Book Review: The Familiars – Stacey Halls

Book Review: The Familiars – Stacey Halls

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Release Date: February 7th 2019
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Pages: 432
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy to review
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn’t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.

When she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife, Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong.

When Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the North-West, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?

As the two women’s lives become inextricably bound together, the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood’s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.

Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

Review

book cover2Last year I read The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown and was completely captivated by the story so when I heard about The Familiars which centres on a young woman accused of witchcraft. The story follows Fleetwood Shuttleworth a young gentlewoman who after miscarrying three children, finds a letter which suggests if she has another child she will not survive. Horrified by this she desperately seeks a midwife who can help her deliver the child that is already growing. When she stumbles upon Alice Gray a local woman with the skills she needs, the two women are caught up in the accusations of witchcraft that are spreading across Lancaster. Only Alice is capable of delivering the baby but will Fleetwood be able to save her from a guilty verdict?

This book is by no means a short book and I read it in a single day. I was completely caught up in the story of Fleetwood and Alice. The story is beautifully told with lush descriptions of the manor houses and wide open countryside that the women traverse. The plot is gripping with plenty of tension as women across the country continue to be accused of witchcraft. The story is very atmospheric, especially the scenes with more supernatural elements. I loved everything about this story from the gorgeous writing style to the magnificent setting.

The story touches on a lot of important subjects from grief, family, marriage and the witch trials but the thing that struck me most about this book is the theme of friendship. Alice and Fleetwood are nothing alike, have lived completely different lives but as the story grows so does their friendship and I particularly loved seeing that blossom as they fought to save each other.

The Familiars is in every way a spellbinding book and while it has a stunning cover the story it contains is just as brilliant. Fans of historical fiction should definitely be adding this to their wish list – The Familiars is definitely not to be missed.
4 stars

 

Book Review: Beautiful Star & Other Stories – Andrew Swanston

Book Review: Beautiful Star & Other Stories – Andrew Swanston

BOOK REVIEW
Release Date:
January 11th 2018
Publisher: The Dome Press
Pages: 256
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis

History is brought alive by the people it affects, rather than those who created it. In Beautiful Star we meet Eilmer, a monk in 1010 with Icarus-like dreams; Charles I, hiding in 1651, and befriended by a small boy; the trial of Jane Wenham, witch of Walkern, seen through the eyes of her grand-daughter. This is a moving and affecting journey through time, bringing a new perspective to the defence of Corfe Castle, the battle of Waterloo, the siege of Toulon and, in the title story, the devastating dangers of the life of the sea in 1875.

Review

beautifulSome days there’s nothing I love better than curling with a good historical fiction and enveloping myself in a different time period. When I was offered the chance to review Beautiful Star & Other Stories I jumped at the chance, not only because I love Andrew Swanston’s Incendium, but because something I’ve read very little of is historical fiction short stories. This collection has seven different tales, all from differing time periods and locations. I thoroughly enjoyed each one, giving a fascinating snapshot of that time period.

The stories are all in some way based on a true event or a true person, and that made the stories all the more enjoyable, knowing that I was learning about stories that are not often talked about. Each story was richly described with a very personal narrative voice. They were vivid and unique, dealing with a variety of themes from friendship and family, to loyalty and courage.

Of the seven stories there were a few that particularly stood out for me. I loved the story of Lady Mary Bankes, who defended Corfe Castle when it was sieges by Parliamentarian forces. This was something I had never heard of, and after doing my own research I am now eager to go and visit the ruins. I also loved the story of the young monk who dreams of learning to fly, as well as the story of a young boy who meets Charles I in a rather unexpected place. It’s the mark of incredible writing that each time period and setting comes alive, and that is definitely the case with Beautiful Star and Other Stories.

Richly detailed and thoroughly researched, Beautiful Star and Other Stories is a wonderful mix of stories. Full to the brim with realism and human voices, it is everything a historical fiction fan could ask for.
4 stars

December Book Haul!

December Book Haul!

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Today I thought I would post my December book haul! I’ve split this into two parts, this one being books that publishers kindly sent me and books that I bought and I’ll have another post later on with the books I got given for Christmas. I’m really proud of myself because I only bought two books in December, as I’m trying to lessen the amount of books I buy. That being said I did get quite a few from publishers, so lets dive in!
 

From Publishers

This Lie Will Kill You – Chelsea Pitcher
book cover (72)This young adult mystery/thriller has been likened to Riverdale and I’m so excited to pick it up.

One year ago, there was a party.
At the party, someone died.
Five teens each played a part and up until now, no one has told the truth.

But tonight, the five survivors arrive at an isolated mansion in the hills, expecting to compete in a contest with a $50,000 grand prize. Of course…some things are too good to be true. They were each so desperate for the prize, they didn’t question the odd, rather exclusive invitation until it was too late.

The Year After You – Nina De Pass
book cover (73)This is a beautiful contemporary ya novel coming from Ink Road books in February. It sounds like it will be a really moving story and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

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.

Once and Future – Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy
book cover (74)A Merlin retelling in space? SOLD. I honestly squealed with excitement when this came through the door and it has gone straight to the top of my TBR pile. That cover is also stunning!

I’ve been chased my whole life. As an illegal immigrant in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.

Now I’m done hiding.

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.

No pressure.

Stain – A. G. Howard
book cover (75)This is another release that I am honestly so desperate to read. A Gothic fairytale inspired by The Princess and the Pea? Who wouldn’t want to read that?

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.

Burn for Burn – Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivan
book cover (76)I recently read all of the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before books and a few people have recommended this series to me so I was so pleased when this surprise piece of post arrived!

Postcard-perfect Jar Island is home to charming tourist shops, pristine beaches, amazing oceanfront homes—and three girls secretly plotting revenge.

KAT is sick and tired of being bullied by her former best friend.

LILLIA has always looked out for her little sister, so when she discovers that one of her guy friends has been secretly hooking up with her, she’s going to put a stop to it.

MARY is perpetually haunted by a traumatic event from years past, and the boy who’s responsible has yet to get what’s coming to him.

None of the girls can act on their revenge fantasies alone without being suspected. But together…anything is possible.

Slay On Tour – Kim Curran
book cover (78)The SLAY boys are back and this time they’re heading to Japan. I honestly can’t wait to find out what’s next in store for this demon fighting boyband!

SLAY are BACK…and this time they’re headed to Tokyo to track down another hell-raising demon. When they’re invited on tour with a super-cool band of holographic girls, SLAY find themselves whisked off around Japan – until strange things start happening on their tour train. Suddenly it seems it’s not just SLAY’s fans following their every move…

The Glass Woman – Caroline Lea
I absolutely adore historical fiction and this honestly sounds like the perfect book for me. This icy mystery is definitely going to be a great book to cuddle up with on a winter evening.

1686, ICELAND. AN ISOLATED, WINDSWEPT LAND HAUNTED BY WITCH TRIALS AND STEEPED IN THE ANCIENT SAGAS.
Betrothed unexpectedly to 
book cover (79)Jón Eiríksson, Rósa is sent to join her new husband in the remote village of Stykkishólmur. Here, the villagers are wary of outsiders.
But Rósa harbours her own suspicions. Her husband buried his first wife alone in the dead of night. He will not talk of it. Instead he gives her a small glass figurine. She does not know what it signifies.
The villagers mistrust them both. Dark threats are whispered. There is an evil here – Rósa can feel it. Is it her husband, the villagers – or the land itself?
Alone and far from home, Rósa sees the darkness coming. She fears she will be its next victim . . .

The Fork, the Witch & the Worm – Christopher Paolini
book cover (69)Eragon and the gang are back in this all new collection of short stories from the Inheritance cycle. I was on the blog tour for this so you can check out my thoughts here!

A wanderer and a cursed child. Spells and magic. And dragons, of course.

Welcome back to the world of Alagaësia. It’s been a year since Eragon departed Alagaësia in search of the perfect home to train a new generation of Dragon Riders. Now he is struggling with an endless sea of tasks: constructing a vast dragonhold, wrangling with suppliers, guarding dragon eggs, and dealing with belligerent Urgals and haughty elves. Then a vision from the Eldunarí, unexpected visitors, and an exciting Urgal legend offer a much-needed distraction and a new perspective. This volume features three original stories set in Alagaësia, interspersed with scenes from Eragon’s own unfolding adventure. 

My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
book cover (59)I was sent this book through ReadersFirst and I ended up reading it in one sitting. Dark, gripping and fascinating, this is a brilliant read.

Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.”

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.
A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works, is the bright spot in her life. She dreams of the day when he will realize they’re perfect for each other. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and what she will do about it.

Books I Bought:

 Obsidio – Jay Kristoff & Ami Kaufman
book cover (77)The third and final book in the Illuminae Files, I had to rush out and buy this as soon as I finished Gemina. I’m pretty sure it’s going to break my heart though.

Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they’ll find seven months after the invasion?

Meanwhile, Kady’s cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza’s ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha’s past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. 

With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken…

Evermore – Sara Holland
book cover (36)This is definitely one of my most anticipated releases. I loved Everless so I’m really excited to get back to this magical world and I hope it’s just as good as book one!

Jules Ember was raised hearing legends of the ancient magic of the wicked Alchemist and the good Sorceress. But she has just learned the truth: not only are the stories true, but she herself is the Alchemist, and Caro—a woman who single-handedly murdered the Queen and Jules’s first love, Roan, in cold blood—is the Sorceress.

The whole kingdom believes that Jules is responsible for the murders, and a hefty bounty has been placed on her head. And Caro is intent on destroying Jules, who stole her heart twelve lifetimes ago. Jules must delve into the stories that she now recognizes are accounts of her own past. For it is only by piecing together the mysteries of her lives that Jules will be able to save the person who has captured her own heart in this one.

So that’s my December book haul! If you’ve read any of these definitely let me know what you thought of them and also let me know which books you bought in December!

Book Review: The Toymakers – Robert Dinsdale

Book Review: The Toymakers – Robert Dinsdale

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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

Book Review: A Sky Painted Gold – Laura Wood

Book Review: A Sky Painted Gold – Laura Wood

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Published: July 5th 2018
Publisher: Scholastic Books
Pages: 356
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

Growing up in her sleepy Cornish village dreaming of being a writer, sixteen-year-old Lou has always wondered about the grand Cardew house which has stood empty for years. And when the owners arrive for the summer – a handsome, dashing brother and sister – Lou is quite swept off her feet and into a world of moonlit cocktail parties and glamour beyond her wildest dreams.

But, as she grows closer to the Cardews, is she abandoning her own ambitions… And is there something darker lurking at the heart of the Cardew family?

Review

A Sky Painted Gold is a YA reminiscent of The Great Gatsby with the glitz and glamour of the 1920s. The story follows Lou, a young girl living in a small village in Cornwall. She has always dreamed of who might own the secluded mansion house in her village. When the owners arrive Lou is swept into a world of parties, glamour and romance.

Untitled design (75)This is definitely not the kind of book that I would typically read. I do love historical fiction but I tend not to pick up romance heavy books. This however really caught my eye and I’m so glad I picked it up because honestly I absolutely adored this book.

This book is gorgeously written and really envelopes you in the sights and sounds of the era and that gorgeous mansion by the water. I loved sinking into the story and it is definitely the perfect read for a beautiful summer’s day. The plot was well paced and it felt very character driven, giving us the time to get to know the wonderful characters in this story.

Our protagonist Lou is definitely one my new favourite characters. She’s smart, quick and just a brilliant character to follow. Although the story does follow a romance, there is so much more going on and there were so many other characters that I adored in this story. The book touches on such a wide variety of themes – family, class, relationships and so much more. Something I found really fascinating about this book is the way that Wood portrays Lou’s family. She has a big loving family and she’s incredibly close with her sister who has recently been married. It’s fascinating to see the dynamics change and the relationships evolve as Lou spends more and more time at ‘the big house.’

A Sky Painted Gold is a beautiful engaging novel. It has a gorgeous setting and exquisite writing. A Sky Painted Gold was easily a five star read and I’m so excited to read more from Laura Wood in the future.
5 stars