Book reviews, Uncategorized

Good Omens – Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman (Book thoughts in 300 words and 3 gifs)

Three and a half ‘Nice and Accurate’ stars 🐼🐼🐼🐼

Good Omens is basically a classic of the comedy genre. In the edition I read, the authors even acknowledge it themselves. And now that Amazon Prime Now and BBC 2 have picked up the people’s favourite apocalypse story for a series, the book is once again in the spotlight.

Before I get into the specifics, I want to say I massively enjoyed this book. On other occasions I had tried to read Pratchett’s work and Gaiman’s work but couldn’t find it in myself to enjoy them. Something was missing for me. And somehow, this collaboration filled those missing bits and created a book I could not only finish, but also enjoy immensely along the way. To that, I say ‘Bravo!’

The plot is a quirky retelling of the popular doomsday idea, all mixed with the Antichrist, angels and devils, the Four Horsemen and humans being weird and wonderful. In itself it’s nothing new but the way the characters interact with the whole concept is outstandingly done.

Pacing for me was a bit off, the first half of the book was a bit of a drag and I persevered only because the jokes were good. In that sense, it seemed very much like a normal Pratchett novel. But as the Apocalypse started happening, and the action picked up, it was as if Gaiman took the reins and brought these characters together into what seemed to be a perfect finale. I know that’s not how the writing happened but it sure felt like it.

The characters are the best part of this book. They are diverse, likeable and thought-through. The banter between Crowley and Aziraphale was to die for. (See what I did there?) My favourite character was Anathema Device, not only because she was both funny and inspiringly dedicated, but also because the prophecies of her ancestors were a very innovative way of storytelling which provided both plot progression and world building.

The writing style was impeccable, which is nothing to be unexpected from two brilliant authors. The sentences were beautiful and some of the amazing comparisons seemed to be so creative, I would stop to read them twice and mull over how someone could come up with them.

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Book reviews, Uncategorized

Tarnished City – Vic James (Book thoughts in 300 words and 3 gifs)

Three and a half ‘Skilled’ stars 🐼🐼🐼🐼

‘Tarnished city’ is the second novel of Vic James’s debut series about an alternative United Kingdom which has plenty of magic, political and sociological issues, emotionally and physically tortured people and lots and lots of intrigue.

The world expands before the reader in this book, introducing not only international aspects but also a different dimension – the world made of Skill. Some questions are answered (How is the UK allowed such atrocities, what about phones and social media?) while other are raised continuously to attract the reader’s attention (Where does Skill come from? What is it exactly?)

The plot thickens following events from the first book. The pace is improving. There is more of the characters interacting and less about them casually mentioning the history of things. The story is definitely a lot more compelling and had me turning pages like crazy. Magnificent endings to chapters made me crave just one page more and unexpected plot twists sparing no one’s fate kept me at the edge of my seat. I’m definitely hooked at this point.

The characters are still this novel’s strongest point. Silyen! Gavar! Bouda! I am exclaiming because they have grown so much and have been built so beautifully I would struggle to review this without spoilers. So I will leave it at this – read on, you won’t be disappointed. Multi-faceted characters are my drug of choice.

The romance part of the story blossoms in this book. I find myself frequently gasping as I read the well-written scenes of the characters exploring their never-simple feelings for themselves and each other. I have a few predictions for unexpected couples following events in this book – and this is the best compliment to an author – keep readers interested, keep them guessing, keep them shipping!  

The writing style is still as beautiful. Ms James writes eloquently and command language very well to provide the reader with an easy way to distinguish which character’s POV they are currently observing the story from. Only reason this section did not receive five stars is that the more obscure words are not always suitable to the books YA audience and some teenagers might find it difficult to read.

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Minus half a 🐼 for the cliffhanger ending. I’m biased because I hate them in all media. Sorry not sorry!

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Book reviews, Uncategorized

Gilded Cage – Vic James (Book thoughts in 300 words and 3 gifs)

Three ‘Skilled’ stars 🐼🐼🐼

‘Gilded cage’ is the first novel of Vic James’s debut series about an alternative United Kingdom which has plenty of magic, political and sociological issues, emotionally and physically tortured people and lots and lots of intrigue.

The world is built beautifully, with descriptions scattered around the chapters, allowing the reader to put the jigsaw of what alt-Britain looks like. Obscure references in the beginning, such as the family singing a song in Chinese, threw me off at first but as I kept reading, things started mostly falling into place.

The plot is interesting, and while the pacing is a bit all over the place, it’s promising. I want to know more, despite some paragraphs about history being rather tedious to read.

The characters are this novel’s strongest point. There is good selection of different narrators, presenting plenty of different points of view. As this is the first book out of three, however, some of them fell flat as there was not enough time to develop them. I struggled to find some of them compelling and was not sure why they made it as a POV character – I’m looking at you, Bouda and Jenner – and I hope that will be clearer as the story moves on further.

I have become a definite fan of Silyen, a wonderfully complex character, and can’t wait to know more. There is something inherently sexy about the way he carries himself and I hope Ms James has some romantic development in store for him!  

I also adore little Daisy and her interactions with Gavar. She seems very mature for her age and the scenes with her are fascinating to read. She seems to soften the perpetually sulking and short-fused Jardine heir so is a nice tranquil part of the ensemble.

The writing style is beautiful. Ms James writes eloquently and commands language very well to provide the reader with an easy way to distinguish which character’s POV they are currently observing the story from. Only reason this section did not receive five stars is that the more obscure words are not always suitable to the book’s YA genre audience and some teenagers might find it difficult to read.

The Panda Meter

World 🐼🐼🐼🐼

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Minus half a 🐼 for the cliffhanger ending. I’m biased because I hate them in all media. Sorry not sorry!

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Short fiction, Uncategorized

Orange Trees

The phone slips from my fingers and lands on my face. 2% battery left. I gaze into the darkness. 

While it lasted, it was an all-consuming love. None of that romantic stuff you see in the films, just raw passion. The type that leaves you drained but still longing for more.

It began when I was jogging one day. I used to go every Tuesday for about an hour and then come back and rejoin city life. It was a beautiful spring morning; the air was light with the smell of flowering trees; the sun was still low in the sky but warm.

My headphones were blasting Billie Eilish when I saw him next to what looked like an orange tree. Odd to see among the elms and birches .

He had a broad back and a well defined body. His biceps were bulging under a black t-shirt. Kneeling down, he didn’t immediately see me. I stopped dead in my tracks when our eyes locked. His haunting gaze drew me into his world.

Yet, that didn’t stop me from bolting when he let go of the girl he was strangling and dashed after me.

Of course he was faster. He was taller – one stride of his was two of mine. I did well; I didn’t trip, I didn’t panic. I just knew I had seen something I wasn’t supposed to see.

He finally got hold of my hair and yanked me down. I landed on my back, gasping. He dragged me back to the place I had met him and hauled me next to the girl. She seemed to be out of it but her chest was moving.

I was still trying to catch my breath when he hit my solar plexus with a precise punch. I crawled up in a ball, black spots dancing in front of my eyes, as I watched him kneel and put his hands around the girl’s throat. I closed my eyelids shut, unwilling to see what came next. If I didn’t see I wouldn’t be part of it. I don’t know how it changed from that to him prying my arms from my knees and making himself comfortable on top of me. I felt his weight crushing me – or it could have been just the tight grip he had on my neck.

The world had darkened as I tried to get words out but produced only raspy sounds. My nails dug into the skin of his hands. Through labored breaths, I finally spoke.

“Don’t kill me. I won’t tell.” These two sentences took me a long time but I made sure to look him straight into the eyes. I wanted him to know I was sincere.

And he knew.

After that fateful day, he was like my shadow. I don’t know why he decided it so but I was thankful for the chance to live. He promised that if I even thought about betraying his identity, he would end me. I believed him.

He continued with his killing business. I would hear about it on the news – another missing girl discovered dead in the middle of a field. Strangled and buried. A small orange tree planted on top of her resting place.

I didn’t really understand why he was compelled to do these things but the ritual seemed to fulfil an unknown purpose. As time passed I grew used to him being around me. It was a weird connection we had. I felt no hatred coming off him, just caution. And as strange as it sounds, not long after, I relaxed around him.

One day it was pouring down and I looked outside. He was there, as always, beneath the single street lamp, in full black. I took pity on him – it was cold, and it was dark and wet. To be fair, maybe that’s how he liked it.

Nevertheless, I rushed down the stairs, swung the door open and invited him in. He stared at me and finally stepped in. Water was dripping from his hair, down his neck and into his shirt. My eyes followed the little drop.

I had invited a serial killer into my home.

I looked up. My eyes met an intense gaze staring back at me. My heart started racing. The feeling was intoxicating – danger mixed with a sick attraction. I asked him if he wanted to take a shower to warm up.

I turn my screen on again. Now 1% left. The memories keep me busy but I’m uncomfortable. I can’t really find a good position so I bend my knees slightly and twist them to the left. It is a bit better than just lying on my back.

That rainy night was the first time we slept together. The way he held me was very different from previous lovers. Every time he touched me I felt a dangerous longing in my core. We were inseparable from then. Me and my shadow. A shadow I was rapidly falling in love with.

I wasn’t sure what I loved about him until one night when I was coming back home around midnight, I crossed paths with a gang of thugs. They circled me like hungry wolves surrounding a deer who’d lost its way.

They asked me if I wanted to go party with them. I looked around, hopeful. I was looking for him and he was there, patiently waiting, leaning on a tree. I took a step forward, hoping the gang would just let me pass. Two men blocked my way.

Someone grabbed my arm and yanked me back. Everyone smelled like booze. I hated the smell. I looked at my shadow. When would he drop the laid back attitude? I wanted him to save me.

I shift my legs again, this time to the right. I bend sideways as much as I can to massage away the inevitable cramp. If only he was here. He gives the best massages.

That night he did save me. Eventually. I had kicked and punched around as much as I could and although I had landed some good shots, the thugs were too many. I saw a knife flash so I settled down. Just as they started tearing my clothes, he intervened. I remember the kiss he gave me after he was done with them – it tasted sweet like him and metallic like the blood from my busted lip.

There was a lot of shoveling after. He told me he waited because he wanted to see what I was capable of. Not much, I replied. He said he was impressed with my fighting spirit as he wiped the blood from my face.

I asked him why he wasn’t planting any orange trees. He replied that the thugs weren’t part of the plan, whatever that was. He said it felt different, killing for someone else. I took it as his twisted way of saying ‘I love you’.

Shortly after I suggested he move in with me. It was great to have another person in the house, especially on days I didn’t have much time to cook. He would whip up a lasagna and clean the kitchen, too. Often he would bring flowering orange trees home and their fragrance would fill the air, uplifting our mood. Orange blossoms are a strong aphrodisiac, I found after looking it up online.  

My phone screen lights up and the familiar sound of my alarm cuts through the dark silence. Five hours have passed. I can feel a drop of sweat trickle down my temple and in my ear. Well, anytime soon now, I tell myself as I take a deep breath. Anytime soon…

My boyfriend was my little secret from everyone. It was partly because I wanted it so but also because I knew that telling anyone might provoke him. I really liked him and I really didn’t want him to misunderstand my intentions.

This flame in me kept burning for years, and I knew, in my head, it would burn me alive. I just didn’t know when. It wasn’t when he came back home all covered in blood and we showered together. It wasn’t when I asked him about all the girls and he grabbed me by the neck. It wasn’t even when he dragged me out of town and made me watch him plant an orange tree.

If I had to pinpoint the exact thing that made him flip and put me in this coffin, it would have to be because of that conversation. The conversation about us and our future. Our all-consuming love had led to the creation of a tiny human. It was only a small collection of cells but it changed everything.

It was then that I realised I had become a special existence to him. Following me around day and night, he had grown attached to me. Living together had made me carry the scent of blossoming orange trees. I was his – and he didn’t like the thought of sharing me with anyone else.

I know it was a perverse reaction but his jealousy pulled me closer to him. We made love so passionately that night, it was like that first rainy night years ago.

He told me to get an abortion and I told him it was out of the question. I gave my serial killer an ultimatum – keep me and the baby; or lose us both.

I saw his jaw clench but he didn’t argue any more. We never spoke of it again. Days passed, then weeks. I was starting to relax. Things were back to normal. Two orange trees appeared in our hallway and I marveled at their small leaves. His rituals had become a mundane part of my life. 

That night was just like any other night; we got ready for bed and I nestled into him, my eyelids getting heavy. He kissed me softly and I responded in my dream-like state. He caressed my cheek, my lips, my jaw.

It took me a good few seconds to realise the death grip he had on my neck was no longer gentle.

I lie in the darkness and I listen to the quiet ground. I know a person can survive about five, five and a half hours buried alive in a coffin. I can now hear digging. A rhythmic sound which makes my slowed-down heart skip a beat.