Book Review: Daisy Jones and the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid

Book Review: Daisy Jones and the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Release Date:
March 7th 2019
Publisher: Hutchinson
Pages: 368
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I bought a copy of this in Sainsburys
Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis

For a while, Daisy Jones & The Six were everywhere. Their albums were on every turntable, they sold out arenas from coast to coast, their sound defined an era. And then, on 12 July 1979, they split. Nobody ever knew why. Until now. They were lovers and friends and brothers and rivals. They couldn’t believe their luck, until it ran out. This is their story of the early days and the wild nights, but everyone remembers the truth differently. The only thing they all know for sure is that from the moment Daisy Jones walked barefoot onstage at the Whisky, their lives were irrevocably changed. Making music is never just about the music. And sometimes it can be hard to tell where the sound stops and the feelings begin.

Review

40554141Daisy Jones and the Six tells the tale of world famous Daisy Jones and the Six, a rock band that took the world by storm in the 60s. After a hit record and sell out shows – the band suddenly disbanded and no one knows why. Now years later, the band recount the tale of what led to them breaking up.

Now I’m going to point out straight away that this is completely not the kind of book I would normally read. The majority of the books I read are Science Fiction and Fantasy, so this is completely outside of my comfort zone. I picked this up because of all the hype for this and another of Reid’s novels – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – and thought it might be quite an interesting read. What I didn’t expect was to be absolutely blown away by this book, and have it be one of my new all-time favourites.

Daisy Jones and the Six is told in a really fascinating way, the book unfolds as a series of interviews – with the band recounting their time recording music and touring. The story is exclusively dialogue, there’s not really anything in the way of scenery descriptions or anything of that nature. Despite that the story completely came alive for me and I felt like Daisy and the band were real people – in fact by the time I was finished I wanted to google the band to learn more about them. The story really makes you feel like these people were real, and brings to life the sights and sounds of life in the 60s.

Daisy Jones and the Six holds nothing back and there’s plenty of drink, drugs and the difficulty of dealing with fame. It’s a fascinating tale and you get the sense early on that it’s going to end badly, yet you absolutely cannot look away.

The story is emotional and heart breaking in the best possible way and I honestly struggled not to bawl my eyes out at it on the way home from work. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like Daisy Jones and the Six, and it’s definitely a book I keep thinking about despite finishing it a while ago.

I’m so glad I took the jump and tried something out of my comfort zone, because this is absolutely a new favourite. I’m incredibly keen to try more from this author and if you’ve seen the buzz around Daisy Jones and thought that the book isn’t your cup of tea I’d definitely suggest giving it a go – you might just find a new favourite.

5 stars

Book Review: The Wages of Sin – Kaite Welsh

Book Review: The Wages of Sin – Kaite Welsh

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Series:
Sarah Gilchrist #1
Release Date: June 1st 2017
Publisher: Tinder Press
Pages: 309
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

Sarah Gilchrist has fled London and a troubled past to join the University of Edinburgh’s medical school in 1892, the first year it admits women. She is determined to become a doctor despite the misgivings of her family and society, but Sarah quickly finds plenty of barriers at school itself: professors who refuse to teach their new pupils, male students determined to force out their female counterparts, and—perhaps worst of all—her female peers who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman.

Desperate for a proper education, Sarah turns to one of the city’s ramshackle charitable hospitals for additional training. The St Giles’ Infirmary for Women ministers to the downtrodden and drunk, the thieves and whores with nowhere else to go. In this environment, alongside a group of smart and tough teachers, Sarah gets quite an education. But when Lucy, one of Sarah’s patients, turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into a murky underworld of bribery, brothels, and body snatchers.

Painfully aware of just how little separates her own life from that of her former patient’s, Sarah is determined to find out what happened to Lucy and bring those responsible for her death to justice. But as she searches for answers in Edinburgh’s dank alleyways, bawdy houses and fight clubs, Sarah comes closer and closer to uncovering one of Edinburgh’s most lucrative trades, and, in doing so, puts her own life at risk…

Review

book cover - 2019-04-29T121734.477I loved this book from start to finish. Sarah Gilchrist is such a fascinating character. Forced to leave London in disgrace, Sarah is part of the first group of female medical students at Edinburgh University. She’s determined to become a doctor and help those in need. However those around her are not so thrilled at the idea of having female doctors, and there are those in her family who would much prefer she let the idea of doctoring go and get married.

I’m not really sure where to begin with reviewing The Wages of Sin. I loved it so much, and there’s just so much going on in this complex and addictive story. The first thing I adored about this book was the setting. I love historical fiction, and so when I heard about this book set in Victorian Edinburgh, I was absolutely dying to read it. Not only that, I did my undergraduate degree in Edinburgh, and at the time of reading the book I was interning just off the royal mile. It’s very rare you’re actually in a place where a book is set, and the fantastic depictions of Victorian Edinburgh really made the story come alive for me. I often spent my lunch break in cafe comparing the Royal Mile of today to the dark and eerie Royal Mile of the story.The descriptions of the medical procedures and events in the infirmary are also very visually depicted, bringing alive the stench and sounds of the medical world.

I also adored the characters, they’re so wonderfully depicted, and there’s such a range of interesting characters. Sarah is dismissed from society, yet she’s still determined to see her dream of becoming a doctor through. She’s strong and she fights for what she believes is right. I also loved Elizabeth, Sarah’s only real friend that she confides and finds solace in. Elizabeth appears as the perfect depiction of a good wife who stays at home, but she’s so much more. Professor Merchiston too is a fascinating character he’s both Sarah’s lecturer and some how tied up in the mysterious death of her patient.

The Wages of Sin is such a fascinating exploration into how women were treated in Victorian times, but enveloped in a dark murder mystery. The back drop of women being ridiculed and shunned for studying medicine, as well as obstructing them from getting the vote, makes for a really interesting and complex story. This book kept me guessing, and kept me wanting more. The book is incredibly well researched, and is definitely one of my favourite historical fictions ever. It’s full of darkness and corruption, This is a completely engaging book, and I hope this isn’t the last we see of Sarah Gilchrist.
5 stars

Blog Tour: The Devil Aspect – Craig Russell

Blog Tour: The Devil Aspect – Craig Russell

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Release Date:
March 7th 2019
Publisher: Constable
Pages: 496
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

A terrifying novel set in Czechoslovakia in 1935, in which a brilliant young psychiatrist takes his new post at an asylum for the criminally insane that houses only six inmates–the country’s most depraved murderers–while, in Prague, a detective struggles to understand a brutal serial killer who has spread fear through the city, and who may have ties to the asylum 

In 1935, Viktor Kosarek, a psychiatrist newly trained by Carl Jung, arrives at the infamous Hrad Orlu Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The state-of-the-art facility is located in a medieval mountaintop castle outside of Prague, though the site is infamous for concealing dark secrets going back many generations. The asylum houses the country’s six most treacherous killers–known to the staff as The Woodcutter, The Clown, The Glass Collector, The Vegetarian, The Sciomancer, and The Demon–and Viktor hopes to use a new medical technique to prove that these patients share a common archetype of evil, a phenomenon known as The Devil Aspect. As he begins to learn the stunning secrets of these patients, five men and one woman, Viktor must face the disturbing possibility that these six may share another dark truth.

Meanwhile, in Prague, fear grips the city as a phantom serial killer emerges in the dark alleys. Police investigator Lukas Smolak, desperate to locate the culprit (dubbed Leather Apron in the newspapers), realizes that the killer is imitating the most notorious serial killer from a century earlier–London’s Jack the Ripper. Smolak turns to the doctors at Hrad Orlu for their expertise with the psychotic criminal mind, though he worries that Leather Apron might have some connection to the six inmates in the asylum.
Steeped in the folklore of Eastern Europe, and set in the shadow of Nazi darkness erupting just beyond the Czech border, this stylishly written, tightly coiled, richly imagined novel is propulsively entertaining, and impossible to put down.

Review

“I will return,” the voice hissed in Viktor’s ear. “I will return and show you the truth and you will be blinded by it. I will show you such horror and fear that you will be burned by its beauty and its clarity.”book cover - 2019-04-19T094103.467

This is my first time reading a book by Craig Russell and I can tell you right away that it definitely won’t be my last. The Devil Aspect follows a young and ambitious psychiatrist named Viktor Kosarek who begins work at an institute for the most criminally insane people of Czechoslovakia. Victor is determined to prove that the six murderers housed here are evidence of the devil aspect. Also occurring in the story is a serial killer loose in Prague, striking fear into the cities residents. As police investigator Lukas Smolak attempts to uncover who’s behind the murders, he discovers there may be a connection to the inmates of the infamous asylum.

I honestly couldn’t put this book down. This story is so tense and gripping, it will definitely have you reading long past bedtime. The story kept me guessing at every turn and I really enjoyed the two different story arcs and the way that they weaved together. I really liked the characters, they were well developed and Viktor and Lukas made for really fascinating protagonists. The story blended murder mystery with supernatural horror incredibly well and the whole way through I was questioning what was real and what wasn’t.

The story in this book is really superb but thing that really made this a five star read for me was the atmosphere. It was so dark and chilling, it made me feel like I was right there in the story. Russell really brings to life this dark and creepy asylum and the freezing foggy streets of Prague. This Gothic horror tale is an addictive roller coaster ride that doesn’t let you off till the very last page. If you’re looking for a new favourite read, I can’t recommend this enough.
5 stars
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Blog Tour: The Lives Before Us – Juliet Conlin

Blog Tour: The Lives Before Us – Juliet Conlin

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Release Date:
March 28th 2019
Publisher: Black and White
Pages: 400
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

A beautifully written, sweeping story of survival, community and love…

It it April 1939, and, in Berlin and Vienna, Esther and Kitty face a brutal choice. Flee Europe, or face the ghetto, incarceration, death.

Shanghai… They’ve heard it whispered that Shanghai might offer refuge. And so, on a crowded ocean liner, these women encounter each other for the first time.

Kitty has been lured to the other side of the world with promises of luxury, love and marriage. But when her Russian fiancé reveals his hand, she’s left to scratch a vulnerable living in Shanghai’s nightclubs and dark corners. Meanwhile, Esther and her daughter shelter in a house of widows until Aaron, a hot-headed former lover, brings fresh hope of survival.

Then, as the Japanese army enters the fray and violence mounts, the women are thrown together in Shanghai’s most desperate times. Together they must fight a future for the lives that will follow theirs.

Review

book cover - 2019-04-09T224206.829I absolutely adored Juliet Conlin’s The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner in Six Days so I was incredibly excited to pick up her newest release, The Lives Before Us. Set in 1939 the story follows three characters – Esther, Kitty and Yì as they attempt to escape from the violence and death that is spreading across the world at this dark moment in history. It is a powerful and emotional story that I found difficult to put down.

This is definitely the kind of story that sticks with you long after you’re finished reading. The story is told from the differing perspectives of the three characters who are each dealing with their own issues and struggles. They experience the horrors and hardships of a world at war but the story also focuses very much on the ideas of friendship and family at a time when so many are being persecuted.

I really liked all three characters – Kitty who is going to meet a fiance whom she discovers is already married, Yì is a young Chinese boy who has been badly treated all his life and Esther who is trying to escape persecution and protect her daughter. Each character brought a really unique perspective and they blended well to create a compelling tale.

I really enjoyed Conlin’s writing style in her previous novel and if possible I loved it even more in this book. It was so easy to sink into the book and be swept along in the story of these characters. The book was well paced and definitely gave me the opportunity to gain more knowledge about life during that time period. I also really liked the setting for this story – Shanghai – Conlin’s writing really brought it to life and it was fascinating reading about a place I know so little about.

The Lives Before Us is a gorgeously written, touching tale that fans of historical fiction will absolutely adore. If you’ve read The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner, you’re definitely going to love this too.
4 stars
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Book Review: The Devil’s Highway – Gregory Norminton

Book Review: The Devil’s Highway – Gregory Norminton

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Release Date:
January 25th 2018
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Pages: 224
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

Three journeys. Three thousand years. One destination. The Devil’s Highway is a thrilling, epic and intimate tale of love, loss, fanaticism, heroism and sacrifice.

A Roman road, an Iron Age hill fort, a hand-carved flint, and a cycle of violence that must be broken.

An ancient British boy, discovering a terrorist plot, must betray his brother to save his tribe. In the twenty-first century, two people – one traumatised by war, another by divorce – clash over the use and meaning of a landscape. In the distant future, a gang of feral children struggles to reach safety in a broken world. Their stories are linked by one ancient road, the ‘Devil’s Highway’ in the heart of England: the site of human struggles that resemble one another more than they differ.

Spanning centuries, and combining elements of historical and speculative fiction with the narrative drive of pure thriller, this is a breathtakingly original novel that challenges our dearly held assumptions about civilisation.

Review

overThis is a fascinating little book that explores three different journeys at different time periods. At just over two hundred pages that’s quite a lot of ground to cover, but this short read is well paced and full of history and imagination. Spanning across three thousand years, all three perspectives have one destination in mind: The Devil’s Highway.

The three different time settings show life in Britain at completely different times. One is kind of present day setting featuring a young solider returned from Afghanistan, attempting to find a way to live a normal life as a civilian. There is also a future wasteland in which much of what we know of society has broken down, including speech. Finally there is a Roman perspective, in which a group of rebels are attempting to launch an attack on their Roman overseers.

Each story feels realistic and well thought out, the characters are well portrayed and Norminton subtly weaves the similarities between each time period, while still making them feel unique and interesting. Although I enjoyed reading all three, I found the story of the Romans and the Celts to be the most fascinating.

I did find the wasteland future perspective a little difficult to enjoy, the breakdown of language makes it a bit of a difficult read, and that took away some of my enjoyment of the story. Overall I found this an engaging and enjoyable read. The Devil’s Highway is a really original read, and one that manages to pack a lot into such a small space. If you’re looking for a book that is clever and subtle, this should definitely be your next read.
3 stars

Book Review: The Girl in the Tower – Katherine Arden

Book Review: The Girl in the Tower – Katherine Arden

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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

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