Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister #BookReview #MarchReleases

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girlindisguiseTitle: Girl in Disguise
Author: Greer Macallister
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 308 pages
Publication Details: March 21st 2017 by Sourcebooks Landmark

Genre(s): Historical Fiction; Adventure; Mystery 
Disclosure? Yep, I received an advanced copy in exchange for an HONEST review!

Goodreads 

bookdepo

For the first female Pinkerton detective, respect is hard to come by. Danger, however, is not.

In the tumultuous years of the Civil War, the streets of Chicago offer a woman mostly danger and ruin-unless that woman is Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton detective and a desperate widow with a knack for manipulation.

Descending into undercover operations, Kate is able to infiltrate the seedy side of the city in ways her fellow detectives can’t. She’s a seductress, an exotic foreign medium, or a rich train passenger, all depending on the day and the robber, thief, or murderer she’s been assigned to nab.

Inspired by the real story of Kate Warne, this spirited novel follows the detective’s rise during one of the nation’s greatest times of crisis, bringing to life a fiercely independent woman whose forgotten triumphs helped sway the fate of the country.

Review

I didn’t know what to expect from Girl in Disguise having not read Macallister’s debut novel The Magician’s Lie or knowing much about the Pinkertons/ that era of American history to be perfectly honest. However, I do enjoy a good historical yarn now and then as long it’s not too bogged down in facts and figures, so I was eager to give it a try.

We first meet Kate Warne – famous for being the first ever female detective – when she is setting out to be just that. She answers an ad in a paper knowing full well that it will be difficult to persuade them that she’s the right man for the job, as it were. But of course she does, and so we follow Kate as she begins her training with Allan Pinkerton to learn everything she can about being an undercover operative.

Kate has a bit of a shaky start, including a run-in with colleague Bellamy but after that we watch her go from strength to strength and become more confident and cunning in her abilities.

I really enjoyed Macallister’s take on Kate Warne. She could probably come across quite cold and stern to some but because we hear the story from her point of view we know differently, we know it’s merely a self-defence tactic which is necessary for her to adopt considering all the things that are stacked against her. The main one of course being that she is a woman in a time where ‘respectable’ women aren’t even supposed to have jobs, never mind this kind of job.

I liked that Girl in Disguise is an action-packed adventure but also uses Kate Warne’s story to explore a lot of interesting issues surrounding equality. In a time of female oppression, Kate not only makes ground-breaking steps forward, she is also fiercely aware that other women are so accustomed to inequality that they’re often their own worst enemies…

They don’t hesitate to hang women down here”

“Could they be so awful?”

“What’s awful about it?” she shrugged. “Our crimes are as serious as theirs. Our punishments should be too.”

“A miserable sort of equality to hope for.”

Even in these terrible circumstances, she looked proud. “If we take the good, we also have to take the bad.We don’t get to fetch it up piecemeal.”

I think that sort of double-standards still rings true today. There is also the character of Deforest who Kate – whilst working on her tracking skills – discovers he is harbouring a secret that would see him hanged – he’s gay. Kate and Deforest’s friendship was my favourite in the novel, and I liked how the author captured her initial reaction and how her attitude towards him changed throughout the book. It rang true to the era and didn’t take the easy route of making Kate completely ambivalent towards it.

“In some way, I couldn’t possibly fathom him, his unnatural interests, his decision to be like he was. But the undertow of his terror, I understood.”

Macallister has done a great job in researching the real Kate Warne and building on that with her own version of the detective. Like I said earlier, I’m not a fan of historical fiction when it’s all facts and no storytelling but there was definitely a lot of storytelling here, with the facts seamlessly embedded. I thought some of Macallister’s descriptions were lovely too, making it a compelling read.

“The woman lay on the carpet as if resting, which I suppose she was, only forever.”

My one critique is that first half of the book felt a bit like a montage of events which made the pace nice and fast but I longed for more detail; it sometimes felt like Macallister was trying to fit too much in at once. She could have concentrated on just one or two of Warne’s interesting cases rather than an overview of many. This was most definitely improved on in the second half of the book though.

In this novel we see Kate Warne’s rise and fall, and the changing attitudes towards her from those around her. It’s a fun, rollercoaster of a read, and one which reads as a love letter to plucky women whose actions make the world a better place. Therefore it’s bound to be called a great feminist story, but I’d prefer to just call it a great story, Full Stop.

unicorn rating 4

 

Lazy Saturday Review: The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily #MiniReview #YA

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I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot (or content) and writing and more on my overall feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

twelvedaysdashlilyTitle: The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily
Author: Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Series: Dash & Lily #2
Format: Digital ARC, 240 pages
Publication Details: October 6th 2016 by Electric Monkey
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary; Romance
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Glorious new collaboration from the New York Times bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

Dash and Lily have been dating for nearly a year, but when Lily’s beloved grandfather falls ill, the repercussions take their toll on everyone. Even though they are still together, somehow the magic has gone out of their relationship and it’s clear that Lily has fallen out of love with life.

Action must be taken! Dash teams up with Lily’s brother and a host of their friends, who have just twelve days to get Lily’s groove back in time for Christmas.

Review

I was a little bit disappointed by this latest collaboration from these two get authors, probably because the bar was so high. I wanted to love it as much as Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares and Nick & Norah, but something was definitely missing.

This story is all about Lily’s holiday funk. She is depressed and even Christmas, her favourite holiday, and Dash, her favourite person can’t cheer her up.

I didn’t dislike this story at all, but it really suffered from Dash & Lily’s lack of connection. Their romance was at the heart of the first book, and without that, there wasn’t a whole lot left to be honest.

It wasn’t serious enough about Lily’s angst and ‘issues’ for it to feel like a  YA book that was cleverly tackling the issue of depression, instead the wishy-washy underlying theme of depression put a downer on the book itself, for me. Thankfully it had a happy ending or I’m not sure I could have coped. There’s just something about Lily’s sunny disposition that doesn’t suit being unhappy so instead of making me feel sad for her, it just annoyed me. Sorry, Lily!

Overall this was an OK story. It was a super-quick read that was written nicely. But it wasn’t anything exciting or surprising, and it didn’t feel nearly festive enough!

unicorn rating 3

Out now in paperback & eBook formats

 

Lazy Saturday Review(s): A few that got away…

I’ve fallen behind of late, so before I completely forget about these books I thought I’d do a quick catch-up in the shape of some teeny tiny reviews.

testimony
Title: The Testimony of the Hanged Man
Author: Ann Granger
Series: Lizzie Martin #5
Edition: Paperback, 400 pages
Publication Details: July 3rd 2014 by Headline
Genre(s): Mystery; Historical Fiction
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it!

Goodreads // Purchase

A hanged man would say anything to save his life. But what if his testimony is true? When Inspector Ben Ross is called to Newgate Prison by a man condemned to die by the hangman’s noose he isn’t expecting to give any credence to the man’s testimony. But the account of a murder he witnessed over seventeen years ago is so utterly believeable that Ben can’t help wondering if what he’s heard is true. It’s too late to save the man’s life, but it’s not too late to investigate a murder that has gone undetected for all these years.

Review

I initially picked this book up because it’s set partly on Putney Heath, which is where I lived when I was at uni. I like reading about places I know well, to see how the author portrays them, especially in another era. The Testimony of the Hanged Man is set in Victorian London, and is a classic mystery which unfolds at a slow pace.

I think if I read it all in one go, I would have enjoyed it more, but I only managed a few pages at a time. However, I still enjoyed it – and despite my pet peeve of alternating narrators too.

If you like traditional, light-hearted, Victorian detective fiction, give this series a go.

unicorn rating 3

kisskiss

Title: Kiss Kiss
Author: Roald Dahl
Series: N/A
Edition: Paperback, 231 pages
Publication Details: October 26th 1987 by Penguin Books
Genre(s): Short Stories
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it!

Goodreads // Purchase

In these wickedly anarchic stories, Dahl explores the dark, sinister side of the psyche: the cunning, sly, selfish part of human nature that makes for unexpected outcomes and horrifying conclusions.

Review

I’ve wanted to read some of Dahl’s adult fiction for ages so I picked this up for my lunch-time read when I spotted it in the library. I read most of the stories in this collection, and came out with mixed feelings. The collection was first published in 1959, and you can tell; it hasn’t aged well.

The stories are not what I would call anarchic or horrifying in today’s meaning of the terms, but they were interesting, funny and slightly odd – as you would expect from Roald Dahl. I enjoyed Mrs Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat the most.

unicorn rating 3

badjelly
Title: Badjelly the Witch
Author: Spike Milligan
Series: N/A
Edition: Hardback, 64 pages
Publication Details: October 19th 2000 by Virgin Books (first published 1973)
Genre(s): Children’s; Picture Books
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it.

Goodreads // Purchase

Badjelly The Witch can turn children into sausages or chop them up to make boy-girl soup. She can turn policemen into apple trees or bananas into mice and she is the wickedest witch in all the world.

A charming fairy tale which has delighted children for many years, this edition is copiously illustrated with Spike Milligan’s own drawings which have been specially adapted and beautifully hand coloured.

Review

Spike Milligan’s Silly Verse for Kids was one of my favourite books when I was little, but I never read this one. I’m so glad I eventually got round to reading it! It’s exactly as bonkers as you’d expect – loved it!

Definitely a fun, wacky book to read to young children.

unicorn rating 4

Blog Tour: Eden Forest by Aoife Marie Sheridan (Review & Giveaway)

eden

Today, Aoife Marie Sheridan stops by on her blog tour for the first book in her Saskia Trilogy, Eden Forest, a fast-paced YA Fantasy.

Eden Forest (Saskia Trilogy #1)

EDEN Sarajane Anderson is your regular twenty one year old. With family, friends and a normal job. She also happens to be the only person who can save Saskia, a world parallel to earth.

When Sarajane is taken to Saskia, she could never have imagined the reality of the world she steps into, a world where magical abilities are in everyone’s possession.

She must face a father she never knew, a world that is beyond her belief. A guardian who captures her heart, and a darkness that wants to take it.

On this journey Sarajane discovers her magical abilities and realizes they come with a price. Sarajane is truly tested, as her loved ones are put at risk. The question she must ask herself is, how do you choose who lives and who dies?

Add Eden Forest on Goodreads

Purchase:
Amazon
B&N

My Review

Eden Forest is told through the perspectives of protagonist Sarajane, her mother who had disappeared without a trace, and Bellona, the evil queen of Saskia.

Saskia is a world parallel to earth in which magic exists and people are categorised into whichever type of magic they show an affinity for, earth, air, fire or water. It is here that Sarajane is reunited with her mother, but at the same time she’s thrust into a world in turmoil. It’s up to Sarajane to save Saskia from Queen Bellona and the angel Lucian who are hell-bent on destroying everything.

After what I found to be a slow start, Eden Forest really picked up the pace and I didn’t want to stop reading. The characters are all well rounded enough to either love or hate them (I can’t stand wishy-washy characters). Queen Bellona was a great villian; both evil and intelligent, and Sarajane was the perfect ratio of innocence and sass.

Sheridan did a good job at world-building here too. Saskia is a complex place with its own history, morals and values, and I was pleased that we learnt about the creation of the world, even if I felt we were told too much too quickly sometimes.

The main thing that fascinated me about this story, was the way it looked at relationships and family. Sarajane was judged harshly for her mother’s relationship with the King, even though it was pretty clear that he loved her, not to mention that Queen is totally evil. I also really liked the whole ‘matching’ thing.

I also loved the friendship that developed between Sarajane and Alana – who she appoints as her personal guardian – despite women not usually being permitted to fight, and I thought the love story between Sarajane and Tristan was exciting and realistic. He definitely did it for me…Tristan’s are always hot!

Eden Forest is an ambitious, entertaining story. Once I was sucked in, I couldn’t put it down. At times, I felt like I was being told too much at once, and there was quite a lot of telling not showing, but considering the scope of the story it’s not surprising…there was a lot to explain!

I have the feeling that this series will get better and better.

unicorn rating 3
(3.5/5 – but I can’t chop a unicorn in half!)

Meet the Author

aoifeAoife Marie Sheridan has loved reading from a very young age, starting off with mills and boon’s books, given to by her grandmother her love for romances grew, by the age of 14 she had read hundreds of them.

Aoife had a passion for writing poetry or in her eyes her journal entries. It was something she did throughout her teens and into her twenties. Aoife won first place for two of her poems and had them published at a young age of just nineteen. Realising she needed to get a real job (What writing isn’t) she studied accountancy and qualified working in that field for many years, until her passion for reading returned and she found Maria V Snyder. Poison study one of her favourite books has been read and re-read countless times.

Aoife’s first book Eden Forest (Part one of the Saskia Trilogy) came to be after a dream of a man and woman on a black horse jumping through a wall of fire and the idea of Saskia was born. Now with her first novel published and taking first place for Eden Forest with Writers Got Talent 2013, Aoife continues to write tales of fantasy and is currently working on her third book for the Saskia Trilogy amongst other new works.

LINKS:
Website
Goodreads
Facebook
Twitter

*Giveaway*

Aoife is giving away 2 e-copies of Eden Forest, and 2 e-copies of book 2, City of Secrets. Open Internationally.

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here.

Virtual Book Tour (& Review): Invoking Nonna by Sage Adderley

I’m delighted to host one of the first stops on Sage’s tour for her brilliant YA book Invoking Nonna!

invoking
Title: Invoking Nonna
Author: Sage Adderley
Series: Triple Goddess Series (Book 1)
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Paperback: 186 pages
Publisher: Sweet Candy Press; 1ST edition (December 20, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0989709825
ISBN-13: 978-0989709828

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Maggie Sloan is a free-spirited teenager growing up in rural Georgia. Unlike her peers, Maggie is a witch and so is her mother. In addition to normal teenager rites of passage, she must learn about her family lineage and witchcraft. Her mother, Laura, keeps a tight lid on their family secrets – like the mysterious life and death of her grandmother who passed away before Maggie was born.

Practicing the craft will test solid friendships and introduce Maggie to new realms. While seeking the truth about herself and her family, Maggie is faced with danger from churchgoing classmates who will stop at nothing to make sure she is found out. Laura and Maggie strengthen their bond through witchcraft and work together to overcome their enemies. Are their magical gifts enough to keep them safe?

Book Trailer:

 

My Review:

It’s been a while since I’ve read a good ‘Witch’ book and Invoking Nonna didn’t disappoint. I was seriously hooked from the beginning as protagonist Maggie starts to tell us about how she discovered witchcraft via her secretive mum, Laura.

It’s clear from the off that the star of this show is going to be Adderley’s characterisation skills. Take maggie’s frenemy, Gillian for example:

She had thin brown hair that hung around her face. Sadly, she battled with acne and would try to cover the many bumps on her face with make-up, way too much make-up. Every time I got near her mug, I would envision someone scraping off a layer or two of her foundation with their fingernail,’

…Eugh, we all knew a Gillian in high school, right?

I was a little worried when I realised that Invoking Nonna had two of my book turn-offs – multiple narrative, and a jumping timeline, but it actually really worked. I liked that we learned about Maggie’s family in the past, it created an even richer foundation for her.

I found this book so easy to read, the pages just flew by. In essence, it’s part family saga, high school drama, and a great coming of age tale.

And how refreshing to have a YA book which actually centers around a girl’s relationship with her mother, and how the unlikeliest of things can bring them together.

unicorn rating 4

Meet the Author:

invoking2
Sage Adderley is a single (and very busy) mom of three humans and one cat. She is passionate about kindness, coffee, mental health, fat activism, and the DIY lifestyle. Sage is the owner of Sweet Candy Distro & Press, Sage’s Blog Tours, and writes the zines Tattooed Memoirs and Marked For Life. She is also the creator of FAT-TASTIC! Sage currently resides in the magical land of Olympia, Wa.

You can stalk Sage here:
Website
Goodreads
Facebook
Twitter

Buy Invoking Nonna:
From Amazon
From Etsy (print & digital available)

The Verdict: Tristan and Iseult by J.D Smith

I have adored the tale of Tristan and Iseult since I stumbled it across it when looking into Arthurian legends. I bloody love Arthurian legends btw. Soon after becoming aware of the story I found an old Puffin version by Rosemary Sutcliff that I’ve loved ever since. Her retelling has always been the only one for me…but recently I discovered this…

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In a land of fog and desperate tribes, Tristan fights to protect western Briton from Saxon invaders. In the wake of battle, he returns to Kernow bearing grave news, and the order of power shifts. As Tristan defends the west, his uncle, King Mark, faces enemies to the east beyond the sea: the Irish Bloodshields. Mark is determined to unite the tribes of Briton and Ireland and forge an alliance that would see an end to war and the beginnings of peace. Iseult, the daughter of Irish kings and a woman of the blood, resigns herself to her inevitable fate: marriage to Lord Morholt. A bloody duel changes her course, and she finds herself stranded on the coast of Kernow bringing with her the possibility of peace. But when she loses her heart to one man and marries another, her future and that of Briton flutters grey. Three people and a hope that will never fade, this is a story of promise; the legend of love. Image and Synopsis from Goodreads.

Due to the aforementioned circumstances I’m sure you can understand why I went into this a bit sceptical. At first I found that the simple, almost brisk sentences came out a bit wooden but after a few paragraphs the style really started to flow and I started to enjoy it, a lot.

It captures the time and essence of the story I know and love really well.

The book is written from both Tristan and Iseult’s point of views – each having alternative chapters – which I thought would annoy me but it actually turned out to be really great. This way Iseult is able to show us in the very beginning how revolting Morholt, her husband-to-be really is, which kind of helps us realise later why she agrees to marry King Mark when she is clearly in love with Tristan- his Nephew and chosen heir to the throne. Going from something so bad to something ‘safe’ can’t be too bad after all can it?

I did wish that the two characters had more distinct voices though, as they both sounded the same in my head and I had to constantly remind myself whose chapter it was. However, Smith builds up the lust and romance between Tristan and Iseult beautifully. I was absolutely hooked and invested in the story which is probably why I got so angry that Tristan encouraged her to marry Mark in the first place…I mean, the King loves him, all he had to do was say! I’m not sure I was totally convinced that he did it due to his guilt of the King’s son Rufus’ death. But hey ho.

Alas, King Mark and Iseult are married and clearly everyone, apart from the King is miserable. The King in fact just seems to swan off a lot on King-like business leaving Tristan and Iseult alone with a million will they-won’t they moments which was INFURIATING to say the least. Not in a bad way. In a I have to keep reading way.

And then. THEN, we skip to 20 years ahead…are you shitting me J.D Smith?

Anyway (deep breaths), without giving too much away, this is a pretty different retelling than the Suttcliff version and I do think it lacked a certain proportion of passion and excitement due to some choices Smith made with the material but I don’t mean that to sound so bad.

It is a quick, enjoyable read that has captured the essence of the medieval, Celtic folklore that the story originated from, whilst also creating more contemporary feel to it.

I’m tempted to give this 4 out 5 because I was hooked all the way through, but the last third of the story let it down for me so I have settled on 3/5 unicorns. If I could bring myself to chop one in half, I would.

Tristan and Iseult by J.D Smith is published by @TriskeleBooks

The Verdict: Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares

Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York?Excerpt & Image from GoodReads7741325

I was a little, tiny bit disappointed about Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, I did, but it just didn’t live up to the standards of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Once again Rachel Cohn & David Levithan collaborated on this with Rachel writing Lily’s chapters and David writing Dash’s. I wonder if they’ve ever thought about doing it the other way round??

Dash’s is 100% Levithan – Cute, geeky and sensitive in a hot way, and pretty metrosexual. I haven’t read any other Rachel Cohn so I can only compare Lily to Norah…I was expecting a similar character- quirky, insecure and feisty- but she was just a bit of a let down. I’m glad she was different, don’t get me wrong, she’s not supposed to be Norah but I think the main reason I didn’t LOVE this book is because me and Lily just wouldn’t get on. She wears her school uniform in the Christmas Holidays (who does that?). She is just SO nice it’s sickening. She doesn’t even approve of swearing. I don’t think we could be friends. And I don’t think she’s a good match for Dash.

Lily does love Christmas though, as do I, so you’d think that would endear me to her. But no.

I love Christmas. I love everything about it: the lights, the cheer the big family gatherings, the cookies, the presents piled high around the tree. The goodwill to all. I know it’s technically goodwill to all men, but in my mind I drop the men because that seems segregationist/elitist/sexist generally bad ist. Goodwill shouldn’t be just for men. It should also apply to women and children, and all animals, even the yucky ones like subway rats. I’d even extend the goodwill not just to living creatures but to the dearly departed, and if we include them we might as well include the undead, those supposedly mythic beings like vampires, and if they’re in, then so are elves, fairies and gnomes.

She is so different to Norah that I couldn’t even picture her as Kat Dennings whom I’m a bit obsessed with so that was disappointing too. She just didn’t fit.

There are definitely flashes of brilliance though. One of the first things I didn’t like about the story is that Lily is basically a fraud. Dash has found the notebook and is traipsing all over New York during the holidays to fulfill these dares, and here he is thinking he’s met this quirky, clever, slightly insane, out-spoken girl (he’s clearly picturing Kat Dennings too) when really the whole thing was her brother’s idea and she’s just sort of going along with it. But then, I guess that’s what it’s like when when you’re just getting to know someone. You find out one thing about them and it defines who they are to you. If you ask me, first impressions are worthless.

I mean like most guys, you carry around this girl in your head, who is exactly how you want her to be. The person you think you will love the most. And every girl you are with gets measured against this girl in your head. So this girl with the red notebook- it makes sense. If you never meet her, she never has to get measured. She can be the girl in your head.

I think Dash would agree with me.

I wanted to write it down. I wanted to share it with Lily, even if Lily was really just the idea I’d created of Lily, the concept of Lily. . . I sat back and let my thoughts flow out. Not directed at her this time. Not directed at all. It would be just like water, or blood. It would go wherever it was meant to go.

Overall Dash & Lily is a really enjoyable read, just don’t expect it to be as poignant (I really hate that word but there’s no better in this case) or as beautiful as Nick & Norah.

I give Dash & Lily's Book of Dares 3 unicorns (out of 5 unicorns). It would be 3.5 unicorns but I can't cut a unicorn in half, that would be devastating.

This edition was published by Mira Ink, Oct 2012 and belongs to Dora. Thanks Dora 🙂

The Verdict: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Click to view on GoodReads.

Click to view on GoodReads.

There are just many things to be said about Bitterblue but let’s start with the basics. It’s the third book in the Graceling Realm Trilogy by Kristin Cashore and it looks beautiful.

In Graceling, we entered a world of seven kingdoms where some people are born graced with any number of unique skills or abilities and where we first meet Katsa, seemingly graced with the skill of killing and under the command of King Randa. Katsa becomes increasingly frustrated and depressed about being used in such a cruel way and when Prince Po comes along their journey together slowly reveals just how corrupt the seven kingdoms really are. In Fire, we’re transported to The Dells, a kingdom of ‘rainbow coloured monsters and underground labyrinths’ where Fire, the last human monster is both hated and obsessed over, constantly assaulted for being so irresistible and who refuses to use her mind control to steal people’s memories and secrets.

By the time we come to Bitterblue, it is several years after King Leck’s tyrannous and torturous reign in Graceling and we follow the young Queen Bitterblue as she attempts to rebuild her kingdom; a kingdom that is still deeply affected by her father’s spell over them. But how can you rebuild something that is based on lies and secrets and despicable acts? Especially when the people who were most under Leck’s spell are the ones closest to Bitterblue?

There are so many things I love about this book. I enjoyed Fire, but as soon I opened this it felt like I was coming back home. I was eager to meet up with Katsa and Po again and it didn’t disappoint despite the fact that they weave in and out of the narritive. I think Cashore could easy have ridden the wave of their romance and made that the main strand of this book but I think this portrays a much more realistic and exciting relationship. It’s certainly refreshing to see these characters living their own lives, putting the important things first and not just glaring at each other with puppy-dog eyes. They are definitely not the puppy-dog eyes types!

I love how this story slowly builds momentum. We find the clues as Bitterblue finds them -one by one- linking what really happened during Leck’s time to just how many secrets and lies are being maintained within the city walls. I found myself even more confused than Bitterblue as to who to trust and who to investigate. However, I did feel like there was a lull in the middle where the pace could have been picked up and I just wanted to grab Bitterblue and shake her yelling ‘haven’t you learnt by now you can’t trust anyone, get on with it!’

I enjoyed the mix of the old and new here too. Whenever I think of Kings, Queens and castles, whether it’s in this universe or a fictional one I think of times gone by, but Cashore’s world is full of modern themes making no fuss over boys and girls fighting each other, same-sex relationships, sex before marriage, birth control, or a Queen who wears trousers and slips out of the castle at night to smooch with a thief. And is it just me or is it completely devoid of religion? Hallelujah!

Cashore has created an in-depth world of strong, kick-ass girls, epic sword-fights, passion, and intriguing mystery. Essentially, Bitterblue and those before it are about the abuse of control and power, facing up to horrible truths and having the strength to overcome the impossible.

Bitterblue is published by Gollancz and I received a copy in exchange for a review as part of their Gollancz Geeks Blog.

The Verdict: Soulless – Gail Carriger

Cheap clothing is no excuse for killing a man! Click to view on Goodreads

Cheap clothing is no excuse for killing a man!
Click to view on Goodreads

Synopsis: First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire – and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

As I mentioned before, I don’t really know anything about Steampunk. Other than the fact that it’s everywhere at the moment, I like the clothes but would never be able to pull it off and that there seems to be a whole lot of what I can only describe as gold binocular type goggles and mechanical Blimps, or Glassicles and Dirigibles as I now know them to be (see, learning). That being said, I actually really enjoyed that element of the story. It brought a new dimension to your average ‘Paranormal Romance’ genre.

Soulless is basically a sort of Victorian mystery-cum-paranormal-romance in which Miss Alexia ‘I’m the one with no soul’ Tarabotti accidentally kills a feral, unregistered vampire with her parasol. Oh, how very uncouth! This results in her spending more time with Lord Maccon of BUR – The Bureau of Unnatural Registration – whose job it is to investigate such improper occurrences. Chaos and an unlikely romance ensues. Obviously.

After the initial LOLs from the almost farcical “Victorian” language Carriger uses,(can you image a vampire saying ‘she is trying to make a funny’? No, me neither) there’s actually a lot to like in this book. Lord Maccon for one. Hot, Scottish (‘of all barbaric places’) Werewolf type who I like to picture as Simon from Biffy Clyro:

Simon 'Sexy Jesus' Neil AKA Lord Maccon.

Simon ‘Sexy Jesus’ Neil AKA Lord Maccon.

AND we later come across a character named Biffy! Coincidence? I think not!

The fact that pale girls with some flesh on their bones are the desirable ones is also a confidence booster, good work Victorians. And well , it’s all pretty funny really. I’m still not entirely sure if I was laughing at it, or with it. Probably a bit of both, but either way it brought a smile to my face.

I made some really in-depth review notes for your perusal:

Don't call him your mistress!!!

Don’t call him your mistress!!!

Excellent Vocab!

Excellent Vocab!

Angry-sticking-up-for-his-but-not-his-woman-hot-Werewolf-action!

Angry-sticking-up-for-his-but-not-his-woman-hot-Werewolf-action!

I’ll definitely have a go on the next in the series! I give it 4 Unicorns. (Out of 5 Unicorns, BTW)

Soulless is published by Orbit.