Review: The Alice Network

October 21, 2017 in Book Reviews, Historical Fiction

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Alice NetworkThe Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Published by William Morrow on 13th July 2017 (UK)
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth ...no matter where it leads.

The Alice Network is a novel built around fact, something that I feel makes this novel particularly special.

Charlie St Clair finds herself pregnant and unmarried in 1947. Her well-to-do family insist she go to Europe to have her ‘Little Problem’ dealt with. Charlie seizes her trip to Europe to try and find her friend and cousin Rose who went missing in Nazi-occupied France. Charlie holds hope that Rose might still be alive and so begins her investigations.

It’s these investigations that lead Charlie to London and to one Eve Gardiner and her driver Finn Kilgore. From this point the story is told in alternating chapters, Charlie in 1947 and Eve starting in 1915.

Eve was part of a network of female spies – The Alice Network. While the character of Eve is fictional, this network existed, led by an Alice Dubois. Quinn incorporates this historical figure, the “Queen of Spies”, as well as some of Dubois’ associates into this novel.

The result is a work of fiction that is not only compelling and addictive but also fascinating and educational. I learned much from this novel with Quinn’s author’s note helping me to distinguish the fact from fiction.

The story, the search for Rose, forms the backbone of this novel but it’s far more than a missing person case. This is a novel of friendship, trauma, love, war, hope and despair. It’s an exploration of the post-war era as well as an accurate account of life in occupied France, and the sacrifices of a group of (generally unheard of) women who had their own important and dangerous roles in the war.

I loved the characters in this novel. The fact that I cared so much about them really finished off this novel for me.

This is a well-written, researched and thoroughly eye-opening novel. I think I’m going to seek out more information on The Alice Network and Alice Dubois herself. Her story and that of her associates is one I feel I need to know more about and I’m so grateful to Quinn for bringing it to my attention through this captivating novel.

Reese Alice Network

NOTE – The Alice Network was picked as a Reese Witherspoon book club read, so if you don’t believe me maybe Reese will convince you to pick it up! 😉

four-half-stars

Review: All The Wicked Girls

October 16, 2017 in Book Reviews, Crime, Mystery

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: All The Wicked GirlsAll The Wicked Girls by Chris Whitaker
Published by Bonnier Zaffre on 24th August 2017
Genres: Crime, Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she's a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace, Alabama - especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine.

Then Summer goes missing. Grace is already simmering, and with this new tragedy the police have their hands full keeping the peace. Only Raine throws herself into the search, supported by a most unlikely ally.

But perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .

When Summer Ryan goes missing in Grace, Alabama, it is feared that she is another Briar Girl. Girls have been going missing and the Police Dept is yet to uncover the truth of their disappearances.

So Summer’s twin sister Raine takes it upon herself to find her sister, and enlists the help of two local boys Noah and Purv. Noah’s late father was a police officer and Noah wants to emulate him and his heroism. While Summer and Raine may be twins they are very different. Summer is academic and musical, Raine hangs out with guys getting drunk. As different as they may be they love each other fiercely and Raine will do whatever it takes to find her twin.

This novel is packed full of characters and somehow in just 339 pages we get an insight into their histories. That in itself is impressive. I’ll admit being overwhelmed at first by the number of names; my foggy brain couldn’t keep up. But slowly we uncover more about them all and the citizens of Grace, Alabama, seem a lot more real, more than a blend of names.

As we follow Noah, Purv and Raine while they try to find Summer (throwing themselves into harm’s way in the process), we are also treated to chapters from Summer. Through these chapters we learn more about the missing girl, much more.

Then, of course, there are the other missing girls, the Briar Girls – will they ever solve the mystery? Perhaps with Noah and co. on the case.

I don’t want to give you much more information for fear of spoiling the evolution of this story. What I will say is that this is not only a mystery novel but a look into a small community where that person next door you might look to have it all, may actually have their own hidden struggles and secrets.

four-stars

Review: The Last Namsara

October 11, 2017 in Book Reviews, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Last NamsaraThe Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
Series: Iskari #1
Published by Gollancz on 12th October 2017 (UK)
Genres: Fantasy, YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be dark—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up hearing in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

Asha is the daughter of the dragon king. The people are afraid of her because she brought dragonflame upon the city as a child, telling Old Stories which attract the dragons. She herself was badly burned, but was rescued by the commandant’s son, Jarek. Now she is a hunter of dragons, a dragon slayer for her father the King who has also named her Iskari, from the Old Stories.

Asha is betrothed to the very boy who saved her. He’s commandant now, leader of her father’s armies and one of the few people who isn’t scared of her. In fact, if anything, she is scared of him.

When her father offers her the chance to call off their impending marriage, Asha leaps at the chance. Should she finally capture the First Dragon, Kozu, the very one that burned her skin and torched her city, her father would be willing to cancel the ceremony but Asha doesn’t have much time. Her quest leads her to cross paths with her betrothed’s slave, a boy called Torwin who doesn’t seem to fear her. In fact he breaks laws to look directly at her face.

There is much to love in this book – not least the dragons! Our story is told around Asha but also shares the Old Stories that she holds dear, those that remind her of her late mother. However, not only do the stories make people ill and are therefore banned, but they also draw dragons. The telling of the Old Stories attracts the dragons, which is a tempting proposition when you are hunting them, tasked with returning with their heads.

I enjoyed the storytelling style of this novel – the way the old and new cultures and beliefs were conveyed, so integral to the story yet also told as part of the tale.

I was unsure of Asha at first but I grew to like her. Honestly, and probably unsurprisingly, Torwin was my favourite character in this novel. As for other characters, I’d have liked to have seen more of Safira (Asha’s cousin) and Dax (Asha’s brother). I felt that they were kind of peripheral although they played a role in the story.

I will admit to feeling slightly overwhelmed by the world at times. It took me a while to get things straight in my mind, the different peoples, regions, names etc, but that’s probably down to my foggy brain!

I really enjoyed the writing in the novel and found it so easy to get swept up in this tale. This is the first book in a trilogy and I will most definitely be picking up book two.

four-stars

Blog Tour: Bluebird, Bluebird *Giveaway*

October 3, 2017 in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Crime, Current Giveaways

Welcome to today’s stop on the Bluebird, Bluebird blog tour!

BB blog tour image

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour: Bluebird, Bluebird *Giveaway*Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
Series: Highway 59 #1
Published by Serpent's Tail on 28th September 2017
Genres: Crime
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Southern fables usually go the other way around. A white woman is killed or harmed in some way, real or imagined, and then, like the moon follows the sun, a black man ends up dead.

But when it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules - a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger working the backwoods towns of Highway 59, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about his home state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home.

So when allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he is drawn to a case in the small town of Lark, where two dead bodies washed up in the bayou. First a black lawyer from Chicago and then, three days later, a local white woman, and it's stirred up a hornet's nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes - and save himself in the process - before Lark's long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.

There are times when you read a novel and know it will stay with you for a long time; such was the case for me with Bluebird, Bluebird. Far more than a crime novel, this well-written, immersive book shines a spotlight upon racial tensions in East Texas.

Through Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger whose family hail from the state, we are given a glimpse into a world where a white woman’s death is investigated, but the suspicious death of a black man is left unexplored.  Darren gives us an insight into the life of a black law enforcer in an area where such a man is a rarity, an area which houses the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. Through his investigations, we are drawn into the racial politics and educated on what life is like (badge or no) when you are unwelcome in your own homeland.

I was thoroughly absorbed by this story. Having never read any of Locke’s work before, I was extremely taken with her storytelling and prose. The mystery aspect of the story is fascinating, however, it’s the look through the microscope at small-town East Texas life and the dynamics surrounding it that I found really made this novel. It’s a thought-provoking book and Locke raises many very pertinent issues. At times I was incredulous (and perhaps very naive) to find that this type of racism still occurs so freely in the world.  It’s a very timely novel that will no doubt impact the reader and leave a lasting impression.

**GIVEAWAY**

I’m delighted to say that I have a copy of this impressive and thought-provoking novel to give away to one reader in the UK. To be in with a chance of winning simply use the rafflecopter entry form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

four-half-stars

Review: Tower of Dawn

September 27, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, YA Fantasy

Review: Tower of DawnTower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #6
Published by Bloomsbury on 5th September 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent's mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.

But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

In case you aren’t aware, Tower of Dawn is the Chaol novella that Maas was working out that turned into a full-length novel – 660 pages! The timing of this book coincides with the happenings of Empire of Storms, so although they are separate books they are really following the one timeline. Make sense?

I was pretty excited to hear that Chaol would get his own novella, so I was delighted when I heard it had developed into an entire novel! I completely loved Chaol in the first two books of this series but felt he got a raw deal in the latter books. I really hoped that without Aelin as the focus we’d get Chaol back, and I think we did!

Aside from the prospect of a whole book about Chaol, I was very interested as to how Maas would handle his injury and wheelchair use. Many of you know that I have mobility issues and frequently require the use of my wheelchair as a result of illness. So I was equally intrigued (and rather nervous) as to how it and Chaol’s adjustment to his new life would be handled.

On the whole, I was very happy with the way Maas dealt with Chaol’s injury. She really captured many of the issues that  I myself have struggled with since needing help and the use of my chair to get about. In fact, there were passages where I cried, such was the impact, relevance, and portrayal of Chaol’s battles. At times I felt like Sarah was writing about me, particularly in that first half of the book. I’m very grateful to Maas for bringing these issues into her hugely popular books. While Chaol’s struggles won’t reflect everyone, they certainly reflect mine and I’m grateful that, through Chaol, some awareness may be raised.

I appreciated that while Chaol was being treated with magic, he still had to fight. It was a process, a battle. View Spoiler »

As for the story itself, I’ve seen people say that it didn’t need to be as long as it was. Perhaps that’s the case, but I would’ve read it at twice the length.

Yes, it was kind of predictable in places but I really didn’t care, as there was much that wasn’t predictable. In fact there were a couple of bombshells! We find out a lot more about Antica, Erilea and the Valg. If you think this is a secondary novel and you aren’t sure about reading then let me say that you must; there is important information in this book!

I also really loved how Maas continues to reintroduce her novella characters in this series. If you haven’t read The Assassin’s Blade collection of prequel novellas then I urge you to do so to get the most from this novel and the series as a whole.

All in all, I really enjoyed this novel and getting to spend more time with Chaol. I loved meeting the new characters, learning more about the world and I just can’t wait for book seven!

four-half-stars