Today, I have a bunch of smaller reviews from netgalley reads over the last couple of months, which are mostly a mixture of YA and Non-fiction this time around.
*Disclaimer: I received an e-arc of these books from netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
The Legend of Akikumo – Dani Hoots
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Ketsueki would give anything to find out why her mentor Akikumo, the last wolf in Japan, abandoned her. He left her with other kitsune at the Inari Shrine, but she doesn’t fit in. And now the other kitsune are bullying her and saying Akikumo is dead.
After causing trouble for the hundredth time, the Inari, instead of punishing her, has given Ketsueki a task: she must find out what happened to Akikumo. She quickly agrees, not realizing the delinquent son of the shrine’s head priest must accompany her.
Will Ketsueki be able to make peace with a human? Or will her years of resentment make this partnership impossible?
I wanted to love this book. The cover is absolutely stunning, and the premise and the fact that it revolved around Kitsune and Yokai meant that I was immediately intrigued. Unfortunately, this book wasn’t for me.
The main issue I had with it as the overuse of romanji in the text. It might have worked better if the words hadn’t been italicized as well, because the change in font kept throwing me out of the text. However, it was also the inclusion of unnecessary words. I could understand using the romanji for certain words like ‘torii’ and the names of the Gods, but most of the words were easily translated and would have had more impact if the english had been used. It felt as though the language was being used as a crutch to create the setting, rather than the worldbuilding, and I feel that a bit more time spent on the world-building would have created the same effect. What I did like was the glossary at the start, which was well laid out in segments, although it was fustrating having to turn back so often for the words that I didn’t know.
However, I also found the characters and world somewhat lacking, and I found myself unable to become invested – especially with the characters which fell a little more flat especially the main characters – Ketsue-chan and Yamato, and they felt stiff around one another, and while I understand they didn’t like one another especially at the start it lacked any kind of dynamic to make me want to care about them or their interactions.
Overall, this was a disappointing read for me. However, I do feel that it will appeal to certain readers, especially younger ones, as to some extent it felt as though the writing was targeted at the younger end of YA.
Rating: ** (2/5 Stars)
Athena’s Choice – Adam Boostrom, Alex Ford (Narrator)
Genre: Audiobook, Sci-Fi, Mystery & Thrillers, Women’s Fiction
Athena Vosh lives just like any other teenager from the year 2099. She watches reality shows with her friends, eats well, and occasionally wonders to herself: what would life be like if men were still alive?
It has been almost 50 years since an experimental virus accidentally killed all the men on earth. However, a controversial project is currently underway to bring men back. There’s just one catch. The project has been sabotaged.
So begins Athena’s Choice. When the police of 2099 are tasked with finding the saboteur, they receive a mysterious command to investigate the otherwise innocuous Athena Vosh. After it becomes clear that the young girl might know more than she lets on, Athena is brought in to participate in the official investigation. Simultaneously, the girl begins to experience a series of cryptic dreams featuring a ruined library and an old book containing the saboteur’s true identity. As the police close in on their prize, Athena finds herself on a journey of her own. Her clue-filled dreams and incorruptible spirit bring her face-to-face with a pair of forgotten truths about happiness and gender. The world waits to see if men will return as Athena fights a separate battle, culminating in the choice that will define her and others’ lives forever.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this book. The synopsis was intriguing, and I still really like the premise, and there were aspects of it that I thought were dealt with brilliantly throughout the book, but there were also elements that weren’t dealt with as well.
It is one of those books that will stay with me for a while, as it was thought-provoking and tackled a lot of interesting questions and scenarios, but I think perhaps it was weighed a little too much towards this aspect. The characters were likeable enough, but they – even Athena – lacked that charisma or hook, that would pull me fully into their world and narrative. The plot also lost me a bit at times, because while I enjoyed the twists and turns, there were areas that felt a little too clunky and jarred me out of the narrative.
I also struggled a little with the narrator for this one, although that is simply personal preference. Although I will say that they did a fantastic job of breaking up the narrative with the jumping between memories, to news reports and other articles, and I will say that despite not getting on too well with her voice, that was a standout part of the audiobook for me.
Rating: *** (3/5 Stars)
Beyond the Secret Garden – Ann Thwaite
Genre: Non-fiction, Biography
Frances Hodgson Burnett’s favourite theme in her fiction was the reversal of fortune, and she herself knew extremes of poverty and wealth. Born in Manchester in 1849, she emigrated with her family to Tennessee because of the financial problems caused by the cotton famine. From a young age she published her stories to help the family make ends meet. Only after she married did she publish Little Lord Fauntleroy that shot her into literary stardom.
On the surface, Frances’ life was extremely successful: hosting regular literary salons in her home and travelling frequently between properties in the UK and America. But behind the colourful personal and social life, she was a complex and contradictory character. She lost both parents by her twenty-first birthday, Henry James called her “the most heavenly of women” although avoided her; prominent people admired her and there were many friendships as well as an ill-advised marriage to a much younger man that ended in heartache. Her success was punctuated by periods of depression, in one instance brought on by the tragic loss of her eldest son to consumption.
Ann Thwaite creates a sympathetic but balanced and eye-opening biography of the woman who has enchanted numerous generations of children.
This was a beautifully written biography, that offered and insightful and fascinating look into the life and times of Frances Hodgson Burnett. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but did feel that it focused a little too much of the details and being completely objective, leaning towards the technical/commercial side of her life as published writer, rather than the writing, and the magic that she tried to bring into the world as an author. There was also not as much reference to The Secret Garden as you would expect from the title of this book, which was the main reason I had been drawn to this book. However, I still enjoyed it and found it offered an excellent exploration of her life and work and would recommend to anyone who is a fan of Hodgson Burnett.
Rating: *** (3/5 Stars)
The Fabric of Civilization – Virginia Postrel
Genre: Non-fiction, History
From Paleolithic flax to 3D knitting, explore the global history of textiles and the world they weave together in this enthralling and educational guide.
The story of humanity is the story of textiles — as old as civilization itself. Since the first thread was spun, the need for textiles has driven technology, business, politics, and culture.
In The Fabric of Civilization, Virginia Postrel synthesizes groundbreaking research from archaeology, economics, and science to reveal a surprising history. From Minoans exporting wool colored with precious purple dye to Egypt, to Romans arrayed in costly Chinese silk, the cloth trade paved the crossroads of the ancient world. Textiles funded the Renaissance and the Mughal Empire; they gave us banks and bookkeeping, Michelangelo’s David and the Taj Mahal. The cloth business spread the alphabet and arithmetic, propelled chemical research, and taught people to think in binary code.
Assiduously researched and deftly narrated, The Fabric of Civilization tells the story of the world’s most influential commodity.
This was a fantastic work of non-fiction. The cover is also incredibly striking and is what first caught my attention. This book is well-researched and goes into a lot of detail about the processes, technology and people, involved in the production of textiles (primarily clothing) throughout history. The writing style was easy to read, and I found that it was well-balanced between the details and readability, and it never felt dry or too academic. I learnt a lot from reading this one, not just about textiles on their own, but about how they influenced human development and in turn were shaped by that development. A fascinating read from start to finish, that would be of interest to anyone with an interest in fashion or history.
Rating: ***** (5/5 Stars)
Unmarried Women of the Country Estate – Charlotte Furness
Genre: Non-fiction, History
As the fight for women’s rights continues, and whilst men and women alike push for gender equality around the globe, this book aims to introduce readers to four women who, in their own way, challenged and defied the societal expectations of the time in which they lived.
Some chose to be writers, some were successful business women, some chose to nurture and protect, some travelled the globe, some were philanthropists. Each one made the conscious decision not to marry a man.
Elizabeth Isham of Lamport Hall, Ann Robinson of Saltram, Anne Lister of Shibden Hall and Rosalie Chichester of Arlington Court. These are elite women, all connected to country houses or from noble families throughout the UK, and this book explores to what extent privilege gave them the opportunity to choose the life they wanted, thus guiding the reader to challenge their own beliefs about elite women throughout history.
This book is unique in that it brings the stories of real historical women to light – some of which have never been written about before, whilst also offering an introduction to the history of marriage and societal expectations of women.
Starting in 1609 and travelling chronologically up to 1949, with a chapter for each woman, this book tells their remarkable stories, revealing how strong, resilient and powerful women have always been.
Unfortunately this wasn’t the book for me. While as the author states this is an introduction to the topic, and would make a good introduction to someone preparing to look into the topic of marriage across the centuries and the remarkable women talked about in this book, I felt that it did not quite live up to the synopsis. In many places as well it felt as though it could have used more detail or depth, even just a brief look at secondary sources and other research around the topic, even allowing for it being an introduction. The writing style also felt a little stiff/formal, which left the text dry and I will admit that it was a struggle to finish this one. However, that said, I do feel it would be a good introduction for someone with more interest in the periods/topic.
Rating: *** (3/5 Stars)
Adrift – Amin Maalouf
Genre: Non-fiction, History, Politics
The United States is losing its moral credibility. The European Union is breaking apart. Africa, the Arab world, and the Mediterranean are becoming battlefields for various regional and global powers. Extreme forms of nationalism are on the rise. Thus divided, humanity is unable to address global threats to the environment and our health. How did we get here and what is yet to come? World-renowned scholar and bestselling author Amin Maalouf seeks to raise awareness and pursue a new human solidarity. In Adrift, Maalouf traces how civilizations have drifted apart throughout the 20th century, mixing personal narrative and historical analysis to provide a warning signal for the future.
Adrift has to be one of the most starkly beautiful, thought-provoking books that I have read in a long time. At times bleak and almost uncomfortable as it meditated on the state of the world today and how we got to this point, and where we could end up, we remain divided. There is a careful balance throughout this book, between philosophy, history and the author’s own personal narrative, and it works, because Maalouf never becomes too entrenched in the philosophy, keeping the book flowing and achingly relatable. However, ultimately there is a hopefulness to the writing, a determination that bled through the words, and I think that is why Adrift has such impact because it doesn’t shy away from the divisions and conflicts, but nor does it paint an utterly hopeless picture. This is a book that will stay with me for a while, and I would highly recommend it.
Rating: ***** (5/5 Stars)
Crowning Soul – Sahira Javaid
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Nezha Zaman considers her gift to control fire a dangerous secret. A secret that unravels when she encounters a vengeful shadow jinni in a maze garden that has been stalking her family, and knows about her power. Weeks after seeing the demonic being, Nezha is torn from her world through her backyard pond and transported to another dimension which sought out the light inside her heart.
Nezha learns from two unicorns that the dimension is her family’s roots, and the light is a fragment of an angel’s shattered soul. The three must work together to find the soul’s shards in a land teeming with shape-shifting jinn. If Nezha fails to stop the corrupted Iron Prince, the malevolent jinn at his side will shatter her soul next.
Unfortunately I struggled to finish this one. The cover is absolutely stunning, and I was sold on the premise, but it was the execution that let it down. I think the main problem was that the book was trying to achieve far too much, which meant that I never felt as though I was able to get a proper grasp of what was happening or the characters, but at the same time there were places that felt incredibly repetitive. I did enjoy the writing style itself, but the plot could have done with being refined and the world-building needed to be fleshed out in a less confusing manner to really live up to the promise of the premise.
Rating: ** (2/5 Stars)
If you’ve read any of these, or read them in the future please feel free to shout at me about them.