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: 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!

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.