Book Review: The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni (eARC)

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: eARC from Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 416

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan is a survivor. For ten years, she has worked as the healer in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, making herself indispensable. Kept afloat by messages of hope from her family, Kiva has one goal and one goal only: stay alive.

Then one day the infamous Rebel Queen arrives at the prison on death’s door and Kiva receives a new message: Don’t let her die. We are coming.

The queen is sentenced to the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals. Aware the sickly queen has little chance of making it through the Trials alive, Kiva volunteers to take her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.

But no one has ever survived.

And with an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Prison Healer is the first book by Lynette Noni I’ve read and I was excited to dive into this intriguing sounding novel. The description and concept of a story set entirely in a prison caught my attention, so I was very happy to be approved for an eARC and get the opportunity to read The Prison Healer early. Unfortunately, the opening chapters didn’t capture my attention and I almost DNFed quite early on. I kept on reading and the last quarter or so of the book had me much more riveted, so I was glad I didn’t give up on it. Until that twist on the final page, which left me feeling incredibly exasperated. More on that later.

The beginning of this review will be spoiler-free, with a section at the end containing major spoilers so I can properly explain why this twist ending was so frustrating. I’ll clearly signpost when the spoilers start so you can avoid them if you wish to.

The idea of a book set entirely in a deadly prison is very intriguing. Setting is really important in books located in entirely one location like this, the setting has to be considered as another character. Unfortunately, the setting didn’t have any personality. I wanted to be completely immersed in this dark and dangerous place, but I didn’t feel anything. There was no atmosphere or tension. We’re told people hardly ever leave this prison alive, that Kiva is unique for having managed to survive ten years. Almost everything we know about the prison we’re told, not shown. Because there was no atmosphere, it felt flat. In the latter half we did get to see the darker side to the prison, but for most of the book I didn’t feel afraid for the main character, I didn’t feel the tension that should come from a deadly prison setting.

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WWW Wednesday: 10 March 2021

I’m getting really behind on all my blog posts at the moment! I’ve been busy at work and not had much energy in the evenings. I still have my review of The Prison Healer and an unboxing of the Fairyloot January box to post, I’ve drafted them so hopefully they’ll be up soon!

This weekly meme is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words.

The three W’s are:

What did you recently finish reading?

What are you currently reading?

What are you going to read next?

CURRENTLY READING – Lore by Alexandra Bracken

This week is the Fairyloot readalong for their January book. I’m nearly halfway through and it’s brilliant so far! I love the mash up of Greek mythology and a Hunger Games-eque competition.

NEXT READ – The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon  

I have a few days off next week so it seemed like a good time to have a crack at this mammoth of a book. It’s so thick, it’s a tad intimidating. But it also sounds really good and I love dragons.

What are you reading at the moment? What are you looking forward to reading next? Chat with me in the comments!

Let’s Talk Bookish: Predicting Trends

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week we’re talking about trends! This is a topic I suggested and now I have to come up with something to say about it I’ve realised it’s quite a hard topic! Though I do find looking at trends quite interesting. I’ll mostly be talking about YA since that’s what I have most knowledge about.

There are some genres that always seem to be popular, like fantasy and retellings, but there can be trends within them. Some genres are really popular for a time, and then fade away as the market becomes oversaturated and readers’ attention move on to something else.

Over the past years, I can think of two particularly big trends. After Twilight came out, there were so many vampire and werewolf books in the YA section. Everywhere you looked, there was paranormal romance. I read a lot of these books because they dominated the shelves when I was growing up, but I wasn’t a fan of a lot of them. Then there was the dystopia faze, with books like The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, Delirium and many, many more. This was more my thing as I love science fiction. But I found a lot of the books in the paranormal romance and dystopia fazes were dominated by the same kinds of tropes and got quite repetitive.

With both of those trends, I think the issue was that a lot of those books were just a bit too similar. And because there were so many of them, eventually people moved on to something else and those genres kind of fizzled out. Dystopian books just don’t seem to get published as much in YA these days, which is a shame because I think it’s a really interesting genre. YA books have changed a lot since the dystopia boom, and I’d love to see what new and diverse authors might do with the genre.

As for future trends, dark academia seems to be coming up big. It’s not a genre I really read, but I keep seeing it popping up on Twitter, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a lot of these. Also, with The Great Gatsby coming out of copyright this year, I expect there’ll be an influx of retellings.

I’d love to see a boom in YA science fiction. Not dystopia, but space operas and other subgenres of science fiction. At the moment, there aren’t loads of YA sci-fi books out there, and it’s hard to get YA sci-fi published. I’ve loved the YA sci-fi I’ve read, like Illuminae, Aurora Rising and Defy the Stars, and would love to see more of it out there.

With the pandemic putting a bit of a spanner in the works for the entire world, it will also be interesting to see how that effects trends. Will we see an influx of pandemic/zombie/apocalypse books? Or do we want escapism? Do we want something fun like rom coms?

Trends can be a great thing, as they can really uplift certain books and put them in the spotlight, but that also means that other books don’t get as much attention. And it can be tempting to read whatever is trending, but I think it’s important we read what we enjoy, not just what’s popular! But if what you love is popular, then I guess it means you have a lot of books to choose from…

What trends have you noticed? Do you think trends are a good thing or a bad thing or neither? Chat with me in the comments!  

WWW Wednesday: 3 March 2021

This weekly meme is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words.

The three W’s are:

What did you recently finish reading?

What are you currently reading?

What are you going to read next?

RECENTLY FINISHED

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni – I was really disappointed with this one. I finished it last week but I still haven’t finished my review because I need to work out how to say what I want to say about it.

Gut Feelings by C. G. Moore – This was an emotional read for me as I could relate to the main character’s experience of chronic illness. I’d really recommend it. You can read my review here.  

CURRENTLY READING – Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare    

Gut Feelings was brilliant, but also a little hard for me to read as it brought back a lot of memories of my times in hospital. So I picked something by a favourite author next that I knew would be a fun read.

NEXT READ – Lore by Alexandra Bracken     

I love Greek mythology so I’m really excited for this one!

What are you reading at the moment? What are you looking forward to reading next? Chat with me in the comments!

Book Review: Gut Feelings by C. G. Moore

Gut Feelings by C. G. Moore

Genre: Young Adult

Publishing Info: January 2021 by UCLan Publishing

Pages: 400

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

At school, I learned that words,

More than weapons,

Could destroy bodies,

Could break hearts

More than fists or fury.

This is the story of Chris, what happened to him at age eleven and how that would change the rest of his life. A life-affirming and powerful coming of age verse novel that shines a light on chronic illness, who we are and how we live.

Gut Feelings is an own voices novel in verse based on the author’s own experiences of living with Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). FAP is an inherited disorder characterised by the rapid growth of small, pre-cancerous polyps in the large intestines.

I found reading this novel incredibly moving and cathartic as I recognised some of my own experiences of chronic illness reflected in the pages. Similarly to the narrator of the novel, Chris, I was diagnosed as chronically ill at a young age, when I was ten years old. There are so many parts of this book I could quote, but I chose just a few to include in this review that really resonated with me.

“This room is no place 
 For a child
 That wants to run and swim, 
 Bike his way 
 To the top of the hill. 
 I listen and obey
 As curtains close 
 Around me –
 Around my future.” 

While the condition I have – Crohn’s disease – is a different condition to FAP, there is some overlap in symptoms and treatments as both affect the intestines. I could relate to the blood tests, the colonoscopies, the hospital visits, the surgery, the anxiety around having to rush to the toilet, of praying to make it through an exam, and issues of body image and scars. I could relate to the confusion and the fear of being faced with a diagnosis at such a young age.

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February 2021 Wrap Up

This month was pretty good for reading considering I read two 5 star reads! I don’t give 5 stars very often so to have two in one month is pretty amazing. But on the flip side, the other two books I read were quite disappointing which isn’t so good.

Links take you to my reviews!

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This was just the perfect ending to the Young Elites series. I felt so emotional reading the last few chapters.

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead ⭐⭐⭐ – This is the third book in the Vampire Academy series and I found it a bit slow. I’m not sure if I’m still enjoying this series enough to continue.

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This was the best book in the Throne of Glass series so far – I loved it! I was hooked all the way through and absolutely devoured it in hardly any time at all.

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni ⭐⭐ – I’ve started writing my review for this but I think I need a bit of time to process and think through what I want to say about this one. I found the twist ending very frustrating.

I absolutely love Ancient Greek mythology so I just had to have Lore by Alexandra Bracken and I’m excited to read it soon. I ordered a set of signed / signed book plate editions of the Shades of Magic series by V. E. Schwab from Forbidden Planet but at the moment I’ve only received the second and third books. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever get A Darker Shade of Magic.

I had a bit of a wobble this month and didn’t do any writing for more than a week. I wasn’t feeling so good and just wasn’t feeling like writing. But I’m now 40,000 words into the second draft of my Arthurian retelling WIP so I’m still pretty pleased with my progress. I think this second draft is definitely going to be longer than the first at this rate!

What books have you enjoyed this month? Chat with me in the comments!

Let’s Talk Bookish: Has Blogging Affected Your Reading?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. Today’s topic was suggested by Mini @ Book and Corner and is all about the impact blogging has had on our reading.

Has blogging affected your reading in a positive or negative way? If so, how?

Before I started regularly blogging, I’d find books by browsing my local Waterstones. I wasn’t aware of what was hyped or popular, wasn’t clued up on upcoming releases. I simply went into the shop and browsed and shelves and the tables and picked up whatever I fancied. In some ways, I miss that, because I liked not knowing what I might discover.

Whereas now, I’m so aware of what’s out there and upcoming releases, that when I go in a bookshop and look at the shelves, I recognise all (well, a lot of anyway) of the books, so there’s less surprises. But at the same time, I like the anticipation of waiting for a new book to be released, of being able to get excited for a book to come out. It’s also easier to find books I think I’ll enjoy when I’m more aware of what’s out there, and if I’ve read reviews before buying a book, I’m less likely to end up with books that aren’t for me.

Blogging and reading more about upcoming books, reading more reviews and posts, has meant I’ve discovered some amazing books that I wouldn’t have come across in Waterstones. They don’t stock everything on their shelves. Being part of the blogging community has also made me seek out diverse reads a lot more, and that is definitely a very good thing.

But it’s also very easy to get sucked into the hype around a book, even if you’re not sure it’s for you. Sometimes that means discovering a new favourite, and sometimes it means being disappointed. It can be tempting to always get drawn towards the books that get shouted about the most, when there are other amazing books out there that haven’t had so much attention.

Blogging makes me excited for reading, and so I do feel like I’ve been reading more since I’ve been more actively blogging.

Do you think the pressures to produce content can result in a bad relationship with books?

I love blogging and talking about books. But I do sometimes feel pressured to post consistently. Taking breaks when you need to is important. If you’re in a reading slump, that’s okay, you don’t have to force yourself to blog. Blogging should be fun. So I’m careful to try and avoid it becoming something that’s stressful. But sometimes that’s easier said than done.

How do you balance blogging and reading?

Balancing hobbies can be so hard. I’m currently balancing my day job, reading, blogging and writing, all along with being chronically ill. I feel frustrated when I’m struggling with my energy levels, because I have so many things I want to do. For me, writing always has to come first, because it’s my dream to become an author and I have to prioritise it if I want to reach that dream one day. I read and blog when I can, but I do sometimes wish I had more time and energy for reading, because I really do love it. 

Do you think you would have started blogging if it weren’t for books or vice versa?

As I’ve always loved writing, I think I would have ended up with a blog of some kind. Writing fiction is my passion, but I enjoy writing of all kinds, including writing blog posts. As I love books, whether it be reading them or writing them, it made sense to have a blog dedicated to them.

Has blogging changed your reading habits? Do you read more? Do you read different kinds of books to before you started blogging? Chat with me in the comments!

WWW Wednesday: 24 February 2021

I had a bit of an unplanned break from blogging last week. I’ve been struggling a bit this month with my energy levels and motivation, but I’m feeling a bit better now so planning on posting a bit more regularly again.

This weekly meme is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words.

The three W’s are:

What did you recently finish reading?

What are you currently reading?

What are you going to read next?

Book cover of Queen of Shadows

RECENTLY FINISHED – Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas  

I absolutely loved this book, it was the best in the Throne of Glass series so far! I was glued to the pages and read it pretty fast considering it’s a 600+ page book! You can read my full review here.

CURRENTLY READING – The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni   

I’m halfway through reading an eARC of this at the moment and I’m not loving it so far, so I hope it improves in the second half. I’ve nearly DNFed it a few times but want to try and finish it if I can.

What are you reading at the moment? What are you looking forward to reading next? Chat with me in the comments!

Book Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Book cover of Queen of Shadows

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Mass  

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy    

Publishing Info: September 2015 by Bloomsbury

Pages: 648

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Celaena Sardothien is cloaked in her assassin’s hood once more. She is back in Rifthold, but this time she is no one’s slave. She must delve into her most painful memories and fight for her survival, while resisting a smouldering passion that might very well consume her heart. And she will face her former master, the King of Assassins, again – to wreak revenge for a decade of pain…

*This review will be spoiler-free for Queen of Shadows but may include spoilers for the previous books in the series*  

Queen of Shadows is the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series and the best instalment I’ve read so far. It brought together all the threads that Maas has been weaving for the previous three books and, well, it was pretty epic.

In Heir of Fire, Celaena was away in Wenlyn learning to use her magic. While I enjoyed the training sequences, I so loved seeing her in Rifthold in Queen of Shadows, back where everything started. This book brings the story full circle, as she finally confronts her past with Arobynn. Our protagonist grew a lot in Heir of Fire, and now she finally seems to have transformed into Aelin. Her character hasn’t changed completely, but I could see she was a different person to the Celaena we saw in Throne of Glass, and we get to see her become the queen she is.

Manon was introduced as a new character in Heir of Fire. I loved her story in the third book, but her storyline didn’t intersect with any of the other characters’ stories, so I was wondering where Maas was going with this one. In Queen of Shadows, however, we get to see more clearly how her storyline relates to the wider plot. This is another character who we see slowly shift over the course of the series. I really appreciate how Maas slowly develops her characters.

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Let’s Talk Bookish: What Makes a Book Beautiful

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion.

Ahhh book covers! They say not to judge a book by it’s cover, but often the cover is the first thing we see, and does impact our first impressions of a book. There are so many different styles and attractive covers definitely draw the eye. But aside from the aesthetic of the cover, I think it’s also important that it reflects the content and mood of the book as well.

While simplistic covers can be really effective, I do love a cover that has a really striking illustration. I’m really glad a lot of covers have moved away from photographs of people to illustration-based covers. A lot of the photo-based covers just look so similar, and beautiful artwork is so much more eye-catching to me. I remember when YA covers were dominated by girls in dresses. Almost every book had a fancy dress, which was really pretty, but made almost every book look the same, and often they were wearing a dress on the cover for absolutely no reason at all. I much prefer when covers convey what’s inside the book, and to see characters represented more accurately, and with more action-poses (if relevant of course) than just models lounging around in dresses.

One of my favourite illustrated covers is Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim, which was illustrated by Tran Nguyen. The composition of this artwork is simply stunning. The main character’s pose and the flow of the fabric around them just makes it really dynamic. But it also really captures the book as Maia is a tailor. It incorporates her magic scissors, and the fabric Maia is holding is decorated with the sun, moon and stars, which are the materials she must sew three magic dresses from. The more I look at it, the more amazing details I notice which reference back to the book!

I really like it when a book series has a really satisfying set of covers, where you get to see a different character on each one, or which really conveys the evolution of the story and characters over the course of the series. For example, the new Daughter of Smoke and Bone covers with art by Peter Strain that came out last year work really well together as a set. I also really like them because they’re unique and stand out, as well as being beautiful.

Aside from covers, there are other details that can make a book beautiful, such as the finish of the dust jacket / paperback cover. I also love when I take a dust jacket off a hardback book and find there’s a design stamped into the naked hardcover! Books also sometimes get sprayed edges, which look amazing, especially when the edge colour matches the cover really well. 

And I thought I’d end this post with a selection of some other covers I absolutely love:

What cover styles do you like? What are your favourite covers? Chat with me in the comments!