“I have a story I was meant to live. And not even you can unwrite it.” // Review of “Romanov” by Nadine Brandes

Title: Romanov
Author: Nadine Brandes
Genre:
Historical fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 17/04/2019 – 19/04/2019
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Ah man. I was approved for this ARC back in November 2018 and I’d been really looking forward to it. I’d hyped it up a lot in my head. So imagine my disappointment when I re-read the blurb when I was about 20% into the book and realised that I had totally misread it the first time, and the reason it wasn’t quite meeting my expectations was beceause I was stupidly expecting something that was never promised to me.

For some reason I got into my head that the execution of the Romanov family would happen fairly early on, and that the book would be about Anastasia being on the run through the Russian wilderness.

There is far less adventuring than that. A good half of the book takes place before the execution, and depicts the exile of the Romanov family in Impatiev House. Apart from the occasional mention of spells, this first half felt like it was straight historical fiction. The fantasy is barely there. Then in the second half, the pacing speeds up the nth degree and everything is about spells and spellwork. It is almost two different books, and it was a little jarring.

In terms of characters, I really enjoyed the close-knit family dynamic of the Romanovs. I enjoyed the cheeky Alexei, and I actually was pretty into the forbidden romance between Grand Duchess Maria and Bolshevick soldier Ivan, which I learned after reading is actually historically accurate.

But apart from that, the characters all felt.. superficial, I guess. A bit shallow. I didn’t really buy the romance between Anastasia and Zash at all, except for one or two moments. And even I with my limited knowledge know that Tsar Nikolai II was not the loving, kind, beneficient ruler devoted to the Russian people that he is presented as here. I want to give benefit of the doubt, because it is from Anastasia’s first person perspective and she may well have viewed her father that way, but it would have been good to see her delve into the whys and wherefores of the revolution a bit more.

Still, I read the vast majority of it in one day, so take from that what you will. I have a copy of Fawkes, Nadine Brandes’ other historical fantasy, which I still intend to check out.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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“Everyone knows what rockets at sea mean.” // Review of “The Midnight Watch” by David Dyer

Title: The Midnight Watch
Author: David Dyer
Audio book narrator: Robert Fass
Genre: Historical fiction
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 14/11/18 – 03/12/18
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This book took a while to get into. For some time, I found I had to be in the right mood for it. But by the end, I found myself so fascinated by the events it described that I was waiting for opportunities to hear more.

The Midnight Watch tells the strange, true story of the officers of the SS Californian, a ship that may have been as close as five miles to the Titanic on the night she sank in April 1912, and witnessed her distress rockets, and yet did nothing to help. In the ensuing inquiries, it was determined that had the Californian responded, “many, if not all, lives may have been saved”.

Much of the content of this book is taken from the testimonies given during the inquiries into the sinking of the Titanic. While one of the central POV characters, John Steadman, is an invention, the other characters and events are real. I think this makes them even more compelling, knowing that so much of the dialogue really took place. It is interesting in that it is very much the Californian’s story – the Titanic and even the voices of its survivors are more on the periphery as Steadman tries desperately to get answers from Captain Stanley Lord and Second Officer Herbert Stone, the officer who was on the titular midnight watch and reported white rockets to the captain.

David Dyer is a self-confessed Titanic obsessive and he has been thorough in his research into what became known as “the Californian incident”. He attempts to answer the question of why the Californian never responded to the Titanic’s rockets. There is something of a conclusion on that front in the final pages of the book, but it is nothing definitive, and I don’t think the author would claim to have any real answers.

Definitely a good one for Titanic enthusiasts and historical fiction fans alike.


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#WWW Wednesday – 05 December 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished Truly , Devious by Maureen Johnson on Thursday. This took a little while to get into – not much happens for the first half – but I ended up interested in the mystery.

I also finished The Midnight Watch by David Dyer and I’m really glad I stuck it out. I actually ended up going and reading everything on David Dyer’s website and then watching simulations of the Titanic’s sinking on YouTube. It really is bizarre that the SS Californian saw all 8 distress rockets fired by the Titanic and yet did nothing to help.

haven’t had a chance to write reviews for either of these as I was busy with uni work all weekend, so they’ll be up this coming week.

What are you currently reading?

I have started Olmec Obituary by L.  J. M. Owen this week. It’s always a bit strange reading books set in Canberra. This one is even stranger as the Mahony Griffin Library, where the main character works, is based on the National Library, which is where I work. I kept giggling at things that weren’t remotely funny simply because I got the reference.

For the third week in a row, still going with Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend but this is mostly because I haven’t actually been reading it at all, not because it’s terrible or anything. I’m re-gifting this to my niece for Christmas, so I’m not carrying it around in my work bag, where it’s likely to get damaged. I need a book sleeve.

What do you think you will read next?

I’ve got to be honest: even though I’ve got the two books that follow Olmec Obituary out from the library, I don’t think I’m going to be interested enough to follow on with them. Not back-to-back anyway.

I’m probably going to read Sixty Seconds by Jesse Blackadder, a drama about the aftermath of a small boy drowning in a backyard pool. I have read one of this author’s children’s books before this is my first adult read by her.

What are you reading this week?

#WWW Wednesday – 28 November 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

What have you recently finished reading?

Only one book finished  this week: Girl Reporter by Tansy Rayner Roberts. This is a superhero series and this book is from the perspective of a YouTuber/journalist, Friday Valentina, whoses mother broke the first story of superheroes in Australia back in the 80s. It was cute but I think I liked this author’s other stories more. Here’s my review.

I also reviewed All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill. Click here to read that one.

I ended up DNFing Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi. The anachronisms were bothering me and I hadn’t connected to the characters after about 30% of the book, so I decided it was time.

What are you currently reading?

I started Truly , Devious by Maureen Johnson a couple of days ago. This is a YA murder mystery with parallel storylines in the present day and the 1930s. So far it’s just fine. I’ll get through it pretty quickly but I am not expecting to be wowed by it.

Still going with Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend and I hate to say it, but I think it’s going on a bit too long! I’m over 250 pages in and still have 200 pages to go and not much has really happened! But I still love the world of Nevermoor and a lot of the characters. I wish Jupiter was around a bit more, though.

I’m also still listening to The Midnight Watch by David Dyer. I was considering DNFing this one today, though I decided against it in the end. I am not a fan of one of the POV characters, and the pacing is very slow. I won’t DNF but I am thinking I might put it on hold for a while and listen to something else. 

What do you think you will read next?

This hasn’t changed from last week. I’m still planning to pick up Olmec Obituary by L.  J. M. Owen next. Cozy historical mystery!

What are you reading this week?

#WWW Wednesday – 21 November 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

I can’t believe November is two-thirds gone! Septemberand October seemed so long to me, but this month has flown past! I’m well on my way to completing the ARCs I have due by the end of the year, as well as finishing up my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. So yay all around!

What have you recently finished reading?

I read ‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost, and it was so fun! I actually wasn’t expecting to be able to take it too seriously, but I got quite invested! You can read my review here. I have the first book in the series still to read (this one was an ARC and the release date is this Friday, hence my reading it first), so I plan to read it over the holidays.

What are you currently reading?

This answer hasn’t changed much from last week!

I am about a quarter of the way through Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi. So far overall it’s okay but there are little things bothering me, like the fact that this is based in Greek mythology, but keeps referring to Greece, as though the country existed at that time. And I’m not really getting much of a sense of the Greek mythology aspect coming through. You could replace the names and this could be any fantasy. But we’ll see if it picks up.

Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend continues to be delightful. I feel like everyone needs a Jupiter North in their life, who goes on grand expeditions to prove to you that you are more than you think you are.

On audio, I am still listening to The Midnight Watch by David Dyer. I’m finding I have to be in the right mood for it, but it is  still quite interesting. I’m finding the character of Captain Lord of the Californian quite interesting. I don’t know if the historical figure was like this, but in the book he’s basically blackmailing his subordinates into lying about them seeing the Titanic’s distress rockets.

What do you think you will read next?

I have owned a copy of Olmec Obituary by L.  J. M. Owen for ages, and so I picked up the two sequels when I saw them at the library today in the hopes I  will then read all three and tick that off my TBR. The fact that I already had the cover uploaded to this blog suggests I have planned to read it at some earlier stage and never got around to it, so it will be good to finally make a start. Owens is a local author and one of the locations in the book is apparently slightly based on my workplace, so it’ll be fun trying to spot those references!

What are you reading this week?

“Possibilities are where the best stories begin.” // Review of “The Cottingley Secret” by Hazel Gaynor

Title: The Cottingley Secret
Author:
Hazel Gaynor
Audio book narrator:
Karen Cass, Billie Fullford-Brown
Genre:
General fiction/magical realism
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 09/10/18 – 24/10/18
Rating:
★★★

Review:

I’ve been intersted in the Cottingley Fairies ever since I researched the case and turned into a drama project in my final year of high-school. So as soon as I saw the word Cottingley in this book’s title, I knew I wanted to read it.

This book tells the story of Olivia, visiting Ireland after the death of her grandfather, and the parallel story of Frances Griffiths, one of two cousins who historically took photographs of fairies in Cottingley, Yorkshire, in 1917 and caused a worldwide stir. As Olivia reads Frances’ memoir, she discovers they share more of a connection than just a belief in fairies.

I have to admit, while I liked Olivia for the most part, there were times when I wanted to shake her. I could tell from the first time he was mentioned that her fiance was obviously an awful person, and I wished she realised that sooner and was  a bit more decisive. I did like that she was a book binder! I know book binders! I really appreciated the  sensitive handling of Alzheimer’s disease through the character of Olivia’s Nanna, Martha. I thought that was very well done.

As I said, I was pretty familiar with the case of the Cottingley Fairies, but the chapters from Frances’ perspective did give extra insight into how a young girl might have felt thrust into the spotlight unwillingly in the way she and Elsie were.

I did appreciate the little hints of magic throughout both the historical and contemporary stories. While it is acknowledged that the photos were fakes, Hazel Gaynor leaves it up to the reader to decide whether or not fairies are real or whether they were a figment of a young girl’s imagination. The two stories are woven together particularly well towards the end, and I actually found myself getting a little bit teary in the final chapter. In a good way, of course.


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#WWW Wednesday – August 29, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

Oh my god, I finally finished Blackwing by Ed McDonald! Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad book. It’s just grimdark fantasy is not really my thing. If it is your thing, you will probably love this book. I still enjoyed a lot of it, it just took me a long time to get through. I’ll try to review it soon.

I was very excited to receive an early copy of All The Little Bones, #1 in the Circus Hearts series by Ellie Marney, as part of a giveaway Ellie was running. I usually don’t lean towards YA fiction that is quite so heavy on the romance, but the writing sucked me in.  Also for various reasons, I’m really into circuses at the moment, so that probably helped. I’m going to have a review up of this on Friday,  in time for its release on Saturday.

I’m still behind on reviews but I’m slowly catching up. I posted my review of Loch of the Dead by Oscar de Muriel and Legion by Brandon Sanderson since my last WWW post.

What are you currently reading?

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel made me teary while I was listening to it on the bus today. I have already had two of my three favourite characters die, I didn’t need more emotional turmoil! But seriously, this book’s as good as the first in the series.

All The Little Bones distracted me from Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson, but I will get back to that now. This is somewhat interesting but I feel like the stakes will need to pick up or I’m not going to enjoy it as much as the first book.

What do you think you will read next?

I have White Night by Ellie Marney from the library so I will pick that up next. I actually didn’t finish the first Ellie Marney book I tried reading, but then I really liked the Circus Hearts book, so I’m hoping this experience will be closer to  that one.

I’ve also got Only Human, the last Themis Files book by Sylvain Neuvel, from the library, so I need to put it on my phone so I’m ready to pick it up.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

Book Review: “Loch of the Dead” by Oscar de Muriel

Title: Loch of the Dead (Frey & McGray #4)
Author: Oscar de Muriel
Audio book narrator: Andy Secombe
Genre: historical fiction/mystery
Target age group: Adult
Dates read: 11/07/18 – 04/08/18
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I thought I’d lost interest in this series by about a third of the way through this book. I actually DNFed it at first, before realising that I did actually want to know how it ended, I just didn’t have the patience to listen to the audio book anymore. I still think the first two books in the series are the best, but I did find this an addictive race to the finish line, and definitely an improvement on the third book.

This fourth installment in the series sees Frey & McGray travel to the very north of Scotland, where McGray has been promised access to a potential cure for his sister in exchange for helping when a young boy is threatened.

The format in this book changed once again: while most of it was still in first person from Frey’s perspective, there were some chapters from McGray’s. These were in third person, and I didn’t always realise that the change had happened, so I got pulled out of the story when I suddenly realised the tone was a bit different and Frey wasn’t actually there. As I said in the previous book, my favourite part of this series is the Frey and McGray banter, and when they spend so much of an investigation apart that McGray needs his own chapters, that means the banter is probably not happening.

There were some great moments throughout the book, some that made me laugh out loud (it’s always wonderful when McGray witnesses Frey making a fool of himself), and the climax definitely had me turning the pages rapidly and staying up late to finish. I did think that the eventual villains of the piece were a bit cartoonish and over the top, but it did make for an exciting finish.

This is all there is of the Frey & McGray series for now, but I will definitely pick up any further instalments de  Muriel chooses to write.


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#WWW Wednesday – August 15, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

I didn’t participate in WWW Wednesday last week because I didn’t feel like much had changed in my reading  from the week previous. Plus I’m currently in the midst of a uni course, so I decided that for the next month or so, I need to alternate my Wednesday blog posts between my two blogs, rather than doing both.

So what have I been up to in the last fortnight?

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished Loch of the Dead by Oscar de Muriel, the fourth in the Frey & McGray series and all there is of this series for now. I actually DNFed this about halfway through on audio but after a few days I realised I still wanted to know what happened, so I got hold of the paperback from the library. I’m glad I did finish it as it ended up being really addictive, if a little confusing.

I also finished  Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel on audio. This one took me a long time to warm to but at some in the second half I suddenly realised “Oh, I am actually invested in this, huh.” There’s not much plot, but it made me ponder on life’s big questions a lot. Not many books make me do that. I reviewed it here.

Then there was Legion by Brandon Sanderson, which I had read back in 2014 but forgotten the details of. It’s a really intriguing premise – that genius Steven Leeds cannot contain all the knowledge in his brain so it off-shoots into self-aware hallucinations that help him do things.  I actually reviewed this back in 2014 so it was interesting writing a new review and seeing how my feelings changed. That’ll be up on Friday.

And last but not least, just this evening I finished Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel, which I recommend listening to if you are an audio book person because it takes the form of interviews and recordings. I really enjoyed this. It explores a lot of the geo-political situation that proof of ultra-intelligent alien life would create. And the unnamed interviewer is played by Andy Secombe, who also read the Frey and McGrey books, so it was interesting hearing him take on a quite different character.

What are you currently reading?

I am trying to finish Blackwing by Ed McDonald so I can give it back to my friend who loaned it to me. The second book is out now so he wants to re-read the first. It’s got a really intriguing plot, but there’s something about the pacing or maybe it’s the anti-hero main character. I just can’t get through much of it at once.

I also picked up The Fandom by Anna Day from the library, which I’ve had on my TBR since it came out. I have a feeling this is going to be one of those YA books where I get to the end and shake it and wish it had lived up to its potential. The characters only paid £10 for their photo-op at ComicCon, which makes me think the author doesn’t quite know enough about her subject matter. I also don’t think it’s going to be cleverly subversive like I was hoping. But I could be completely wrong.

What do you think you will read next?

I’ve  downloaded Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel and while I haven’t started it at time of writing, I am on the late shift at work tonight and will begin it while driving home.

legionskindeepcoverI also have White Night by Ellie Marney from the library, and my hold on Skin Deep, the sequel to Legion, came in today and I will pick it up tomorrow. So one of those will definitely be next.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

#WWW Wednesday – July 25, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

I didn’t post last week because it would literally have been a repeat of the week before’s post. This has not been a great reading month! Oh well.

What have you recently finished reading?

I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon over the weekend. I had intended to read it before we saw the stage show at the start of July but never got around to it. It’s a really fascinating book. I kinda wish I had made time to read it before the show since I knew exactly what was going to happen, but I still flew through and really enjoyed it.

What are you currently reading?

My reading has been a bit all over the place recently so I’ve got a few things on the go at once when I wouldn’t normally.

I am nearly halfway through the fourth Frey & McGray audio book, The Loch of the Dead. One of the issues I had with the third book, namely that Frey and McGray spend a lot of time apart and therefore aren’t bantering or bickering, is also an issue here. But this plot is at least a bit more interesting than the third one was.

I am also halfway through Alive! by Loren D. Estleman, which I picked up from the library purely because of the cover. And also because I’m an archivist and the main character is an archivist. The mystery is fairly straightforward but it is a good one for classic film buffs with all the trivia peppered through it.

I also started The Other Alice by Michelle Harrison just this afternoon while I was out and forgot to take Alive!, so I needed to read something on my phone. I think I will really enjoy this one. I am going to try to finish Alive! before I really commit to this one, though.

I am technically still reading Blackwing by Ed McDonald and All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque but they’re on hold for a bit..

What do you think you will read next? 

I still have Beauty and the Werewolf  by Mercedes Lackey out from the library, so I think that will be next.

What are you reading this week?~ EmilyP.S. If you’re  interested, head over to my writing blog, Letting the Voices Out, to read a snippet of my current WIP.