Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

Thank you to netgalley and Abrams Kids for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book is set in the 20s during the time of prohibition, but that’s not the only thing banned; people who have powers to manipulate people using art are also banned.

The biggest part of this book that I liked was the sisterhood. There was no girl on girl fighting for the sake of it, the 2 MCs were really close friends and loved each other and you could feel that throughout the whole book. They had really distinct personalities and I liked them as characters, however I felt like the book maybe should’ve been told from just one perspective because they all just rolled into one and it kind of felt like more of an omniscient narrator than separate character’s points of view in a way.

I also really loved the magic system, everything was related to art, some people could do magic with music, some with painting, some with poetry which I just found really cool. Though at times they would start to use their powers at moments where I just felt like it didn’t make sense to the situation, like surely someone would’ve stopped them before it actually took hold of them. Would it not be obvious to you that someone was Iron Cast if they started just randomly singing?

The world building could have done with some work. I found myself confused a fair amount of the time about just what was really going on. It felt a bit wooly at times and I think that was partly to do with the pacing which went from being really slow to really fast that I couldn’t really concentrate wholly on what was actually going on.

There was some really good points about racism and sexism that were brought up that are often swept under the carpet in historical fiction. Just because things were different doesn’t mean people were happy to just be treated like second rate citizens because of their gender or skin colour and this book was a reminder of that. Not only was one of the MCs facing difficulties in her life due to her magic but she was also black and whilst it is set in Boston where racism wasn’t nearly as bad as places in the south there was still a clear racial divide. It also raised some thoughts on the anti-Russian sentiments in the states, which not as strong as the narrative about racism against black people it was still there and mentioned.

I’d definitely be interested in what this author will come out with next as I can tell that she’s going to improve the more she writes.

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The King of Bourbon Street by Thea de Salle

Arianna Barrington needs to get away from her mother after a sex tape leaks of her, so she flies with her brother to New Orleans where she meets Sol DuMont, hotel mogul. Sol is still getting over the loss of his dad, the breakdown of his marriage and his complete lack of interest in life. The pair instantly click and begin a wild affair.

As a chubby girl this book meant so much to me. The MC is fat and I’ve read a fair few romance books in my life but this was such a breath of fresh air and it didn’t make me feel like an absolute mess who could never get a man because I’m not thin enough. And to add to that the love interest is a bi male, and it’s not just like a stated fact either, he references his past relationships with men and flirts with other guys a lot. You don’t read a lot of bi men in books. I think the biggest thing that I loved was just how casual everything was, from Arianna’s weight to Sol’s sexuality. Arianna is fat and it’s not made out to be a bad thing, it’s not made out that she’s beautiful despite being fat. She’s beautiful and she’s fat, it felt quite empowering for me to read.

Now there was insta-love in this, however when you’re reading it you kind of forget about the concept of time and just fall so into the story and Rain and Sol’s relationship. There was a couple of times where I did roll my eyes at how fast they seemed to be moving but the characters themselves were aware of how fast their lives were moving and weren’t acting like what they had was normal.

Any book is better if it includes dogs and this was extra good because it has a corgi and corgis are some of the cutest funniest dogs out there. Corgis are high up on my list of dogs I want to own so reading this made me so happy whenever there was a scene with the dog.

There is an age gap in this book, and if that makes you uncomfortable don’t read it. However consent is very important, and Sol is very aware how much more experience he has compared to Rain and tries very hard to make sure that he isn’t don’t anything to lead her into something she might not be into.

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A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

If you’ve read An Ember in the Ashes but haven’t got around to this yet I’m just going to warn you that this book features genocide. If scenes of that nature or talking about it upsets you, you should be aware before reading because it’s brutal. There’s also torture and a bunch of other possible triggers so please be aware and if you want info ask me.

Where the first book was very much about the military parts of the world and getting to know how the world worked politically, this book was about really beginning to get a feel for the magic system, through the absolute nightmare happening to the people.

I felt like I finally really got a feel for the characters in this book. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so bad for a character as I have for Helene Aquilla; she has to hunt down the boy she’s in love with so she knows he’s okay but somehow along the way figure out a way to keep her job and family in tact that doesn’t require her killing Elias. Elias has to try and figure out how to beat his mother whilst he is slowly dying. And Laia is along with him trying to just live while the rest of her race are being murdered in cold blood. This book is not your nice teen fantasy, there is so much heavy stuff going on. It took me a while to read just because I had to keep putting it down and taking a breath.

The magic system in this book was honestly so strange. Like it felt like magical realism inside a high fantasy world at times. It was dark magic that wasn’t just commonly used, it wasn’t a system I was used to. It mostly dealt with death and destruction whist was really interesting to read.

For a lot of this book I felt it was moving quite slowly but then the end happened and it just completely threw me and I needed to read it all. I’m not really sure about the pacing to be honest, but I’m now desperate to read the next book after it was left off the way it was.

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Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Our MC is on the verge of divorce from her husband after he gets to the end of his tether with her putting her job before family and so he goes to visit his family for Christmas leaving her there. She finds a phone that magically allows her to speak to her husband in the past before they were married with kids and this helps her think about where she wants her life to go.

I felt like I couldn’t really relate to the characters because I’ve never been married and they were much older than me. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing but at times it felt like I didn’t really get their motives because I’ve never been in any situations like it.

I absolutely adored the idea of this one phone being a gateway into your past. And that whilst in the past it was him who had made a mess and was thinking about what he wanted from the relationship, in the present she was trying to work through her own feelings and how she’d made every thing fall apart. It was like a really nice magical way of having someone think about why they got together with their significant other in the first place.

I did have a few problems with the discourse in this book because at times it did feel like the husband was mad at her for wanting to excel in her job. I completely understand that he wanted her to be around more for the kids because that’s important but it did feel like he was giving her an ultimatum. Like you either need to stop being so involved in work or I leave you. Like why couldn’t he just tell her she really needs to balance everything better. I would’ve liked to get to know present husband more than we did because to me he came off as a bit of a chauvinist compared to the past version of himself who read like an absolute sweetheart. There was a bit of a disjoint.

As with all previous Rowell books I’ve read the writing style was really easy to follow and I read this pretty quickly. Though at times I did find it a little on the slow side.

Overall I feel like the idea was really interesting and the execution was ok for the most part but it could’ve done with a bit more fleshing out in some areas and less in others.

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You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood

Thank you to netgalley and Penguin UK/Michael Joseph for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

This was a very odd book. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like this and I probably won’t for the very foreseeable future. This books is all written as the written files of a person on trial for murder as he gives his final argument for himself.

I’m not the biggest fan of books told in nuanced language, like if it’s told from a characters dialect or it has a different style of writing to the norm. But I was able to read this despite the MC’s voice being written exactly as it would sound. I think that’s what made the book work though, reading it the way it would’ve been spoken.

It felt like Mahmood did his research, he’s pakistani and the characters in this book are all black, so obviously a different racial background and upbringing. But it did feel like he wrote their stories very well with a good insight into how gang culture for black young people works in London.

There was some moments where there was some really sensitive topics, like rape and murder and drug dealing, so trigger warning for that, and at times I felt like it was dealt with well and other times it felt too casual. And of course that’s because the novel is all told through speech, but it was a little too blasé at times and I wasn’t too keen on that.

It was quite slow, when we got to the midway point where the story started winding up it moved a lot faster but I felt like the MC spent just a bit too long on the back story, and had I been a juror I probably would’ve fallen asleep.

I liked the MC, his attitude to his girlfriend kind of annoyed me. It felt like he thought he owned her at times, not like in an over the top way but there was some elements at times of him being a bit too protective. But he read well and I could feel his need for the jury to really hear his story, even if it meant messing up his life.

I looked up the author and he’s a lawyer so I assume he would know the legal system like the back of his hand but it was like a 10 day final argument which I didn’t even think could happen. It felt a bit unrealistic, like surely the judge would tell him to wrap it up?

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