Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Review: The Betrayals by Bridget Collins

Publisher: Harper Collins
Published: 12th November 2020

At Montverre, an exclusive academy tucked away in the mountains, the best and brightest are trained for excellence in the grand jeu: an arcane and mysterious contest. Léo Martin was once a student there, but lost his passion for the grand jeu following a violent tragedy. Now he returns in disgrace, exiled to his old place of learning with his political career in tatters.

Montverre has changed since he studied there, even allowing a woman, Claire Dryden, to serve in the grand jeu’s highest office of Magister Ludi. When Léo first sees Claire he senses an odd connection with her, though he’s sure they have never met before.

Both Léo and Claire have built their lives on lies. And as the legendary Midsummer Game, the climax of the year, draws closer, secrets are whispering in the walls…

'The Betrayals' is one of the books that I have been most looking forward to reading in 2020. Bridget Collins first novel for adults, 'The Binding', was one of my books of 2019, so I thought it was a sure bet that I was going to love this one too. It sounded intriguing and mysterious, although from reading the synopsis several times, I wasn't quite sure which exact genres it fit into. Collins states that the story itself is heavily influenced by Hermann Hesse's 'The Glass Bead Game'. I've seen that book many times in the library but I haven't read it myself so knowing the inspiration for the novel didn't really help me much either. Still, all those factors only added to my excited anticipation when I turned to the first page. 

There are very few prominent characters in the novel and overshadowing them all is the 'Grand Jeu'. A game which combines a mixture of music and math, philosophy and religion. All the students and teachers at Montverre study the game and many have devoted their lives to it but although what I did learn about it was fascinating, it becomes almost so abstract that I have to admit that I didn't fully understand it at all. Thinking about it after having finished the book though, maybe that is deliberate choice by the author. This is a game that people spend their whole lives playing and which is so complex that years of study, teaching and discussions go into it. Perhaps it's a game that the reader is never expected to be able to decipher. Although I tried to keep that in mind, I just felt that I wanted to know more and therefore I was left feeling slightly dissatisfied at the end. 

The narrative follows the characters of Claire, who is Montverre's first female Magister Ludi and Leo, who was a student at the boarding school a long time ago and who is returning in exile. There's also the character of The Rat who appears at various points in the story. The pull between Claire and Leo is brilliantly portrayed and there's a sense that they are being drawn together but at the same time, torn apart by the lies and secrets that they are both hiding. There's an insinuation in the first half of the book that there is more to their relationship than is first evident and I really enjoyed the slow unraveling of their carefully concealed deceits and the devastatingly clever twist that ensues.     

This is definitely a book that may take the reader a while to warm to. It's fairly slow in the beginning and you do have to have a little patience while the story takes shape. I found that it really crept up on me though and before I knew it, I was struggling to put it down and desperate to know what was going to happen next. I enjoy the style of Bridget Collins's writing immensely and although I didn't quite enjoy this as much as 'The Binding', it was still an intriguing and fascinating read that I feel I will want to read again in the future and perhaps uncover another layer of understanding.  

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Review: All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

Publisher: Titan Books
Published: 4th August 2020

As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer - the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it's never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy's dangerous soul magic. When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he'll help her prove she's fit to rule, if she'll help him reclaim his stolen magic. But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder - and more peril - than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she'll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stow-away she never expected... or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever.
'All the Stars and Teeth' is a YA fantasy with a powerful and flawed Princess, a cursed pirate called Bastian, adventure and danger on the high seas and an abundance of magic. It is a fast-paced and exciting opening to a duology which weaves a compelling tale about the abuse of power and how one girl attempts to save a kingdom.

I enjoyed it because it was so unique and different to anything else that I've read recently in the YA fantasy genre. The story was unpredictable and the characters were multi-faceted. Nobody was completely good or bad and that made everything much more interesting. Case in point is the so-called heroine of the story, Amora Montara. She has spent her whole life readying herself to follow in her father's footsteps and become the High Animancer. She is devoted to her people but also longs for adventure and wants to explore the other islands that make up the kingdom of Visidia. When the test to prove that she is fit to be the heir to her father's throne goes horribly wrong, she flees the island, looking for a way in which she can win back the peoples' trust and make a triumphant return.

She's a fiesty and headstrong character but has always listened to her father's guidance and done her best to make him proud. She has grown-up being taught about the magic she holds within her but as events start to unravel she discovers that there is more than one side to the story of the Montara's rise to power. She does a lot of questionable things in the book, not all of which I agreed with but I think that makes her seem so much more real and easier to identify with.

I also loved the character of Ferrick who she is reluctantly engaged to and who is a healer with the ability to do pretty cool things, such as regenerating body parts. Vataea is pretty awesome as well but Bastian, the pirate who Amora escapes with, was definitely my absolute favourite. I'm pretty obsessed with pirate books generally but Bastian and his ship the Keel Haul gave me everything that I long for in a good pirate book. There's some love/hate sparks between him and Amora going on throughout but the romance never swamps the rest of the story. It sizzles away in the background and then flares to life at particular moments in the book which may just have been among my favourite bits.

Adalyn Grace has done a terrific job of the world building. There's a handy guide in the beginning of the book to the kingdom of Visidia which I found helpful in keeping track of the different places that they visit throughout the story. Each one is more fascinating and magical than the next. I especially enjoyed their trip to Mornute, the island of enchantment magic but also Kerost, where the people have the ability to control time.

The ending was hugely intriguing and contained a great plot twist which sets things up nicely for the next book, 'All the Tides of Fate' which will be published in 2021.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Review: Alpha Night by Nalini Singh

Publisher: Gollancz
Published: 11th June 2020

Alpha wolf Selenka Durev’s devotion to her pack is equaled only by her anger at anyone who would harm those under her care. That currently includes the empaths who’ve flowed into her city for a symposium that is a security nightmare, a powder keg just waiting for a match.

Ethan Night is an Arrow who isn’t an Arrow. Numb and disengaged from the world, he’s loyal only to himself. Assigned as part of the security force at a world-first symposium, he carries a dark agenda tied to the power-hungry and murderous Consortium. Then violence erupts and Ethan finds himself crashing into the heart and soul of an alpha wolf.

Mating at first sight is a myth, a fairytale. Yet Selenka’s wolf is resolute: Ethan Night, broken Arrow and a man capable of obsessive devotion, is the mate it has chosen. Even if the mating bond is full of static and not quite as it should be. Because Selenka’s new mate has a terrible secret, his mind surging with a power that is a creature of madness and death…

I have yet to read all of the books in the Psy-Changeling Trinity series but I loved the previous installment, 'Wolf Rain' so I had high hopes for 'Alpha Night'. I think because of the fact that I haven't read the whole series, some parts didn't make as much sense to me as they probably should and occasionally, I got a little confused about some of the different factions that feature in the book. So I would recommend that you start from the beginning as I think it would add to your overall enjoyment.

'Alpha Night' features Alpha wolf, Selenka Durev and Ethan Night, an Arrow who feels that he has been irrevocably damaged by his childhood and upbringing. They are an odd pairing but when they first meet, they discover that they have mated at first sight, even though they know next to nothing about one another. Mating at first sight is believed to be an almost impossible myth but when it happens to these two, the bond they forge is unbreakable. The problem is that the mating bond isn't quite as it should be and that Ethan's mind is shadowed by a sinister force that could prove to be deadly.

At the start, I wasn't too sure about the fact that the main characters mated at first sight. I mean this literally happens within the first couple of chapters and so there was no time to feel the slow build between the couple as they got to know each other and fell in love. It just happened completely out of the blue. I liked the fact that their devotion meant they were immediately protective of each other but I missed the romantic build-up that normally happens. As the story progressed, I loved the way that Ethan integrated with Selenka's pack and I was utterly charmed by the fact that the pups (and Selenka) loved him so much!

The character of The Architect mysteriously appears in the story again and I'm dying to know who they are. Nalini Singh is really drawing out the suspense which has me so intrigued about their real identity and the ultimate end-game.

I have to say that I didn't enjoy this one as much as 'Wolf Rain' but I'm still eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. If you love paranormal-romance then Nalini Singh is an author that needs to be on your to-read list.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Blog tour: Viper's Daughter by Michelle Paver

I'm extremely excited to be taking part in the blog tour for Michelle Paver's new book, 'Viper's Daughter'. I was gifted a proof of the book in exchange for an honest review.

A boy. A wolf. The legend lives on.

Viper’s Daughter is the seventh book in the award-winning series that began with Wolf Brother, selling over 3 million copies in 36 territories. Like them it can be read as a standalone story.

For two summers Torak and Renn have been living in the Forest with their faithful pack-brother, Wolf. But their happiness is shattered when Renn realizes Torak is in danger and she’s the threat.

When she mysteriously disappears, Torak and Wolf brave the Far North to find her. At the mercy of the Sea Mother and haunted by ravenous ice bears, their quest leads them to the Edge of the World. There they must face an enemy more evil than any they’ve encountered.

Viper’s Daughter plunges you back into the Stone-Age world of Torak, Renn and Wolf: a world of demons, Hidden People and exhilarating adventure which has entranced millions of readers.

'Viper's Daughter' returned me to Michelle Paver's richly imagined Stone Age world. It was a treat and a privilege to see Torak, Renn and Wolf once again and to follow in their footsteps as they embark on a dangerous journey to the Edge of the World.

I grew up reading Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series and although I always wondered what might have happened to the characters next, I honestly didn't think that after such a long time, we would be gifted with another book in the series. I was overjoyed to find out that there was going to be a new addition and I was dying to get my hands on it as soon as I heard the news. 'Viper's Daughter' was most definitely everything that I was hoping for. It can be read as a continuation of the series or as a standalone story, which means that those who have yet to discover these wonderful books, can enjoy it too.

What I particularly liked about the book was the depth of detail that is incorporated about the Stone Age world and the lush, imaginative descriptions of the people and the landscape. As a reader, it really helped to draw me in and immerse me in the story. Michelle Paver has quite clearly done an enormous amount of research and it adds a layer of authenticity that makes you want to discover more about this particular way of life and how people survived while living among the elements.

Torak and Renn are brilliant characters and the story follows them as they traverse the many dangers they encounter on a long and perilous journey. Although I enjoyed their scenes together, as ever, my favourite relationship in the book is between Torak and his faithful companion Wolf. I love the parts of the story where we see things from Wolf's perspective and I love his loyalty to Torak. Even when he is faced with having to leave his pack behind, he never questions the need to be by Torak's side, no matter what they might have to face. I think Michelle has captured Wolf so perfectly that he's definitely a larger than life character in the book and symbolizes the bond between nature and man.

'Viper's Daughter' was utterly gripping and I was entranced from beginning to end. There were plenty of twists and turns to the story and I found at the end of each chapter that I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next. It's a fairly quick read and should appeal not only to middle-grade readers but also though like me, who have grown up with the series. I hope that the book will introduce a whole new audience of readers to the original Chronicles of Ancient Darkness which deserves all the acclaim it gets. What an absolute treat this was! Even more excitingly, book 8, 'Skintaker' will be published next year, so there are more adventures still to come.

Viper's Daughter by Michelle Paver is out now, published by Zephyr, an imprint of Head of Zeus, priced £12.99 in hardback.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Blog tour: Conviction by Denise Mina

I was thrilled to be invited to take part in the blog tour for 'Conviction' by Denise Mina. Thank you to Vintage who gifted me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

It’s just a normal morning when Anna's husband announces that he's leaving her for her best friend and taking their two daughters with him.

With her safe, comfortable world shattered, Anna distracts herself with someone else's story: a true-crime podcast. That is until she recognises the name of one of the victims and becomes convinced that only she knows what really happened.

With nothing left to lose, she throws herself into investigating the case. But little does she know, Anna's past and present lives are about to collide, sending everything she has worked so hard to achieve into freefall.

'Conviction' by Denise Mina arrived at the perfect time. I'm currently immersed in a murder mystery fiction obsession, so I'm keen to discover new authors within the crime genre and I can't get my hands on enough of these books at the moment. Mina is an author that hasn't been on my radar until now but her latest novel is the co-winner of the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2019, as well as having been selected for Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine Book Club.

I started reading it on a rainy Sunday morning and literally couldn't put it down. I finished it the same day and would definitely recommend clearing your schedule for this one. It's compulsive reading and the fast-pace of the story makes you want to consume it in one go. Packed full of suspense, the story traverses multiple locations across Europe as the characters go on a rollercoaster ride.

The story starts with the main character confessing that she's not who everyone thinks she is. She once had a different name and a different life and she became used to telling lies about everything. However, now her life has imploded and nothing will ever go back to the way it was before. After the opening prologue, the next time we see Anna she is with her husband and children, listening to a true crime podcast and trying to find escape from her day to day life. She becomes immersed in episode 1 of Death and the Dana until she unexpectedly hears a name from her past; someone who she used to know who is now both a victim and implicated in the crime.

As Anna's life falls to pieces, she seeks an escape in the case and throws herself into investigating the mysterious sinking of the Dana, following multiple threads of evidence which take her from Scotland to Italy and beyond. I was absolutely hooked on this book. I was desperate to know the big secret that Anna was hiding and couldn't wait to discover what she was trying to conceal about her past. I was also intrigued and puzzled about the true and unsolved crime that is at the heart of the novel. I had a lot of theories about what might have happened, none of which I was right about. Denise Mina is a genius at throwing lots of twists and turns into the mix and then wrong-footing you just when you think you have it all worked out.

This is a crime novel that ticks all my boxes. It's exciting, intriguing, suspenseful, chock full of twists and turns that have you on the edge of your seat the whole way through and with a main character whose storytelling draws you deeper and deeper into the mystery. It's intricately plotted and so gripping that you are desperate to keep reading. I wanted to not only find out the truth about Anna's mysterious past but also whether or not she could uncover the real secret about the Dana. There are shadowy evil figures hovering in the background throughout the novel and this adds another layer of danger and tension to the story.

I'm thrilled to have discovered such a brilliant author and I'll definitely now be checking out her back catalogue. I'm also really excited about her next book 'The Less Dead' which sounds fantastic. If you're a fan of this genre or just looking for a compulsive, fast-paced read then get yourself a copy of 'Conviction'. You won't regret it.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Blog Tour: Payback by R.C. Bridgestock

Today I'm taking part in the blog tour for 'Payback' by R.C. Bridgestock. Thanks to The Dome Press for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Charley Mann left Yorkshire for the Met and a fast-track career – but now she’s back, she’s in charge and the area’s first young, female DI.

Her hometown, the Yorkshire countryside, and her old friends all seem unchanged, but appearances can be deceptive.

When a brutal murder is discovered, Charley is forced to question everything, and the interest of her ex – reporter Danny Ray – doesn’t make it easier.

This is the first book I've read by husband and wife writing duo R.C. Bridgestock. I've heard nothing but good things about their previous novels so I was looking forward to 'Payback' immensely. I don't read heaps of books in the crime genre but the synopsis sounded great and I was in the mood for something gritty and gripping.

'Payback' introduces the character of DI Charley Mann who has recently moved back to her hometown after a stint in London. On her return she has to deal with lots of faces from her past, particularly childhood friend turned reporter, Danny Ray. I really liked Charley and her go-getter attitude. She is tough and feisty and because she was such an interesting character, she carried the story well. There are lots of references to things that have happened in her past which was intriguing and helped to draw me in.

The action kicks off almost immediately with the discovery of a body and the murder investigation is hardly underway before a second body turns up. It's up to Charley and her team to uncover who is responsible and why. I'm not a fan of crime stories which are too graphic but I think 'Payback' got the balance right. There were a few bits that made me slightly squeamish but I'm sure would be right up the alley of any die-hard crime fans.

There are plenty of twists throughout the story which I loved and my brain was definitely working hard trying to figure it all out.

A great read and hopefully R.C Bridgestock will be back with more books about Charley Mann in the future. I think they've come up with a winning character that readers will want more of.

About the Authors:

R.C. Bridgestock is the name that husband and wife co-authors Robert (Bob) and Carol Bridgestock write under. Between them they have nearly 50 years of police experience, offering an authentic edge to their stories.

The writing duo created the character DI Jack Dylan, the ninth book of which was published by The Dome Press in 2019, along with their backlist.

Bob was a highly commended career detective of 30 years, retiring at the rank of Detective Superintendent. During his last three years, he took charge of 26 murders, 23 major incidents, over 50 suspicious deaths and numerous sexual assaults. He was also a trained hostage negotiator with suicide interventions, kidnap, terrorism and extortion. Bob was seconded to a protracted enquiry investigating alleged police corruption in another force. He worked on the Yorkshire Ripper and Sarah Harper murder, and received praise from Crown Court Judges and Chief Constables alike for outstanding work at all ranks, including winning the much-coveted Dennis Hoban Trophy.

As a police civilian supervisor, Carol also received a Chief Constable’s commendation for outstanding work. The couple are the storyline consultants / police procedural on BAFTA-winning BBC1 police drama Happy Valley and series 3 of ITV’s Scott and Bailey, and are presently working with Scott Free Production scriptwriters on two commissioned TV drama series.

The couple pride themselves on being up-to-date on past and present day UK police procedures, and as a result, Bob is regularly sought by UK television, radio and national and local newspapers for comment on developing major crime incidents etc. They have also taken part in BBC Radio 4 (Steve) PUNT P.I.

Carol and Bob are also patrons and ambassadors for several charities.
Related Posts with Thumbnails