Category: book reviews

Book Review: Empire of Silence – Christopher Ruocchio

***I was very kindly provided with a free copy of this book, (a huge thank you to Stevie) by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review. All opinions stated below are my own*** 

I’ll be honest and say that this book will forever have a special place in my heart, because in terms of my blogging career, it’s a milestone. It’s the first physical ARC sent to me by a publisher for review.

I’ve been looking forward to reviewing this book since the moment I finished reading it. I hope you are sitting comfortably because I have more than enough to say about this epic!

Empire of Silence GR

Goodreads – Empire of Silence

Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his war.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe started down a path that could only end in fire. The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives–even the Emperor himself–against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

Fleeing his father and a future as a torturer, Hadrian finds himself stranded on a strange, backwater world. Forced to fight as a gladiator and into the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, he will find himself fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.

 

Wow!!! Books like this really make me question why I don’t read science-fiction more often.

I was captivated by the synopsis and the promise of a tale likened to other prominent books out there. I’ll admit I was both excited but slightly dubious when I saw this likened to Dune by Frank Herbert and Patrick Rothfuss’ fantasy novel, The Name of The Wind.  Rothfuss was one of my favourite authors in my teenage years (I still eagerly await the release of Doors of Stone). Whilst I haven’t actually read Dune, a copy has been sat on my bookshelf for over a year now, but I haven’t read any more than the first few pages. You don’t have to have read the book to know it’s an award winning, revered novel in the science-fiction genre.

Association to popular authors when marketing a new book is no doubt a useful and successful tool. I will be honest and say though that I often wonder, when picking up a book for the first time, if it really is the undiscovered gem it claims to be. I worry that it may not live up to expectation.

I was not left disappointed by Empire of Silence.

The tone and narration style is indeed very similar to The Name of the Wind, so no false comparison was made there. Given that this was one of my favourite elements of that book, I was drawn in to Empire of Silence straightaway.

We are introduced to Hadrian Marlowe – a man who has already trodden the path of destiny and now recounts the tale, warts and all, for the devoted reader. He begins his journey with the best of intentions and the innocence of youth, but inevitably, life does not run smoothly for him. Lending to the visage of a wizened man, Hadrian does not shy away from his less favourable attributes or actions in telling his tale. His faults really bring our protagonist to life, for none of us are perfect after all. I’ve said time and again on my blog that I love a character with a wealth of depth, and Hadrian honestly is that.

I must also credit the evident time and effort that has gone into the structuring of the book and the supporting characters around the main storyline. In a universe based on power and hierarchy, this is inevitably, well.. important. Whilst there are a vast number of families and roles that make up this fictional universe, I didn’t find information dumped or conveyed haphazardly in the narrative. This must have been very difficult to achieve, but it makes a difference for the reader – especially for a book of this size!

The vivid descriptions of worlds truly unknown are beautiful; even the explanations of the advanced technology available to this advanced version of humans were clear. Neither did I find myself at a loss as to what the author was trying to convey, nor was the language used to do so in any way intimidating. The planets themselves may be fictional but society living on them is still governed largely in a way we understand – through power and wealth… faith and when all else fails, fear.

Empire of Silence (Sun Eater #1) is being published on the 5th July this year and I sincerely hope/believe it will become the success it deserves. It’s association to other epics will no doubt perform wonders in helping Christopher Ruocchio launch himself as a successful author in his own right.

It is well deserved, if you ask me.
Rebecca mono

Book Review: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne

Hi everybody!
Today I am pleased to be sharing with you my review of a book that has, quite frankly, been long overdue on the TBR pile. Whether others have seen the film or read the book, I feel very behind everyone else in catching up with this extraordinary tale.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Goodreads – The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Berlin 1942
When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.
But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

I was gobsmacked to find this in the Children’s section of my library.
Were it not for knowing the subject matter, I wouldn’t have questioned it, but yeah. I was astounded, and perhaps a little ashamed that I hadn’t read it sooner. Who, in one breath, can proclaim to be a great lover of historical fiction… and in the next say that they haven’t read what is probably one of the most iconic works of that genre? Well, up until last month, that was me.
I cannot beg ignorance when it comes to the topic of the book, however. The Second World War is one of the prominent topics in the history lessons of my school days; in fact I highly doubt there is any British child that has never heard of the Holocaust. What makes The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas unique from the history lessons is that we “experience” the time through the eyes of an innocent, naïve child.
I’ve read a number of reviews criticising the book for a lack of historical accuracy and a lack of understanding about why Bruno would not recognise “The Fury” for who he is. Whilst I scoffed at the idea that this book was for children, in hindsight, it is more appropriate than I first considered. I think it is important to remember that this was probably written as an introduction to the topic, rather than an accurate account.
One of my favourite things about the book was that whilst suggestions were made about the atrocities we know happened at Auschwitz and other such camps, true understanding relies on better knowledge of the history. As this will come from either parents to children, or via school, the extent of understanding can be moderated for the age of the audience.
The book is also skilfully written, and it goes to show that books can be narrated from a juvenile perspective whilst not losing the quality of the narrative. Bruno’s sheltered lifestyle, his love of exploring and a desire to make friends make this young child a lovable character, despite some slight petulant behaviour.
This book was a quick read for me; in fact, I devoured it in two evenings. I also expected I would cry, but mercifully I didn’t. I had a vague idea about how the story would end, having watched about the first 40 minutes of the film in a history lesson once, so perhaps that steeled me against the ending of the book.
That’s not to say I would go on to watch the film, however. It is one thing to know of such atrocities and quite another to watch it play out in front of you, real or not.

Audiobook Review: An Almond for A Parrot – Wray Delaney

It is a wonder I even chose to listen to this book. Why…? I hear you ask. You like books of a historical fiction / fantasy persuasion! Yes, yes I do… and this book is definitely that. So what might turn me off, you ask?

Well, it comes down to one simple fact. I am socially awkward when it comes to sex.

Don’t get me wrong, if you don’t play around with the odd innuendo with your work colleagues, then I would argue you either don’t know them very well, or you just aren’t normal.

If, however, a SERIOUS conversation between my girl friends turned to that glorious subject, my desire to be any part of it shrivels up faster than a streaker on the North Pole. Do you remember that feeling when you first had to watch a sex scene with your parents? This is me, literally all the time…

Source: Giphy

It’s one of those scenarios you inevitably have to experience, in order to understand how much it makes you want to curl up and die on the spot… but after that, it should never happen again. Ever.

 

Goodreads – An Almond for a Parrot

‘I would like to make myself the heroine of this story – an innocent victim led astray. But alas sir, I would be lying…’

London, 1756: In Newgate prison, Tully Truegood awaits trial. Her fate hanging in the balance, she tells her life-story. It’s a tale that takes her from skivvy in the back streets of London, to conjuror’s assistant, to celebrated courtesan at her stepmother’s Fairy House, the notorious house of ill-repute where decadent excess is a must…Tully was once the talk of the town. Now, with the best seats at Newgate already sold in anticipation of her execution, her only chance of survival is to get her story to the one person who can help her avoid the gallows.

She is Tully Truegood.

Orphan, whore, magician’s apprentice.

Murderer?

So why pick a book in which the protagonist is a prosti…. ahem, courtesan? I don’t know really. But I did… and here we are.

You may have gotten the impression that my adversity to even deal with my awkwardness means that I didn’t like the book. Wrong. Yes, it was awkward and embarrassing, but Sally handled the topic in a humorous way. I am still glad that I only listened to this audiobook at home since I spent much of my time laughing out loud, at the book and myself in equal measure.

We follow our protagonist’s story from childhood, so naturally we are introduced to the idea of human desires from a pointedly… innocent perspective. Poor vegetables are made to stand up in the place of the appendages enticing both fascination and uncertainty in young Tully. I really liked this approach, because as an awkward person anyway, I felt mutually awkward and therefore not alienated by the subject matter. Naturally, as the narrative progresses and Tully develops into the confident woman she becomes, the language does get bolder, through blessedly not crass.

I also enjoyed the storyline behind the superfluous sexual encounters knocking between the pages. Not only were elements of magic, theatrics and illusion involved… but there is also a fair amount of politics. Being a courtesan as opposed to carousing street corners, Tully earns the affections of a number of high profile men and her position in society depends entirely upon whom she is courting at the time.

Just fair word of warning to anyone considering reading or listening to this book – later on in the narrative there are some of the darker themes you may associate with our protagonist’s profession, which may not suit all readers.
My one and only criticism of the book is that I found the ending a little too fairy-tale like – it is definitely an ending for the romantic reader. The narrative was written cleverly so that technically it could (and made sense to) happen, but I personally think it felt out of place with the tone of the book.


I hope you all had a good laugh at my expense reading this review. If you did, let me know! What embarrasses you the most?
Rebecca mono

Audiobook Review: The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

The Girl on The Train

Goodreads – The Girl on the Train

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

I listened to this audiobook back in February, after listening to The Stand by Stephen King. I decided that listening to this book was probably going to be better than reading it; after listening to a sample, I knew it was the right decision!
The narrators for Rachel and Megan did a fantastic job of the perspective they represented – Rachel was my favourite in particular. So as not to spoil anything, I will be vague and say that they each have a uniqueness about them… an experience or two that has coloured their view of the world, or changed them. The voices, tones and expressions used embodied these characters perfectly and brought them to life.
That probably sounds daft – “you can’t hear expressions!” I hear you say! Having dabbled a little in Performing Arts and created a radio drama as one of my projects, I actually think you can. It is impossible to express joy or sadness with a neutral expression on your face. You can still call me daft if you like – I’m sticking to my guns.
In fact, being entirely dependent on audio to convey these things, I think it is even more important to do this well. The narrator for Anna didn’t really do it for me at all. I found myself wishing her chapters passed quickly. Her narration felt clinical and disassociated with her character, which for me broke the flow.
I struggled to relate to Rachel, but so do a lot of characters in the book, so perhaps as a reader, we are not meant to. Her perception and her actions more often than not leave you shaking your head in disbelief, or cringing on her behalf. Plenty of the latter! Her life is the type that you can observe at a distance and determine what has gone wrong, but you find it hard to imagine yourself in the same shoes if you were to experience the very same thing. I would like to think I wouldn’t, at least…
Whilst the story itself had plenty of twists, turns and unexpected surprises, I think I would have gotten bored reading the book. Whilst I was listening to this I was completing a project, so I was always concentrating on something else at the same time. I think that kept me going. It had a great ending (loved the ending) but I think I would have struggled to get past the many embarrassments of Rachel to read this… especially since it takes really good while to get to the point where the plot starts to unravel.
I have mixed feelings about the book and if I am honest, I don’t really see why the book had as much fuss as it did. That being said, crime/psychological thriller isn’t my favourite genre, so maybe that’s why I don’t appreciate it hugely. I find myself on the fence about it really – I don’t think it is all that often I write a review from such a mediocre standpoint.
I am glad I have listened to it, but that is as far as it goes. It is time to move on to something else.
Rebecca mono

Book Review: Beowulf

It has been an incredibly long time since I have read poetry.

When I requested this book from Netgalley, the logic was that I would be reading something a little different.

Beowulf

Goodreads – Beowulf

Beowulf tells the story of a Scandinavian hero who defeats three evil creatures—a huge, cannibalistic ogre named Grendel, Grendel’s monstrous mother, and a dragon—and then dies, mortally wounded during his last encounter. If the definition of a superhero is “someone who uses his special powers to fight evil,” then Beowulf is our first English superhero story, and arguably our best. It is also a deeply pious poem, so bold in its reverence for a virtuous pagan past that it teeters on the edge of heresy. From beginning to end, we feel we are in the hands of a master storyteller.
 
Stephen Mitchell’s marvelously clear and vivid rendering re-creates the robust masculine music of the original. It both hews closely to the meaning of the Old English and captures its wild energy and vitality, not just as a deep “work of literature” but also as a rousing entertainment that can still stir our feelings and rivet our attention today, after more than a thousand years. This new translation—spare, sinuous, vigorous in its narration, and translucent in its poetry—makes a masterpiece accessible to everyone.

 

My Thoughts…

Beowulf is an incredibly old text; the original manuscripts are thought to date back somewhere between the 10th and 11th century, a period in which there is a lot of Scandinavian influence in Britain as a result of the Vikings, uh… permanent, self-imposed visitation rights. Invasion – yes, that’s a good word too!

I have a Danish work colleague, and I think it is funny to compare ideas on these things. From the British perspective, the Vikings invaded, pillaged, murdered… eventually settling with us. From the Danish view, men and women were seeking a better life for their families. Farming was near impossible in the Scandinavian climate and life was harsh. British soil offered security.

Anyway, that’s a bit of background for you. Back to Beowulf!

I imagine (and am assured by other reviews) that any physical editions are presented so that the original text is on one page, with Stephen Mitchell’s translation on the other page. Sadly, as I was reading an ebook version, this did not translate (pardon the pun) at all. The readable, English paragraphs were broken up with Olde English, so the text lost it’s flow.

I wanted to read this epic poem for two reasons – one, because I am hugely interested in the historical period it is believed to have stemmed from; two, poetry is not an everyday read for me. Reading Beowulf reminded me of just why that is. Turns out, my competency of poetry extends about as far as mastering Green Eggs and Ham – but that’s all. Other reviews gush over how Mitchell maintains some alliteration, which structures the poem, but I’ll admit it passed me by.

Cat in the hat.gif
So whilst I enjoyed the historical context and the story in it’s own right, I couldn’t fully appreciate the poem and it’s construction for what it is. I just don’t get it. I rated the book three stars, because I still enjoyed reading it. Anyone with a better eye or ear for poetics will probably have a better time of appreciating this than me – but all the same, Beowulf’s acts of strength and heroism were an intriguing read.
Rebecca mono

Audiobook Review: The Stand – Stephen King

Getting into an audiobook was a huge change for me.
I had tried some free ones before as a means to experiment with whether I liked them or not. I was still hugely undecided, but after much insistence from a very good friend who loves them, I signed up to a free trial on Audible.
When you sign up, you get a free credit to spend on any book you would like. I thought that was pretty reasonable – even the bestsellers are available! I half expected you to only be able to choose from a limited library, but I am glad I was wrong.
I deliberated long and hard about what to download for a while. I wanted my credit to be worthwhile, so I purposely chose a long book.
 
The Stand

Goodreads – The Stand

This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death.
And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abigail and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the Dark Man.

By the time I had downloaded and began to listen to this, I had read a few of Stephen King’s books: The Green Mile, Pet Sematary, IT and the first book of The Dark Tower series. I love how King’s interpretation of the horror genre is very much based around the psychology of fear. I have to say it has almost become something of a fascination in me. Not being a lover of horror otherwise, the realisation came to be a pleasant surprise.

Do not get me started on budget horror films, unless you want to take an unconventional exit from the spotlight, (unlike all the highly stereotyped characters typically involved), by being bored to death by my incessant ramblings. I really could go on about it all day *sigh*

My point is this – King has contradicted every stereotype and shown me that not all horror is just a cheap shot at giving you an adrenaline rush. There is far more sophistication to his writing… and his in-depth understanding of people and the way they think is a scary thing in itself! It is almost as if King can see into your soul and just know your every thought, feeling and fear just by looking at you.
You must have gathered just how high he has risen in my expectations by now. I love his writing and the characters he creates. Although all of his stories are wildly different, they are all enjoyable in their own ways. The Stand explores how society rebuilds after a catastrophic event and the struggles it experiences with the forces of Good and Evil, embodied by Mother Abigail and The Walking Dude. All the while trouble stirs the pot from within, and things blow up in quite spectacular fashion.
This audiobook was an astounding 47hrs and 47mins long. The narrator, Grover Gardener was brilliantly consistent throughout. From the first minute to the last, there was no compromise in the narration or how well he brought each of the characters to life.
If I wasn’t sure about audiobooks before, I can assure you there is no doubt now. I am choosy about what I download and thankfully the sample option allows you to be. The next two books I have downloaded are ones that I was unsure as to whether I would actually pick up the physical book. Some stories are best told I think.
This however is definitely an exception, and I feel sure the next time I read this book, it will be a physical copy.
Rebecca mono

Book Review: The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

I can only apologise if you were expecting a review out of me yesterday.
I had every intention of writing this on Monday night – I was home early and had plenty of time on my hands… but WordPress had no plans to do ANYTHING for me. Reluctantly, I signed off.
I knew I wasn’t going to get anything written on Tuesday, and that is why in my Sunday Summary I commented that I may be late posting this. Why? It was my birthday! I had plans to be out for the evening – and I enjoyed every minute of it!
 
The Miniaturist
Goodreads – The Miniaturist

Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam–a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion–a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.
“There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .”
On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office–leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.
But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist–an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .
Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand–and fear–the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

I feel like I have spoken about this book a lot – and to my mind it deserves all the attention it gets.
I added this book to the TBR last year – but after watching the recent TV adaptation between Christmas and New Year… I knew I had to read this sooner rather than later. I love books and TV shows set in historic time periods, along with the social issues and differences to modern day life that come along with that.
Nella marries a rich merchant and travels to Amsterdam to start her new life in a position of power. The atmosphere of Amsterdam is extremely oppressive in comparison to today’s standards, with the oppression coming from the church and religion itself. Power is a double sided coin though – and there are many that would like to see her new husband Johannes Brandt fall from grace.
The dynamic of the city and the relationship Nella has with Johannes’ sister, Marin, go hand in hand with each other. Marin is distant and untrusting of Nella, but as the narrative, the lies and deceit gradually unfold, these two women have to join forces to withstand the storm. Marin would have many believe she paupers herself in humility to God, but she is far from virtuous in reality, which Nella soon discovers.
But within this city built on lies and corruption, resides the Miniaturist, who has a startling ability to see the details many would love to keep hidden…
Nella, and the perspective of the story from this naïve, young woman is written in an extraordinary way. Throughout we see how Nella develops from the innocent young girl, who thinks longingly of marriage and children, to a woman who is able to deal with hardship and finally take her role and accompanying responsibilities as Johannes Brandt’s wife. Whilst she always retains a glimmer of hope, something I attribute to her youth, her understanding of her new world and the corruption rife within it blossoms.
The characters and relationships are complex yet consistent, built within the web of society laced with prejudice and discrimination, a lack of gender rights and racial inequality. All of these issues are touched on beautifully, in such a way as to make you sympathise with each character and the difficulties they face in this oppressive life they lead.
I completely loved this book, and I cannot recommend this highly enough to anyone! Even if you cannot bear to read the book – watch the TV adaptation, please.
You won’t regret it.
Rebecca mono

Book Review: Snobbity Snowman – Maria Bardyukova & Quiet Riley

Good morning everybody!

My first review request of the month and 2018 gives me the opportunity to look back at the type of books I would have been reading as a child.

Back in my day – so, so long ago (joking!) the most memorable series of books that springs to mind was The Magic Key series! Weren’t they fun?! Well, I thought they were, and being encouraged to read from such a young age, I wouldn’t be surprised if I read all of them. I think all children should be encouraged to read – not only is it an essential skill, but for us bookworms, it is a pleasure as well.

Snobbity Snowman
Goodreads – Snobbity Snowman

Snobbity Snowman has everything a snowman could possibly want: a shiny hat, freshly-picked noses and enough pride to last a lifetime. In fact, he is so selfish and shortsighted that he fails to see the instance his life starts falling apart.

What disasters must take place to open his charcoal eyes? To help him see that pride and possessions cannot bring true happiness? Will he defrost his ego and embrace the warmth of companionship?
Only Snobbity can tell.

Depicting winter in rich and whimsical tones, Snobbity Snowman’s quirky characters and unexpected twists promise to leave a lasting impression on all its snobbulous readers.

 

My Thoughts…

Snobbity Snowman really captures the essence of Christmas. It is easy to become caught up in the presents, the food and the inevitable cost. Who got the better present, and who had the most moey spent on them? It is a selfish side of Christmas, and sometimes it can feel like it has turned into a competition. How many small children have internet capable smartphones nowadays?! I think it’s ludicrous – I got my first Nokia brick (with everyone’s favourite game of snake on it) when I was about nine or ten, I think, but it was only for emergencies.

Anyway, I’m getting side-tracked. My point is, the focus of Christmas is no longer about giving, or more importantly appreciating what you have – family. The current social attitude is symbolised by Snobbity Snowman; he has anything he could “possibly ever want”, and anything less than satisfactory makes him angry.

Only when he is stripped of his possessions (and associated pride) does he open his eyes to such meagre items making the world of difference to the family that acquired them. In that, he finds happiness himself. To give is the best thing that you can do. Once he has learned this he is made new again and becomes part of the family.

The message behind Snobbity Snowman is an important one for children to learn, and this has been carefully portrayed. Also expected within books aimed at this audience are gradual introductions to new words – roiled and rancorous, for example. Alliteration is also a device used in the book to draw the reader to these words, to make them fun, yet prominent.

Bearing the target audience in mind, probably the most contributing factor to the book and the audience’s understanding of the story are the illustrations accompanying the text. Snobbity is portrayed perfectly; the vivid images help move the story along and throw in some humour along the way!

All in all, this is a lovely book to read with the kids, to introduce them to new words and ideas and more importantly, to convey the message that material possessions are not what is important, but family and happiness.

Thank you to Quiet Riley for approaching me with the request to read this book in an exchange for a review.
Rebecca mono

Review: Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein

Hi everyone! Today I am very excited to be bringing you a review of Code Name Verity!

It was the last book that I read in 2017 – and if I hadn’t published my Top Ten Tuesday – Books of the Year post so early, this would have made the list for sure!

Code Name Verity
Goodreads – Code Name Verity

Oct. 11th, 1943 – A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.

 

Verity is such a captivating character – from the first page, you are sucked into her narrative, intimate in such personal and genuine feeling. As “Verity” writes her confession and surrenders details of about the British, we learn how she became best friends with Maddie and got involved in the war effort. Whilst cooped up in her cell, subjected to watching the torture and execution of other resisting captives, she scrawls her tale on any form of paper available to her – music scores, recipe cards and Jewish prescription sheets to name but some examples. She grieves for her losses and for Maddie, whose plane crash-landed after delivering her safely for her mission.

Code Name Verity stirs a variety of emotions throughout the book – horror at the atrocities experienced at the hands of the Gestapo; fear for our protagonist’s life as she struggles on in her meagre existence; and humour… somehow, a small spark of resistance lies deep in her heart despite all her suffering. And a small spark can ignite a flame… The details of Verity’s mission unfold, and all may not be lost.

It is easy to consider the overall events of the war in hindsight, losing the personal touch – the men, women and children that died as a result of the war were mother’s, fathers, brothers and sisters. They were families. The narrative of Code Name Verity puts that right back into perspective.

Somehow I feel that anything I can say about how brilliant, beautiful and cleverly written the narrative is, I feel my comments can never do the book justice. Instead, let actions speak louder than words: Much as one may do with a classic or beloved favourite, this is a book I am going to pick up and read again. And again. I’ll probably get my hands on a physical copy to adorn my bookshelf too, because it has earned it’s place in my library. I hope it earns a place in yours too!
Rebecca mono

Blog Tour: Triple Cross Killer – Rosemarie Aquilina

Today I am excited to be taking part in a Blog Tour for Triple Cross Killer, by Rosemarie Aquilina, organised by Fiery Seas Publishing.
This is the first time I have written a review as a part of a tour, and I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts with you all!
Triple Cross Killer
 
Triple Cross Killer
By Rosemarie Aquilina
Fiery Seas Publishing
December 5, 2017   
Thriller
Buy Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Kobo  iTunes
Book Trailer: here
 
 

Have you ever wondered what really happens to Santa Claus letters?  In Detroit and Sarasota some children’s letters are diverted and reviewed by Nick Archer, a religiously obsessed, narcissist. Nick responds, leaving a trail of devastation in the two cities.
In Detroit, co-ed partners and wise-cracking lovers, detectives Jaq McSween and David Maxwell, team up with Sarasota detectives Abel Mendoza and his partner, Rabbit, to find this daunting killer.
When Jaq’s friend, the lovely nurse, Rita Rose, takes a chance on love again, she gets caught in Nick’s web. Working with the ME, she joins in, adding her perspective when events take a sinister turn.
Can this diverse team of characters pool their insights, barbs, and taste for bad food to save Rita when she discovers the final clues or will she become the next victim?

Christmas is a time when children get to ask the man in the big red suit for their greatest desires… a new bike, toys and such. Some children end up getting a whole lot more than they bargained for…
When murder victims start turning up in two cities, it is a race against time to catch the killer before he escalates any further. Leaving distinctive marks on his victim, though no other trace as to his identity, will Jaq and David, with the help of Abel and Rabbit catch the killer before Christmas?
I love how we know the killer’s identity from the start; it makes a refreshing change from a typical “who dunnit” crime/thriller story. I would argue that this is more difficult to achieve, yet is executed flawlessly here. Rosemarie’s background is obviously a huge contributor to developing each and every character and exposure to such personalities is what makes both the plot and the characters feel so genuine.
God bless Rita – I feel so sorry that she ends up being involved with Nick. After her first marriage deteriorated she avoided the complications of another relationship for so long… and then when she finally does take the plunge, she ends up with this narcissist. Could she be this unlucky twice in a row by chance? Perhaps not…
Nick experienced a rough childhood. Being brought up in a family with an abusive father left it’s scars. As an adult, Nick adopts his extreme religious views and strives to protect children and their innocence from similar domestic issues. If I had to describe Nick to you three words, I wouldsay he is cold, calculated and clinical. No detail is missed. His planning is meticulous.
I think the book was also well paced – information is fed to you at the right points to keep intrigue peaked but not to give the whole game away. Naturally as the puzzle pieces fit together the full picture is unraveled, but there are a few surprises along the way! Just when you think you have everything sussed out there is a plot twist to pull the carpet out from underneath your feet!
Rita is a fantastic character. Maybe I relate to her more as she is a compassionate woman, who has unfortuntely been trodden into the dirt by so many people that she doesn’t know who to trust anymore. Whilst there are times I really wanted to shake her and make her see past Nick’s charm and understand what a controlling man he really is, I can see why she acted the way she did. Wanting someone to love and to be loved is not a crime, and when she decides to take a chance on Nick, she falls for him hard. Love is blind, so they say. There are a number of small sections in which I was praying nobody was looking over my shoulder at work (thankfully nobody did), but I do think they were essential to the story in conveying the control Nick has over Rita – physically and emotionally.
Personally, I am very picky about books around the crime or thriller genre. They have to be written very well and have developed plots in order to compete within a large market. I can proudly say I loved Triple Cross Killer, and I have no doubt that it will hold its own. I wish Rosemarie every success with the book, because I think all the praise is deserved.
Congratulations on the book release, and thank you for the opprtunity to read and review Triple Cross Killer!
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Rosemarie Aquilina

About the Author:

Rosemarie Aquilina is the mother of five children. Elected as a 30th Circuit Court Judge serving in the General Trial Division, after having served as a 55th District Court Judge in Mason, Michigan, she takes pride in public serve.
In 1986, Judge Aquilina became the first female JAG Officer in the history of the Michigan Army National Guard, she retired in 2006 with twenty years Honorable Service.  She is an adjunct law professor at both Western Michigan University—Thomas M. Cooley Law School and Michigan State University College of Law and has earned teaching awards at both institutions. Judge Aquilina is the former owner of Aquilina Law Firm, PLC, and former host of a syndicated radio talk show called Ask the Family Lawyer.