Book Review: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow (eARC)

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy    

Publishing Info: eARC from Orbit

Pages: 528

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.

Thank you so much to Orbit and NetGallery for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Once and Future Witches is a well-written and expertly crafted exploration of magic and feminism. Alix E. Harrow’s debut novel, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, made a big splash, so there have been big expectations for her follow up. I haven’t yet read The Ten Thousand Doors of January, so The Once and Future Witches is my first time reading her work. I have to say I was impressed by the quality of the writing. It’s lyrical and captivating, perhaps like a magic spell, which is why it suits this story so well.

The historical setting, the women’s movement and witches are woven together so well. It really works. I loved how magic is done through words from rhymes and stories passed down from mother to daughter through the generations. There are also some subtle and clever changes to history and literature, such as the Sisters Grimm instead of the Brothers Grimm. The rights of witches and the rights of women are tightly connected in this book and shows the struggles women faced in the 1890s. It isn’t just a story of witches and magic, it’s also deeply thought-provoking.

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Fairyloot Chain of Gold Unboxing

My Fairyloot Chain of Gold Collector’s Edition box finally arrived! It was delayed by more than a month due to the coronavirus crises, which was obviously completely out of Fairyloot’s hands. I felt they did a good job of keeping us informed about the delays as they got new information. Since I ordered it in January it meant there was quite a long wait to finally get my hands on my first Collector’s Edition box and I was super excited to open it and see what was inside.

Included in the box were a special edition of Chain of Gold and four items, one of which was already revealed by Fairyloot to be a replica of the Mortal Cup. So let’s see what was inside…

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Book Review: The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh (eARC)

The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Historical Fiction

Publishing Info: October 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton  

Pages: 448

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as Le Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sèbastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of Le Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sèbastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the eARC of this book.

I’m a tad late with this review. I did start reading it before it was released, but didn’t end up having much time to read on my holiday to Amsterdam. But better late than never!

The premise for this book instantly got my attention. Vampires. Murder mystery. In New Orleans. In the 1800s. Count me in. I’m quite hard to please when it comes to vampire novels. I think because I have been disappointed by so many. The historical New Orleans setting was certainly a great attraction, as it made a change from all the modern day vampire novels. In fact, it didn’t feel necessarily like a vampire novel, which is a good thing, as it felt like its own rather than trying too hard to fit a mould.

There is a mysterious, sumptuous atmosphere in much of the book, which Reneé Ahdieh does an excellent job at capturing. Alluring is a good word to describe this book. I also can’t help but love a good murder mystery! However I did feel by the end still quite in the dark about all the mysterious people, and whether they are all vampires or something else. That air of mystery is very effective for most of the book, but it would have been more satisfying to get more answers and a clearer picture of this shadowy paranormal world by the end.

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Top 5 Wednesday: YA Series I Abandoned

This week’s Top 5 is a freebie, so I’ve decided to talk about young adult book series that I have given up reading. I’m sure other people have enjoyed and loved these series, but they just weren’t for me. In some cases I knew from the first book I wasn’t going to complete the whole series, but for others I started out enjoying them but ended up disappointed. T5W is a group hosted on Goodreads, if you’d like to participate check it out here.

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Book Review: The Girl King by Meg Clothier

10413845The Girl King by Meg Clothier  

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Publishing Info: March 2011 by Century (first published 2011)

Pages: 336

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Georgia, 1177
For twenty years King Giorgi has defended the throne of his fragile kingdom against all comers. Now on the threshold of old age he faces a grave new threat: he has no son to succeed him. There is only his daughter, Tamar; a clever, indomitable and fearless girl.

When a revolt threatens her life, Tamar is sent to live in the mountains, disguised as a boy, until a devastating betrayal places her in the hands of her enemies. Her courageous escape convinces Giorgi she should be his heir, but the nobles are outraged – no woman will ever rule them.

While her father is alive, Tamar has some protection from the hostile forces that surround her, but once he is dead, she is truly alone. She must find the strength to control the bitterly warring factions at court. She must win the respect of her friends and the fear of her enemies. And she must marry a man of whom the elders approve.

But her heart belongs to a reckless boy from the mountains – a poor match for a queen. With rebellion brewing at home and powerful foes circling her borders, Tamar must make a terrible choice between the man she loves and the land she adores …

The unique setting of this book is what attracted me to it initially. It was interesting to read something historical that is set in a different country. I knew nothing about the history of Georgia before reading this book.

Unfortunately, I felt I didn’t get enough sense of that setting. I didn’t get any idea of the culture of the country. This world didn’t come to life because although the physical landscapes like the mountains were beautifully described, I didn’t get a picture of the towns and cities, the people, the clothes, the food, or customs and culture. There was just something lacking that meant I didn’t get a clear picture of 12th century Georgia beyond the landscape.

Many of the descriptions, particularly towards the beginning of the novel, were trying a bit too hard to be creative or poetic, so some of them just didn’t make any sense. This was off-putting particularly in the first few chapters, as it was hard to get into when there were so many odd metaphors.

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Book to Film Adaptations Coming in 2018

Unsurprisingly, many book to film adaptations will be gracing the big screen this year, and hoping to be a hit with fans and newcomers to the stories alike. As this is often met with mixed success, it will be interesting to see which of these adaptations are a hit and which don’t quite hit the spot. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather ones I am excited to see or have caught my eye. The release dates refer to UK cinema release dates unless otherwise stated.

Ophelia

Initial Release: 22 January (US)

Based on the Shakespearean character and the novel by Lisa Klein, Ophelia is a re-imagining of the classic tragedy, Hamlet. It premiers at the Sundance Film Festival on 22 January.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Release Date: 26 January

Delayed by nearly a whole year as a result of Dylan O’Brien’s injury during filming, The Death Cure is finally here! This film is based on the final book in James Dashner’s Maze Runner series. After the dramatic changes they made to The Scorch Trials (especially the ending) I am both intrigued to see what they’re going to do with this film, and filled with trepidation…

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Book Review: Changeling by Philippa Gregory

71qbw-gazclChangeling by Philippa Gregory

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Publishing Info: 2013 by Simon and Schuster (first published 2012)

Pages: 272

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

In 1453, seventeen-year-old Luca Vero, accused of heresy and expelled from his monastery, is recruited to help investigate evil across Europe but frees his first subject, Isolde, from captivity in a nunnery, and together they seek the one who defends the boundaries of Christendom and holds the secrets of the Order of Darkness.

Philippa Gregory is such a well known name in the book world, and especially in historical fiction. This was my first time reading one of her works and unfortunately it was a poor introduction. It really wouldn’t encourage me to read any of her other books, but I would have hoped some of her other novels are far better than this. It was quite shocking to read such a bad book by a bestselling and well-known author.

The premise is interesting and had potential, but it fell a long long way from that. My main issue with this book is the plot – or lack of it. It reads like its split in two halves. The first half of the book is readable but unremarkable. Luca is investigating witchcraft at the nunnery where Isolde has recently been made Lady Abbess. I found the mystery intriguing and didn’t guess the ‘solution’ to the investigation. It wasn’t a great mystery, but it was okay. There was just about enough to keep me reading.

It went quite downhill after that point. The second half of the book is a rambling mess with no direction. Coincidence after coincidence follow one after another. They happen to stumble upon another unusual happening to investigate totally by chance and decide to get involved, but it’s totally unconnected from the first half of the book. I couldn’t get into the second half at all because I could not see the point of it. The ‘solution’ to this investigation was highly predictable. I guessed it almost instantly so there was nothing to keep me engaged. There was no end goal, no point. There wasn’t even a point in all the characters being there except Gregory wanted them to all be there, so she found a lame excuse to shoehorn them all together. The plot (if you can call it that) is poorly planned out and it just seems to be a random jumble of events.

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Top 5 Wednesday: Children’s Books

This is my first time participating in Top 5 Wednesday, a group hosted on Goodreads. This week the topic is children’s books! This one is actually harder than I was expecting, as I realised I couldn’t remember many books from my childhood (besides the obvious – Harry Potter!).

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1) The Fire Within (The Last Dragon Chronicles) by Chris d’Lacey

For a long time I have loved dragons (and probably will do forever). The first book in this series is children’s fiction, but the rest of the series is probably on the middle grade and young adult borderline. I loved the idea of clay dragons coming to life. I actually never finished the series as I haven’t read the last two books. That is rather remiss of me and writing this blog post has made me rather eager to finally finish the series!

private_peaceful

2) Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo

When I read this in primary school, I remember the story really sticking with me. It was different to the sort of books I would normally read. I also remember it being quite a sad and heartbreaking book. At the time, we were studying World War I and the book (although fictional, of course) brought the topic to life.

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Book Review: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

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The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Genre: Gothic, Horror, Historical, Mystery

Publishing Info: 1998 by Vintage (first published 1983)

Pages: 200

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor in London, is summoned to Crythin Gifford to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow, and to sort through her papers before returning to London. It is here that Kipps first sees the woman in black and begins to gain an impression of the mystery surrounding her. From the funeral he travels to Eel Marsh House and sees the woman again; he also hears the terrifying sounds on the marsh.

Despite Kipps’s experiences he resolves to spend the night at the house and fulfil his professional duty. It is this night at Eel Marsh House that contains the greatest horror for Kipps. Kipps later discovers the reasons behind the hauntings at Eel Marsh House. The book ends with the woman in black exacting a final, terrible revenge.

I’m not usually one for reading in the horror genre, but this was more of a Gothic ghost story so I didn’t mind reading it. The book is short which I think helped with its readability. If it had been longer I probably wouldn’t have been so interested in wading through it, but since it was only short I figured it wouldn’t take long for me to read it. I read it over a few days but could have easily read it in one sitting, not only because of its short length but also its easy to read style.

The plot is simple – there’s a house in an eerie marsh and it’s haunted. I did like the mystery element to the story when Arthur Kipps was trying to work out what had happened at the house and why the woman in black was haunting it. It was the story of the dead characters that was most interesting, while the characters who were actually living were for the most part a little flat.

Although I enjoyed it I wasn’t totally gripped, which is what you really want from a ghost story. The settings were suitably spooky and there was something unsettling in the way the woman in black wasn’t a see-through ghost like you’d imagine, but was more real and therefore creepier. There weren’t actually many ghostly bits set in the house though. Kipps actually spent a lot of time in the village near the house and more suspense could have been used in those scenes to keep my interest more.

I thought the ending brought the whole thing together and gave the book more weight. I had thought it was going to be a really dull ending but then the twist gave it a dark ending which was more sinister and satisfactory than I was expecting.