WWW Wednesday: 20th May 2020

This Book Tag is hosted by Taking On A World Of Words.

What I’ve read, What I’m reading, What’s next.

What I’ve Read

Title: Orphan Monster Spy

Author: Matt Killeen

Star rating: 5 / 5

Mini review/synopsis:

Talented, artistic, oppressed. Sarah has been learning to survive in a world that has become dangerous for her, her mother, and all other Jewish citizens throughout Europe. So what is a girl to do when she becomes unexpectedly orphaned? That’s right. She becomes a spy in a boarding school for the Nazi elite in 1939.

Sarah is one of my favourite novel protagonists in a long time. She is resourceful, ballsy, BRAVE, and mouthy. I love how she deals with her horrific situation, how she strategises and overcomes.

Matt Killeen expertly weaves Sarah’s backstory and experiences of being Jewish in increasing oppressive Austrian/German societies in the 1930s into the wider plot, which I found very educational. I found myself doing lots of research to fill in the gaps where my own knowledge was sadly lacking in this area of European history (this was further sparked by the Author’s note at the end of the novel). The plot was SO GOOD. Excellently paced and the twists towards the end of the novel were so brilliantly unexpected, I found myself moving the book as far away from me as I could whilst still being able to read.

A thrilling, well researched book that I thoroughly enjoyed. I cannot wait to read book 2 and, hopefully, learn some more about the Captain!

What I’m Currently Reading

Title: The Big Four

Author: Agatha Christie

First Impressions: will be at least a 4 star read

The story so far:

I am loving being back with Poirot, my favourite fictional detective. So far we have had a gentleman climb through Poirot’s apartment window and promptly drop dead. Now Poirot is on the tail of The Big Four, a mysterious criminal organisation. What’s more Hastings, Poirot’s friend, is back to narrate the story for us! I’m enjoying this one so far, but then I always enjoy a Christie.

What I’m Reading Next

Title: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

Author: Holly Jackson

This is a re-read before I read the sequel Good Girl, Bad Blood. Click here to read my review and keep your eyes peeled for a review of book 2.

Blurb:

The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it. But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the crime, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth . . .

Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha – book 2)

Siege and Storm, by Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 435

Published: 4th June 2013

⭐️ 3.5 / 5

This book (and the entire series actually) has been on my shelf and my TBR for a long time. I bought all 3 books in the series several years ago and they’ve been sat on my bookshelf ever since. Towards the end of 2019 I finally got around to them, after uni destroyed my love of reading almost irreparably, and I am so glad I am now on this bandwagon.

Whilst I really enjoyed book 1, Siege and Storm actually had me rolling my eyes quite a lot. Here’s what I thought.

Plot

Just when you think Mal and Alina might have it a bit easier, at least for a little while, they get caught again. Guess who? Shock horror, yes that’s right, The Darkling is back – and only a handful of pages after they shook him off. That’s a theme of this book to be honest, escaping and then being caught again almost immediately by someone or another. The Darkling initially drags Alina with him whilst looking for the sea whip, AKA yet another Grisha amplifier, which he can use to further control her. Naturally they succeed because tracker extraordinaire Mal is on the case. He and Alina kill the sea whip themselves and then escape…

I couldn’t resist 😂 – I apologise to the non-Brits who probably won’t catch this reference.

The new band of escapees drop themselves straight into more trouble in the last place that Mal and Alina want to be in. It is capture disguised as freedom as they can’t really freely leave. Alina essentially doesn’t escape for the whole novel as The Darkling keeps appearing to her and causing problems. It’s exhausting and doesn’t seem to serve a purpose except to irritate the reader. Yes it causes conflict between certain characters but I don’t think it actually adds anything of value to the novel.

There’s lots more questing, when Alina discovers there is actually a third amplifier, which allows for a fair amount of world building. I loved that we were able to learn more about Mal and Alina’s childhood which gave us some adorable fluffy moments (yes I ship it please don’t judge). However the similarities in embarking on a quest where so strong for me that it made this feel like a carbon copy of Shadow and Bone, and makes it difficult to judge this book on its own. For me, the characters really made this novel as there were some excellent additions to the series.

Characters

I love lots of the new cast of this book. One is notorious privateer, Sturmhond. What a sassy, wonderful, pain in the ass he is. I adored him, his particular brand of humour, and his cutting remarks. His interactions with the characters we already love are brilliant.

Twins Tolya and Tamar are also standout characters of this book who should be protected at all costs.

Unfortunately, Mal becomes even more whiney in this book. I mean honestly, he needs to get a grip. He starts fighting Grisha and just generally being an angsty, miserable, moaning idiot who puts other people in danger as a result of his actions.

To top it all off The Darkling gains some interesting and horrific new powers that just keep growing and developing into greater horrors…

Lots of the newer cast are from other regions in the world this series is set. As such we are able to learn more about nations such as Shu Han. This is definitely a strength of this book and I loved how this added depths to certain characters’ actions.

Final Thoughts

I did enjoy this book for the most part however I did find the repetitious plot frustrating. I also feel like the conclusion of the novel was such a horrific low that I can’t see how this is going to be resolved in the final book. It left me very despondent and seemed like a ridiculous conclusion after everything that Mal and Alina had worked for. I can understand the final fight, a common fantasy trope but there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to go from here…

I guess I’ll have to work that out in Ruin and Rising.

Blurb:

Soldier, Summoner, Saint. Alina Starkov’s power has grown, but not without a price. She is the Sun Summoner – hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Shadow Fold. But she and Mal can’t outrun their enemies for long. The Darkling is more determined than ever to claim Alina’s magic and use it to take the Ravkan throne. With nowhere else to turn, Alina enlists the help of an infamous privateer and sets out to lead the Grisha army. But as the truth of Alina’s destiny unfolds, she slips deeper into the Darkling’s deadly game of forbidden magic, and further away from her humanity. To save her country, Alina will have to choose between her power and the love she thought would always be her shelter. No victory can come without sacrifice – and only she can face the oncoming storm.

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha – book 1)

Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 352

Published: 5 June 2012

⭐️ 4 / 5

This book (and the entire series actually) has been on my shelf and my TBR for a long time. I bought all 3 books in the series several years ago and they’ve been sat on my bookshelf ever since. Towards the end of 2019 I finally got around to them, after uni destroyed my love of reading almost irreparably, and I am so glad I am now on this bandwagon.

Warning: technically there is a small plot spoiler below in the form of a relationship but honestly if you don’t see it coming from the first page, I don’t know what to tell you…

Plot

This is a novel about discovering yourself and carving your own path. When Alina discovers a magic (and by extension, a strength) she didn’t know she had, she’s whisked away with people she doesn’t know to a place she doesn’t know where she doesn’t fit in and is not accepted. She is forced to leave behind the only person she knows, her best friend Mal, and it’s like she’s orphaned all over again. The fact that Alina has to learn about herself as one of the Grisha is really effective in terms of worldbuilding. The reader is able to learn as Alina is forced to learn. This is the first book I’ve read in a while that has a magic system, which I really enjoyed. It’s been very well constructed considering in theory the Grisha can only control one of 3 different things but their own grasp of their power dictates just how much they can do. Another thing I really enjoyed about the worldbuilding is that there was mention of other countries meaning the world extends beyond Alina’s immediate environment. It feels like we are going to explore some of this later in the series, which I really hope is the case.

The description of the Fold is really striking and I love that the metaphorical darkness seen in most fantasies is a literal threat in this series. It’s interesting to explore this concept and the reason the Fold exists. I think it gives the opportunity to remind ourselves of the child-like vulnerability that comes with being afraid of the dark, only this time there really are monsters lurking beyond your vision.

We do get to see a fair amount of Ravka in Shadow and Bone as Alina (and eventually Mal) head out on a nation-wide quest. One strength of this being done is that the reader was able to see ‘normal’ life in this world as opposed to the military or magic lives we’d experienced before. This also meant the reader was able to get to know these characters fairly well as, for the most part, they were alone. I did feel that some of the difficulties they faced on this journey were unnecessary though. Each of them should have been for a specific character-building or story arc purpose however a couple of instances felt like they were just included to give them something to do and to distract them from the slow-burn realisation of their feelings towards each other.

Characters

I found Alina, our protagonist, to be very relatable. She really struggles with wanting to fit in despite being literally born to stand out. She desperately wants to cling on to anything familiar and can’t handle how much her life is changing. She feels crushed by the pressure of failure and letting others down, which is mostly her own exacerbated impression of what her role in Ravka’s future could be. Mal flits between irritating me and being the character I enjoy most on the page. He’s a moody sod and an utter gem. Part of me thinks he is unfair to Alina, part of me understands because she is not exactly the model character in her behaviour either. I love that they’re both so messy and both trying so hard. Bardugo writes them both beautifully and I love that she has created two characters that I can absolutely root for.

I really enjoyed The Darkling as a character. He is so complex and layered. I loved to love him and I loved to hate him too. He has far more potential than we saw in this book so I am really excited to see where he goes in the rest of the series.

I also have to give a special mention to Baghra. What a babe. She has so much more depth to her that just the grumpy old woman she is on the surface. Her wisdom runs deep and I have to say she really surprised me. I hope we see more of her as the series progresses.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book and thought it was a great start to a series. The ending left me desperate to read the sequel straight away which leaves me thankful that I waited so long to start this series. There’s nothing better than a book binge if you have the patience to wait years for a series to end before you start.

Let me know what you thought of this book/series below! Keep an eye out for my review of Siege and Storm soon.

Blurb:

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold – a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed. Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite – and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation. Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems.

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

Review: Song of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury (Sorrow #2)

Title: Song of Sorrow

Author: Melinda Salisbury

Pages: 370

Published: 7th March 2019

⭐️ 5 / 5

Anyone who has spoken to me over the last year will know just how much I loved State of Sorrow. It was easily my favourite book of 2018 so the sequel, and conclusion to the duopoly, Song of Sorrow is one of my most anticipated reads of this year. State of Sorrow ended on a cliffhanger that meant Sorrow’s struggles weren’t over, they were merely beginning and were sure to spiral out of control.

Continue reading “Review: Song of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury (Sorrow #2)”

Quick-fire reviews

As some of you may have noticed, my project for this month has been a brand new Instagram account! I’ve set up this bookstagram purely to share beautiful images of my books and connect with more people who enjoy reading and may benefit from my reviews.

If you’re interested, please do check it out. You’ll find me at: @beauteaful.reads on Instagram or via the links on my homepage and in the side bar.

With that in mind, here’s my first collaboration post to bring my blog and bookstagrams together!

Today’s bookstack features a selection of the white/cream/beige books that I own. As Britian is currently enjoying (or suffering) a heatwave I thought these crisp, clean covers could make some good summer reads. Here’s some quick-fire reviews and thoughts on those I have included!

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Continue reading “Quick-fire reviews”

Review: The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury (Sin Eater’s Daughter #3)

Title: The Scarecrow Queen

Author: Melinda Salisbury

Pages: 336

Published: 2nd March 2017

⭐️ 4.5 / 5

I’m more than a little obsessed with this series at this point.  I honestly don’t know how I was so late to the party in reading this.

The Scarecrow Queen is the third and final instalment of Melinda Salisbury’s series The Sin Eater’s Daughter.  If you’ve read my reviews for books one and two you’ll know I’m a bit of a fan.  I panicked a little bit when I flicked through this book because my pet peeve is switching POVs every few chapters and I could feel it coming owing to the fact the previous books left us with two equally important protagonists that both have a voice.  Whilst Melinda did do this and switch POVs between Errin and Twylla I loved the way she did it in much larger chunks rather than ricocheting between the two every chapter, which would have left me reading only out of loyalty to the series and the characters that I needed to know what happened to.  This technique did mean that there was a lot that happened to the protagonist that wasn’t narrating that chunk by the time we got back to them which caused some overlap and some gaps that we had to work hard to fill in ourselves but I don’t feel that impacted the story or my enjoyment of it.  The split narrative worked well because it allowed us to see what was happening on both sides of the revolution as one protagonist remained with the rebellion and one was unfortunately imprisoned so we could see the ramp up to the final battle from different angles which I loved.  The narrative of this book somehow managed to take even darker turns than the previous instalment with the Sleeping Prince, Aurek, employing some really disturbing methods of torture and war tactics.  As horrific as his character is, I really enjoyed it and love that Melinda is not afraid to make her ‘bad guy’ truly disgusting and dark and twisted.  There’s nothing better than an antagonist who you can hate with all of your heart.

Continue reading “Review: The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury (Sin Eater’s Daughter #3)”