Tag: book reviews

Book Review: Fire and Blood – George R.R. Martin

I’m really looking forward to sharing today’s book review with you all for Fire and Blood. It is well documented that I am a huge fan of George R.R. Martin, and with the current airing of the prequel show, House of the Dragon, I wanted to share my thoughts on the book that inspired the series!

If you are unfamiliar with the book, Fire and Blood is the first of a two-part history of the Targaryen family line. The book begins with Aegon the Conqueror’s conquest of Westeros, and from there, history only gets, well… bloodier.

 

Fire and Blood – George R.R. Martin

Genre: Epic fantasy

Pages: 706

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Publication Date: 20 Nov 2018

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

Goodreads – Fire and Blood

From the masterly imagination behind A Game of Thrones – one of the greatest fantasy epics of all time and an unmissable HBO hit series – comes a definitive history of Westeros’s past as told by Archmaester Gyldayn.

Unravelling events that led to A Song of Ice and Fire, Fire and Blood is the first volume of the definitive two-part history of the Targaryens in Westeros. Revealing long-buried secrets and untold lasting enmity, it sets the scene for the heart-stopping series conclusion, The Winds of Winter.

300 years before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire, long before the schism that set the houses of Westeros at each other’s throats, one house ruled supreme and indomitable. House Targaryen, the house of the last remaining dragonlords.

After surviving the Doom of Valyria the Targaryen’s established themselves on Dragonstone. This volume traces their legendary lineage from Aegon the Conqueror to the bloody Dance of Dragons; a civil war that pitted Aegon II and his half-sister Rhaenyra in a bitter conflict for the throne of their father, nearly wiping out the Targaryen dynasty forever.

What really happened during the Dance of the Dragons? Why did it become so deadly to visit Valyria after the Doom? What is the origin of Daenerys’s three dragon eggs? These are but a few of the questions answered in this essential chronicle, as related by a learned maester of the Citadel.

With all the scope and grandeur of Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Fire and Blood is the ultimate guide to Westeros’s past. Featuring more than eighty all-new black-and-white illustrations by artist Doug Wheatley this is an essential volume for any Game of Thrones fan’s library. For the first time the full tapestry of Targaryen history is revealed.

 

My Thoughts…

If you are watching House of the Dragon and wonder how it compares to Fire and Blood, you may be interested to learn that the events of the TV show don’t start until approximately 340 pages into the book. Those events are the passing over of Rhaenys as heir in favour of Viserys I (because God forbid a woman sits on the Iron Throne!). It was touched upon very briefly in the first few minutes of the TV show, and from there the rest unfolds.

Naturally, that means there is a good deal of history that the prequel show doesn’t even touch upon. Granted, I can see why that is the case. A significant portion of the book prior to these events covers the reign of Jaehaerys I Targaryen. By all accounts, Jaehaerys was a well-suited ruler and lived to a ripe old age. If you are unfamiliar, that’s about as rare as hen’s teeth in the Targaryen bloodline! Whilst good Kings are good for the realm, they don’t make the most interesting of stories!

My copy of this book is the illustrated hardback edition, illustrated by Doug Wheatley. The pictures are interspersed throughout the narrative and really bring the characters to life. Some of my favourite illustrations in the book are of Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters Rhaenys and Visenya, the portrait of Maegor the Cruel, as well as a number of the action scenes and dragon fights within.

I would be lying to you if I said that this first instalment of the Targaryen histories wasn’t dense. There are a lot of characters in this book. As a result, I benefited from taking a break and splitting reading the book into two. It gave me the opportunity to digest what I had read so far. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I absolutely did! George R.R. Martin went to a great deal of trouble to incorporate the histories of both Westeros and Essos throughout the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I am glad that it made it into its own book(s), as the depth of detail deserves its moment in the limelight.

As I thoroughly enjoyed this first book so much, I cannot wait for the second half of this history. If it is anything like the first then there will be plenty of tension, drama, and conflict to look forward to. As we can only expect from George R.R. Martin, I am sure it will not be a short book either. There is nothing superficial about the world or characters he creates. For fans of epic fantasy like me, that leaves us a lot to dive into. These are the sorts of books to find some new detail in with every re-read.

If I had one wish about Fire and Blood, it is that it went further back in history. The book begins with the conquest of Aegon the Conqueror, which happens approximately 100 years after an event referred to in this book and the main series as the ‘Doom of Valyria’. Personally, I would like to finally understand what this mysterious event is. We don’t know what happened, other than Valyria is destroyed as a result. It is written into the lore of the world as to why we don’t know about what happened, but it’s an itch I would love to scratch one day. Surely he can come up with a loophole to finally leak the story somehow?!

Have you read Fire and Blood? Are you a fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire series? I would love it if you let me know and we could have a chat in the comments!

 

signature

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Book Review: A Feast of Phantoms – Kat Ross

Hello everyone and welcome to today’s book review of A Feast of Phantoms by Kat Ross. If you like books that are an eclectic range of genres, then this book is for you! With an underpinning western theme and elements of steampunk, this fantasy has a lot going on in a nice, concise page count that is approachable to read.

Full disclosure, I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. All of the opinions shared in this post are my own.

 

A Feast of Phantoms – Kat Ross

Book cover of A Feast of PhantomsGenre: Fantasy

Pages: 270

Audience: New Adult

Publisher: Acorn

Publication Date: 17 Mar 2020

Rating: ***

 

Goodreads – A Feast of Phantoms

THE JOB

It was supposed to be simple.

Help Marshal Sebastian Hardin escort his prisoner one stop on the railway to Charter Oak.

Just one stop.

But when that prisoner is a savant who talks to ghosts, even the simplest plans have a way of falling apart.

THE LAW

Sheriff’s Deputy Ruth Cortez always does the right thing. Lucky Boy is a company town, dependent on the rich and powerful Carnarvon family. Besides which, the charismatic Sebastian Hardin isn’t an easy man to say no to. When his transport derails in the middle of the prairie, Ruth begins a relentless manhunt that leads straight into the dark heart of the Carnarvon empire.

THE FUGITIVE

Lee Merriweather favors sharp suits and fast trains – especially when he’s stealing them. At the ripe old age of 18, he’s managed to become the most wanted criminal in three territories. Lee can’t resist playing cat and mouse with a small-town deputy, but what starts as a game becomes deadly serious.

THE FIXER

Sebastian Hardin is the Carnarvons’ right hand, loyal to the death and willing to keep any secret to protect the family. They want Lee alive, but with the young savant’s disturbing abilities it won’t be an easy proposition. Whoever catches Lee gets the keys to the kingdom and the Carnarvons aren’t the only ones hunting him down. Sebastian has enough problems without falling for Deputy Cortez – but you can’t always choose who you love.

THE PHANTOMS

They terrorized the settlers until Calindra Carnarvon learned to speak their language. Her empire relies on controlling their telekinetic powers, but Lee Merriweather could destroy it all. And not even Lee suspects the shocking truth of the phantoms’ real nature.

 

My Thoughts…

If you like the crossover of genres in the likes of Stephen king’s The Dark Tower or Brandon Sanderson‘s second Mistborn trilogy, A Feast of Phantoms has a similar vibe. It is also set in a western type setting. The incorporation of steampunk elements reminded me of the technological advancements we see between the first and second Mistborn trilogy, which is why I have likened this book to that.

Ruth is a small-town girl happy with her quiet life as a deputy in the town of Lucky Boy. Life is fairly rudimentary, but it’s all she’s ever known. When she is conscripted to help the secret services transport a prisoner for trial, she doesn’t have much choice but to accept. From here on, Ruth world opens up to magic, intrigue, and danger that she couldn’t foresee.

I really liked Ruth as a character. I love that she has very strong, good morals. In a world that is clearly corrupt, Ruth is a breath of fresh air. She is also very headstrong, and despite her youth, she is able to make a decision and act upon it. Quite often characters of this age can be a bit wishy-washy or uncertain. A lot of the plot conflict derives around that issue.

That’s not the case in A Feast of Phantoms, however. Instead, Ruth is decisive and more often than not, it is this that gets her into more trouble… Despite her good intentions.

A Feast of Phantoms has a fast pace plot. Once the story has been set up, we are whisked upon the mission to escort Lee Merriweather to his fate, and all the drama and turmoil that unfolds thereafter., In true fashion, all is not as it seems. Hardly to be expected, given that the secret services are involved. Instead, Ruth finds herself dragged into a conflict she could never have imagined and is far away from her hometown.

A Feast of Phantoms is also a short read, and very easy to pick up. I managed to read this book in just a couple of days. The narrative style is easy to follow and get lost in. Reading this book was effortless, and the story keeps you hanging on to read just one more chapter… over and over again.

The good news for fans of this book is that it is the first of a trilogy. This first instalment leaves us on a cliffhanger that will have us picking up the next one to know what happens next!

What are your thoughts on this book? As always, let me know in the comments or on social media. Get in touch with me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, or of my new blog posts as and when they go live!

Until next time,

 

signature

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Book Review: Keep You Safe – Rona Halsall

In today’s book review post I’m sharing my thoughts on a book written by local author, Rona Halsall. Keep You Safe appealed to me in its own right, but when I found out that Rona also lives on the Isle of Man, and that the book is also set here, I knew I had to give it a go!

I’m a huge fan of thriller novels anyway, and I was not disappointed by this book at all! I read this over the course of a week, and as with all thrillers, I could not put this down at the end. I binge read the last 130 odd pages in one sitting, late on a Sunday night because I didn’t want to leave it… I couldn’t!

Before I jump into my full review, here are details of the book below: –

 

Keep You Safe – Rona Halsall

Goodreads- Keep You Safe

What if trying to protect your child only put them in danger?

Natalie is desperate to find her little boy. It has been more than three years since she saw Harry. Three long years in prison for a crime she knows she didn’t commit.

But her husband believed the police, and took their son.

Who has gone to such great lengths to destroy Natalie’s life? Everyone she once trusted – friends, family, everyone close to her – what secrets do they hide?

If Natalie finds the truth, will she get Harry back, or lose him forever?

A totally gripping psychological thriller– perfect for fans of Big Little Lies, The Girl on the Train and C.L Taylor.

 

My Thoughts…

It is a surreal experience to read a book set in the place where you live and work. Streets I have walked countless times – some I see every day nearly – set the scene of this novel… and I will be honest and say it was a tad strange! But at the same time, it was brilliant! I could picture exactly where events were happening in vivid detail and it was really easy to follow. Even without the local knowledge, I think anybody could follow the events in this book. I just have the added advantage that I know the local geography.

Keep You Safe is the kind of novel that keeps you guessing. Natalie has been betrayed in the past by someone she loves, and her distrust and paranoia is deep-rooted. She is a protagonist who can be sympathised with to the extent that she has been separated from a child. However, in other respects, she is a very morally grey character. I wasn’t rooting for her 100% of the time; her decision-making is far from rational or logical. But in the same vein, it is these flaws that make her undoubtedly human. She is a well rounded character – and as a key component to the story… this shines through.

At the heart of this tragic story is a little boy that just wants to be loved. In amidst the lies, deceit, and far more besides, there is an innocent child stuck in the middle. I really enjoyed the ending of this book, as evidenced by my binge reading of it! Perfect elements of mystery come together with a darker, more thrilling ending that I really enjoyed! The pieces slotted together very nicely and we are kept in suspense up until that very last moment. I was lining everybody up as a potential suspect. It’s the kind of book that you think about even when you’re not reading it.

My one, small wish this book is that the island was not referred to as a tax haven. The island has that reputation enough, when in reality most residents as normal, working people just like everyone else. Just like most of the characters portrayed in this book. The only difference is that we have to pay over the odds for a pint of local milk. It may not be all sunshine and roses here on the Island, and yes it has some very wealthy corporations and individuals, but I feel it isn’t an accurate representation and the Island could have been painted in a better light if this was not mentioned. That’s a personal thing though. I’m very passionate about living here and naturally, I want people to see the best of it! 

 

signature

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Book Review: Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo

In today’s book review I’m sharing my thoughts on the first book of the Shadow and Bone series. I picked up this book having watched the related Netflix series. This book was already on my radar because I had read and loved the Six of Crows duology, also written by Leigh Bardugo. I had already said then that I wanted to read this series, and I’m glad I have started at last.

If you are unfamiliar with the book, here’s a little bit about it below: –

 

Shadow & Bone – Leigh Bardugo

Goodreads – Shadow and Bone

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

 

My Thoughts…

Based on the Netflix series, this book lived up to my expectations. When I went into it, I knew that I wasn’t necessarily going to love every single aspect of it. There is an element of romance to the story which I didn’t particularly like in the Netflix series either, and inevitably I was going to come across it again in the book. That said, it didn’t detract from the rest of the story in the slightest.

But I am just going to take a minute to talk about that romance, because if I can’t have a whinge on my own little space on the Internet then where can I? Why do men wielding dark and mysterious powers have to ALWAYS be drop-dead gorgeous? Can fantasy writers please have a little bit more imagination and a perspective a little more true to reality for a minute? I know it’s a fantasy book, but there’s a difference between fantastical and delusional.

People are attracted to power. I can’t deny that. But every single fantasy villain is somehow both more powerful than anybody else in the world and just as beautiful… apparently. And that annoys me. Not only is it unrealistic, but the only real way that would actually be true is if they’re also narcissistic. There are a lot of narcissistic people in the world, but does it have to be every single fantasy villain?

I love the fantasy genre, but not all of the tropes that you see time and again. It gets boring. Even reading the tropes I like again and again it gets boring. Ones that I’m not keen on in the first place can definitely go in the bin. Like this one. Anyway, disparaging comments aside, that’s not to say that my grievance with this particular element of the book took away from the rest of the story. It definitely didn’t! On the contrary, I rated this book 4 stars out of five on Goodreads. It’s still a great book!

One of my favourite things about the Six of Crows duology what was the magic system and the lore behind the Grisha. I knew straightaway that it was an element I wanted to explore in more detail, and I’m really glad I did. There is still much to be learned about these people and their magic, and so I want to pick up the rest of the series to pursue this further.

Equally, the world building and the dynamic between those of different regions in the world adds a lot to the storyline. As someone who is very uninterested in politics in real life, I like to see it play out in books. If you follow my blog you know I’m a huge fan of the likes of Game of Thrones etc, in which politics is a huge element. It definitely comes to into play in Shadow and Bone as well. Both the dynamics between characters and those of other regions are attributable to how well this is portrayed within the narrative, and it makes for an interesting division that will no doubt come to the fore in future books.

The one thing I didn’t like about the Netflix series is that it merged the story lines of Six of Crows with this book. Both are fantastic stories – but in their own right! I’m glad the author has chosen to explore these separately, because there are so much of scope and I’m looking forward to see where the rest of the series leads.

 

signature

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J. K. Rowling

In today’s blog post I’m sharing my thoughts on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s’ Stone, the first book of the series I’m just about to finish reading for the second time! I read this series originally as a teenager and I loved them then as much as I do now! It’s a series for just about anybody and if my reread has proven anything, is that it doesn’t matter how old you are when you pick these up. This first book of the series didn’t seem immature or childish even now. Yes, it’s a lot simpler than the later books in the series, but it’s still just as readable.

If you’re like me then you’re probably also asking yourself, how do you go about reviewing such an iconic book series? Your guess is as good as mine – I’m just going to muddle through as best I can. I know I won’t do it justice, but I can only do my best!

 

Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone – J. K. Rowling

Goodreads – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.

Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.

Full of sympathetic characters, wildly imaginative situations, and countless exciting details, the first installment in the series assembles an unforgettable magical world and sets the stage for many high-stakes adventures to come.

 

My Thoughts…

The thing is I love the most about these books is that it doesn’t matter how old you are when you start reading them. I grew up with these books, and I probably read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone either as a preteen or an early teenager. I read this book again for the first time since then last year. At around twice the age I was when I first read the book, I loved it just as much!

Whilst I would say the intended genre is probably young adult, at the same time it doesn’t feel pigeonholed there. There is so much to this series that there’s something in it for everybody! This very first book is comparatively lighthearted to the rest of the series. It’s a wonderful introduction to a vast and detailed magical world, providing fantasy readers with escapism and a life they would have loved to have lived as a child; to be quantified as special and sent off to a magical school of witchcraft and wizardry.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher‘s Stone is only a few hundred pages long. It’s an easy book to pick up and read because of the length, but also the way in which it’s written. The narrative style is very easily digestible. Personally, I think you could easily pick up and put down the book as you wish. It’s really easy to follow what’s going on and it’s honestly a pleasure to read. I read this book within a matter of days just by doing some bedtime reading. You don’t have to be an avid reader to get through this book very quickly!

I like the pacing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher‘s Stone. Being the first book in the series, there is a lot to take in. We have a lot of the setting of the scene, character and world building thrown into the mix. I find it just right so that even a younger audience could follow what is going on, but equally it’s not slow for more mature readers either. As well as all this, there’s a lot of magical excitement to keep our attention. From a plethora of spells to learn to the wonder of the everyday… such as chocolate frogs (which really do behave like frogs!); there is always something going on and keeping the action flowing in a fun way!

In my opinion, this book is the perfect introduction to the now famous series. It’s fun and exciting whilst also setting the scene for a much wider story. The story unfolds in ways that I didn’t take initially expect when I first started the books. But, I really enjoy that! If you haven’t read these yet then I honestly recommend you do. They are absolutely fantastic and they really are for absolutely anyone!

 

signature

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Book Review: Clockwork Magpies – Emma Whitehall

In today’s blog post I’m sharing my thoughts on a book recently published by Northodox Press. They recently advertised advanced reader copies available for reviewers and the cover caught my eye immediately! From there I went to look up the book and it sounded absolutely fantastic. Northodox Press were brilliant in providing a copy to me at my request and I am grateful to be able to share my honest review based on that today.

 

Clockwork Magpies – Emma Whitehall

Goodreads – Clockwork Magpies

By day, Ida is a quiet, standoffish maid in the employ of spoiled Lucinda Belmote. By night, she is the infamous sneak thief known as the Rat Prince, terrorising the wealthy inhabitants of Loxport; especially Lucinda’s lecherous suitor, Lord Devon Casterbury.

Soon the boundaries between her dual lives begin to blur, as her mask begins to drop around a delightful waitress and a charming jeweller who both insist on befriending Ida. All the while she is thrust into a conflict surrounding new and dangerous materials that could upend the order of the city, land her behind bars or worse: in Lord Casterbury’s employ.

A thrilling romp through the Steampunk city of Loxport, Clockwork Magpies is a story of found family, crimes plotted over tea and scones, and the sinister power of glowing gemstones.

 

My Thoughts…

Clockwork Magpies is a great palate-cleanser read. It’s just over a few hundred pages, so easily long enough to invest into the characters and the storyline. But at the same time, it’s not a huge commitment. And certainly for an avid reader like me, it doesn’t take very long to read at all! I read this within a few days… and the fact that I enjoyed it so much made this even easier to do!

I don’t often read steampunk themed novels, however if done right they blend well into the fantasy genre. Clockwork Magpies does this seamlessly! Industrial Revolution-esque technological advancement is the vibe in Loxport, and coupled with that is an antiquated social class and society that illustrates that there are leagues to go compare to our modern society.

Ida is a maid for a widower of the elite and considered more fortunate than most for that position of servitude. Her background is one much more humble, but her mother’s ambitions and nefarious skills has kept them all alive. These skills have been passed on and perfected by Ida, who is known more infamously for her thievery in the guise of The Rat Prince. She is well placed to choose her next victim, being connected to the upper circle. She has always taken care to keep these two personas separate, but events in the book watch them collide in spectacular fashion.

I enjoyed Ida’s personal character development arc for a number of reasons. At the beginning of the book, she is a focused young lady whose only real drive is to provide for her family still living in relative poverty. She does this out of a serious sense of duty and because it’s the only link she has left to her mother, the woman she loved and revered. But they are toxic to her. They only use her for financial aid and berate the way in which she provides for them.

Over the course of the narrative she becomes less dependent on them and teaches us readers a powerful lesson – that we can still do the right thing by such people, but in a way that removes the suffering from the toxic relationship. I feel like this is something people even today struggle with. It’s nice to have that represented in a book and allows the opportunity to raise awareness of these types of struggles. 

Ida’s focus means she does not permit herself friends. They are only connections that could unveil her secret identity. But, somehow Clem and Edith wheedle the way past her defences with steely determination. They teach her that friendship can offer some powerful allies and support when it’s needed the most.

Identity is a common theme throughout the book, and there are a couple of stand-out quotes I’d like to highlight. I personally really liked them and it’s advice that more people should take: –

“Seriously though, don’t let other people tell you who you are. Or what you are and are not good enough for.”

“My point is, we make ourselves into the people we want to be. Hang the rest, leave it all behind.“

The ending implies that there could be a sequel, and hand-on-heart I sincerely hope so! I feel like Clockwork Magpies lays the foundation for what could be a fantastic series! There is a lot of scope for this series to be taken further; I would love to see more of the dynamic between Ida, Clem and Edith. 

Attachment.pngAttachment_1.png

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Book Review: Midnight in Chernobyl – Adam Higginbotham

In today’s blog post I’m going to be sharing a book review for a non-fiction book I read at the very beginning of 2021. I believe I carried this over from December 2020 to finish it, so it’s been quite a while since I read it. However, it made a lasting impression on me! I thought the book was really good and it’s about a subject that I wanted to learn more about as a result of a TV series I watched.

The events around and following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster are harrowing to read, but I think the book does an excellent job of informing the reader in a way that keeps them engaged and entertained. I certainly learned a lot from it!

 

Midnight in Chernobyl – Adam Higginbotham

Goodreads – Midnight in Chernobyl

The definitive, dramatic untold story of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, based on original reporting and new archival research.

April 25, 1986, in Chernobyl, was a turning point in world history. The disaster not only changed the world’s perception of nuclear power and the science that spawned it, but also our understanding of the planet’s delicate ecology. With the images of the abandoned homes and playgrounds beyond the barbed wire of the 30-kilometer Exclusion Zone, the rusting graveyards of contaminated trucks and helicopters, the farmland lashed with black rain, the event fixed for all time the notion of radiation as an invisible killer.

Chernobyl was also a key event in the destruction of the Soviet Union, and, with it, the United States’ victory in the Cold War. For Moscow, it was a political and financial catastrophe as much as an environmental and scientific one. With a total cost of 18 billion rubles—at the time equivalent to $18 billion—Chernobyl bankrupted an already teetering economy and revealed to its population a state built upon a pillar of lies.

The full story of the events that started that night in the control room of Reactor No.4 of the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Plant has never been told—until now. Through two decades of reporting, new archival information, and firsthand interviews with witnesses, journalist Adam Higginbotham tells the full dramatic story, including Alexander Akimov and Anatoli Dyatlov, who represented the best and worst of Soviet life; denizens of a vanished world of secret policemen, internal passports, food lines, and heroic self-sacrifice for the Motherland. Midnight in Chernobyl, award-worthy nonfiction that reads like sci-fi, shows not only the final epic struggle of a dying empire but also the story of individual heroism and desperate, ingenious technical improvisation joining forces against a new kind of enemy.

 

My Thoughts…

Considering that the disaster only took place in recent history, I went into this book with only vague knowledge of what had happened. I had briefly covered the subject in school in terms of its relation to the breakdown of the Soviet Union in my studies of the Cold War. In addition, I had some idea of the lasting effects of the disaster as a friend of mine’s family have previously hosted a child visiting the Island where I live. There is a charity called ‘Friends of Chernobyl’, who give children who live in areas still affected by radiation the opportunity to visit places such as where I live for an extended period for the benefit of their health. My friend’s family used to look after a girl in the summer holidays. Aside from that, the rest of what I knew about the disaster came from the TV series Chernobyl.

That’s not very good really in my opinion, and that’s why I wanted to look into this further for myself. I’m glad I picked up Midnight in Chernobyl to do this. There is a lot of interesting detail in the book, but it’s delivered in such a way that it is entertaining to read as well as informative.

I liked the way this book is written out. Each chapter is documented with a time and date and follows in chronological order, so it’s easy to follow what happens. I enjoyed how the book covers the whole history of the plant and nearby town Pripyat as opposed to just focusing on the disaster. Naturally, this takes up the majority of the book but seeing how and why it was built and the consequences of how Chernobyl came to be the place it was at the time of the disaster was interesting.

If you can also appreciate a little bit of science then I think you will also enjoy reading the explanatory narrative about how the reactors were designed to work. It was a little bit of a technical section, but not horrendously complicated and it went a long way to helping me understand what ultimately went wrong on that fateful day.

I think even if you know what happened, it’s only when you read the intimate experienced of each individual involved, and the loss of their loved ones, that it hits home.

I’m not overly surprised at the events of the disaster given the reasons it happened, but also how it was responded to. There was a ridiculous amount of secrecy around events such as these in the USSR. Chernobyl is one of the most well-known disasters, the truth is that there were a lot of smaller-scale disasters at other nuclear plants throughout the USSR in the period. But, like me, you probably didn’t know about these. Just like the scale of the Chernobyl disaster at the time, the powers that be were determined to hush it up and underplay it as much as possible. It’s despicable really when you think about the human cost.

Midnight in Chernobyl is a great read if you want a balance of information and an interesting read. I think the author does a very good job of informing readers about the event but also doing it in a way that highlights individual stories and personal consequences with dignity, with a view to outing the truth after decades of secrecy.

Attachment.pngAttachment_1.png

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Book Review: Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Since it has been about a month since I last shared a book review I’ve decided it’s time to get my thinking cap on and share my thoughts with you on a previous read. When perusing through the list of books I’ve read I discovered that I hadn’t yet reviewed Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I confess that my first thought was along the lines of ‘where do I even begin reviewing this?’. But, I’m going to do my best to do the book justice!

Since classic novels are typically taught in school I think a lot of people have the misconception that they’re going to be dry, dull or that no one in a million years would want to spend their free time reading them. After I left school I said the same thing. I have a whole host of opinions on how the education system doesn’t promote reading, but that’s for another day. However, they do need to be given their due. Classic novels can be great reads. I’ve even gone back to books that I read and hated at school and I enjoyed them. I wish they were given more of a chance, and if I were to suggest you pick up any, Brave New World is a great one to start with!

And, if you’re not sure, there is a TV series based on the book on Now TV. You could always give that a try first? Although it’s not 100% true to the book (but covers the main topics and concepts well), I still enjoyed it regardless!

 

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Goodreads – Brave New World

Brave New World is a dystopian novel by English author Aldous Huxley, written in 1931 and published in 1932. Largely set in a futuristic World State, inhabited by genetically modified citizens and an intelligence-based social hierarchy, the novel anticipates huge scientific advancements in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation and classical conditioning that are combined to make a dystopian society that is challenged by only a single individual: the story’s protagonist.

 

My Thoughts…

Not only is the plot of Brave New World interesting, but it’s one of the shorter classic books I’ve read at just over 260 pages. This is why I think it’s a great place to start; it’s not intimidating and it has plenty to offer despite the reduced page count.

Some of the undoubtedly futuristic elements in Brave New World (considering it was published in 1932) are not so wild in the present day. One of the groundbreaking elements of the book is that humans are not born traditionally, but are genetically modified for desirable qualities, fertilised in vitro and are effectively incubated until birth. Whilst we don’t exactly have a designer baby thing going on, treatments such as IVF are now available and can involve an element of this.

Equally, the clinical aspect of birth control was in its infancy in the 1930s. Yes, for thousands of years there have been home remedies and techniques to prevent it. Even giving birth control advice was only allowed in Britain in 1930. It’s strange to consider because prescriptions for it now are so commonplace.

I find it fascinating to compare the ideas that authors had decades ago as to what was futuristic to them at the time and what similar theories we as a society have now about the next few decades. What I wonder the most about is whether the ideas written by these authors have given birth to the reality, or whether they did have an inkling of human capabilities and technological advancements that were within reach of mankind. Kind of like the chicken and egg argument.

There may be similarities between the societies of Brave New World and the modern-day, but there are also very distinct differences. For example, Brave New World has a completely different social class system, based on intelligence, to the one we used to. Citizens are effectively controlled by the use of ‘feel-good’ drugs and activities. There is no such thing as sadness or lack of purpose. Everybody has their role and they fulfil it to the best of their ability. They don’t have to think, they just have to do as they’re told. On the surface that might sound good, but I think it would be hell.

I’ve read plenty of other reviews that suggest this is a good read for anyone who has or has suffered from depression. It emphasises the point that feeling good all the time isn’t where it’s at. To appreciate the highs, sometimes you need to take the lows that go with it. And I can see that. It makes sense. If you always had the same thing you have nothing to compare it against.

Have you ever read Brave New World? Would you recommend it or would you be prepared to read it based on recommendation? As always, you can let me know in the comments or via social media.

Attachment.pngAttachment_1.png

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Book review: The Burning Land – Bernard Cornwell

In today’s book review I am sharing my thoughts on The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell. The Burning Land is the fifth book in the Saxon stories series and follows one of my favourite characters to date. Having not explored much in the way of history of the period prior to picking up these books, it has been an education to say the least! Bernard Cornwell has a fantastic way of blending characters and narrative and action in a way that draws the reader in and makes his books nearly impossible to put down!

In addition to the books I’ve also been enjoying the TV series, The Last Kingdom. I’m actually a little bit further ahead with the TV series as series 3 covers both this book and the next one. However, that didn’t hamper my enjoyment in the slightest. Shall we get on with today’s review?

 

The Burning Land – Bernard Cornwell

Goodreads – The Burning Land

At the end of the ninth century, with King Alfred of Wessex in ill health and his heir still an untested youth, it falls to Alfred’s reluctant warlord Uhtred to outwit and outbattle the invading enemy Danes, led by the sword of savage warrior Harald Bloodhair. But the sweetness of Uhtred’s victory is soured by tragedy, forcing him to break with the Saxon king. Joining the Vikings, allied with his old friend Ragnar—and his old foe Haesten—Uhtred devises a strategy to invade and conquer Wessex itself. But fate has very different plans.  

Bernard Cornwell’s The Burning Land is a new chapter in his story of the birth of England and the legendary king who made it possible.

 

My Thoughts…

All my expectations from the previous books were met in The Burning Land. What I really like about these books is that they’re very easy to pick up even if you haven’t read the previous one for a while. The narrative almost recaps itself in a way that refreshes your memory, but also doesn’t insult your intelligence by going over every single thing again. I personally find it to be really nice balance of bringing you up to speed again and then swiftly moving on to the action.

As I’ve said before in my reviews of the previous books, I really enjoy the conflict our main character trait has within himself. Born an Englishman but raised as a Dane, he is constantly warring within himself between these two sides and the loyalties each expect from him. Whilst at heart I feel Uhtred would love to retain his Danish side, apart of him always drag him back to the loyalties of the English and the King Alfred. I feel like this is a conflict we are going to see again and again throughout this series, which suits me just fine! I really enjoy now he is perfectly positioned to inform, educate and entertain us via his unique perspective in the midst of the real history of the Viking invasion of Britain.

This conflict plays an even more integral part in this narrative than the previous books. Pushed the furthest he has been yet, Uhtred defects to the Danes after killing a Christian priest. The people he had just saved turn on him within an instant and he is forced to flee. His resentment causes him to defect to the Danes and reunite himself with his childhood friend.

Bernard Cornwell is exceptionally good at creating and maintaining dynamics between characters. They are consistent between books and also reflective of the events that have happened so far. It’s very immersive to be able to read; it’s naturally free-flowing. Not only that, but the vastly different characters in the book test the ability to be able to juggle all these pieces at once, as well as incorporate new characters and conflicts alike. I have great admiration for authors who are able to do this, especially spanning distance and time – which is certainly done in this book.

As a huge fan of historical fiction I can testify that it is books like these that keep me coming back to the genre again and again. I really can’t wait to continue this series and find out where his loyalties find him next, and what turmoil results.

Attachment.pngAttachment_1.png

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Discussion Post – Book Star Ratings

So, you’ve read a book! Congratulations! But, where do you even begin when deciding what star rating to give it?

These are questions a lot of people probably ask themselves when they are looking to leave it a rating on the likes of Amazon, Goodreads etc. The honest answer is, there isn’t a right or wrong way to do it. Ratings (and reviews) by nature are subjective and our individual experiences of a book are completely different. So don’t worry! You can’t do it wrong.

Different people have different ways of tackling this problem. In today’s post, I’m going to be discussing some of the different ways in which you might approach rating a book. Maybe you don’t like the way you rate a book now, you’re curious as to what other methods there are or are just not sure how it’s best to go about it. Hopefully today’s post can inspire you!

 

Emotively

Everyone interprets media differently. Hundreds of people can consume the same thing and end up with polar opposite opinions. That’s the good thing about being human. We all have a unique perspective based on a number of factors – our upbringing, religious or political views or even just personal preference.

One of the ways in which a book can be rated is purely based on how it made you feel. That’s not to say an book that made you cry should be rated as one star though! That’s not what you’re aiming for here. But I mean by emotively is how strongly a book makes you feel. Do you absolutely love it? Or, were you a little bit uninspired? Can you explain exactly why? For this method you don’t particularly have to be able to justify why it made you feel that way (although if you are writing a full review it does help to explain to other readers).

 

Methodically

I’ve seen readers rate books before based on a combination of factors. They may look at things such as the plot, character development and a number of other fixed topics. They’ll rate the book on each of these topics and then give the book the overall average of those scores.

This is a very fair way to rate a book and if you aren’t 100% sure how is best, this can be a way to help you along. There are set criteria and the structure may help you think about certain aspects of a book more specifically. Reviewing emotively may suits some, however anyone looking for a little bit of guidance as to what may be more important may feel more confident with bit of structure.

It’s also a more fair method of rating a book if you want to attribute each ‘topic’ of consideration in your rating in equal measure. As to whether that is suitable is entirely up to you – it’s your opinion that counts after all!

 

Combination of the two

Personally, I’m a combination of both of these methods. Whilst I don’t specifically have a set list of factors I consider when rating a book, I will take into account several things when deciding my rating for the book. I will think about the plot; whether it’s appropriate for the genre and how well it is written to give a couple of examples. I think about the characters and how well the storyline/narrative allowed them to develop etc. But I’m not rigid on this. I don’t have a set list of things I’ll consider and I don’t rate the book individually against each topic and average it. I do still allow my overall subjective feelings towards the book to govern the rating.

One reason I don’t rate my books methodically it’s because I don’t value individual factors equally. A book may have fantastic character development and a really exciting plot, if I can’t get on with the writing style then that’s a deal-breaker for me. Since that is more important to me, rating a book based on that and attributing it equally against other factors doesn’t sit well with me. My experience of the book in that instance is brought down considerably more because it’s more important to me.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. How you decide to rate a book is entirely your decision. If you’re not sure which method is best, have a go at all of them! If any one of them is easier than the other than perhaps this is the way forward for you. You may have already decided how you do it – and that’s fine too!

The point of providing a rating is to express your personal opinion. Nobody can tell you that’s wrong. So long as you are being honest, that’s all there is to it!

How do you rate a book? Do you use any of these methods, or do you rate a book in another way? If you do I’ll be really interested to hear how you do it!

Attachment.pngAttachment_1.png

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads