Book Review: The Fate of Kings by Mark Stibbe & G. P. Taylor

I am so happy to be today’s host in The Fate of Kings blog Tour.
I want to say thank you to Rhoda Hardie for giving me this opportunity.

About the book:

1793. As the Terror begins to cast a great shadow over France, Thomas Pryce, the new Vicar of Deal, crosses the Channel to find the missing parents of his beautiful French wife. Facing grave dangers, he makes his way to Brittany where he not only discovers the fate of his in-laws but also uncovers a plot which threatens to topple the British monarchy. Fighting against a sinister secret society in a race against time, Pryce battles to thwart the plans of a Parisian spymaster and his agents in London. The Fate of Kings is the first in a series of gripping spy thrillers that will engross readers of C.J. Sansom, Dan Brown, as well as the many avid watchers of Poldark and Grantchester. In the first years of the British Secret Service, Thomas Pryce truly is the original James Bond.

My Review:

Going into The Fate of Kings I expected adventure and even more so, a political novel.
Did I get what I expected?
Yeah, I can say so. But I can also say that even though I got what I expected, this book was also different from what I’ve expected in a way.

First of all, let me clarify that this book is piece of Christian fiction. I knew it, and I like reading Christian fiction once in a while, but I always like to warn people about that because I know some readers just don’t feel comfortable reading word-to-word praying and phrases like “God will help us, God will be with me.”
When it comes to Christian fiction, I’d say The Fate of Kings is on a heavier side.

So… this is where comes one thing that I didn’t like about the blurb for this book. Thomas Pryce, our main character, is not only compared to James Bond, but said to be the original James Bond.
I think it is misleading because we all know what  James Bond is all about, and yeah, you could say Thomas has some similarities with Bond, but only he is too… chaste. And that isn’t a bad thing, don’t get me wrong, I just wouldn’t compare him to James Bond.

The writing style is interesting. You can tell from the way the sentences were built that this novel comes from writers with years of experience in writing.
Then again, I got a feeling that there were too much tells for my taste. I’d prefer more shows, to be honest.
Also, the writing style was a bit too descriptive for my taste.

I know it sounds like I didn’t enjoy the book, but that is not the truth. I think this book is pretty adventurous and I overall enjoyed the novel, I just had to arm myself with patience until I got used to everything that was different from my expectations.

Who would I recommend this book to?
To historical fiction readers but also to fans of political stories.
Would I recommend it to James Bond fans?
Actually I would, because I think they would like it, but would tell them not to expect lots of booze and women because Thomas Pryce is different from James Bond we all know from the movies.

About the authors:

G.P. Taylor

(born 1958 in Scarborough, North Yorkshire), pen-name G. P. Taylor, is the author of the best-selling novels Shadowmancer, Wormwood and Tersias. Before taking up writing full-time, he was an Anglican vicar in the village of Cloughton, North Yorkshire.
His works reflect his faith, carrying Christian messages like The Chronicles of Narnia of C.S. Lewis. He began to write his works to counter the increasing number of works, such as Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that he believed were encouraging children to investigate the occult. His works have also garnered some controversy however, because whilst Taylor has claimed to be “an authority on Wicca and paganism”, his books have been considered offensive by some neopagans for describing them as being tricked by the Devil.

Mark Stibbe doesn’t have his biography on Goodreads nor on Amazon.

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Book Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Title: Allegedly
Author: Tiffany D. Jackson
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Date: January 24th, 2017
Pages: 400
Format: ebook
Source: Purchased

 

Synopsis (from Amazon):

Orange Is the New Black meets Walter Dean Myer’s Monster in this gritty, twisty, and haunting debut by Tiffany D. Jackson about a girl convicted of murder seeking the truth while surviving life in a group home.

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: a white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it?

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary’s fate now lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But does anyone know the real Mary?

Review:

Only few books can shake me. Allegedly is one of them.

After I finished this compelling novel, I needed some time to process everything that was going on in the book, as well as calm myself so I could understand my feelings.

Reading this, you probably think I’m exaggerating.
If I was you, I’d probably think the same.
But I am telling the truth. Sometimes we don’t know how we’re going to react to a certain book, and sometimes our reactions can surprise us.

Going into this story, I knew it would be difficult for me. I was even aware how disturbing it was.
You probably hear about Allegedly, as one of novels written in own voices, one that was praised in “reading diversity” movement (if that’s a movement, I’m not 100% sure), the book that is important to read.

First of all, I agree with the statement how it is important for this book to be read, and for author’s voice to be heard.
This is one hugely important, disturbing book that represents not only people of color, but minority that we don’t get to read often about – teenagers in group home.

Honestly, I am afraid how I’m going to sound when I say this, but I will say it anyway: this novel reminded me how happy my life is. When I reflect and compare it to lives like ones I read about in this novel, to teenagers who yes, committed crimes during their lives, but are still alive and have to live with invisible “Scarlet letter” that follows them every where they go, without support of their families, in poverty and with someone else deciding about everything in their life, I understand how privileged I actually am.
And once again, I used the word I am really not a fan of, but there is no other word to say it better.

The story is told in first person, following Mary’s POV.
Beside Mary’s narration (and I have to state that Mary is one of the best narrators I had a pleasure to read about), there are bunch of newspaper articles, police interviews, excerpts from doctor’s papers and other similar stuff.

Reading Allegedly was thought provoking and emotional experience.
It definitely wasn’t easy.
Some scenes were violent and disturbing, some were harder to understand, some were extremely sad, but what hit me the most was how everyone underestimated Mary all the time.

I rooted for her, even though she never stated if she did it, if she killed the baby. She said she did, allegedly.
But yet, you as a reader don’t believe she would do such a thing. She does not seem like that kind of person.

The writing style is amazing, and I simply can not believe this is a debut novel.

One more thing I’d like to emphasize is the role of the State (here I mean criminal justice system and state foster care).
Mary’s (and other girls’) destiny depended so much on those two, that it feels like the State has it’s own personality.

There is one more thing we need to discuss: the last chapter.
I tried and tried to decide whether I like how this story ended.
At fist I was shocked, but resolved that I liked it.
Now, after some thinking, I wish the story ended differently.
Why?
Because, even though I understand why the writer chose to end the story the way she did, I can’t help but feel that some messages delivered through the story were (partly) erased with that conclusion.

Fun fact: When doing my research, I found out that this book was inspired by true event that happened in 2012, when 10 years old girl was charged with manslaughter of a three month old baby.

Book Review: By Your Side by Kasie West

Title: By Your Side
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date: January 31st, 2017
Pages: 352
Format: ebook
Source: Purchased

 

Synopsis (from Amazon):

An irresistible story from Kasie West that explores the timeless question What do you do when you fall for the person you least expect?

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn at first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

Review:

If you know me, you know Kasie West is my contemporary queen.
I simply adore her books, and I always feature them in my WoW posts, because I am always eagerly anticipating her new releases.

Since I loved every single book she wrote, I don’t think I have to underline that my expectations for By Your Side were high as Empire State Building (and yes, I am copying that group/band Fun here).

I could blame my level of expectations for the fact that this was my least favorite book written by Kasie West I read so far (I still have to read her paranormal series).
I could, but I won’t, because, truth be told, By Your Side is just a solid contemporary story that explores mental illness.
When I say solid, I mean good solid.
You see, this book is good, but it isn’t special in any way, nor will it stay with me long (I mean, it will because I know it was written by West, but if it was written by some author I read for the first time, it’d probably end up in my “to-be-donated pile).

The story talks about Autumn who finds herself locked in a library for the whole weekend.
What would be a terrible experience turns out to be a bit easier event because she was not alone. Dax, a mysterious guy who goes to school with her, is there with her.
As they spend time together, they get to know each other better and become closer.

First of all, we bookworms would be happy as hell if we got to spend weekend locked in library (okay, maybe we wouldn’t be THAT happy, but still we wouldn’t mind because we love books).
Here, there is a totally different story, because Autumn is not a reader, so in my opinion, those two could have ended up being locked in the wood storage or steal depository, the story would be the same.

Second, what kind of library doesn’t have a landline??

Third, I don’t mind love triangles, but please, if you decide to put one of guys into coma and make him a part of love triangle, please give me a chance to meet him and potentially fall in love with him before you doom his destiny.
Therefore, I would prefer if this book had two more chapters in which we’d get to know Autumn, Jeff and their friends before the whole library thing.

The best part of this novel is West’s writing style. She is always amazing when telling the story, and this one was no exception.

I also liked was how anxiety was presented in this novel. From my own experience, it was believable.
Then again, I saw some reviewers saying it wasn’t presented properly, so I guess it depends on one’s experience and own observing.
I guess everyone handles anxiety in his own way, so interpretations can be different.

What turned me off from the story was how most of the characters were selfish and self-centered.
From Autumn’s friends who didn’t even notice her missing, to Autumn herself.
I get that she was anxious, but she was also selfish.
Jeff’s best friend (whose name I forgot) was also jealous for no reason other but because he was self centred.

All in all, By Your Side is a good book to pick up when you need a light read that will entertain you, but don’t expect too much from it.

Book Review: Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

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Title: Cruel Beautiful World
Author: Caroline Leavitt
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Date: October 4th, 2016
Pages: 357
Format: eARC
Source: from Publisher for review

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Set in the early 1970s against the specter of the Manson girls, when the peace and love movement begins to turn ugly, this is the story of a runaway teenager’s disappearance and her sister’s quest to discover the truth.

Caroline Leavitt is at her mesmerizing best in this haunting, nuanced portrait of love, sisters, and the impossible legacy of family.

It’s 1969, and sixteen-year-old Lucy is about to run away with a much older man to live off the grid in rural Pennsylvania, a rash act that will have vicious repercussions for both her and her older sister, Charlotte. As Lucy’s default caretaker for most of their lives, Charlotte’s youth has been marked by the burden of responsibility, but never more so than when Lucy’s dream of a rural paradise turns into nightmare.

With gorgeous prose and indelible characters, Cruel Beautiful World examines the intricate, infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty, and what happens when you’re responsible for things you can’t fix.

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Review:

Cruel Beautiful World hit me in a way only few books can.
The story, even though is fictional, became personal to me.
Reading this book, written in the most beautiful way, became hard for me.
I already know that writing this review will be even harder.

Cruel Beautiful World talks about three sisters, Lucy and Charlotte, adopted by their aunt much older sister Iris.
Set in late 1960s and early 1970s, the story briefly talks about Mason girls and perfectly describes the atmosphere and fear that was present in that time.

Lucy is 16 years old girl who falls in love for the first time. She thinks no one understands her completely, no one but the man she loves – William, her teacher who encourages her to write, because he believes she could be a famous writer one day.

After some time, William gets a new job, in free school, and Lucy decides to move away with him.
Because she is a minor, she must not tell anyone, not even her sister, where the two of them will be going.
When they settle down in a small house in rural Pennsylvania, William controls Lucy’s every move and, because she is often alone in the house (waiting for him to come back) she realizes that the kind of life she chose for herself is not the kind she wants.

Charlotte is Lucy’s older sister, who has always been her protector. She is in college, an excellent student, but after Lucy starts missing, she can’t concentrate on anything. Her soul can’t have rest until she finds her.

Iris thought she would never be a mother, but once the girls come into her life they become her world.
She never told them she is their sister, they think they are her nieces.
After Lucy’s disapearance, Iris can’t have piece. She lives for the day she’ll reunite with Lucy.

Cruel Beautiful World is beautifully written story. Caroline Leavitt really captured the 1970s atmosphere well, but where she did the best job was in describing feelings.

While reading this book, one can not help but feel. Feel love, feel fear, feel sadness, feel anger, and feel the feelings that are hard to explain with words.

Lucy was my favorite character. In fact, she got so under my skin, that she became one of my all time favorite characters.
Maybe that is why I was so concerned about her.

I hated William. I still hate him. There are a lot of personal reasons why I hate him, but it is what it is.
I rarely hate book characters, I even often like villains, but I hate William passionately.

Cruel Beautiful World is beautiful, emotional book with an open ending, that I would highly recommend to literary fiction lovers out there.

4

Book Review: Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa

Title: Annabel Lee
Series: Coffey & Hill (#1)
Author: Mike Nappa
Publisher: Revell
Date: March 1st, 2016
Pages: 363
Format: Paperback
Source: from Publisher for review

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): On a farm fourteen miles east of Peachtree, Alabama, a secret is hidden–a secret named Annabel Lee. Her uncle’s last words before he hid her away: “Don’t open that door for anybody, you got it? Not even me.”

Review:

Annabel Lee was somewhat interesting read.
It’s a suspense thriller, and I naively fooled myself into thinking I’d read horror (don’t even ask me how I managed to do it, I’ll just blame the cover) so my whole reading experience was similar to the one one would have if he turned on TV thinking he would watch House at the End of the Street, but ended up watching an episode of CSI Miami instead.

However, I enjoyed reading this book.

The story follows three perspectives: Trudy’s, Mute’s and Annabel Lee’s.
Two of them are told in third person (Trudi’s and Mute’s), while Annabel’s was written in first person (later in the story we find out that her perspective are actually pages from her diary).

The story talks about 11 years old girl, Annabel Lee, who’s uncle locked her in the basement (with his dog whom Annabel is afraid of) and gave her an order not to open the door to anyone, not even to him, without a secret code.

We don’t know why Annabel’s uncle Truck did what he did, nor was it done with an aim to protect Annabel, or protect someone else from Annabel.
We get an impression that Annabel is important, even special in a way, but we don’t know why.

Right after her put her in the basement, Annabel’s uncle was killed and Mute witnessed the murder.
Now, Mute’s mission is to keep the girl safe, before bad guys take her. In order to save her, Mute has to get her out of the basement, but he has no secret code.

That is where spouses from Coffey & Hill come in (Trudi and her ex husband Samuel). Samuel got the secret code from Truck years ago, and now all three of them work together to save Annabel.

Nappa’s writing style is solid and although this book reads quickly, the pacing is very slow, with lots of descriptions.

I enjoyed reading all of the perspectives, but Annabel’s POV was my favorite.
She is really smart, educated and patient little girl who gets under reader’s skin so easily.
Regardless, I have to state that I didn’t like how she often sounded like a 30 years old women, instead of like 11 years old girl that she is.

Mute was my best-loved character in this story.

What I liked the most was the relationship between the girl and her uncle’s dog.
It’s development was described so well, and I welcomed how at the very beginning anytime Annabel talks about the dog she calls him “it”, and along as the story progesses, “it” becomes “he”.

When it comes to the bad guy who wanted to take Annabel, his idea was mean, but yet genius at the same time.
I don’t want to sound weird here, but I kind of admired his purpose.

One thing that needs to be stressed is that Annabel Lee is piece of Christian fiction.
To be honest, I am not sure why is that, because I didn’t feel like anything religious was forced in this story (or maybe I am just blind to those kind of things).
One thing that I noticed was that in the basement, among so many books, there was also a Bible.
And once, closer to the end of the novel, Annabel said something about Jesus and his purpose.
It was only one sentence and it felt more like a general thought.

This is the first book in the series, but the story it covered is completed.
In the next book, The Raven, we follow Trudi and Samuel solving another case.
I already have the book in my possession, and I plan to read it pretty soon, while the characters are still fresh in my mind.

Book review: The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

the-fifth-letter

Title: The Fifth Letter
Author: Nicola Moriarty
Publisher: Penguin, Michael Joseph
Date: March 2nd, 2017
Pages: 362
Format: Paperback
Source: from Publisher for review

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Joni, Trina, Deb and Eden.

Best friends since the first day of school. Best friends, they liked to say, forever.

But now they are in their thirties and real life – husbands, children, work – has got in the way. So, resurrecting their annual trip away, Joni has an idea, something to help them reconnect.

Each woman will write an anonymous letter, sharing with their friends the things that are really going on in their lives.

But as the confessions come tumbling out, Joni starts to feel the certainty of their decades-long friendships slip from her fingers.

Anger. Accusations. Desires. Deceit.

And then she finds another letter. One that was never supposed to be read. A fifth letter. Containing a secret so big that its writer had tried to destroy it. And now Joni is starting to wonder, did she ever really know her friends at all?

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Review:

When it comes to my reading experience with this book, there’s no other word to describe it but “lazy”.
I confess: I started this (mystery) book knowing that all the questions will be answered eventually and that, with time, I’ll find out who wrote the fifth letter and which from four letters belong to whom, so I didn’t bother.
I just read, the most relaxed as one reader can be, lazy to try to figure out myself.

Is it my fault for not getting invested into the book as much as the author probably wanted me to be?
Definitely.
But is it also the author’s fault for that, because her story didn’t make me want to know the answers right away?
I can’t say for sure.

But let me tell you: I liked this book. I don’t regret my laziness because I enjoyed reading this novel the way I did.

The story follows four friends who every year spend few days together on vacation. It is their tradition.
This year, they decide that each of them will write a letter in which they will tell a secret they haven’t told anyone before.
The idea sounds interesting and fun, especially because the letters won’t be signed.
What starts as a game turns into more serious situation after Joni finds the fifth letter, written by one of them, in which the one spells her bitterness and hatred for one of them.

I liked the premise of the story, and the idea of the plot, but if I’m being completely honest, I think that the content of the fifth letter wasn’t as disturbing (but then again, if I was one of four friends, maybe I’d think differently).
Also, in my humble opinion, some secrets should have stayed what they were in the first place – secrets.

Even though there was too much drama at time, I really, really liked what The Fifth Letter offered.

The main character, Joni, was the one I could relate to the most.
Trina was my second favorite, while I sometimes had problem separating Deb and Eden.

The Fifth Letter is written in third person. It is pretty easy to read, but at the same time it does not read quickly (at least it didn’t in my case).

Overall, The Fifth Letter is a solid, enjoyable read that I would recommend.

3,75

The Witchfinder’s Sister Book Review (Blog Tour)

the-witchfinders-sister-blog

I am so happy to be today’s host in The Witchfinder’s Sister Blog Tour.
I liked this book and I am excited to share my review.
I’d like to thank Josie Murdoch from Penguin Random House UK, for giving me this opportunity.

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About the book:

The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…

1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

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My Review:

It has been 15 days since I read The Witchfinder’s Sister, and I still don’t know what to think about it.
That happens rarely to me, almost never.
I have to warn you that my review will probably be all over the place because I am still finding the words to express my thoughts, but there is one thing I can say for sure: The Witchfinder’s Sister left me confused.

The story follows Alice Hopkins who returns to her childhood town to live with her brother Matthew, after a tragic death of her husband.
Since she saw him last time, Matthew changed.
He gained a lot of respect and hangs out with powerful men.
His job is to “expose” witches, put them on trial and punish them if they’re found guilty.

First thing that has to be stress out is that Matthew’s character is based on real person who lived in 17th century in England, and who is responsible for many of  lives lost because women were accused of practicing  witchcraft.
Despite that, this novel is piece of fiction.

It is told in first person, from Alice’s point of view.
I can’t say if the language in this book is authentic to the one that was in use in 1645, but it sounds a bit different from today’s modern English, but at the same time it reads pretty quickly.

The first third of the book was excellent.
The author really managed to describe the cold atmosphere that I imagine was present in that time.
I also liked how it wasn’t clear if the paranormal aspect was really present in the plot, or was it just in the minds of people that live in this book.
There was a point where I had to stop reading because I was too scared (and it was bedtime, so I didn’t want to have a sleepless night(I feel obligated to also tell you that the “problem” was in my head and the book isn’t as scarry as I was afraid it would be)).

The second half of the book was boring, which is a shame.
There were so many descriptions and so little conversations.
I wish we got to see more scenes from trials, but instead we got scenes with Alice hanging out with accused woman.
However, parts where she’s discovering mysery around her brother were really interesting.

I still don’t know what to think about the ending part related to Matthew.
It was somewhat unusual, that is for sure!

The end was good. I really, really liked the last sentence.

Overall, I liked the story in general, but I think it could have been told in more interesting way then it was.
It had potential to be even better.

Still, I think fans of historical fiction would appreciate this story so I recommend it to them, as well as to everyone else who’d like to read more about real witch hunt that happened in England during 17th century.

3,5

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About Beth Underdown:

beth-underdown

Beth Underdown was born in Rochdale in 1987. She studied at the University of York and then the University of Manchester, where she is now a Lecturer in Creative Writing.

The Witchfinder’s Sister is her debut novel, and is based on the life of the 1640s witch finder Matthew Hopkins.

 

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