book reviews

ARC Review | The Sightless City by Noah Lemelson

The Sightless City by Noah Lemelson

Adult, Dark Fantasy/Sci-Fi, Dieselpunk

★★★★


My thanks go to Tiny Fox Press for sending me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

It’s peacetime in the city of Huile where Marcel Talwar is working as a private investigator after he sacrificed his leg and his lover in the battle that won them their freedom. Life lacks excitement but it’s relatively peaceful until information comes to light that suggests someone close to him is using him as a pawn in a game that could endanger everything himself and his squad sacrificed so much for.

It’s hard to even decide where to begin with this book that is so epic in scope. When you begin reading this story you are immediately immersed into a fully formed world that has it’s own religions, calendar, species, slang, and even its own scientific rules and beliefs. It’s also incredibly hard to picture this world in your head as a lot of the settings and surroundings are things unfamiliar to us- which really speaks to the imagination and cleverness of the author. The entire time I was reading this story I was thinking how amazing it would be to see an artists rendition of everything described. Because this is such a unique world that you are basically just dropped into with very little introduction it can feel a bit overwhelming trying to familiarize with all the elements of the setting. I admittedly struggled a bit attempting to understand and envision Huile and it’s surroundings.

The tone of The Sightless City is quite dark- living in this world is no picnic. It’s heavy on the political side and war has decimated everything- the result is a community of people and beings struggling to rebuild and acclimate to a life of peace after a long period of hardship. The governing body is made up of men that played various parts in the war, including Lazarus Roache, the oil tycoon who runs the sangleum refineries that produce the product that everything in their world runs on. Unfortunately this chemical causes many severe side effects including mutations and is quite dangerous. Marcel receives information that leads him to believe everything is not what it seems in that department and from there the reader is led into a deep, dark abyss. 

There is lot going on in this book and religion plays a large part of it. There are warring beliefs that are prominent in the storyline but neither of them are explained in great detail. I only ever had a very loose grasp on the specifics but I think it is, in part, meant to be that way. Based on how the book ended I believe we will gain a greater understanding of the religion and the god one side worships in the next book; the revelation of said details playing a substantial part in the plot. 

I realize that the elements of this story that I’ve shared are quite vague but these details are in and of themselves important to the plot and saying too much about any portion of this book veers too close to spoiler territory. I read this without reading the synopsis because the advanced copy does not offer one and in doing so everything that happened was a surprise to me; I think it was a good choice to learn everything organically. This book is also hard to categorize- it has elements of dark fantasy, sci-fi, dieselpunk, steampunk, post-apocalyptic dystopian, with a dash of noir style mystery. The Sightless City is genuinely a book in a category all its own.

This story starts out somewhat slow and can seem quite dense at times but it’s also extremely well-written; Lemelson knows how to expertly build up to huge reveals while keeping the reader anxiously at the edge of their seat. If you like very intricate fantasy worlds with heavy political and religious leanings this book was written just for you. There is not one iota of romance or fluff of any kind anywhere to be found here- this is a very dark and gritty world that is totally worth the read. I’m very eager to see where book two will take us!

Please enjoy an interview with the author, Noah Lemelson, here.


About the Author

Noah Lemelson is a short story writer and novelist who lives in LA with his wife and cat. Lover of Science Fiction, Fantasy, New Weird, and Punk. He received his BA in Biology from the University of Chicago in 2014 and received his MFA in Creative Writing from the California Institute of the Arts in 2020. He has several short stories published in both print and online magazines, such as Allegory, Space Squid and the Outsider’s Within Horror Anthology.

Follow Noah Lemelson on Social Media:

Facebook: @Noah Lemelson | Instagram: @EruditeGoblin

Blog Posts

Author Interview | Noah Lemelson

Noah Lemelson’s Science Fiction/Fantasy novel, The Sightless City, was released on 7/20/21 with Tiny Fox Press. I had the pleasure of reading an early copy of this fantastic novel and, additionally, I am pleased to share with you all an interview with the author.


  1. How can fiction alter one’s own self narrative?

I think fiction allows us to look at the world through someone else’s eyes, and that’s a skill that can be turned inward. Different perspectives let us realize that the way we think about anything, including ourselves, is just one possibility, not the be-all-end-all truth. We all live in our own stories, partially written by us, partially written by others, while we can’t always control the way we fit into other peoples’ narratives, I think we do have some control on how we tell our own story. Fiction lets us practice that skill.

  1. How did you decide to set your story in a steampunk fantasy world against the tumultuous backdrop of a partial apocalypse?

For whatever reason, I find industrial decay to be utterly fascinating, and even beautiful in its own way. I think that’s one reason why places like Chernobyl are so fascinating, places marked by civilization but no longer controlled by it. Traditional fantasy loves its ruined temples and forgotten cities, I think it’s interesting to take those same tropes and bump them up a couple centuries.

  1. Could you explain your “realistic” approach to writing magical characters?

Though the term magic is never used in the book (besides once in a derisive aside), several characters have abilities or powers that are… basically magic with a fancy name. It’s a fun fantasy to imagine problems that magic could solve, but I think it’s often more interesting to look at what magic can’t solve. Self-doubt, moral quandaries, societal inequalities, relationship difficulties, magic has its limit. Its like anything else, skills or powers in one part of life don’t necessarily translate to others, and I think many of the most interesting stories about magic characters, be they literal wizards, super-heroes, or realty-defying inventors, is to look at where their magic is no longer enough.

  1. What exactly is the Calamity, and how did that event influence the ongoing wars and discrimination throughout the book?

The details of the Calamity aren’t discussed much in the book, but in short it was a massive disaster caused by the misuse of ætheric weaponry that turned a big chunk of the continent into desolate Wastes. It’s one of those events that is so big that it paradoxically just kind of blends into the background. For most people it’s just a fact of history, an explanation for a reality that is their mundanity. Yet, like most facts of history, it can be trotted out to win political debate, or to excuse terrible acts. The Calamity is always someone else’s fault, an everlasting causa belli, a parable to support whatever argument is currently being made.

  1. What inspired you to create this world?

Honestly I always loved the expanded universes for other novels, games, movies, and a not small part of my motivation came from a desire to have a world of my own, where my imagination wasn’t bound by what other people already wrote. As for why it became what it became, that’s a harder question to answer. I’ll say this, it started with the Wastes, and worked its way out.

Find my review of The Sightless City by Noah Lemelson here.


About the Author

Noah Lemelson is a short story writer and novelist who lives in LA with his wife and cat. Lover of Science Fiction, Fantasy, New Weird, and Punk. He received his BA in Biology from the University of Chicago in 2014 and received his MFA in Creative Writing from the California Institute of the Arts in 2020. He has had several of his short stories published in both print and online magazines, such as Allegory, Space Squid and the Outsider’s Within Horror Anthology.

Follow Noah Lemelson on social media:

Facebook: @Noah Lemelson | Instagram: @EruditeGoblin

Blog Posts

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag | 2021

Hello! I CANNOT believe it’s already time for this tag; half the year is over and with it half the amount of time you have to reach your reading goals for 2021. I’m doing pretty well this year. I’ve been bouncing between 2-7 books behind schedule. So nothing that isn’t easily remedied by the end of the year.

As of right now I’ve read 73 books but when I sat down and made some graphs to share and decided on my answers I had only read 65 so all my stats and book choices will be based on those 65 books. Let’s start off with some general book stats!

Graphs are fun, are they not?? Its always so interesting seeing these results. Also, shocking. Like the fact that I read more contemporary/romance than I did fantasy or sci-fi?? Who even am I? Although, there is actually an explanation for this. Audiobooks. I love them. But over the last couple of years I have discovered that I have a hard time enjoying fantasy in that format so I stopped trying. I’ve turned to bingeing long romance series instead- mostly during my commutes and housework. Well, they add up! Not only that but if you combine fantasy and sci-fi together which I often do it brings that section up to 26 books. Back to an even (almost) playing field! I had a feeling I would be leaning more into the adult classification this year. I still love both YA and middle grade and don’t plan on giving up on either of those but I’ve definitely found that YA hasn’t been grabbing my interest as of late. Although I do still have a bunch of YA books on my TBR that I can’t wait to read. As for the publication graph- I have been trying to read more indie whether that be an indie author or indie publisher. Partially because I’ve collected so many and I really need to prioritize them and also because I love finding those hidden gems. I could still do better in this department but I can say for absolute fact that this ratio is an improvement on last year. Lastly, I have to say I’ve been a little more stingy with five star ratings this year. I’m not a critical reader by any means but I have been making an effort to save those top tier ratings for the best of the best.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s move on to the tag questions:


Best book so far this year.

The Silver Cage is so good I’ve already read it twice this year. Both times in one night. It’s not a happy book. Actually, it’s downright heartbreaking, but any book that can emotionally touch you like this book did me deserves the top spot. So far no other book has touched it.


Worst book so far this year.

I wasn’t originally going to choose this book for my answer to this one. But then I realized the book I was going to choose will actually answer the “most disappointing” question coming up so this was it’s runner up. I’m sure this is an unpopular opinion but I didn’t like Severance. It was meandering and pointless. I know this story was a metaphor for some profound message blah, blah, blah. I don’t care.


Best sequel you’ve read so far.

This is such a tough one- I’ve read some excellent sequels so far! I’m going with Heartstopper Vol. 4 but there are a few honorable mentions: The Silver Cord by Anonymous, Meat Cute by Gail Carriger, & Beautiful by Christina Lauren. Also, Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare is both a sequel and a series starter which is why I didn’t choose it but it absolutely fits for this question as well.


New release you haven’t read yet but want to.

I’m going with a lesser known title for this one- there are many more popular titles that would also work for this question (The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab for instance) but I feel like those books get talked about enough in the book community. I love anything to do with the Titanic, Acrobats (or circus themes in general) the time period and asian culture. So Luck of the Titanic should be a win for me.


Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.

Easiest question ever: Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff. Hands down my most anticipated release of the whole damn decade (ok, not really)- I’m literally counting down the days! An honorable mention would be My Favorite Thing is Monsters Vol. 2 by Emil Ferris (I’m hoping beyond hope for this to release this year).


Biggest Disappointment.

The award for biggest disappointment goes to This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone. This book was hyped to the freakin’ rafters. I’ll never understand why. Pretty prose isn’t enough to make this a great book. The story should also make sense and be set in a world that you can actually envision in your head. That would be a big nope for this one. Runner up for most disappointing would go to On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. While I didn’t hate this one I was expecting to LOVE it and I didn’t. It was good- but that’s it.


Biggest Surprise.

Another easy answer- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I realize this book got a lot of hype in its day but that doesn’t matter. I’m not a huge lover of contemporary so I thought I’d enjoy this well enough, check it off my list, and move on. Yeah…no. I loved this book. Levi carved out a little inconspicuous hole in my heart and will stay there forever. Who knew? Certainly not me.


Favorite new author (debut or new-to-you).

I’ve only read one book by Layne Fargo so far but she left an impact. I loved They Never Learn and immediately purchased her debut, Temper. a couple other new favorites are Andy Weir (The Martian) and Heather O’Neill (The Lonely Hearts Hotel).


Newest favorite character.

I’m going with Mark Watney- he’s an excellent character and I still remember him in detail like I just read The Martian yesterday- but if I could cheat and choose a book from after the 65 book cut off I would absolutely, without a doubt, choose A.Z. Kimrean (specifically Adrian- the A half of A.Z.) from This Body’s Not Big Enough for Both of Us by Edgar Cantero (another new favorite author that I discovered in 2019 with Meddling Kids).


Book that made you cry.

The Silver Cord is the Prequel to The Silver Cage. This book didn’t break my heart like the first book but it did make me cry. Not like The Silver Cage, though, in which I cried all the way to work the morning after reading it.


Book that made you happy.

Meat Cute will make any fan of the Parasolverse smile. Gail Carriger has a knack for writing silly stories that you find yourself invested in 100%. This short and sweet story finally explains the infamous Hedgehog Incident.


Most beautiful book you’ve received this year.

I’ve added some really beautiful books to my collection this year but some are real standouts. Like the first two books in the Lore & Lust series by Karla Nikole- and they’re even more beautiful in person. Some other stunning editions I’ve received this year are the Illumicrate editions of Spinning Silver and Uprooted by Naomi Novik and the LitJoy Crate editions of Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. I’m also expecting the Bookish Box editions of the Blood and Ash series which I’ve seen photos of but haven’t actually gotten yet.


What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

This is a very long list- even if I exclude all the ARCs I need to read, sequels, and rereads. But if I had to pick just a few I’d go with Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, Dark Waters by Katherine Arden, and The Last by Hanna Jameson. Again, there are several super hyped and recently released novels that I could have added but I chose to forgo those since they are always talked about. While these are still popular they aren’t being talked about every time I turn around and they are either highly anticipated (Dark Waters) or have been on my TBR forever (all the rest, haha).


And thats a wrap- if you’ve read anything great (or terrible) be sure to let me know in the comments! Talk to you soon 🖤


Blog Posts

Birthday Book Tag | 2021

I’m a bit late doing this tag since my birthday was June 11th but that whole week was quite busy (I’ll be sharing a bit about that in my next blog post!) and I didn’t get a chance to sit down and do this. I first saw this tag on Kristin Kraves Books blog and I recommend you go check out her awesome content! Anyway- here goes nothing!


Birthday Cake: A book with a plot that seems cliché but you adored it anyway.

This was definitely the hardest question to come up with an answer for since I have a hard time thinking of a book I loved as cliché… but I think its universally acknowledged that most (not all) contemporary romances follow a certain formula and while the formula is the same the details surrounding it are not. That being said- I adored the Beautiful series by Christina Lauren. Beautiful Bastard was great but I’m letting it represent the entirety of the series for my answer. Cheating? Maybe a bit- but its my birthday after all. I’d also like to add that if you’re looking for a binge-worthy romance series to listen to on audio this is an excellent selection. There are several books and novellas to get through plus a companion series with some overlapping characters (Wild Seasons).

Party Guests: You’re most anticipated book release this year.

While the first question was the hardest to answer, this was the easiest. Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff is my most anticipated release of the last two years. It was originally slated for a Fall 2020 release but got pushed back a year. We are finally three months away from this book hitting shelves and I am ecstatic. Pictured above are all the copies I have preordered so far. I know this seems excessive and crazy but I feel zero shame. I arrived late to the party with Nevernight and I wasn’t about to make that mistake again! From top to bottom and left to right these are the editions in the photo: Obsidian Mooncrate exclusive edition, Waterstones exclusive edition, Goldsboro exclusive edition, General U.S. edition, General U.K. edition, and the Barnes & Noble exclusive edition. I will link any editions listed that aren’t currently sold out. As an aside- this isn’t me flexing or anything like that. It’s just me celebrating a book I am so damn thrilled about.. and it wasn’t all roses and rainbows. The Waterstones edition sold out 3 times before I was able to snag one- the site kept crashing (a repeating theme here), and I wasn’t even able to get a Goldsboro edition the traditional way. I set my alarm, got up two hours early just to be awake and prepared, I memorized my credit card info and copied the number from another source just to make things quicker, I had three devices open and ready (my MacBook, my phone, and my mother’s iPad). Of course, as predicted by myself and many others, the Goldsboro site crashed. In fact it crashed ten minutes before the preorder even dropped. I then spent several hours refreshing and refreshing the page just to have it crash again and again until finally Goldsboro posted to social media that they were sold out. So that was a big bummer, especially after being as prepared as I was. BUT I was extremely lucky that my mother, knowing how important this edition was to me, went on Ebay and paid an extravagant price for one being sold by a GSFF member that had early access to the book. She did this because it was my birthday and also because I beat cancer last year. I appreciate her so much for many reasons, but especially for securing this book for me when I thought all was lost. I would also like to add an honorable mention: My Favorite Thing is Monsters Vol. 2 by Emil Ferris. I’ve been waiting on this graphic novel for the last year and it looks like it may finally release this fall!

Birthday Presents: A book that surprised you with how much you loved it.

The Thorn Birds is a book my mother insisted I read. It was originally published in 1979 and it’s a brick of a book. It was a slow moving but profound story and I am so glad that I finally made time to read it. An easy five stars. Another book I’d like to mention for this one is Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I purchased a copy of Fangirl when I was still trying to decide what I really liked in contemporary books and it ended up sitting on my shelves for an age. Finally, I decided I’d either read it or un-haul it and decided to at least give this hyped book a shot. I could not believe how much I enjoyed it. It’s so far removed from what I’d usually pick up but I’m very happy that I did.

The Happy Birthday Song: A book that certainly deserves all the hype it got.

When this question came up a few books immediately came to mind- Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Heartstopper by Alice Oseman, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid- but I feel like I’ve talked about all those titles at least a few times on social media. The Martian is a book that I read in the last month and haven’t had much of an opportunity to talk much about. I loved this book so much. I expected to like it since it was so popular in the book world but I had no idea that I would devour it. I immediately watched the movie after finishing it and while I did enjoy it, it couldn’t hold a candle to the book. I did love seeing all the elements of the story brought to life since a lot of the things described were hard to imagine, but the movie just couldn’t beat being directly in the mind of Mark Watney. I have since purchased both Artemis and Project Hail Mary and hope to get to them soon.

Happy Music: A book with some very beautiful and truly memorable quotes.

There are so many books that could fit for this one but Lady Midnight is one I read very recently and found myself reading and rereading passages just because they were so beautiful. Here is one of the quotes that stuck with me long after the story ended:

These pictures are my heart. And if my heart was a canvas, every square inch of it would be painted over with you.”

Julian Blackthorn

Getting Older: A book that you read a long time ago but you think you would appreciate more if you read it as a more mature reader.

There’s no thinking about it- I KNOW I’d appreciate this more now than I did when I was 11. I read this when I was WAY too young and all that has stuck with me is the bleak atmosphere and the sheer terror I felt while reading. I bought a copy of this a couple of years ago and plan to reread it soon- possibly this fall.

Sweet Birthday Memories: A book that kept you incredibly happy during a sad or demanding time in your life.

I mentioned briefly above that I had and beat cancer in 2020 (at the right bold age of 35). Predictably it was one of the darkest times of my life and there was very little joy happening. That being said, there is very little in this world that could extinguish the happy glow emanating from this graphic novel and its other three installments. If you can read this without smiling then you must be dead. Another book I read with a smile on my face nearly the entire time was A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood. This Great Gatsby inspired novel was simply stunning and I loved everything about it!


Well, that concludes the Birthday Book Tag- I had a lot of fun answering the questions and sharing some tidbits of my life with you all. Looking back I think it’s awesome how many different genres were featured here. There is some adult romance, sci-fi, horror, YA contemporary, a graphic novel, both adult and YA fantasy, and even some historical fiction. I’m so glad that I read so broadly because each genre and age category has something wonderful to offer and I want to experience it all! If you’re reading this consider yourself tagged! And if you do it please let me know- I’d love to see your answers as well! Stay tuned for a Birthday Book Haul post coming soon. I don’t normally share book hauls but I had a great time book shopping/ordering and I’m excited to share all the titles with you! See you soon.

Blog Posts

Announcing a New Blog Series | Author Spotlight

I’m excited to announce a new project in which I spotlight different authors, read their entire backlist of books, and then report back here. I’ll do a mini review of each book and share my feelings on that authors work as a whole. I think it’ll be both fun and an excellent resource for someone looking to see if an author is for them or not and to also be able to find that information all in one place. Each author I’ve considered for this series ended up on my list for different reasons. Some I’ve loved and want to see if the elements that made me love them is reflected in all their books- if so my favorite authors list will grow and that’s always amazing. Some I’ve read a single book and didn’t care for it yet I seem to be of the unpopular opinion and I want to read their other books to see if my mind can be changed. Others I for some reason have been collecting or drawn to their books even though I’ve never actually read one and now own nearly their whole bibliography and want to enter them into this little experiment to see if my instincts were right. And I’m hoping that you, my readers, will come along on this journey with me! A few authors I plan to spotlight include:

  • Mary H.K. Choi
  • Layne Fargo
  • Katie Henry
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Rebecca Roanhorse
  • David Arnold

This is definitely not a complete list or the order I will be doing this series in- the author I start with may not even be on this list but I’m definitely going to include them at some point throughout the time I’m writing this series. I hope this is something that sounds like a fun idea to you- I am simply looking forward to sharing more opinion-type posts here on my blog. I love doing book reviews and blog tours- I started this blog with that in mind- but I would like to branch out and test the waters, so to speak. I’ve been bouncing some other series ideas around in my brain for a while, too, and I’d like to share some of those here and get some feedback if possible. Here is a small list of other concepts I’ve been considering:

  • I Read 3 | (enter what thing I’ve read 3 of here)
  • Reading ‘Best Of’ lists from various places and seeing if they’re actually the ‘best’
  • Reading books blurbed by my favorite authors

These are just a few of the ideas I’ve had that I thought could be fun, most of them inspired by other people in the book community who I would definitely credit if and when these series ever came to fruition. Please let me know if you think anything I’ve spoken about here today is something you’d read and whether you think others would too! Thanks so much for stopping by today and I’ll be back soon (allegedly) with more content- yay!

book reviews

Book Review | Almost Mortal by Christopher Leibig

Almost Mortal by Christopher Leibig

► Adult, Legal Thriller, Fantasy

► Release Date: 5/1/16

► ★★★★


➸ I was gifted a copy of this book by the author in return for an honest review.

Sam Young, an up-and-coming defense attorney with psychic abilities, finds himself caught up in the investigation of a serial killer when a young nun named Camille Paradisi approaches him outside the courthouse one evening. Camille also shares journal entries that have been showing up piecemeal at the church that she believes could have been penned by the killer. The journal begins in the 1940’s, Argentina, and tells the life story of a person who claims to have mind control and to be the descendant of fallen angels cast out of heaven by God. Identifying the killer could put the pastor at the church at risk if they can’t find the murderer before he kills again. 

When I was asked to read and review this book I was bit on the fence about it. Legal thrillers are not normally my jam but with the supernatural addition I thought it might be something I’d enjoy. To my welcome surprise I really, really liked this book. Our main character Sam is likable, funny, smart, and enterprising. As we follow Sam through the day to day of being a lawyer we are introduced to a multitude of diverse and interesting characters. At the time I thought that while interesting, meeting all these people seemed to be just filler and not actually necessary to the story. But I was quite wrong on that front. You don’t know it at the time but all the relationships Sam is cultivating with his clients become quite relevant later on in the book. I was actually impressed with the way the author brought the story full circle with details I didn’t even realize were important at the time. One of the major strengths of this novel is definitely the characters and being a character-driven reader this really appealed to me. 

A couple other aspects I really liked about this story was the writing style and expertise. The author, Christopher Leibig, is a criminal defense lawyer with a postgraduate degree in forensics and it really shows. He was able to make this story more realistic and interesting with his intimate knowledge on the subject. He also wrote in a way that didn’t bore the reader to tears with all the forensic jargon. I quite liked the time spent in court and talking about evidence; two things I never really thought were capable of entertaining me on any real level. On another note, I find that most books I really like usually have some humor in them so it’ll be no surprise that I found our main character to be pretty funny in a dry way. I found myself smiling a lot during the dialogue bits. 

So, what took off a star? In the beginning of the book when we are first being introduced to characters, I found that the authors way of describing women and overweight people to be insensitive and unattractive. When the nun, Camille, came into the picture the descriptions used to describe her were a bit too sexual for my taste especially given her life choice. He also emphasized her attractive and youthful appearance as if only old and unattractive women could be a nun. A short time later we meet an overweight woman who was described using words like “huge” and “colossal”. The main character did treat the women with empathy and caring but the insensitive way of describing them didn’t sit well with me and this may turn off some readers, especially those who consider themselves to be overweight. Looking back I really don’t think the author meant anything derogatory by the way these characters were written and hopefully his future books will be written with more sensitivity in that department. 

That is really the only criticism I have for this book. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this and will be picking up the sequel, Almost Damned, very soon. I’m very curious to see where this story will go next. I recommend this to both legal thriller and fantasy fans. And if you’re like me who normally wouldn’t read something like this but are intrigued? Give it a go! You won’t be disappointed.

Blog Tours, book reviews

Blog Tour | The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman by Julietta Henderson


➳ I was gifted an early copy of this book by Mira and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

When reading a synopsis of a book each of us have buzz words or themes that jump out and indicate this will probably be a book you really enjoy. This book had a few of those for me, some I didn’t discover until I started reading, so let me share those with you here:

➳ adventure/road trip
➳ old man/grandfatherly character
➳ found family
➳ character-driven 
➳ humor

With a list like this there should be no doubt whatsoever as to why I loved this story. Norman is a lovely little boy with severe psoriasis who didn’t have many friends and definitely never had a best friend. That is until Jax came along. Jax managed to alienate every child in his class with his over-the-top behavior and potty mouth. So when he met Norman he knew he was likely his last chance at making a best friend and luckily Norman thought Jax was the best thing to happen to his class. 

They were “The Bloody Rolls-bloody-Royce of bloody best friends,” as Jax so eloquently put it.

Jax and Norman were 12 years old and had been fast friends for six years until a terrible tragedy struck and Jax died, leaving Norman with a gaping hole in his world that he didn’t know how to fill. Out of desperation to lift Norman’s spirits his mother, Sadie, blurts out that she would take Norman to the Fringe, a comedy festival that Norman and Jax had always dreamed of performing at. And even though they weren’t planning to go for 3 more years Norman jumps on the opportunity to honor is friend by living their dream; even if Norman was the not-funny one. 

Sadie, at a loss as to how she can possibly get her son a spot at the Fringe and also help him find his father, the second thing on his newly minted five-year plan list, she vents to her elderly friend, Leonard, about it who then decides he’s going to help Sadie and Norman make this dream come true one way or another. Sadie is worried that her son doesn’t have what it takes to get on the stage so Leonard arranges for Norman to perform at several open mic nights in various cities on their way to Edinburgh. But it turns out that Norman, Leonard, and Sadie learn a lot more than how to perfect a comedy show on this adventure full of hijinks, laughter, tears, and facing your fears.

“Hold on to your hat, Norman, old man! You’re going to the Fringe, Baby!”

As I listed above some of my favorite things in books are old men and adventures and character-driven stories and this book hits the nail on all three heads and doesn’t miss. Leonard is the perfect grandfatherly character with his wise advice, steady demeanor, and determination. Not to mention that he’s just adorable- especially how he worships his lovely wife, Iris. He is exactly the type of friend Sadie needs in her life and on this trip. While Sadie loves her son more than life itself she is also a realistic and relatable mother. She isn’t perfect, stiff, and coiffed. She has flaws, makes mistakes, and tends to be a bit unorganized. She’s a person that all mothers can see themselves in even if they don’t want to admit it. And while we’re on the subject of realistic characters, Norman fits the bill perfectly. So many books and movies for adults present us with a carbon copy child that rarely acts like the way a real child would but that isn’t the case with Norman at all. He’s so well-written he practically stands up off the page. Characters are definitely one of Julietta Henderson’s many strengths. She really seems to understand the human condition. Along the way we meet many other characters, both fun and some not so much, but Leonard, Sadie, and Norman are the stars of the show.

This story had me smiling so big nearly the whole time and when I wasn’t smiling it’s because I was outright laughing… and sometimes crying. Another thing this author does exceptionally well is balancing tragedy with humor. Our characters are each dealing with their own set of hardships, some of them together and others alone, but they always manage to have a good time and laugh through the tears. Jax may have passed but he’s just as present in this story as if he was still right there beside this family. Both Sadie and Norman really loved Jax and deal with their grief in their own ways but one thing they have in common is thinking fondly on his crazy hijinks and using his outrageous advice and ideas to keep them going. I just love Jax and how full of life he was… so full of life that even after he was gone he still blinded both the characters and readers with his presence. 

Among everything else done well in this book I also thought the pacing was perfect. Just enough action to keep the momentum going until it rolls to a graceful stop at the end. This is a story of friendship, love, hope, and self discovery among a million other things. It may not have you on the edge of your seat and it may not be a literary masterpiece, But what it is is better than all that. It’s facing your fears and coming out the other side stronger. It’s accepting who you are and learning to love that person. It’s finding a place where you can think about the people you’ve loved and lost and smile instead of cry. It’s a story about a boy and his best friend and the people that love them.

I also want to mention that I was able to listen to a large portion of this on audio and I highly recommend it. The narrator does the three main characters voices beautifully and with aplomb. The nuances she added while reading, especially the funny parts, really elevated the reading experience. This story is great no matter how you consume it but if you like audiobooks you should add this one to your list!

Content Warnings: suicide (off page), death of a friend, death of a parent, bullying, grief, illness. 


About the Author

I was brought up in a book-loving family in the rainforests of North Queensland and I’ve been writing professionally for more than 25 years.

My work has appeared in books and publications in the US, UK and Australia. The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman is my first novel.

I divide my life between my home town of Melbourne, the UK and wherever else I can find winter!

Blog Tours, book reviews

Blog Tour | Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop | Books-a-Million | Libro.fm | Audible | Kobo | Goodreads

Thank you to Netgalley and Mira for an ARC of this title. All opinions are my own.

Her Dark Lies takes place on the beautiful Isle Isola, Italy, where the Compton family owns an extensive villa. This is also where Claire will marry the love of her life, Jack Compton, and take her place in the very wealthy and prestigious family. Claire isn’t the first woman to wed the handsome Jack but the details surrounding the death of his first wife ten years earlier are a taboo subject with the Comptons-until they reach the island and suspicious things begin happening, leaving them no choice but to share the truth with Claire. What they don’t know is that Claire has some secrets of her own. 

“How romantic, how very gothic and creepy, and how very Compton to choose an island surrounded by sea monsters and exhausted birds to call their own.”

This is the first thriller to truly entertain and stump me in a long time. There are so many different aspects that I really liked about this book. First being the isolated island setting during severe storms that made leaving the island impossible. Not to mention that the hulking villa perched on the cliffs practically served as its own character with all its twists, turns, and surprises. There are a wealth of characters from the bride and groom and their families to the security and staff and they’re all fair game in this sordid tale of cat and mouse. 

“I have taken so many lives. The first time was the hardest. It gets easier after that.”

I knew who the antagonist was pretty early on but it’s not really meant to be a secret. What the reader is trying to discover is the HOW rather than the who and the fact that you never know who you can trust just adds another layer of suspense to the book. The chapters alternate between a few points of view, one being from the antagonist themselves who isn’t explicitly named but the information you’re given makes it clear that this person is in the villa and watching everything that’s going on and you are left trying to figure out how they are able to maneuver and know so many details without being seen. It’s a very clever storytelling device. 

“Our silences grew from two bent trees into a forest that provided shelter and safety.”

Some suspension of belief is necessary to make the ending and some other outcomes believable- but it was easy enough for me to do so. I was really hoping for a big AHA! moment but it never came resulting in the loss of a star. I felt that so much more could have been done to make the ending more twisty and shocking. As a whole I really enjoyed trying to guess what was happening and discovering the stories behind some of the juicier bits as they were slowly revealed. There was also a grandfather and two dogs in this book and those are two things I always enjoy in my stories. 

I recommend this book to anyone who likes a darker, more gothic mystery thriller with a large cast of characters, multiple points of view, and isolated settings. 

trigger warnings: Drug use (off page), domestic abuse, talk of suicide, loss of a loved one, grief.

All quotes used in this review were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change.


About the Author

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 25 novels, and the EMMY® award winning co-host of the literary TV show A WORD ON WORDS. With millions of books in print, her work has won critical acclaim, prestigious awards, and has been published in 28 countries. Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens. Visit JT at FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for more insight into her wicked imagination.

book reviews

Book Review | You Have a Match by Emma Lord

You Have a Match by Emma Lord

☾ Young Adult, Contemporary

☾ Release Date: 1/12/21

☾ My Rating: ★★★★★


Thank you to Wednesday Books and Netgalley for an early copy of this book. The following opinions are my own. 

I was on the blog tour for Emma Lord’s debut Tweet Cute last year. I really liked Emma’s writing style and decided to request an early copy of her sophomore novel as well. And…WOW. You Have a Match was excellent. Emma put on display her total mastery of the art of storytelling in this book. I liked her debut but it can’t hold a candle to her second novel in my opinion. 

You Have a Match opens with Abby Day and her best friends, Leo and Connie, submitting a DNA test for an anthropology paper they’re working on. When the results come back revealing that Abby has a full-blooded older sister she is in complete shock. And when she realizes her older sister is the instagram Influencer Savannah Tully and that she lives only 30 minutes away she can’t turn her back on the opportunity to meet her and to possibly uncover the truth of the why behind her secret sister’s existence. 

It’s so hard to decide where to start with a book that encompasses SO MUCH. You’ve got wholesome and 100% fleshed-out characters, you’ve got a lovely doggy sidekick, a wonderful and warm grandpa (in memory), friend groups you’ll downright envy, organic character growth, love interests with ALL THE CHEMISTRY, a summer camp setting with huge skies and bonfires and nature that will bury you in nostalgia, and the family-owned coffee shop lending its smells and cozy atmosphere to the story. There is photography and foodie wars and so much more. I wanted to LIVE in this story. After the third time I lost count how many times the tears ran down my face- these characters just touch your heart so deeply. 

Where Twitter was the foundation of Tweet Cute its Instagram in You Have a Match. Savvy’s adoptive parents are quirky and rich and absolutely obsessed with health and wellness. In an attempt to make something that can be all-consuming into something fun Savvy and her best friend Mickey started an Instagram account highlighting all the ways to incorporate healthy living into your life while also making it enjoyable. She’s also very open with her sexuality on her account, not shying away from the fact that she likes girls. Throughout the book we see how something that starts out as fun can become all-consuming and mean that you’re missing out on important experiences happening all around you and how it can be hard to juggle being an influencer and also being just human.

Instagram also plays a part in Abby’s life; not only does she take staged photos of Leo’s amazing food creations for his account, but Leo himself created an instagram for Abby’s photography and takes it upon himself to share her best photos there. Abby is too shy to share her work so Leo does this in an attempt to show her how wonderful her photos truly are. Abby is also too shy to tell Leo how she really feels about him, especially after an embarrassing incident happens and changes their friend group dynamic. Connie also plays a part in the miscommunication that’s running rampant between the friends. 

“I breathe in the sticky warmth of the air, the pine and the electricity and the ache of something deeper than I can name, knowing that no view I can capture will ever compare to this feeling-seeing it through my eyes while seeing it through his, letting us both bleed into a world where those two thing can be the same.”

Savvy and Abby’s worlds collide when they go to the same summer camp with the goal being to uncover as much as possible of their shared past. But when Abby discovers that Leo and Savvy already know each other from this camp it truly becomes a merging of all their lives and the drama unfolds from there. 

Emma Lord does a fantastic job with this storyline, incorporating both current times and nods to the 1990’s/2ooo’s that’ll ensure that every reader no matter the age will find this book inclusive and fun. She is also the queen of metaphors; some made me literally laugh out loud.

“Savvy ducks her head down so Mickey can untangle the tag from her wet ponytail, but the two of them are cracking up so hard at how ridiculous Savvy looks with her head upside down and her arms extended out like she’s about to burst into the world’s most aggressive jazz hands that they aren’t making much progress.”

This probably isn’t as funny without the context behind it and I could share a million more like it but each reader should experience the wonder of Emma’s writing themselves. All of the characters are significantly different from one another- some are goofy, some are witty, some are shy- but the one thing they all have in common is how lovable they are. You’ll find yourself rooting for them while also wishing you could give them all a hug. Go ahead and get yourselves a box of tissues when you settle down with this book because there is no way you won’t tear up a time or two as you watch these characters bear their hearts to one another and help each other heal. It’s just so damn good. 

“…I hear Poppy’s voice in my head-If you learn to capture a feeling, it’ll always be louder than words. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel one louder than this.”

After reading both of Emma’s books she is definitely on my auto-buy list and that’s really saying something coming from me as I don’t normally love YA contemporary and rarely buy from this genre. But there is no denying that this is an author to watch and I can’t imagine anyone giving this book less than five stars. 

Quotes shared in this review were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication. 

Blog Posts, Blog Tours

Blog Tour | Pretending by Holly Bourne

Book Depository | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

“I hate men” seems to be a well-worn phrase used by many heterosexual women. The work it takes when looking for a romantic partner, from dating to dolling yourself up, just to be let down yet again in the end, becomes a tiring exercise that eventually convinces a lot of women that there are no good men left. Add a previous sexual assault to the mix and the idea of finding a good man becomes even harder to believe.

Holly Bourne’s Pretending follows April, a sexual assault victim and charity worker, who’s been desperately searching for the man of her dreams but finds that all the men she meets are completely predictable, eventually scattering her hopes and breaking her heart. Until she decides she’s done being the vulnerable, nice girl and brings “Gretel”, her alter-ego, to life.


Please enjoy an excerpt from Pretending by Holly Bourne:

I hate men.

There, I’ve said it. I know you’re not supposed to say it. We all pretend we don’t hate them; we all tell ourselves we don’t hate them. But I’m calling it. I’m standing here on this soapbox, and I’m saying it.

I. Hate. Men.

I mean, think about it. They’re just awful. I hate how selfish they are. How they take up so much space, assuming it’s always theirs to take. How they spread out their legs on public transport, like their balls need regular airing to stop them developing damp. I hate how they basically scent mark anywhere they enter to make it work for them. Putting on the music they want to listen to the moment they arrive at any house party, and always taking the nicest chair. How they touch your stuff instead of just looking; even tweak the furniture arrangement to make it most comfortable for them. All without asking first—never asking first.

I hate how they think their interests are more important than yours—even though twice a week all most of them do is watch a bunch of strangers kick a circle around a piece of lawn and sulk if the circle doesn’t go in the right place. And how bored they look if you ever try to introduce them to a film, a band, or even a freaking YouTube clip, before you’ve even pressed Play.

I hate their endless arrogance. I hate how they interrupt you and then apologize for it but carry on talking anyway. How they ask you a question but then check your answer afterward. I hate how they can never do one piece of housework without telling you about it. I hate how they literally cannot handle being driven in a car by a woman, even if they’re terrible drivers themselves. I hate how they all think they’re fucking incredible at grilling meat on barbecues. The sun comes out and man must light fire and not let woman anywhere near the meat. Dumping blackened bits of chicken onto our plates along with the whiff of a burp from their beer breath, acting all caveman, like we’re supposed to find it cute that we may now get salmonella and that we’re going to have to do all the washing up.

I hate how I’m quite scared of them. I hate the collective noise of them when they’re in a big group. The tribal wahey-ing, like they all swap their IQs for extra testosterone when they swarm together. How, if you’re sitting alone on an empty train, they always come and deliberately sit next to you en masse, and talk extra loudly about macho nonsense, apparently to impress you. I hate the way they look at you when you walk past—automatically judging your screwability the moment they see you. Telling you to smile if you dare look anything other than delighted about living with stuff like this constantly fucking happening to you. 

I hate how hard they are to love. How many of them actually, truly, think the way to your heart is sending you a selfie of them tugging themselves, hairy ball sack very much still in shot. I hate how they have sex. How they shove their fingers into you, thinking it’s going to achieve anything. Jabbing their unwashed hands into your dry vagina, prodding about like they’re checking for prostate cancer, then wondering why you now have BV and you still haven’t come. Have none of them read a sex manual? Seriously? None of them? And I hate how they hate you a little just after they’ve finished. How even the nice ones lie there with cold eyes, pretending to cuddle, but clearly desperate to get as far away from you as possible.

I hate how it’s never equal. How they expect you to do all the emotional labor and then get upset when you’re the more stressed-out one. I hate how they never understand you, no matter how hard they try, although, let’s be honest here, they never actually try that hard. And I hate how you’re always exhausting yourself trying to explain even the most basic of your rational emotional responses to their bored face.

I hate how every single last one of them has issues with their father.

And do you know what I hate most of all?

That despite this, despite all this disdain, I still fancy men. And I still want them to fancy me, to want me, to love me. I hate myself for how much I want them. Why do I still fancy men so much? What’s wrong with me? Why are they all so broken? Am I broken for still wanting to be with one, even after everything? I should be alone. That’s the only healthy way to be. BUT I DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE. I hate men, that’s the problem. GOD I HATE THEM SO MUCH—they’re so entitled and broken and lazy and wrong and…and…

Hang on…

My phone.

HE MESSAGED BACK!!!

WITH A KISS ON THE END!

Never mind.

Forget I said anything. It’s all good.

Excerpted from Pretending by Holly Bourne, Copyright © 2020 by Holly Bourne. Published by MIRA Books. 


About the Author

Holly Bourne is a bestselling and critically acclaimed UK-based YA and Adult Fiction author and is an Ambassador for Women’s Aid. Inspired by her work with young people, and her own experiences of everyday sexism, Holly is a passionate mental health advocate and proud feminist. In 2019, she was an Author of the Day at the London Book Fair, and was named by Elle Magazine’s weekly podcast as one of “Six Female Authors Changing the Conversation in 2019”. Pretending is her US debut.