Review: The Girl In The Tower

January 20, 2018 in Book Reviews, 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 Girl In The TowerThe Girl In The Tower by Katherine Arden
Series: Winternight Trilogy #2
Published by Ebury on 25th January 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars

For a young woman in medieval Russia, the choices are stark: marriage or a life in a convent. Vasya
will choose a third way: magic...

The court of the Grand Prince of Moscow is plagued by power struggles and rumours of unrest. Meanwhile bandits roam the countryside, burning the villages and kidnapping its daughters. Setting out to defeat the raiders, the Prince and his trusted companion come across a young man riding a magnificent horse.

Only Sasha, a priest with a warrior's training, recognises this 'boy' as his younger sister, thought to be dead or a witch by her village. But when Vasya proves herself in battle, riding with remarkable skill and inexplicable power, Sasha realises he must keep her secret as she may be the only way to save the city from threats both human and fantastical...

Having read (and loved) the first book in this series, The Bear and the Nightingale last Christmas, I saved my  early copy of book two, The Girl In The Tower for over the festive season. Set in the Russian winter, this is a tale that’s perfect to read at this time of year. But truthfully, Arden’s writing will transport you to the Russian winter no matter the season outside.

If you haven’t yet read the first book, then make sure you check out my review of it here and go pick up a copy! This post will inevitably contain mild spoilers for that first book.

Where The Bear and the Nightingale was set in rural Russia, The Girl In The Tower takes us on an adventure through the rural landscape and into Moscow itself. Continuing from the first book, we follow Vasya who, with accusations of witchcraft lingering at home, looks to follow her dreams, break with convention, shun marriage or the convent and travel.

We also spend time with her older brother Sasha, the monk, who I personally really liked in the first book, as well as meeting other characters – old and new!

Once again, Arden engulfs us in a beautifully written tale, built around Russian history and folklore. Through Vasya she continues to explore the lives of, and expectations towards, women at this time in Russian history – weaving historical fact within her fiction.

Having become familiarised with the conventions of rural Russia, we arrive in Moscow as overwhelmed as Vasya herself. Together we uncover the lay of the land, the customs, expectations, and requirements of the upper echelons in the Russian city.

The development of the characters in this second novel is fantastic. I love the progression of Vasya’s character – she’s everything I hoped she would be!

Arden’s writing is once again a highlight for me. Her descriptions, turn of phrase and writing style swept me up. I felt I was, once again, there in the Russian snow. I loved the continuation of the story. For me, it felt more action-packed than the first book, filled with deception, death… and a sassy horse!

The story itself is unforgettable, the writing enchanting, what more can I say? It’s a must-read for fans of The Bear and the Nightingale!

five-stars

Review: The Confession

January 16, 2018 in Book Reviews, Psychological Thriller

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

Review: The ConfessionThe Confession by Jo Spain
Published by Quercus on 25th January 2018
Genres: thriller
Format: ARC
Source: bookbridgr
Goodreads
five-stars

Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear.

Just an hour later the attacker, JP Carney, has handed himself in to the police. He confesses to beating Harry to death, but JP claims that the assault was not premeditated and that he didn't know the identity of his victim. With a man as notorious as Harry McNamara, the detectives cannot help wondering, was this really a random act of violence or is it linked to one of Harry's many sins: corruption, greed, betrayal?

A man walks into the home of multi-millionaire banker Harry McNamara and attacks him with a golf club while wife July sits nearby. By why?

We find out almost immediately that the attacker is JP Carney, but why has he killed Harry McNamara? Through chapters told through the perspectives of JP, Harry’s wife, Julie, and the investigating officer, DS Alice Moody we gradually uncover the lives of our characters until we finally find out the reason why.

I couldn’t put this book down! I’d love nothing more than to go into the plot details with you but, as ever with these kinds of books, just trust me and uncover the story for yourself! I won’t be responsible for spoilers!

I will say though that this book kept me guessing. I found myself speculating on various theories, but was totally wrong. I loved Jo Spain’s writing and the way she slowly introduces us to the lives of Julie and JP.

It’s a thoroughly addictive read from an author who is new to me, but whose other work I will definitely be reading. I think you’ll be seeing a lot of The Confession in 2018.

five-stars

Unboxing: Illumicrate #9

January 12, 2018 in Bookish Posts, Illumicrate

I was just thinking about how excited I am for the February Illumicrate box when I realised I hadn’t posted the contents of my November box. So here it is. Please forgive the photography skills!

First of all, I love this print from Nutmeg and Arlo. It’s actually now framed and up on my bedroom wall.

art collage 2

Sadly, Meraki Candles are now closed so this is my last candle from them. Reading in Bed has a hot chocolate scent and smells good enough to eat!

candle (1)

I really like this exclusive moon and stars necklace from Oh Panda Eyes, it’s a tribute to stories set in space but it makes me think of Khaleesi!

necklace collage

I’m going to be totally organised in 2018 with this unicorn journal created by Prism of Starlings.

planner

I’m a weirdo who loves funky tea towels so this bookish tea towel from Evannave Illustration made me very happy!

tea towel

As for our November book, we received an exclusive Illumicrate edition of Artemis by Andy Weir, complete with black sprayed edges!

Artemis

But it didn’t stop there. Daphne also included a second book! An exclusive edition advanced reader copy of The City of Brass! I’ve heard so many good things about this book; I can’t wait to read it!

ARC

As always, there were some other extras, with samples of This Mortal Coil and IRON GOLD!!!!!

extras

Once again, I loved my Illumicrate box!

contents 2

If you can’t wait until February and you’re a Pierce Brown fan (who isn’t?) then make sure you check out the limited Howler Edition box  Daphne has curated. There are still some boxes available!

Review: Zenith

January 10, 2018 in Book Reviews, Sci-Fi, YA

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: ZenithZenith by Sasha Alsberg, Lindsay Cummings
Published by HQ YA on 11th January 2018
Genres: YA, Sci-Fi
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
two-half-stars

Most know Androma Racella as the Bloody Baroness, a powerful mercenary whose reign of terror stretches across the Mirabel Galaxy. To those aboard her glass starship, Marauder, however, she's just Andi, their friend and fearless leader.

But when a routine mission goes awry, the Marauder's all-girl crew is tested as they find themselves in a treacherous situation—and at the mercy of a sadistic bounty hunter from Andi's past.

Meanwhile, across the galaxy, a ruthless ruler waits in the shadows of the planet Xen Ptera, biding her time to exact revenge for the destruction of her people. The pieces of her deadly plan are about to fall into place, unleashing a plot that will tear Mirabel in two.

Andi and her crew embark on a dangerous, soul-testing journey that could restore order to their ship—or just as easily start a war that will devour worlds. As the Marauder hurtles toward the unknown, and Mirabel hangs in the balance, the only certainty is that in a galaxy run on lies and illusion, no one can be trusted.

It’s hard to know what to say about Zenith because while, overall, I enjoyed the story well enough, I just wasn’t really a fan of its execution.

The story is told through a variety of different characters, each of whom have their own chapters. Personally, I find that this style of story-telling can either work brilliantly and give you an insight into each character, or it can leave you feeling disconnected from the characters. In this case, it didn’t work for me. I didn’t feel like I really cared about the characters enough. There were a couple of characters that I felt I got to “know” a bit better but all-in-all this form of storytelling didn’t work for me in this instance.

I also struggled with the world-building in this book, it was only towards the end that I started to feel like I had a vague grasp of things. There were a lot of names of places and peoples and, personally, I felt a bit overwhelmed at times. Truthfully, for all the description of physical appearances and traits, I couldn’t really tell you much about the systems and their inhabitants.

I’m really trying to avoid spoilers but there’s one part of the book that I really still don’t get – Klaren and The Yielded. I understand the role she played in the immediate history, but in the bigger picture, I’ve no clue what she is working towards or why? Can anyone enlighten me, please? I feel like I’m missing something important.

There was much of this book that I found rather vague – I could have done with more information, more world-building – and other parts that seemed somewhat prolonged. There’s not really a great deal happens when you consider this book is over 500 pages long!

I wasn’t a huge fan of the main character, Andi, and I very much disliked her ritual of dancing in her mind with the folk she had killed. I can see what the authors were going for with this, but it really didn’t work for me.

This book very much feels like a mash-up of everything that is popular in the YA fantasy / sci-fi world right now. For me, it doesn’t feel unique, and it follows a lot of the same tropes as we see in YA.

I really don’t like being negative. I truly do think the story has a lot of potential but I just didn’t love the characters, they were too “samey” for me, and I didn’t enjoy the execution. It’s not a bad book, please don’t think I’m saying that – I’m just saying it wasn’t for me. It didn’t stand out and yet I feel that it had the potential to do so.

I’m kind of tempted to read the next book in the series, if only so I can figure out how on earth Klaren fits in and who The Yielded are!! But also because I do want to know how the main story pans out, and perhaps book two will be more my style?

Have you read Zenith? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

two-half-stars

Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

January 5, 2018 in Book Reviews, Historical Fiction

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 Tattooist of AuschwitzThe Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Published by Bonnier Zaffre on 11th January 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars

Lale Sokolov is well-dressed, a charmer, a ladies’ man. He is also a Jew. On the first transport from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942, Lale immediately stands out to his fellow prisoners. In the camp, he is looked up to, looked out for, and put to work in the privileged position of Tätowierer– the tattooist – to mark his fellow prisoners, forever. One of them is a young woman, Gita, who steals his heart at first glance.

His life given new purpose, Lale does his best through the struggle and suffering to use his position for good.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the result of years of interviews between the author, Heather Morris, and Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov. Originally written by Morris as a screenplay, she has now adapted her work to create her debut novel – and what a debut it is! Based upon Lale’s own harrowing story, this is a book that needs to be read and shared, with subject matter that should never be forgotten.

I actually wrote a whole draft review upon finishing this book, but honestly, I just didn’t feel like it did the book justice. I’m actually of the mind now that nothing I write will properly convey my feelings on this book. So, please, stick with me as I try to string some words together.

Lale was 24, a smart, linguistic young man from a Jewish family living in Slovakia. Every family in Slovakia was forced to provide one child over the age of 18 for work detail with the Germans. Lale volunteered himself to save his family, to prevent them from being rounded up into a concentration camp. Not knowing where he was headed or what would face him, Lale left home impeccably dressed as always, ready to face his fate.

This was how Lale found himself crammed into a cattle carriage with other men, headed for Auschwitz. Lale was assigned to the sister camp, Birkeneau and there made a promise to himself that he would survive. His intelligence and charisma meant he was noticed among thousands of others and assigned the role of Tatoweirer, the tattooist – a position which offered him a slightly better life in the camp, but with the traumatic task of marking every prisoner for life with their assigned number. It was through his role as Tatoweirer that Lale set eyes on Gita, a young lady who compounded Lale’s determination to stay alive.

Lale used his relative freedom in the camp to help others, to source and deliver food to keep his fellow prisoners alive, but such actions put him in great danger.

Lale seems like such an incredible man. His attitude, philosophies, and kindness shine through in this novel. I feel that Morris has done a brilliant job of telling this story – I couldn’t put this book down. Despite the horrors within its pages, this is also a tale of love, friendships, and hope. It’s a story that made me stop and think about the individual stories of other prisoners in these camps, what they had to do to stay alive and who they lost along the way. Stories that we will never know but that we should never forget existed.

This is a short novel but it packs a huge punch; the combination of Heather Morris’ storytelling and Lale’s unforgettable true story make this book impossible to put down.

PS I still don’t feel like my words have done this book justice, so just please READ IT!

five-stars