Monday, May 20, 2019

Review - The Familiars by Stacey Halls






Title: The Familiars
Author: Stacey Halls
Pages: 432
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Release Date: 9th February 2019


Blurb from Goodreads:
  
The Essex Serpent meets The Miniaturist in this rich and compelling historical novel, set against the frenzy of the real 1612 Witch Trials of Pendle Hill, that explores the rights of 17th century women, as the fate of a nobelwoman and her unborn child rests on proving the innocence of her midwife, an accused witch.


Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, noblewoman of Gawthorpe Hall, one of the finest houses in Lancashire, is pregnant for the fourth time. None of her previous pregnancies have been successful, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a hidden letter from the doctor who delivered her last stillbirth, she learns of the prediction that she will not survive another pregnancy. By chance she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help Fleetwood deliver a healthy baby and prove the physician wrong. But Alice herself is soon drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the area. Fleetwood must risk everything to help clear her name.


But is there more to Alice than meets the eye? As the two women’s lives become inextricably bound together, the now infamous Witch Trials of 1612 approach, and Fleetwood’s impending delivery looms. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.


Fleetwood Shuttleworth, Alice Grey and all the other characters in this novel are based on real people who fell under the spell of these witch trials. Even woodland creatures, "the familiars," are suspected of aiding the local sorceresses in their practice of dark magic. In the early 17th century Lancashire was deemed a lawless county full of Catholics, criminals and conspirators, and King James I was obsessed with capturing witches, who were mostly poor, illiterate women.


Historian have asked, “Was witch-hunting woman-hunting?” THE FAMILIARS explores the themes of women’s rights in this period, many of which still resonate today.












My Review:
 
*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Bonnier Zaffre and NetGalley*





Teenager Fleetwood Shuttleworth lives with her husband at Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire. She is pregnant for the fourth time, with all her previous pregnancies having ended in miscarriage or stillbirth. Fleetwood's husband, Richard, is eager for an heir, so when Fleetwood discovers a letter from a doctor who fears that Fleetwood's next pregnancy might kill her, she enlists the help of a midwife named Alice Gray. Fleetwood is determined that with Alice's help she will give birth to a healthy baby, but she soon finds herself drawn into the local witch trials when Alice is accused of being a witch.
Is Alice innocent? Is she a mere midwife, or something else entirely?
Will Fleetwood's friendship with Alice save her or ruin her?


The cover for The Familiars instantly drew me in (it's so beautiful!), and the blurb intrigued me – especially seeing as the book is based on real events and real people. Going in to this I didn't know much about the witch trials that happened in England, and I'm very glad that I wasn't alive back then!
Fleetwood was a likeable protagonist. I felt sorry for her given what she had been through, and really hoped that both she and the baby would make it through the pregnancy okay. I liked that she had a big dog that followed her around everywhere. I also liked Fleetwood's friendship with Alice – she had never really had any friends so it was nice to see her bond with someone.
The plot was interesting, but I wasn't particularly shocked by anything that happened, and I wasn't gripped.
The writing style was easy to follow and I liked that the reader is left with some unanswered questions.


Overall this was an enjoyable read that I would recommend.





Saturday, May 18, 2019

Review - Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1) by Robin LaFevers






Title: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)
Author: Robin LaFevers
Pages: 496
Publisher: Anderson
Release Date: 3rd January 2019


Blurb from Goodreads:

Young, beautiful and deadly.
Trained as an assassin by the god of Death, Ismae is sent to the court of Brittany, where she finds herself underprepared - not only for the games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death's vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

A dangerous romance full of intrigue, poison and finding one's path.











My Review:

*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Penguin Random House UK Children's and NetGalley*






When Ismae is saved from an arranged marriage, she finds herself at the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters serve Death.
Ismae learns that she has been given gifts from Death Himself and is offered the chance to use them as a handmaiden to Death, to stay at the convent and become an assassin.
Having nearly completed her training, Ismae is given an assignment that takes her to the court at Brittany, where she is thrust into a world of political intrigue and treason.
Ismae's loyalty to the convent and her obedience in serving Death's will is tested, but what will win - her head or her heart?


The premise for Grave Mercy intrigued me - I love a historical setting and assassin stories.
I thought Ismae was a likeable protagonist. She had suffered a lot during her childhood, so the convent was a safe haven for her where she learned to defend herself.
Duval was an interesting character and I liked reading his interactions with Ismae.
The setting was interesting as I don't know much about the history of France (except that England and France have pretty much always been at war). However, I don't know how historically accurate it was.
I liked the mix of fantasy and historical.
The plot was interesting and held my attention. I appreciated that the romance (which I found quite sweet) didn't overshadow other aspects of the plot like Anne's struggles. I thought it ended really well.
The writing style was easy to follow and I liked the character descriptions.
While I wasn't blown away by Grave Mercy, I did enjoy it and I am intrigued to read the other books in the series.


Overall this was an enjoyable read.


Friday, May 17, 2019

Book Blitz + Giveaway - Timeless Sky (Flightless Bird, #4) by Paulina Ulrich


 

Timeless Sky (Flightless Bird, #4) by Paulina Ulrich
Publication date: May 15th 2019
Genres: Romance, Time-Travel, Young Adult


When it all ends…

In the tumultuous world of time travel, Livy does her best to adjust to her new life and abilities. Livy and Gregory’s shared dreams have them searching for clues to piece together their lives. In time though, Livy discovers that her lifeline to Gregory isn’t as strong as she thought and she now faces an even worse fate. A voice only she can hear has started to follow her and one mistake could keep her locked permanently in the past.

When people close to her begin to disappear, she and Gregory are compelled to join forces with any allies they have left. With Amelia on the path of revenge, the Society of Seven on the brink, and Damon still missing, the lives of those around them are in jeopardy and not all will survive.

Time is running out. How long will forever last?




Previous books in the series: 
 
  




 



EXCERPT:


I took a drink of my water, watching him over the rim of the glass. “Any other theories we have to test?” I set my glass in the sink but something else was already on my mind and it had nothing to do with theories.
“Hmm…nothing comes to mind immediately.” Gregory scratched his chin, faint stubble was starting to appear.
“Good.” I reached up and kissed him, not wanting to feel anything but him. Gregory seemed surprised but I felt his arms squeeze me against his chest. He pulled away, but I was having none of it and with my fingers tethered in his hair, I yanked his mouth back to mine, kissing him earnestly. I made sure my body pressed against every lining of his, pushing against him and making him stumble backwards.







Author Bio

Paulina Ulrich: author, book nerd, & crazy cat lady received her BA in Creative Writing and is the author of the young adult Flightless Bird series, the award nominated young adult Fighting Fate series, and many more stories to come. She also writes nonfiction and has been published in various literary magazines. When she's not writing, reading, drinking copious amounts of tea, or doing author-y stuff, she's out buying way too many cute shoes. Stay up to date with her at www.paulinaulrich.com







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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Book Blitz + Giveaway - The Rule of Many (The Rule of One #2) by Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders



The Rule of Many (The Rule of One #2) by Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders
Published by: Skyscape
Publication date: May 7th 2019
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult


Born to a death sentence in a near-future America, rebellious sisters herald a revolution—if they can survive.

Twins Ava and Mira Goodwin defy the Rule of One simply by existing. The single-child law, ruthlessly enforced by Texas’s Governor Roth, has made the sisters famous fugitives and inspirations for the resurgent rebellion known as the Common.

But the relentless governor and his implacable Texas State Guard threaten that fragile hope, as Roth consolidates his power in a bid for ultimate authority.

As Ava and Mira relinquish the relative safety of their Canadian haven to stand against Roth, new allies arise: Owen, a gifted young programmer, impulsively abandons his comfortable life in a moment of compassion, while Zee, an abused labor camp escapee, finds new purpose in resistance.

The four will converge on Dallas for a reckoning with Roth, with nothing less than their destinies—and the promise of a future free from oppression—on the line.

Disobedience means death. But a life worth living demands rebellion.








EXCERPT:

MIRA

Limos and luxury cars line the extensive circular driveway, stuffed with partygoers ready for the welcoming bash. Mrs. and Mr. Cross have already arrived with much fanfare from their son and his doting employees. I wonder if Ciro’s sisters are here.
I hear him get on the microphone, introducing his unwitting parents onto the stage of the overflowing banquet hall, the governor of Alberta and the mayor of Calgary looking on from the front row.
Everything’s falling nicely into place. If only the man of the hour would show.
I look at my watch: 7:30 p.m. He’s late. Ava’s knee bounces furiously, as if she can shake out her anxiety.
“He’ll come,” I say.
From our hideout in the corner of the foyer, shadowed and easily overlooked, we have the best seats in the house. A perfect vantage point to see and be unseen. Ava scans the budding festivities through the glass walls on our left. I keep my eyes on the glass windows straight ahead, seeing past the dazzling flares from the cars’ headlights, holding out for the first glimpse of the president.
A string quartet begins to play, and an electric energy pulsates through the hotel, enlivening the crowd around us with a giddy exhilaration, and I can’t help but feel it too. Eager, I spring to my feet. I pace up and down our tucked-away corner, checking the time, watching Emery from across the room, waiting on her signal.
“Do you hear that?” Ava asks. She stares up at the ceiling. I move beside her as we listen to the muffled roar of whirling blades slicing the air somewhere above the building.
“A helicopter,” Ava says.
“He’s here.”
We look to Emery, who stands near the entrance, her gaze locked skyward. Guests file past as she removes a headscarf from her pocket, drapes the silk over her distinctive curls, and pulls it into a tight knot at the back of her neck. She folds her right arm over her chest, our cue to move.
I feel, rather than see, Barend steal into place behind us, our long shadow, as we push to the end of the foyer. Pawel detaches himself from the crowd and crosses our path as he follows Emery out the front door. “Lots of luck,” he whispers earnestly. Like luck has anything to do with it. It’s all up to us.
Our target is the oversized clock that consumes the entire wall alongside the vacant concierge desk. Ava stops before the number six, and we slip behind a false door and stride side by side down an empty staff hallway. Three right turns, two left, a final door, and we’re outside.
There are no lights behind the hotel and no people. The night is chilly and moonless, but we find the footpath we were directed to take and make our silent way to the small grove of trees just twenty yards out.
Ten paces in, Ava and I turn from the path and weave through the evergreens until we spot the narrow clearing that is to be our stage. We position ourselves in its center, shoulder to shoulder, and wait. Somewhere to our right, concealed within the trees and darkness, Barend stands guard.
When told of the plan, Emery immediately authorized the private rendezvous. She knows pleading our case face-to-face with the president is the only way. Cameras and screens provide a barrier, Emery said. The media paints you solely as American rebels. Let him see how human you are. With Pawel at her side, Emery is to meet and escort the president here, while Ciro entertains his parents and guests, keeping them safely ignorant inside the banquet hall.
The minutes tick off, and Ava starts to shiver from either the cold or nerves. Or is that me shivering? Ava and I brought no weapons with us, to show good faith. No guns, no knives. Just us, with our naked conviction and hope.
This could be our last stop, a final end to the endless chase. A place to plan and plot and devise our crucial counterattack.
Ava nudges me with a sharp elbow. She points to the trees in front of us. Two distinct shapes emerge, a faint silhouette floating behind.
“Ready?” I whisper needlessly. Ava tightens her jaw, and I ball my hands into white-knuckled fists. I take a big gulp of air and exhale slowly. My breath comes out in swirling smoke, reminding me of a dragon. There’s a fire inside me, and suddenly I feel warm and calm. One look from Ava and I know she feels it too.
We’re ready.
The outlines become faces and bodies. Emery appears first, then President Moore, with Pawel a few steps behind. I stare at Moore, transfixed, my eyes glued to the man who can grant us refuge.
He stumbles forward, as if his own eyes have not yet adjusted to the dark. I search his every feature, looking for any hint of surprise, or shock, or understanding. But his face, though startlingly attractive in the starlight, is blank. Indifferent.
“President Moore,” Emery says, “this is Ava and Mira Goodwin.” He looks at us cross-eyed, his round eyes squinting as he takes us in. We all stand motionless, awaiting his response.
“You don’t look identical to me,” the president finally states, his thin voice magnified in the still night air. “One of you’s slightly taller, the other rounder.”
The leader of the free world opens with an insult. My first reaction is to defend my identicalness. Surprising, when all I’ve ever wanted is to be seen as different from Ava.
“Sir—” Ava and I speak at the same time.
The president laughs. “Ah, there it is.” The ground spins as he turns to leave. “This conversation will be moved to a different setting. Just the twins and me.”
Barend detaches from the shadows. Pawel and Emery enclose my sister and me. Ava grabs my arm, her grip tight enough to bruise.
“We do not agree to any change—” Emery starts, but Moore shouts over her.
“Security!”
Everything shatters, all plans and expectations smashed to pieces.
A gunshot rings out, then two more.
Run!” Emery yells.
The last thing I see is Ava’s face, twisted in fear and fury.
Then something covers my eyes. My mouth.
I’m thrown over a bulky shoulder, the deafening sounds of a helicopter growing louder with every footfall. With every one of my muffled screams.
I’m shoved against something solid. I reach out, arms flailing, but there’s no one beside me. Ava.
I feel the chopper lift into the sky. Two spinning blades taking me higher and higher away from Common ground.





Author Bio
 
Hailing from the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders are award-winning filmmakers and twin sisters who honed their love of storytelling at The University of Texas at Austin. While researching The Rule of One, they fell in love with America’s national parks, traveling the path of Ava and Mira. The sisters can currently be found with their Boston terriers in sunny Los Angeles, exploring hiking trails and drinking entirely too much yerba mate.









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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday - Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon





Can't-Wait Wednesday is a feature hosted at Wishful Endings where people showcase an upcoming book they are looking forward to.







This week my choice is . . .





Title: Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon
Author: Mary Fan
Pages: 384
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Release Date: 11th June 2019


Blurb from Goodreads:

When a powerful viceroy arrives with a fleet of mechanical dragons and stops an attack on Anlei’s village, the villagers see him as a godsend. They agree to give him their sacred, enchanted River Pearl in exchange for permanent protection—if he’ll marry one of the village girls to solidify the alliance. Anlei is appalled when the viceroy selects her as a bride, but with the fate of her people at stake, she sees no choice but to consent. Anlei’s noble plans are sent into a tailspin, however, when a young thief steals the River Pearl for himself.

Knowing the viceroy won’t protect her village without the jewel, she takes matters into her own hands. But once she catches the thief, she discovers he needs the pearl just as much as she does. The two embark on an epic quest across the land and into the Courts of Hell, taking Anlei on a journey that reveals more is at stake than she could have ever imagined.

With incredibly vivid world building and fast-paced storytelling, Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon is great for readers who are looking for something fresh in epic fantasy.





Why I'm Anticipating This Book:

Mechanical dragons, a thief and an epic quest?! Sign me up!
 






Saturday, May 11, 2019

Blog Tour + Review + Giveaway - Romanov by Nadine Brandes


Find the tour schedule here.







 Romanov by Nadine Brandes
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: May 7th 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Retellings



Synopsis:


The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them . . . and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn’t frighten her as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her . . .

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.











About the Author


Nadine once spent four days as a sea cook in the name of book research. She's the author of FAWKES and of the award-winning The Out of Time Series. Her inner fangirl perks up at the mention of soul-talk, Quidditch, bookstagram, and Oreos. When she's not busy writing novels about bold living, she's adventuring through Middle Earth or taste-testing a new chai. Nadine and her Auror husband are building a Tiny House on wheels. Current mission: paint the world in shalom.


Author Links:









*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Thomas Nelson*





Anastasia ‘Nastya’ Romanov and her family are royals, but her father abdicated and they are living as captives.
When her family is split up with some of them being sent to face trial, Nastya is charged by her father to conceal and keep safe magic spells which are contraband.
Surrounded by Bolshevik soldiers, can Nastya and her family hold on to their hope?
Can Nastya befriend Zash who doesn’t act like other Bolshevik soldiers?


The mix of historical and magic drew me to Romanov and it was definitely my favourite aspect of the book.
Nastya was a good protagonist. She was likeable and I thought she was very brave given everything she and her family went through.
I liked Nastya’s brother, Alexei, a lot – he didn’t use his haemophilia as an excuse not to put himself in danger and I liked their relationship.
The romance wasn’t one of my favourites that I’ve read, but I didn’t dislike it. I did appreciate that it wasn’t the focus of the novel.
The plot was a bit hit-and-miss for me. Not much really happened for the first half of the book, but then it was pretty much non-stop action (which I enjoyed), so pacing was an issue for me. I really liked that the author used some events that happened from real life and then made them her own by adding magic and spell masters. I found the magic very intriguing – the spell masters used ink for their spells and some had to mature before they could be used.
I liked the writing style, but I wasn’t gripped.
I do feel like Romanov didn’t quite reach its potential and I am disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it more, but overall this was an enjoyable read.


An enjoyable read overall that I would recommend to readers that like twists on historical events.










 Tour-wide giveaway

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http://fantasticflyingbookclub.blogspot.com/

 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Review - No Tomorrow (Killing Eve, #2) by Luke Jennings






Title: No Tomorrow (Killing Eve, #2)
Author: Luke Jennings
Pages: 256
Publisher: John Murray
Release Date: 25th October 2018


Blurb from Goodreads: 


In a hotel room in Venice, where she's just completed a routine assassination, Villanelle receives a late-night call.
Eve Polastri has discovered that a senior MI5 officer is in the pay of the Twelve, and is about to debrief him. As Eve interrogates her subject, desperately trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, Villanelle moves in for the kill.

The duel between the two women intensifies, as does their mutual obsession, and when the action moves from the high passes of the Tyrol to the heart of Russia, Eve finally begins to unwrap the enigma of her adversary's true identity.









My Review:
 
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to John Murray Press and NetGalley*






Eve Polastri is getting closer to the Twelve and to finding out the identity of the mysterious assassin that she has been tracking down.
Villanelle has more assignments, but will her obsession with Eve get in the way?


I definitely preferred No Tomorrow to the first book - it felt more cohesive, I liked the characters more and found the plot more interesting and engaging.
Eve and Villanelle's relationship is my favourite aspect of the books, but I felt sorry for Niko.
The writing style still isn't one of my favourites and there were a couple of things that bugged me.


Overall this was an enjoyable read.