Book Review: Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff!

I bought Maresi after booking to go to a panel that Maria Turtschaninoff was on about Feminist Fantasy at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (more on this in a later post). Since that talk was yesterday, it seemed like a good a time as any to post my review of this incredible story.

Maresi came to the Red Abbey when she was thirteen, in the Hunger Winter. Before then, she had only heard rumours of its existence in secret folk tales. In a world where girls aren’t allowed to learn or do as they please, an island inhabited solely by women sounded like a fantasy. But now Maresi is here, and she knows it is real. She is safe.

Then one day Jai tangled fair hair, clothes stiff with dirt, scars on her back arrives on a ship. She has fled to the island to escape terrible danger and unimaginable cruelty. And the men who hurt her will stop at nothing to find her.

Now the women and girls of the Red Abbey must use all their powers and ancient knowledge to combat the forces that wish to destroy them. And Maresi, haunted by her own nightmares, must confront her very deepest, darkest fears.

The main thing that I took away after finishing this was how rarely I see first-person past-tense written in the style of a diary/ memoir. We’re introduced to Maresi by Maresi herself on the first page, she tells the reader who she is, that she isn’t a storyteller but that she has been told that her first person account is important and she wants to record it while her memories are still fresh. She’ll occasionally break the fourth wall by talking about the fact that she’s in the ‘now’ and writing about the past but it isn’t overused and actually helped me get into the story more.

Even now as I write, my hand trembles in memory of the terror, and I hope my words are still legible.

I loved the female-based mythology that was at the centre of the book. There’s the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone and it’s all really well thought out. I didn’t know quite how to word this until Maria herself talked about it but it was really refreshing that these three aspects were all valued and honoured rather than just the youth. Even though it’s a young adult novel with a teenage main character, a lot of the other characters in the Abbey are older and not stereotypical old women.

I also loved the value given to reading and knowledge. Y’all know I love a book where characters read! The girls at the Abbey can go out and take the knowledge they learned there to other communities, a little like missionaries, so they’re taught a whole host of things like medicine, farming, animal care and architecture. There’s a really great balance of traditionally masculine and feminine work being done on the exclusively female island.

I originally gave this four stars because it did take me a little bit to get into. The pacing for the first half was very slow, maybe because it’s a translation, maybe because the background information needed to be laid out much like a non-fiction book by our narrator before the action. However, while writing this review, I feel like I appreciate this book so much more now I can see the wood through the trees. It’s worth pushing through if slow-pacing is something that makes you put a book down, because Maresi is the young adult book that you want young adults reading, but that they’ll actually enjoy as well!

Coming to the Abbey and learning to read was like opening up a big window and being flooded with light and warmth.

You can buy Maresi from The Book DepositoryWaterstonesAmazon or The Book People!

Have you read Maresi? What’s your favourite feminist fantasy book?
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My Spring Book Haul!

I’ve been buying a lot of books this year, you can see the books I got over Winter here, and I’m not reading as much as usual. I’m just bringing more and more in! I need to do some more unhauling or I’ll end up living in a house made only out of books and I live in England, it rains a lot! Books are not good sheltering material. They are fun though, so here’s what I’ve been buying.

A pile of books in front of two succulents

I picked up Planetfall by Emma Newman* at the Gollancz blogger event and read it in May. I liked it so much, I had to get After Atlas by Emma Newman. There are four books that are all stand-alone books set in the same universe and the synopsis of this actually appeals more than Planetfall; detectives and cults and sci-fi, oh my!
Waterstones | Amazon | The Book People | The Book Depository

Of course, I had to get The Poison Song by Jen Williams as soon as it came out. I loved the first book in this series (my review/rave is here) and decided soon after that I’d put off reading the second book until the third came out so I could binge it. Now I have this in my grasp, I can finally start.
WaterstonesAmazon | The Book People | The Book Depository

Over the next couple months, I’m trying to make a conscious effort to read more non-fiction (I have a whole post about that here) so when I saw Queen Bees by Siân Evans for £2.99 (now £2.49) on The Book People, it joined my cart immediately. I’m really looking forward to learning more about these society hostesses and their impact on the world.
WaterstonesAmazon | The Book People | The Book Depository

Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen and Anna of Kleve, Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir were books that I got proof copies of and, of course, needed the hardcovers to complete my set. I really love this series and they look so so good on my shelf. I’m thinking of doing a re-read of the whole series when the final book comes out, but there are still two queens to go!
Jane: WaterstonesAmazon | The Book People | The Book Depository
Anna: WaterstonesAmazon | The Book People | The Book Depository

A pile of books in front of two succulents

Once & Future by Amy Rose Capette & Cori McCarthyYou Asked For Perfect by Laura Silverman and A Good Girls’ Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson were all pre-orders I made back in February so they’ve slowly been trickling in, and I’ve been reading them! I missed having fresh and exciting YA on my shelves. Expect to see them in upcoming wrap-ups!
Once & Future: WaterstonesAmazon | The Book People | The Book Depository
You Asked For Perfect: WaterstonesAmazon | The Book Depository
A Good Girls’ Guide to Murder: WaterstonesAmazon | The Book People | The Book Depository

Have you read any of these? What do you think of my buys?
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Book Review: Oblivion by Jennifer L Armentrout!

While pondering my shelves, I realised that despite buying the whole five-book Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout, I had never got past the first book. And I liked the first book! But over a year has passed and heck if I can remember the plot details. Luckily for me, Oblivion* exists which is the first book from the male protagonist’s point of view!

I liked it a little less than Oblivion, probably because Daemon as a character is a lot less likeable than Katy and hearing him justify being a jerk to her gets tired after a while. But there’s kind of a terrible but understandable-for-a-teenage-boy-right-now explanation for it all: “I was surrounded by people who looked to me to have all the answers, to protect them, to never show fear. And so I put on a big front and swaggered around like nothing frightened me.” Toxic masculinity ahoy!

There was some weird body shaming as well which was disappointing because one of the things I loved about Obsidian is that Katy managed to be realistically happy with how she looked, for a teenage girl. But here’s Daemon, glad that Katy isn’t “one of those skinny girls [he] hated” and making transphobic comments wishing she looked like “a girl who looked like a dude” to lessen his attraction to her. And I understand that teenage boy-aliens can be garbage but: “all this thinking about my feelings and hers was probably going to give me a period”. Yikes!

The story was basically the same, and it is a good story that’s fun to read. Armentrout is a writer that knows what her story is, who her audience is, and writes it well. But I think that the brooding YA hero is a lot less heroic when you’re reading about why he’s so broody, because rationally it’s just putting on a tough-guy face and being mean, and while I understand that within todays society, it’s not a good look. Give me a nice guy any day.

Overall, I don’t think Oblivian is a must read but I’m glad I got to refresh my mind on the first book without having to re-read. I’d definitely be interested if more authors wrote these types of books, like the gender-swapped Twilight book. I’d love the Aurora Teagarden series from the point-of-view of the police she is constantly solving cases for.

Every time she picked up a book, her entire face transformed into a wide, brilliant smile-

Have you read Oblivion? Or anything by Jennifer L Armentrout?
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Podcast Love #2: Teen Creeps!

I’ve never read a Christopher Pike book in my life. But boy, I know a lot about his body of work! I started listening to Teen Creeps over the summer and I haven’t really stopped since. When I finally finished the backlog of over a year’s worth of episodes, I just started right back at the beginning!

I love this podcast for a whole host of reasons; firstly, I never read teen YA pulp as a teen, I skipped right over it and terrified myself with some Stephen King so it’s nice to actually experience that. One of my Hallowreadathon reads is probably going to be the only R. L. Stein book I own; a never-returned-to-the-school-library copy of The New Year’s Party, because I’m starting to feel like I missed out. Although, I never had to read about a perfume bottle that possesses you with some sort of evil twin from ancient Egypt. So- you win some, you lose some.

The hosts are great. Kelly Nugent and Lindsay Katai are the kind of people you want in your earholes, on your Twitter feed and just generally around the internet. They don’t just talk about the books. They go off on tangents, prompted by the plot or characters, about their past, feminism, love, depression, politics, relationships, racism, a little bit of everything! There are times when they will say something like; I can’t believe I’m about to say this then share something super personal that totally resonates, or I’m crying laughing.

Teen YA pulp from the 90’s can be a real mix of the good and the bad. There are teenage clichés, a lot of rape culture and so much incest. And Kelly and Lindsay don’t shy away from critiquing the books they read. Which led to my favourite sentence from the podcast ever (not including all Kelly’s creepy baby talk):

“There is that story out there, there is that story somewhere, but that needs to come from someone who has experienced it.”

I started listening to this podcast because I love listening to people talk about books they’re passionate about even if I’ve not read them. But what I got was so much more. It’s like listening to two people become best friends over hours of conversation, like eavesdropping but you’re welcomed in to listen. Kelly and Lindsay are my favourite hosts of all the podcasts I listen to, and Teen Creeps is my go-to when I’m having a hard time and need to laugh.

So check Teen Creeps out! Start at the beginning, or if a lot of swearing endears you- try the episode with Jackie Johnson. It’s my top pick episode with a guest. You can listen on iTunes, they have a website and a Twitter. And keep it creepy.

Did you read YA pulp as a teen? What did you think of it?
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Book Review: Obsidian by Jennifer L Armentrout!

At some point in the past couple years I stopped reading young adult books very often. Which is ridiculous because not only am I writing a YA book, but YA was what got my out of the biggest reading slump of my life. So when I was invited to an event where Jennifer L Armentrout was the guest of honour, I thought I should read her book I owned. And I loved it.

Starting over sucks. When we moved to West Virginia right before my senior year, I’d pretty much resigned myself to thick accents, dodgy internet access, and a whole lot of boring…. until I spotted my hot neighbor, with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up.

And then he opened his mouth. 
Daemon is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. We do not get along. At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something… unexpected happens. 

The hot alien living next door marks me. 
You heard me. Alien. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and Daemon’s touch has me lit up like the Vegas Strip. The only way I’m getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades. 

If I don’t kill him first, that is.

I love aliens and I love book blogging, so a character who discovers aliens while running a book blog? Count me in. And any aliens reading my blog, feel free to follow!

Obsidian was, at times, a little Twilight; a male figure of power being mean to a teenage girl to keep her safe away from him. But this story excelled at the importance of honesty, and how things get a lot easier when people aren’t lying. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been infuriated with characters that don’t just tell the truth! Obsidian isn’t honesty hour all the time, but Katy takes no nonsense.

Speaking of, the main character Katy managed to be both unsure and self-confident in a way only teenage girls manage. A lot of YA can’t balance wanting to be realistic, and idealistic when it comes to body-confidence and self love, but Armentrout nailed it. And friendship was always the top dog. Sure, the romance was steamy and all, but a YA female character putting in time with her best friend was near revolutionary.

And lets talk about the book blogger angle! I honestly love how much Jennifer gets being a book blogger. This isn’t an idealistic view of the work we put in; Katy mentions things like not getting paid, doing it because of love but that it “would be sweet” if she was. Armentrout obviously loves books and reading because Katy does and it’s such an honest feeling. Just like Aurora Teagarden. I love these kinds of books because not only does the protagonist and I have something in common, it staves off any reading slump. There’s nothing like getting excited about reading to make me want to read, and getting that while reading is a win-win.

For me, the only time this book wasn’t the example of what YA should be, was the cookie cutter plot and resolution. While I was super impressed that Jennifer L. Armentrout wrote this in 7 days (I know, right?) it didn’t hit that sweet spot for me when I can tell an author has spent a long time plotting and foreshadowing. But you know what? Bring on the rest of the Lux series. Not everything has to be English Literature class complicated. This book was fun.

I was always able to lose myself in reading. Books were a necessary escape I always gladly jumped into head first.

Have you read Obsidian? What did you think?

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