Book Review: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden.

Hello readers!  The weekend is almost over (I hope you had a good one), and whilst that can be a bit of a bummer, a new week means new reading opportunities.  For this evenings blog post, I am reviewing The Girl in The Tower by Katherine Arden, the second in the Wintersong trilogy (for the review of the first instalment, The Bear and the Nightingale check out my previous post under the category ‘Book Review.’).  So what is the book about?  Let’s have a look at that trusty blurb:

arden review picFor 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…

I had high expectations of this book, because I adored the first one in the instalment, but this equalled it and more, seemingly without effort.  I am a huge fan of Arden’s style of writing, and she really brings the magic and peril to life.  When it gets to the big exciting moments, such as fight scenes, it honestly becomes difficult to pry yourself away from the book and I found myself drowsily reading in the small hours of the morning, swearing to myself that I would just read ‘one more chapter.’

Vasya, the main character, develops and grows further with this instalment, and I now feel as if I know her.  She has flaws and weaknesses like all of us, of course, but she refuses to shy from these, instead constantly trying to learn from her mistakes.  I love fantasy fiction, but I find that many of the books fall into the same tropes, particularly when it comes to the lovey dovey stuff.  Not so here.  The love story running throughout both books, grows with intensity in this instalment, and I genuinely cannot wait to see how it ends for Vasya and her Winter King.

The rich folklore, and Russian culture create the most fantastical back drop to what is essentially an adventure story, featuring one badass, independent young woman who refuses to play the role society has planned for her.  Quite frankly, I cannot recommend this enough…buy immediately.

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My Novel ‘Broken Mirrors’ Official Release!

My Novel ‘Broken Mirrors’ Official Release!

my book IG picHey everyone!  This blog post is a very special one, because it is not a review of someone else’s book, but information about my own!  That’s right, I wrote a novel and it has officially been released today Friday the 13th.  I wanted to thank all of my lovely followers, because your support has been so wonderful.  Putting yourself and your writing out there is a very scary thing, and you guys have been nothing but lovely every step of the way.  In fact, it was the support and encouragement from my followers here and on Instagram, that gave me the courage to put my book into the world, so thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I would really appreciate your continued support now, as my book goes on sale worldwide…if you could buy it, that would be amazing!  If you read it, even better, and if you review it, well ten gold stars for you!!  You are the bloggers and reviewers and social influencers, and your opinion means the world to me.  It has got great reviews so far from some of the people who received ARCS, so grab a copy now and let me know what you think!!  Buy your copy on Amazon now by clicking here!

About ‘Broken Mirrors’:

When Marie moves from Belfast to London, she envisions a fresh start and an escape book IG picfrom a broken home. Once there, she meets Malcolm Carter, a charming, handsome man who sweeps her off her feet and gives her a life she could only have imagined. But Malcolm isn’t all he seems; he’s a criminal, a mobster and a murderer. Detective Fraser Duncan knows what he is, and he’s determined to take him down, but things get more complex when a rival and brutal gang leader appears on the scene, setting his sights on Malcolm’s empire. When Marie chooses to stay with Malcolm, regardless of what he is and what he has done, she starts down a path from which she can never return, and now she has been taken, Detective Duncan and Malcolm must set their differences aside and join forces in a race against time to save the woman they love.

Broken Mirrors explores the fragility of our own sense of self and the moral code by which we live our lives and hold ourselves to account.

Book Review: Expecting Sunshine by Alexis Marie Chute.

Happy Hump day everyone!  I hope your week is going well so far, and that the weekend doesn’t feel too far away.  For tonights blog post, I am reviewing Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing, and Pregnancy after Loss by Alexis Marie Chute.  So what’s the book about?

expecting sunshineAfter her son, Zachary, dies in her arms at birth, visual artist and author Alexis Marie Chute disappears into her -Year of Distraction.- She cannot paint or write or tap into the heart of who she used to be, mourning not only for Zachary, but also for the future they might have had together. It is only when Chute learns she is pregnant again that she sets out to find healing and rediscover her identity–just in time, she hopes, to welcome her next child. In the forty weeks of her pregnancy, Chute grapples with her strained marriage, shaken faith, and medical diagnosis, with profound results. Glowing with riveting and gorgeous prose, Expecting Sunshine chronicles the anticipation and anxiety of expecting a baby while still grieving for the child that came before–enveloping readers with insightful observations on grief and healing, life and death, and the incredible power of a mother’s love.

From the first page, Chute’s ability and talent as a writer is evident.  She has an incredible way with language, not only perfectly describing the feeling she is attempting to convey or present the image she is attempting to conjure, but doing so in a linguistically beautiful way.  You can tell she is an artist: this book is her canvas, and each word is a masterful brush stroke.  Chute deals with some incredibly large and complex emotions, but presents them in a relatable way.  As you read, you feel every emotion she feels: her profound sense of loss and her yearning for a sense of peace, her fears and worries, the moments of joy and sorrow.  It is an emotional rollercoaster, but one I am glad I rode.

The word brave is thrown around all too often these days, but that is the only word I can use to adequately describe Chute for writing this book: Brave.  She bares her soul for the reader to see, in its sometimes raw and ugly form, and details what she felt and what she thought, with total honesty.  It is evident as a reader that this process was often difficult for her, but also extremely cathartic.  I have been lucky in my life as I have not suffered the level of loss which Chute has, but I can see clearly how incredibly helpful this book would be to someone who has.

As a mother, I related a lot to much of what Chute says, particularly when discussing the internal struggle between your identity as a parent, and your own sense of self.  As someone who is in full time employment, a writer, a blogger, a wife and a mother, I often feel myself being torn in a dozen different directions, and find myself struggling with maintaining my own identity.  When one prioritises their own hobbies, their own passions, it means losing out on moments with your children and that can often lead to guilt.  But during Chute’s journey of self discovery, she learns and emphasises the importance of retaining your own sense of self, and finding ways to express yourself and who you are as an individual, not just as a member of a family unit, something I too discovered after suffering with post natal depression.

This book is one of sorrow and loss, but most prominently, it is one of hope.  And that is the prevailing emotion one feels once you finish the final chapter: Hope.  Overall, I highly recommend this book, particularly if you have experienced a loss in your life with which you are currently struggling.

 

Book Review: A Festival of Trial and Ember by Logan Miehl.

Happy Hump day everyone! For today’s blog post, I will be reviewing ‘A Festival of Trial and Ember‘ by Logan Miehl, part one of what will no doubt be an epic fantasy featuring fairies, battles and creatures which lurk in the shadows.  So what’s it about?  Let’s check out the trusted blurb:

festival picA dangerous summer festival. A throne left empty. A forgotten world of faeries in a time of shadow and treason. Róisín, 17-years-old, is biding her time till graduation. When the shadows around her come to life, she discovers no one else can see these strange creatures except her and her brother. Desperate for answers, she embarks on a journey into the Otherworld—a land beneath Ireland where faeries live as the descendants of ancient Celtic gods. As Róisín struggles to survive, she realizes her decisions could alter the fate of an entire Kingdom. The Festival of Trial and Ember is the first book in the compelling new Faerie Festival Series. There are games to win, promises to break, and hearts to conquer. The Celtic summer festival of Lughnasa has begun.

The book follows a familiar format: a young teenage girl, thrust into a world she did not know existed, fighting for survival.  This template has been tried and tested, and let’s face it, it works.  You see the fairies and their world for the first time, through the main character’s eyes, and you learn about their ways as she does.  The premise is introduced really well, with the action starting almost immediately, and I found myself gripped from the first page.  It builds well, and contains the right amount of action and threat to keep you turning the pages.  I was slightly disappointed by the abrupt ending, but it’s clear that this is just part one of this adventure, so realistically, it probably couldn’t have ended any other way.

As a Celt myself, I really enjoyed reading about legends I learned about as a child, as well as discovering some new ones.  I also loved that the characters had traditionally spelt, and pronounced, Irish names.  The creatures and the fairies again are familiar, but Logan presents them in a new way.  With each chapter beginning with a quote from historical books about such legends, presented almost as facts taken from a text book, it gives the story and the legends within a certain amount of believability and credibility, as if this world could truly exist unbeknownst to myself and my fellow humans.

The characters are well rounded and believable.  I will be honest though, Roisin kind of irritated me for much of the book, acting like a petulant child a lot of the time, but she discovers who she is, finds her stride and becomes pretty badass towards the end.  I look forward to reading the following books and seeing her as a more confident young adult rather than a teenager with an attitude.

Overall, I found the book really entertaining, and at points, I couldn’t put it down!  I definitely recommend it for any fans of fantasy and Young Adult fiction, and I will 100% be reading the following books in the series.

 

Book Review: Death Row by Christian Sterling.

deathrowFor tonight’s blog post, I am reviewing Death Row, a novella by Christian Sterling.  The book follows Charles Colter, an inmate at Greenwood Federal Penitentiary, during his final days at the prison.  Charles is an artist, happiest when he is able to pour himself onto a canvas, and through his art and internal monologue, we see inside a man desperately trying to make peace with his life; the decisions he has made in the past which have led to this point, as well as the uncertainty of his future.

I hate reviews which include spoilers, so I will try to give my opinion on the novella without ruining it for anyone.  I will say this though, there is a twist which I never saw coming and one which I found slightly disappointing at first, but perhaps that’s the sadist in me.

Anyway, to the review:  Charles is a well developed, believable and most importantly likeable character.  For much of the book, the reader is unaware of what he did to deserve his stint in prison, something which should be of importance, but instead you find yourself liking Charles too much to care about what he did to deserve punishment.  I like the Charles we see now, introspective and regretful, so I’m not bothered about the Charles whose decisions led him to that prison cell.  In a nut shell, Sterling is great at character development.

Despite most of the book lacking any ‘action’ per say (bar one sadistic shiv wielding prisoner), being very much grounded in reality in all of it’s brilliant boredom, the storyline is genuine and compelling enough to keep you reading.  All of it takes place in a routine, a pattern from which Charles wishes he could escape, and his yearning for colour in a world of beige not only makes Charles a relatable character, but also means that simple and often overlooked details, become something beautiful and interesting.  Sterling’s attention to detail is outstanding and allows the reader to paint a vivid image in their minds.

My only negative, which I have alluded to at the beginning, is perhaps the book’s message is a little too optimistic for me.  I do however think that’s more to do with myself and my own cynical view of the world than an actual issue with what is, overall, an incredibly well written book.  I definitely recommend this as a quick and interesting read.

The Season by Sarah Maclean: A Book Review.

Hey fellow Bookworms!  It’s almost the weekend, when we can read as late as we like without fear of an early start the next day.  For tonight’s post, I am reviewing ‘The Season‘ by Sarah Maclean.  For those of you who follow my blog, you have seen that this was the book chosen for January’s The Letter’s Lit subscription (If you fancy seeing all of the bookish goodies I received as part of that subscription, check a couple of posts back).  So what is it about?  Let’s check our friend, the blurb:

theseasonSeventeen year old Lady Alexandra is strong-willed and sharp-tongued; in a house full of older brothers and their friends, she had to learn to hold her own. Not the best makings for an aristocratic lady in Regency London. Yet her mother still dreams of marrying Alex off to someone safe, respectable, and wealthy. But between ball gown fittings, dances, and dinner parties, Alex, along with her two best friends, Ella and Vivi, manages to get herself into what may be her biggest scrape yet.

When the Earl of Blackmoor is mysteriously killed, Alex decides to help his son, the brooding and devilishly handsome Gavin, uncover the truth. But will Alex’s heart be stolen in the process? In an adventure brimming with espionage, murder, and other clandestine affairs, who could possibly have time to worry about finding a husband? Romance abounds as this year’s season begins!

I am going to start with a couple of things, which although very minor, I found irritated me greatly whilst reading ‘The Season.’  The first is a phrase, used at least a dozen times per chapter, ‘Whispered conspiratorially.’  Every character spoke this way in almost every conversation, and it got to the point where I thought I had just invented a new drinking game: have a shot every time you read that phrase and you will find yourself hammered by Chapter 2! Honestly it was just beaten to death and I found it bugged me.  Again, this is very minor, but something worth raising nonetheless.

The second thing, is the dozens upon dozens of references to Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice…I get it!  This was the inspiration for the book, but stop with the name dropping.  In fact, take out the whole spy bit, and this book is pretty much a facsimile of Pride and Prejudice, just not as good.  Smart, ambitious young woman who refuses to marry?  Check.  Handsome, wealthy, male love interest who is stubborn and proud?  Check.  A series of misunderstandings which create that will they, won’t they question for the main part of the book?  Check.  Happy ending where they finally end up together? Check.  Early 19th century setting complete with balls and manor houses?  Check.  There is even a rogue male character and an overbearing pushy mum.

Saying that, the book is fun, lighthearted and entertaining.  Obviously Maclean could never reach the dizzying heights set by Austen, but if you are a fan of Austen or classic Romance literature in general, I think you will like this as well.  The defiant young women leading the charge are well rounded characters, along with the men who constantly underestimate them.  The Spy storyline offers enough suspense and adventure to keep you interested, and although it’s a fairly predictable read, it is also an entertaining one.  And let’s face it, who doesn’t love a bit of Romance?

Overall, I would recommend it if you fancy something fun and frothy, perhaps as your holiday beach read.

Roomies by Christina Lauren: A Book Review.

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Roomies by Christina Lauren in my December edition of The Bookish Box, so of course I had to read and review it!  First of all, what is it about?

roomiesRescued by Calvin McLoughlin from a would-be subway attacker, Holland Bakker pays the brilliant musician back by pulling some of her errand-girl strings and getting him an audition with a big-time musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until he admits his student visa has expired and he’s in the country illegally.

Holland impulsively offers to wed the Irishman to keep him in New York, her growing infatuation a secret only to him. As their relationship evolves from awkward roommates to besotted lovers, Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway. In the middle of the theatrics and the acting-not-acting, what will it take for Holland and Calvin to realise that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?

First of all, full disclosure: I don’t tend to read what I would term as ‘chick lit.’  The romance novels I read are classical literature, and modern romance novels have never interested me before, so I started reading this thinking it wouldn’t be my cup of tea.  But, surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed it!  The story line is fun and interesting, with enough ups and downs and dramas to keep you glued to the pages from start to finish.  I genuinely couldn’t put it down at points!

The main characters are likeable and believable, and Calvin, the male love interest sounds quite frankly sexy as hell!!  Yes, the book is predictable, and (spoilers) it’s no surprise they end up together at the end, but you do find yourself rooting for them from the beginning, and feeling a little nervous whenever they hit a bump in their already rocky road!  The sex scenes are even decent, and pretty raunchy at that.

This book has humour, drama, love and sex and it is a genuinely entertaining read from start to finish!  The perfect holiday read, I recommend it if you fancy something fun and lighthearted.