This Month in Books (May 2015) & June Releases

I really enjoyed May!

I settled into my new job, the sun came out, Eurovision happened which is always SO MUCH FUN, and I generally just enjoyed spending time with friends and adjusting to getting up at 6 AM every weekday. Eeek! It did impact on my reading and blogging a little, and I fell behind in my Goodreads challenge, but no doubt I’ll catch up this month as I’m off on holiday this week. Yay!

May 2015 Stats

Total Posts: 17 (-1 from last month)

Books Read: 6 (-1)
The Silvered Heart ~ Katherine Clements
Heir of Fire ~ Sarah J. Maas
The Heir ~ Kiera Cass
Fairest ~ Marissa Meyer
Charlie, Presumed Dead~ Anne Heltzel
The Quality of Silence ~ Rosamund Lupton

The Breakdown:

Genres: YA (5/6); Fantasy (2/6); Thriller (2/6); Historical Fiction (1/6)

Formats/Sources: Advance Copy (3/6); Digital (3/6); Hardback (0/7); Paperback (3/6); Owned (6/6); Borrowed (0/7)

Most Surprising: Charlie, Presumed Dead (the ending!)
Most Disappointing: Charlie, Presumed Dead (the beginning!)
Most Exciting: The Quality of Silence
Most Swoon-worthy: Ahhh both The Heir & Heir of Fire
Most Beautifully Written: The Quality of Silence

Reviews (5)

  • Twisted Dark by Neil Gibson et al, 2/5 (View)
  • The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements, 4/5 (View)
  • The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R Carey, 4/5 (View)
  • The Heir by Keira Cass, 4/5 (View)
  • Fairest by Marissa Meyer, 4/5 (View)

Friday Features

Guest Posts, Promos and Other Highlights

  • Book Blitz: The Violet Hour (View Post)
  • Top Ten Tuesday: Books I want to borrow from the library I work in (View Post)
  • Lipsyy Lost & Found Vintage Book Shop Update (View Post)

Most Viewed Posts

  1. This Week in Books 06.05.15 (View Post)
  2. This Week in Books 20.05.15 (View Post)
  3. Top Ten Tuesday: Holiday Reads (View Post)

Awards

botm-may15(I know this doesn’t come out until July but I couldn’t wait!)

cotm-may15

mlft-june15

June Releases

Here’s my pick of the top June releases:

junereleases

What are you looking forward to this month?

The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements [Out Tomorrow]

silveredheart
Title: The Silvered Heart
Author: Katherine Clements
Series: N/A
Edition: Digital ARC, 448 pages
Publication Details: May 7th 2015 by Headline
Genre(s): YA; Historical Fiction
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Purchase

The legendary figure of Kate Ferrars, the infamous highwaywoman, is brought gloriously to life in this gripping tale of infatuation, betrayal and survival.

‘The distant thrum of galloping hooves conjures nothing but doubt and fear these days.’

1648: Civil war is devastating England. The privileged world Katherine Ferrars knows is crumbling under Cromwell’s army, and as an orphaned heiress, she has no choice but to do her duty and marry for the sake of family.

But as her marriage turns into a prison, and her fortune is decimated by the war, Kate becomes increasingly desperate. So when she meets the enigmatic Ralph Chaplin, she seizes the chance he offers. Their plan is daring and brutal, but it’s an escape from poverty and the shackles of convention. They both know if they’re caught, there’s only one way it can end…

Review

The Silvered Heart was my first Katherine Clements read, and it certainly won’t be my last.

Lady Katherine is an intriguing character. She is an orphaned heiress who has been used to the finer things in life. But when it comes time to do her duty and marry for the sake of her family, everything she knows is taken from her.

She must leave her beloved mansion for Ware Park, where her husband Thomas, who appears cold and incapable of kindness, basically leaves her to rot. With the state of affairs as they are, Thomas is constantly away, and money is non-existent, turning Ware Park into a run-down, neglected palace, where workers go unpaid and starvation is just around the corner.

I felt for Katherine a lot, and found myself completely engrossed in her story. Her marriage was entirely love-less, and she goes from riches to rags and does it all alone, with the exception of friend and maid, Rachel.

I was very wary of Katherine as a heroine, though. She never seemed to know what she wanted, and a lot of the decisions she made drove me mad! I found her quite shallow and petulant at times, and it annoyed me that she thought she was cleverer than she actually was, but it made for a thrilling read.

I loved that she became this great, almost mythological figure of a cold-hearted highway woman, and all the excitement and danger that came along with it.

The Silvered Heart is an epic tale of betrayal, double-crosses, plots and politics, and one that really gives us a vivid picture of that period in history. It’s also the story of one woman who will do anything to get what she thinks she deserves. A great read!

unicorn rating 4

The Silvered Heart is available in paperback from Waterstones tomorrow!

Blood Red, White Snow by Marcus Sedgwick

bloodredsnow
Title: Blood Red, Snow White
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Series: N/A
Edition: Paperback, 304 pages
Publication Details: July 6th 2007 by Orion Children’s Books
Genre(s): YA; Historical Fiction; Fairy-Tales
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it from Dora, thanks Dora!

Goodreads // Purchase


It is 1917, and the world is tearing itself to pieces in a dreadful war, but far to the east of the trenches, another battle is breaking out – the Russian Revolution has just begun…

Blood Red, Snow White captures the mood of this huge moment in history through the adventure of one man who was in the middle of it all; Arthur Ransome, a young British journalist who had first run away to Russia to collect fairy tales.

Review


Only Marcus Sedgwick could successfully write a spy-thriller-cum-fairy-tale-cum-love story written in the Russian Revolution. I mean seriously, I don’t know how he does it.

It’s no secret that I love Sedgwick. I’m currently trying to work my way through his books that I’ve missed and Blood Red, Snow White was at the top of my agenda.

The book is told in three parts, all of which are written beautifully yet different in styles. The first, is written as a fairy-tale and depicts the early days of the revolution, using a great bear as a metaphor for Russia.

The second, is based on the real life of Arthur Ransome, a writer who went to Russia to learn more about Russian fairy-tales but who ended up working as a journalist and getting unwittingly involved in the surrounding war, and seen as a potential spy. Here, the lyrical fairy-tale style of writing gives way to a more suspenseful spy-thriller.

In the final part, Ransome falls in love with Evgenia, Trotsky’s secretary, which presents all kinds of problems, not to mention his estranged wife and daughter at home. This part of the book raises more questions as to where Ransome’s allegiances lie. Should he choose the woman he loves, and turn his back on his own country? Or should he use his position to try and keep the peace?

I’m so glad I loved this book, because I was pretty dubious about how a book could be all of these things. But it is, and the way Sedgwick adapts his writing to the different parts is what makes it a success. I’m also glad because I don’t always find historical fiction that exciting, but mix in a fairy-tale and bam! So good!

I thought Blood Red, Snow White was such a clever book; using a relatively unknown historical figure who wrote fairy-tales, and turning his life into a fairy-tale itself is a genius idea, and Marcus Sedgwick pulls it off so well.

unicorn rating

Lazy Saturday Review: The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

ghosts
Title: The Ghosts of Heaven
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Series: N/A
Edition: Hardcover, 424 pages
Publication Details: October 2nd 2014 by Orion Books
Genre(s): YA; SciFi
Disclosure? Nope, it was a gift!

Goodreads // Purchase

The spiral has existed as long as time has existed.

It’s there when a girl walks through the forest, the moist green air clinging to her skin. There centuries later in a pleasant greendale, hiding the treacherous waters of Golden Beck that take Anna, who they call a witch. There on the other side of the world as a mad poet watches the waves and knows the horrors the hide, and far into the future as Keir Bowman realises his destiny.

Each takes their next step in life. None will ever go back to the same place. And so, their journeys begin…

Review


You should all know by now that Marcus Sedgwick has become one of my favourite authors in recent years. His books seem to fall into two categories; dark and foreboding, or beautifully poignant, but they all have one thing in common – they are written wonderfully.

The Ghosts of Heaven is no exception, but… sigh, I was quite disappointed. I think my main issue was the format. It was hailed as a book in which the four parts of it can be read in any order and still make sense. I thought the idea was pretty cool and wondered how he’d managed it.

Well, in my opinion, it can be read in any order because this is a book of four completely different stories. I mean sure, I get the spiral thing, and see the tenuous links between each of the stories, but they are essentially four short stories with one common element. It kind of reminded me of some of David Mitchell’s books – all of which I didn’t enjoy.

That being said, I was completely enthralled by the futuristic part involving Keir Bowman who is scheduled to wake up on a spaceship every ten years, and is journeying to a new earth-like planet to inhabit. Only every time he wakes up, more of the crew are dead…

This one was definitely my favourite of the four, it was dark and twisted and reminded me why I love Sedgwick – he can write in every genre – so I’ll try not to dwell on my disappointment of this one. You can’t win them all, right? And anyway, the book is very pretty!

unicorn rating 3

Available to buy in both paperback and hardback, from Waterstones now.

Friday Feature: It’s all about the Bass Thrones & Thorns!

Do you ever get the feeling you’ve heard that title before, seen that cover a million times, or get déjá vu when reading a synopsis? It seems like we see a different book trend every month lately, whether it’s a hot new sub-genre, a cover style or even a title trend.

I thought it would be fun to explore book trends in more detail, and for this first post on the subject I’m going to look at two words that have been continuously cropping up in book titles for what seems like forever, and they just keep on coming.

It’s impossible to know were it all really began, but for me these two trends began with George R.R Martin’s A Game of Thrones, and Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns. Since then it’s been pretty hard to look at any physical or virtual bookshelf in the fantasy section without being bombarded with both thrones and thorns.

Let’s take a look…

Thrones

thronecoll

 

Overview: Tales of claims to the throne and everything that comes with it – war, murder, romance –  have always been popular in both Historical Fiction and Fantasy. But A Game of Thrones definitely seems to have been the game changer here. The ever popular series and accompanying TV show seems to have set in motion a whole new wave of old-world-new-world fantasy.

  • The Throne of Bones  by Brian McNaughton – 1997: I had to include this one just for the hilarious title. It’s not quite on trend with the rest as this is an anthology of Horror shorts.

    “Imagine earthy Tolkienesque characters in a setting full of cemeteries, graverobbers, necromancers, corpse-eaters–even a huge labyrinthine necropolis”.

  •  

  • The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan – 2008: Now this is more like it. The synopsis sounds like a million other throne books that emerged between 2008 and now – but y’ know…still good.
  • The Lost Throne by Chris Kuzneski – 2008: Slight reprieve here as we head more into The Da Vinci Code territory (by the sounds of it). There isn’t even mention of a throne in the synopsis. Band wagon much!
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass – 2012: And we have lift off. As much as I love this title and the series in general, I did always wonder why she called it that. The throne in question plays a very little part in the book which makes me wonder if the choice of title was marketing genius over anything else.
  • Assassin’s Gambit (Hearts & Thrones #1) by Amy Raby – 2013: You could be forgiven for thinking this is the exact same plot of ToG from the synopsis. A beautiful assassin, a powerful emperor…that damned déjá vu again!

Thorns

thornscoll

 

Overview: I always associate the use of thorns in literature with the Grimm’s fairy tale Little Briar Rose, and many of these books appear to have been inspired by that too. These are stories of broken princes, powerful sorcerers and abandoned castles. We’ve seen a steady resurgence of fairy-tale retellings in the past twenty years, but only recently have so many focused on the thorns element.

  • The Thorn Queen by Richelle Mead – 2008: Richelle Mead is always pretty ahead of her game. She brought us Vampire Academy before the whole Twilight thing went mental, and here she’s at it again.
  • Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence – 2011: This was when I first noticed the emerging trend of thorns and it seems to have paved the way for the anti-hero too.
  • Thorn by Intisar Khanani – 2012
  • The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge – 2011: Not to be confused with the iron throne in Game of Thrones…are you getting confused yet?
  • Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman – 2013: This is another one that has been popular in the YA world of fantasy.
  • Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay – 2014: Woah. Double whammy or what. This book is actually described as:

    Game of Thrones meets the Grimm’s fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.’

    Why have one trend when you can have two? Mind blown. I also really want to read it now!

Final Thoughts: So there we have it. This is just a snap-shot of the books out there that seem to be following these trends. If this were a battle though, I’d say that the thrones trend may be coming to an end, and the thorns are taking over.

It’s also interesting how much fire, ice and bones are mentioned in both trends. The two themes seem pretty incestuous actually – nearly all of the thorn books also mention thrones, however the same can not be said the other way around. But whether you’re in to Iron Thrones or Iron Thorns, you’re not going to run out of reading material any time soon!

What do you think about these two trends…do you have a favourite??

WWW Wednesday 26.11.14

www_wednesdays4

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

wwwcoll

Currently Reading:
My mum was visiting at the weekend so I didn’t get any reading done. I’m therefore still reading Dying for Christmas by Tammy Cohen but hoping to blaze through it today, I’ve enjoyed it so far!

Recently Finished:
The last one I finished was Poison by Chris Wooding. Loved it! My review will be up on Saturday.

Up Next:
The Barefoot Queen by Ildefonso Falcones, and then I’m all over some cosy Christmas reads!

Blog Tour: Rush of Shadows by Catherine Bell (Review)

ros

I’m delighted to host a tour stop today for Catherine Bell’s Rush of Shadows, depicting the conflict between settlers and natives in 1800’s Calfornia. It was a rollercoaster of a read!

arc3
Title: Rush of Shadows
Author: Catherine Bell
Series: n/a
Publication date: October 15th 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction; Literary Fiction
Purchase from: Amazon

Synopsis
When American pioneers set their hearts on a California valley where Indians had been living for thousands of years, a period of uneasy appraisal emerged, followed by conflict and soon enough by genocide. The epic greed and violence of the 1850′s and 60′s has been brushed aside by history, conveniently forgotten in the pride of conquest. Willful ignorance and cruelty, terror and desperation were common in that time, but there were moments too of nobility and compassion, ingenuity and forgiveness, qualities which might have prevailed if certain things had been different. Rush of Shadows brings to life two freethinking women, Mellie, a white, and Bahe, an Indian, who enact the clash of their cultures, endure, and come to an unlikely understanding.

My Review

I’ve always had a weird fascination with this period of history, despite not actually knowing much about it (shamefully). I remember a book my dad had when I was growing up which was essentially just photos of Native American Indians going about their lives, and I thought it was beautiful and magical.

So when I came across this book and was asked to be part of the blog tour, I was delighted. And, I still am!

Rush of Shadows is about Mellie and Law, a recently married couple who become some of the very first settlers in an area of California, an area inhabited by Indians.

Mellie is sweet-hearted yet extremely strong-willed, with a degree of irreverence about her. You get the feeling from the start that she’s not entirely happy about her lot in life, and has reservations about her husband, Law, but she goes along with his plans regardless.

When they arrive at the place Law has his mind set on, he is concerned with building their home and finding sustainable work, leaving Mellie feeling isolated and alone. This is when she meets Bahé. Bahé, as Mellie names her, is the opposite of Mellie, yet somehow they are similar in many ways too.

To Law’s dismay, Mellie finds herself seeking Bahé out more and more. But as time goes on and more settlers arrive bringing with them their ignorance and fear of the Indians it gets increasingly harder for Mellie and Bahé’s friendship to develop.

This book was such a rollercoaster. On one hand, I loved the way the Indian’s were portrayed, in that the way they lived was such a mystery to the settlers it made them seem so spiritual and almost magical, but on the other hand, the way the settlers saw them and feared them made me so angry.

I liked that Mellie had her own mind and stood up to her husband on occasion (and that he enjoyed it!), but she also let the influence of others impact on her relationship with Bahé and her family.

There is massive scope in this novel. We start at the very beginnings of settlement, when there were only two houses in the region, to the development of a town and a government. I found this really interesting and enjoyed the contrast of this story to that of Bahé’s who learns a lot from Mellie but will never fully understand her or their ways – which I guess works both ways.

Bahé and her family’s lives are in danger from the settlers. Everything that was once theirs – nature, wildlife, freedom, is slowly taken away from them to the point that they begin to starve, and their traditions are basically damned, but she never blames Mellie, or lashes out – such is her spirit.

I found Rush of Shadows dramatic, emotional and infuriating – but all in a good way. Catherine Bell did such a great job of juggling multiple narratives, something which I often dislike in books. I thought it was written really beautifully and the amount of research she did comes across in every single line (you should see the list of sources)! It is definitely one of those books that gives you food for thought, as the themes here are universal and can be applied to any era.

unicorn rating 4

Meet the Author

DSC_0974Catherine Bell grew up in a New England family with a sense of its past as distinguished and its culture superior, as chronicled in many of her short stories.

An early reader, she found in fiction that penetrating experience of other people’s lives that opens a wider world. The Winsor School, Harvard, and Stanford prepared her to recognize good writing and thinking. She credits work as a gardener, cook, cashier, waitress, and schoolbus driver with teaching her how to live in that wider world.

She has also worked as a secretary, freelance writer, and therapist, served as a teacher in the Peace Corps, and taught in inner city schools. She has lived in Paris, Brasilia, Nova Scotia, Northern California, and Washington, D.C. Culture clashes, even within families, are often subjects of her fiction. She has published stories in a number of journals, including Midway Journal, Coal City Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Sixfold, Solstice, and South Carolina Review. Her story “Among the Missing” won The Northern Virginia Review’s 2014 Prose Award.

She researched and wrote Rush of Shadows, her first novel, over a period of twenty years after she married a fourth-generation Californian and fell in love with his home territory, the Coast Range. The bright sunburned hills, dark firs, clear shallow streams, and twisted oaks were splendid, but the old barns and wooden churches and redwood train station didn’t seem old enough. Where was the long past? Where were the Indians? There was only the shadow of a story passed down by her husband’s grandmother late in life. Born in 1869, she grew up playing with Indian children whose parents worked on the ranch her father managed. One day the Army came to remove the Indians and march them to the reservation, and that was that. She was four years old, and she never forgot.

Bell lives with her husband in Washington, D.C. and visits children and grandchildren in California and Australia. As a teacher at Washington International School, she loves reading great books with teenagers.

Links:
Check out the rest of the tour schedule here: JKS Communications
Add Rush of Shadows on Goodreads
Available from Amazon

Many Thanks to Catherine Bell and JKS Communications!

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

burial
Title: Burial Rites
Series: N/A
Author: Hannah Kent
Edition: Paperback, 355 pages
Published: February 27th 2014 by Picador
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Disclosure? Nope, it bought it!

Goodreads
Purchase

Northern Iceland, 1829. A woman condemned to death for murdering her lover. A family forced to take her in. A priest tasked with absolving her. But all is not as it seems, and time is running out: winter is coming, and with it the execution date. Only she can know the truth. This is Agnes’s story.

Burial Rites is one of those books in which not a lot happens, but you’re compelled to read regardless. Hannah Kent has written a beautiful novel, based on real events that took place in Iceland in the 1800s.

Agnes Magnúsdóttir is awaiting execution for playing a part in the murder of two men. We are not sure how or why she was involved, or if in fact she actually committed the crime, and the slow release of that information is where the tension, and intrigue comes from.

Agnes is sent to the isolated home of Jon Jonsson and family where she will await her execution date, much to the family’s dismay. But as they get to know Agnes, she begins to open up about the events leading up to her incarceration, and starts to become a part of all their lives. Everyone is affected by Agnes’ presence in different ways.

Burial Rites is a chilling read, and written a lot more simplistically than I was expecting, considering all of the literary awards it has been nominated for. In parts it reads like a Thriller or Family Saga rather than literary fiction, and that was a pleasant surprise for me.

I also thought that Kent captured the harsh environment of Iceland, and the hardiness of its inhabitants well. One of the main reasons I was so looking forward to this book was because I visited Iceland earlier in the year and totally fell in love with it. And while Burial Rites is set when Iceland was completely different to how it is today, I still saw a lot of similarities. What I loved about Iceland, I also loved in this book – the beauty in bleakness.

Agnes’ story reveals a whole other story of strength, faith, and survival. It is bleak, but not depressing, and definitely a story worth telling.

unicorn rating 4

Burial Rites is available now in hardback & paperback from Waterstones. See how you can get 10% off HERE.

The Medea Complex by Rachel Roberts

med1885. Anne Stanbury – Committed to a lunatic asylum, having been deemed insane and therefore unfit to stand trial for the crime of which she is indicted. But is all as it seems?

Edgar Stanbury – the grieving husband and father who is torn between helping his confined wife recover her sanity, and seeking revenge on the woman who ruined his life.

Dr George Savage – the well respected psychiatrist, and chief medical officer of Bethlem Royal Hospital. Ultimately, he holds Anne’s future wholly in his hands.

The Medea Complex tells the story of a misunderstood woman suffering from insanity in an era when mental illnesses’ were all too often misdiagnosed and mistreated. A deep and riveting psychological thriller set within an historical context, packed full of twists and turns, The Medea Complex explores the nature of the human psyche: what possesses us, drives us, and how love, passion, and hope for the future can drive us to insanity.

The Medea Complex was different to what I was expecting, even though I’m not really sure what I was expecting.

Based on true stories and medical records from the late 1800s, it documents the time that protagonist Anne spends in an asylum.

The thing that drew me to this story was definitely the lunatic asylum setting. I find it fascinating how different things are today to the barbaric nature of those unprecedented, experimental medical practices of that time. Roberts did a great job of setting the scene, making me feel sorry for Anne despite her crime.

I was sucked in from the start.

I’m not always a huge fan of multiple first-person narratives but I thought in worked well in this book. Between Doctor Savage’s notes on Anne’s rehabilitation, Anne’s commentary on the asylum and what she goes through there, and Edgar’s grief-stricken behaviour, we are swept away into a world filled with intrigue, anticipation and mystery.

This is one of those books that is hard to review without giving away any spoilers so you’ll have to forgive me for not going into plot details. But what I will say is this, the last thing I was expecting was for The Medea Complex to turn into a court-room drama, but it did, and it was good!

I thought the second half of the book really picked up the pace, there are double-crossings, murders, missing persons, and you’re never quite sure what, or who to believe. On the whole, I enjoyed the narrative voice – especially the humour, considering the serious subject matter – but I did sometimes feel like there weren’t enough differences between each of the characters. I sometimes got confused about who was speaking (even though each chapter is named) which occasionally brought me out of the story.

Overall, I was impressed with this debut novel which kept me guessing, and I especially enjoyed the author’s notes detailing the characters and events that were based on fact, and where she found them. I think the work Roberts must have put in definitely paid off.

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure?: I received a free copy fro the author in exchange for an HONEST review.
Title: The Medea Complex
Author: Rachel Florence Roberts
Details: Paperback, e-book, 272 pages
Published: Published November 1st 2013 by CreateSpace
My Rating: 4/5

Welcome to The House of Mirrors…

Frog Music Book Launch 30.03.2014

frog1

I had a really great time at the book launch for Emma Donoghue’s new book Frog Music on Sunday, which may or may not have something to do with all the free booze.

frog2

When we arrived we were handed a delicious cocktail in a tin cup, ushered into a rather unsafe looking lift and entered The House of Mirrors.

Donoghue did two readings as Blanche La Danseuse, the second accompanied by an actress playing Jenny Bonnet. They did a really good job, making me wish that I myself had read the book with such pzazz!

frog3

Miss Polly Hoops definitely stole the show though, with her awesome Hula-hoop routine.

frog4

There was a constant supply of wine (always good), some nibbles, (even though I definitely ate something mushroomy by mistake ugh!) and we topped off the evening by rummaging through the fancy-dress box. What could be better!?

frog5

You can read my review of Frog Music here.

Out Now!
Goodreads
Amazon

Many Thanks to Picador!