When Princess Amythest (aka Amy) is born, she receives gift upon gift from her fairy godmothers: charm, wit, grace, courage…and to her parent’s horror, her most eccentric fairy godmother grants her the gift of being ordinary! Unlike her impossibly beautiful and perfect sisters, Amy likes climbing trees, exploring forests, and getting into all manner of adventures. But when her despairing parents go one step too far in their plans to marry her off, Amy decides she needs to take matters into her own hands.


I mainly read this book because:

(a) It was a recommendation from Amrita, of  Amrita By the Book (you can check out her Booktube channel here and her Bookstagram here); and

(b) I’ve been gobbling up every M. M. Kaye book I can find, after I fell deeply in love with The Far Pavilions earlier this year.


I’ll get straight to the point: The Ordinary Princess is a highly adorable story, and it’s a great reading choice for younger girls. Amy is such a determined little heroine, and she really takes control of her own life. She gets a job! She stands up for the kitchen maids! She refuses to let her parents destroy the countryside via dragon in an effort to marry her off! I loved her character so much.


I don’t mind reading books for younger readers, but I also really think that the book really holds up well for adult readers as well as children. It’s not too preachy or condescending, and it doesn’t have any major “yikes” moments, considering that it was written in the mid-1900s and published in the 1980s. Plus, the author drew all the illustrations in my edition of the novel, and her artwork is just lovely to behold.


There is a playfulness about the language and writing style of this book, which I hadn’t really seen in M. M. Kaye’s historical and mystery books. Dare I say it, it was reminiscent of Georgette Heyer’s lively and humorous writing style. All of which is to say: I highly recommend it!


– Safiyya


PS: Disney, please go make an adaptation of this movie! Or Studio Ghibli, which would be a very different and absolutely fantastic option!

Cover page for The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye




“Hmm!” said the Fairy Crustacea. “Wit, Charm, Courage, Health, Wisdom, Grace…Good gracious, poor child! Well, thank goodness my magic is stronger than anyone else’s.” 

– M. M. Kaye



Cover page for A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher; gingerbread man holding a sword

Safiyya: This month, Hailey and I read T. Kingfisher’s A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, which is about as delightfully kooky as it sounds.


The story follows Mona, a teenage girl with a very unique gift: she can make baked breads come to life. Unfortunately, after Mona stumbles across a dead body in her aunt’s bakery, her special talent draws unwanted attention from a serial killer who is targeting magical people in her city. Mona is unwillingly launched into an adventure of political intrigue, prejudice, heists, murder and mayhem, along with her sidekick gingerbread man, her sourdough starter Bob, and a street-wise urchin named Spindle.


When you’re different, even just a little different, even in a way that people can’t see, you like to know that people in power won’t judge you for it.

– T. Kingfisher


You may or may not have noticed that the world is on fire, and indeed, it has been in this sad state for quite some time. I have a large extended family living in India, and the daily barrage of horrible news is….a lot to deal with. All of which is to say, for whatever reason, I was in exactly the right headspace to read an absurdist fantasy-comedy about a teenage girl with a gingerbread man sidekick.


Reader, I really enjoyed it. I liked Mona, and Spindle, and Bob. I liked the army of evil gingerbread men. I liked the creativity with which Mona used her unusual gift to resolve her problems. I liked the deeper themes about prejudice and scapegoating against a minority group, institutional violence, adults’ responsibilities toward children, and social inequity in a society of plenty. I liked the way that Mona came to understand and cope with the fact that societal institutions and people in power are not always interested in protecting the ones they rule.


This book is very much a classic coming-of-age story. I loved watching Mona’s character evolve as she has to step forward to save the city, when no one else was able or willing to do so. I also loved the weird specificity of her magical talent, which tapped into my unspoken musings about what happens to the X-Men who don’t have battle-oriented talents. (Hailey has informed me that there are, in fact, comic arcs about members of the X-Men who do not have the most tactically useful of abilities.)


I did have a couple complaints, the biggest of which relates to the tone of the writing. As mentioned above, this is an absurdist story, and it is very funny as a result. Unfortunately, the constant use of flippant humour also undercuts the story’s urgency. In theory, there are major consequences at stake here – for instance: the disappearance and death of people with magical gifts, corruption within the city’s highest levels of government, an impending invasion from an outside force. Yet it is hard to really take these issues seriously when the story’s narration doesn’t seem to take them seriously either.


Another complaint is the fact that some of the minor characters come across as somewhat flat, especially Mona’s aunt and uncle. These two characters serve a role in moving along the plot of the story, but they are quickly sidelined in order to generate higher stakes for Mona to overcome, and to allow her greater independence. A good example is what Hailey and I termed as the “Spare Room of Requirement”. Early in the story, we learn that even though Mona is only fourteen, she lives on her own because there is simply no room in her aunt’s house for another person to stay. Much later in the book, Mona drags Spindle back to her aunt’s place rather than leaving him to fend for himself on the streets. Mona’s aunt then insists that Spindle should stay in the never-before-referenced spare room, which was apparently sitting unused in her home while her fourteen-year-old niece lived alone in the city.


But at the end of the day, these complaints were not nearly enough to ruin my enjoyment of the book. It is also worth noting, T. Kingfisher intended to write this book for a younger audience of readers, maybe aged 9-12. She was thwarted by her publishers’ concerns about exposing children to discussions about serial killers, racial prejudice, and institutional injustice (which is nonsense, given that children aged 9-12 are very capable of understanding these things.) As such, it makes sense that the tone of the writing made light of some of the more disturbing material, and that the authority figures get short shrift so that the younger heroes have their moment to shine. In this manner, the book is closer to T. Kingfisher’s novel Minor Mage than it is to her more adult stories such as The Twisted Ones or The Hollow Places.


I found A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking to be a delightful, magical, and unapologetically absurdist journey, with some surprisingly deeper themes and ideas. I would particularly recommend it for readers who are looking for a magical adventure in the vein of Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain stories, or for anyone who just needs a fun and enjoyable break.






Hailey:  Ok, so difference in opinion here.  I really wanted to love this book but it fell a quite flat for me.  I felt a bit like I was reading a first draft of a potentially interesting story that hadn’t been “polished” yet.  There were so many brilliant ideas and social commentaries waiting to be further developed, it just didn’t reach the mark yet.  As Safiyya mentioned, many of the side characters felt one-dimensional which is always a pet-peeve of mine.  Also, at one point Mona’s uncle is referred to by a completely different name, so clearly a bit more editing was needed.  As for the “Spare Room of Requirement”, that nearly drove me … well, spare.


I love middle-grade books so that wasn’t the issue for me, I just felt like there was something lacking.  I really had to trudge through the book to complete it by our book discussion date – I was very easily distracted and did not feel immersed in the story in the way I’d want to with a fantasy book.  To me it felt a bit like a poor imitation of a Terry Pratchett novel, but in A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking the irreverent tone was more distracting than humourous.  Ostensibly, a storyline about a magician-targeting serial killer should be pretty riveting, but to me it didn’t really feel like there was much at stake and I was left fairly ambivalent. 


I did really enjoy Mona’s pint-sized gingerbread familiar and plucky street urchin Spindle, they kept me pushing through the story (to be honest, I was more concerned about the safety of the little cookie than any of the other characters!)  Bob was also one of the funniest parts of the book but he has certainly put me off sourdough bread for the foreseeable future (yikes!)


So at the end of the day, this definitely was a miss for me.  However, one book not resonating with me is not sufficient evidence for me to form an opinion on an author’s writing.  I’d actually been wanting to read Paladin’s Grace before Safiyya had picked this buddy read so I’m going to give T. Kingfisher another go in the future.


Until next time readers!


After a minute, I said, “I never wanted to be a hero.”

His face was solemn. “Nobody ever does.” 

– T Kingfisher


Good morning, readers and writers! My name is Safiyya, my co-blogger is Hailey, and we are both very excited to embark upon this new journey!

We didn’t actually get tagged by anyone, but we are going to do the Book Blogger Newbie Tag all the same. It looks fun, it seems like a good way to meet people, and in all honesty, the set of questions is a great way to introduce people to this here book blog. I understand that the tag was invented by an author who has since deleted their blog, so I can’t provide the link for it, but I got the set of questions from The Bookaholic Dreamer blog, which you can find here. (And you should check it out, because Pauliina’s blog is lots of fun to follow!)

So here goes! Read more >


A Million Things is a heart-wrenching story told from the perspective of ten year old Rae who forms an unlikely friendship with her elderly neighbour Lettie. Rae’s always taken on more responsibility at home than most children her age, but with her mum suddenly gone she’s got to keep everything together on her own. Rae must care for herself and her dog Splinter, buy groceries, cook meals, clean the house and pay bills all while trying to avoid drawing the attention of nosy neighbours, school administrators or officials from the housing council. Her one source of comfort is taking long walks with Splinter through picturesque neighbourhoods, where she can envision a different kind of life.

Lettie has been consumed by grief for decades; her life and home have gotten so out of control that she’s reported to the housing council as a danger to the health and safety of the neighbourhood. When Lettie has an accident in her home one evening Rae comes to her aid, and so, after years of living side-by-side with minimal interaction, the pair unexpectedly become each other’s support system.

Both humourous and tragic, A Million Things is a riveting novel that I read all in one sitting. Emily Spurr’s prose was very well written and the characters exuded such raw emotion. I also loved the delightfully snarky banter between Rae and Lettie, (“kiddo”/”goat-o” had me in stitches). I liked how each chapter was a day in Rae’s life after her mum leaves – as the days continued to pass you could feel the increasing amount of strain on Rae as she tries to keep it all together, until it all just gets too much for her. Watching the count of the days increase also really highlighted how traumatic it would be for a young child to be on their own for such a long time.

Overall, it was a great debut novel and I look forward to reading more from Emily Spurr in the future.

Thank you to NetGalley and Text Publishing for providing an eARC of this book for review.

– Hailey




Time stops. I hang in the dark between then and now. It’s soft here. I can smell you. The you before. The you that smelled of citrus body cream and shampoo. I can feel your fingers on my hand. We’re all we’ve got.

Emily Spurr