Review of The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, working as the prison healer.
When the Rebel Queen is captured, Kiva is charged with keeping the terminally ill woman alive long enough for her to undergo the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals.
Then a coded message from Kiva’s family arrives, containing a single order: “Don’t let her die. We are coming.” Aware that the Trials will kill the sickly queen, Kiva risks her own life to volunteer in her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.
But no one has ever survived.
With an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.

I finished The Prison Healer yesterday and that ending has still absolutely rocked me! I loved this book so much, the characters, the story, the way it made me feel and that cover is fantastic too! Lets dial it back though, and start with the characters. Kiva was a great protagonist, a survivor bound by her oath to help those in need no matter what. I loved her focus and determination and that despite the looming trials she had to solve a mystery shrouding the prison at the same time, this girl is the queen of multitasking. She is supported by a great case of side characters, some more on the morally grey side than not, it is a prison after all and not everyone is falsely imprisoned! I have to address the half star docking in the room though as the romance was enemies to lovers style, which is not my bag at all and whilst I admired Kiva’s stoicism with keeping her head down and focusing on the work I did have to eye roll when she started inner monologuing about Jaren’s dreamy eyes and cheekbones – I get that there is a market for romance but I feel that it wasn’t really necessary to drive this story forward.

And drive forward it does, for me there were no lulls at all, Kiva moves from task to task methodically, I read the second half of this book in one go as I just didn’t want to put it down.  The prison was an epic backdrop to all that was happening and was a character in itself with so many areas both displayed and hidden, the sinister Abyss and the dank aquifier each one with its own sense of foreboding every time Kiva left the sanctuary of the infirmary. Whilst the story does follow quite a few of the traditional YA tropes it does them well and the diversity of the setting breathes new life into them. That is what makes The Prison Healer such a great read though, it takes a story that you think you know and simply just does it better.

It does get dark though, Kiva is met by a relentless tirade of verbal and physical abuse and there is a TW for self harm here although its discussed in retrospect rather than the act being carried out. There are parts that I didn’t think I could bring myself to flip the page to read what I thought was coming but the brutality is thankfully always brief but it is impactful when it happens really showing the power of fade to black.

I think I’m going to leave it there because whilst there is so much I want to say, it is such a unique story that I don’t want to spoil anything and also I’m struggling to articulate all the ways this story made me feel. Its a mid paced read which somehow manages to feel like an electrifying faced paced page turner. Also Tipp is adorable and I want to wrap him up in a giant blanket and feed him milk and cookies. So yes, please read The Prison Healer, you won’t regret it!

Thanks to the publisher and netgalley for the e arc to review.


Blog Tour Spotlight: Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli

Hello everyong, today is my turn on the Kate in Waiting blog tour from The Write Reads in conjunction with Penguin! Today I’m spotlighting the book and author alongside of some links to some early reviews coming in from the tour so far!

From bestselling YA rom-com queen Becky Albertalli (author of Love, Simon) comes a new novel about daring to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight in love, life and theatre.

Kate Garfield
Anderson Walker

Best friends, and contrary to popular belief, not co-dependent. Examples:

Carpooling to and from theatre rehearsals? Environmentally sound and efficient.
Consulting each other on every single life decision? Basic good judgment.
Pining for the same guys from afar? Shared crushes are more fun anyway.

But when Kate and Andy’s latest long-distance crush shows up at their school, everything goes off-script.

Enter Stage Left: Matt Olsson

He is talented and sweet, and Kate likes him. She really likes him. The only problem? So does Anderson.

Turns out, communal crushes aren’t so fun when real feelings are involved. This one might even bring the curtains down on Kate and Anderson’s friendship…


Becky Albertalli is the author of the acclaimed novels Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (film: Love, Simon), The Upside of Unrequited, and Leah on the Offbeat. She is also the co-author of What If It’s Us with Adam Silvera. A former clinical psychologist who specialized in working with children and teens, Becky lives with her family in Atlanta. You can visit her online at

Twitter: @beckyalbertalli




Check out some of the early reviews coming in from the Tour!

The Critiques of a Fangirl


The Romance Bloke

Review of Vulture by Bex Hogan

We are all one misstep away from being the villain…
Marianne has passed the ultimate test required to be a Mage. She is finally powerful enough to reunite the Twelve Isles.
But having exposed herself to the darker side of magic, Marianne is struggling. The magic within her is nearly impossible to control, and she becomes cruel and violent, mercilessly pursuing those who have harmed her in the past, ignoring the pleas of those closest to her to remember what’s really important: saving the islands.
Everything she’s fought for has come down to this. Will Marianne be able to fulfil her promise to bring peace to the islands when she can’t even bring peace to herself?
Conquer the darkness. Control the magic. Save the Isles.

There is nothing more immensely satisfying than a series ending just as spectacularly as you hoped it would, Vulture was everything I hoped it would be. Action packed, emotional, exciting, exhilarating, heartbreaking and uplifting – I can think of so many words, none of which can do this series justice. I had absolutely no idea on the direction this story would go after the astounding ending of Venom and truly the first part of the book is so dark I was so scared for Marianne but I really enjoyed the difference in her narrative voice, she is not the same girl left to die on the beach and its incredibly well written almost like old Marianne is having an out of body experience watching the carnage unfurl below her, Bex Hogan has a truly terrifying imagination at times.

This doesn’t mean that Marianne has an easy time of it though, far from it, her enemy knows her too well and even I had no idea who to trust, as she became more reflective and more resolved as so many catastrophes struck – be prepared to shed more than a few tears. As each part of the story unfurls we see a new and different Marianne each time and this is what made the book so exceptional, her character grows more in this one story than most characters do across a whole series, her support network more important than ever and every friend she has made across earlier books helps bring her together to be what she must become.

The finale can only be described as epic, breathtaking in its scale and impossible to stop reading, I loved every second of it. Had I had the chance, Vulture could have been a book I would have read in one go, I honestly did not want to put it down because I knew that the end of my time with these characters was coming. All I can say is bravo, Bex Hogan, an amazing ending to a fantastic series!


Review of What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson

Winter. The sky is dark. It is cold enough to crack bones.
Jack Morton has nothing left. Except his younger brother, Matty, who he’d do anything for. Even die for. Now with their mother gone, and their funds quickly dwindling, Jack needs to make a choice: lose his brother to foster care, or find the drug money that sent his father to prison. He chooses the money.
Ava Bardem lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one. Trust no one. Now Victor Bardem is stalking the same money as Jack. When he picks up Jack’s trail, Ava must make her own wrenching choice: remain silent or help the brothers survive.
Choices. They come at a price.

I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Wow, what a book. Honestly What Beauty There Is, left me in pieces. I’m ashamed to say I initially passed on an opportunity to review this because I just felt it would be too sad for me, I was correct in the assumption that it was sad, but so very very wrong that it wouldn’t be for me. Thank you so much to The Write Reads Tours and Penguin Platform for sending me and absolutely stunning proof to review.

It’s fair to say that What Beauty There Is, is one rare gem of a book, a book that has the capacity to consume your emotions and then spit them straight back out at your feet. It’s bleak, its cold, it’s devastating but it’s also hugely compelling. Cory Anderson has a wonderful way with words, her simplistic, unpretentious style packing more emotion into just a few simple words than some authors spend paragraphs getting to. I honestly felt like I was there, having to wrap myself up tighter in my blanket even though I was in no way cold, the snow and chill wind took on a whole life of its own, becoming as big as any character.

But these characters, oh my. Jack is everything, a young carer with so much on his shoulders – I instantly wanted to bundle him in a huge hug and take care of him the way he deserved to be taken care of. Again Cory Anderson’s writing is phenomenal with his characterisation, I’m usually really bad at reading characters as the age they are but subtlety is woven through the pages reminding me constantly that Jack is just 17, yet he endures. I’m truly welling up remembering all that he went through, and it was frighteningly realistic at every turn. This could be any family fallen on exceptionally hard times. Adorable Matty, wise beyond his years as Jack tries desperately to help him hold on to his childhood, and Ava a shining beacon of goodness who’s intimated history is perhaps most harrowing of all. Yet, they all endure. I also challenge any reader to name a villain as horrifying as Bardem, cold, calculated, brutal and truly without humanity, he just needed to appear on the page to fill me with dread without needing to say a word.

Yes, this is a shining example of a great cat and mouse thriller, but it is so much more than that. I couldn’t put it down, the chapters rolling gloriously together, the narrative flowed like a river approaching a waterfall, gaining speed until I was pulled over the edge and into the frozen world below, where my heart broke. Emotional, powerful and raw, this is a book that will stay with me and one that I highly recommend you find time to read.


Review of The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

Ana is a rebellious young woman, a gifted writer with a curious, brilliant mind, who writes secret narratives about the neglected and silenced women around her. Raised in a wealthy family in Galilee, she is sheltered from the brutality of Rome’s occupation of Israel. Ana is expected to marry an elderly widower to further her father’s ambitions, a prospect that horrifies her. A chance encounter with the eighteen-year-old Jesus changes everything: his ideas and his passion are intoxicating.
Taking Ana on a journey she could never have imagined, The Book of Longings is a glorious evocation of a time and a place where astounding events unfolded, and of one woman’s fate when she fights to make her voice heard.

So this is a weird one for me to review as Women’s fiction is one of my review criteria that I wont go for. Something about the synopsis for this one really stood out to me so I requested a copy of review. I usually get annoyed with people who review genres they don’t like and score low so I’m going to be as balanced as I can. Honestly, I started off really enjoying this book, I flew through the first 100 pages and I loved Ana as the protagonist, trailblazing her own style of feminism with her acts of defiance and disobedience. She is selfish within her own wants and needs, but really when those wants reflect a want to read and write and the need to not marry an old man who will likely offer her violence, these selfish moments can be forgiven. The writing is beautiful and to be savoured, it is not a book to speed read or picked up and put down. I especially loved Ana’s interactions with her Aunt Yaltha and to a degree it’s more of Yaltha’s story that Ana’s at times and Yaltha’s story felt more satisfying, which I think is down to the pure fiction of it. Ana’s was intrinsically linked to Jesus’s and that has set ending in theology.

So what happened to make me waver. Unfortunately the story, which had up to that managed to convey so much through senses of dread and fade to black became graphic in the depiction of still birth. Child loss is such a huge trigger for me and I struggled so hard to move past it for the rest of the book. The story took liberties with the depiction of Jesus having a wife so it didn’t really strike me initially as unreasonable that he could also have had a child in this depiction. Whilst Ana made a choice thereafter, it did mean that a book that I had initially found a joy to pick up became one that I struggled to come back to. Had it not been that from this point on the intensity of Yaltha’s story built so wonderfully I may not have continued. This is no flaw of the authors writing, just a real lesson in how an unexpected trigger can ruin a readers experience. Had I known it was coming I could have prepared myself or skipped those pages.

The sections in Alexandria were some of my favourite I think because they had a feeling of a historical fantasy at times and it also brought in more and interesting characters and developments which gave the book, a by that point, much needed change of tone and direction. I have to be fair to the writing when reviewing but I also have to be fair to myself and the unexpected shock of that scene left me in a bad place so the writing deserves a 4 star, however, I will bring that down to a 3.5 as I nearly didn’t come back to it because of that.

Thank you to Tandem Collective UK and Tinder Press for sending me the readalong copy.



Review of Birds of Paradise by Oliver K. Langmead

Many millennia after the fall of Eden, Adam, the first man in creation, still walks the Earth – exhausted by the endless death and destruction, he is a shadow of his former hope and glory. And he is not the only one. The Garden was deconstructed, its pieces scattered across the world and its inhabitants condemned to live out immortal lives, hiding in plain sight from generations of mankind.
But now pieces of the Garden are turning up on the Earth. After centuries of loneliness, Adam, haunted by the golden time at the beginning of Creation, is determined to save the pieces of his long lost home. With the help of Eden’s undying exiles, he must stop Eden becoming the plaything of mankind.
Adam journeys across America and the British Isles with Magpie, Owl, and other animals, gathering the scattered pieces of Paradise. As the country floods once more, Adam must risk it all to rescue his friends and his home – because rebuilding the Garden might be the key to rebuilding his life.

What happens if you were born before death? This the premise behind the immortality in Birds of Paradise and it fits perfectly. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a religious book but other than the odd mention here or there, Birds of Paradise is a story of greed, revenge, megalomania and brutal violence. It was a book that took me by surprise from the very first page, the prologue very much setting the tone of what was to come with both beauty and pain poured across the page.

Set mainly in present day UK there was seemingly very little need to world built and having personally visited a few of the mentioned areas it helped me to visualise the scene, the story is descriptive when it needs to be which really enhanced the discovery of each piece of Eden. These parts shone as we really got to understand the simplicity of their beauty which stood out against the bleak backdrop of the flood. This is, however, very much Adam’s story. A man of few words, he approaches everything with a weariness, a bone tiredness which is only undone when he is given the opportunity to help things grow, the reverence in which he holds a single seed is such a juxtapose to the hands which are so often used for violence.

The villain is pure caricature but it works so well with the story as they need to be larger than life to overtake the morally grey fine line that Adam and the other exiles tread. The exiles also enhance the story, joining alongside Adam at opportune times helping him get to where he needs to be and finally to remember what he has shielded himself for so long.

I found Birds of Paradise to be a surprising and compelling read, one which shocked me with its brutality but also left me in wonder in its creativity. Thank you to Titan Books for providing me with a finished copy of this book for review.



Viperthon – A Special April TBR!

Title image credit: Viperthon

Long time followers will know that I absolutely adore the Isles of Storm and Sorrow books by Bex Hogan, Viper and Venom are out already and the final book, Vulture, releases this month. To celebrate a special readathon has been set up!

This is the first time that I have taken part in a readathon and I was hesitant given how slow my reading has been since going back to work full time, but the wonderful thing about this readathon is that you can use one book to cover 2 prompts if you want. This makes this readathon more manageable and I really hope I can make it. I’ve also taken the plunge and joined The Storygraph as there is a group especially for it on there!

So what’s it about?

“The aim: to visit as many of the islands as you can in the month of April. Choose to visit as many of the islands as you wish over the course of the month. Once you’ve read a book to hit a prompt, you gain the items from that island. You can earn yourself a place on the new crew of the Viper dependent on how many items you collect”. 
The Prompts and the books I hope to read are:
The first Isle: The King’s Isle – A book that features royalty
The Second Isle: Fallow Isle – A story where a character has to “grow” as a person
The Third Isle: Black Isle – A book with a black cover
The Forth Isle: The Floral Isle – A character that has a floral name
The Fifth Isle: Mist Isle – A book that involves a secret/something hidden
The Sixth Isle: Rock Isle – A character has to face something challenging
The Seventh Isle: Shadow Isle – A book about fear/featuring one of your fears
The Eighth Isle: Snow Isle – A book set somewhere cold
The Ninth Isle: A book about siblings/family
The Tenth Isle: Fire Isle – A book with fire on the cover/in the title
The Eleventh Isle: Song Isle –  A book that strongly features music in some way
The Twelfth Isle: The Jewel of the West – A book that features magic
The Viper – A book with a snake on the cover
This is a lot for me to read in one month but it’s helped by the fact that Saga is a Graphic Novel and Gemina will be on Audio, my hindrance will be trying to get my copy of Crown of Talons, as Waterstones has held that as a collect from store since lockdown started!

But I’m looking forward to taking part so much, wish me luck!

Review of Dark Lullaby by Polly Ho-Yen

For fans of Black Mirror and The Handmaid’s Tale, in Dark Lullaby a mother desperately tries to keep her family together in a society where parenting standards are strictly monitored.
When Kit decides to have a child, she thinks she’s prepared. She knows how demanding Induction is. She’s seen children Extracted. But in a society where parenting is strictly monitored under the watchful gaze of OSIP (The Office of Standards in Parenting), she is forced to ask herself how far she will go to keep her family together.

There was something deeply personal about reading Dark Lullaby, speaking honestly as someone who suffered from PND and often felt massively inadequate as a first time parent I couldn’t help but put myself in the place of the parents we meet in this book. It’s a path that has been trodden before, a society beset by infertility where children are revered, however, Dark Lullaby takes it to a new level with the sinister OSIP. Literally anyone, anywhere can be waiting to pounce, to pass judgement on the smallest infringement of their overbearing standards of parenting. Feeding, sleeping, soothing, these are all things that as parents now we struggle through but with support, to think of doing that alone and under scrutiny of failure made this a heart shattering read at times.

Told in an alternating “Then” and “Now” style we see Kit go from an “Out” the term for woman who chose not to go through Induction to the desperate mother we meet in the opening chapters. How eventually a society obsessed with child bearing reduces a woman’s worth to almost zero if they chose to remove themselves from the process. Substandard housing and career stagnation can all be escaped by fulfilling your destiny as a woman to produce a child. Its sad to see the pro’s and con’s of having a child weighed initially in lifestyle perks and how conditioned women become, even knowing the pain and risk involved, that this is the ultimate in achievement.

There was something utterly compelling about Kit’s story though, understanding the choices she makes through what she has witnessed and what she believes society requires of her is stunningly written. Despite the heavy subject matter it doesn’t feel heavy to read, I found myself bounding through the pages, the short and snappy chapters building up to the storm we know is coming, the urgency of Kit’s quest spilling into my fingers and I turned page after page desperate to know how it ends. Whilst the connection to The Handmaids Tale is fair given the subject, it’s actually the Black Mirror feel that stood out more starkly for me. Everything should be questioned and I was left with an uneasy satisfaction at the way things played out, which is a curious feeling and one that I don’t think a book has ever left me with before.

Even though my own experiences made this a difficult read in places, it was as brilliant as I hoped it would be from the blurb and the stunning cover. There is also some pretty clever propaganda floating around from the publisher which you should definitely seek out too to round out the reading experience. Thank you as always to Titan Books for providing me with an early copy of Dark Lullaby for review.

4 Stars


Blog Tour Spotlight: The Gilded King by Josie Jaffrey

Hey everyone!

Today it’s my stop on the @The_WriteReads blog tour for The Gilded King by Josie Jaffrey! The Gilded King placed forth in the 2020 BBNYA Awards and I’m excited to be spotlighting this story for you today!

But what’s this about BBNYA? BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors!  BBNYA is brought to you in association with the Folio Society (If you love beautiful books you NEED to check out their website!) And the book blogger support group TheWriteReads.

If you are an author and wish to learn more about the 2021 BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website ( or our Twitter account, @BBNYA_Official. If you would like to sign-up and enter your book, you can find the BBNYA 2021 AUTHOR SIGN UP FORM HERE. Please make sure to carefully read our terms and conditions before entering. 

If you are a book blogger or reviewer, you can apply to be part of BBNYA 2021 by filling out this form (also remember to read the terms and conditions before signing up)! 

But onto the book!

In the Blue, the world’s last city, all is not well.

Julia is stuck within its walls. She serves the nobility from a distance until she meets Lucas, a boy who believes in fairytales that Julia’s world can’t accommodate. The Blue is her prison, not her castle, and she’d escape into the trees if she didn’t know that contamination and death awaited humanity outside.

But not everyone in the Blue is human, and not everyone can be contained.

Beyond the city’s boundaries, in the wild forests of the Red, Cameron has precious little humanity left to lose. As he searches for a lost queen, he finds an enemy rising that he thought long dead. An enemy that the humans have forgotten how to fight.

One way or another, the walls of the Blue are coming down. The only question is what side you’ll be on when they do.

I read The Gilded King a couple of years ago and although I didn’t write a full review at the time, it was a richly woven and intriguing world clashing together Vampires and Zombies in a post apocalyptic virus fuelled frenzy! I rated it 4 Stars

About the Author

Josie is the author of nine self-published novels plus short stories. She is currently working on a range of fantasy and historical fiction projects (both adult and YA), for which she is seeking representation. Ultimately, she hopes to be a hybrid author, both traditionally- and self-published.

After finishing her degree in Literae Humaniores (Classics) at the University of Oxford, Josie wasn’t sure what to do with her life.

She slogged through a brief stint working for an investment bank in London during the 2008 credit crunch, then converted to law and qualified as a solicitor specialising in intellectual property. She worked at a law firm for five years before moving to a UK-based international publisher in 2016. Whilst she loved law, in the end she didn’t love it quite as much as writing, which she now does almost full time.

Josie lives in Oxford with her husband and two cats (Sparky and Gussie), who graciously permit human cohabitation in return for regular feeding and cuddles. The resulting cat fluff makes it difficult for Josie to wear black, which is largely why she gave up being a goth. Although the cats are definitely worth it, she still misses her old wardrobe.

Author Links


Review of The Swimmers by Marian Womack

A claustrophobic, literary dystopia set in the hot, luscious landscape of Andalusia from the author of The Golden Key.
After the ravages of global warming, this is place of deep jungles, strange animals, and new taxonomies. Social inequality has ravaged society, now divided into surface dwellers and people who live in the Upper Settlement, a ring perched at the edge of the planet’s atmosphere. Within the surface dwellers, further divisions occur: the techies are old families, connected to the engineer tradition, builders of the Barrier, a huge wall that keeps the plastic-polluted Ocean away. They possess a much higher status than the beanies, their servants.
The novel opens after the Delivery Act has decreed all surface humans are ‘equal’. Narrated by Pearl, a young techie with a thread of shuvani blood, she navigates the complex social hierarchies and monstrous, ever-changing landscape. But a radical attack close to home forces her to question what she knew about herself and the world around her.

Firstly I want to say a huge thank you to Titan books for the advanced copy of this title. I was excited to see a new book from Marian Womack, her previous book The Golden Key was a book that I loved so I was eager to dive back into her ethereal writing style. Unfortunately this dreamlike quality, which worked so well in a gothic setting, fell short in this story for me.

The premise is strong and a stark take on the future we could find ourselves in, the rich continuing with their opulent lifestyle whilst the poor remain on what’s left of the surface. The world has in many ways started to reclaim itself and the surface feels very colourful even if the local fauna is a much mutated version of how we would see it today. Reusing and recycling is a way of life, but society has also regressed to one full of superstition and stories over fact. The Swimmers is very subversive in this way and for those on the surface, including our protagonist Pearl, their myths have become part of their way of life, the salutary tales a clever means of control. The Woman in White a figure who both gives and takes in a way that feels immensely cruel, yet her stories continue to be told. I enjoyed how some of these stories were peppered throughout the book to really help drive home how close to propaganda some of them were.

Pearl was an interesting protagonist, her story jumps and is mainly in retrospect, I was never clear as to whether she was recollecting or dreaming but I liked how that matched how disorienting her life had become. One of the more fortunate of the surface dwellers she is top of a caste system which sadly still exists and I actually found it quite sad that with all the apparent progress, we still have a society heavily propped up by servitude. Her history is complex and her family full of secrets, her mother being one of the titular Swimmers – which If I’m being brutally honest, I’m still not sure I understand the significance of, especially as the ocean is pretty much a sheet of plastic debris. The introduction of Arlo as a second narrator was much needed and I found his sections in the earlier stages brought a real balance to haphazard recollections of Pearl. His eyes brought a fresh take to what was happening on the surface and I enjoyed his arc very much.

The sad thing for me is that I found The Swimmers to be so confusing. The story went in different directions and threads were left unanswered. The writing just didn’t feel cohesive and I found it such a hard book to motivate myself to come back to. The Swimmers is not a book you can read piecemeal and I think that’s perhaps why I struggled. I wasn’t able to have a really large chunk of time and indeed the last quarter where I had more time, I found that I was, to a degree, able to get into the story. However I still felt like I was missing things and had to flip back to check.

All this being said though, The Swimmers had one of the most deeply satisfying endings I have read for a long time, I had no idea with the dwindling pages how it could be ended but a simple epilogue spoke of so much and painted the picture perfectly. However, for much of the story I felt that the focus was in the wrong place and I wanted to know what was happening elsewhere which was a shame as I think a bit more structure could have made this a book I would have really loved.

3 Stars