Book Review: The Girl in the Tower – Katherine Arden

Book Review: The Girl in the Tower – Katherine Arden

girltower.png
Series:
The Winternight Trilogy #2
Release Date: January 25th 2018
Publisher: Ebury Publishing
Pages: 364
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

Review

nightingaleThis is the second book in the Winternight trilogy. The first book has become one of my favourite books of all time and so I was incredibly eager to see what was next in store in this magnificent series. I was a little apprehensive that I wouldn’t love it as much as I did the first book, but if possible I loved The Girl in the Tower even more than The Bear and the Nightingale.

The thing that I love most about this book and in fact this series is the detail, the vivid and imaginative world that Katherine Arden has created. It leaps off the page and is so full of magic and folklore that you can’t help but fall in love with this beautiful world. The Girl in the Tower has a fantastic plot that kept me eager for more and on one occasion I almost missed my bus stop on the way home because I was just so absorbed in the story.

Vasya was my favourite character in The Bear and the Nightingale and I loved seeing her grow and prove herself in this second instalment. She’s brave, stubborn and the most wonderful protagonist. I can’t tell who I love more, Vasya or her fearless horse Solovey. There are a whole host of other characters which are well developed and complex, which makes the story come alive even more.

The story manages to encompass so much – not just magic and adventure but friendship, family, romance, politics and lots of other themes in between. The Girl in the Tower has something for everyone, and I cannot recommend it enough. The writing is lush and beautiful, I loved The Girl in the Tower from start to finish and my only problem now is waiting to read the last instalment in Vasya’s story.
5 stars

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Books Under 2000 Ratings on Goodreads

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Books Under 2000 Ratings on Goodreads

nbjh.png
Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday! This week we’re talking about our favourite books that don’t have many ratings on Goodreads (under 2000). I thought it might be quite hard to find books on my read shelf that fit this category but it was actually pretty easy. I loved all of these books and gave them all four or five stars – so let’s dive in!

1. The Sisters of the Winter Wood – Rena Rossner (1,698 ratings)
Untitled design (96)I loved this book so much, it was so beautifully written and it was definitely a stand out book for me in 2018.

Raised in a small village surrounded by vast forests, Liba and Laya have lived a peaceful sheltered life – even if they’ve heard of troubling times for Jews elsewhere. When their parents travel to visit their dying grandfather, the sisters are left behind in their home in the woods.

But before they leave, Liba discovers the secret that their Tati can transform into a bear, and their Mami into a swan. Perhaps, Liba realizes, the old fairy tales are true. She must guard this secret carefully, even from her beloved sister.

Soon a troupe of mysterious men appear in town and Laya falls under their spell-despite their mother’s warning to be wary of strangers. And these are not the only dangers lurking in the woods…

The sisters will need each other if they are to become the women they need to be – and save their people from the dark forces that draw closer.

2. The Puppet Show – M. W. Craven (590 ratings)
book cover (98)This is a very recent read for me and it’s one that I raced through because it was so addictive. The first in a new crime thriller series, I’m already dying for more!

A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.

When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of.

Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant but socially awkward civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.

As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive…

3. The Gilded King – Josie Jaffrey (142 ratings)
gkThis exciting fantasy tale is the first in the Sovereign Series from Josie Jaffrey. I really loved reading this first instalment and I am itching to get started on book two and three!

In the Blue, the world’s last city, all is not well.

Julia is stuck within its walls. She serves the nobility from a distance until she meets Lucas, a boy who believes in fairytales that Julia’s world can’t accommodate. The Blue is her prison, not her castle, and she’d escape into the trees if she didn’t know that contamination and death awaited humanity outside.

But not everyone in the Blue is human, and not everyone can be contained.

Beyond the city’s boundaries, in the wild forests of the Red, Cameron has precious little humanity left to lose. As he searches for a lost queen, he finds an enemy rising that he thought long dead. An enemy that the humans have forgotten how to fight.

One way or another, the walls of the Blue are coming down. The only question is what side you’ll be on when they do.

4. Darksoul – Anna Stephens (150 ratings)
book cover (20)This is the second instalment in one of my all time favourite series, I loved this book and it was pretty much an instant five star read and I need book three like yesterday.

The Wolves lie dead beside Rilpor’s soldiers, slaughtered at the hands of the Mireces and their fanatical army.

The veil that once kept the Red Gods at bay has been left in tatters as the Dark Lady’s plans for the world come to fruition. Where the gods walk, blood is spilled on the earth.

All that stands between the Mireces army and complete control of the Kingdom of Rilpor are the walls of its capital, Rilporin, and those besieged inside.

But hope might yet bloom in the unlikeliest of places: in the heart of a former slave, in the mind of a soldier with the eyes of a fox, and in the hands of a general destined to be king.

5. Ravencry – Ed McDonald (841 ratings)
book cover (22)This is another second instalment in a series that I just absolutely adore. It got quite a lot of buzz on social media when it was released so I was really surprised it ended up on this list!

Four years have passed since Nall’s Engine drove the Deep Kings back across the Misery, but as they hurl fire from the sky, darker forces plots against the republic.

A new power is rising: a ghost in the light known only as the Bright Lady manifests in visions across the city, and the cult that worship her grasp for power even as the city burns around them.

When Crowfoot’s arcane vault is breached, an object of terrible power is stolen, and Galharrow and his Blackwings must once find out which of Valengrad’s enemies is responsible before they have a chance to use it.

To save Valengrad, Galharrow, Nenn and Tnota must venture to a darker, more twisted and more dangerous place than any they’ve walked before: the very heart of the Misery.

6. Witchsign – Den Patrick (161 ratings)
Untitled design (61)I really loved Den Patrick’s Boy with the Porcelain Blade so I was really excited to find out he was releasing a new fantasy series and I definitely wasn’t disappointed!

It has been seventy-five years since the dragons’ rule of fire and arcane magic over Vinkerveld was ended, and the Empire was born. Since, the tyrannical Synod has worked hard to banish all manifestations of the arcane across the lands. 

However, children are still born bearing the taint of the arcane, known to all as witchsign. So each year the Emperor sends out his Vigilants across the continent to detect the arcane in these children. Those found tainted are taken, and never seen again. Steiner has always suspected his sister Kjellrunn of bearing witchsign. But when their father’s attempt to protect her from the Invigilation backfires, it is Steiner who is mistakenly taken. However it is not death which awaits Steiner, but an Academy where the children with witchsign learn to master their powers – some at the cost of their lives. Steiner is determined to escape the Academy and protect his sister from this fate.

But powerful enemies await him at every turn, and Steiner finds himself taken on a journey straight into the heart of the Empire’s deepest secrets, which will force him to reconsider everything he has known about witchsign.

7. The Way Past Winter – Kiran Milwood Hargrave (270 ratings)
book cover (25)This is a beautifully told middle grade story full of magic and mystery. I absolutely adored it and it’s fast become one of my favourite middle grade books.

Mila and her sisters live with their brother Oskar in a small forest cabin in the snow. One night, a fur-clad stranger arrives seeking shelter for himself and his men. But by the next morning, they’ve gone – taking Oskar with them. Fearful for his safety, Mila and her sisters set out to bring Oskar back – even it means going north, crossing frozen wild-lands to find a way past an eternal winter.

8. The Ninth Rain – Jen Williams (962 ratings)
I binge read the The Ninth Rain and the sequel The Bitter Twins because the series was just so unputdownable. Jen Williams has created such a fascinating world and honestly I can’t get enough.

book cover (94)The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine.

When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind.

But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war. For the Jure’lia are coming, and the Ninth Rain must fall…

9. Book of Fire – Michelle Kenney (76 ratings)
bfI loved this YA dystopian/science fiction story and thought it was a really interesting take on the genre. I have book two on my TBR and I can’t wait to find out what’s in store for these characters.

Life outside the domes is not possible. At least that’s what Insiders are told. Twins Eli and Talia shouldn’t exist. They’re Outsiders. 

Their home is a secret. Their lives are a secret. Arafel is a secret. 

An unexpected forest raid forces Talia into a desperate mission to rescue her family while protecting the sacred book of Arafel from those who would use it as a weapon. As Talia and her life long friend Max enter the dome, she makes some unexpected discoveries, and allies, in the form of rugged Insider August, that will change the course of her life forever. 

She’ll stop at nothing to save her family but will she sacrifice her heart in the process?

10. The Scarecrow Queen – Melinda Salisbury (1246 ratings)
cqThis is the concluding book to the Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy and honestly this book broke me a little bit. I love Melinda Salibury’s writing and this series is one of my favourites.

The final battle is coming . . .

As the Sleeping Prince tightens his hold on Lormere and Tregellan, the net closes in on the ragged band of rebels trying desperately to defeat him. Twylla and Errin are separated, isolated, and running out of time. The final battle is coming, and Aurek will stop at nothing to keep the throne forever . .

So those are the top ten of my favourite books with under 2000 ratings on Goodreads! Which books made your list?

Blog Tour: The Year After You – Nina de Pass

Blog Tour: The Year After You – Nina de Pass

yau.png

Release Date: February 14th 2019
Publisher: Ink Road
Pages: 352
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

New Years’ Eve, San Francisco. The most promising party of the year ends in a tragic accident. Cara survives. Her best friend Georgina doesn’t.

Nine months later, Cara is struggling, consumed by guilt and grief. Her mum decides a Swiss boarding school will be the fresh start Cara needs. But Cara knows that swapping sunshine for snow won’t make a blind bit of difference. Georgina is gone, and nothing will bring her back.

Up in the Alps, Cara’s old life feels a million miles away. At Hope Hall, nobody knows about her past. And she intends to keep it that way. But classmates Ren and Hector have other ideas. Cara tries to keep her distance, but she’s drawn to the offbeat, straight-talking Hector, who understands her grief better than anyone. Her new friends are determined to break down the walls she has so carefully built up. And, despite it all, Cara wants them to.

The closer Cara grows to Hector, the more Georgina slips away. Embracing life at Hope Hall means letting go of the past; of her memories of that fatal New Year’s Eve. But Cara is quite sure she doesn’t deserve a second chance.

Review

bosdfsrThe Year After You follows a young girl named Cara who is sent to a boarding school in the remote Swiss Alps. On New Years Eve she survived a fatal accident, but her best friend Georgina did not. Consumed by grief, she wants nothing more than to complete the school year and move on, nothing is going to bring down the walls she has built around herself. But as she is drawn into life at Hope Hall, she begins to hope that maybe, things will get better.

The Year After You is such a beautifully told story. It begins with a single tragic event that completely changes Cara’s life. The story focuses very heavily on grief and PTSD and it handled both of those issues extremely deftly. It really hones in on the idea of loss how others around Cara – such as her mother – don’t want to believe that she’s suffering from a mental illness. The story is stunningly told with beautiful writing and I definitely felt myself becoming wrapped up in this well executed plot.

The thing that really made the book for me is the characters. Cara is a real fleshed out character and she seems very realistic, but I also really liked Ren, Hector and Fred. They’re all loyal and fascinating characters and each one is dealing with their own secrets. I really liked seeing them develop as friends and grow as characters and that’s definitely one of the reasons I enjoyed this story so much.

The Year After You also features a really stunning setting and the remote boarding school trope is one that I absolutely adore. The beautiful old building in the snowy Alps, the cable car journeys and the remoteness of the school really helped to bring this beautiful story to life.

The Year After You is a beautifully told tale of friendship, grief and ultimately of second chances. The story completely blew me away and if you’re looking for a brilliant new read – I can’t recommend this highly enough.
5 stars
The Year After You by Nina de Pass blog tour banner.jpg

Book Review: Shadowscent – P. M. Freestone

Book Review: Shadowscent – P. M. Freestone

Shadowscent.png
Series:
Shadowscent #1
Release Date: February 7th 2019
Publisher: Scholastic Books
Pages: 448
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

In the empire of Aramtesh, scent has power.

When disaster strikes and the crown prince lies poisoned, long suppressed rivalries threaten to blow the empire apart. It’s up to a poor village girl with a talent for fragrances and the prince’s loyal bodyguard to find an antidote.

To succeed, the pair must uncover secrets – cryptic, ancient tales as well as buried truths from their own pasts – in an adventure that will ignite your senses.

Review

book cover (39)As soon as I read the synopsis of this book it went on my wish list. It sounded completely unlike anything I’d read before and I was so fascinated by this beautiful sounded story. I’m so happy to say that it was everything I wanted and more. This is a superb start to a new fantasy  series that will have you hooked and leave you wanting more.

The story follows Rakel a young girl who is brilliant at detecting scents and understanding fragrances. When the crown prince comes to visit her village he is mysteriously poisoned and Rakel is suspected to be the poisoner. With the help of Ash, the prince’s Shield she must work to find an antidote to the poison, clear her name and uncover the secrets surrounding her past.

I honestly loved this story. It’s told in alternating points of view between Ash and Rakel. This was great because it gave you the chance to understand the magic system and the world from two different perspectives – Rakel is a poor village girl trying to earn enough to help her father and Ash has spent the majority of his life behind palace walls protecting the prince.

I really loved the scent based magic system in this story, it was such a unique idea and I enjoyed the way that the different scents were weaved into the plot and the mythology of the world. It’s was a really brilliant way to evoke smells and bring the story to life. The two main characters are really fascinating and each had really interesting story arcs that weaved together. They both have secrets surrounding their pasts and I was so intrigued to find out what was going on and who was behind it all.

The story is quite slow building in the begin as you get to know the world of Aramtesh and I did feel a little confused in the begin as I struggled to understand the world and how it worked. I soon settled into the story though and I definitely struggled to put the book down as the plot ramped up and the stakes were even higher. This is definitely a new favourite of mine and ended on such a cliff hanger that I am already dying to know what’s in store next.

If you enjoy beautifully told, slow burn fantasy stories full of mystery and intrigue, Shadowscent should definitely be the next book you pick up.
5 stars

Book Review: The Cruel Prince – Holly Black

Book Review: The Cruel Prince – Holly Black

cruelprince.png
Series:
The Folk of the Air #1
Release Date: January 2nd 2018
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 370
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I was sent a copy of this book through ReadersFirst.
Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Review

book cover (55)This is such a perfect book. I couldn’t put it down and I definitely didn’t want it to end. The Cruel Prince is the first in a new series from ‘Faerie Queen’ Holly Black, and I can totally see why she deserves that name because this book is so stunning. Books about the Fae are not something I read particularly often, though I recently read An Enchantment of Ravens and really enjoyed it. With that in mind I decided to give this a go, and boy was I not disappointed.

Jude Duarte has become my most favourite character ever. She’s a strong woman, she wants to be a knight and fend for herself and she doesn’t expect others to do the work for her. She’s brash and determined, she makes mistakes and works hard. Black portrays her so realistically and so humanly, that I could not help but love her. She’s a fantastic protagonist and it’s so exciting to watch her grow and evolve. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other amazing characters. I loved Cardan and Vivi and The Roach too.

For me what made this book really stand out was the lush, vivid settings and the plot that kept me guessing. Each character in this book has their own motives, and everyone is playing a game. I was never sure who to trust, who was being honest and who wasn’t. So many times I’ve read a book and I’ve guessed what’s going to happen, but that definitely wasn’t the case with The Cruel Prince.

The book is pretty fast-paced and there’s plenty of action and excitement to keep you on the edge of your seat. If you love faerie stories, or you’re a fan of the immensely talented Holly Black, you need to pick up this book now, you won’t regret it.
5 stars

Book Review: Stain – A. G. Howard

Book Review: Stain – A. G. Howard

BOOK REVIEW (89).png
Release Date:
15th January 2019
Publisher: Abrams Books
Pages: 512
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

Once upon a nightmare, her fairy tale begins…

After Lyra—a princess incapable of speech or sound—is cast out of her kingdom of daylight by her wicked aunt, a witch saves her life, steals her memories, and raises her in an enchanted forest … disguised as a boy known only as Stain. Meanwhile, in Lyra’s rival kingdom, the prince of thorns and night is dying, and the only way for him to break his curse is to wed the princess of daylight, for she is his true equal. As Lyra rediscovers her identity, an impostor princess prepares to steal her betrothed prince and her crown. To win back her kingdom, save the prince, and make peace with the land of the night, Lyra must be loud enough to be heard without a voice, and strong enough to pass a series of tests—ultimately proving she’s everything a traditional princess is not.

Review

book cover (75)This is my first book from A. G. Howard – I have always wanted to read Splintered but haven’t gotten around to it yet – so when I heard about this it immediately went on my TBR. A Gothic fairy tale retelling of The Princess and the Pea? Where do I sign up? I was completely sucked in by that beautiful cover and the synopsis. After just a few chapters I completely fell under the spell of this beautifully written book.

Stain has that gorgeous, lush fairy tale setting and it was so easy to fall into the story of Lyra. She’s a fascinating protagonist – a princess unable to speak or make a sound. I really liked seeing things from her perspective as she grows and survives the trials she has to get through. She’s a strong protagonist and it was so interesting seeing her gain more power and strength. The tale also features a whole host of supporting characters that really added to the story. Vesper was also one of my favourites. He’s the mysterious and intriguing Prince of Night and I really enjoyed the interactions between him and Lyra.

As you can imagine the story does obviously feature a romance but the romance is definitely something of a slow burn – it doesn’t have that insta-love that so many fairy tale stories do. I really liked this as it felt more natural to watch the relationship develop.

Featuring excellent world building and a whole host of lovable characters, Stain is definitely one of my new favourite reads and I’m so looking forward to reading more from A. G. Howard.
5 stars

Book Review: The Toymakers – Robert Dinsdale

Book Review: The Toymakers – Robert Dinsdale

BOOK REVIEW (74).png
Release Date:
February 8th 2018
Publisher: Ebury Publishing
Pages: 320
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

Do you remember when you believed in magic?

The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open! 

It is 1917, and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair, though, there is a place of hope. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.

For years Papa Jack has created and sold his famous magical toys: hobby horses, patchwork dogs and bears that seem alive, toy boxes bigger on the inside than out, ‘instant trees’ that sprout from boxes, tin soldiers that can fight battles on their own. Now his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade. Into this family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical…

Review

This vivid rich tale has absolutely stolen my heart and I could not put it down. A blend of magic and history, this book has definitely rocketed to one of my favourite books ever. The Toymakers is written in an incredibly beautiful style and the plot draws you in from the very outset. I couldn’t get enough of this book, with its bright depictions and stunning characters.

book cover (67)I’ve seen this book described elsewhere as a ‘fairy tale for grown ups’ and I think that’s incredibly accurate. In many ways it has that beautiful dream like quality, but with something darker lurking underneath. The story spans through two World Wars, and the effect that has on the emporium. The Toymakers is definitely the kind of book that you want to read when you have a good few hours just to sit and become completely absorbed in the story.

The characters are exceptionally well written too and definitely come alive in the setting. Cathy, Jack, Kaspar and Emil all feel like three dimensional characters, having their own motivations and desires. The book encompasses so much – jealousy, desire, friendship and hope. I don’t want to say too much about the plot as this is definitely one of those books that should be read with no spoilers, but there are a few surprises along the way that I didn’t see coming. It also has the most gorgeous cover ever, so many people asked me what I was reading when I was on my lunch break!

If you’re a fan of The Night Circus, I would definitely recommend this stunning book to you. If you’re looking for a magical and emotional tale that will leave you breathless, The Toymakers is exactly what you’re looking for.
5 stars