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review 2019-01-20 18:38
All Is Fair
All Is Fair - Dee Garretson
Mina Tretheway receives an urgent telegram at her boarding school.  She fears the worst as the War rages on.  Mina discovers that the telegram from her father is in code and tells her to come home.  Upon her return home to Hallington Manor, Mina finds an old friend- Lord Andrew Graham and an American- Lucas Mueller.  They need Mina's help in order to complete a dangerous mission in Germany.  Before Andrew and Lucas set off on their mission, an accident happens and Andrew is incapacitated.  Mina is determined to help Lucas see the mission through, although Lucas believes she is too frail and spoiled.  Before Lucas can convince Mina to return home, they are thrown together to complete the mission and survive. 
 
 
All Is Fair is an exciting and adventurous Young Adult novel set during World War I.  Mina's character was charming and invigorating as a young woman good with codes, ciphers and languages.  The writing did have a slow build in the beginning, but did build up the dreadful feeling of wartime and the suspense that not all was right at Hallington Manor.  About halfway through, when Mina became part of the mission with Luke, the pace picked up and I couldn't stop reading.  Their spy mission was intriguing and added a dash of sweet romance. I liked that she proved her worth during the mission as a woman and because she was a woman. Through Mina's and Lucas' eyes we see bits of the harsh realities of war and also learn about the Dame Blanche Resistance movement of France and Belgium which was primarily comprised of female members.  Overall, an exhilarating young adult spy thriller. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 
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review 2019-01-18 20:09

Hadn't realized how long it's been since I posted here (very busy year, with multiple book launches for me and others, interviews, etc.). This week's blog post looks at Jennifer Robson's new novel, so new it's not yet in the BL database, The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding. Picture says it all, but do check out the post to see why I loved this book.

 

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review 2019-01-17 19:57
Fawkes
Fawkes - Nadine Brandes

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

Gorgeous cover (I admit the cover + the title are what drew me to the book in the first place), and also an interesting take on historical events by showing them under the colours (see what I did there) of magic rather than religion. In this alternate early 17th-century world, people are able to bond with a specific colour, and exert control over items of this colour through the wearing of a mask. The conflict arises from how people view the use of colours: Keepers (the ‘Protestants’) believe that a person should only master one colour and not give in to the ‘White Light’ that governs them all, lest greed devours them and twists their powers to nefarious ends; while Igniters (the ‘Catholics’) believe that listening to the White Light, and controlling more than one colour, is the way to go. Both factions are in conflict not only because of these views, but because of a plague that turns people to stone, with each camp blaming the other for the advent of this mysterious illness.

Enters our protagonist and point of view character, Thomas Fawkes, son of the (now) infamous Guy Fawkes, who’s been struck by this very Stone Plague and can’t wait until he gets a mask of his own, learns to master a colour, and hopefully manages to heal himself, or at least make sure the plague will stay dormant in him and never spread further than his eye. Of course, things don’t go as planned, and as he finds himself reunited with his father, the latter offers him a place in a plot meant to blow up the King and Parliament (as in, literally blow up, re: Guy Fawkes, Bonfire Night, and all that).

So. Very, very interesting premise, and I really loved reading about the London that is the backdrop in this novel—not least because I actually go very often in the areas depicted here, and I enjoy retracing in my mind the characters’ steps in streets that I know well enough. Little winks are found here and there, too, such as Emma’s favourite bakery on Pudding Lane, or a stroll to the Globe. It may not seem much, but it always makes me smile.

The story was a slow development, more focused on the characters than on a quick unfolding of the plot. I don’t know if the latter is a strong or a weak point, because I feel it hinges on the reader’s knowledge of the actual Gunpowder Plot: if you know about it, then I think what matters more is not its outcome, but the journey to it, so to speak. If you don’t know it, though, the novel may in turn feel weak in that regard, by not covering it enough. I didn’t mind this slow development, since it allowed for room for the side plot with Emma and the Baron’s household, and I liked Emma well enough. I still can’t decide whether her secret felt genuine or somewhat contrived, but in the end, it didn’t matter so much, because she was a kickass person, with goals of her own, and actually more interesting than Thomas.

As a side note: yes, there is romance here. Fortunately, no gratuitous kiss and sex scenes that don’t bring anything to the story and only waste pages. In spite of the blurb that mentions how Thomas will have to choose between the plot and his love (= usually, a sure recipe for catastrophe in YA, with characters basically forgetting the meaning of things like “priorities” or “sense of responsibility”), it is more subtle than that. Thomas at least also starts considering other people being involved, such as, well, the three hundred Members of Parliament meant to go up in flames along with the King. Casualties, and all that…

Bonus points for White Light, who we don’t see much of, but was overall engaging and somewhat funny in a quirky way. I just liked its interventions, period.

Where I had more trouble with the story was Thomas himself, who was mostly whiny and obsessed with getting his mask. All the time. You’d get to wonder why his father trusted him and invited him to be part of the plot in the first place. Often enough, he came as self-centered and constantly wavering in his beliefs. While I can totally understand that the prospect of his plague suddenly spreading left him in a state of constant, nagging fear, and therefore prone to focus on this more than on other people’s interests, the way he hesitated between which way to pursue (stay faithful to the plot, or listen to the White Light, or shouldn’t he listen to his father, but then are his father’s beliefs really his own as well, etc.) was a bit tedious to go through. Good thing Emma was here to set his sight straights, and by this, I don’t mean showing him the light (OK, OK, I should stop with the puns now), but making him aware that her circumstances are more complicated than he thinks, in his own ‘privileged’ way, even though his being plagued does contribute to a common understanding of being immediately rejected because of what one looks like.

Also, let’s be honest, Guy wasn’t exactly Father of the Year either, and the story didn’t focus much on developing his ties with Thomas. They were united through the plot, but that was pretty much all, when this could’ve been a wonderful opportunity to reunite them differently, in deeper ways, too. There just wasn’t enough about him, about his personality, and in turn, this lessened the impact of Thomas’ decisions when it came to him.

Another issue for me was the magic system. I got the broad lines, and the reason for the Keepers/Igniters divide, but apart from that, we weren’t shown how exactly this magic works. It is, I’m sure, more subtle than simply voicing an order to a specific colour, and there seems to be a whole undercurrent of rules to it, that aren’t really explained. For instance, why can the masks only be carved by the biological father or mother of a person, and not by an adoptive parent (or even by anyone else)?

Mention in passing as well to language: sometimes, it veered into too modern territory (I mean 20/21st-century modern English specifically, not ‘but Shakespeare’s English was technically Modern English, too’ ;)). I think it was especially prevalent in Thomas’ discussions with White Light, and I found this jarring.

Conclusion: 3 stars, as I still liked the story overall, as well as the world depicted in it, despite the questions I still have about it. I was hoping for a stronger story, though.

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review 2019-01-16 01:24
Jane Steele by Lindsay Faye (audiobook)
Jane Steele - Lyndsay Faye,Susie Riddell

I'm not sure who it was who described this book as being for those who thought the novel Jane Eyre could have benefited from a higher body count, but they were right. I was only middling in my opinion of Jane Eyre, but I quite liked this odd book inspired by it. I'm not sure what to call it, although I'm not sure I agree with those who describe it as satirical.

 

Anyway, it was lots of fun, and I enjoyed it more than I expected to. (I know I initially decided that I wanted to read it because I kept seeing others reading it, but usually these popular novels fall flat for me.) Oh, and I quite liked Quillfeather in the end.

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text 2019-01-15 21:23
Reading progress update: DNF at page 73
Under A Pole Star - Stef Penney

I will make it short. The reasons for my DNFing this book:

 

Main character no. 1 - Flora (12 years old, her father is the captain of a whaling ship and she is with him on his tour, it´s 1883):

 

  • She "accidentely" gropes the back of a sailor, because his back is so broad and his skin has the colour of honey (and she enjoys groping him)
  • Two Inuit boys show their penises to her, because they think she is a boy (and she doesn´t mind this very much)
  • She gets sexually harassed by the ship doctor (and she actually enjoys being touched by him)

 

... Urhg.

 

Main character no. 2 - Jakob (20 years old) gets introduced into the art of lovemaking by an older, married woman. And the author goes into details.

 

... and I am bored.

 

This happens on the very first 73 pages. I don´t know much else about the characters than this sex stuff and quite frankly, I´m so not interested about anything in this book, especially not the characters. 

 

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