Paladin’s Strength by T.Kingfisher

When I saw that T.Kingfisher (better known as Ursula Vernon) had released another book in her Saint of Steel series (go here for my review of her first novel, Paladin’s Grace) I knew I had to read it. There’s something about reading a more mature romance, one filled with honest, unabashed conversations and (quite frankly) hilarious scenes that made me fall in love with this series all over again. Paladin’s Strength doesn’t disappoint.

What’s it about?

In this second installation we follow two protagonists: the first being Istvhan, one of the Paladin’s of the dead god as he tracks the murderous and downright supernaturally creepy clay golems (the ‘Smooth Men’ mentioned in Paladin’s Grace) across the continent. The other is a newer addition to the Saint of Steel series – Clara, a nun of St.Ursa, desperate to track down a wagon of fellow sisters who have been kidnapped. 

The novel opens as Clara is delivered to Istvhan’s tent as a form of payment to settle a dispute. Together, Clara and Istvhan set across the country, both trying to focus on their own missions and with their own secrets to keep. Of course, mild spoiler alert, those secrets don’t stay such for long even if the entire romantic subplot is incredibly slow-burn (I mean, seriously. You’ll have to be very patient with this one). As a pair, the two have an undeniable chemistry. Their growing romantic relationship as the book progresses is both full of sexual tension (Istvhan’s berating inner monologues never failed to make me laugh), and genuine depth of feeling. It was refreshing too, for things like consent to be so openly discussed and considered in a romance novel, especially by the male protagonist. 

“He liked her. He liked the way she carried herself. He’d only met a few women of her size before, and mostly they tried to downplay it.
Clara walked like she was taller than everyone else and knew it and if anyone cared, be damned to them.”

As individuals, they both drew me in equally. Both Clara and Istvhan are each troubled in their own way, each seeking a way through a world that is perhaps not built for people as big or as different as they are. Indeed, there are many scenes where these characters are made to seem larger than they are in towns and villages that aren’t suited to them, cramped in chairs or in rooms that won’t fit their frames. They are outsiders, driven by purpose and drawn together by fate and mutual understanding.

As I’ve mentioned before, I adore novels which delve into exploring theology and religious matters. As a nun and paladin of absent gods, I really enjoyed getting to see how Clara (imbued with the “gift” of being a werebear), and Istvhan (a berserker) coped with forging their own paths in the wake of this religious absence in a society that would either be wary of them, or downright reject them. 

Kingfisher writes mature romance fantastically well. Whilst there are hilarious, awkward moments that would make anyone blush, there is a sense of inner understanding and maturity that comes with this relationship. Moreover, as I read on, I was delighted to explore more of the world these characters live in. One of Kingfisher’s greatest strengths, and one of the things I enjoyed most about this novel, is her worldbuilding: how magic works, the cultures of different towns, how different faiths are viewed and exist. The mystery of the Smooth Men sought in this novel is well and truly solved with grizzly finds and a climatic, breath-taking bunch of chapters towards the very end. But that is only a small part of what is a deep, many-layered, romantic adventure novel with many moving parts. 

“In life, if you were careful, there were simply not that many times when you absolutely, positively, had to turn into a bear.”

There are many wonderful scenes in this book (wait for the scene where Clara turns into a bear for the first time!), discussions that evoke pathos, scenes that had me covering my face with second-hand embarrassment, and oh my the puns. The supporting characters are interesting too, and I cannot wait to see if Kingfisher revisits them in their third book (I shan’t give too much away).

Final verdict:
Much like Paladin’s Grace, this second novel Paladin’s Strength is funny and delightfully heartwarming, filled to the brim with rich characters and a whole lot of intriguing places to explore. It works well as a standalone book, but I’d recommend reading this as a second book in the Saint of Steel series. It gives you a greater sense of where the paladin’s slot into this wider world, and has you pondering just what might be next in store for these servants of a dead god.

Find this book, and give it a read. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.

The Galaxy and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers

*Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton & NetGalley for approving me to review this in exchange for an honest review!

The latest and final instalment of the Wayfarers quartet is a perfectly pitched, stunning farewell to a series I’ve loved since I first picked up Chambers’ A Very Long Way to a Small Angry Planet several years ago.

This queer, wacky, alien (in every sense of the word) sci-fi isn’t like your usual book series, much to its credit. There is no one ‘main’ character that you follow, but rather the stories are loosely connected by threads as briefly mentioned characters in one book become a point of view character in the next. One of the things I love about her work is that Chambers manages to make her novels both intimate and expansive, packed with lore and emotion, with every newly introduced character as unique and intriguing as the next. The Galaxy and the Ground Within is no exception.

What is it about?

This book focuses on the stories of three separate characters: Roveg, Pei (whom readers might recognise as Ashby’s Aeulon lover from the first book), and Speaker. The storyline kicks off when they stop – and are subsequently stranded – at the Five-Hop One-Stop, a waystation for travellers hopping between worlds run by Ouloo and her child Tupo. The “Snowed In” (or in this case “grounded by lots of space debris in the atmosphere”) trope is one that really fits her kind of storytelling well, as we follow this unlikely band of different alien species who would otherwise be strangers and see them come together during their time here.

Where Book 2 and 3 depart from the usual plot having a wider setting to play with, this final book brings back some of the intense character-driven conversations I loved about Book 1. Chambers’ strikes the right balance between poignant exploration of a whole host of topics from the meaning of family, love, loss, self-actualisation, and humour (there’s a particularly funny bit where the collective alien group discuss cheese, which I chuckled a lot at). The Galaxy and the Ground Within offers readers a concentrated exploration of “human” relationships, without a human in sight.

It’s in this book that Chambers really gets to flex her world-building muscles, dropping details about previously unexplained alien species, exploring their culture and customs a little more. Whilst one might think this “snowed in” trope means the novel is at risk of being stagnant, she continues to keep it interesting. There are twists and turns as characters learn more about each other, explore the nuances between them, argue, gossip, and change their own perspectives and prejudices that kept me glued to the page.

Without spoiling too much, the ending of this novel is a bittersweet one. As I reached the final few pages, much like Tupo, Ouloo, Roveg, Pei, and Speaker find a place in each other’s hearts, this book nestled its way into my own. I didn’t want it to end, but just as the character’s separate and get back to their original journeys, so too must this book come to a close.

Final verdict:

The Galaxy and Ground Within is a fantastic send-off for a truly unique and colourful sci-fi series. It is a must read for fans of her series, and offers long-term fans a cathartic type of closure. I’m sad to see it finish, but am so very glad that I read this Wayfarers series to the very end, and I very much look forward to seeing what Chambers publishes next.

This book is due to be published on 18th February 2021.

How to be Ace: A Memoir of Growing Up Asexual by Rebecca Burgess

*Thank you to Jessica Kingley Publishers and Netgalley for approving me to review this book! (I’m slowly getting through my TBR after a long hiatus. Please bear with!).

I first stumbled across this comic book during the end of October (a while now, I realise!) and it was one that I was only sad I hadn’t read earlier. Published on 21st October just in time for Asexual Awareness Week, a week that seeks to publicise resources and information about asexuality, How to be Ace is a wonderful memoir that is not only easy to read but carries a lot of heart.

It is a love letter, of sorts, and a clever one at that. Of course, there is no “right” way to be ace, nor is it a “how to” guide (obviously), but the comic follows the author’s real life struggle growing up and discovering her own asexual identity in a way that I hadn’t seen depicted so well or so relatably anywhere else.

I should perhaps clarify.

An excerpt from How to be Ace

I’m ace. Reading this comic made me both incredibly happy, if a little overwhelmed, at just how on the nose it all was. To have something close to my own experience depicted in this comic does wonders for the niggling voice at the back of your brain which says “maybe you’re all imagining it”. I am glad that books like this are becoming more commonplace to publish.

The comic itself is delightful. The artwork is expressive, emotive, and easy to follow. The messages about asexuality and what it is are informative, and the storyline is touching as we read more of Rebecca’s story and how she meets her current partner Sophie – proving that just because you’re asexual, does not mean you are incapable of forming meaningful relationships with other people.

In the year that has been 2020, How to be Ace is also a message of hope to those feeling disaffected or lost in their own LGBT identities living in unprecedented times (this storyline chart’s Rebecca’s journey against the backdrop of the 2008 recession as a university graduate). As Burgess says:

“Life is never what you expect it to be. No matter who you are, no one ever really lives up to the expectations that are given to us. You never completely shake off the challenges given to you. But it’s much easier to get through life’s challenges when you understand who you are.”

Final verdict:
If you’re looking for a change of genre, to educate yourself, or just to expand your reading list to include more LGBT works this year, I’d definitely recommend this comic memoir. It’s engaging, informative, and poignantly written. I hope to see more works published like this in the future.

The Rush’s Edge by Ginger Smith

With the help of his commanding officer, a genetically engineered ex-soldier fights back against the government that created him and others like him to be expendable slaves… 

Ginger Smith’s debut novel The Rush’s Edge is an intriguing, oftimes explosive, adrenaline fuelled shot of science fiction. We follow Halvor Cullen, a genetically engineered supersoldier (or “vat”) as the novel’s heart-of-gold protagonist as he and his crew become slowly embroiled in a fight against the government that created him.

At first, I must admit I wasn’t particularly sold on Hal as the protagonist. Picking up this novel that touted the main character as “genetically engineered supersoldier” put me in mind of the type of action novels I tend to avoid. One could all too easily read him as your stereotypical gun-toting cliched action man – a person written to have obvious style and charisma, but minimal substance behind them.

Yet, further on into the novel I read, Smith surprised me. As much as I am a fan of sci-fi that’s a touch more weird, her exploration of each of the characters, their relationships, and the dilemmas they faced did much to draw me into this book.

“For a vat seeking the rush, the Spiral’s Edge had plenty of temptations to offer. […] Trouble tended to follow Hal wherever he went.”

I’m hugely fond of the found family trope, and this novel serves that up in spades. Each of the crew members aboard the Loshad are compelling in their own way (I really liked the dynamic between Tyce, the ship’s captain, and Hal as bound brothers-in-arms) and there’s even a bit of romance in there (for those who like such things as I do!).

The Rush’s Edge is a book with heart, an adrenaline fuelled character driven story that takes a poignant look at human relationships and the ethics of human rights. The “vats” are shown and treated by wider society and their makers as disposable freaks. They are bred for fighting, and their physiology means they live incredibly short lives compared to “nats” (natural born folk) – a tragic reminder of their existence.

This focus on vats as this “othered” group was a conflict that really intrigued me, one which I was delighted to see explored more as the novel pressed on. What happens when you push science too far? When you sideline the living, breathing soldiers once they’ve served a purpose rather than see them as people? There is a poignant, heartbreaking undercurrent to this action-packed novel that Smith makes sure to remind us of at every turn, which does much to deter you from thinking this is your stereotypical “man turns up and shoots things but in space” book.

“They talked a lot about that in the training[…]-of how loyalty and obedience to the ACAS came first, so much so that Hal had always linked the two in his mind. But now […] obedience meant you did what they told you because they made you, but loyalty couldn’t be demanded. It was given.”

Smith’s enthusiasm for and knowledge of the genre clearly radiates off the page. Exposition and rich details about the world are crammed in with abandon, with this world giving off hardened sci-fi, cyberpunk vibes with seedy underbellies, “teckers” (also known as hackers), assassins, and A.I. Whilst many of the tropes used are well-worn ones, that is perhaps to its credit. Fans of sci-fi books that are simpler to follow will like this, and it is a solid entry into the ranks for readers looking to get started in this genre.

Whilst the pacing was sometimes too erratic for my liking, slow in some places and faster in others bouncing from scene to scene, some readers might prefer that as a way to explore more angles in the story. In fact, there is much to be said about the hints dropped and explanation of other-worldly beings and its history (A.I named the Mudar who fought humanity until they’d lost) that it made me want to find out more.

Final verdict:
A solid debut sci-fi novel, and a great book to introduce readers to the genre, The Rush’s Edge is a thought-provoking, fast paced, heart-wrenching story. I’m excited to see more written by her, and thank you Angry Robot and NetGalley for the ARC!

The Rush’s Edge is due to be released on 10th November, and can be ordered here.

The Trouble with Peace by Joe Abercrombie

“No plan survives contact with the enemy – Helmuth von Molkte” 

As a long-time fan of Joe Abercrombie’s work, I was excited to sink my teeth into this latest installment in his Age of Madness trilogy. Immediately following the cliffhanger of events in A Little Hatred, The Trouble with Peace is an intricately woven, stunning sequel and worthy successor to the first that has no issue matching the first book for pace or plot twists.

The shadow of characters that once dominated The First Law trilogy and appear in A Little Hatred are neatly dealt with in a way that feels natural. The world is moving on and changing, and the people with it. Where A Little Hatred and the newer characters within it wrestled with the large shadows cast by well-loved (or hated) and familiar older faces (King Jezal, Sand dan Glokta, Bayaz), The Trouble with Peace is truly where the new characters are allowed to spread their wings. The novel very firmly puts to rest the idea of the fact that, in a world where revolution and the Great Change is baring its teeth, names and who you are will soon mean very little.

In fact if anything, the higher you are to the top means the further you have to fall – a point that this book makes no small point to emphasise time and again. Just when I thought I couldn’t be surprised by a scene, Abercrombie managed to shock me all over again a few chapters later. In a way, I should have expected it. The world is a grisly, brutal one with little space for idealism or dashing heroics, a point put across often with wry and often dirty humour.

“Sometimes, to change the world, we must first burn it down.”

Each point of view character chapter is just as compelling, each with their own distinct character arc and setting. Whilst there were some characters which I had a harder time caring for (a personal preference rather than anything to do with the writing), to Abercrombie’s credit, the sprawling myriad of POV characters are tightly crafted and well written as ever. From the far reaches of the North to the Union, each one has their own path that makes you wonder how these pieces are all going to connect in the final book.

My favourite chapters lay somewhere between Vick, Rikke, and Savine’s POV. Since the events of A Little Hatred I was intrigued to see where each of these characters went, and this book didn’t disappoint. Whilst each person is so different from the other, each with their own unique trials, Savine’s arc in this book is particularly savage. The glamorous and shrewd woman’s journey taking some intriguing and heart-wrenching turns that still made sense for the character. I was also pleasantly surprised and shocked by Leo dan Brock and Orso’s arc for very different reasons. Orso as he stumbled to try and do the “right” thing as King, whilst jostling with the idea that maybe there just…isn’t one. Leo for – well – I’ll say that being the shiny poster boy for Angland isn’t all it’s cut out to be.

“Winning teaches you nothing,” said Tunny. “You see what a man really is when he loses.”

Something that I adore about Abercrombie’s work, and was particularly impressed with in this book, is how he writes action scenes. Every swing of the blade or lighting of a fuse had me on tenterhooks, masterfully done where writing about fighting might otherwise come across as dull. Not for Abercrombie, however. The latter quarter of the book is dedicated to a particularly brutally stretched out scene (one of my favourite moments), flitting from one character to another as they connect with each other as though a camera might pan in a film. It’s a gorgeously written set-piece, adrenaline fueled, bloody, emotional, and doesn’t hold back.

Once the dust and smoke and blood has settled, the aftermath of what this book leaves behind is devastating in more ways than one. The landscape and the characters in it have changed, some more dramatically and irrevocably than others, and with one final twist that had me mouthing “no WAY!” at the page, the stage for revolution that Abercrombie’s been building for two entire books is now firmly set.

And I for one cannot wait to see what happens next.

Final verdict:

A stunning successor to A Little Hatred, this new book is packed full of plot twists and witty, gripping prose. Just make sure you’re sitting down when you read it; you’ll need it for when Abercrombie sweeps the rug from under your feet.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E.Harrow

“There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.”

*Thank you to Orbit for sending me this book, in exchange for an honest review!

Alix E.Harrow’s latest novel, The Once and Future Witches, is – to put it simply – utterly spellbinding. Following the stories of three sisters, Bella, Agnes, and James Juniper Eastwood, Harrow ties in witching and the sister’s attempts to reclaim their magic, almost seamlessly with the US women’s suffrage movement of the late 1800s.

It is a book of magic and feminism. The struggles of witches are tangled up with the struggles of women; each aspiring to gain agency and power but conflicted and oftimes separated as to how (as noted in a poignantly powerful scene near the novel’s start). I adored how Harrow mingled the idea of witches – typically identified as “other” and outside the realms of ‘civilised’ society – and aligned it with the women’s rights movement.

Through the eyes of her three main protagonists, Harrow gives her readers a highly nuanced, enthralling exploration of what it means to be a woman in a patriarchal society, and the distinctions between the women themselves (there’s POC representation in this discussion on women’s suffrage  – an often missed but sorely needed inclusion in more books). There are the usual obstacles for them to overcome: classism, sexism, ignorance, fear, but Harrow cleverly adds another, more supernatural and darker, twist which becomes horrifyingly evident in a gut-wrenching twist the further you read.

“If a woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box”

Each of the three women are so starkly different to the other, filling the ‘maiden, mother, crone’ archetype, each with their own worries and doubts brought up to the surface in a way that makes them wonderfully real. Bella is the academic, hungry for lost knowledge, Agnes is the core, beating heart with strength and sense, whilst Juniper is the wild-child, the feral hothead ready to change the world with nothing but a few spells and determination.

The book is bursting with gorgeous prose, and wonderful character development. As someone with two sisters, I really enjoyed seeing this kind of platonic relationship as the main core of this novel. You watch as Bella, Agnes, and Juniper’s relationship – fractious at the start – merges closer as their quest to find the Lost Ways of Avalon (the source of long-forgotten witching power) gets increasingly more perilous against those who would try to stop them.

As a final note, I really enjoy books that interlink lore with the narrative, and this is a book that hits the nail on the head. There are spells, and fairy stories, and rhymes that make up the backbone of the “magic”, littered throughout the story, which really adds to the magic that drips off the page.

Final verdict:
With October ‘spooky season’ fully at our doorsteps, this new novel is one you won’t want to miss when it’s released on 13th October. A bewitching book, The Once and Future Witches is poignant and gripping in equal measure, with a powerful exploration of feminism rooted firmly at its core. I can’t wait to share this with as many people as possible.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

“We do bones, motherf*cker”

Sometimes, you stumble across a book that has such an intriguing, batsh*t concept, you can’t help but want to delve immediately into the book. That is what Tasmyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth is – her debut novel and the first one as part of the Locked Tomb trilogy.

With a tagline that really speaks for itself – “lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!” – this book tries to pack a lot in. And when I say a lot I mean that I had to make quite a few notes along the way, especially over the more technical terms re: necromancy and how it works. But it is also immersive and rich in its worldbuilding, with witty character dialogue, and heartbreaking narrative that made me cry a few times and laugh raucously at others. It also, much to my delight, subtly (and at times, not so subtly) makes references to memes and fanfic (if you too, like me, have spent way too much time on the internet and know your fanfiction tropes, you’ll spot them).

In a world where there exist eight other Houses, each bound to serve the omnipotent Emperor Undying, the Necrolord Prime of the First House, we are introduced to our protagonist and POV character Gideon Nav. Gideon is an indentured servant of the Ninth House, likewise bound to serve her childhood nemesis Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Princess-Necromancer of the Ninth House – a goth house where skull face paint is applied liberally, and they summon skeletons as a primary source of their power. You’ve got to love a House that goes all out for the aesthetic.

The plot unfolds as the long-suffering duo embark to the planet of the First House along with the representatives of seven other Houses – the heirs and their cavaliers – with the goal to become a Lyctor (immortal servants who serve the Necrolord Prime). But as is quickly made apparent, all is not as it seems in this First House, and the goal of becoming a Lyctor far more muddied and complex than initially thought. The dynamic and banter between Gideon and Harrowhark which sits at the front of this novel, is particularly enjoyable to read: the former a foul-mouthed, brash jock, the latter a long-suffering, cerebral, sharp-tongued necromancer.

“But Gideon was experiencing one powerful emotion: being sick of everyone’s shit”

It’s sci-fi, with a smattering of gothic suspense, action, and murder mystery all wrapped into one intriguing, exciting, and heady cocktail. You follow Gideon as each of the characters in this crumbling, old palace try to figure out the long-lost secrets of Lyctorhood, whilst trying not to fall foul of any…further, darker secrets hidden away in this place. They are each pitted against each other whilst working together, and as the tension and suspicion grows, Muir drips feeds information about what-the-hell-is-going-on to you at the right points, in a way that kept me continually guessing (and yes, make notes as you read. It’s worth it, I promise).

The array of supporting characters with their different types of cultures and death magics are brilliant too (I would die for the Sixth House, not to be too dramatic about it), and soon you find yourself trying to navigate this haunted house trying to root for as many of them as possible (whilst outright despising others).

One flesh, one end. Bitch.”

This is a book which doesn’t pull its punches, whether that’s in the intricately detailed lore it drops, in the vicious, downright scary fight scenes that are nail-bitingly tense, or in the emotional dialogue it clocks you around the face with.

One thing I particularly loved about this novel is its depictions of relationships; specifically the connection between the Necromancers and Cavaliers. If there’s a trope I love seeing it’s the “ride or die” connection that Muir explores so wonderfully, and with such nuance, between each House. One cannot exist without the other – a heartbreaking point that sits at the centre of the entire book and ends on a traumatic cliffhanger. 

Final verdict : 

Gideon the Ninth takes an extremely intriguing premise and delivers up a wonderful, heart wrenching, and rich story. There is so much here, it deserves to be read and then re-read, with new points picked up upon each time. This is a must read for sci-fi fans at the very least.

How I Made You by Javier Goode

“Explore science, nature, hopes and dreams with your little one in this sweet tale of becoming.”

*Thank you to Ghost and Ribbon for sending me this copy in exchange for an honest review! #Ad

The first thing that struck me about this book, aimed at inquisitive young children about the facts of life and where they come from, was how it seamlessly combined science and nature in such a tender, soft way. Whilst there are no storks or pumpkin patches, fantastical images which children might better imagine, there is something magical about how science is softened and shaped in this story.

The cutesy layout with its soft pastel colours and sketched drawings of buttons – standing in for human beings – is particularly wonderful and easy to grasp. It sets out an important topic for children to learn about – how people are made – in an accessible, fun and unique way, combining the topic of science and nature with rhyme and story.

As I read, I was particularly impressed with the inclusivity shown in this book. It shows children that families can be “knit in different patterns, colours and styles”, an important learning point and one I was thrilled to see (the images of the buttons lent itself particularly well to this). The smooth prose skips between and around the illustrations, and whilst whimsical, it also very clearly aims to educate. 

“20,000 chromosomes, 46 chromosomes, 23 pairs, in our genome.”

This is certainly a children’s book that stirs up more questions – “what’s a chromosome? what’s DNA?”. My initial impression was “isn’t that too detailed for such a young audience?” as I remember learning this sort of information in secondary school. But then, teaching children at such a young age about scientific fact in such an easy to read format is a rarity amongst children’s books, and one that it can only be good to see more of. 

I suppose the question should have been “why shouldn’t they know?”. It is “nature in measure with just a bit extra” – the ‘bit extra’ being the a bonding experience between parent and child that comes from this whimsical read.

How to buy this book:

To be released on 28th August 2020, How I Made You by Javier Goode is soon to hit the shelves. You can preorder from the Ghost & Ribbon shop.

Rose’s Gold: A Comfort Food Cookbook by R.Shepherd

*Thank you to Ghost and Ribbon for sending me an advanced copy to review! #Ad 

There’s something historically poignant and rich about this book. As stated in the preface, this is a book that aims to share the “magic” of food, written to honour the life of Elma Rose Francis whose memory and inspiration lives on through this compilation of vibrant recipes. However, it is not just that. This book is a unique piece of history. After all, food is something very much tied to our culture and these dishes perfectly encapsulate the relationship the UK has with Jamaica through its cuisine (a topic woefully underrepresented and one I am thrilled to see explored).

A blend of Jamaican-British fusion recipes, this book offers a truly wonderful series of dishes to salivate over, whilst still being in the bracket of comfort food. I have no doubt that these dishes will be ones to be enjoyed by all, however adventurous your palate. 

The book itself is one that is split up into the three main meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a hint of sweetness in desserts (unashamedly, my favourite section to flip through!). The recipes are simple to follow, and easy enough to adapt depending on your tastebuds, giving general guidelines rather than strict instructions. The pictures too, are attractive and well thought out, the minimalist style really adding a sophisticated pop to the litany of home-cooked meals.

Food recipes are, after all, better when you can adapt and experiment, and the hallmark of a good cookbook is recognising this. I particularly loved the addition of a plantain recipe, and the Jamaican ginger cake – two recipes I could easily follow and really get stuck into. I look forward to reading and making more from this book, and perhaps getting brave enough to really add those scotch bonnet chillies in certain meals!

Final verdict:

Rose’s Gold is a book that exudes passion and warmth, with every recipe selected with care and insight. It is a wonderful way to honour the memory of a woman who clearly put heart and soul into dishes like these, with each one easy enough to experiment with or follow to the letter. You can purchase it from the Ghost & Ribbon shop.

Good Grace’s: A Rainy Day Cookbook by Grace Millard

*Thank you to Ghost & Ribbon for sending me this book, in exchange for an honest review! #ad

As we find ourselves in increasingly strange circumstances, largely advised to stay indoors with little human contact, more and more of us have turned to the comforts of cooking to see us through the long stretches of lockdown. Whether it’s experimenting with a sourdough loaf, mashing together another banana for your 5th attempt at a cake, or trying to learn how to poach the perfect egg, there is nothing quite like cooking.

Good Grace’s: A Rainy Day Cookbook could not have come at a better time. Its pages promise to sweep us away into a furor of wonderful sights, tastes, and smells – the kind that only home cooking and the satisfaction of a job well done can bring. It is a book that prides itself on “symbolising the ease of cooking at home” and is perfect for even the most simply stocked of kitchens.

It is this sense of comfort and familiarity behind every recipe that makes A Rainy Day Cookbook a joy to read. It has also had its foreword updated with the pandemic in mind, as a note in its introduction nods towards this “common understanding of isolation and loneliness” and the “fond appreciation of family, friends, and home” – something I particularly appreciated.

Another point I immensely liked about this book is its simplicity. Cooking does not have to be complex to be good. If you are new to cooking, the way in which the recipes are very easy to follow and – for the few recipes I tried – produce good results! Far too often, I find myself annoyed at cooking books which are filled with more words than are needed, when all I really want to do is turn to the practical element of making the meal. Grace’s book deftly fills that need.

It is not only that the recipes given are comforting, quintessentially English dishes, borne from the soul and heart of a Gloucester local, but it is also delightfully versatile. Every dish can be adapted to suit the dietary requirements and tastes of a person, a rare find in cooking books that now wedge themselves firmly in particular sections. In an age where the importance of buying locally and seasonally is important, or where the art of cooking simple dishes is slowly being lost, this cooking book tells us what choice is available, and I really enjoyed the little details that are mentioned, like how best to use individual ingredients in certain dishes.

My favourite recipes in this book to read – and try – were, understandably, the desserts. I have fond memories of my mum’s summer fruit pavlova, so seeing such a simple recipe written that I could easily follow was wonderful. It not only helped to bring that joy back, but also impressed my family in the process!

Final verdict:
Grace’s Rainy Day Cookbook is a charming gem, capturing and distilling an array of tasty dishes between its pages. If you wish to experience the magical joy of home cooking, and the satisfaction of eating a meal you made yourself – whether you are a seasoned pro or a beginner in the kitchen! – you need look no further than this book. You can purchase it from the Ghost & Ribbon shop.