Book Review: The Women of Troy – Pat Barker

Book Review: The Women of Troy – Pat Barker


Series:
Women of Troy #2
Release Date: 304
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 304
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I took part in a Tandem Collective readalong for this book
Rating: 3.75/5 stars

Synopsis

Troy has fallen. The Greeks have won their bitter war. They can return home as victors – all they need is a good wind to lift their sails. But the wind has vanished, the seas becalmed by vengeful gods, and so the warriors remain in limbo – camped in the shadow of the city they destroyed, kept company by the women they stole from it.

The women of Troy.

Helen – poor Helen. All that beauty, all that grace – and she was just a mouldy old bone for feral dogs to fight over.

Cassandra, who has learned not to be too attached to her own prophecies. They have only ever been believed when she can get a man to deliver them.

Stubborn Amina, with her gaze still fixed on the ruined towers of Troy, determined to avenge the slaughter of her king.

Hecuba, howling and clawing her cheeks on the silent shore, as if she could make her cries heard in the gloomy halls of Hades. As if she could wake the dead.

And Briseis, carrying her future in her womb: the unborn child of the dead hero Achilles. Once again caught up in the disputes of violent men. Once again faced with the chance to shape history.

Review

I had never read anything by Pat Barker until I picked up The Silence of the Girls and I ended up reading it and The Women of Troy back to back. The story continues on where we left off in The Silence of the Girls, following Briseis and the other women after Troy has fallen. The Greeks have been victorious, but the winds are not strong enough to sail and they are stranded with only the women of Troy for company.

Whilst this was an interesting sequel, I found myself much more gripped by The Silence of the Girls. Barker has created some really compelling characters, dealing with the grief and trauma of losing everything and everyone they know and love. She really captures the sense of loss and I was really captivated by the well-crafted characters. Briseis in particular was a really interesting character – now a free woman and pregnant with Achilles’ child, she is still completely at the mercy of the men around her.

I did feel like there wasn’t an awful lot happening in the story and there were a couple of points where the story dragged a little. I do wonder whether Barker will write a third installment in this series and I would be excited to see where she takes it. If you’re a Greek mythology fan this is definitely one for you.

Book Review: Home Before Dark – Riley Sager

Book Review: Home Before Dark – Riley Sager


Release Date:
September 17th 2020
Publisher: Hodder Books
Pages: 402
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I bought a copy of this from my local Waterstones
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis

In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound – and dangerous – secrets hidden within its walls?

“What was it like? Living in that house?” Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a non-fiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity – and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself – a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Review

Riley Sager is one of my go-to authors for fun and fast-paced thrillers. Home Before Dark sounded like exactly the kind of book I was going to love and it had the most intriguing premise. Maggie Holt is famous around the world because her Dad wrote a non-fiction book claiming their house was haunted. Everywhere she goes she is asked what it was like to live in that house. When her father dies and she learns he still owns the infamous Baneberry Hall, Maggie decides to restore the house to sell it on and while she’s there she’ll try and get some answers – but what really happened all those years ago?

Home Before Dark is an addictive read. I picked it up one evening and found myself turning pages long into the night. It has some genuinely creepy, sending a shiver up your spine moments and there were a whole bunch of twists that I absolutely did not see coming. Like all Riley Sager books, you have to suspend your disbelief a little bit, but it was a really fun and compelling read. I loved the way chapters from House of Horrors were included in the book and I found these chapters to be particularly engaging.

Home Before Dark has probably become my favourite Riley Sager book (though Lock Every Door is a close second). It was easy to read with really interesting characters. If you’re looking for a fun, addictive thriller to hook you in right from the beginning – look no further.

Book Review: All of Us Villains – Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman

Book Review: All of Us Villains – Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman


Series:
All of Us Villains #1
Release Date: November 9th 2021
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 400
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I received a Netgalley copy of this and then I bought a physical copy from Waterstones.
Rating: 4.25/5 stars

Synopsis

After the publication of a salacious tell-all book, the remote city of Ilvernath is thrust into the spotlight. Tourists, protesters, and reporters alike flock to its spellshops and historic ruins to witness an ancient curse unfold: every generation, seven families name a champion among them to compete in a tournament to the death. The winner awards their family exclusive control over the city’s high magick supply, the most powerful resource in the world.

In the past, the villainous Lowes have won nearly every tournament, and their champion is prepared to continue his family’s reign. But this year, thanks to the influence of their newfound notoriety, each of the champions has a means to win. Or better yet–a chance to rewrite their story.

But this is a story that must be penned in blood.

Review

All of Us Villains was one of my most anticipated reads of 2021. I absolutely love Amanda Foody’s Shadow Game series and I was so intrigued by the premise of this. Set in the city of Ilverneath, the story follows the champions of seven families that must fight to the death in order to win control of the city’s high magick. The Lowe family are infamous and are the favourite to win every year, but when a book is published revealing the secrets of the tournament, the city is overrun with reporters and tourists desperate to know who will win. When things start to change in the tournament the champions might have the chance to destroy the curse that has plagued their families for generations.

All of Us Villains was exactly what I was looking for. It was dark and addictive – once I started reading I absolutely could not put it down. It had a few twists and turns did not see coming and it was gorier than expected. It was an exciting read, one I thought was well executed. I did feel the pacing was a little off, with it being quite slow to start with and much faster towards the end.

The world in this story is fascinating and I loved learning about the magic in this world – curserings, spell shops, and a centuries-old curse – I wanted to know more and more. Where I think this book really excels are the compelling characters. Whilst there are seven champions, we get POV chapters from four of them – Alastair, Isobel, Gavin, Briony. All of the POV characters were really intriguing with complicated histories and motivations for entering the tournament. I loved that the characters were so villainous and determined to succeed. Alastair and Isobel were probably my favourite – though I did really like Gavin too.

All of Us Villains is a book I haven’t stopped thinking about since I finished it. If you’re looking for a new YA fantasy book to get hooked on, this is a must-read.

Blog Tour: The Gift: Eleanor – R. A. Williams

Blog Tour: The Gift: Eleanor – R. A. Williams


Release Date:
9th December 2021
Publisher: Whitefox
Pages:  443
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis

The North Atlantic, 14 April 1912. Amid the chaos of the sinking Titanic, a young Eleanor Annenberg meets the eyes of a stranger and is immediately captivated. As the ship buckles around them, she follows him down into the hold and finds him leaning over an open sarcophagus, surrounded by mutilated bodies. She catches but a glimpse of what lies within before she’s sucked into a maelstrom of freezing brine and half-devoured corpses.

Elle is pulled out of the water, but the stranger – and the secrets she stumbled upon – are lost. Unintentionally, however, he leaves her a gift; one so compelling that Elle embarks on a journey that pulls her into a world of ancient evils, vicious hunters and human prey to find the man who saved her that fateful night.

From trench warfare at Cape Helles in 1915 to a shipwreck in the tropical shallows off the Honduran coast, from a lost mine beneath the towering Externsteine in a Germany on the verge of war to the gothic crypts of Highgate Cemetery in London, Elle gets closer to a truth she has sought for most of her life. But at what cost? Gifts, after all, are seldom free.

Review

The Gift is a dark and intriguing tale that follows Eleanor Annenberg. Traveling with her parents back to America onboard the Titanic, Eleanor is captivated by a mysterious stranger. She follows him to the very depths of the ship where he opens an ancient sarcophagus. There are corpses everywhere and Eleanor only catches a glimpse of what lies inside before she is swept away in the vicious waters. When she awakes she has been pulled from the water and has a chance to survive that fateful night. The events on the Titanic leave Eleanor with so many questions and she embarks on a journey to uncover the truth – who was the man who saved her and what evil thing killed and mutilated the people on the ship that night? The journey will take her from the tropical shallows off Honduras to a lost mine in Germany. Will she be able to uncover the truth and will it be worth the cost?

The Gift is a brilliantly addictive adventure story, one that pulls the reader in from the very beginning. The book was excellently plotted and I loved the slow unraveling of the mystery. Williams has a gorgeous writing style and the different locations really came to life. The writing was very compelling and I found myself getting sucked deeper and deeper into this gothic tale. The story gave me Dracula vibes and it was the perfect book to get lost in on a dark and stormy evening.

The Gift easily hooks you in with its first chapter set on board the Titanic. It was a clever and compelling tale and I felt like I was right alongside Eleanor, desperate to know more about Balthazar. Eleanor was a really fascinating main character, she’s incredibly sharp and clever and I liked her immediately. She’s determined to uncover the truth, even if that puts her in danger. The Gift is a dark and addictive gothic adventure and a book I could not put down. The Gift is a brilliant start to the series and I cannot wait to see where things go in book two.

Book Review: Horseman – Christina Henry

Book Review: Horseman – Christina Henry


Release Date:
September 28th 2021
Publisher: Titan Books
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.25/5 stars

Synopsis

Everyone in Sleepy Hollow knows about the Horseman, but no one really believes in him. Not even Ben Van Brunt’s grandfather, Brom Bones, who was there when it was said the Horseman chased the upstart Crane out of town. Brom says that’s just legend, the village gossips talking.

Twenty years after those storied events, the village is a quiet place. Fourteen-year-old Ben loves to play “Sleepy Hollow boys,” reenacting the events Brom once lived through. But then Ben and a friend stumble across the headless body of a child in the woods near the village, and the sinister discovery makes Ben question everything the adults in Sleepy Hollow have ever said. Could the Horseman be real after all? Or does something even more sinister stalk the woods?

Review

Christina Henry is well known for her retellings and when I heard her newest release was a retelling of Sleepy Hollow, I was desperate to get my hands on it. The story follows Ben Van Brunt a resident of sleepy hollow. Everyone in the village knows the legend of the horseman, but no one actually believes it happened. When Ben and a friend are out playing in the woods, they discover the headless body of one of the village children. Ben soon becomes entangled in a web of secrets and is determined to uncover the truth – is the Horseman real or is the evil thing in the woods even more sinister?

Just like every other Christina Henry book I’ve read, I absolutely raced through this one. It’s the perfect Autumn/Winter read and is full of atmosphere. I loved the tense, eerie feeling in the story and there are plenty of creepy moments. The story was actually a little gorier than I was expecting but it worked really well with the story. There were also a few moments that I found genuinely quite scary, which is always the mark of a good horror tale.

The pacing in the story was excellent and Horseman is a book you will find hard to put down. Henry has created some truly wonderful characters in this book and I absolutely adored Ben, Brom, and Katrina. Horseman is a well-executed story and one that I still found myself thinking about after I’d finished reading. If you’re looking for a dark and spine-tingling story to keep you reading until the wee hours of the morning, Horseman is a brilliant choice.

Book Review: The Dark – Emma Haughton

Book Review: The Dark – Emma Haughton


Release Date:
August 31st 2021
Publisher: Hodder Books
Pages: 384
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3.75/5 stars

Synopsis

ONE DEAD BODY
TWELVE SUSPECTS
TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR DARKNESS

In the most inhospitable environment – cut off from the rest of the world – there’s a killer on the loose.

A&E doctor Kate North has been knocked out of her orbit by a personal tragedy. So when she’s offered the chance to be an emergency replacement at the UN research station in Antarctica, she jumps at the chance. The previous doctor, Jean-Luc, died in a tragic accident while out on the ice.

The move seems an ideal solution for Kate: no one knows about her past; no one is checking up on her. But as total darkness descends for the winter, she begins to suspect that Jean-Luc’s death wasn’t accidental at all. And the more questions she asks, the more dangerous it becomes for them all…

Review

The Dark is one of those novels where you sit down to read a chapter or two and then look up to find hours have passed and you haven’t even noticed. The story has a really intriguing premise – Kate North is a doctor who has taken up a new post at a remote research station in Antarctica after the previous doctor has died from an accident on the ice. When Kate arrives she soon learns the job might not be all that she hoped, with the entire winter spent in darkness, tensions soon become frayed. Kate begins to suspect that Jean-Luc’s death might not have been the accident it appeared to be – but is there a killer amongst them and will they strike again?

The Dark is a clever, twisty story and one I could not put down. I loved the remote, claustrophobic setting. It was dark and tense and the scenes out on the ice were incredibly gripping. There were plenty of surprise moments I didn’t see coming and I think I suspected just about everyone at one point. Haughton kept me guessing till near enough the end and the final few chapters had me right on the edge of my seat. The story is fun and fast-paced and I think mystery fans will devour this one.

The Dark has some pretty interesting characters and it was fascinating watching the dynamics between the group change as they spent months in the dark. Kate has an addiction to pills and it keeps the reader guessing – is there something suspicious going on or is Kate paranoid from the pills? It was a fascinating read and while this is my first from Emma Haughton, it absolutely will not be my last. The icy landscape of this book makes it perfect winter reading but be warned, it is addictive.

Book Review: The Devil Makes Three – Tori Bovalino

Book Review: The Devil Makes Three – Tori Bovalino


Release Date:
September 14th 2021
Publisher: Titan Books
Pages: 400
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis

When Tess and Eliot stumble upon an ancient book hidden in a secret tunnel beneath their school library, they accidentally release a devil from his book-bound prison, and he’ll stop at nothing to stay free. He’ll manipulate all the ink in the library books to do his bidding, he’ll murder in the stacks, and he’ll bleed into every inch of Tess’s life until his freedom is permanent. Forced to work together, Tess and Eliot have to find a way to re-trap the devil before he kills everyone they know and love, including, increasingly, each other. And compared to what the devil has in store for them, school stress suddenly doesn’t seem so bad after all.

Review

The Devil Makes Three is one of those books that I read at the absolute perfect time and I got completely wrapped up in the story. This YA fantasy/horror follows Tess, an assistant at the Jessop Library – home to a large collection of ancient (and dangerous) grimoires. Eliot is the headmaster’s son is desperate to get his hands on some of the most restricted texts in the library. When Tess and Eliot accidentally stumble upon a secret tunnel in the library, they find a strange book that releases an ancient devil from his prison. This leaves Tess and Eliot no choice but to work together to find a way to put the devil back before it destroys everything they know and love.

This book had me hooked from the very first page. I’m a big fan of dark academia and this book felt so well crafted. The story had tons of atmosphere and the writing was so vivid and beautiful that I could not put the book down. I loved the library setting and I was so fascinated by the magic in this book. I loved the way Bovalino blended both fantasy and horror – it meant I was never quite sure what to expect. The story was pretty quick paced and I ended up glued to the book long into the night.

The Devil Makes Three is an incredibly impressive debut and one I think fans of V. E. Schwab and Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House will absolutely adore. Bovalino has some really well-crafted characters and it was so compelling seeing Eliot and Tess work together to put the devil back. I really liked both characters and they both dealing with complex pasts and complicated family lives. This spooky book is an absolute must-read and is perfect for getting lost in on a dark winter night. I have no doubts that The Devil Makes Three is going to be a high contender for one of my favourite books of the year.

Book Review: The Offset – Calder Szewczak

Book Review: The Offset – Calder Szewczak


Release Date:
September 14th 2021
Publisher: Angry Robot Books
Pages: 240
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3.75/5 stars

Synopsis

It is your eighteenth birthday and one of your parents must die. You are the one who decides. Whom do you pick?

In a dying world, the Offset ceremony has been introduced to counteract and discourage procreation. It is a rule that is simultaneously accepted, celebrated and abhorred. But in this world, survival demands sacrifice so for every birth, there must be a death.

Professor Jac Boltanski is leading Project Salix, a ground-breaking new mission to save the world by replanting radioactive Greenland with genetically-modified willow trees. But things aren’t working out and there are discrepancies in the data. Has someone intervened to sabotage her life’s work?

In the meantime, her daughter Miri, an anti-natalist, has run away from home. Days before their Offset ceremony where one of her mothers must be sentenced to death, she is brought back against her will following a run-in with the law. Which parent will Miri pick to die: the one she loves, or the one she hates who is working to save the world?

Review

The Offset is an incredibly intriguing story, one set in a world where overpopulation is counteracted by a ceremony known as the offset. When a child reaches 18, they must choose which of their parents must die. Miri is the daughter of the famous Jac Boltanski, leader of Project Salix that will help to save the world. When Jac finds some irregularities in the project’s data, she must discover what’s going on. Meanwhile, their offset is days away and Miri has run away from home. Miri knows in a few days’ time she will need to make an impossible decision – which of her parents will die? The one she loves or the one she hates who might be humanity’s last hope?

The Offset is one of those books where you read the premise and you know immediately that you need to read it. The story has such a unique concept and I was hooked right from the get-go. This is a bleak story and one that felt incredibly plausible. While this is a relatively short story, Szewczak has packed a lot into the pages and I was glued to the book for hours at a time. The story is well-paced, giving the reader a chance to get to know the state the world is now in. I also really enjoyed the writing style in the book and it was easy to get to grips with what was going on.

Where I think The Offset really excels are the interesting characters. Miri is an anti-natalist and tasked with making this really awful decision – she has complicated feelings for Jac, but can she rid the world of their hope for survival? The story really centres on the idea of sacrifice and I thought it was incredibly well executed.

The Offset is completely unlike anything I’ve read before and is definitely a book that sticks with you. If you’re looking for some thought-provoking science fiction that will have you hooked till the very last page, The Offset should definitely be on your wishlist.

Book Review: Cwen – Alice Albinia

Book Review: Cwen – Alice Albinia


Release Date: June 3rd 2021
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 2.25/5 stars

Synopsis

On an unnamed archipelago off the east coast of Britain, the impossible has come to pass. Women control the civic institutions. Decide how the islands’ money is spent. Run the businesses. Tend to their families. Teach the children hope for a better world. They say that this gynotopia is Eva Levi’s life’s work, and that now she has disappeared, it will be destroyed. But they don’t know about Cwen.

Cwen has been here longer than the civilisation she has returned to haunt. The clouds are her children, and the waves. Her name has ancient roots, reaching down into the earth and halfway around the world. The islands she inhabits have always belonged to women. And she will do anything she can to protect them.

This remarkable novel is a portrait of female power and female potential, both to shelter and to harm. What are we? Islanders or mainlanders, migrants or landowners, men or women, past or future? Or a mixture of them all? And how do we make sense of these islands we call home?

Review

Cwen follows the story of an archipelago off the coast of Britain whereby women are in control – they run the businesses, make decisions for the community and decide how the money should be spent. All this is possible because of the work of Eva Levi but now she has disappeared, there is a chance it will be destroyed, will Cwen be able to stop it?

Cwen is one of those books that caught my eye because it has a really interesting cover. I thought the premise sounded really intriguing and I was really excited to pick it up. Unfortunately, this one just was not for me. I was very much on the verge of DNFing this one, but I ended up listening to it on audiobook so that I could find out how it would end. The problem for me was that I just didn’t connect with any of the characters. The story centres on quite a number of different women who live on the island or have been touched by the work of Eva Levi, but I just found myself completely uninterested. The court case parts in particular I really struggled to get through.

I think this story has a really intriguing premise but ultimately for me, the execution missed the mark. I definitely think this might be a me thing rather than a book thing because I’ve seen lots of positive reviews for this one, so if you’re in the mood for a unique and thought-provoking story about feminine power, this one could be just what you’re looking for.

Blog Tour: The Bone Shard Emperor – Andrea Stewart

Blog Tour: The Bone Shard Emperor – Andrea Stewart


Series:
The Drowning Empire #2 (See my review of book one here!)
Release Date: November 23rd 2021
Publisher: Orbit Books
Pages: 416
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis

Andrea Stewart returns with The Bone Shard Emperor, the second installment of this unmissable, action-packed, magic-laced fantasy epic.

The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor.

Lin Sukai finally sits on the throne she won at so much cost, but her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the north-east of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force.

Yet an even greater threat is on the horizon, for the Alanga – the powerful magicians of legend – have returned to the Empire. They claim they come in peace, and Lin will need their help in order to defeat the rebels and restore peace.

But can she trust them?

Review

The Bone Shard Emperor is the stunning second instalment in Andrea Stewart’s The Drowned Empire series. Book one The Bone Shard Daughter was one of my favourite reads of 2020 (and all-time) so I was incredibly excited to get my hands on the sequel. Picking up where we left off in book one, Lin now sits on the throne, but her troubles are far from over. A rebel army of constructs is on the way, determined to take the throne, her alliances are far from strong and she is unsure who to trust. When the Alanga return to the Empire and claim to come in peace, Lin knows she will need their help if she has any hope of bringing peace to the Empire, but can she really trust them?

So many fantasy series struggle with that second book syndrome but that is definitely not the case with this series. I was captivated from the get-go and I thought Stewart did an excellent job continuing the story. There were so many things I loved about this book – we delve even deeper into the world and I was so fascinated by the level of detail Andrea puts in the worldbuilding. The story is quite slow-paced, giving the reader plenty of time to get to grips with this fascinating world and magic system.

Where the story really excels is the characters that we fell in love with in The Bone Shard Daughter. Stewart has created some really complex characters both dealing with so many things. The story is told in multiple perspectives, with the majority coming from Lin and Jovis. There are so many characters in this book that I loved. I really adored Lin and seeing her attempt to do the right thing and be a good ruler after her father’s reign.

The Bone Shard Emperor is an impressive sequel and one I did not want to end. I still have so many questions left unanswered and I am dying to find out how it all ends in The Bone Shard War. If you’re a fantasy fan this series is an absolute must-read and if you’ve already picked up book one, you are not going to want to miss book two!