Where Ideas Grow

A blog for students of creative writing at York St John University

What the Editors Read in March

Fancy some recommendations for your next read? Look no further…


‘Mrs. Death Misses Death’ by Salena Godden

Genre/Category: Adult/Experimentalist Fiction

Page count (including epilogue + acknowledgments): 320

Synopsis: ‘Mrs. Death has had enough. She is exhausted from spending eternity doing her job and now she seeks someone to unburden her conscience to. Wolf Willeford, a troubled young writer, is well acquainted with death, but until now hadn’t met Death in person – a black, working-class woman who shape-shifts and does her work unseen.

Enthralled by her stories, Wolf becomes Mrs Death’s scribe, and begins to write her memoirs. Using their desk as a vessel and conduit, Wolf travels across time and place with Mrs Death to witness deaths of past and present and discuss what the future holds for humanity. As the two reflect on the losses they have experienced – or, in the case of Mrs Death, facilitated – their friendship grows into a surprising affirmation of hope, resilience and love. All the while, despite her world-weariness, Death must continue to hold humans’ fates in her hands’ – Waterstones

Personal rating of content: 3/5


  • Salena Godden has a very unique and gripping writing style. I found myself constantly enamoured with her words. Her narrative is simultaneously beautiful and vulgar, and I often found myself shocked by its profoundness.
  • In relation to the aforementioned vulgarities, some of the language in the book was shocking (in the right ways). This book is about death, and it would have likely failed if she hadn’t explored the pure rawness of being alive.
  • Her understanding of character, and her humanisation of ‘Death’, was brilliantly executed.
  • There was evidently a lot of detailed research that went into a grand portion of the novel. A lot of the book focused on real-life murders, and the execution of this was respectful and powerful.


  • This novel, quite honestly, was incredibly difficult for me to get through. I took a lot longer to read this book than I typically do, and there were long intervals where it was left unread. I think a downside to the unashamed shockingness of the book is that it made me feel frequently unwell. I would put off picking it back up. I respected the book from an objective standpoint, but it wasn’t really a ‘pleasure read’.
  • Whilst Godden’s writing style is beautiful, it often felt as though every single line was trying to be ‘quotable’. I understand that this book is deep and complex because death itself is deep and complex, but I found myself falling out of the narrative a lot because of this.
  • Further, whilst I respect experimentalism, the lack of narrative in a lot of places and consistent rambling grew tiring.
  • ‘Death’ is a very broad concept, and I felt that Godden was trying to incorporate so many aspects of it into the novel that the storyline became disjointed.

Personal rating of cover: 3/5

I don’t really have any strong feelings about it, to be honest. I’m not absolutely taken with it, but I don’t necessarily hate it either. It’s fine, I guess, haha.

Favourite Quote?

I have two! I found it difficult to decide between these:

“Mrs Death sees me. Mrs Death sold me tobacco. Mrs Death lives in my cigarettes. […] She is the working woman. She works in the shops and in the markets and launderettes and factories. […] Mrs Death is the spirit of the ignored and the saint of the betrayed. She is the first woman. Mrs Death is the first mother of all mothers. She is calling to us all now. She is weeping. She is cradling her crumbling world. She is holding the toxic and wounded planet to her cold breast.” (pages 36-37)

“And let’s hope that if you do kill yourself, you are well over forty years old, because to kill yourself before age forty is like murdering a stranger.” (page 66)

Would I recommend?

Honestly, this book wasn’t for me. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this book for everybody. If you get queasy at the thought of blood, guts, and illness (like me), then I would probably sit this one out. However, I’m aware that this book has some good objective qualities, and that I’m just probably not the target audience. Ifyou’re into experimentalist fiction and you’re not squeamish – maybe give this one a go!

I would only recommend this book for individuals aged 18+ due to graphic references to deaths (both real and fiction), sexual violence, suicide, and abuse.


“Ella Minnow Pea” by Mark Dunn

Genre/category: Epistolary fiction

Page count (including epilogue and acknowledgments): 208

Synopsis: Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal pangram, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island’s Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl’s fight for freedom of expression, as well as a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lovers everywhere. (Goodreads)

Personal rating of content: 3.5/5


This is an extremely creative concept of a story for a lot of reasons, and I am sure it was quite a challenge for the author to write. As the novel is epistolary, meaning it is written in the form of a series of letters, and because as actual letters start falling from the pangram in the statue and are forbidden to be used, the way of writing a story like such is greatly appraised. 

I admire the author’s imagination and the intricate way in which he manages to develop a full story through the exchange of letters in a social system that is oppressive in an unconventionally different way.

The comical element of the book has to be highlighted as well, for its absurdity makes it unique in a great way. 


As the book progresses and more letters fall, it gets quite confusing to try to understand the messages passed on in the letters. It becomes easy to skim through the pages and grasp just the important information instead of the whole concept. I understand that it is part of the peculiarity of the narrative, but regardless it made it a bit unclear.

I also didn’t feel any type of connection or relation towards the characters, perhaps because they were never fully themselves due to the risk of knowing that their letters were read and examined by the Council, and expressing their true thoughts became harder and harder because of the increasing lack of alphabet letters allowed to be used.

Personal rating of the cover: 6/10

It is a book cover that matches the mood of the book: literal and simple. 

Favourite quote: When the letter “D” falls from the statue, Nollopians can’t mention the days of the weeks anymore. So the Council comes up with really random and comical replacements. I think this quote sums up the ridiculousness of their situation in a funny way:

“For Sunday, please use Sunshine. For Monday, please use Monty. For Tuesday, please use Toes. For Wednesday, please use Wetty. For Thursday, please use Thurby. For Friday, please use Fribs. For Saturday, please use Satto-gatto.”
Would I recommend?: Yes! I would recommend it to anyone who is in the mood for a fun and quick read.


AnnieBot’ by Sierra Greer

Page Count: 230


This story focuses on Annie, a humanoid robot designed to please and satisfy her owner. She is under the control of Doug, a thirty-something-year-old male who has purchased Annie after a breakup with his real – life girlfriend. Doug is slightly embarrassed of Annie, and reluctant to introduce her to friends and family. Additionally, the way he speaks to her sometimes is inconsiderate, which may be inevitable given the fact she is a piece of technology, but since the writing is from Annie’s point of view we learn that she does indeed have a conscience, and even feelings. This book raises issues regarding the advancement of technology, artificial intelligence, and to me, the treatment of women who are in emotionally abusive relationships.

Rate: 4/5


This book is emotional and deals with the issues it portrays in a collected and thoughtful manner. The characters are realistic and three dimensional, even Annie herself. The descriptions of technology and programming do not seem far fetched and cringe worthy, they are realistic and impacting.

Doug is a very memorable character to me. He represents the highest form of male insecurity with the way he treats Annie, by drip feeding her moments of kindness and love, which are mostly reactions to the way she looks (Doug has designed Annie to be large breasted, size 4, in her early twenties) and what she can offer him, and which make the moments in which he is cruel and harmful towards her near devastating, as we learn of her inner feelings and desire for curiosity and adventure. She is confused, gullible, and does not understand his treatment, constantly told she is to feel lucky in his presence.

The novel did make me think that unfortunately, Doug probably was the best of a bad bunch in his treatment of Annie. You don’t need to imagine much the reality that would unfold if this became a reality (it already kind of is) of men being able to purchase robots of women that are designed to please them.

I forgot Annie was a robot at times, because of how good the writing was. AnnieBot is cinematic, climactic, engaging, thoughtful, and unique, despite the premise of androids and humanoids being approached before hundreds of times in the sci fi genre.


The only con for me for this story (spoiler alert!) was that I was near screaming towards the end of the story for Annie to just leave, to run way. Doug had a slight redemption arc which made him again, realistic, he is a human who learns from his mistakes too. Yet I did not forget about the way he treated Annie initially, and I still hated his guts. Annie does run away at the end, but not quite in the way I wanted her to. I wanted it to be a moment of utter freedom where we are totally unaware of where she ends up, so that she could finally be independent: however Annie runs away to one of the other males that is briefly mentioned in the story, who did admittedly show her kindness.

Perhaps this is also a sense of realisation, maybe it would have been impossible for Annie to survive on her own, and she relied on male company of some sort. This is where it fell ever so short for me.

Personal rating of cover: 4/5

It’s gorgeous and girly, I love it personally, but hopefully its Barbie-fication won’t put some readers off reading this story, which is actually very serious and what I think an insightful commentary on human nature and relationships.


‘Shes being too sensitive. Too picky. Her training is basically at his convenience, for his amusement, for his gratification. Her initial nervousness turned him on, clearly, and he savours her triumphs sharing his chocolate bar with her. He enjoys coaching her and takes credit for her progress, but he still controls her. He’s still in charge. He holds the leash no matter how lightly he grasps it and no matter how far she goes.’

Would I recommend?

Definitely, for fans of Klara and the Sun, The Stepford Wives, and the film Her.


‘You’ll Come Back to Yourself’ by Michaela Angemeer

Page count: 139 pages 

You’ll Come Back to Yourself explores themes of lost love, infidelity, depression, body image, and ultimately the power women have in learning to choose themselves. The collection is separated into three sections: Holding On, Ouroboros, and Letting Go, this collection is a cyclical expedition independence and making peace with yourself. It takes us on a journey self discovery and learning the art that even if you’ve lost yourself, you can always find them again. 

Personal content rating : 4/5


It’s an intimate look at a very universal subject matter. The emotional state of the speaker really falls off the page and readers feels like they are on a journey with the speaker. 

I think the narrative elements of becoming independent are really important and provide a nice contrast to the stereotypes in poetry of love and heartbreak 

The emotional punches are impactful in all the best ways and the reader is made to think about their own situations in multiple places, which is what I like in a poetry collection. 

The poetry is accessible and like every good collection you find yourself being able to dip in and out. I think because the author has come from social media platforms, there are multiple poems that are short and sharp. 

There are a lot of poems that have very repeatable qualities. Almost like poetic ear worms that again probably comes from creating short form content online. 


While it is good that the poetry is accessible and easy to read, as a fan of experimenting in my own poetry I would have liked to have seen more of that throughout the collection.

Given the style the author writes in I did find it becoming repetitive as the collection was moving into the later stages. Maybe a change of theme, style or pace would have kept me fully engaged throughout. 

I would have liked some more metaphorical language in the collection. Again, given the style of poetry, it tends to be quite on the nose and does not take multiple reads to fully interpret the meaning. Which is not fully my taste 

Personal cover rating: 3/5 

While I like the understated cover and I admire the darkness matched with the beauty of a wave, it doesn’t grab me in the way I like. It’s understated and pretty like a lot of the poetry inside, so in that respect it works well. However, it like a cover to make me want to take it off the shelf, rather than stumble across it as was the case here. 

Favourite quote: 

‘’don’t plant seeds of commitment

in my mind

if you never intend to water them’’

Would I recommend:

If you like poetry that has become popular on Instagram and Tiktok in recent times then I absolutely would. It does have some lovely poems in and I think the message in the collection is very important. However, if you like more poetic poetry with heavy description and metaphor then maybe look elsewhere in the poetry section.


‘Throne of Glass’ series by Sarah J. Maas

Genre/ category: Fantasy

Page count (including epilogue and acknowledgments): 4,912 pages (eight books in the series)

Synopsis: ‘Throne of Glass’ follows the heroine Celaena Sardothien, a young woman who is a highly trained assassin in the corrupted Kingdom of Ardalan. Over time, Celaena is drawn into a conspiracy and a series of battles, leading to discoveries surrounding both the Kingdom and herself. –Wikipedia

Personal rating of the content: 5/5


  • The main character is extremely strong and well developed- she is the complete opposite to the traditional helpless female who needs saving that we often see in fantasy novels, which is really refreshing. Celaena is witty, morally grey and multi-layered, making her the perfect protagonist for the series. 
  • Fast-paced and action packed with fantastic battles- it felt like I was watching a movie when reading these scenes!
  • Although the books belong in the fantasy genre, there is also an undercurrent of romance running throughout, making us root for certain characters and become more invested in their storylines. 
  • The villain of the series is also very well characterised. It doesn’t feel too cheesy or over the top, but expertly crafted to threaten the safety of the kingdom. For 8 books, we wait for the final epic showdown, and it doesn’t disappoint in the slightest!
  • Maas is a master at world-building. Every city and country is vividly described without being boring, so the reader has a thorough image of each location in their minds. 
  • The fantasy elements are perfect- Fae, witches, magical beasts, immortal queens, dragon-like creatures and shapeshifters. The series managed to explore these magical elements alongside political discourse and rebellion, making it a highly exciting read.


  • Maas wrote the first book in the series when she was a teenager, so it is bound to read slightly younger in comparison to her later novels. However, this doesn’t necessarily diminish her work, as Celaena is also only sixteen during the first book, so it feels as if she grows up as Maas’ writing develops throughout the series. 

Personal rating of the cover: 3/5

I loved the original covers of the Throne of Glass books (with Celaena on the front), but the recent ones are quite bland and don’t stand out to me. However, they do look very satisfying on a bookshelf when grouped together! 

Favourite quote? 

“Libraries were full of ideas – perhaps the most dangerous and powerful of all weapons.”
Would I recommend it? Absolutely- I’d recommend these books to anyone who loves action, adventure and strong female protagonists. This series is a fantastic introduction to reading fantasy (as it was for me!) and I think fans of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings would love Maas’ work.

The Where Ideas Grow Editorial Team

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