Reviews

Review: Once Upon a River ~ by Diane Setterfield

480 pages ~ Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

2018 ~ Atria/Emily Beatles Books

My Rating: 5/5 ✰✰✰✰✰

Goodreads Description:

A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?

Replete with folklore, suspense, and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.

“Along the borders of this world lie others. There are places you can cross. This is one such place.”

My Thoughts:

First, let me say that this book is probably not for everyone. It is a very meandering, atmospheric type of narrative that is more about mood than it is about plot. Although there is a mystery at the heart of the plot, it is not the type of suspenseful mystery that would keep someone up till 3 am trying to get to the bottom of. I would not recommend this to readers who need a fast-paced, suspenseful plot in order to stay engaged. I would recommend this to readers who, like me, enjoy rich, dreamy beautiful prose, simply for the sake of beautiful prose. Fans of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries would definitely be into this. The plot is slow moving, but this book is more than plot. It is about storytelling in all of its various forms and what those stories provide us. Setterfield has a very distinct style that I can only describe as magical. Here were some highlights for me:

-The celebration of storytelling- As I said above, this book is really a celebration of how stories influence us, inspire us, help us cope, and help us make sense of things we can’t understand. The river, in this story, both gives and takes life, it is both salvation and destruction simultaneously. It both inspires the stories, while the stories, in turn, define the river and what it is capable of. This was really such a beautiful theme, especially for someone who spends their life between the pages of a book.

-Darwinian themes- Because so little was known about the nature of medicine and science during the Victorian era, it was really interesting to see how these characters created stories in order to make sense of things that were, to them, unimaginable.

“Once upon a time, a long time ago, an ape became human. And once upon a time, long before that, an aquatic creature came out of the water and breathed air.”

-Connection to the real Henry Taunt– I had no idea that there was an actual Victorian photographer who floated around the Thames on a boat with a darkroom. When reading Setterfield’s notes at the end of the novel, it was really fascinating to see how her own research of Taunt lead her to create this story. I spent about two hours online mesmerized by his photography. I think that it would have been really lovely if the book included a map of the river and some of Taunt’s photography.

-Setterfield does a remarkable job of making the reader feel as if they’re are part this magical transaction of storytelling. You feel as if you are sitting down at the Swan with a pint, listening to this remarkable tale.

“And now, dear reader, the story is over. It is time for you to cross the bride once more and return to the world you came from. This river, which is and is not the Thames, must continue following without you. You have haunted here long enough, and besides, you surely have rivers of your own to attend to?”

Happy Reading!!

For more information on Diane Setterfield and her books, check her out on Goodreads

Follow me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi

Advertisements
Reviews

Review: The Silence of the Girls ~ by Pat Barker

img_0447

Review: The Silence of the Girls ~ by Pat Barker

291 pages ~ Literary Fiction/Greek Mythology Retelling

2018~ Doubleday Books

Audio Narrated by Kristin Atherton and Michael Fox

10 hr 44 mins

Published by Random House Audio

Presented by Audible.com

My Rating: 5/5 ✰✰✰✰✰

Goodreads Description:

The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman—Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman—Briseis—watches and waits for the war’s outcome. She was queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms, until Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles’s concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army.

When Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks. Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose ground to their Trojan opponents. Keenly observant and coolly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself in an unprecedented position, able to observe the two men driving the Greek army in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate not only of Briseis’s people but also of the ancient world at large.

Briseis is just one among thousands of women living behind the scenes in this war—the slaves and prostitutes, the nurses, the women who lay out the dead—all of them erased by history. With breathtaking historical detail and luminous prose, Pat Barker brings the teeming world of the Greek camp to vivid life. She offers nuanced, complex portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology, which, seen from Briseis’s perspective, are rife with newfound revelations. Barker’s latest builds on her decades-long study of war and its impact on individual lives—and it is nothing short of magnificent.

“Many of these songs I remember from my own childhood. As a small girl at home in my father’s house, I used to creep down to the courtyard when I was supposed to be in bed asleep and listen to the bards playing and singing in the hall. Perhaps, at that age, I thought all the stirring tales of courage and adventure were opening a door into my own future, though a few years later- ten, eleven years old, perhaps- the world began to close in around me and I realized the songs belonged to my brothers, not to me.”

Processed with VSCO with al1 preset

My Thoughts:

Barker does something pretty brilliant in this book- she manages to simultaneously celebrate The Iliad (the original source of this story) and challenge it. Her challenge comes in the form of perspective because her story brings to light the thoughts/feelings/struggles/triumphs of the women in this story- who both A) played a crucial role in the politics and the emotion of the story, and B) whose perspectives were woefully left out of the original. However, her book also celebrates the Iliad. She gives you a sense of the majesty of this story and the complexity of its heroes. I honestly can’t say enough about how much I loved this book- it was a breath of fresh air, it was moving, emotional, honest, and beautifully written. Below were some of the high points for me:

  • The connection to the Iliad- Barker is very careful to interject Briseis’ voice into Achilles’ story- Briseis never attempts to rewrite it or make it her own. She is very honestly telling the events from her own perspective- inserting her own thoughts and feelings while also commenting on the differences between her story and the romanticized legends of Achilles and the Trojan War.

“Suppose, suppose just once, once, in all these centuries, the slippery gods keep their word and Achilles is granted eternal glory in return for his early death under the walls of Troy…? What will they make of us, the people of those unimaginable distant times? One thing I do know: they won’t want to be told about the massacres of men and boys, the enslavement of women and girls. They won’t want to know we were living in a rape camp. No, they’ll go for something altogether softer. A love story, perhaps? I just hope they manage to work out who the lovers were.

His story. His, not mine. It ends at his grave.”

  • With this connection to the Iliad, we also see Achilles in a completely new light. He continues to be the brutal, ruthless, killing machine that we know, but in seeing his love for Patroclus and his connection to his mother, there is a new depth to him. Even his relationship with Briseis changes over the course of this story. They form a mutual respect and understanding of each other. It’s not loving, I wouldn’t even call it friendship, but it’s definitely a shared acceptance and protection.
  • The everyday struggles and triumphs of the women and their day-to-day life in the camp was beautifully captured. The women like Briseis who have been captured and taken away from their homes to live as slaves in the Greek war camp find a magical way to cope with their reality. Through caring for the children, caring for the sick and wounded, preparing the dead for cremation, all preparing the food, the women in the camp find connection and purpose despite what they are forced to endure.
  • Use of the Gods- There is not as much interaction with the Gods in this story as there is in The Iliad. In fact, Achilles’ mother, Thetis, is the only God these characters ever interact with. The subtle inclusion of the Gods allows for the possibility that some of these “curses” and “bargains” with said Gods could actually be in the minds of the characters rather than a reality.
  • Narrative style- For the most part, the story is told in the first person by Briseis. It is as if you are sitting down with an old friend and she is telling you about the most horrific experiences of the life. This story is raw and unsentimental, unlike the romanticization we find in the Iliad. This story is coming from a person who has become immune to the horrors and the pain that she suffered. To her, it is just her life, not a heroic legend or fanciful tale. Briseis even poses questions for the reader. Questions that she knows the reader might have or questions that a friend might have in hearing her story.

“This man killed your brothers, he killed your husband, he burned your city, he destroyed every single thing you’d ever loved- and you were prepared to marry him? I don’t understand how you could do that?

“Perhaps that’s because you’ve never  been a slave?”

Again, I can’t say enough about the beauty of this book. If you are a fan of Greek Mythology retellings, this is a must!

For more information on Pat Barker and her books, check her out on Goodreads

Follow me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi

Reviews

Review ~ Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

img_9767

Review: Vengeful ~ by V.E. Schwab

478 pages ~ Adult Fantasy

2018~ TOR

My Rating: 4/5 ✰✰✰✰

Goodreads Description:

Sydney once had Serena—beloved sister, betrayed enemy, powerful ally. But now she is alone, except for her thrice-dead dog, Dol, and then there’s Victor, who thinks Sydney doesn’t know about his most recent act of vengeance.

Victor himself is under the radar these days—being buried and re-animated can strike concern even if one has superhuman powers. But despite his own worries, his anger remains. And Eli Ever still has yet to pay for the evil he has done.

Link to my Vicious- Book 1 Review

23d548e0-58f6-4395-9859-6b10b87959e5

My Thoughts:

Even though I loved Vicious, I actually enjoyed the plot of Vengeful much more. With Vicious I found myself disinterest at times, but Vengeful grabbed me right from the beginning and never let go. The build-up/plot was much more complex and intricate than the first. Schwab is such a skilled writer and there were so many unique themes running through this book. Below were some of the high points for me:

  • My enthusiasm for this book is in large part due to Marcella. She was such a great addition to this story because she added the drama and romance that was lacking in the first book. Her relationship with her husband and their backstory made her revenge and descent into villainy even more poignant. I felt like I really knew her and the motives behind her actions, which is something that was often lacking for Victor and Eli. I loved that Marcella’s character was beautiful and powerful. Schwab did such a great job playing with this femme fatale vibe.

“People looked at Marcella and assumed a whole lot. That a pretty face meant an Empty head, that a girl like her was only after an easy life, that she would be Satisfied with luxury, instead of power- as if you couldn’t have both.”

  • The banter between June and Marcella was also a really great addition. Two powerful females, the hit woman and the mod wife, trying to feel each other and anticipate each other’s moves was really fun to watch.
  • I really loved June as well- she had a very Arya Stark vibe with her “kill list.” She protected Sydney but also tried to empower her by teaching her the value of a family that is chosen rather than the one we are born into. I would have really liked more backstory on June, but maybe Schwab has plans for that.
  • The connection with the mod also gave the book a very cool film noir vibe that I absolutely loved. I can completely see this being made into a film noir style detective mystery complete with black and white stylized cinematography.
  • Eli’s backstory was fascinating. It was so interesting to finally see the motivation behind his actions. His backstory then brought up so many questions about motive. Victor and Eli commit the same crimes but for different reasons- Is Victor less evil because he kills EOs in order to protect Syd, their makeshift family, and find a cure for himself? Do we still consider Eli purely evil once we understand the full extent of his motive? These were all really interesting questions that the book brought up and I actually really liked that it never attempted to answer them. “There are no good men in this game.”- because no one is wholly good or bad.
  • Haverty- AKA: Frankenstein – His desire to tap into what the EOs have was a really cool reflection on Victor and Eli creating their own monsters (themselves). I would have liked more with the doctor at the end of the novel. His role was really shaping up to be something pivotal at the end, but it was over pretty quickly.

What was missing?

  • Ok, my only complaint is really the same complaint that I had with book one. Victor and Eli are supposed to be these legendary friends turned enemies. The inside cover of the book even compares them to “Magneto and Professor X” and “Superman and Lex Luthor.” But because we never get very much of the backstory on the formation of their friendship, I just consistently found it hard to understand their intense hatred for each other and their desire to destroy each other. There is a small flashback to the day they met, but that is it. It was not enough to understand the connection and/or love that they once had for each other. It might seem a little nitpicky, but I just wanted to be more invested in their relationship than I was. Ultimately, it was the side characters that I really ended up investing.

Without giving anything away, the ending does seem to leave you guessing. This could mean a potential continuation of the EO would, I’m not sure, but I would definitely be there for that.

For more information on V.E. Schwab and her books, check her out on Goodreads

Follow me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi

Reviews

Review: Vicious (Villains #1) ~ by V.E. Schwab

Review: Vicious ~ by V.E. Schwab

364 pages ~ Adult Fantasy

2013~ TOR

My Rating: 4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Goodreads Description:

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

My Thoughts:

This story was such a unique and interesting twist on what someone would be willing to do to gain power. It reminded me a lot of the film, Flatliners. This film was both horrific to watch, but also strangely insightful for many different reasons. You are watching these kids destroy themselves for the sake of “science” and for the sake of gaining power, and it is kind of traumatizing but fascinating at the same time. But it also brings up so many interesting questions about what role religion and science play in convincing us of what is right and wrong, and how far humans should go in their desire to control life and death.

Below were some high points for me:

  • The blurred line between villain and hero- How do we define a hero or a villain?- it’s really such a messy and complicated question that a lot of books try to grapple with, but Schwab has managed to do it in such a unique way. It’s all about outside perception in this book- how the world perceives Eli and Victor- they are seen as both throughout the book- Victor claims: “these words people threw around – humans, monsters, heroes, villains – to Victor it was all just a matter of semantics. Someone could call themselves a hero and still walk around killing dozens. Someone else could be labeled a villain for trying to stop them. Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”
  • “The paper called Eli a hero. The word made Victor laugh. Not just because it was absurd, but because it posed a question. If Eli was really a hero, and Victor meant to stop him, did that make him a villain? He took a long sip of his drink, tipped his head back against the couch, and decided he could live with that.”
  • Victor’s blackout poetry- “a sight, a civilian hero, nameless, a bad feeling, fearless unarmed, and in the mayhem uninjured. It was a remarkable display.” Victor’s desire to turn his parent’s self-help books into something creative and self-expressive was a really clever element. It felt like a comment on the power that creativity and fiction can have over psychology/self-help.
  • The question of what Religion/Faith can convince us to do- Eli used religion to convince himself that what he was doing was right and part of some divine plan- “the unnatural made natural,” but he is a walking contradiction due to his own status as an EO. I felt like this was Schwab’s clever way of commenting on the dangers of religion and what crimes it can convince us to commit.
  • The “gifts” that can be attributed to God vs. Science- After his “experiment,” Eli attributes his new “gifts” to God’s divine intervention:

Eli: “Why of all the potential powers I ended up with his one. Maybe it’s not random. Maybe there’s some correlation between a person’s character and their resulting ability?

Victor: “According to your thesis, an influx of adrenaline and a desire to survive gave you that talent. Not God. This isn’t divinity, Eli. It’s science and chance.”

  • I thought it was a really fascination twist that a medical student, trained in the power of Science, could attribute the results of a Science experience, to the divine. That he saw himself not as a monster, but an “avenging angel.” Major props to Schwab on this one- this was a fascinating twist.

What was missing?

  • I felt like there wasn’t enough background on Victor and Eli’s relationship. When the eventual rift between the two comes, the intensity of it didn’t feel fully believable to me because I didn’t feel like I knew or understood their previous relationship. The connection between the two wasn’t built up enough to warrant such an intense hatred.
  • Victor and Eli- because I didn’t have much background on them, I didn’t find a lot of connection with them. I think I just wanted to know and understand them more. Because I didn’t, I wasn’t fully invested in who came out on top. I was more concerned about the people who they managed to drag into their feud- mainly Mitch, Sydney, and Dol.

Overall, it was an interesting read with a crazy cool twist on Superheroes vs. Villains. Schwab is a great writer and she managed to seamlessly blend in some really complex questions while also just being purely entertaining and fun! I will definitely be reading Vengeful soon!

For more information on V.E. Schwab and her books, check her out on Goodreads

Follow me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi

Reviews

Review: Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4) ~ by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Review: Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4) ~ by Robert Galbraith (Pseudonym of J.K. Rowling)

656 pages ~ Detective, Mystery, Crime

September 2018~ Sphere (Little, Brown, and Co.)

My Rating: 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Goodreads Description:

“I seen a kid killed…He strangled it, up by the horse.”

When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott—once his assistant, now a partner in the agency—set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been—Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much trickier than that.

My Thoughts:

Ok, let’s be honest, I’ll always be a little bias when it comes to Jo Rowling. She gave me one of my favorite series, which has been a constant source of light and love since first reading The Sorcerer’s Stone when I was 17. I can never thank her enough for bringing Harry into the world. That being said, her detective novels deserve the same amount of praise as far as I’m concerned. The attention to detail and suspense that we get in HP, works so well in her detective series. Every tiny detail is crafted to come together at the perfect moment, and suddenly, all of the pieces fit together and it is so satisfying. I have loved every Cormoran Strike novel so far, Cuckoo’s Calling being my favorite, but Lethal White was so much more intricate than the other 3 novels. I can now see why it took so long for this book to finally make it to publication. The level of detail and intersecting plot points make it seriously remarkable. Was it long? Yes. Did I care? No. The length was absolutely necessary when considering the intricacy of the plot and the investigation. Unlike all of the other Strike novels, we are not dealing with one crime in Lethal White. There is policial corruption, blackmail, and a repressed memory that, for the majority of the book, we’re not even sure is real). The length was completely welcome for me. I wanted to stay with Strike and Robin as long as I could and continue to take in all of the minute details of the case as they unfolded. I would have welcomed another 500 pages if it meant staying with these two a little longer.

Below were some high points for me:

  • The Detail!- Unlike most detective novels, where certain pieces of information are withheld from the reader until the perfect moment, Rowling doesn’t do this. The reader gets EVERYTHING! And I mean everything. All of the tiny pieces of the mystery that Strike and Robin are grabbling with and trying to fit together, are given to the reader. You have all the pieces to the puzzle, but like Strike and Robin, you don’t understand how they fit together. Because you have all of the pieces, seeing how they fit together at the end is even more satisfying. This is my absolute favorite element of Rowling’s detective novels, and it is really beautifully done in Lethal White.
  • The Realistic lives of Strike and Robin- If you haven’t noticed, I love these two. They are smart, funny, real, honest, and good, truly good – with no gray area. But now that we are into the 4th book with them, their personalities, their imperfections, and unique way of seeing the world and themselves are really coming through. There is so much of their own inner dialogue in this book and it was great to get to know them even more.
  • Politics: Every member of this diverse cast of characters has a political connection. There’s Jasper Chiswell- the Tory MP; his rich, dysfunction family; Della Winn- the blind, Liberal, Saint-like MP; her sleazy, power-hungry husband – Geriant Winn; Flick Purdue – upper-class daughter, turned Liberal activist; Jimmy Knight- troubled, Liberal activist, bent on bringing down the Tories; his brother- Billy Knight- mentally disturbed and convinced he witnessed a murder when he was young. All of these characters are multi-dimensional, none are wholly good or bad, and you find yourself liking them all at certain points in the novel.  I also loved that no political leaning came out squeaky clean. The Liberal characters (or Whigs in the UK), come out looking just as bad as the Conservatives (Tories), and vice versa.
  • Undercover work for Strike and Robin was new in this novel. There are small moments in the other novels, but we get so much more of it here. This was a really fun element in the novel. It was great to see them both thinking on their feet, taking on new personas, and reacting when things didn’t go as planned.
  • Romance: I have heard the comment so many times that J.K. Rowling can’t write romance, and I really just don’t agree. The subtle moments of tenderness and affection between Strike and Robin are realistic and in tune with their working relationship. I don’t want to give anything away, but there are so many lovely kernels of romance throughout the book- it’s just enough to give you the warm and fuzzies, and leaving you guessing.

Needless to say, I loved it. Rowling continues to be one of the favorite writers, and I can’t wait for book #5. I am keeping my figures crossed that this is planned for 2019. 

For more information on Robert Galbraith and the other Cormoran Strike novels, check out Goodreads

Follow me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi

Reviews

Review: Escaping From Houdini ~ by Kerri Maniscalco

Review: Escaping From Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3) ~ by Kerri Maniscalco

416 pages ~ Young Adult, Historical Fiction

2018~ Jimmy Patterson

My Rating: 4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Goodreads Description: Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The strange and disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea. It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?

My Thoughts:

Both Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula are two of my favorite YA historical fiction novels. Kerri Maniscalco does an amazing job of capturing the Victorian aesthetic. All her books have a very “vintage detective” feel (for lack of a better word)- kind of Agatha Christie meets Nancy Drew. It was so much fun being back with my favorite sleuthing Victorian lovebirds. Everything we love about them is still there, but we also get to see them grow as individuals too. This crime was as unpredictable and fascinating as the other two books, and I loved following along with all of the clues- though they didn’t do me much good in figuring out the murderer. It was a great ride from start to finish.

Below were some highlights for me:

  • The whole set up of the Moonlight Carnival was amazing! The performers all had interesting backstories that connected so well with their talents. Their talents were also so unique to Victorian carnivals. They were all mysterious, and a little creepy, but they all still felt really likable to me. Methosopholes was the perfect mysterious, master of ceremony.
  • Like the other two books in the series, this book was full of lovely, rich description- every detail of the ship was covered in detail, the clothing that every character and performer wore, even the food that was served was described in detail.
  • The connection between the tarot cards/playing cards and the murders was next level creepy. I loved getting these clues at each new murder.
  • The murder was completely unpredictable- maybe this is a result of my poor sleuthing skills, but I had absolutely no idea who the killer was. I would like to go back and read some key moments to see if there were any clues that I might have missed.
  • The humor and banter between Thomas and Audrey Rose continued to elicit laughs and smiles from me. Though I would have liked more of it, their relationship/partnership continues to be my favorite part of the series.

Spoiler below:

-The only aspect that I didn’t love was the love triangle. I really appreciate what Maniscalco was doing by adding in another potential love interest for Audrey Rose, and I think it worked in some ways. It was nice to see that Audrey Rose would never settle and that she would continue to question what it is she really wants. I liked that she considered another life and another option for herself. I also liked that Thomas never tried to force Audrey Rose or demand that she choose. He was willing to set her free and support her no matter what she decided. My only issue with the love triangle was that I felt like her interest in Mephistopheles was half-hearted. It was so obvious to me that she was never going to pick him over Thomas, so the whole angst of it all just felt unnecessary and a little forced.

-I actually really like Mephistopheles and I would have liked him more if he had been working with Thomas and Audrey Rose to solve the murders, rather then just trying to seduce Audrey Rose and get her to agree to bargains that were so obviously ploys to get her alone.

-Also, so many of the romantic/flittery moments between Audrey Rose and Mephistopheles felt so similar to some moments between her and Thomas. So it was a little awkward to read.

Overall, this series will forever be one of my favorites. The Victorian world that Maniscalco has created is perfect- I love the aesthetic and feel of each destination. From the Gothic streets of London to Bran Castle, and now to a deadly floating carnival. Thomas and Audrey Rose are so endearing and I love how they work as a team. Both Audrey Rose and Thomas don’t subscribe to typical Victorian beliefs and I love that about them. I have heard the criticism that this makes them unrealistic characters, but I find it really refreshing. It is great to read about a strong confident Victorian girl who refuses to accept society’s role for her. And a Victorian boy who sees the girl he loves as an equal and a partner. I’m so excited that there is another book coming! Hopefully next year. I Can’t wait for another adventure with these two.

As always, I would love to hear from you! Happy reading, everyone!  

For more information on Kerri Maniscalco and her books, check her out on Goodreads

Follow me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi

Reviews

Review: Siege and Storm ~ by Leigh Bardugo

Review: Siege and Storm ~ by Leigh Bardugo

358 pages ~ Genre: YA Fantasy

2013 ~ Henry Holt and Company

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Description: Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

My Thoughts:

I really loved Shadow and Bone, but Siege and Storm had so much more action, humor, intrigue, plus- Nikolai! This series just got even better!

Here’s were some highlights for me:

  • Alina’s draw to the Darkling in this book was the most fascinating element for me- her subconscious need to understand him and the hidden truth that he is the only one that will ever be able to understand her- added such a great underlying tension to the plot.

“Like calls to like.” “There are no others like us, Alina. And there never will be.”

  • Alina’s own shadows – I loved how this book played with the difference between the Darklings ‘merzost’ and the Grisha’s small science. It felt like Alina’s fascination with the Darkling and his nivhevo’ya were foreshadowing her own eventual battle with her own “shadows.” I loved how this played with the idea of light and dark existing in all of us.
  • The addition of Nikolai (aka Sturmhond)- The “too clever fox” was seriously a perfect addition to this series. His witty retorts made this book so much fun and brought a lightheartedness that was missing in the first book.
  • Alina as the leader of the Grisha Army was another amazing element in this book- watching her assert her authority and command a room was inspiring. The “war room” scenes were giving me major Daenerys vibes.
  • The imperfect relationship between Alina and Mal- It’s obvious Mal and Alina love each other, but I thought that it was really refreshing that we didn’t get a “love conquers all” scenario between them. Both Alina and Mal have personal demons that they have to work through and I really liked that these weren’t easily swept aside. They actually had to overcome a lot together and separately in this book, and I’m sure they will have to overcome more as the series continues.
  • Court intrigue – the cat and mouse game between Nikolai and his brother; Alina’s interactions with the King and other members of the court; and we also get the conflict between the Grisha Army and the First Army- all of the intrigue just built this story up so well.

The ending was stress-inducing, so I immediately jumping into Ruin and Rising!

For more information on Leigh Bardugo and her books, check her out on Goodreads

Follow me on Instagram & Goodreads