Slideshow shadow

Bookworm Boutique Sale

May 24, 2015 in Bookish Posts

An impromptu post today, but I just wanted to share this offer with you all.

Heads-Up Bookworms

 

I follow Bookworm Boutique on Instagram (@bookwormboutique) and this weekend they have 20% off and FREE worldwide shipping in their online shop! The offer ends midnight PT Monday (which, according to a time converter on the interweb is 8am Monday UK time).

I couldn’t resist placing an order for this t-shirt…

…it pretty much sums up my life!

I’ve never used the company before so I can’t comment on service or anything like that. As always there’s no affiliate links or anything like that in this post – I just wanted to share this sale with you. I had to hold myself back from ordering EVERYTHING!

Hope you’re all having a great weekend! x

Review: Girl at War

May 23, 2015 in Book Reviews, Fiction

Review: Girl at WarGirl at War by Sara Novic
Published by Little Brown UK on May 2015
Format: Hardcover
Source: Competition Prize
Goodreads
five-stars
Zagreb, summer of 1991. Ten-year-old Ana Juric is a carefree tomboy who runs the streets of Croatia’s capital with her best friend, Luka, takes care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But as civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, soccer games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills. When tragedy suddenly strikes, Ana is lost to a world of guerilla warfare and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival.

Ten years later Ana is a college student in New York. She’s been hiding her past from her boyfriend, her friends, and most especially herself. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, she returns alone to Croatia, where she must rediscover the place that was once her home and search for the ghosts of those she’s lost. With generosity, intelligence, and sheer storytelling talent, Sara Nović’s first novel confronts the enduring impact of war, and the enduring bonds of country and friendship.

 

I was lucky enough to win a limited edition, numbered hardback proof of Girl at War from @LittleBrownUK on Twitter. To win you had to tell them why you wanted to read this book. For me, the answer was quite straight forward.

Girl at War is the story of a ten year old girl, Ana. She’s a tomboy who lives in Zagreb at the time of the Yugoslavian Civil War. Personally, I wanted to read this novel because at that same time as Ana was growing up in a warzone, I was a carefree tomboy living in Scotland. I remember seeing reports on this war on the television, but didn’t ever really have any concept of what was going on. Hence, the reason I wanted to read this novel.

The story is split into four sections. We begin by meeting Ana, her parents and her baby sister, living in a flat in Zagreb. It’s the summer holidays, but for the first time the family aren’t going to the sea; it’s too dangerous to travel. So Ana is passing her holidays with her best friend Luka, cycling and playing football, doing the kind of things that a ten year old should be allowed to do.

As refugees flock to the city and the airstrikes begin, we see the war from the eyes of a child. Ana soon realises that it now seems to matter if you are a Croat or a Serb, that having a beard is associated with the war, and that child or not, this war is going to affect everyone.

Nović uses the four sections of the book to traverse time. In doing so we follow Ana’s life as a child and the devastating things that happen to her during the war. We also see the college student Ana who lives in the US and has kept her past a secret from her peers, but who struggles every day with the events she has seen and the things she has had to do.

The novel has been described as “part war saga, part coming of age tale, part story of love and friendship” and I can think of no better way to describe it. Nović cleverly entwines the story of Ana the child and Ana the young adult. We see Ana the child soldier, and then Ana the college student who cannot sleep for nightmares of her past. Rather than continuing to hide her past, Ana decides to tackle it straight on and returns to Croatia. What follows is a beautiful story of friendship, as well as Ana’s rediscovery of her native culture.

This is a powerful, beautiful read. Nović’s storytelling is vivid, clever and inspiring. Though this may be a fictional piece of writing, there are so many truths in it. Truths that as a 10 year old watching the television I had no idea about. Truths that as a 31 year old I had very little knowledge of. Truths that deserve to be told, and Nović does this beautifully.

This is a stunning debut novel. I highly recommend it!

Review: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke

May 21, 2015 in Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, YA

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Conspiracy of Blood and SmokeConspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman
(Website, Twitter, Goodreads)Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #2
Also in this series: Prisoner of Night and Fog
Also by this author: Prisoner of Night and Fog
Published by Headline on 21st April 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, YA
Format: Paperback
Source: bookbridgr, Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars
The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: she used to be part of Adolf Hitler's inner circle. When she made an enemy of her old family friend, she fled Munich to live in Oxford, posing as an ordinary German immigrant. Her love, Daniel Cohen, is a reporter in town, and Gretchen is content. Then a telegram calls Daniel back to Germany, and her world turns upside down when she learns that he is wanted for murder.

To save him, Gretchen must return to her homeland and somehow avoid capture by the Nazi elite. As they work to clear Daniel's name, they discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and escape in time - or will Hitler discover them first?

in-brief

5-words

HATE, NAZIS, SURVIVAL, LOVE, FEAR

 

Things I liked

* the pace of the story

* the expansion of the story from book 1

* the education – I learned a lot

Didn't Like

* psychoanalysis felt rather forced in places

 

Who Should Read It

* fans of Prisoner of Night and Fog

* everyone else!

 

My Thoughts

If you haven’t read the first book Prisoner of Night and Fog then I suggest stopping here and maybe checking out my review of that instead.

I absolutely loved Prisoner of Night and Fog when I read it last year and Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke has been one of my most anticipated 2015 releases ever since.

Before starting this second book I was a little worried that I might have forgotten the fine details of Prisoner of Night and Fog. However, Anne Blankman soon quelled those fears by entwining reminders of book 1 in this narrative. Admittedly if I’d read this book straight after Prisoner of Night and Fog I might have found that a little irritating but for me, in this situation, it was perfect.

The book opens with Gretchen and Daniel in Oxford. Gretchen is living with the psychoanalyst Alfred Whitestone and his family (remember him from the first book?). She is happy, well fed and healthy. Daniel is working for a local paper – so they are both safe, in Britain. That is until Daniel takes off back to Germany following a telegram that his cousin is extremely ill after a horrific beating from the SA.

Gretchen is left in Oxford, wondering if she’ll ever see Daniel again. She herself receives a coded telegram from Germany telling her that the Nazis are aware of Daniel’s return to his homeland and, having accused him of a murder in Berlin, made him a wanted man.

Gretchen knows that she has to help Daniel and so she herself returns to Munich. If she is recognised, she knows she will be executed. However, she has to help Daniel and so the story moves to Germany, where Gretchen hunts down Daniel. Together they investigate this murder in a bid to clear Daniel’s name. They end up uncovering secrets, secrets that could cost them their lives.

Once again, I love the way that Anne Blankman has tied this fictional story of Gretchen and Daniel into real life history. I ended up building upon my (albeit limited) knowledge of National Socialist Germany. Getting caught up in the fictional aspect of the story, it’s quite easy to forget that the setting of this novel is real. These horrendous things really did happen to honest, innocent people. This is one of the things that I particularly like about this series – it makes you stop and think. This is particularly effective as a YA novel as it challenges and educates the reader.

As for the fictional side of Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke, I enjoyed it. It is fast paced, terrifying and thrilling. There’s so much fear in this book. Gretchen is terrified of coming eye to eye with Hitler again, of being caught, of Daniel being caught, of what will become of her friend, of what the future holds for Germany. I think Blankman has captured this aspect well. I could really feel the fear coming through her words, it pushed me to read on and on.

I found the psychological aspects of this book to be interesting, just as I did with Prisoner of Night and Fog. However the analysis of the psychological aspects felt slightly more forced in this second book. In the first, the characters of Hitler and Reinard made for natural psychoanalysis through the book. In book two, it’s Gretchen’s interest in psychology that is used. I found this to be less powerful.

That aside, this is a great read. It’s educational, thought-provoking and chilling. The ending of this book sets it up well for the third. I anticipate that book 3 will be as different as book 2 is to book 1, and I can’t wait to read on.

I definitely recommend this series.

about the author

 

About Anne Blankman

Anne Blankman

Anne Blankman was born in upstate New York and studied at Union College, during which time she did an exchange in York, England - a place she's always dreamed of returning to. She has since worked as a youth services librarian. The idea for her debut novel Prisoner of Night and Fog, came to her after she learned about Hitler's beloved half niece who shared his luxurious Munich flat. Anne began wondering what it would have been like to be a young girl growing up within the Nazi elite's inner circle and if it would have been possible to break free from it.

Top Ten Tuesday #15: 10 Books New To My Shelves

May 19, 2015 in Bookish Posts

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. If you’d like to participate too, see here.

Top 10 Tuesday Strupag

This week the topic is a freebie so I’ve opted to go with…

10 Books I’ve Just Added To My Shelves

I’ve acquired a lot of books recently. I’ve been lucky enough to win a few, to be sent some by publishers and, of course, I’ve bought some for myself. Today’s TTT is the ten books that are newest to my bookshelves.

TTT

Have you read any of these? Where should I start?

1

Sabriel

Sabriel (Abhorsen #1) & Lirael (Abhorsen #2), Garth Nix. Ok so I’m starting off with a bit of a cheat, but these are in the same series so surely they can be classed as one entry? I’ve wanted to read Sabriel for ages, so I finally bought myself a copy – but since I was paying postage anyway I decided to get book 2 too.

2

Uprooted

Uprooted by Naomi Novak. First of all the cover of this book is stunning. I thought it looked gorgeous online but in real life it’s even better. Delighted to have been sent a copy of this… I think this will probably be my next read.

3

Mitford Girls

The Mitford Girls: The Biography of an Extraordinary Family by Mary S. Lovell. Over a family dinner recently we started talking about the Mitfords. The family owned a house on Inch Kenneth, an island beside Mull (where I’m from). As we were talking I realised how little I knew about the family. My sister told me about a documentary she’d watched and I decided I had to find out more.

4

 ACOTAR

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. I feel like I’m the only person in the world still to read this book! I can’t wait but equally I want to savour every minute of it!

5

 Prince of Mist

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I was lucky enough to win a bundle of books with Spanish authors over on Twitter. The Prince of Mist is just one of the Carlos Ruiz Zafon books they sent me and I’m so excited to read his work (especially as I’ve seen him mentioned frequently in TTTs).

6

Seraphina

 Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book so I was delighted when my Mum gave it to me as a gift.

7 Girl at War

Girl at War by Sara Novic. Sometimes you don’t need to hear much about a book to know you want to read it. This is a novel, but the main character Ana is a 10 year old tomboy growing up in Zagreb at the time of the Yugoslavian civil war. I was about that age at that time too, a tomboy in Scotland. I remember seeing things about the war on the news but I never really understood what was going on. As far as I understand the book goes on to explore the impact of that war on Ana’s adulthood life. I’m really interested to dive into this book.

8

A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. A story about a grumpy old man – yes please. My husband will tell you that I have an affinity with grumpy old people.

9

DoW

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. This is the first book in the All Souls Trilogy. I’ve heard a mix of things about this, some folk LOVE it and others less so. We shall see where I fall in the debate.

10

  Quicksand

Quicksand by Steve Toltz. Quoting from Goodreads “Sharp, witty, kinetic, and utterly engrossing, Quicksand is a subversive portrait of twenty-first-century society in all its hypocrisy and absurdity.” I’m very intrigued by this book. Plus the cover is way more impressive in real life.

So there we go. Ten-ish books that I’ve recently added to my bookshelves. A bit of a mixture too!

Have you read any of these?

All book cover images have been sourced from Goodreads.

Review: The Queen of the Tearling

May 14, 2015 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Fiction

Review: The Queen of the TearlingThe Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #1
Published by Bantam Press Genres: Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
Goodreads
four-stars
Her throne awaits . . . if she can live long enough to take it.

It was on her nineteenth birthday that the soldiers came for Kelsea Glynn. They’d come to escort her back to the place of her birth – and to ensure she survives long enough to be able to take possession of what is rightfully hers.

But like many nineteen-year-olds, Kelsea is unruly, has high principles and believes she knows better than her elders. Unlike many nineteen-year-olds, she is about to inherit a kingdom that is on its knees – corrupt, debauched and dangerous.

Kelsea will either become the most fearsome ruler the kingdom has ever known . . . or be dead within the week.

in-brief

 

5-words

SELF DISCOVERY, MAGIC, ASSASSINS, COURAGE

Things I liked

* Kelsea in general

* Kelsea’s love of books!

* the journey to the capital & associated character development

Didn't Like

* a bit predictable in places

Who Should Read It

* fans of fantasy

Rest of the series

YES

My Thoughts

When I first heard about this book (ages ago) I couldn’t wait to read it, but then reviews popped up and they were mixed. So I held off reading it for a bit, and consequently my expectations of the book diminished. I think that’s probably why I really enjoyed this book – I wasn’t caught up in the hype and subsequently just enjoyed the book for what it is.

So Kelsea is heir to the Tearling throne. She has been raised in seclusion, educated and prepared for her life as Queen. For the past 19 years her life has been in danger. Assassins have long hunted her, many sent by her Uncle the Regent who doesn’t want to give up his power.

Upon turning 19 a band of guards arrive to remove Kelsea from her home, a little cottage in the forest, everything she knows and deliver her to the capital where she will be crowned. However the assassins are hard on their tails and to compound her troubles Kelsea needs to try to distinguish friend from foe.

Being raised in seclusion by two sworn to preserve her mother’s secrets, Kelsea knows very little of the politics of her world. Her journey to the capital opens her eyes to the world. She sees her Kingdom in trouble and takes a brave first step into her reign as Queen. A step which enrages the Red Queen of neighbouring Mortmesne and surely brings war upon her people?

I found myself particularly absorbed by the journey to the capital, trying to evade capture and death, as well as learning more about the Kingdom as a whole. I felt it gave a great foundation to the book, with Kelsea and her guards slowly getting to know one another. So by the time Kelsea arrived at the capital, I felt I had a good impression of what she was about.

I like the character of Kelsea and how her character develops over the course of the book. From her first act as Queen to her determination to rescue her people, she’s a very likeable character.

If there was something I didn’t like about this book, it’s the predictability of it. Don’t get me wrong; it did surprise me in places, but I just felt some parts were rather predictable.

On the whole I think this is a great first book. It whets the reader’s appetite and builds a foundation where really anything could happen in the next two books. Honestly, I can’t wait to read on, I anticipate more magic and less predictability to the story so we shall see what happens…