Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

5 Feb 2020

Review - A Shadowed Fate by Marty Ambrose

  Title: A Shadowed Fate (Claire Clairmont #2)

  Author: Marty Ambrose

  Publication Date: March 03, 2020

  Synopsis:


1873, Florence. Claire Clairmont, the last survivor of the 'haunted summer of 1816' Byron/Shelley circle, is reeling from the series of events triggered by the arrival of Michael Rosetti two weeks before, which culminated in a brutal murder and a shocking revelation from her old friend, Edward Trelawny.

Stunned by her betrayal at the hands of those closest to her, Claire determines to travel to the convent at Bagnacavallo near Ravenna to learn the true fate of Allegra, her daughter by Lord Byron. But the valuable Cades sketch given to her by Rosetti is stolen, and Claire soon finds herself shadowed at every turn and in increasing danger as she embarks on her quest. Is the theft linked to Allegra, and can Claire uncover what really happened in Ravenna so many years ago?

I received a free ebook copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts:

I've been waiting for A Shadowed Fate for a long time and here it is at last. Marty Ambrose managed to pull me in with her first book in her Claire series so much, that in the past 1.5 years I've been checking and rechecking if there were any news about the second instalment. It hits the shelves shortly, and I received a copy on NetGalley, so here is what I think.

I flew through this novel as well as the first one. They are quite short  which is a shame. In ASF Claire is going on a road trip with her friend Trelawny and her small family in order to find out what happened to her daughter, Allegra, when she lived in the convent of Bagnacavallo. While on the road a dangerous stranger seems to be on their heels, and with Byron and Shelley's valuable letters in her pocket Claire has to look over her shoulder continuously if she wants to keep her loved ones safe.

Like in Claire's Last Secret, here we got glimpses into the past too, this time of Byron's years in Ravenna, when he supported the Carbonari's revolution for a united Italy. Through journal entries the reader gets caught up in a shoot-out at the fringe of a forest, where Byron is the target, and an equally heated situation on the streets of Ravenna, where once again, bullets fly low. It was an interesting addition to the book, because I've never really read much of this part of Byron's life before.

I also enjoyed the child Allegra's journal entries and was glad the author gave her a voice. I'm looking forward to read more of her story later.

Claire and Trelawny's relationship develops quite a lot in this novel and we hear more of the one night they spent together in the past. We are also given reasons why it never really worked out between the two and we are left with a big question mark regarding their future relationship. Another reason for me to want to read the third book.

Diving into Marty Ambrose's prose was easy, as if I had just finished the first book and picked up the second right after. She's got a very clear style and she makes you care and root for her characters. It still surprises me, but with some magic she makes me like Claire, while I've never really cared  much for her before.

Sign me up for the last book in the trilogy, I'm still in! 



Read my review of Claire's Last Secret here.

4 Feb 2020

Review - The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

 Title: The Secret Garden

 Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett

 Synopsis:

  Mary Lennox is sent from an India as an orphan to live at
 Misselthwaite Manor. She arrives as a sour-faced,
 sickly and ill-tempered little madam but becomes friends with
 local lad Dickon and her poorly cousin Colin. In their
 restoration of a secret garden all their lives are changed for the better.



My Thoughts:

When, once finished,  you close a book with the thought: "I'll definitely read this to my children one day", that's a clear testament to the book's merits.

The Secret Garden is pure magic, an ultimate feel-good retreat, a novel that shows the healing power of nature and the world around us. Though generally labelled as a children's book, it is not only for children; it warmed my poor adult heart in ways that are impossible to describe.

"Mother says as th' two worst things as can happen to a child is never to have his own way – or always to have it."

When Mary Lennox arrives to Misselthwaite Manor, she's a haughty, self-centered little girl. While before she was always surrounded with people who served her, at the manor she's left to her own devices to entertain herself throughout the day. Her uncle Craven is hardly ever at home, and Martha the maid has chores around the house therefore she cannot be with her all the time. 

When she ventures outside to the gardens she feels a change in herself that she cannot really grasp, and when Ben the gardener and Martha mention a garden that has been locked up for 10 years, she cannot help but dream about finding the key.

The Secret Garden has a history that has something to do with the soft crying of a child she hears on the corridors of the manor sometimes, and of course Mary has to go and investigate. 

Strong friendships are born in this book that bridge gaps in between classes. Martha's little brother Dickon is like a little Mowgli of the Yorkshire moors, he charms Mary very quickly with his gentle nature and ability to speak with the animals.  

"Where you tend a rose, my lad,
A thistle cannot grow."

Three children find a haven in this novel; a place where they can grow, heal and learn, and as they do, the reader does the same alongside them. Again, I say, it is a magical experience. 


26 Nov 2019

Film Review - La Novia (The Bride)

  Title: La Novia/The Bride

  Director: Paula Ortiz

  Year: 2015

  Genre: Drama

  Cast: Inma Cuesta | Álex García | Asier Etxeandia

  Trailer

  IMDB

My Thoughts: 

The film is based on the Federico García Lorca play Bodas de Sangre (Blood Wedding), which I read this month. It wasn't a question that I'd watch this adaptation, given that I know some of the actors and I'm always in search of new Spanish films/series for language learning purposes.

Blood Wedding was inspired by a true story from 1928, when a bride fled her wedding with a cousin, who was later murdered by the groom's brother. The difference in Lorca's version is that the the lover and the groom himself face each other in the end to create the tragic conclusion of the drama together.

The creators of La Novia stayed loyal to Lorca's play in many ways. Almost all the lines the characters speak come from the actual text and the lyrical quality and the beautiful cinematography support each other so well, together they create a brand new work of art. 

Each frame if carefully composed, masterfully arranged, the whole movie is a real delight for the eyes. The rhythm of Lorca's 'singing' poetry beats together with these pretty visuals the feeling of pain and pleasure is intensified by being transmitted through both words and scenery at the same time.

There are frames where individual characters stand alone, like the bride in white dress in front of the night sky and the moon above, or the lover, Leonardo on her horse, a solitary figure in a desert-like dry-yellow landscape these all took my breath away. The group scenes at the wedding and the wedding party are amazing as well, especially the parts with singing and dancing in it.

I absolutely loved the music. García Lorca was first and foremost a poet, and he also collected folk songs for a long time. His poem/song La Tarara that he composed from several songs for children was also put in the film, the scene in which the bride sings it is one of my favourites. A Spanish version of Little Viannase Waltz, which you might know from the Leonard Cohen song 'Take This Waltz' is used, during the knife-fight scene.

The only thing I found a bit too much in the movie was how the symbols were overused. The play itself is full of objects and characters that have certain meanings, like the horse, the different kind of flowers, colours, the character of the moon and the beggar woman. There is too many of these, even in the original material if you ask me, and the makers of the movie added some more which seemed superfluous. However, they merged the moon and the beggar character into one and that I consider a good choice, the twist they pulled in the end with this character was pleasantly surprising too.

I could rave on about this film forever and I think I'll rewatch it many times yet.

12 Nov 2019

Review - Escape to Everly Manor by Chalon Linton

   Title: Escape to Everly Manor

   Author: Chalon Linton

   Synopsis:

   Nineteen-year-old Lizzy and her young brother, Thomas, find themselves orphaned after a tragic accident claims the lives of their parents. Their estranged Uncle Cline arrives to claim his inheritance, and his roguish ways cast a shadow over the manor. Both the family estate and guardianship of his niece and nephew were left to him, and diabolical Uncle Cline is determined to indulge in his newfound wealth and rid himself of his charges. Desperate to save her brother from a dangerous life at sea, and herself from being married off to a detestable old gentleman, Lizzy knows there is only one choice left—they must run.

Lizzy and Thomas sneak away and find refuge in an abandoned cabin. There they remain hidden—until fate acquaints Lizzy with Mr. Barton, a charming gentleman who is immediately intrigued by the mysterious young woman. Concealing her identity, Lizzy is unaware that there is much more to this compassionate man than meets the eye. Through his kindness to herself and her brother, Lizzy begins to trust him. Soon Lizzy realizes Mr. Barton may be her best hope for a life in which she can live—and love—as she chooses . . .

I received a free ebook copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts:


The cover caught my eye on NetGalley, I find it very pretty with the autumn forest and the solitary lady in the center. The fact that I've basically only read regency romance from Jane Austen so far urged me to give it a try too.

The story is simple: two orphans, Elizabeth and Thomas, run away from an evil uncle to avoid being separated from each other. They come across a kind-hearted gentleman who is willing to help them. Romance ensues but it only complicates things. The choice between her dear brother and the love of her life seems impossible to Lizzy.

I instantly connected to Lizzy because I myself have a young brother and just like Lizzy I'd do anything to keep him safe. Sisterly love was such an important force in this story, it drove the plot, which I appreciated because it balanced out the romance that slowly developed between Lizzy and Barton and thus kept it from being cheesy.

The little brother Thomas somehow grounded Lizzy and made her look beyond the pink cloud. You guys know that these days romance is a risky genre for me because I often find myself impatient with it, but here I felt it was well-executed.

There were quite a lot of twists in the story; an accident, an unexpected and unwanted guest appearing, a rescue mission having to be planned... I was never bored while this book was in my hands.

I'm hoping to ready more such good regency romances in the future.

5 Nov 2019

Review - Pressed to Death by Kirsten Weiss

   Title: Pressed to Death (Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum #2)

   Author: Kirsten Weiss

   Synopsis:

   Perfectly pressed. Perfectly proper. Perfectly deadly.

Paranormal museum owner Maddie Kosloski thinks she has the perfect paranormal exhibit for the harvest festival—a haunted grape press. But before she can open the exhibit, she’s accused of stealing the antique press. And when her accuser is found murdered, all eyes turn to Maddie.

Solving the crime is the last thing on Maddie’s mind, but her mother insists she investigate. Does her mother have a secret agenda? And why has the local charity, Ladies Aid, seemingly gone gangster?

In this light, cozy mystery, haunted houses, runaway wine barrels, and murder combine in a perfect storm of chaos. Facing down danger and her own over-active imagination, Maddie must unearth the killer before she becomes the next ghost to haunt her museum. 

My Thoughts:

I've been eager to 'visit' San Benedetto again after reading the series opener of The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum this spring. I'd forgot how much I like small town crime/mystery stories and these cozy books reinitiated me into the genre.

Just like in the first novel our protagonist Maddie Kosloski plays detective after a vineyard owner is found dead in a grape vat. To the current-time crime joins a past mystery around a haunted grape press that Maddie acquires for her museum. 

The double puzzle is always a joy in Kirsten Weiss's books and I also appreciate that Maddie has to investigate not only in the future but back into the past too. So far in both novels there was a haunted object through which San Benedetto's murder-ridden history was revealed and with each story you wonder less and less why the body count is growing in this sleepy rural town.

Again, I had a good time getting to know the new characters (there are a lot of them and Weiss still juggles them well): Leo, the weird teenage kid, who is suspicious but whom Maddie likes a lot, Elthia, who runs a Death Bistro and is pretty emotional all the time, the new tyrannical leader of Ladies Aid who acts like she is the Godfather... All of them were pretty entertaining.

After Maddie got together with Mason the motorbike shop owner viking in the first book I expected to see their relationship blossom, however the guy is pretty much absent most of the time and Maddie has to rethink their relationship while she deals with everything else that disrupts the peace in San Benedetto. I didn't mind that, because I ship Maddie hard with Detective Slate and as things are looking I might get my wish and see them together in the next book...

Until I get there, I cannot recommend this book series enough for people who are after a light, entertaining, fun read for a cozy weekend.


 Read my review of The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum here.

Next in the series:
by Kirsten Weiss


26 Oct 2019

Review - The Widow of Pale Harbour by Hester Fox

    Title: The Widow of Pale Harbor

   Author: Hester Fox

   Publication Date: September 17, 2019

   Synopsis:

   A town gripped by fear. A woman accused of   witchcraft. Who can save  Pale Harbor from itself?

   Maine, 1846. Gabriel Stone is desperate to escape the ghosts that haunt    him in Massachusetts after his wife’s death, so he moves to Maine, taking a    position as a minister in the remote village of Pale Harbor.

But not all is as it seems in the sleepy town. Strange, unsettling things have been happening, and the townspeople claim that only one person can be responsible: Sophronia Carver, a reclusive widow who lives with a spinster maid in the eerie Castle Carver. Sophronia must be a witch, and she almost certainly killed her husband.

As the incidents escalate, one thing becomes clear: they are the work of a twisted person inspired by the wildly popular stories of Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. And Gabriel must find answers, or Pale Harbor will suffer a fate worthy of Poe’s darkest tales.


My Thoughts:

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox completely enchanted me last year. It was the perfect October read, featuring a haunted mansion and a girl who had just come into her power as a witch. I was looking forward to read the writer's second novel, which had a similar eerie promise.

It wasn't exactly a let-down, but I couldn't say The Widow of Pale Harbor lived up to its predecessor.

Gabriel a man with a well-guarded secret arrives to Pale Harbor to act as the minister of the sleepy town. He quickly becomes fascinated with the woman the whole place regards a murderess and a witch, and when strange occurrences disturb the people, he can't help standing up for the lady of his heart.

"Death had cast its sickly pall over the town, and nothing was certain any more."

Most of the readers will be drawn to this book for the reference to Edgar Allan Poe in the blurb. Indeed, the murders and other weird happenings in the novel are pulled from Poe stories and the reader even gets time to guess from which ones before it is revealed. I think it is a pretty awesome game for those who know Poe's tales intimately.

The setting and the whole atmosphere that is created are the strongest features in the book. The gothic vibes are very powerful, starting from the mansion Sophronia lives in, through the foggy streets, to the eerie cemetery and the windy cliffs – the mood is beautifully composed through the chilly descriptions.

I know, so far I've only shared good things so why wasn't I completely satisfied then? 

The romance I'm afraid blunted my excitement for yet another autumn read. It was too flowery, too sweet for a gothic book. Everything else was so dark, so raw, that I expected the passion to be a bit more down-to-earth, the love a bit less schoolgirlish. I find I don't have much patience for these kind of romances any more. It is sad, but it's the truth. 

Also, I couldn't really understand why Sophronia found Gabriel so intriguing. It turned out they didn't share that many interests after all, he wasn't one for intellectual conversations – as far as male protagonists go he fell a little flat for me.

I'd say it is worth to give The Widow of Pale Harbor a try if you're a Poe fan and like gothic tales. It helps if you're also a romance fan, because then you'll appreciate the parts I didn't, and the story can give you more than what it offered me. It is far from being a bad book, but I couldn't rate it higher because the author's debut novel undoubtedly casts a long shadow on it.


12 Oct 2019

Review - Circe by Madeline Miller

Title: Circe

Author: Madeline Miller

Synopsis:

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.

When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe's place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.


There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe's independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.


My Thoughts: 

I was looking forward to this novel immensely, given that The Song of Achilles is one of my favourite historical fictions dealing with Greek ancient history, and for the same reason I was a bit afraid before picking Crice up, because with TSOA Madeline Miller put the bar very high up, even for herself. 

Now, having read Crice I can say it was differently good than TSOA, but good none the less as far as I'm concerned, it is indisputable that Madeline Miller is one of the most talented writers of our time.

I can call myself lucky, because I read most of the book on our honeymoon in Malta, and that country provided a perfect real life background setting for the story (second best to what Greece would have offered). After all Gozo is said to have been Calypso's island (not Circe's but close enough...)

Now about the book itself: it is about us. It is about being human, it convinces the reader that life is beautiful, because it has a beginning and an end and because there are so many vivid experiences in between. It is short, but all the more precious for being so. Mortality is an interesting subject for a tale that has a goddess as it's protagonist, but once you start reading you realize that's Circe's relationship with mortals form her to what she becomes by the end of the book. It is quite a journey.

Circe is a strong feminist read as well, reintroducing some well-known, often controversial, female characters from Greek mythology and giving a certain twist to each of them. Pasiphaë, Medeia, Penelope, Scylla, we can learn something new about all of them, getting to know them in a different light.

I enjoyed learning what happened to Odysseus after he killed the suitors and reunited with Penelope and Telemachus too, since I've never read anywhere else about that. Let me just say, this novel doesn't champion Odyssesus at all, which fact gives it a unique aspect.

I definitely recommend Circe to all Greek mythology/history lovers, so sail out, but beware of the sea monsters!



31 Jul 2019

Review - The Balance of Heaven and Earth by Laurence Westwood

Title: The Balance of Heaven and Earth

Author: Laurence Westwood

Synopsis:

I have been unable to write a judgement that does not seem to offend my conscience, or indeed Heaven, in some manner. Because I do not wish to influence your thinking unduly, I have destroyed all my personal papers and notes in regard to this dispute, preferring you to start afresh. Forgive me for this. All I ask is that you consider and examine Jade Moon most carefully before coming to a decision. I find her fascinating and unsettling in equal measure, and fear the consequences of a wrongful judgement. I will say no more.

My sincerest best wishes to you and your family,

Magistrate Qian
Fifth District, Chengdu Prefecture
1st day of the 2nd Moon, 1085

So ends the letter of welcome (and of warning) to Magistrate Zhu, newly arrived in the remote border town of Tranquil Mountain. He has travelled far from his extensive family estates on the outskirts of Kaifeng – the glorious Song Dynasty capital – hoping to find atonement for past mistakes.

Yet he quickly discovers that Tranquil Mountain is anything but tranquil. The town is beset with simmering tensions since the death of his predecessor. Before Magistrate Zhu even has time to accustom himself to his inexperienced and wayward constabulary and the lowliness of his new surroundings, there is a mysterious murder, rumours of ghosts and blood-thirsty bandits out on the streets, and a disturbing kidnapping to solve – as well as the tragic and tangled legal circumstances of the local heroine Jade Moon to unravel.

For the balance of Heaven and Earth to be maintained, and to prevent catastrophe coming to Tranquil Mountain, Magistrate Zhu is well aware that not a single injustice can be allowed to stand. As he struggles to reach the correct judgements, he realises he has no choice but to offer up his career and perhaps even his own life for the greater good. And, in so doing, he discovers that as Jade Moon’s fate rests in his hands, so his fate ultimately rests in hers.


My Thoughts:

 "You should understand this, Senior scribe Xu, that any injustice, great or small, moves Heaven and Earth out of balance."

This book became an innocent victim of my reading slump I'm afraid; it took me ages to read it, but let me tell you, it wasn't the book's fault at all *points at herself*. The Balance of Heaven and Earth is a historical small town mystery/crime novel well worthy of praise, so let me do just that.

This novel is unlike anything I've read before, mainly because I'm not very familiar with Chinese history, but I'm always happy to learn something new, and for this reason 'visiting' a 11th century small Chinese town was a real treat for me. The characters are so well introduced and developed that you can't help but welcome them as friends after a while. 

Jade Moon is considered a hero in Tranquil Mountain, and still, her fate is quite uncertain when Magistrate Zhu arrives to town to fill in his new position and administer the law. They both have a troubled past and their future oddly lies in the hand of one another.

Not surprisingly women had quite a vulnerable position in Chinese society too a thousand years ago and it could easily happen that a female child was sold to a rich family to entertain the sons of the household. Jade Moon if facing the bonds of concubinage unless Magistrate Zhu is willing and capable of finding a hole in the law that would allow her to gain her freedom back.

Jade Moon is a fighter, the daughter of a 'barbarian' and a Chinese mother, a curiosity for the Chinese people for her fierce and passionate nature. It was quite eye opening to read about what was considered Chinese-ness at the time. To be Chinese was to follow the traditions, that you were born on the same piece of land didn't instantly mean you were Chinese. The cultural distinction was quite emphasized between these two set of people, the Chinese and the barbarians.
"If a law opresses the people, how can it be called a law?"

Another interesting topic in the book was the law and Magistrate Zhu's approach to certain questions related to it. Is the law always right? What if it makes people suffer unnecessarily? Who should make the law? Can it be overlooked if it is morally unacceptable for the individual? Such interesting musings to read about!

The secondary characters were very entertaining too: the constables; Horse, the bright young man who matures a lot during the story, the good-for-nothing Deng brothers, Little Ox with his strength and bravery, Leaf, the little kid who they always want to send off to bed, but is always ready to fight... Senior Scribe Xu, the kind old man who was always on Jade Moon's side was also one of my favourites.

The writing style is very steady, it's flowing well and is easy to read. The story is a bit slow burn, but I like this kind, if you do too, I'm sure it will satisfy you.

If you're on the lookout for something different at the moment, give The Balance of Heaven and Earth a try.



11 Mar 2019

Review - The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum by Kirsten Weiss

Title: The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum

Author: Kirsten Weiss

Synopsis:

When Maddie Kosloski’s career flatlines, she retreats to her wine country hometown for solace and cheap rent. Railroaded into managing the local paranormal museum, she’s certain the rumors of its haunting are greatly exaggerated. But then a fresh corpse in the museum embroils Maddie in murders past and present, making her wonder if a ghost could really be on the loose. 

With her high school bully as one of the detectives in charge of the investigation, Maddie doubts justice will be served. When one of her best friends is arrested, she knows it won’t be. Maddie also grapples with ghost hunters, obsessed taxidermists, and the sexy motorcyclist next door as outside forces threaten. And as she juggles spectral shenanigans with the hunt for a killer, she discovers there truly is no place like home.


My Thoughts:

Unbelievable I know, but this was the first cozy mystery I've ever read. I've been eyeing quite a few cozy mytery book series for a while now because I love the cover styles and after the positive experience I had with The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum I'm sure I'll get acquainted with more of them.

The PPPM charmed me with its extemely lovable set of characters and its fascinating paranormal side-plot.

It rarely happens that throughout a book new characters get introduced every five pages and the writer can still manage them well. You might think that creating a wide set of characters is only a good idea in a long book and this is what I've thought too until know but The PPPM is proof that with a good sense of balance an author can play around with numerous characters in a short book, what's more, they can keep the readers' attention with the strategy of constantly adding new faces to the mix.

Maddie Kosloski, our protagonist wants to help out her friend, Adele, by taking up the task of running the local paranormal museum. During her very first visit she and Adele find the corpse on the floor and when the local police arrests Adele for the crime, Maddie is prepared to investigate.

Torn between looking for a new job and keeping the museum, Maddie also has to face the danger her inquiry into the murder case brings along. While she is searching for a modern killer, she gets involved in a murder long left unsolved as well, when an unquiet ghost starts sending her messages within the walls of the museum. The story of the ghost who was a woman from generations ago, accused of the murder of her husband especially captured my attention.

Lots of interesting local people turn up at the museum and there are plenty who might have something to do with the present-day murder. Maddie has to put up with an eager ghost hunter group of old ladies too (luckily her motorcycle-crazy neighbour has got her back when it comes to killing time until the ladies leave the place).

The small town life that is described on the pages of this book is very alluring and gives the reader a cozy feeling indeed.

I can only recommend this book for those who like mysteries, small towns, cakes, wine and cats. The PPPM was a real treat for me.




The next book in the series:

by Kirsten Weiss 


22 Jan 2019

Review - The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer


Title: The Oddling Prince

Author: Nancy Springer

Synopsis:

In the ancient moors of Scotland, the king of Calidon lies on his deathbed, cursed by a ring that cannot be removed from his finger. When a mysterious fey stranger appears to save the king, he also carries a secret that could tear the royal family apart.

The kingdom’s only hope will lie with two young men raised worlds apart. Aric is the beloved heir to the throne of Calidon; Albaric is clearly of noble origin yet strangely out of place.





I received a free ebook copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts: 

I've seen tons of three-star reviews about this book on Goodreads. Tons. However, after reading it I feel I have to take it in my hands to do justice to The Oddling Prince because to me it didn't come across as mediocre as review writers generally make it out to be.

There are two princes in this story who share a strong bond. One of them, Albaric, is from a faraway land. He comes to Calidon to save the king's life, yet his motive for the heroic act upsets king Bardaric a good deal after his recovery. Aric, the prince of Calidon, tries to shield Albaric from his father's wrath but the king's behaviour pains the foreign saviour none the less. Still, when the kingdom is threatened by inside and outside forces alike, everyone must stand on the same side to prevent its demise.

Going into the book knowing that it is a fairy tale and a celtic one at that, I expected nothing less from the writing style than to reflect the genre and the historical quality. Ms Springer's sentences are beautifully composed and her descriptions are nothing short of poetic. It's true that some might find the style a little dense, hard to get used to, but it all depends on the person's reading history and even if it's new to someone it doesn't mean it can't amaze after getting through the initial bumps while getting accustomed to it in the beginning. 

I actually saw some reviews that say The Oddling Prince is written in 'old English'.


Old English is what Beowulf was written in, even native speakers cannot really read and/or understand it now. Talk about exaggeration...

The truth is, this is a character-driven novel and those who pick it up to read action packed fantasy fiction can be disappointed. It is not usual for a fantasy story to lean that heavily on its characters vs the plot and therefore it was a risky choice from the author, but believe me when I say that it works in this case. There is little travelling in the novel, basically there is one setting (the castle) but it feels enough (the only part when the princes left the castle seemed superfluous to me to be honest). 

There's some sword fighting though and dangerous situations at times, the book doesn't completely lack action, only it's not as important in it as the relationship of the characters.

Speaking of characters... We have a male protagonist, which is very rare in YA. Aric is endlessly kind, goodhearted and caring. He doesn't have one bad quality. Many reviewers deemed him flat, but again, we are talking about a fairy tale the genre is not exactly famous for complex characters, since very often these tales are based on a fight between good and bad and there is no in between. Aric's one-sidedness was therefore absolutely acceptable to me. His love for Albaric warmed my heart.

The ladies of The Oddling Prince were so lovely! Aric's mother and his bride, Marissa, were both smart and wise and they understood their male companions so well. They had so much strength and insight, they were my favourites. 

As you can see I liked The Oddling Prince a lot and this was me trying to defend its merits. I just thought it deserved a champion and it might as well be me... 


15 Jan 2019

Review - A Murder of Crows by Annie Kirke

Title: The Murder of Crows (The Ravenscourt Tragedies #1)

Author: Annie Kirke

Release Date: 1 November, 2018

Synopsis:

A dead father.

A missing Spirit.

An ancient manor with way too many locked doors.

But Abigail Crowe won't let locked doors, corsets, or the straight-laced rules of Victorian society get in the way of finding the truth behind her father's death. Of course, where illegal magic is involved, things are rarely as simple as they appear. Screams in the night, an insane gardener, and a murder blamed on her late father are only the beginning. Could her father actually be a murderer? What is Uncle Edward hiding in the attic? And perhaps most importantly—which family secrets are worth keeping locked up?


I received a free ebook copy of this book from Dying Arts Press in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts:

I was a lucky girl; 2018 went out with a bang for me reading-wise. A Murder of Crows by Annie Kirke was the last book I read in 2018 and to tell the truth I'm grateful I could finish the year with such a delightful novel.

Abigail Crowe's father died and his spirit disappeared. Not long after, Abigail's mother brought her and her brother to this strange mansion where screams pierce through the walls at night. The uncle they haven't seen since she and William were little, most probably tampers with forbidden magic. The grounds around the house are off limits after sunset. There are closed doors wherever they go and Abigail keeps thinking about how her father couldn't deliver a probably important last message to his family. She suspects foul play. The living members of her family might be in danger too...

I was pleasantly surprised by this lovely gothic detective story

Abigail, the young protagonist is hell-bent on finding out who murdered her father. It seems like he passed because of natural causes but she thinks she knows better. His spirit never showed during his resting (where the departing usually say their final goodbyes) and it was enough to raise her suspicion.

I enjoyed the pacing and how the tale was put together – there is real detective work; Abigail and her brother William are fiercely looking for answers and with the help of memorable side-characters (Emily, who Abigail keeps calling "Keeper of the Dead" and Beatrice the gardener who acts crazy most of the time) they soon start getting glimpses at the bigger picture.

The environment in which they investigate is dark and menacing, the mansion holds secrects just like the people who inhabit it. The fantasy/paranormal bits that colour the story (like the magic and the presence of spirits, fey creatures and even zombies) are all nice touches, they definitely make the world of the book engaging. There were quite a few scenes that were playing out in cemeteries and.. well yeah... you can imagine, the mood was set. Loved them!

I kind of knew where the author was leading me (which was not a problem at all, I bore in mind that the book is marketed for a younger audience), but still, the ride was so worth it! A Murder of Crows is a clever execution of a series of clever ideas, and it's only the beginning of a series. I have to say the bar is high, however I'm sure the author can work her magic in the second instalment too. I'm more than willing to join Abigail on another adventure.



21 Dec 2018

Review - I, Guinevere by -C.K. Brooke


Title: I, Guinevere

Author: C.K. Brooke

Publication Date: October 14, 2018

Synopsis:

Your legends have it wrong. Arthur never pulled that sword out of the stone. I did. I, Guinevere.

On the winter solstice, a mysterious sword in a stone appears in the churchyard. Not even the mightiest of the village men can remove it, until fifteen-year-old Guinevere gives a try. The sword heeds the unsuspecting maiden, proclaiming the unthinkable: she is the blood of Pendrakon, heir to the vacant throne of Camylot.

Guinevere never dreamed she was born royalty. Now, between apprenticing the eccentric wizard, Merlyn; swordplay lessons with an abrasive—albeit, attractive—boy named Lance; and clandestine, magical meetings with the formidable High Priestess of Avalon, Guinevere is swept up in a whirlwind of training and preparation for her monumental new role as future queen. But invasions by the barbarous Saxyns and visitations from mysterious dark forces constantly warn that she may be in over her head. Can Guinevere defend the kingdom from the darkness and deception that threaten to seize it? Despite her doubts and the sinister forces working against her, can she harness the power to wield Exkalibur and rule the realm? Or is Camylot already destined to fall? 



My Thoughts:

I, Guinevere is a short retelling of the Arthurian legend, that turns the original story upside down, since yes! Arthur is barely in it (don't worry, you won't miss him at all).

If you like YA retellings that take a female side-character from the original tale and build up the well-known story around her, this novel is definitely for you.

Merlin, Lancelot, Morgan, Mordred – all the familiar characters are here, but Arthur is no king. C.K. Brooke wanted to give Guinevere a chance to shine making her Queen of Camelot (here Camylot). However, as all rulers she has to learn how to lead her people and through this book we are shown how she grows into a woman who believes in herself as well as in her country.

I enjoyed reading about the magic, obviously it added a little fairy-tale vibe to the whole affair. It was great Guinevere had the ambition to learn magic, because by it and with it she became a figure of connection between Camylot and Avalon.

The settings were enchanting, they had this old-world feeling; Avalon, the lake, castles, misty-foggy landscapes – they were magnificent.

Altogether, the book wasn't extremely action-packed, except for the end that I was very satisfied with (plot twist hey ho...).

Beware, this is YA so except some teenage drama (I, again, realized I'm too old for that uhh), but this can be overlooked if you are not into it, because the book really goes back to and draws much from the original Arthurian legend.

Once again, if YA is something you read a lot of and you also like retellings, you might want to give this novel a try.




About the Author:

C.K. Brooke is an award-winning indie author of over a dozen romance and fantasy novels. Her debut novel, THE DUCHESS QUEST (48fourteen, 2014), was selected by Shelf Unbound Magazine as a Top 100 Notable Indie Book of 2015, and her YA novel, SECRETS OF ARTEMIS, received the Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion Award in 2017. She is also the author of THE WRONG PRINCE, a Readers Favorite five star recipient and Global EBook Award Honorable Mention title, as well as the historical romance, CAPTURING THE CAPTAIN (Limitless, 2016), which was a RONE Award Nominee and a Finalist in the MMRWA Best Banter Contest. She lives in Michigan with her husband and son. Visit her at www.CKBrooke.com




Author Links:

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