Review: Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Release date: January 1, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 464
Goodreads || Book Depository || Booktopia

After the scandalous events at her presentation ball in London, Lady Helen has taken refuge at the fashionable seaside resort of Brighton, where she is training to be a Reclaimer with the covert Dark Days Club.

As she struggles to put aside her genteel upbringing and take up the weapons of a warrior, Helen realizes that her mentor, Lord Carlston, is fighting his own inner battle. Has the foul Deceiver energy poisoned his soul, or is something else driving him towards violent bouts of madness? Either way, Helen is desperate to help the man with whom she shares a deep but forbidden connection.

When Mr Pike, the hard bureaucratic heart of the Dark Days Club, arrives in Brighton, no one is prepared for the ordinary evil he brings in his wake. He has a secret task for Helen and Mr Hammond, and the authority of the Prince Regent. They have no choice but to do as he orders, knowing that the mission will betray everyone around them and possibly bring about Lord Carlston’s annihilation.

MY THOUGHTS

This is the sequel to Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club, which means that this review may contain spoilers for the first book.

Thank you to HarperCollins Australia for providing a review copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I read and really enjoyed Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club last year and was extremely excited for the release of its sequel this year. I loved Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact even more than the first book and it’s made me even more excited for the last book in the trilogy.

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact picks up a few weeks after the end of the first book and we follow Lady Helen as she starts her training. Meanwhile, Lord Carlston is acting increasingly strange and Lady Helen, as well as the members of the Dark Days Club, are concerned about Lord Carlson’s motives and his future. When Lady Helen is approached with a dangerous task that will betray the people she has grown to love, especially Lord Carlston, she struggles with what the right decision is. I really loved the entire plot of this book. I thought it was exciting and I didn’t find any of it to be predictable. I was kept on my toes for a lot of the book and I found the last third of the novel to be really exciting. The pace of the novel was quite slow for the first two-thirds but I didn’t mind it too much because I thought it set up the climax brilliantly. The ending of this novel really left me wanting more and I’m highly anticipating the third book in this trilogy.

I really, really enjoyed all of the characters in this installment and I really liked learning more about each of the characters and their backstories. I loved Lady Helen’s strength and intelligence. I loved reading about her journey and the way she approached the troubles she was facing. I also really liked some of the side characters and the role that they played in the novel. I’m not entirely sure how I felt about Lord Carlston in this book because he was kind of moody and wasn’t really himself. I’m looking forward to learning more about him in the next book. The only character who I wasn’t a big fan of in this book was Duke Selburn. I absolutely loved him in the first book but I found him to be extremely annoying and clingy in this novel. I honestly cannot wait to see how the trilogy is going to end.

As a whole, I was extremely happy with Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact. I thought it was a wonderful continuation to the story and I can already see a really exciting finale in store for us. I’m looking forward to learning more about the characters and the world, and I can’t wait to see how the story wraps up.

Review: Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

wayfarerPublisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release date: January 3, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 532
Goodreads || Book Depository

All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected—Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master’s heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta’s past could put them both at risk.

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travelers hot on their trail. They cross paths with a mercenary-for-hire, a cheeky girl named Li Min who quickly develops a flirtation with Sophia. But as the three of them attempt to evade their pursuers, Nicholas soon realizes that one of his companions may have ulterior motives.

As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable… and might just run out on both of them.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Wayfarer is the sequel to Passenger, which means that this review may contain spoilers for the first book. Check out my review for Passenger instead, if you haven’t read it yet.

I really enjoyed Passenger when I read it last year and was really looking forward to Wayfarer. It wasn’t really what I expected but I definitely wasn’t disappointed by it either. I did have some issues with the book but those were probably issues that I had because it had been a whole year since I had read Passenger and it took me a while to get used to the world again.

My main issue with the book was that I found the plot to be confusing. I don’t know if it’s because I’d forgotten a lot about the world and the time travel rules, but I had a hard time following what was going on, especially in the first 50 pages. I reread the ending of Passenger to familiarise myself with what had gone down in the first book and that helped a little bit but I still found it difficult to understand some of the time travel logic and the world at the start of the book. This book talks about many different timelines and I found myself really confused for the first 20% of the novel and couldn’t really follow along. It did get better as I progressed through the book though.

The other problem that I had with the plot was that I had no idea where the book was going for the majority of it. We follow Etta and Nicholas through two separate story arcs and I didn’t quite know what to believe because we were being led to believe two different things. The motives of the side characters and key players of the book were unclear and we were deliberately made to be suspicious of everything, which just added to my confusion as to what was happening. It also didn’t help that there were a lot of different parties with vastly different motives and goals. I couldn’t really keep track of who wanted to do what and I just felt a bit overwhelmed and found it to be too much at times. Ultimately, I just went with the flow and decided not to think about it too much and I ended up really enjoying everything that happened and how the story played out anyway.

We are, all of us, on our own journeys…

I loved all of the characters in this book. The characters were all very complex and multidimensional and I really enjoyed that there wasn’t a single one who was purely evil or purely good. I enjoyed reading about each character’s motivations as well as about some of their origins. I loved the new characters that we got to meet in this book, like Julian Ironwood and Henry Hemlock, as well as the old characters that we got to revisit. The character development in this book was also great and I learnt so much about some of the characters that I didn’t really like in Passenger. The character relationships in this book were spectacular and I loved the friendships that were forged in this book as well as the reunion of family. As a huge Etta and Nicholas shipper, I was a bit disappointed that the two characters spent so much of the book apart, but I was pretty happy with how their reunion played out.

I really enjoyed this duology. I’d love to reread the books again because I think it’ll help me understand Wayfarer a little bit better. Despite the confusion and how overwhelmed I felt while reading this book, I highly enjoyed it. It was action-packed and I loved all of the places that the characters time travelled to. It was so much fun and I loved the characters so, so much!

Review: Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

blood-for-blood Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Release date: October 6, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 496
Goodreads || Book Depository

There would be blood.
Blood for blood.
Blood to pay.
An entire world of it.

For the resistance in 1950s Germany, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun.

Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against the New Order, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.

But dark secrets reveal dark truths, and one question hangs over them all: how far can you go for the ones you love?

This gripping, thought-provoking sequel to Wolf by Wolf will grab readers by the throat with its cinematic writing, fast-paced action, and relentless twists.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

Blood for Blood is the sequel of Wolf by Wolf, which means that this review may contain spoilers for the first book.

Wolf by Wolf was one of my favourite releases of last year and I’ve been highly anticipating Blood for Blood since last year. And it definitely did not disappoint. Wolf by Wolf ended on a bit of a cliffhanger and I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this sequel other than more fantastic storytelling and lots of intense action. Ryan Graudin definitely delivered both of those things and I can say that this was one of my favourite releases of this year.

Blood for Blood picks up exactly where Wolf by Wolf ended, with Yael running away from the ball. It’s a little bit hard to describe exactly what this book is about because there are so many things going on, but throughout the novel, Yael and her comrades escape from various foes and work with the Resistance to bring down the Third Reich and the Fuhrer. I absolutely loved the plot of this book. There were countless unexpected twists that kept me on my toes, and it’s definitely a book where nobody is safe from death. There was never a sense that our beloved characters were untouchable and I really enjoyed that about the book (even though I will protect my babies until the end of time). This book was extremely action-packed even though it wasn’t as fast-paced as Wolf by Wolf. I thought the pacing was perfect for the story and I loved the intensity of everything that was going on. Some of the events in this sequel had me visibly shaking and it’ll take me a little while to get over all the feels. The last 100 pages of the book absolutely blew my mind and I really loved how everything was revealed and tied together neatly at the end. There was definitely a lot of internal screeching as I was reading Blood for Blood, but it was completely worth all of the pain and fear I felt.

Was it really so surprising that Yael was nothing like the slurs Luka’s father/teacher/Fuhrer spewed? That out of all the souls Luka had ever come across, hers was one of the brightest? It held the bravery of one hundred Iron Crosses, melted down and forged into something purer – a courage not corroded by cruelty.

I absolutely loved the characters in this book, even though we have a potential traitor in our midst. I appreciated Yael so much more in this book because she was completely herself and not a fake Adele Wolfe. I loved her compassion, her strength and her convictions and she’s definitely one of my favourite fictional heroines because of these qualities. Her resilience was astounding and I enjoyed everything about her character. I also continued to love Luka in this book, which is probably a surprise to no-one because I loved him immensely in the first book. We got to see so much more of his character and I really connected with him and his story. I love every side of his character – his cockiness, his ability to find humour in every situation and his love for doing what he thinks is right. As for some of the other characters, I really did not like Felix in this book. He really grated on my nerves but I did like the way that his character was developed. I also really enjoyed seeing some of the characters that were mentioned in Wolf by Wolf. It was nice to see them make an appearance here in the book and to see the relationship that they had with Yael.

There wasn’t a lot that I didn’t like about this book. While it didn’t have the excitement of a fast-paced motocross race, it did have war, strategy, survival, family and love all wrapped up nicely into one book. My only criticism would probably be that there isn’t another installment.

Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows

my-lady-jane

Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: June 7, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 491
Goodreads || Book Depository

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

I don’t think I have the words to describe how much I loved this book and how brilliant I thought it was. It’s such an incredibly funny alternate history novel about Lady Jane Grey and the Tudors and I absolutely loved it. I devoured this in just two sittings because it was so fast-paced and hilarious to read.

This book is an alternative take on Tudor history and what happened during the last days of Edward VI’s reign and the 9 days that Lady Jane Grey was Queen of England. My Lady Jane doesn’t read like historical fiction at all. It doesn’t have the slow pace that historical fiction novels usually do and a lot of the time I actually forgot that this was set during the 16th century because the tone of it felt so modern. There were lots of funny antics and magic involved and I just found it to be a really fun novel to read. There was also a lot of hilarious author commentary strewn throughout the novel and I loved it so much!

The plot of this book is exciting and action-packed, with everything from treason to escape plots and a husband who transforms into a horse daily with the rise of the sun. The story begins with King Edward VI being diagnosed with the Affliction (or tuberculosis) and told that he must name an heir before he dies. His advisor, Lord Dudley, proposes a marriage between Edward’s cousin Lady Jane Grey and his own son, Gifford, and advises Edward to name their child as his heir. The only problem with this is that Jane does not want to marry… and Gifford is a horse… during the day. Also Edward’s condition is worsening by the minute and there’s no time for Jane and Gifford to produce a child. So, upon the suggestion of Lord Dudley, Edward names Jane as his successor and madness ensues because others are after the crown and you really can’t trust anyone in the 16th century. I loved the plot of this book so much! It was lighthearted and exciting, while still incorporating a lot of actual Tudor history. I did find that having knowledge about Tudor history made some things a little bit predictable, especially in the first part of the book, which follows history quite accurately. I had a pretty good idea of what was coming in the story based on what I knew happened in history. But this didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the novel and I still loved it immensely.

The magic system in My Lady Jane is so interesting and fun. There are a group of people called Eðians who are able to turn into animals. Most Eðians have control over their powers but there are some, like poor Gifford, who are unable to control it and turn into their animal forms even when they don’t want to. There are a group of people who are pro-Eðians and have no problems with their existence but there are also a large group of people who believe that Eðians are unnatural and shouldn’t be allowed to exist. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book and how the magic system was used as a lighthearted way of exploring religion in 16th century England. I thought it was clever how they used the different groups of people to represent the Protestants and Catholics and how it played into the politics of the time.

I have to say that there wasn’t a single character that I didn’t like in this novel. They were all so quirky and funny in their own ways and I was so attached to all of them by the end of the book. Jane is a feisty and strong young woman who is not only intelligent but also fearless and opinionated. She was a wonderful character to read about and I loved everything about her. I also really, really loved Gifford, who was portrayed as a little bit of a fool at the beginning but he grew on me so quickly, with his hidden love of poetry and his love of… hay? He was just such a great character and does so many funny things like carrying around an ink and quill set so he can compose poetry… even when he’s in a bit of a pickle. And of course we have Edward. He was probably my least favourite of the three main characters but this was because we really didn’t get to see into his head that much. His story was a little bit underdeveloped for my liking and I wish we got to see a little bit more of him. My favourite side character was probably Edward’s grandmother. She was soooo hilarious and I loved her so much. She’s an Eðian and her animal form is a skunk! Here’s the story about the first time she turned into an animal:

“One of my maids forgot the fruit with my breakfast. I became a skunk and sprayed her.”

As for the romance, I love Jane and Gifford together so much!!! It’s a bit of a hate to love romance, which is one of my favourite tropes. The development in their relationship was just really beautiful to see and I will be shipping them for a long time to come. It’s just a feel good kind of relationship that I can see myself reading over and over again.

My Lady Jane is just such a wonderful creation. I loved absolutely everything about it, from the humour to the characters and the magic system. It was so much fun to read and I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Review: The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

the-smell-of-other-peoples-houses

Publisher: Faber & Faber
Release date: June 22, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 272
Goodreads || Book Depository

Alaska, 1970: growing up here is like nowhere else.

Ruth wants to be remembered by her grieving mother.
Dora wishes she was invisible to her abusive father.
Alyce is staying at home to please her parents.
Hank is running away for the sake of his brothers.

Four very different lives are about to become entangled. Because if we don’t save each other, how can we begin to save ourselves?

Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s extraordinary, stunning debut is both moving, and deeply authentic. These intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation on the edge of America’s Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare and wonderful talent.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for sending me a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’ve just finished this book and I am now a crying and sobbing mess. If you’re looking for a book that will give you a good punch in the feels, The Smell of Other People’s Houses is the one. This novel was one of my most anticipated releases of 2016 and my gut was completely right about this one.

A heartfelt and honest depiction of love and loss, this story was everything I wanted it to be and more. It was a beautifully conceptualised and executed story that really captures the atmosphere of the Alaskan setting and the culture of the people who live there. I know nothing about Alaska but I knew without a doubt that the descriptions were authentic and I felt like I was there in 1970s Alaska. The historical feel of the book was there and I enjoyed the slow pacing that I feel is unique to historical fiction. It was really beautifully done and progressed at what I thought was the perfect pace for this kind of story.

What I loved the most about The Smell of Other People’s Houses was the writing. It had a literary feel to it. There was great flow and lyricism and I just drank it all in. I felt everything that the author wanted to convey and the writing definitely pulled me into the story and made me feel like I was part of the experience. It was just so beautifully complex, yet simple at the same time and it brought out all of the emotions in me.

This novel contains four different perspectives and I actually really enjoyed that aspect of the book. I thought it worked very well and I never felt like I was being pulled around in different directions. I really liked being able to see from all four of the perspectives and it definitely made the story more intimate for me. But it wasn’t just the four perspectives that made this book interesting to me. This book actually contains four separate stories that come together at the end. We follow the lives of Ruth, Dora, Alyce and Hank and I was in awe of how seamlessly their four stories tied together in the end. There were times when I felt like everything was a bit too interconnected but I also loved that about the book and really appreciated all the links between the four narrators and their lives.

The characters in this book were perfection and it was impossible for me not to completely fall in love with every single one of them. I felt so connected to the four protagonists of the book and enjoyed every single one of their journeys. I loved Ruth, the girl who was abandoned by her mother when she was just 5 years old and now lives with her grandmother who is strict and controlling. Ruth was definitely my favourite of the four characters and her strength and resilience really resonated with me. There was also Dora, who was probably my least favourite of the main characters. She was very bitter about her circumstances and while I did understand her family struggles, it was a little bit hard to like her. She did grow on me towards the end and I thought her character growth was amazing. We also followed Alyce, an aspiring ballerina who feels a little bit trapped because of the conflict between her dreams and her duty towards her family. She was probably the character that I felt like I knew the least and wished her character had been explored a little bit more. But I enjoyed her story arc and her character. Hank was another favourite character of mine. We follow him as he runs away from his neglectful mother with his two younger brothers. He acts as the father figure to his brothers but he just wants to be his own person and live his own life. I loved his relationships with his brothers and how he forged relationships with others.

I don’t really have anything negative to say about this book. I did have a little bit of a hard time remember who all the characters were during the first two chapters but each character was so different and unique that it took me very little time to figure it all out. This book is so full of wonderful characters, relationships and love. It was just beautiful to see how each character overcame their hardships and leaned on others for support. It’s become one of my favourite books and I would recommend this to everyone in a heartbeat.

The Smell of Other People’s Houses was published on June 22, 2016 by Faber & Faber and is available at Australian retailers for $16.99.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Reasons Why You Should Read A Tyranny of Petticoats

a-tyranny-of-petticoats

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is to talk about something we love. So I thought I’d use the opportunity to do a condensed review of A Tyranny of Petticoats, which I finished a couple of days ago.

A Tyranny of Petticoats is a young adult anthology of short stories, edited by Jessica Spotswood. And here are some reasons why you should pick it up!

1. Historical fiction

This anthology is made up of 15 short stories that are all historical and set in the United States. If you love historical fiction, I can guarantee that you will love A Tyranny of Petticoats. As someone who doesn’t know much about US history, I learnt a lot of about it as I was reading the short stories. I also really loved that the stories were in chronological order and featured lots of different time periods.

2. Badass ladies

Every single short story is about a female protagonist. I loved how strong, fierce and badass they all were and how they took their own destinies into their own hands. We read about pirates, thieves, teachers and just normal girls who refuse to submit to their ‘superiors’ who try to bully them.

3. Diversity

I loved the diversity in this book. There is diversity in sexual orientation, as well as diversity in colour. I really enjoyed how these aspects were explored in all of the stories.

4. Social issues

This point ties into the first point I made. I highly enjoyed how the social issues of each time period were given a lot of focus. I feel like I learnt a lot and I loved how these issues were explored in the stories.

5. Author notes

Each short story was followed by an author note, detailing the inspiration behind the story. In a lot of cases, the stories were based on a true event or real people in history, and I liked that we were given some information about these in the author notes.

6. New to me/you authors

I hadn’t heard of some of the authors who contributed stories to the anthology and I enjoyed being able to get a little sample of their writing. I ended up looking up some of these authors’ other works and I’ll be checking them out soon.

7. Short stories

All of the short stories in this anthology are about 20-25 pages long, which I really, really liked. I don’t really like it when short stories are 50+ pages because that’s not ‘short’. These are a really great length in my opinion and it was easy to read a couple of stories in a sitting.

8. Romance and no romance

What I enjoyed about this anthology was that there was a good mixture of stories with and without romance. In fact, I think there were more stories that didn’t have a romance element and I loved that.

9. Mix of genres

There was also a really good mix of genres. They were all historical stories but there were some with fantasy elements and some with mythological aspects and I liked how different each of the stories were.

10. Beautiful hardcover

I have the hardcover version of the book and I think it’s a super high quality book. It’s got a beautiful jacket and the naked hardcover is also really lovely. The pages in the book are also thick and great quality.

Goodreads || Book Depository

Review: The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

the-passion-of-dolssa

Publisher: HarperCollins
Release date: March 21, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 336
Goodreads || Book Depository

Dolssa is a young gentlewoman with uncanny gifts, on the run from an obsessed friar determined to burn her as a heretic for the passion she refuses to tame.

Botille is a wily and charismatic peasant, a matchmaker running a tavern with her two sisters in a tiny seaside town.

The year is 1241; the place, Provensa, which we now call Provence, is a land still reeling from the bloody crusades waged there by the Catholic Church and its northern French armies.

When the matchmaker finds the mystic near death by a riverside, Botille takes Dolssa in and discovers the girl’s extraordinary healing power. But as the vengeful Friar Lucien hunts down his heretic, the two girls find themselves putting an entire village at the mercy of murderers.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Thank you to HarperCollins Australia for providing a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I didn’t know much about this book going into it, even though I’ve been highly anticipating it since I heard about it at the HarperCollins BTCYA event in November last year. And I definitely was not disappointed. I did have a really hard time with the first 50 pages of the book. The writing was very hard to get into and I wanted to DNF the book so many times. But I pushed through and it just kept getting better and better.

Despite the title of the book, The Passion of Dolssa is not really about Dolssa. It’s definitely a book about Botille and how her life is impacted by the presence of and her friendship with Dolssa. Botille is a girl who lives a pretty ordinary life in a small seaside town. But one day, she finds a malnourished Dolssa who is on the run for being a heretic and her life changes dramatically. Now, her life revolves around Dolssa and keeping her a secret from the village and from those who seek her, and that’s definitely easier said than done…

I absolutely loved Botille in this book and wasn’t too sad that there wasn’t more of Dolssa. Botille was strong, passionate and stood up for the things that she believed in, no matter the consequences. She was a fantastic character who was easy to love and empathise with and I was just so invested in her story. And this was the case with many of the other characters too. Initially, I had lots of doubts about the book but as I read more and more of it, I realised how connected to all of the characters I felt and I wasn’t able to put down the book because I needed to know what was going to happen to them next. The Passion of Dolssa is definitely a very character-driven story and I thought all of the characters were amazingly developed and written. I enjoyed all of the relationships between the characters and how they looked out for and supported each other. I also really enjoyed the little bits of romance that we got in the book and they were definitely some of my favourite moments in the book.

This book focuses on religion, which is something that I almost never read about. I’m not a religious person and I don’t read very many books about religion because I find it difficult to connect with and comprehend the ideas. But I felt like this book had just the right amount of religion and was done in a way that wasn’t preachy and was easy for me to understand and connect with. And because it’s based on real events in history, it made it even more interesting and relevant to me. I really enjoyed that the book showed the positives and negatives to religion – how religion can save people but also how those who are religious can abuse their power and use it to oppress others. It was an eye-opening read, especially because it’s not something that I’ve ever thought about in much detail.

What I had a little bit of a problem with was the writing, especially at the beginning of the book. It took me a good 50 pages to really get into it, and it’s definitely a style that you need to get used to. There are a lot of different perspectives and the chapters are quite short, so I felt like I was being pulled all over the place at the beginning. However, once I started getting into the story and the plot, this became less of an issue. The writing also switches constantly between first and third person narration, which was very confusing at first because it seemed like there was no pattern to it, but I quickly realised that Botille and Dolssa’s chapters were written in first person, while the other perspectives were in third person narration. The writing style and format of the book just takes a little bit of getting used to, so I’d recommend just pushing through if you’re thinking of DNFing the book.

The Passion of Dolssa was quite heavy and sad but I think it’s definitely worth the read. It’s a very interesting glimpse at a part of history that isn’t explored very much (or at least I haven’t read very much about it). It’s impossible not to fall in love with the characters in this book and become invested in their story.

Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

wolf-by-wolf

Publisher: Indigo
Release date: November 5, 2015
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 390
Goodreads || Book Depository

Her story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, they host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The prize? An audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele’s twin brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and stay true to her mission?

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

Wolf by Wolf is an alternate history WWII novel with a sci-fi twist. In this world, the Axis powers won the second world war and Hitler has control of most of the Western world, while Japan and Emperor Hirohito is in control of the East. However, the Resistance is growing and our main character, Yael, is at the centre of a mission to bring down Hitler. Each year, a cross-continent motocross competition is held and Yael enters this race posing as the previous year’s winner, Adele Wolfe. As the winner of the motocross race, Yael would have the opportunity to have a private audience with Hitler, where she plans to kill him.

The only people desperate enough to do business under high moon and heavy shadows were resistance conspirators, black-market scoundrels and Jews in disguise.

Yael happened to be all three.

Yael was taken to a death camp as a child, where she was experimented on and injected with chemicals that would give her an Aryan appearance. But white blonde hair and pale blue eyes weren’t all that these injections gave Yael. She acquired the ability to skinshift, meaning that she can change her appearance at will, including her bone structure, the colour of her skin, the colour and length of her hair and the sound of her voice. This ability has put Yael at the heart of the mission to assassinate Hitler. She enters the motocross race as Adele Wolfe and must try to keep her own identity and her true self hidden. But this proves to be harder than Yael expected. She finds her own emotions getting in the way of what needs to be done. In addition to that, she could have never expected Adele’s twin brother to also enter the race or that there may be a secret relationship between Adele and another competitor that Yael knows nothing about…

I really loved Yael’s character. She was very intriguing and I loved seeing her inner turmoil as she tried to stay in the character of Adele, while her whole being was telling her to act in a completely different way. I enjoyed seeing her develop from a person who was hellbent on revenge and refused to let anything get in the way, to a person who cared about those around her and how her actions would impact them. The emotional growth in her character as she experienced romance and brotherly love was wonderful to see and I liked seeing her rely on others and not taking on everything by herself. The only thing that I was skeptical about were her abilities. I just didn’t quite believe what she could do in terms of her skinshifting. It just seemed so completely impossible that I had to just suspend my disbelief.

My other small criticism is about the world that Ryan Graudin has created. I love the idea of the book and I really enjoyed the alternate history world. Graudin has done as fantastic job at creating a world that is plausible given the actual events of WWII. I really enjoyed how she integrated the East and the West, and how those from Germany had to learn the Japanese language and vice versa. And I also enjoyed the tension between the Germans and the Japanese, and how they continued to want to beat the other. My problem with the world was that it didn’t feel historical enough. Everything seemed very advanced and contemporary, which I could kind of understand given how much experimentation the Germans conducted. But there were times when I’d forget that this novel was taking place in the mid-1950s. It felt like it was happening in the present day, and I just didn’t get a good sense of the time period, which is the only reason why I’m taking off half a star.

I thoroughly enjoyed the other characters in the book. Wolf by Wolf had a spectacular cast of really complex characters that just kept me guessing the whole time. They were all very multidimensional and I loved how they weren’t who they seemed to be. It was difficult to understand their motives and I’m still unsure about some of the characters, but that’s what I loved most about this book. It was unpredictable and had me really excited to find out more. There is a little bit of romance in this book that was slow burning and had me wanting things to just happen. But it made me super excited for what’s to come.

I also really enjoyed the writing style of this book. It was definitely a unique style that isn’t for everybody but I didn’t find it to be hard to read and I thought some of the stylistic devices she used were very successful. There was a little bit of purple prose at times, but I didn’t mind it too much. The novel also consisted of ‘then’ and ‘now’ chapters and I thought they were perfectly placed. Often, books with then and now chapters seem very repetitive and unnecessary but I thought Ryan Graudin did a fantastic job with this format. The plot flowed extremely well and I enjoyed everything that happened in the book. I did predict the twist at the end though, because I knew that there would be a sequel to the book, so I wasn’t completely surprised by it. But it had me very excited about what’s to come and I’m highly anticipating the next sequel.

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable, fast-paced and action-packed book that has an interesting world and amazing characters that you will love. I highly recommend this one!

Review: Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

anna-and-the-swallow-man

Publisher: Corgi Children’s
Release date: January 28, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 240
Goodreads || Book Depository || Dymocks

Kraków, 1939, is no place to grow up. There are a million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. And Anna Lania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father and suddenly, she’s alone.

Then she meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall. And like Anna’s missing father, he has a gift for languages: Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, even Bird. When he summons a bright, beautiful swallow down to his hand to stop her from crying, Anna is entranced.

Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgement, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous . . .

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

I received a copy of this book for review from Dymocks via the publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The premise of this book is simple. Seven-year-old Anna is left with a friend of her father, while he attends a meeting at the university where he works as a linguistics professor. However, he never returns from his meeting and Anna is left alone in the middle of Kraków when her father’s friend abandons her. She meets a tall stranger who speaks multiple languages and reminds Anna of her father, and ends up following him around Poland for years. But while the premise and the plot of the book are simple, there’s a lot that’s left to interpretation. And it was this aspect of the book that I enjoyed and felt moved by the most.

Although this is classified as a young adult novel, it had a very literary feel to it. The writing was beautiful and conveyed so many emotions, while still remaining simple and easy to read. There was very little dialogue and lots of description that really transported me to WWII Poland. I felt like I was there with Anna and the Swallow Man, trekking through the snow in the winter with an empty stomach. And books like these are my favourite to read because it’s very rare for me to read a book and feel like I’m experiencing everything that the characters are going through. The book had a very slow-paced historical fiction feel to it, so if you like the genre, you will enjoy the pacing of this book.

The plot of this book may seem banal to some readers, but I highly enjoyed every moment of Anna’s story. The Swallow Man takes Anna under his wing and the two of them set off on a journey around Poland. Though the Swallow Man seems to be leading Anna around with purpose, there doesn’t seem to be a destination and the two wander around aimlessly for years and years. We do get a small glimpse of the reason behind this trip around Poland towards the end of the book, but much of it is up to the interpretation of the reader. I’m very satisfied with my own interpretation of the conclusion of the story, which was why I enjoy this book so much. But I can also see readers not liking this novel at all because it can seem quite pointless.

Anna still was not certain what precisely was meant by this word “war,” but it seemed, at least in part, to be an assault on her cookie supply, and of this she simply could not approve.

Anna was a wonderful character. You really get to see her grow and mature quickly throughout the book. She starts off as an innocent little girl who isn’t really sure what the war really means and what it means to be on the run. But she quickly learns to shed her identity, to blend in, and to survive. I enjoyed seeing things from her perspective, and I enjoyed that we didn’t really get to see the things that Anna learnt and or went through in her first two years with the Swallow Man, but slowly got to see more as she matured. It showed her maturation and how she was starting to think for herself, rather than following and imitating the Swallow Man’s every action and order. It was wonderful to see her incorporate her experiences and her interactions with other people into her identity and personality. Anna is a character who you will want to root for, no matter what happens.

The relationship that she had with the Swallow Man was a unique and puzzling one. It was beautiful to see their connection and how they treated each other like father and daughter, despite the Swallow Man’s aloofness and the distance that they placed between them. They really felt like kindred spirits who were meant to share this tough journey together. The way that they took care of each other and were responsible for each other really moved me, and even destroyed me at certain parts of the book.

If you’ve read Anna and the Swallow Man, I’d love to hear your thoughts and what you thought of the ending. I enjoyed the whole book immensely, especially the bond between Anna and the Swallow Man.

Review: Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

lady-helen

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Release date: December 14, 2015
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 448
Goodreads || Book Depository || Booktopia

London, April 1812. Lady Helen Wrexhall is set to make her debut at the court of Queen Charlotte and officially step into polite Regency society and the marriage mart. Little does Helen know that step will take her from the opulent drawing rooms of Mayfair and the bright lights of Vauxhall Gardens into a shadowy world of missing housemaids and demonic conspiracies.

Standing between those two worlds is Lord Carlston, a man of ruined reputation and brusque manners. He believes Helen has a destiny beyond the ballroom; a sacred and secret duty. Helen is not so sure, especially when she discovers that nothing around her is quite as it seems, including the enigmatic Lord Carlston.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

I received a copy of Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club is set during the Regency period in London and follows Lady Helen, a girl who has just been presented to the Queen and is expected to marry somebody of high standing. However, she quickly realises that she’s developing some strange abilities and discovers a secret world full of demons that she didn’t know existed.

My favourite aspect of this book was the setting and time period. I love historical fiction and the detail that was put into building the world was incredible. I had such a vivid image of what Regency London looked like, including the way people dressed and the customs and traditions that they followed. Everything seemed very authentic to the time period and it was clear that a lot of research had gone into creating a historically accurate world. Alison Goodman spends a good portion of the book really setting the scene and making sure that her readers are immersed in this Regency London scene. What I didn’t think was done as well was the building of the paranormal world. There’s very little information given and we’re learning about it as Lady Helen discovers more about it herself. We don’t find out a lot about the different kinds of demons and what ‘Reclaimers’ actually do. We’ve barely scratched the surface of the world in this book and I just needed a little bit more to really get into the series because I was left with a lot of questions.

However, what I did learn about the paranormal world, I really liked and was intrigued by. I thought it was interesting that there were different kinds of demons that feed on different things or aspects of a humanity, such as creativity, lust or violence. I did find the demons to be a little bit weird though… They’re tentacled creatures that grow more tentacles as they feed from humans. The whole process of the feeding was just weirdly sexual and I found it to be kind of creepy and disturbing. I was also intrigued by the work of the Reclaimers and how much alchemy is involved in the process of reclaiming a soul that’s been taken over by demon. Like I mentioned previously, there isn’t a lot of information given about the processes and a lot of what we were told was very complex. There are lots of things going on like transferring demonic energies to the earth, meditation and even drinking elixirs. I actually gagged a little when I read about the elixir because it sounded so disgusting!

I really enjoyed Lady Helen as a main character. She was intelligent and independent, without being reckless, and I really appreciated that she still continued to follow the rules of society. I enjoyed that she respected that women needed to behave in certain ways but that she also recognised that she could be more than who she was expected to be. She was just a wonderful balance of femininity and independence. I thought her character was complex and multifaceted, and it’s very difficult to not fall in love with her, as her friends would agree. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the friendships in this book. Lady Helen is fantastic with her fellow society ladies, but she’s also extremely kind to her maids. The relationship between Lady Helen and her maid, Darby, was my favourite in the novel and I’m just in love with these strong female characters and friendships.

I also appreciated that instead of focusing on the romance, this book was primarily about Lady Helen’s discovery of her identity as a demon hunter and her choice to become a demon hunter or stay as a society lady. There’s very little romance in this book, though there is a small love triangle and a hint of more to come in subsequent books. I enjoyed that there was no insta-love and that Lord Carlston acts as her mentor rather than her love interest (like I was led to believe from the blurb). It felt very refreshing and I appreciated that the very small hint of romance that we got to see was very sensible and mature. It’s definitely not a passionate and all-consuming romance.

Lastly, I wanted to talk briefly about the pace of the book. This book is incredibly slow. It definitely reads like a historical fiction novel, and if historical fiction isn’t really a genre that you like to read, you might not enjoy the pace of this one. Nothing much really happens during the first third of the book beyond setting the scene. However, there was lots of mystery at the beginning and it had me very intrigued and captivated, so I didn’t mind the slow pace too much. I did think that the book could have been quite a bit shorter though, since there’s only a small amount of action.

Overall, I thought this was a great first book to the series. It was a wonderful introduction to the world and hopefully we’ll learn more about the paranormal aspects in the next book.