Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi (Review)

If you only looked at Western bestseller lists and film rankings, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Egyptian mummies are the only fantasy storyline which Africa has ever produced. But you’d be wrong – and I was thrilled to see that Children of Blood and Bone has brought a long-neglected mythology into young adult fiction.

We need more African stories. There’s an incredibly rich tradition of storytelling across the continent, which remains largely unrepresented in Western publishing. Tomi Adeyemi’s novel seems to draw mainly on Nigerian culture and mythology for inspiration, but I hope it heralds a great variety of stories from a great many more countries.

Adeyemi’s idea of magic is as a powerful force, given to a certain race of humans by gods and rooted in the natural elements such as fire, water and earth. But some of her magicians also deal in death and healing. They are all specialists in their own elements and, following a brutal rĂ©gime change that destroyed their temples and records, self-taught. So the reader has all the fun of figuring things out at the same time as the main characters.

This adds up to a pretty clear allegory for race, colonisation and the erasure of traditional customs and knowledge. What’s especially interesting and powerful is that Adeyemi does not shy away from the anger that follows. Some of her characters are critical of violence; others want their revenge, and get it. Still others go back and forth, unable to reconcile personal principles with an enormous sense of rage and loss. Adeyemi’s refusal to judge or neutralise her characters is both refreshing and challenging.

Besides the mythology it draws on, this book is a pretty basic YA fantasy novel. All the usual tropes apply. There’s a clumsy girl who looks different from the others and never quite fits in. There are animals with silly names that sound suspiciously like animals in our real world. Everyone’s parents are either dead or incapacitated. The narrator changes every chapter so that we can keep up with the ensemble cast, et cetera et cetera.

These elements might be derivative, but at least they’re well done. I have more of an issue with the clunky dialogue, which swings bizarrely between pseudo-mediaeval and tame Twilight-style swears, and lends itself much too easily to parody. (Dammit! thought the guard, ’twas a twelve month since he had last faceplanted thus in the royal courtyard…)

But these are all problems that could be solved with a decent edit. There are more books coming up in this series and even, reportedly, a movie. I’ll be reading every one.

Buy it here.

Bone Dungeon – Jonathan Smidt (Review)

After an unjust execution, Ryan returns to consciousness as a dungeon core – a sentient lump of rock with the power to shape its immediate surroundings. Paired with Erin, a celestial fairy, Ryan’s goddess-given task is to challenge adventurers, stocking his dungeon with monsters so that questing heroes can gain experience.

There are complications to this though; Ryan has a magical affinity to darkness (necromantic energy), which is not only totally opposed to Erin’s magic/morals, but also a beacon to higher-levelled evil beings who seem him as an ally or a pawn. Living up to Erin’s expectations involves not using the full scope of his power, but living at all means he needs to get stronger, fast.

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The Wedding Party – Jasmine Guillory (Review)

Despite hating each other, Maddie and Theo share a best friend. When she gets engaged and enlists them to the bridal party, Maddie and Theo are suddenly faced with having to see each other far more often.

This is further complicated by the knowledge that the last time they spent time together, it ended in an alcohol-fulled hook up that neither of them has stopped thinking about.

With the sexual tension rising, they agree to a secret enemies-with-benefits set-up that starts to build into something more…

By this point, it’s fairly clear that I’ve really enjoyed all of Guillory’s novels. The Wedding Party, however, is absolutely my favourite. I think it’s actually the first one I read before realising it was third in the series and swiftly reading all the others as well, but it’s also the one that’s stuck with me the most.

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The Proposal – Jasmine Guillory (Review)

When Nik Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her boyfriend, the last thing she expects is for him to suddenly propose to her on the Jumbotron. Not least because he can’t even spell her name right…

Also at the game, Carlos Ibarra and his sister Angela witness her swift refusal, and quickly rescue her from the prying eyes of 45,000 baseball fans and the camera crew that just showed up.

After the video goes viral and Nik’s ex starts harrassing her, Carlos becomes a valued friend, confidant, and extremely fun rebound. Although both Carlos and Nik aren’t looking for anything serious, can either of them ignore that their feelings are getting stronger?

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The Wedding Date – Jasmine Guillory (Review)

Alexa Monroe is on the way to meet her sister when she gets stuck in a hotel lift with a handsome stranger.

Drew Nichols is in town for the wedding of two of his best friends, one of whom just happens to be his ex. Dateless and dreading the party, Drew finds himself stuck in a lift with a beautiful woman who inexplicably agrees to be his fake girlfriend for the weekend.

Now, as I have stated in earlier reviews, I love a good fake relationship romance, and meeting in a lift is another classic rom-com trope. This joyful interpretation of these produces the resulting meet-cute with a great sense of humour, but doesn’t over do it, kicking off one of the best series of contemporary romances I’ve ever read.

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We Just Clicked – Anna Bell (Review)

Izzy Brown is an aspiring Instagram influencer who makes a deal with the devil, a.k.a. her coworker Luke, to fake a relationship to boost their profiles. Their plan works, but the longer it goes on, Izzy starts to wonder whether this fake life is worth it. When she reconnects with Aidan, a mysterious stranger who looked after her the day her brother died, Izzy’s dilemma comes to a head: does she want true love with Aidan or the picture-perfect life and perks of internet fame?

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Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (2020) – Review

Zoey Clarke (Jane Levy), a recently promoted programmer at a San Francisco tech company, is stuck in an MRI machine listening to the technician’s terrible playlist when an earthquake hits, causing something strange to happen to her brain.

From this moment on, Zoey can hear what everyone is thinking – or rather, she starts to witness people’s innermost emotions playing out in huge song and dance numbers that only she can see.

Enlisting her neighbour Mo (Alex Newell), Zoey starts to use these ‘heart songs’ to better understand and communicate with the people around her, while also dealing with the deterioration of her father’s health (portrayed heartbreakingly beautifully by tv’s best dad, Sandy Cohen himself: the incomparable Peter Gallagher), pressure at work, and one of the nicest tv love triangles I have seen in a long time.

Joyful, musical, intelligent, funny, truly heart-breaking, this show is exactly what I needed to cheer me up in my lockdown funk and everyone should be watching it!

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