Unless you have completely avoided the internet for the last year or soThis review was written for The Review Diaries You can read the full review here
Unless you have completely avoided the internet for the last year or so, you will have heard the word ‘Outlander’ bandied about at some point. This is due to the insanely popular TV series on Starz that started airing its debut season in August 2014 and is currently airing the second half of the season on Saturday nights.
Based on the series of books by Diana Gabaldon, the novels have suddenly received a new surge of interest due to the tv series as a whole host of people turn to the books to fill in gaps, find out what happens, and generally sate their unquenchable appetite for the incredible love story between Claire and Jamie.
I was one of these people. I watched the first eight episodes and promptly demanded all the Outlander books immediately. Because reasons. I stormed through the first book and it both sated all my Outlander needs and made the wait for the second half of the season to air nigh on unbearable, because this series is incredible.
Let’s start with Claire, the driving force behind the story. She is an incredible heroine – headstrong, feisty, determined and full of love and loyalty. She is a modern woman thrown out of her own time and forced into a time and situation where her gender plays heavily against her. She brings modern thinking and ideas in like a whirlwind and sweeps everyone up along with her. It is because of her that the book is so compelling to read – she drives the narrative and you cannot help but fall in love with her and want to know how she survives and thrives in this alien world she has stumbled into.
And then of course there’s her counterpart… Jamie Fraser has now set a new standard for fictional heroes. He’s young, yes, and filled with the ideas and status quo of the period he has grown and lived in, but he is also loyal and gentle and prepared to listen to Claire as an equal and adapt and grow so that their relationship is a truly modern affair with both of them holding equal power instead of Jamie ‘owning’ Claire. He loves her – that much is obvious – but the depth of feeling and emotion depicted in the book swept me away. He is the epitome of the romantic hero, full of fire and daring and love and whilst he desperately wants to protect Claire he also acknowledges she is a strong and independent person in her own right. They compliment each other perfectly, which serves to make the romance and relationship one of the strongest in fiction and one of the highlights of the novel.
The first section of the novel is a little slow to get moving, but once you are into the bulk of the story and are following Claire through the trials and mishaps of being a very modern woman in a very unmodern time you become completely immersed and swept up in the tale. I couldn’t put the book down and stormed through it in a night. Gabaldon has a rare talent of combining compelling and interesting characters with a well-researched and thoroughly realistic look at life in 1743 Scottish Highlands and all that that entails. The politics, the clans, the day to day existence – it’s all beautifully rendered in a captivating story that thrills along at an incredible pace. It is a world populated with fascinating and realistic characters and I found myself utterly enthralled as it touches on everything from the bigger politics and shifts of a time when Scotland was desperately fighting to regain its independence to the smaller pieces of life, the superstitions and traditions. I love Scotland and this furthered my love of the country and its history and brought it to life for me in a way other fiction and mediums haven’t yet captured. Despite the magical idea of time travel this is a novel very much rooted in real life, and other than that one breach of reality to get Claire back to 1743 the novel feels real, which makes it even more terrifying to experience some of the scenes later on in the book wen hysteria and a lack of understanding whip events up into a frenzy of terror.
I cannot recommend this book (and subsequent series) enough. Coming to the series now you’re also spoiled for choice as the Starz production of the first book is lovingly brought to life with an incredible cast and absolutely stunning scenery. It’s such a faithful adaptation that satisfies long term fans as well and offers a second entry into the imaginative and captivating story that Gabaldon has created. ...more
I absolutely love Ally Carter’s previous series, both Gallagher Girls and the Heist books, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her latest offering and get to know a whole new world. Unfortunately my anticipated love affair with ‘All Fall Down’ didn’t quite go as I’d anticipated.
The concept is great, the world is wonderful, the writing is up to Carter’s brilliant standard, but sadly there were problems. The biggest one being Grace herself. I never really felt like I connected with Grace, which is I think due in part to the fact that Grace is the most unreliable narrator I have ever come across in fiction. By about a third of the way through the book I just didn’t trust her at all, which meant that my enjoyment of the book became severely compromised.
It comes across as for a much younger audience, perhaps on that transition line for those just coming into young adult fiction. In part due to the style, but mostly again due to Grace. She never struck me as a sixteen year old teenager, she felt as though she’d gotten stuck at age thirteen. Understandable given the circumstances, but a little bit frustrating to read....more
Holly Black is the Queen of revealing the true terrifying natures of the Fae.
Every book she writes plays host to a whole array of strange and fantastical creatures that are the darkest versions of faeries imaginable, and they are utterly spellbindingly beautiful books. It is an incredible book, showcasing that Holly Black becomes even more talented with each book she writes. It showcases everything she has become known for – flowing prose, strong female characters, and a warping of the world around us until anything seems possible and even the most frightening things are real.
‘The Coldest Girl in Coldtown’ ushered in a new age of Black’s books, and an even more engrossing series of novels. Standalones featuring heady and terrifying new worlds, ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’ isn’t quite as chilling (no pun intended) as ‘Coldtown’ but it branches out to give us a peak at Fairfold and the fae terrorizing its citizens....more
So after my truly terrible experience with ‘Jackaby’, I was back to square one in my search for books like the ‘Lady Julia’ series by Deanna Raybourn. Until that is, I came across Angie’s review of ‘The Anatomist’sWife’ and without further ado I ordered it for the next day.
It is a very rare and utterly wonderful feeling to sink into a book and adore everything about it. To actually want to slow down your reading and savour the words. And then to discover that the book is the first in a series and there are several already published so you can continue to enjoy them at your leisure instead of the torturous wait of a year that new releases leave us with. ‘The Anatomist’s Wife’ gave me that feeling spades. I haven’t felt so absorbed, captivated and enthralled by a book and savoured every page since I discovered ‘Silent in the Grave’ – and my love of that is well documented.
Everything about this book was perfection. I loved Kiera from the start. I loved her backstory that slowly came out – piece by terrible piece. I loved the setting, her family, the atmosphere of fear and terror that seeped into everything, and most of all I loved her tempestuous relationship with Gage. There are so many similarities with the ‘Lady Julia’ series, but not in a bad way, merely the time period, the subject matter and the intriguing and wonderful relationship between the heroine and the investigator involved....more
Oh Jackaby, you had so much promise and you really didn’t live up to it. But then, maybe I’m just a picky customer. Feeling decidedly in need of something close to Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia series, Jackaby seemed like a pretty good bet. Mysteries! Deaths! Crime! Supernatural! Sleuthing! Victorian! Sherlock meets Dr Who? Oh yes please to all of the above!
So I dove straight in expecting to be blown away, but instead was mildly put out by the most ridiculous of things. Abigail Rook is supposed to be an English girl – admittedly she has been travelling for some time by the time the story begins, but still, she is a well bred English woman. So why does she insist on narrating and speaking with so many Americanisms? And not only that, but modern ones too? It was enough to make me weep with despair and my poor husband try and wrench the book from my hands. That one very idiotically simple thing virtually ruined the book for me. It put me in such a rubbishly grumpy frame of mind that enjoyment was pretty much squashed. Which is tragic because it could have been so very, very good....more
Thanks to Netgalley for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
I absolutely adored the original Study trilogy, particularly ‘Poison Study’ so when I heard that there were going to be more books in the series I, like most other fans of the books, was thrilled. And whilst it was fantastic to be back with Yelena and Valek and co. sadly the book didn’t quite live up to the very high expectations I had.
It’s become a worrying trend with the last few Snyder books that I will tear into them eagerly, my interest will wane and then at around the half way mark I will put them down and go and read something else, which is tragic. They are such good stories, but the first half of each of the latest books is so slow and weighed down with story and exposition that isn’t needed that nothing really happens. Eventually I come back to them, and the second half is so much better, everything picks up the stakes get higher, the tension is raised and I am reminded of all the reasons that I love Snyder’s books. Shadow Study is no exception to this new trend. The first half was so slow, so much back and forth and no one really knowing what’s going on or what to do and a lot of that leads from Yelena’s feeling of being adrift and lost, but the story shouldn’t be impacted this heavily by that. There should still be action, forward progress and a level of interest retained by the reader. So I took weeks to read the first half and eventually took a break from the book altogether.
The second half was so much better though. The storylines started coming together, and whilst everyone’s individual journeys were important, everything works so much better when everyone is together. The tension is amped, everything felt more terrifying and real and I was flying through the end of the book....more
I read the first book in this series, ‘Banished’ in March this year when I was stuck in hospital. I happened to have it on my kindle and devoured it in a matter of hours. I loved it. It was fast paced and funny and had such a fantastic plot that twisted and turned and kept me on my toes the entire time. The characters were brilliant and it was bursting with imagination and brilliance. So I was pretty excited to get my hands on the second book and get right back to where we’d left off with Kit and her friends. Only it didn’t quite turn out like that. Yes there were still the characters I loved, plus a few new ones, and there was still the magic underside to the world we already know, but it didn’t quite have the same sparkle as the first book. ...more
I love Eloisa James’ novels. They are witty, clever, and full of fantastic heroes and heroines just waiting to pull you into a slightly more romantic world. Whilst nothing will beat the ‘Desperate Duchesses’ series for me personally, James’ retelling of fairytales as regency romances has been inspired. I adored Cinderella (A Kiss at Midnight) and Beauty & the Beast (When Beauty Tamed the Beast) but there was something about this version of Rapunzel that just didn’t quite do it for me.
I read romance novels for escape when life becomes particularly problematic. I like to know that there is a safe formula that will ensure a happy ending (with a few bumps along the way) and a wonderful hero waiting to sweep the feisty and intelligent heroine off her feet before the last page.
So when I’m faced with a truly unlikeable hero it kinda puts a crimp in my plans....more
I adore the Lady Julia mysteries in a way that defies attempting to explain it like a rational human being. Let’s just leave it at this: they are wonderful books and if you haven’t read them yet then you need to, because Raybourn is one of the best writers I have had the pleasure of reading. This series of books found me quite by chance when I had finished reading Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate Series and wanted something similar. Amazon, in its infinite wisdom suggested I read these, and I have never looked back.
They are brilliantly constructed mysteries with a wonderful heroine at their heart, a broodingly acerbic hero and a cast of excellent characters that make these such a pleasure to come back to. With all that in mind, when the news came out that Deanna Raybourn was parting from her publishers and the chances of another Lady Julia novel had just dropped to virtually non-existant, I was devastated. I love these books and I had hoped to get just one more book to tie up some more ends that had been left. Instead we got the novellas, and whilst I was initially hesitant, Raybourn has done a truly spectacular job of not only telling more of Julia’s story through the four novellas, but also weaving in elements of it into her three novels set in the twenties. Between them we’ve been given a very good idea of where Julia was heading and what happened to her after the events of ‘The Dark Enquiry’....more
I am a rather huge fan of The Princess Bride. I’ve been watching it ever since I was seven and my sister brought home a copy of it on video and I watched it on repeat. It has everything, it is a classic, it is utter genius and pure brilliance and if you haven’t seen this film or read the book, you need to remedy this immediately. As brilliant as the book is, I highly recommend watching the film first.
So when it was announced about a year ago that Cary Elwes would be releasing a behind the scenes making of book extravaganza, I was one of the people whose shrieks of joy could be heard the world over.
The book is beautiful, lovingly created with some gorgeous photographs and a wonderful piece of art hidden inside the dust-jacket. The whole thing reflects the film itself, it’s a labour of love with everyone involved coming together to provide stories, musings and recollections about the process and filming of The Princess Bride. It’s like putting on a favourite sweater and slippers and drinking a hot mug of tea – warm and comforting, familiar and wonderful. I laughed, I got a little teary eyed, and the whole thing was a magical experience, a beautiful way to go back and revisit the film and to hear from the team that brought it to us so many little tales from behind the scenes that helped make it even more brilliant....more
I saw the movie before I read the book, and this is one of the few cases where the movie is better than the book. So if you’re thinking about reading this after seeing Anne Hathaway turn from slouchy to glamorous, I’d really save your time.
The movie worked to make the characters likeable, both Andy and Miranda, and for there to be progress, character development, and you know, an actual plot. The book really didn’t bother. Andy remained aloof, sarcastic and whiny throughout the book and it never really felt like she grew as a person, or developed at all over the course of the year. She maybe had slightly better dress sense by the end, but there was no development, she just whinged at everyone, pushed her friends and family away and didn’t really try to integrate or work particularly hard at Runway. Yes her job was demeaning at points and yes Miranda had unrealistic expectations, but Andy never even really tried. She went out of her way to try and be obnoxious and get one over on Miranda the entire time, only for it to backfire and cause her more work as a result. It was painful to read....more
I’ve read a few other books by Stephen Clarke and really loved them; his writing is eloquent and frequently laugh out loud funny, and he tackles his subjects with both wit and an obvious deep love of the country and culture that he is writing about. It’s just a shame that he didn’t bring any of that to ‘A Year in the Merde.’ When I picked it up I didn’t realise it was a novel, so was expecting more of a travel memoir recounting a lot of the pitfalls of moving to France that people experience. What I got instead was a truly awful main character who is not only feeling displaced by his move to Paris, but is downright rude and obnoxious and makes no effort whatsoever to be anything other than disparaging and condescending throughout his stay....more
This book appears to be quite the marmite book with people swearing up and down either that this is an awesome new fantasy, or it’s a big pile of garbage. Luckily I’d managed to steer clear of any reviews prior to reading, so I went in knowing only that there was a lot of buzz surrounding it, and that Emma Watson is attached to a film version currently in the works.
Let’s start by talking about the cover. I love it. It’s one of the best covers I’ve seen this year. Incredibly simple, powerful and effective. And whilst the plot contained within isn’t exactly simple, it certainly gives you a good indication of what you’re going to find.
This is a novel on quite a fantastic scope. It’s a mixture of so many different things – dystopian, fantasy, both young adult and adult, with a fantastic set of characters led by Kelsea.
It took me a little while to warm up to Kelsea, she comes across as a little arrogant, a little bit spiky to start with, but the longer I read the more I loved her. She’s bright and intelligent and determined and so overwhelmed by everything. She’s human, but she’s desperate to try and protect her people, to fix the wrongs that have been going on in her kingdom and be a good leader. However despite all her good intentions she is hampered because no one will talk to her, she has no real knowledge of the kingdom as it is now or during her mother’s reign, which leaves her blind and hobbled and trying to plug all the gaps in a sinking ship. I loved her fierce and wonderful she was, and I loved how insecure and unsure of everything she was as well. She is fiercely human, and you can ask no more from a character than that....more
This book was intriguing, with a brilliant premise, but unfortunately the execution was lacking and turned the concept into something more problematic. With such a brilliant and horrifying idea at the heart, it was incredibly frustrating that half way through a love interest was brought in for Violet which then became the focus. The love interest itself was problematic – there was no build up of the relationship, no real relationship to speak of that the reader can see develop. Just a few stolen moments and then suddenly, ‘we’re in love!’ which has been done to death in fiction, particularly at the moment. It then provides a truly ridiculous springboard for a climactic end to the book, another cliff hanger for the sake of trying to keep readers hooked rather than a natural end to the book with a lead into the next one. The romance really slows down the story and takes away from the focus of the story which could be brilliant with a bit of work....more
Huge thanks to Netgalley for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
I was very curious to see how the book would turn out, coming from two such well known and prolific authors as Clare and Black, but also because of the comparisons being made to Harry Potter.
Yes there are a lot of comparisons, but there are also a lot of differences too which helps once you get into it. There’s the school for magic, the trio of friends who band together, the sneaking around and general hijinks happening behind people’s backs, the prophecy, the Dumbledore and Snape like teacher figures, but there’s an awful lot in there that sets it apart from the Potter series. The series is always going to divide opinion, and there will always be people who can’t get into it or don’t want to read it because of the comparisons. For me personally it was like looking into a slightly skewed mirror until I got far enough into the story that it stopped being quite so obvious.
It was a bit unsettling though because I did always have Potter in the back of my head. And whilst every effort was being made to make magic school cool and exciting, I couldn’t get beyond some aspects of it. It was underground and cold and dark and no one ever really saw the outside world and the food, no matter how delicious it was described to be, sounded weird… I missed Hogwarts. And if it hadn’t been so similar in so many ways, that comparison wouldn’t have been there.
Comparisons aside, it is still a very good book. Black and Clare make a great writing team and I really enjoyed the story. There were some great twists, some wonderful characters, and some really intriguing elements....more
When anything tries to compare itself to ‘The Night Circus’ I am hesitant. ‘The Night Circus’ is such a hauntingly beautiful novel that holds such a special place in my heart that nothing ever seems to come close to touching it. ‘The Magician’s Lie’ comes incredibly close though.
The novel is split, between the night when Arden’s husband is found dead and she goes on the run, only to be caught by Virgil, a police officer, and her retelling of her life story whilst in custody. One night and one incredible story later, Virgil must try and untangle what has really happened.
It’s an intriguing premise – a female magician in a period when Arden is the only one, a touring magic show, a desperate and breathless backstory with true love tangled up in it all. The novel is beautifully written and brilliantly executed. The only places where it stumbles are when we are brought back to reality and Arden trying to persuade Virgil of her innocence. The pace slows and I found myself desperate for them to stop talking and for Arden to get back to re-telling her own story.
The novel has been thoroughly researched and it shows, the characters and setting peel off the page and immerse the reader in the tale. It is brilliantly constructed and stitched together and I found myself coming to care about Arden and her story very quickly. She is a wonderful heroine with a fascinating life and I loved her from the start....more
After reading a truly terrible young adult account of Sophie, (the future Catherine the Great) a few months ago, I remembered that I had on my shelves another telling of that story, this one recommended by an author I adore, so I decided to give the tale another go.
‘The Winter Palace’ is an intense and gripping story told by Varvara, a Polish orphan who is taken in by the Empress and set to work in the royal wardrobe. She is hungry, exhausted, constantly belittled, and feels she should be destined for greater things if only the Empress knew that she was there living in the palace. By sheer luck and her curiosity she comes to the attention of Count Bestuzhev who trains her and presents her to the Empress as a new spy.
Varvara is a fascinating protagonist. She has a disappointing tendency to become as flat and invisible to the reader as Bestuzhev demands her to be to the occupants of the palace, but on the whole she is an intriguing view point to watch history unfold from. She sees so much, is privy to so much and it is engrossing to watch her become embroiled in the very heart of everything, privy to the Empress herself. Anyone who has a basic knowledge of Russian history will know how the events of the book will play out, but Stachniak manages on the whole to still make it fresh and new and engrossing for the reader as you are enmeshed further along with Varvara.
Stachniak has re-created the Winter Palace with an eye for detail and an ability to convey the sheer grandeur and over indulgence of the period. It is stunning in its complexity and the vibrancy that fairly oozes from the pages as you are drawn into this world with its intrigues and politics and scandals. It is a lush and opulent depiction of life in Russia that Varvara hovers on the edges of, flitting in and out of the main tale and drawing the reader ever deeper into the web of secrets and lies that make up life in the Palace....more
Huge thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review This review is spoiler free! Published: 11th September 2014
When I got my hands on an early copy of ‘Heir of Fire’ I couldn’t wait to get started. It was just a shame that around five pages in I realized that most of the events of the previous book was nothing but a hazy memory and if I wanted any clue what was happening I needed to go back and start at the beginning. So I’ve spent and otherwise stressful few weeks happily ensconced in Celaena’s world, reliving her battle to become the King’s Champion, her slow uncovering of the rebels plots, the devastation and loss and the shock of revelations at the end of ‘Crown of Midnight’. It was quite the emotional rollercoaster, and I was expecting that pace to be maintained, thinking that this was the last book in the series. Thankfully I was wrong, and there are plenty of stories waiting for another book to tell them, but it meant that I spent a good portion of the book waiting for the pace to kick up a notch as it would in the final book in a series, and being disappointed. Once I got around the fact that I was being an idiot and doing myself out of more books (Sarah has stated on her website that she’s always seen the series as a 6 book one.) I settled in and enjoyed the book. ...more