begins to speak and she dicates this in the form of gritty and demonic speech, the first time I saw her move from a normal person to a “possessed” (I’m calling it possessed, though it’s definitely something else) was bone-chilling and to be a loved one of that “possessed” individual must be so unnerving; those drawn out sentences and that unnatural voice, it’s quite scary to listen to and I did read off the Kindle version more often than the audio version, from the few moments I did listen to Amanda, I felt myself lost even deeper into the already abyssal attraction this book puts out.

Unforgettable cast of characters.

Each of the chapters follows a particular character’s POV. From the start, there are a lot of people that will be getting introduced aside from the two main prospective of Tennant and Dr. Martha Chan. Having gathered a team of specialists and experts, outside of the military (Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Fraser), there’re other scientists such as Sanford Harbin (climatologist), Russel Fravel (astrophysicist), Brennan Hauff (planetary biologist), Brian Tomes (geologist), and Joy Reiber (Dept of Agriculture). There’s also a separate doctor in camp along with Keenen Holt from the State Department.

You get to know certain people quickly, their personalities and presence are strong, but some of the scientists more so than the others and even then, the smaller side characters may occasionally get their own chapters as well and from their few minutes worth of cameo, there’s a lot to learn behind the scenes of what goes on.

I liked the split between everyone’s personal and professional investment into the strange and bizarre case/”infection” that affects the population. For example, the book begins from Tennant’s perspective and through her eyes, we watch the annihilation of her entire village. Her home, neighbors, maybe even family, trampled and gone. There’s so much emotion in the beginning because all is lost and for Tennant, the only thing left is her sister, who is no longer herself and very ill.

From the scientists and military’s perspective, with the exception of a handful of people that are very sympathetic to the sisters and their case, much of the base treats this anomaly in a cold, scientific, and professional way. While a couple of the “kidnapped” scientists have some emotional connection to the two sisters (they have kids of their own, etc.) there are some really unsettling moments where “It’s two girls vs the death of hundreds of thousands” and treat the two like guinea pigs.

The three main prospective in this book are Fraser, Martha, and Tennant. Martha is the medical doctor of the team and she, having kids of her own, is immediately protective of Tennant and her sister, Sophie, making sure that no harm would come their way while trying to help stave off the “infection” from both herself and those around her as the team attempts to wrap their mind around this anomaly. Fraser commands the ground team and his side of the story has my adrenaline pumping most of the time, especially anytime he needs to go front line in order to deal with the “infected” people or gather data that the scientists themselves cannot do. Tennant is the first character we really meet, and she’s here for her sister (but also, being a survivor of an anomaly that nobody can understand) she’s not exactly free to leave either. All three sides are fantastic to follow, and no matter where I turn, there’s adrenaline and fear. Of the three main prospective though, I think Fraser and Martha’s would be my favorite, though this may be due to them having more screen time than Tennant and Sophie.

Wild story gets wilder and the ending was insane.

A mysterious anomaly happens in the mountainside that decimates an entire town of villagers, survivalists that have lived off the grids just fine until this event essentially wipes the citizens off the map. Having torn the village apart, people, animal, houses and even water wells crumbled to ruin, leaving only a straight path, much like a tornado, in its wake, the story begins with two young girls, the only survivors. When help and the military finally arrive, there’s nothing left of the place. Even the people are gone! The team of scientists and the soldiers that go to survey and learn about the damage are completely stumped.

As the story progresses, things become more desperate and time is ticking. Things go by so fast with not a single soul knowing what exactly is happening. Martha and her team, and the readers, are kept guessing at what this anomaly really is the entire way through, up until near the end when everything comes crashing down and boy does that truck hit hard. Before that, we never know what it is that causes all the strange events. Is it a secret and devastating new weapon created by enemies of the US? Is it an actual infection with zombies and all? What about alien life finally comes to Earth and this is part of it? This plot is one of the best I’ve read in a while and I really enjoyed it. If you know me, I enjoy my guess work through mystery books, and this anomaly really hits the mark.

The ending though, was so far out and insane that I took a breather after finishing the book, my mind tingling in trying to process that actual cause behind the infections and events. It left me with quite a bit of questions, and wasn’t particularly satisfying when you understand what it implies.


All in all, this was a great read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the pacing, loved the short chapters, loved the writing and narrator. I enjoyed the characters in this book (there are a few people I loathed) both the major and minor characters and the story was pretty interesting and intriguing. When it comes down to things that can be affected by infections (mind, organs, etc.), noise and the auditory scenes was not what I expected. There’s no great big monster out there, just humans (not even zombies) that run forever like a mindless army of ants or cattle in a stampede. It kept me reading and going, that’s for sure. The book was equally as amusing and exciting as it was disturbing, especially towards the end when everyone felt so powerless against the deadline.

Fantastic read, I’d say, it might even be one that I may pick up once more and reread in the future, and that’s from someone who generally doesn’t reread books.

Book Review: I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

Book Title:
I Wish You All The Best
Author: Mason Deaver
Edition: Physical Copy > Paperback
Length: 336 Pages
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Mental Health, LGBT, Young Adult/YA

CW/TW: Verbal Abuse, Transphobia, Homophobia, Anxiety, Depression, Detailed Scenes of Anxiety. Detailed Scenes of Depressive Episodes, Body Dysmorphia, Underage Drinking and Alcohol, Being Kicked Out of House, Therapy, Misgendering, Slut-Shaming, Physical Child Abuse, Verbal Abuse, Panic Attacks

Amazon Link >HERE<
Goodreads Link >HERE<

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

I only cried like 12 times, it’s fine.

I’ve read a few other LGBT books before, but this is the first time I read one about a non-binary character, and I learned a lot from reading this. Ben is a high school senior who has been struggling to find the right time to come out to their parents, the fear was making them sick with worry and now felt like the only moment left; they can’t bear to wait any longer. Eventually they do have a conversation with their parents, around New Year’s Eve, and it ends in them being kicked out of the house; no shoes and into the freezing thirty degrees night. Nowhere to go, they make their way to a pay phone and calls their sister, Hannah, whom they haven’t seen in a decade after she left the house immediately after graduation. Horrified and furious, at her parents, she takes Ben in to live with her and her husband, Thomas, where Ben begins their life again; new school, new clothes, new home, and new friends.

Simple, easy-to-read writing. Book gone in record time.

I inhaled this book in about a day and half. I think I could have finished it in a single sitting if I didn’t start so late at night on the first day. Wonderfully written with easy to understand prose, I was able to fly by the pages with not much problem. Having just finished a few fantasy books this year, you don’t know how much I’ve missed contemporary sentences that you don’t have to read three times to understand a scene or figure out the magic system. Just plain, to the point, passages. Along with a few text message exchanges and Facebook messages, this book makes for a nice epistolary novel as well, with its bit of mix media thrown in (and I always appreciate any novel with those!).

The book’s writing was fantastic, to the point where I could feel Ben’s emotions and feelings right through the pages. The fear of their first night out of the house, in the freezing cold with no shoes and only wet socks, sitting all alone in a pharmacy and waiting for Hannah. They have nothing on them besides their clothes and socks; no cell, no jacket, nothing. Alone and cold, fearful and so hurt by people they thought they could trust while waiting for a sister they haven’t seen in a literal decade, one whom they have to debate on whether to come out to, because this is probably their last chance. Who else is going to take them in if this too blows up? I was able to feel their every sadness, whenever they felt trapped, doubt, anger, cold, like a burden, angry, disappointed. That first panic attack was enough to steal your breath away as they hide in fear.

Friends that I would love to have around me.

The characters were wonderful and so colorful. I really enjoyed all of them, and there were plenty of characters. There’s Hannah and her husband, Thomas (who happens to be Ben’s chemistry teacher in their new school). There’s the other adults like Mrs. Liu, the art teacher, whom Ben becomes very close to and their therapist, Dr. Taylor, who helps Ben through their recent trauma. Of course, there’s Ben’s new friends, Sophie, Meleika, and the ever charming Nathan. Through the internet, they also have a friend named Mariam, a non-binary Muslim immigrant, a vlogger, and Ben’s mentor of sorts; They have been Ben’s biggest support in the past few years.

While I do enjoy the characters, I do feel like a few characters lacked a solid background, some just needing a little more screen time. We don’t know much about Sophie or Meleika. These are two people who become so important to Ben that the end of senior year becomes hard to imagine. Nathan is Ben’s love interest here and the person they hang with the most (how could you not hang with Nathan the sunflower-soul, golden retriever in a human body?) so we get to know more about him than many of the other characters and I feel like, screen time wise, even Mariam was more fleshed out than poor Sophie and Meleika. I did, however sparsely they were presented, felt myself attached to this small band of friends. Personality wise, I feel like they’re alright. I imagine loud, happy, and always inclusive of their quiet buddy, Ben, in their activities; friends that I would love to have around me.

It’s a lot to go through during your last half of your final year in high school…

Plot wise, I enjoyed it as well. Ben is struggling to understand, and put to words, not just the trauma of the night that they were kicked out, but their other emotions and feelings as well. They also struggle to see, initially refusing to see Dr. Taylor, because it would mean they would have to come out to another person when they aren’t ready yet. You have to remember, the first and last time they came out (other than to Mariam) ended disastrously! Through this book, Ben also learns to open up to others and makes friends by joining them at lunch, going to parties, texting people that isn’t just Mariam through the internet. Along with all this, they also have to come to terms with their feelings towards Hannah, one that is mostly grateful and loving but also betrayed and resentful of being abandoned by their sibling, leaving them to fend for themselves in a home with parents like theirs. All of this during his last few months of high school. It’s a lot to go through.

The romance and Ben’s crushing on Nathan was kind of cute. It’s a HEA book, and you kind of get the feeling just from reading the blurb. There’s plenty of powerful and heavy topics that this book tackles such as identity and orientation, body dysmorphia, the fear of coming out, making friends in a new place (especially so late into high school), being kicked out of the house, complicated family histories, child abuse, anxiety and depression, and much more. It’s heartfelt and the emotions just seep through the pages. There will be plenty of times you cry and then a few times you find yourself smiling for Ben (or because Nathan’s there, and he’s a good boy that makes everyone smile). The book also contrasts Ben’s god awful parents with some amazing adults (and friends!) that they can put their trust into, which is fantastic considering how much of that trust he’s lost in others since that awful night.

All in all

Overall, a lovely and cute read. I enjoyed the discussions and portrayals about mental health and mental illness. I thought the relationships in this book were cute, but also complex between certain characters, and the story was wonderful to read through, especially with Ben being surrounded by actual loving and accepting people. Plus, the cover is so cute (It may or may not have been the extra deciding factor that landed it in my basket)!

Book Review: The Bookshop on Primrose Hill by Sarah Jio

Book Title: The Bookshop on Primrose Hill
Author: Sarah Jio
Edition: NetGalley > Ebook
Length: ~336 Pages
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Womens Fiction

Disclaimer: A big thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. An ebook copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. This does not affect my review in any way and all opinions are my own.

Amazon Link >HERE<
Goodreads Link >HERE<

Valentina Baker was only eleven years old when her mother, Eloise, suddenly fled to London, leaving Val and her father on their own in California. Now a librarian in her thirties, Val is fresh out of a failed marriage and utterly disenchanted with life.

One day, Val receives word that Eloise has died, leaving Val the deed to both her mother’s Primrose Hill apartment and the bookshop she opened twenty years ago. As Val jets across the Atlantic, she wonders – could this be her chance at a new beginning?

In London, Val finds herself falling in love with the pastel-coloured flat and the cosy, treasure-filled bookshop. When she stumbles across a series of intriguing notes left in a beloved old novel, it’s the start of a scavenger hunt that will take her all over London and back in time… but most of all, bring her closer to the mother she lost twice.

Bittersweet and uplifting, The Bookshop on Primrose Hill will steal your heart. Perfect for fans of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill and How to Find Love in a Bookshop. Published in the US as With Love from London.

‘Look at the stars up there, fighting to be seen through all these city lights. It’s like a battle between two opposing forces: eternity versus modernity.’

I smiled up at him curiously. ‘Eternity for the win?’

‘Eternity always wins,’ he continued. ‘And that is the greatest comfort, isn’t it?’

I wasn’t entirely sure of his meaning, but I liked it, nonetheless. He gestured toward the city while I listened, enraptured.

‘Man built all that, invented it, created it. And as remarkable as it all is, the stars were here first.’ He took a deep breath. ‘They’re wiser.’

Can a mother-daughter duo, separated and estranged, connect once more when one of them is no longer around? Two generations and two people, who were once dear and close to each other, separated by oceans, misunderstandings, and hurt, are finally reunited in one last mother and daughter scavenger hunt as Val begins to go through this last gift from her mother to piece together all the history she has missed.

This book is told in two perspectives: one of Valentina’s in the present and one of her mother’s (Eloise) in the past. In the middle of a nasty divorce after her husband left her for another woman, Valentina ends up as the new owner of a bookshop in London, England, one that she inherits from her estranged mother, after her passing, and one she did not anticipate on holding onto. Her plans were to travel to England and just sell the store; after all, she holds no feelings or attachments to the place, neighborhood, or even her mother who had disappeared when she was twelve with not a single peep since then. It isn’t until she discovers her mother’s final gift to her, a scavenger hunt, that she begins to fall for the neighborhood and its people and get to know her mother, once more, through the lens of these neighbors.

I adored the writing in this book. It was the first thing I noticed. The characters were well written and had wonderful voices to their distinct personalities. I adored both the different time pieces, the past with Eloise and the present with Val and her own newfound friends. The interactions between the characters were great too, and the prose was beautiful. Easy to read and flowing really well, the writing was full of emotions through the entire read, enough to have me crying through a good chunk of it.

The pacing towards the beginning was a bit slow. Things are just starting to get a move on with Val realizing she may be staying here, in her mother’s old flat, for good, and she settles into both her new home/neighborhood and the puzzle that her mother leaves her. All the same, Eloise dives into the entire history behind Val’s father as well as her own first love. Things really take off towards the middle, where both the mother and daughter are going through their own major crises, but slightly different times so that one story is just a little more nerve wrecking than the other, and you want to hurry through the less anxious one, so that you can see what happens next; of course, it repeats later when we go through the other major conflict in the other storyline down the road.

There are some wonderful characters from both sides of the story, but more from Valentina’s as she meets a community of folks who knows her mother more and better than she has ever known. Through them, her opinion of the estranged Eloise would slowly change, and it’s such a wonderful neighborhood of beautiful people. All sorts of customers stop by to tell her of the difference that Eloise has played in their lives, such as a character (around Val’s age) who knew Eloise all the way back to when he was a child listening to her during story time events that she would host.

Despite the disconnect between Valentina and her mother, the two are still able to communicate, albeit a one-way connection and via letters. On one end, the reader gets to know Eloise better as she tells of her tale of how she fell in love and how Valentina came to be. On the other end is Valentina going about her usual days, while occasionally coming across new clues for the next letter location.

This was a lovely book and though it felt a bit slow for me in the beginning, most of the rest of the book had me running through with tears in my eyes. I knew that there was something major and way more to Eloise than just “the mother who took off on her husband and daughter, never to be heard from again.” The ending is very sweet, and I’m glad that many of the characters, including Valentina herself, seems to eventually find some form of peace. With Eloise’s tale being one of tragedy and Valentina’s almost like one of closure, I really enjoyed how the book finishes off, especially given the multiple obstacles both mother and daughter run into throughout the book. This is a heartwarming story about family, a mother’s love for her daughter, and about community. The neighborhood is so tight-knit that I almost envy Valentina and would love to just live on Primrose Hill myself.

A very touching read, Sarah Jio is a new author to me, and I’m eager to read more. Her writing is beautiful, her characters warm, and the story engaging. I really enjoyed this book and if you love family books with a bit of romance and mystery (a scavenger hunt), this may be a good book for you to curl up to.

Book Review: A Mark of Kings by Bryce O’Connor & Luke Chmilenko

Hello and Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥!
It’s time for this week’s review and today, we’ll be featuring A Mark of Kings by Bryce O’Connor & Luke Chmilenko!

Book Title: A Mark of Kings
Series: The Shattered Reigns Book: 01
Author: Bryce O’Connor & Luke Chmilenko
Edition: Physical > Paperback
Length: 568 Pages
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy > Epic Fantasy, Magic, High Fantasy, Dragon, Adult

Amazon Link >HERE<
Goodreads Link >HERE<

Despite his youth, Declan Idrys knows of the evils of the world. He knows of the bastards and brigands who plague the King’s lands, of the monsters skulking in the wooded depths of the realm. Together with his companion, Ryn – a horse of rather peculiar talent – he has spent the last decade of his life beneath the bloody banners of a half-dozen mercenary guilds, hunting precisely such wickedness festering within the borders of Viridian.

Unfortunately, fate is quick to pull on the leash of its favorite children. When one particularly troubling contract goes sideways, Declan and Ryn find themselves thrust into a war thought legend and long-ended, a conflict so old it is synonymous with a time in which dragons still ruled the western skies. Now, as dead men rise from their graves and the terrible beasts of the northern ranges descend into the kingdom with an appetite for savagery and flesh, Declan is faced with a profane choice. He can turn, can flee an ancient rising horror that would see the realms of man left as shattered death and wind-blown ash.

Or, Declan can face this mounting threat, can come to terms with the fact that his oldest friend might just be more than he appears, and learn to wield an ageless power all his own.

Centuries pass, after all, and the Blood of Kings does not fade…

Veteran mercenary who’s seen it all? Think again!

The first of four [planned] books, A Mark of Kings was a pretty good entry into the series. This book starts off in a prologue with our MC, Declan Idrys, as a baby in his mother’s arms, fleeing the terrors and monsters that have come to invade their town. The following chapter is where the story officially starts. Following a time skip, Declan’s now a hardened mercenary; traveling and fighting is a large part of his life now. The only constant in his life is Ryn, the “horse” that is introduced in the prologue and has stuck with him through thick and thin. During a particular mission, one that’s not so different from the countless other requests he’d taken up, Declan finds himself caught up in a whole different world of trouble and life may never be the same again. It seems, someone has a grudge with what courses through his veins and that particular enemy is murderously intent on getting rid of him and Ryn, for good.

“In the weeks to come, I’ve an unfortunate feeling you and I both will come to miss the time where our greatest concerns were hunting for our evening supper and what split in the road to take”

Beware the occasional info dumping

This was a good book, though could do with a bit of editing. The writing and prose are interesting with a light mix of dialogue (and moments) that seems too modern for the time period, but it wasn’t often nor did I particularly mind it. There’s occasionally a lot of info dumping and there was a moment that was perhaps two chapters worth of a century’s worth of history being told to Declan as the latter sat there, his head reeling in all the information…which sounds fairly accurate to how I felt.

The moments of info dumping coupled with long descriptions of scenes, and lots and lots of traveling going on, made for a really slow read. The beginning of the book was good. The prologue had me sobbing before the story even really began, and it was as good of an emotional hook as one would want! Somewhere towards the middle, though, it really began to taper off and some places dragged. Even the exciting fight scenes didn’t help bring the speed back up by much. Perhaps, it’s a bit like some RPG games. You know, the stage with the final map to the last boss? It’s full of monsters that you needed to grind through to get to the last dungeon? I, for one, have always hated dungeon grinding, so maybe this is just a me problem.

Favorite trope check! Ragtag bunch of misfits on the run from a deadly foe.

What I really enjoyed was the plot and the small cast of characters, the small band standing in the “Ragtag Bunch of Misfits” trope. You’ve got Declan, the veteran mercenary who carries about 7 guild companys’ worth of tattoos (like the Fairy Tail guild symbols!) though he currently only belongs in the Iron Wind Company. There’s Ryn, Declan’s peculiar midnight black stallion, who happens to be his mentor, and is just as big of a protagonist as Declan is. And finally, there’s the father and daughter duo, Bonner, the insanely powerful mage who somehow always seems to have some form of magic that can get them out of trouble (not always “all in one piece” but you gotta do what you gotta do!) and the crew’s only healer, and Ester, the half-elf who is deadly with a bow and will and can take you out in a heartbeat if needed. A strong female character, I think Declan may have needed rescuing more times than Ester did!

It’s a bloodbath out there and nobody’s safe!

“There were dozens of them, the ones tied to the columns apparently only the freshest of the gathered collection. The remnants of a score more were scattered about the feet of those secured upright, ribs jutting from the torn, rotting flesh of broken chests, empty sockets staring into the sky from drawn, horrid faces.”

This is a brutal book and I appreciated how realistic our characters are, especially Declan. An ordinary mercenary (with a not-so-oridinary horse) he’s seen his fair share of battles and has plenty of scars to show for it. However, most of his battles were against the occasional wild monsters and human, so it’s no surprise when he’s greeted with absolute defeat (and having to be rescued time and time again) upon being faced with the undead, chimera dragon beasts, and wights. These are creatures of legends, and suddenly they are very real, and you’re down on the ground about to be eaten or killed. Magic exists, to Declan’s ever-growing amusement, scary horrors of children’s tales exist, and history as he knows it may have been completely wrong all along. Can you blame him for being shocked every few pages? And remember, this is a guy who’s participated in and seen his fair share of violence:

“Declan felt like he had been playing the soldier with wooden swords his entire life, and only just been shown the gruesome reality of the battlefield he dreamed of fighting upon.”

There’s a lot of gore in this book, the authors don’t hold back a thing from hurting anyone. It could be a poor little 12-year-old gathering medical plants up in the mountains, it could be the slaughter of an entire village, and our protagonists are not spared any of this. There’s been times when Declan has been horrifically burned or Ester, so terribly injured, you can see the bone. There’s one scene of people torn apart and another of an eight-foot mound of bodies.

Slow character growth; I didn’t know I needed it until I came across it…

Declan does grow stronger, but on a scale of one to video game protagonist, he’s pretty realistic in this department too. There’s no point where he’s magically endowed with the blessings of the gods, and suddenly he’s capable of fighting a horde of monsters (his ancestor maybe, but not him). It’s a slow progress and though he is decent enough with the sword, even Ryn remarks that he’s far from the skills that his ancestors had possessed, having to find the occasional time to drill him on it. Bonner attempts to help Declan with learning magic, and that too is a very slow process. The small bits of lessons comes handy later on, but don’t except giant fireballs from Declan. He’s still learning, and I think this slow growth is what I enjoyed the most. I’ve always wondered how some anime characters go from “What? What’s that?” to being able to draw runes and casts spells (complete with technique names being shouted out) in the very next scene, and it’s one small thing that’s always ticked me.

This book is a good balance between some seriously messed up nightmare fuel and goodness. By goodness, I mean Declan. He’s an all-round good guy. He’s honorable and so humble about nearly everything. When I think of mercenaries, I think of the poor reputation they have most elsewhere (a sell sword who work for the coin, not loyalty), but here, mercenary guilds are found throughout! You could flash your ink at the border guards, and they would accept it as “Oh, okay, not a sketchy person like I thought.”

Overall Feelings

It may be a little while before I can pick up the second book. That crawl to the climax was excruciating. There were times when I nearly DNF’d at 80 or 90% because nothing was moving, even when things were. The ending being a huge twist and major cliffhanger isn’t enough to have me charging towards the next book. I enjoyed the nightmares this book may fuel (army made up of thousands of rotting and decayed bodies anyone?) and there are some seriously epic scenes (aye, let’s go dragon riding!) and I enjoyed the world building too, but I also kind of wished there was a map in front. There’s a lot of traveling going on, with the group being on the run for most of the book, and the different places mentioned in both history and present would have benefited from a map. However, overall, this was an enjoyable read and my rainbow of annotations and flags could tell you I really mean that. From a plot and concept point, this series has a lot of potential, and I’m intrigued on how things will move on from here.

Book Review: The Coordinates of Loss by Amanda Prowse

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥!
It’s the start of the month, meaning work is on 🔥with deadlines, but hey! The week is going by unforgiving fast! Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, though.

It’s time for this week’s review and today, we’ll be featuring The Coordinates of Loss by Amanda Prowse!

Book Title: The Coordinates of Loss
Author: Amanda Prowse
Edition: Physical > Paperback
Length: 317 Pages
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Family

Amazon Link >HERE<
Goodreads Link >HERE<

When Rachel Croft wakes up on her family’s boat in Bermuda, it’s to sunshine and yet another perfect day…until she goes to wake her seven-year-old son, Oscar. Because the worst thing imaginable has happened. He isn’t there.

In the dark and desperate days that follow, Rachel struggles to navigate her grief. And while her husband, James, wants them to face the tragedy together, Rachel feels that the life they once shared is over. Convinced that their happy marriage is now a sham, and unable to remain in the place where she lost her son, she goes home to Bristol alone.

Only when she starts receiving letters from Cee-Cee, her housekeeper in Bermuda, does light begin to return to Rachel’s soul. She and James both want to learn to live again—but is it too late for them to find a way through together?

I’ve only read one book by Amanda Prowse, so far, and it had me sobbing through the entire book. I’m talking about crying nearly every single chapter. And so, having this one previous experience with the author and having read the blurb, I knew I needed to prepare my box of tissues and boy, I wasn’t wrong.

Rachel and James had it all. Both having moved from Bristol, a few years back, they were now in paradise; the blue seas and sandy beaches of Bermuda now their home. The couple adored each other and they had Oscar, their little seven-year-old son. What more could you have hoped for?

The story begins at sea, Rachel having woken up next to her beloved husband, enjoying their wonderful life. It wasn’t until she goes to wake Oscar, who, being an early riser, was strangely late and missing. When she peers into her son’s cabin, Rachel realizes he’s not there…or anywhere else on the boat for that matter. In seconds, their paradise crumbles, their happiness lost forever.

This book was terribly sad. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, and the grief that follows just envelopes everyone, especially Rachel. So lost in the fog that follows, she can see no future, and eventually heads back home to Bristol to stay awhile with her family. To remain in Bermuda would have brought her pain with each waking day and along with grief, there’s blame and anger between James and Rachel. Neither can forgive each other nor themselves, and so mutually agreed that some time apart may be the only thing left that can help them move forward.

While in Bristol, she begins to receive letters from her housekeeper, Cee-Cee, who is cherished deeply by the family and who also loved Oscar with all her heart. Her letters were a way to help comfort Rachel, telling her stories of her past and of how she went through her own journey with grief after losing her own baby, at seven weeks old, five decades earlier. Here, Rachel begins to learn how to move forward and, along with the help from these letters, she also is supported by her parents, her best friend, and even a group of strangers turned friends at a lovely small café.

This recovery, on both ends, is not easy and by no means is it going to be short. It’s a lifetime of healing and this entire book essentially is their way of learning how to be whole again after losing a major piece of themselves. The story is horribly sad, and I have cried just feeling the raw emotions and screams from Rachel every time she remembers that her little Oscar is no longer going to come back. There is denial at first, and it’s the moment when denial turns to acceptance that hit me the hardest and was the most heartbreaking, but also the beginning of Rachel and Jame’s healing journey.

An amazing book that I simply inhaled my way through, the only thing I didn’t love was that I couldn’t seem to connect with many of the characters, especially the main three that the book revolved around (Rachel, James, and Oscar). I didn’t get to know Oscar outside of two or three memory lines, though those lines were written beautifully; to have Rachel glance at a certain object and getting that flash of a moment back with her baby boy was so realistic. I think, through her letters and stories about her past and her own grief of losing her child, I got to know Cee-Cee more than I got to know Rachel and James. It was also heartbreaking to watch their relationship crumble under them, each grieving their son differently and unable to connect or communicate with each other.

Told in two POVs, Rachel’s and Cee-Cee (and her letters), this was an extremely emotional book that was well-paced, not too quick nor did it drag, that was beautifully written. Despite feeling a bit far-away from some of the characters, in the end, I did love all of them. There are family, friends, and even strangers that have come to offer their own love and support to the family and it’s beautiful.

Book Review: The Journey Of Artemis : EXODUS by Lamonte Louis

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐤!
It’s time for this week’s book review and for today’s post, we’re featuring: The Journey Of Artemis : EXODUS by Lamonte Louis!

Book Title: The Journey of Artemis: EXODUS
Author: Lamonte Louis
Length: 257 Pages
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, Science Fiction > Space Opera

Disclaimer: Thank you to the author for sending me an e-copy of this book! This does not affect my opinion, and all thoughts are mine.

Amazon Link >HERE<
Goodreads Link >HERE<

In the aftermath of a long ruthless interstellar war with an alien race called the Anpu, it has turned the Earth into a wasteland. With humankind left desperate, the Earth’s special force team chose Artemis to lead a mission into space to find another home for the humans and their alien allies. Joined by a crew of the best in the galaxy, Artemis begins an extreme journey of unexpected rivals, secret saboteurs, and mysterious hunters who aim to kill her. In this unique and captivating space opera sci-fi novel, join Artemis and her team as they risk it all on their world-spanning mission. Equipped with her resourcefulness and self-assurance, Artemis must find humankind another world or risk being swept into a whirlpool of mysteries.

I didn’t know what to expect going into the book. Sci-fi is a genre that I’ve only started to slowly ease my way into in the last few years, with even less time to space opera. But, given that my last few sci-fi’s were pretty solid reads, when the author asked if I would give his book a try, I knew I needed to give it a go.

I found myself flying through this book. The book begins with our main character, Artemis Harnish, in the middle of a rock climbing simulation, ending with her watching the scenery of what once was. After the war with the Anpus, much of Earth has turned into a wasteland (having faired a lot better than the poor moon, which had been blown to smithereens). As one can expect, the beautiful scenery that Harnish sees is probably a pretty rare sight, something she can only experience during a simulation.

Humankind is in a pretty desperate situation, with total eradication for an inevitable future. Having been a strong (and very vocal) activist for her race, her efforts are finally noticed, and she’s named the captain of the SSE MAE along with a crew of elites, the best of different races in the galaxy all of which are strangers to her except for one old friend. Together, they make across the universe in search of a new planet for the human race to inhabit, but things won’t be easy. There are powerful people whom are intent on hunting Harnish down and with a saboteur on ship, just escaping in one piece will be a miracle.

The writing in this book is fast-paced. The opening chapter is intriguing. How badly ruined is the Earth that Harnish has to pay for a rock climbing simulation in order to enjoy the view, one of which she has never actually seen herself? The Earth is probably barely habitable, at this point, and this makes for a great hook to the story, making me interested and invested right from the start.

“It was my father’s favorite season, and he’d lived in a time when he could witness the beauty nature had to offer. When I was a kid, he’d climb to the roof with the old-fashioned telescope he’d inherited from his grandfather and stare at the stars while telling me of how the grass smelled in spring with the flowers coming to bloom.”

The story is pretty good as well, and I enjoyed some of the writing in places. There are moments that have a bit too much dialogue or description, but it’s not exactly a bad thing. The imagery and the world that the author paints is wonderful and vast. It’s a broken world out there, and the desperation of this mission is a constant reminder of how important success is. Failure means that there will be no future for humans.

The characters here are just as interesting as the world. Our main character, Harnish, is a strong female character, and she can hold her own in a fight if needed, especially when faced against the much stronger Anpu warrior that’s hot on her heel. Given command over the ship, she’ll need her wits and leadership to not only guide the mission and her team, but also lead them against ruthless enemies, all the while keeping certain secrets to herself in order to root out the spy that’s hidden amongst her crew. In that aspect, this book also serves with a bit of a mystery subplot as well, and it kept me guessing through the book on whom this traitor is.

Overall, this is a pretty good book with good characters and world building. It’s a read that you’ll find to be quite the page turner as they make a couple of stops in different planets and trying to escape alive and whole (as a crew). The dialogues may be lengthy at times, but there are some moments where I really enjoyed the interactions between Harnish and her crew. It ends in a cliffhanger and leaves you with a bit of hunger for the upcoming follow-up. This book could benefit with some editing, but otherwise, I enjoyed it. For being both the author’s debut and as an entry into, I assume, a series, this was a good and gripping read.

Book Review: Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

I’ve never read any books by China Miéville, having only come across Perdido Street Station because I had been on the prawl for cyberpunk books at the time. For some reason, this Steampunk book made its way into one of the cyberpunk lists. Into my TBR it went, all but forgotten until I’d come across the physical copy at Barnes & Nobles. It’d been one of those quick, “Alright, you got about 10-15 minutes” days where the bookstore was just one tiny stop in an errand filled day. I wasn’t about to leave the store empty handed and I always have a little thing with “it’s fate” if I come across a book more than once.

It remained unread until I’d gone and yanked a couple of books off my shelf and had IG/Twitter poll my next read for me. I spent two slow weeks with this guy, and it was a nightmarish kind of floaty feeling. I still have a book hangover. Fun little note; Perdido Street Station managed to worm itself into my dreams (nightmares?) twice!

Book Title: Perdido Street Station
Author: China Miéville
Length: 710 Pages
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Science Fiction > Steampunk, Urban Fantasy, Horror, New Weird

CW/TW: Violence, gore, murder, mentions of rape, kidnapping, hostage situation, medical experimentation, mentions of torture, forced medical procedures, racism (mostly to Xenians and the Khepri), prostitution, sexual abuse of minors, police brutality

Beneath the towering bleached ribs of a dead, ancient beast lies the city of New Crobuzon, where the unsavory deal is stranger to no one–not even to Isaac, a gifted and eccentric scientist who has spent a lifetime quietly carrying out his unique research. But when a half-bird, half-human creature known as the Garuda comes to him from afar, Isaac is faced with challenges he has never before encountered. Though the Garuda’s request is scientifically daunting, Isaac is sparked by his own curiosity and an uncanny reverence for this curious stranger. Soon an eerie metamorphosis will occur that will permeate every fiber of New Crobuzon–and not even the Ambassador of Hell will challenge the malignant terror it evokes.

Review Summary

Having never read any of the author’s other books before, Perdido Street Station was an excellent entry into his world. Brimming with amazing and detailed description, I found myself easily lost in the Bas-Lag world. Beautifully painted to see every scene and creature that this world and the city of New Crobuzon has to offer, China’s writing is phenomenal and his world-building no less so. In this story, we follow a rogue scientist as he attempts to help a client regain his abilities to fly again, but little does he know, this experiment of his will cost him immensely; no bag of gold could replace and repair the damages and losses that follow suit. After all, we’re fighting something that even the demons of hell refuses to fight.


Out of everything in this book, including pacing, readability, plot, characters, and so on, I think Miéville’s writing and world-building are the two things that stick out the most. It’s one of the best things about Perdido Street Station and while it was kind of dense, making it a little hard to get into the book, I’ll admit that these two points (world and writing) were also what kept me reading. It just…felt like every other page, I was grabbing at my phone to search up a definition for all of his, what I call, “great thesaurus words” (less so towards the end). I even ended up borrowing the e-book version from the library so that I could keep up with my rate of searching things up!

Don’t get me started on the parts when a musing and inspired/obsessed Isaac begins to ramble in science and mathematics. He completely lost me there (rereading the passage for the third time did NOT help).

Yet, it feels like, considering the setting and the world, it also felt wrong if I were to not see words like expostulated, susurration, or ululated, as if it completes the sentence and scene just right. You could easily skip those words, you wouldn’t miss a lot nor does it stop you from moving on in the plot/book, but it does feel like you might not see the full splendid scene unless you look it up either.

In the end, yes, his prose, writing, and choice of words is wild but weirdly amazing. I found myself charmed by his sentences the very moment I’d gone and opened the book. His writing is one of my favorite parts about the book. However, as with a really heavy meal, it’s pretty dense, rich, and savory. I probably wouldn’t be able to read a Miéville book back to back (if they’re all like this), but I’m happily going to add him to my list of auto-buy authors.


Extraordinary, exquisite, OMG-I-Could-Cry amazing, and utterly imaginative in the weirdest sense. For me, his world-building, the world of Bas-Lag, and the way he described New Crobuzon was the best part about this book, even more so than how much I loved his writing. I could write an essay just about New Crobuzon. For all of the 710 pages, it felt like I lived each character’s life through their six senses. I breathed that foul and retched air, I felt the anger of having to live in fear of the magistrate’s brutal and sadistic punishments, I felt the pain of torturous and prolonged agonizing deaths of characters.

New Crobuzon felt like an inescapable hellscape, but so full of life, people working and living to the best of their ability. I could see what each place, each slum, and even what the sewers felt like. As the story moved on, I could picture myself looking up into the skies and seeing the dirigibles and the trains rushing by in the sky-rails; the sky a perpetually polluted sepia of filth.

New Crobuzon was a huge plague pit, a morbific city. Parasites, infection and rumour were uncontainable. A monthly chymical dip was a necessary prophylactic for the khepri, if they wanted to avoid itches and sores.

Everywhere I turn, there’s some new thing; the awful remades, criminals who have been punished by having their bodies fused with animals or steam-machine parts, the consequences of their actions forever following them in a twisted and sadistic way. There were also the different species that ran along with humans, Vodyanoi (frog-like people), Khepri (the males being mindless giant beetles and the females with their human bodies but a giant beetle in place of their head…), cacti people, and more. There’s even a dancing giant spider who speaks in a word-salad poetic way. I’m still trying to figure out half of what it said.

“Brock Marsh sewers, for example. All the unstable runoff from all those labs and experiments, accumulating over the years . . . makes for a very unpredictable population of vermin. Rats the size of pigs, speaking in tongues. Blind pygmy crocodiles, whose great-great-great-grandparents escaped from the zoo. Crossbreeds of all sorts.

If given the chance, I could probably talk on and on about my experience with “living in New Crobuzon.” Of all my annotations and highlights, most of mine came from highlights of world descriptions, races, and history and lore of Bas-Lag. It’s definitely not a beautiful place, in the slightest (I would NOT want to live here nor would I make it a single second), and Miéville will show you just this.

Just as with the writing, the only con on this end was the same thing that I fell in love with. The sheer volume of information and descriptions coming your way is endless. At times, the world around you is wonderfully crafted and described. But, there’s also times when it slows the story down; certain minor scenes having more description than needed.

Plot & Plot Development

The plot was kind of interesting. Our protagonist, Isaac, is a rogue-scientist who comes across a bird-man, a Garuda, who has lost his ability to fly due to reasons he refuses to disclose. His injury is grotesque (there is a LOT of body-horror in this book), but there’s not much he’s willing to talk about, only that he wishes to regain his ability to fly at whatever the cost. Of course, the gold offered is enticing on its own, but Isaac, being a scientist, is intrigued and enthralled enough just by the sight of the rare creature, that he is willing to take on the case and immediately gets on to studying and experimenting. It’s when one of his experiments gets out of hand when things spiral down hard that it’ll give you whiplash. Suddenly, we’re talking about endangering the lives of the entire city and three organizations wanting Isaac and his friend’s head on a platter.

One trope to describe the plot? “Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.”


The characters were interesting and wonderfully written characters; each with their Santa sacks of traits, personalities, histories, flaws, and moralities. Of the main group, there’s Isaac, the rogue-scientist, his Khepri girlfriend, Lin, who has a giant beetle for a head, Derkhan, one of the writers for a rebellious (and illegal) newspaper that she risks her life for by being associated with it, and of course the Garuda, Yagharek (Yag). There’s loyalty, there’s betrayal, there’s redemption, and there’s the unsavable.


Overall, I loved the book. I’m going to have a book hangover for days to come. Until I return to the trilogy, I’m going to deeply miss the world, the writing, and the prose. The characters went through hell fighting something that even the ambassador of hell absolutely refused to help and I spent a better part of two weeks “fighting” with them.

I’m not a chymist, or a biologist, or a thaumaturge…I’m a dilettante, Yagharek, a dabbler. I think of myself…” Isaac paused and laughed briefly. He spoke with heavy gusto. “I think of myself as the main station for all the schools of thought. Like Perdido Street Station. You know it?” Yagharek nodded. “Unavoidable, ain’t it? Fucking massive great thing.” Isaac patted his belly, maintaining the analogy. “All the train-lines meet there— Sud Line, Dexter, Verso, Head and Sink Lines; everything has to pass through it. That’s like me. That’s my job. That’s the kind of scientist I am.

Book Review: Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa

It’s Thursday again!
Happy Almost-Friday, my lovely peeps🐥!
It’s time for this week’s book review and today, we’re featuring a nonfiction book about a very special cat named Oscar!

The cat has too much spirit to have no heart.
– Ernest Menaul

Book Description

Title: Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat
Author: David Dosa
Edition: Ebook > Kindle (Libby)
Length: ~240 Pages
Genre/s: Nonfiction, Animals > Cats, Memoir, Biography, Medical
Rating: 4.5 Golden Eggs

Blurb (Goodreads)

A remarkable cat. A special gift. A life-changing journey.

They thought he was just a cat. When Oscar arrived at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rhode Island he was a cute little guy with attitude. He loved to stretch out in a puddle of sunlight and chase his tail until he was dizzy. Occasionally he consented to a scratch behind the ears, but only when it suited him. In other words, he was a typical cat. Or so it seemed. It wasn’t long before Oscar had created something of a stir. Apparently, this ordinary cat possesses an extraordinary gift: he knows instinctively when the end of life is near. Oscar is a welcome distraction for the residents of Steere House, many of whom are living with Alzheimer’s. But he never spends much time with them — until they are in their last hours. Then, as if this were his job, Oscar strides purposely into a patient’s room, curls up on the bed, and begins his vigil. Oscar provides comfort and companionship when people need him most. And his presence lets caregivers and loved ones know that it’s time to say good-bye. Oscar’s gift is a tender mercy. He teaches by example: embracing moments of life that so many of us shy away from. Making Rounds with Oscar is the story of an unusual cat, the patients he serves, their caregivers, and of one doctor who learned how to listen. Heartfelt, inspiring, and full of humor and pathos, this book allows readers to take a walk into a world rarely seen from the outside, a world we often misunderstand.


Just as with Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (another nonfiction that talks about the elderly and quality of care of residents and patients in their twilight years), this was also prompted because of a passing video I’d seen a good handful of years ago. I actually saw a clip about Oscar a while back, but only recently did it resurface when I let the autoplay pick my next Youtube video when the current one finished and I was too busy to look for another video. I sat there listening and thinking, “Oh hey! I remember Oscar from a few years ago! He was a special little kitty!” and then remembered that there was a book about him too. A trip over to the Libby app and I was set for the waiting room of an appointment the next day.

Oscar is a very special cat with the remarkable ability to know when someone is moments from taking their last breath. Shy and timid, generally Oscar does not hang around with patients and prefers to hide during the day, but when someone in the nursing home, The Steere House, is dying, Oscar will magically appear at their side, taking vigil, and not leaving until the coroners come to remove them. Told from the perspective of Dr. David Dosa, who at first does not believe the staff’s (and residents/family members’) tales about Oscar’s ability to sense death, he begins his own research about this extraordinary cat with a special gift. This book is a way to recount the various interviews he’d done with past residents’ family members and during their talks about Oscar, they would often discuss about the family/families that have lived in The Steere House, about Alzheimers, and how it affected the family just as much, if not more, than even the patients themselves.

Though much of Dr. Dosa’s interviews and research stemmed from trying to find a scientific reason behind why Oscar does what he does, he’s equally as curious about how just how many loved ones recalled that: yes, during their parent’s/partner’s final days, and especially the very last hours, Oscar was always present, if he could make it into the room. The Steere house may have multiple floors and several other felines (and birds/rabbits), but none would show up the same way as Oscar did.

In most, if not all of the cases (with whom Dr. Dosa interviewed), Oscar would be there and if he wasn’t, it was because he was already with another patient who was dying. The most fascinating cases had been Oscar clawing at walls if he wasn’t let into a patient’s room or, during a moment where two residents passed around the same time and Oscar couldn’t be with both at once, he had made sure to stay with one before sprinting across the nursing home to be with the other as soon as he could. Another had been when a resident had been taken away to the hospital, across the street, during his last days and eventually passing away from Steere with Oscar staring out the window.

Through the interviews and meetups with family members, while the main topic was Oscar, I also learned a lot about Alzheimer’s, such as that there are multiple forms of dementia, the stages of the disease, and how devastating the diagnosis is for families, especially caregivers who watch their loved ones slowly slip away. It’s heartbreaking to read and through these talks and interviews, Dr. Dosa also gains some insight into the disease, personal experiences from patients and their family members to help him be a better doctor to future patients and residents of The Steere House.

“Why can’t you do this anymore? A child could do it.” The difference is that a child is learning. A patient with Alzheimer’s is, as Robin said, “unlearning.”

I picked this book up because I’m a huge cat lover (and animal lover in general) but came out of it having learned a lot. From the families’, I took out many lessons including being there for the patients, being present, when to let go, to count the everyday victories no matter how little or small they are, and to cherish every day. From Dr. Dosa, who battles his own wars with arthritis, I realize that even the most minor things are taken for granted, like how I am able to type this review with my own fingers without pain or the fact that I have full function of my body for things we may not often think about (ability to bathe, eat, dress ourselves). And, from Oscar, the importance of simply just being there, curled at the foot of someone who needs that small comfort.

It was a quick read for me, though one that left me with a lot of emotions, things to be thankful for, as well as a valuable read of lessons in life as well as knowledge about a disease that I always have known of, but have not truly understood.

Book Review: Ten Tomatoes That Changed The World by William Alexander

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥!
It’s review day and for today, I have something special!

Nonfiction, in itself, is already a genre that I don’t read too often, having only started to really enjoy and crave them in the last few months; mostly sticking to autobiographies, travel, and animal related books like memoirs of someone’s beloved pet. Even amongst nonfiction, and the smaller subgenres I’d mentioned just now, this is a rarity, but I really enjoyed my book and hope that my review reflects the same.

Book Title: Ten Tomatoes that Changed the World: A History
Author: William Alexander
Length: 320 Pages
Published: June 7th, 2022
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genres: Nonfiction, History > Microhistory, Science, Food and Drink, Nature

Disclaimer: Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for this gifted copy! All opinions are of my own.

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New York Times bestselling author William Alexander takes readers on the surprisingly twisty journey of the beloved tomato in this fascinating and erudite microhistory.

The tomato gets no respect. Never has. Lost in the dustbin of history for centuries, accused of being vile and poisonous, subjected to being picked hard-green and gassed, even used as a projectile, the poor tomato has become the avatar for our disaffection with industrial foods — while becoming the most popular vegetable in America (and, in fact, the world). Each summer, tomato festivals crop up across the country; the Heinz ketchup bottle, instantly recognizable, has earned a spot in the Smithsonian; and now the tomato is redefining the very nature of farming, moving from fields into climate-controlled mega-greenhouses the size of New England villages. 

Supported by meticulous research and told in a lively, accessible voice, Ten Tomatoes That Changed the World seamlessly weaves travel, history, humor, and a little adventure (and misadventure) to follow the tomato’s trail through history. A fascinating story complete with heroes, con artists, conquistadors, and—no surprise—the Mafia, this book is a mouth-watering, informative, and entertaining guide to the food that has captured our hearts for generations.

Here’s a little note to summarize my enjoyment of the book: Let’s just say, my mum is mighty happy that I’m done reading this little guy. She’s tired of me opening my mouth just to have the word tomato tumble out. (Listen…I just went through a crazy pasta journey, another of a tomato paste journey, and another about pizza…I have to share it with someone before I explode!)

In Ten Tomatoes That Changed The World: A History by William Alexander, we have ten chapters that revolve around the lovely little fruit/veggie. And yes, there is in fact a little section in there that even goes into explaining why many people consider this (botanically speaking) fruit, a veggie, and it goes all the way up into the Supreme Courts! This comes after a story (though there’s skepticism around it) of an American who stood on the steps of a Salem, New Jersey county courthouse and downed an entire bucket of tomatoes, to the gasping and fainting crowds below, during a time when most people still considered it an unsafe fruit, to prove that not only was the tomato safe to eat, but it was indeed very very delicious! (You, sir, are my hero).

The book starts with where the tomato originated from. A native plant to South America, the Aztecs had already been using it in their cooking and have been cultivating the plant for a long time, until the Spanish conquistador, Hernando Cortés, captured the city of Tenochtitlan, came across the fruit, brought it back to Europe where it was then introduced to Italy and the other European countries. Another section, that follows, includes the etymology of the word tomato as well as a why its scientific name is Solanum lycopersicum. It also begins with how most people in Europe would eye this new fruit as dangerous (for many good reasons) and how it did not begin as an edible plant, but more of a decorative and ornamental one! From there, it really has had quite the journey from people being weary of it to happily putting them on their dinner plate. Oh, how its publicity has changed since then!

Outside a good load of tomato facts, there are other pieces of history that are either crucial because of or to tomatoes that are also present in this book. Sometimes a chapter is revolved completely around it, such as my favorite chapter of the history of Heinz and his rollercoaster of trial and errors with ketchup, how he struggled and worked hard to keep on top of a battle with making sure his ketchup were as preservatives free as possible.

There are also chapters that revolved around machinery for tomato farms, as well as a small history behind canneries. There’s the story of the birth of Campbell’s Tomato soup, another of a soap opera life for an important man, the beginnings of pizza and spaghetti, and even how tomatoes have gone from grandma’s delicious garden tomatoes to the now bland and tasteless versions you may see in your fast food orders.

This book really goes into detail through it all, and not once was I bored. The beginning was interesting, the history of pasta, ketchup, and pizza was interesting, and even the genetics chapters were interesting. You would’ve never caught me paying half as much attention in actual history or science class as I did with this book. William Alexander has a lovely writing voice and I really enjoyed this book. I may never look at a tomato the same way again. It’s just so special and the plant, as a specie, has been through so much experience and changes through history, it’s remarkable, and the book was a fascinating read. I would recommend this book if you enjoy the history of food, love science (botany, agriculture and horticulture especially), and microhistory (a subgenre that I haven’t even heard of until now!).