Book Review | Goddess of Limbo, Lea Falls

Goodreads Blurb:

Free will is a relic of the past. Souls have a prewritten path to heaven. If they miss it, they are doomed to roam the lost realm of limbo as splinters of their former selves or worse—as demons.

Their only hope is the reaper Alames, whose own soul shattered when her celestial lover, Balthos, usurped their creators to make them gods. In her absence, he builds a pantheon of monsters and tricks the mortals, whom he blames for his grief, into worshiping him. But when a new generation defies Balthos’s law, Alames’s splinters appear among them.

Brilliant physicist Ally longs for progress and innovation, but the Council controlling her nation strips the “Mad Princess” of power. Pregnant and uncertain, the unrivaled Captain Se’azana abandons her career for the false promises of love. The starving serf Richard makes a deal with a Fae demon to save his son. And teenage rebel Vana trades her guitar for a blade when faced with ruthless nobility.

When worlds tear and hearts break, will they defy the gods’ narrative to create a brighter future or will they obey the lies preached and doom their souls forever?

My Thoughts:

To start off, this was an incredible read. There are so many things that I loved about it that I am not really sure where to start – especially with the size of the novel itself. I read this one on my Kindle and so I couldn’t quite fathom the length of this book until I was adding it to my Goodreads lists and saw the page count (an amazing 670 pages). I tend to be more wary of longer books now, worried that my attention will drift, and that I am more likely to lose interest. However, after reading the description for the book I had a feeling this novel would be for me, and I was right. Having read Goddess of Limbo I am reminded of why I used to love books of this nature so much. I loved being able to spend as much time as possible in the world that Lea Falls has created and getting to know the characters that exist within it.

The world building in Goddess of Limbo is so detailed, and beautifully crafted. I can tell that Falls spent a lot of time researching as well as mapping out the world’s law. It was definitely worth persevering with. It is difficult to explain the way that a fictional world works without info dumping, and Falls does a wonderful job of integrating the facts of the world without just explaining the history in bulk. In saying that, the history covered early on in the novel, I did find it a little difficult to follow at first, but the further I read, the more I understood. I didn’t feel that this took away from the novel itself. I can sometimes find it difficult to situate myself in a fantasy world as I connect more with characters to start off. With the rapidly changing narrative points of view early on it took a bit more time.

This novel has a wonderful collection of diverse characters. Each character felt so real to me, as while they all had their own positive traits and achievements, they all had their own flaws which made them tangible within the words that created them. I loved the relationships within the novel, they were beautifully messy at times, and some managed to break my heart – romantic and friendships alike. Each PoV character had a beautifully distinct voice, which I loved, making the change of narration at each chapter something to anticipate each time. With ten PoV characters I first thought it might be difficult to keep track of each story line, but the stories intersected beautifully so to draw the focus to the main plot. I’m not sure I could choose a favourite character, I love them all too much – though Robert, Subira, Zazil, and Martín stole my heart completely.

There is something beautiful about the way that Falls writes. She drew me in, slowly at first, but then managed to hook me when I least expected it, and after that I couldn’t put the book down (quite literally – I was reading on my breaks at work, and even after my 1am work shift finish). The various story threads all joined for the epic final battle in the most marvellous way. I was exclaiming and audibly gasping throughout the last few chapters, not quite able to contain my stress for the characters. I have to say Falls can definitely craft a big revelation. There’s a certain chapter (that I won’t reveal – for spoilers) that had me close the cover on my Kindle and have to take a few deep breaths. I got it partially right because I saw the clues, which I am happy about, but just interpreted them sort of incorrectly – which made the reveal that much more surprising. I cannot wait to do a reread so I can find all the clues again, and possibly more.

I am so happy that I came across this novel when I did. Not only is it a carefully crafted epic fantasy, but it is an epic fantasy with a diverse cast of characters. The representation in this novel is what I think all fantasy should have. I think for me, this is part of the reason I could get so into this book – I saw myself in more than just the one character. The first time I read they/them pronouns being used I think I may have cried a little from happiness, the queer relationships and characters brought a wide smile to my face, and I really just want to thank Lea Falls for that. I am really looking forward to any sequels that are written and will devour them just as I have Goddess of Limbo.

I highly recommend this to lovers of long, epic dark fantasy; and to those who want to read about wonderfully real characters in a detailed and creative world. This is a story of underdogs fighting for what they believe is right in a world that doesn’t always work in their favour. It is a story of love, loss, and hope, and of a fight worth fighting – whatever you are fighting for.

Please Note: There are a lot of trigger warnings and content warnings for this novel which I think would be useful to read through if you are wanting to read this book. You can find the full list on Lea Falls’ website, here.

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for sending me this free eARC (eAdvanced Reader Copy), I am leaving this review voluntarily. This title will be published 14th October 2021.

Book Review | The Piano Room, Clio Velentza

Goodreads Blurb:

A gothic retelling of the myth of Faust, set in Hungary in the 1970s and 1990s.

Eighteen-year-old Sandor Esterhazy, rich and entitled, is descended from a long line of talented pianists, but he has no intention of following in their footsteps. One afternoon, in a fit of pique, he calls up the devil, using an old book of magic spells, and offers to exchange his soul for a life free to choose his own destiny. Afterward, Sandor laughs it off as a joke, but that night he sees the shape of a man approaching the house. He is dragging someone – or something – behind him through the snow. Sandor goes down to the piano room. The devil has delivered a bare-foot young man who Sandor instantly recognizes. But what is this creature? And what exactly is to be done with him?

My Thoughts:

Overall this was a beautiful book to read, but it was definitely one that took me a while to really get into. It took a couple of tries, but once I was caught up in the characters and the story I wasn’t going anywhere. This haunting retelling of the myth of Faust is gripping, and tense to the very end.

As a retelling of the Faust myth I think this novel held up really well. I studied Marlowe’s Dr Faustus in university as well as some other versions of the myth which made me familiar with the premise for this novel before I’d even started reading. It helped for me to really immerse myself in the setting and atmosphere of the story. This has become a favourite retelling of mine of this particular myth. Velentza kept what was important to make the myth visible within the story but twisted the rest beautifully to enrich the story and make it her own.

This story was told from two different perspectives in two separate times, making the narrative a little difficult for me to follow early on even though I was already familiar with the basis for the story. Once I had settled into the voice of each character and the two very different settings they were in came to love the two perspectives I was reading. Though as always, for me, with multiple point of view novels I tend to favour one point of view over the other. In this case it was Ferdi and his focus on trying to understand his past, as well as the truth of his existence – there is something about his very inhuman creation that made his character’s voice much more interesting for me to read. I did wonder how this novel would read if it was in complete chronological order, but I feel that the two perspectives over two different times adds to the mystery as well as the overall spooky atmosphere of the book.

Ferdi’s development throughout the novel was something I found most interesting as he grappled with the truth of his existence and tried to make his life his own. Though music was something he has to do, he makes it his own, and brings him connections with people he didn’t think he ever would. This is especially true of the slow building romance that builds between Ferdi and another character (that I won’t name, because of spoilers), as Ferdi doesn’t trust himself, nor does he believe a creature of his nature should be able to have a relationship that close. At first I felt the romance didn’t fit with the tale, but as it progressed I realised just how important it was to Ferdi’s character growth. I loved this almost unexpected part of the novel, it, along with Ferdi’s music, brought a little bit of hope to an otherwise rather grim tale.

The Piano Room is the perfect book to curl up and read on a cold winter night from the comfort of your preferred reading nook with a good blanket and a cup of tea. The language draws you into the haunted and spooky atmosphere of this novel in such a way that you start to feel the cold yourself. That is something I loved about this novel; that while I couldn’t always connect with the characters – something which I usually rely on for my enjoyment of a book – this lack of connection was made up for in the haunting gothic atmosphere. I reccommend this novel to lovers of gothic fiction, and to those who are looking for a fresh retelling of a familiar myth.

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for sending me this free eARC (eAdvanced Reader Copy), I am leaving this review voluntarily. This title will be published 30th September 2021.

Book Review | Under the Whispering Door, TJ Klune

Goodreads Blurb:

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Under the Whispering Door is a contemporary fantasy about a ghost who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with.

My Thoughts:

Have you ever known from the moment you met a character that the book your are reading is about to break your heart? This happened with the characters in Under the Whispering Door, but not in the way I thought they would. I did cry though. A lot! Not for sad reasons though, just an ‘all the emotions’ reason. My favourite kind of book!

This is the first TJ Klune novel I have read, and after this I will definitely be looking for other novels of his. From the first page I already had a feeling I would love this novel and it’s characters, by the end of chapter one I was hooked entirely. There is something beautifully warm about the way that Klune has written this novel, like a warm hug or a cup of tea on a cold day. I couldn’t get enough. So much so that I just wanted to read it all over again the moment I finished it.

The concept for this novel is so wonderfully unique, and beautifully executed too. It delves into concepts of death, loss and grief, as well as love, acceptance of self, and personal growth. Each of these are carefully written, and teased out in such a way that they make you really think deeply and reflect on your own life.

The characters in this novel are all delightful. Each one of the main group I would love to be able know them myself. Something else who h is really beautiful within this novel is the journey of growth and understanding the main character Wallace goes through. It is subtlety (and not so subtlety) threaded throughout the novel as he realises the person he was, and who he has the potential to be (and wants to be).

The romance in this novel was the most delicate slow burn. While I had a feeling that this was going to be the case, it still seemed to take me by surprise in the best way possible. The pair are gentle with each other and really listen to each other. This is one of those relationships which was meant to be, but the timing was wrong for one half. This difficulty of the situation was heartbreaking, but beautiful to read.

Under the Whispering Door was such a wonderful read. It handled the darker themes with care, but not so much that they didn’t hold weight throughout the story. It was heartfelt and filled with beautiful characters and a funny, quick witted humour which I loved. I recommend this book to anyone who loves a well written, character focused story with a tender slow burn queer romance. This was definitely a favourite read for this year.

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for sending me this free eARC (eAdvanced Reader Copy), I am leaving this review voluntarily. This title was published 21st September 2021.

Book Review | Dumplin’, Julie Murphy

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy book cover

Goodreads Blurb:

Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.  

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

My Thoughts:

I watched the film based on this book over a year ago now, and absolutely loved it. I’ve watched it quite a few times since then, it makes me cry – a lot – but in the best way possible, and I always feel good after watching it. So imagine my delight when I discover that this film I loved was based on a book. This is something I don’t usually do, I am strictly a book before film/TV show adaptation sort of a person, but in this case I just had to read it. I am so glad that I did.

Dumplin’ is the sort of book I feel I needed to read back in my early teens. I have never been comfortable in my own skin (something which I am gradually leaving behind, thank goodness) but a lot of the sentiments of this novel would have been good for me then. Don’t get me wrong though, this novel has done so much for me now as well. It’s amazing how some lines of a novel can just hit you in a certain spot, and in such a way that you feel that the novel was written specifically for you or even from your own thoughts. This happened with Dumplin’, time and time again.

“I think you gotta be who you want to be until you feel like you are whoever it is you’re trying to become. Sometimes half of doing something is pretending that you can.”

Dumplin’, Julie Murphy

What I loved most about this novel was the characters. As the narrator, Willowdean’s voice echoed many of the sentiments and conversations I remember having with my own Mum at that age. Me, stubborn, and feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, and Mum, in some cases, unsure how to help, or not able to say the right thing (though unlike Willowdean and her mother, my mother and I are much closer, and have a much better relationship). It made reading this so easy, but also quite difficult at the same time.

Something else Murphy has done really well with her characters is that they are all flawed in some way, and in such a way that makes seem more human. The characters can be selfish, they speak without thinking, they are genuine, they are brave, they are strong, and some of them can be kind – but through all that they learn to be themselves, what ever that may be. I am so used to characters in young adult novels being almost frustratingly perfect, and who know who they are and what they want, its a comfort to read something like this. Especially when Willowdean comes to the conclusion that perfection isn’t something to aim for, but that accepting your own existence is, whatever that may be.

“Perfection is nothing more than a phantom shadow we’re all chasing.”

Dumplin’, Julie Murphy

I love it when I find so much of myself in a novel, though these are the stories that I have more trouble finishing as I never want them to end. This was such a fun read, and I love that Willowdean has such an obsession with Dolly Parton and what she means to her. Seeing how that love for Dolly Parton brought her to her best friend Ellen, and how that love is something they share. This novel has friendship, humour, romance, heartbreak, and brought on far to many emotions for me to put into words. It made me smile, it made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me want to listen to Dolly Parton for the rest of the day!

“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”

Dolly Parton

Book Review | The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, Natasha Pulley

Goodreads Blurb:
1883. Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saves his life, drawing him away from a blast that destroys Scotland Yard. At last, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, a kind, lonely immigrant from Japan. Although Mori seems harmless, a chain of unexplainable events soon suggests he must be hiding something. When Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist, unwittingly interferes, Thaniel is torn between opposing loyalties.

My Thoughts:
I picked up The Watchmaker of Filigree Street at the airport based solely on the beauty of the cover. After reading the blurb I knew I couldn’t walk away. The entire thing intrigued me, and the flight home was all the better for it. For a novel I that knew little about before I read it, it really exceeded any expectations I did have.

Thaniel Steepleton seems like the kind of character that things just don’t happen to. So when his apartment is broken into and a mysterious pocketwatch is left on his pillow, Thaniel isn”t sure what to think. That is until the pocket watch saves his life and Thaniel decides to investigate. From here, you step – with Thaniel – into the world of Mori Keita, a Japanese watchmaker.

It is difficult not to get completely caught up in the world and characters that Natasha Pulley has created here. The intricacies of the story are carefully crafted so that the story unfolds slowly but surely, and in such a way that you easily get happily lost there. So much so that the ending creeps up on you when you least want it to. As you want to stay with those characters as long as possible.

There is something so enchanting about the way that Pulley draws you in enough to hold you there and carry you gently through the story. There is a beautiful charm to her words that makes you feel welcome within the story itself, but still keeps the secrects needed to keep you wondering. Some of the secrets are not only held by the text but the characters as well as they try and navigate mysteries as well as their own feelings. The romances that unfold slowly and carefully through the pages of the novel help for revelations nearing the end to be gently and beautifully revealed. There is nothing forced about it, something which has helped this novel to become one of my favourites.

Pulley builds her characters in this novel in such a way that you not only want to follow their journey, but you also want understand the way that they are, and why. There are little nuances to each character that bring them out of the page, and that can make you both love them and question them at the same time. It is these little mysteries that cause you to stay invested right to the end.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street really is something special. The story and characters have stuck with me since the day I first read this novel. The unique charm, and intricate mystery makes The Watchmaker of Filigree Street a must read for anyone who is ready to let themselves get completely caught up in a beautifully crafted story.