Review: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman – Theodora Goss

059 - European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman

059 - European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman

Rating – 4*

After reading the first book in this series and loving it, I had to immediately pick up the second in the series. Now, I’ll admit I was a little intimidated when I saw the size of this (700 and something pages!) but I somehow read this book in 2 or 3 sittings. I just couldn’t put this down.

Just to apologise in advance, this may contain spoilers for the first book, even though I am trying my best to make it spoiler free!

This book picks up where the previous left off, the characters are just as wonderful – if not more so – than they were in the first book. All of the female characters develop more, and we are introduced to a few more amazing women including Lucinda van Helsing, Carmilla, and an interesting woman in power – Aisha. We also get to meet Count Dracula and Mina Harker, which is always a bonus! My love of Dracula made me love this book all the more. The inclusion of Carmilla, and her female lover, made me very happy. Even though this is set in the 1890s every character that met them both just accepted it, maybe it’s just their nature as they themselves aren’t exactly your stereotypical citizen of the world, but it was just really refreshing! Dare I say that I loved Carmilla in this more than I loved Carmilla?

The initial premise of this is that Lucinda van Helsing needs rescued, and much like with all of the girls in the Athena Club did at one point in the first book. Something weird is happening to Lucinda, and they need to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible. This journey takes them across Europe and out of the London that we became familiar with in the first book. And while there is a more in depth plot to this book than the first, it’s the characters that give the book momentum to move forward. The women in this are all incredible, and it’s why I loved the first book so much, and while I loved the plot it was them that made it all the better. We also get a more in depth look at their lives before they were all together, in freak shows and circuses, and all the colourful characters they knew (and new friends too!) Much like with the first book, their main motivation is understanding why their fathers created them all; it’s just taken to a new, more international, level in this.

Much like with the first book there is a strong female empowerment message, even in the characters from a different generation have the same view, mainly through the persuasion and influence from the younger girls! The women are so varied in their characteristics, and skills and it’s just so, so wonderful to see such a mish-mash of characters as friends. It makes me very happy.

Needless to say this has very easily become one of my favourite book series. I really can’t wait for the third and final book to tie all the loose ends in this up. I just can’t express how much I love this series, and a third book is going to be bittersweet when it’s finally released because I don’t want this series to end, but equally I can’t see where it goes. I think it’s safe to say I’d highly recommend this!

Review: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter – Theodora Goss

058 - The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter

058 - The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter

Rating – 4*

I saw this book, and the sequel, on offer on Amazon and I have to admit, the premise fascinated me so I picked it up. Sometimes I love picking a book up on a whim because you go in with no expectations and can only be surprised!

This story follows Mary Jekyll, the daughter of Dr Jekyll, her mother has just died and she is penniless. While sorting through her mothers affects she comes upon some interesting facts about her fathers mysterious past. In dire straits, she stumbles upon some interesting information about a Mr Hyde – and takes it to the only man who will know what to do with it. Sherlock Holmes. Needless to say this premise is incredible, it sounds very bizarre but it works.

Every character in this book is the progeny of a famous “monster” in literature, and throughout the book we’re introduced to a band of girls alongside Mary –  Diana Hyde, Justine Frankenstein, Catherine Moreau and Beatrice Rappaccini. All of these girls/women have been created through experimentation (and even if you haven’t read Frankenstein, or the Island of Doctor Moreau, you get enough backstory to understand their characters). The title of this book is clever, because while we focus primarily on Mary, every one of these women is an Alchemist’s Daughter, and we get all of their back stories. Alongside Sherlock and Watson, this group of unlikely friends uncover something a lot deeper and darker than they were anticipating.

All of the characters in this are fantastic, feisty and feminist. These are the female protagonists I want in literature – especially young adult literature. None of the women in this book conform to gender stereotypes, they’re politically involved and vocal about women’s rights. Often throughout the book there are lines like “It’s the 1890s, and we’re thoroughly modern women” and I just loved that.

An interesting technique is engaged in the writing of this, and it’s that the characters interject in the middle of a chapter, giving their thoughts and essentially “arguing” with each other. In the physical book I’m sure this is something that can be glossed over/ignored, but actually I listened to this as an audiobook alongside the eBook, and it added a really fun insight in to the characters before you fully knew their stories! I can understand this technique isn’t for everyone, but for me it was just a little bit of fun and it did add to the narrative.

I absolutely loved this, I loved it so much I promptly purchased the second in the series (and read it immediately after) because I needed to know what happened next. It was just so much fun – I can’t actually explain how much I enjoyed this.

If you want some badass women in the late 19th century with a good story and also easy to read – give this some consideration because it’s fun, and who doesn’t like a bit of fun now and again?

Review: The Girl in the Tower – Katherine Arden

007 - The Girl in the Tower

007 - The Girl in the TowerAfter reading The Bear and the Nightingale in December and being completely swept away, learning it was going to be a series made me very excited! I was even more excited when I learnt that I didn’t have all that long to wait. This is the first ‘open’ series I’ve picked up in a very long time, and already I can’t wait for the 3rd and final book.

We pick up nearly immediately after the events of The Bear and the Nightingale. Vasya has fled her hometown after being accused of witchcraft and is travelling across the country to her remaining family in Moscow. When she gets there we learn a lot more of the life of a Medieval Russian court, we get an insight in to things like the politics all while still having a fantastic fairy tale playing out.

As you can expect, the story is a lot more complex than the one in the first book. Vasya herself is a lot more complex; she’s more confident, she’s older and wiser, and more importantly she’s absolutely kickass and refuses to conform to societal norms. I absolutely adore Vasya as a character. Who doesn’t love a book where a girl doesn’t want to fit in to gender-norms, isn’t afraid to be herself, knows that bravery and intelligence aren’t just traits for men to boast, and knows that being a woman does not make her a lesser person? Vasya loves freedom, loves exploration, wants to see the world; not get married and have children which is what everyone expects of a young woman, whether she likes it or not.

Ah, I just love Vasya as a character. I could easily talk about her all day.

Vasya isn’t the only character in this book though, in going to Moscow we get reintroduced to her remaining family, her monastic brother Sasha and her older sister, Olga, who has 2 children and one on the way when we first meet her again. I was quite surprised at how rounded they were as characters in this book, I’m not sure I was expecting such rounded ‘background’ characters. Come the end of the book, both of them were in my good books again (Sasha rarely left them, but Olga did). One thing I am looking forward to is how the story with Vasya’s niece is going to progress because we learn a few things about that little girl, Masha, and I’m excited already as to what will happen!

This was my first 5* read of 2018. I adored this book. absolutely loved it. I would recommend this series to so many people – it’s an absolutely beautiful read. The third, and final, book in this series is expected to be released Autumn 2018 – needless to say it’s already on my pre-order list.

Highly, highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in a little bit of fairytale, Russian folklore and history… anyone who loves a bloody good read, actually.

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden

055 - The Bear and the Nightingale

Rating – 4*

The Bear and the Nightingale is a book that I have been seeing everywhere since it came out earlier this year but I kept ignoring it. Every time I saw it I was drawn in by the cover but, for some reason, I just didn’t pick it up – and having read it now I think maybe subconsciously I was waiting for the right time to read it. This, my readers, is the perfect Winter book to curl up under a blanket with and that is just what I did. I curled up and read it in one sitting and I cannot tell you how good it felt to do that with a book after so long!

I’m not familiar with Russian fairy tales and folklore but, honestly, you don’t need to be to enjoy this. In the first chapter the fairy tale this is based on is recounted to the children by their nanny. It’s the story of the frost demon – Morozko – who is the Russian equivalent of Jack Frost.

“In Russian, Frost was called Morozko, the demon of winter. But long ago, the people called him Karachun, the death-god. Under that name, he was king of black midwinter who came for bad children and froze them in the night.”

As a reader we’re following the life of Vasya. Vasya is everything I could dream of in a fairy tale retelling, she’s strong willed and wild, she doesn’t conform to societal norms of the culture she lives in – which in Medieval Russia is very misogynistic and not at all easy. Vasya, at least to me, was very much like Merida in Pixar’s Brave and that’s how I was picturing her.

Vasya is different, and when her mother was pregnant with her she could tell this. She knew that Vasya was to have a gift much like her Grandmothers – she can see the spirit guardians around her home, and those in the wild around her. To most these spirits are fairy stories, but everyone still adheres to the old ways – honouring those spirits, leaving food out for them and such, and while that still happens all is well. But then the old ways fall by the wayside leading to devastation in the community. Vasya doesn’t give up though, she continues adhering to the old ways, honouring the spirits – but being strong willed and defiant in a culture like that only leads to bad things for young women!

That’s nothing more than a very short summary – this story is so much more than that and is full of adventure and familial love – something I think so many books are lacking! Reading the blurb, this book really sounded like another YA trope jumping in the fairy tale retelling bandwagon. While it probably could be considered YA, I feel it had a lot more context and a lot fewer tropes than your standard YA book.

What makes me very happy is that there is to be another book in this world, and based on what Katherine Arden has said on Goodreads that the second is to focus on Vasya and her siblings Olga and Sasha who are two characters I really wanted to learn more about.

If anyone has looked at this book and put it back down, I’d say give it a chance because it is genuinely one of the cosiest books I’ve read recently, and I would definitely say this is a Christmas-y read. I for one loved it and was taken very much by surprise!


Review: Library of Souls – Ransom Riggs

29 - Library of Souls

Rating – 3*

This is possibly one of the most highly anticipated books I on my bookshelf, I absolutely loved book 1 and 2 (reviews here and here). Now, I would suggest if you want to read this and it was a while since you read book two, go back and read at least the last few chapters of book two to refresh yourself because I was lost. This book throws you right in at the action, immediately as the second book ends. This series would definitely benefit from a solid read-through over the course of a week or so.

As I said, this book throws you straight in at the action, and it starts at a really good pace. The problem is, it slows down. The sense of adventure was there throughout the book, and it did pick up again, but that initial loss of momentum threw me off a little. There are a number of new locations introduced in this book, each bringing with it a set of challenges and a new aspect to this rescue mission that Jacob and Emma are on; these places are incredible, and the descriptions were vivid enough that I didn’t even need the pictures alongside the words. The primary one, Devil’s Acre, really adds to the desperation that Jacob and Emma are feeling and I do love it when the setting adds to the mood of the book.

Once I reoriented myself with where I was and the characters, the story slowed considerably. There was also the issue of a lot of new characters being introduced at this late stage of the overall story, while I appreciate that sometimes that is necessary, all the characters introduced were forced and convenient. Not only that, but even the existing characters fell a little flat and lacked all depth; Jacob became conveniently amazing at harnessing his peculiarity and it was down to him to save all of peculiardom and all the others, well, they were pushed aside and I really hated that. The end was what annoyed me most. Don’t get me wrong, I love a book which ties up loose ends, but this book tied up all the ends in such a perfect little bow that it was infuriating. I like a happy ending, but this one took the biscuit.

Saying all that, I still enjoyed this book, and I really enjoyed the series as a whole. It’s by far and away one of the most unique book series I’ve read, the combination of antique pictures and such a vivid world just makes this so interesting. I absolutely cannot wait for the film which is due out sometime this year! I’d recommend this series highly for someone who wants something different, or something immersive but quite easy to follow. So yes, this is mighty fun in spite of the problems I had with it, they were just personal issues really. Don’t let those put you off.

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Review: The Wicked Will Rise – Danielle Paige

thewickedwillriseAfter reading the first book in the space of 2 days I read the second in a matter of two sittings and about 3-4 hours. This series has just been unputdownable for me, and it’s rare that that happens to me with a book – never mind a series. I’m very much a standalone reader!

So, after the first book we were left with Dorothy needing to embark on a quest before she can kill Dorothy. This picks up pretty much exactly where that left of, with just a little recap of the events of the first book and, what can I say, it was fantastic. It was about half the length of the first book but it was definitely all action and an improvement, in my eyes, on the first.

The dystopian Oz just gets darker and darker in this book, it has to be said. And the characters! We’re introduced to the Wingless Monkeys and we get a look at the versions of Polychrome and Bright, who featured in the original series by Baum,  as envisioned by Paige in this Oz Dystopia which I loved.

My biggest issue with this is the romance. It is why I avoid YA books because the romance does often seem a bit forced or unnecessary. I love Amy, Amy in this book was just fantastic but I felt the whole thing with Nox was somewhat meh. And then there was this thing with Pete and… I just despair because this would honestly have been a 5* book if it wasn’t for the romance. The strongest part of this book is how many characters are badass girls! Badass girls who are off saving people and killing witches; if only they, or at least Amy, didn’t get distracted by boys!

So ultimately this is a 4/5 for me and I’m anticipating the 3rd book (I thought it was a duology, it is not) which is out next year some time. So it’ll be a long wait in which I may find myself reading the prequel novellas that Paige has written. I’m so glad these books were recommended to me because I probably wouldn’t have picked them up myself!

Blog: Dorothy Must Die – Danielle Paige

Dorothy Must DieSo this was a book that was recommended to me by Robert, one of the best book recommenders, at one of my local independent bookshops (Jarrold’s) during Independent Bookshop Week. Even though I knew very little about it it was one I took from his hands with glee because, if you don’t know, The Wizard of Oz is one of my favourite books of all time – for some it is Alice in Wonderland but for me it will always be The Wizard of Oz.

This is the story of Amy Gumm, that other girl from Kansas. She’s not had the best upbringing, she lives in a trailer park with her not-so-great mother and things are pretty rough for her. They don’t get much better even when a tornado whips through her home and lands her in Oz. Oz is not the happy, cheery place it was and it’s all because of Dorothy. Dorothy returned to Oz to stay and, as a result, Oz is a somewhat dystopian version of itself.

Now, this was YA. YA is a genre I don’t read a lot of, it’s a genre I don’t often enjoy and, in a way, I didn’t enjoy this as much as I had hoped. It was great but some of the general tropes of YA fiction I felt held it back at times. Amy is a great main character. She’s a young girl with sass and I like that, but sometimes she was a bit Mary-Sue in that she filled a lot of tropes of a generic ass-kicking female. I still liked her. It has to be said.

My favourite part I think is simply that Danielle Paige has remained faithful to the original series. Really there are few original characters, most of them were in some way introduced in the original series by L Frank Baum (maybe even more than I think because I am yet to complete the entire series!) It was just wonderful to revisit the series in a slightly different way. The Oz Dystopia is so interesting!

My main problem is that I feel that the blurb is a cop out. All I can say is I’m thankful I have the second book already sat there because honestly, what is written on the back isn’t actually introduced until the final chapter. When going in to this, I was expecting what was on the blurb to actually happen not just be introduced in the final 10 pages!

Overall, this is a solid 3/5. There are problems with it, but it’s a really enjoyable, quick read. Before going in to it I would definitely recommend reading a few of the Oz books by Baum just to get a feel of the characters. It was great to read a much lighter book (I’m also reading The Count of Monte Cristo right now so this was a great reprieve!) Anyway, I am actually going to start the second book in the series right now because I want to know what happens.

So yeah. A good book, 3/5 and definitely one of the better YA books I have experienced!

Review: Hollow City – Ransom Riggs

hollowcityFor anyone who doesn’t know, this is the second book in the Miss Perigrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series. I read the first one in October (review here) and I loved it, so when this came out in paperback I snapped it up.

It picked up right where book one left us. This one is much more action packed than the first, the way I described it to my friend today was it’s very Alice in Wonderland/Wizard of Oz but written by Tim Burton. It’s an adventure, it’s a quest, it’s dark and twisted and I loved it. There were flaws in it, it was a bit far fetched even for a ‘fantasy’ novel (is this a fantasy novel?!) in places but ultimately it was damn good.

It is a very slow start and I struggled to find the willpower to get through the first 100 pages or so; the final 300-ish pages I read in 2 days. The characters didn’t really develop all that much more, which saddened me a little, there was a lot of missed potential with them. I think there was just so much that Riggs could have done with such vibrant characters – instead they were all quite one dimensional.

The ending was just “what?”, that twist I did not see coming and I loved it. It was a mad frenzy in the last 50 pages or so and I just need a 3rd book now because leaving it on that cliffhanger was just mean! Seriously, if you’ve read the first one and thought that was a tough cliffie, this is worse.

On the most part I loved this book. I loved the characters even though they were underdeveloped and I loved the plot. It was just good and compulsively readable once I got past the 100 page mark. This series is one that is way out of my comfort zone of reading, I just love it though. I’m glad I took a risk on this series and I can’t wait for book 3. It’s a solid 4/5 from me!

Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs


This book was interesting. I was nervous about picking this up, I didn’t really know how the story and vintage pictures were going to work together, I wasn’t entirely certain how the plot was going to unfold but it wasn’t all that bad! It wasn’t what I was expecting, but that seems to be a recurring theme with books I read lately! There were flaws, of course, which I will expand on, but overall it was a pretty easy read. Easy to follow and a novel concept too!

I was expecting something a bit more creepy, I thought this book looked perfect for a spooky Halloween type read but it was not really all that creepy. It started out quite promisingly but veered off a bit. Also, I feel that it could have been so much more. It felt a little underbaked in parts, the plot could have been more developed and characters more fleshed out. Even Jacob seemed a little two-dimensional and the story was centred around him.

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Review: We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

we were liarsThis is a book I’m really struggling to review. Most people say go in to this blind – know nothing – so I’m going to stick to that and not spoil it for anyone.

I’m in a minority, I didn’t find it lived up to the hype. I read and listened to so many reviews of this book, I was told it was amazing and the plot twist was just ‘so surprising’ but I just didn’t feel it. I found the plot twist a little, well, crappy if I’m honest. It was a cheap way out.

I don’t really have the time to do an in depth review about a book I didn’t particularly enjoy. I only read it because it was a book club book, ordinarily I would never have picked this up. I’m not a fan of YA. I’ll make no bones about that fact and this book was just so full of typical YA stereotypes and words cannot express how much I would not read this book again.

It was an okay book, but it has to be 2/5.