I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the last of which was the other week. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve read, loved and usually promised to review ages ago.
Today, I’m focusing on three fantastic books that are all either already released or are upcoming releases and I will organise them in order of publication date. Kicking things off is the ethereal Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters and thanks so much to Harper 360 for sending me an eARC.
Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters
If I could have a fiddle made of Daddy’s bones, I’d play it. I’d learn all the secrets he kept.
Shady Grove inherited her father’s ability to call ghosts from the grave with his fiddle, but she also knows the fiddle’s tunes bring nothing but trouble and darkness.
But when her brother is accused of murder, she can’t let the dead keep their secrets.
In order to clear his name, she’s going to have to make those ghosts sing.
Publication Date: 20th August
TW: death, murder, grief, attempted sexual assault, abuse, blood, car accident, cheating
Ghost Wood Song is a haunting whisper of a book that completely captivates your mind. The atmosphere around it will completely envelop you and provides an intoxicating read that is impossible to put down.
At its heart, it revolves around an intriguing mystery and complex family dynamics & relationships. It delves into a dark familial history and the secrets buried within it, while having this ethereal, mystical feel to the story. Music powers much of the story, which is appropriate as it’s such an evocative artform that can powerfully manipulate your emotions and memories. All our lives have soundtracks to them and Water beautifully exploits this feeling. For Shady, her grief and music are intertwined deeply, with every song reminding her of a moment captured in time. The entire story centres around a beautiful, emotional exploration of grief with the use of some brilliant metaphors that really drive it home. Waters captures the nuances of grief and the differing reactions to it, creating a powerful and gut-wrenching story.
In terms of the mystery, it’s a well-constructed mystery with plenty of suspects, red herrings and the all important twists. The fantastical elements of the story add that extra layer to the story that elevates it and perfectly compliment Waters’ lyrical writing. Southern Gothic is an endlessly fascinating sub-genre, with its darkness and willingness to explore our own treacherous past. The past and present collide quite literally here but Waters ensures that she revitalises the old tropes by breathing new life to them through her own lens. Having studied the Gothic for a while, it is so refreshing to see modern authors put their own stamp on the genre.
Ghost Wood Song is a majestic, stunning and eerie tale that you won’t be able to get out of your mind.
Next up, I need to shout about the absolutely phenomenal Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam. This is a book that everyone should read and thanks to HarperCollins Children’s for sending me an eARC.
Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.
The story that I think
will be my life
Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?
Publication Date: 1st September
TW: racism, violence, police brutality
Punching the Air is just wave after wave of emotional devastation. It’s such an impactful book that everyone needs to read and talk about.
I think verse has the inherent emotional capacity to it that just infuses every word with power and an ability to just gut-punch you. Zoboi and Salaam also seems to grasp this with their masterful word choice and structure. Every word has been carefully, deliberately chosen for maximum impact and this makes for a phenomenal reading experience. The fact that Salaam also drew from his own personal experiences as a member of the Exonerated Five adds extra gravitas and weight to the story, as it reminds you how Amal’s experience is all too real.
Amal has such a strong, distinctive voice that it is impossible not to connect with him. He is the type of character that will stay with you, through all his flaws and sheer creativity. Rarely has a singular voice made me unable to look away as much. Through him, both writers explore the power of creative imagination and hope, as that escapism becomes a lifeline and an outlet. His relationships with his friends and family are beautifully explored and show how complex any figure is, despite what media headlines and stereotypical prejudices may want you to believe.
This book also feels like a cathartic work, as it shakes with rage and anger against the injustices of the so-called justice system. The racial inequalities and systematic racism explored are sadly prevalent and it is vital that we continue and support the work to improve our systems.
I’ve said previously that I don’t cry at books, but Punching the Air brought me pretty damn close. It’s an incredibly emotional book that doesn’t leave any simple solutions, with an uncertain ending that contains a glimmer of hope. Instead it demands to be listened to and learnt from, as I hope all of you will do.
Finally, I want to talk about the throughly entertaining Majesty by Katharine McGee, which I absolutely flew through. Thank you so much to Penguin for sending me an eARC.
Majesty by Katharine McGee
Power is intoxicating. Like first love, it can leave you breathless. Princess Beatrice was born with it. Princess Samantha was born with less. Some, like Nina Gonzalez, are pulled into it. And a few will claw their way in. Ahem, we’re looking at you Daphne Deighton.
As America adjusts to the idea of a queen on the throne, Beatrice grapples with everything she lost when she gained the ultimate crown. Samantha is busy living up to her “party princess” persona…and maybe adding a party prince by her side. Nina is trying to avoid the palace–and Prince Jefferson–at all costs. And a dangerous secret threatens to undo all of Daphne’s carefully laid “marry Prince Jefferson” plans.
A new reign has begun….
Publication Date: 3rd September
TW: grief, racism, abuse, cheating, sexism
Majesty was such an entertaining and completely bingeable book that you’ll just fly through.
While I loved American Royals, Majesty felt like the elevated version of this interesting concept – an American royal family and all the drama that comes with that. McGee delves more into discussions around privilege and the price of fame in this stellar sequel. I love how there is this perfect balance between the constant gossip, juicy drama and biting, insightful social commentary. In particular, Majesty delves into the topics of racism and white privilege and how the family will always be shielded from the worst of the press and the public by the colour of their skin, whereas other characters will be left to the wolves. Of course this is a topical and important conversation to have.
Similarly, McGee examines patriarchal structures, sexism and a woman’s position can be determined by her relationship status. All four of the protagonists are aware of how perceptions of them are some of the most powerful forces in their bid to curry favour and power. Beatrice, despite becoming the ruler of the land, faces an uphill battle against a system that has always been built for men by men.
Part of Majesty’s joy is in its sheer frothiness and the way it feels like a ripped from the headlines, tell-all peek behind the shadowy scenes. There’s plenty of secrets and tangled relationships, many of which change from American Royals in new and surprising ways. McGee excels in exploring family and friendship dynamics in all their complexity and the issues that arise from them. Majesty would be incomplete without its swoon-worthy romances as well, all of which felt believable as the chemistry grew natural and there was plenty of witty banter. The flow of this book perfectly matches the fast-paced nature of the plot, as you quickly get sucked into this dramatic, glossy world.
Majesty is a brilliant, ostentatious story and its ending will leave you demanding another book.
Here are links to Carrds talking about many of the world’s current events and how you can help. Also, I’ve linked here the Black Lives Matter Carrd to support, but also here is a list of resources to aid Anti-Racism work in the UK, as well as UK specific places to donate to. I will be doing this on every post. If you have the funds to donate, please do but if not, please support and uplift Black voices and sign the petitions.