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review 2017-04-27 22:03
Review: The Nightingale Girls (The Nightingale Girls #1) by Donna Douglas
The Nightingale Girls - Donna Douglas

Although there is a lot of romance in the plotlines of this book, but it is definitely in the women's fiction genre. The books were published in the wake of the popularity of Call The Midwife (book and television show), but there is very little nursing since the main characters are in training.

 

There are a lot of characters to keep track of in this book, but the main characters are Helen, Amelia (Mille), and Dora - these three are student nurses at The Nightingale Hospital, founded to train nurses and doctors while also providing healthcare to the East End of London. It is 1934 and Britain is changing in a lot of ways - and not everyone is happy about that. The book deals many issues regarding class and societal structure - for example, Mille is titled daughter but wants to be a nurse rather than a socialite and Dora is from the East End and can't afford textbooks until months after starting her training.

 

Be ye warned - there is a scene where a child is beaten, there is sexual assault of a teen girl on the page, and multiple references to the sexual assault and other victims of same rapist throughout the book. It was tough reading at times. Still I look forward to book two in the series.

****************************************************************************************************

Read for Booklikes-opoly, Paradise Pier 29 The Monorail

407 pages = $5.00 to the bank

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text 2017-04-23 00:49
Booklikes-opoly (Fourth Turn)
The Nightingale Girls - Donna Douglas

It is after midnight here in England and I just got home from doing the laundry. Figured I get this out of the way before going to bed.

 

Bank: $25.00

Previous Space: New Orleans Square 22

April 23rd Roll: 8 (6+2)

New Space: Paradise Pier 29 - The Monorail (book that has travel by air, an airplane on the cover, or set in a city with a subway system). I picked The Nightingale Girls (The Nightingales #1) by Donna Douglas because I need a good reason to start reading this series (I have five or six of the books on my NOOK). The London Underground started in 1863; the book starts in the 1930s in a London hospital. 407 pages on the NOOK; possible $5.00 added to the bank. I know I am not going to finish this in two days, but I hope to have it done in time for one more turn.

 

Edited to Add: Broken Tune in the comments section corrected me on how much the book is worth. I changed the amount to reflect the correct value. This is why you don't do math after midnight.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-04-14 05:20
Are You Cold?
The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel - Katherine Arden

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I LOVE Russian fairy tales. Absolutely adore them. I have a picture book of the story of Vasilisa the Brave and it's one of my favorites. So when I first saw this book discussed on here, I knew I had to read it. 

 

The Bear and the Nightingale is a fairy tale centered around wild child Vasilisa in her small village. Vasya's stepmother and the new priest scare the villagers away from their old traditions which leads to disaster and death visiting the village. Always a believing in the old stories and creatures, Vasya works to protect her family and her village. 

 

I loved this story. It was everything I could have hoped for in a new fairy tale. I couldn't predict the plot and in did the ending didn't fit my expectations. Which, to be honest, kinda chuffed me a little but I'll talk about that more towards the end. It was a original story, with notes of other Russian stories without being just a made over version of one. It was it's own original story and I loved that. 

 

All the characters were amazing, Vasya being my favorite. Well, I actually loved Solovey more because I'm a sucker for a talking horse but he didn't come in until about part 3. Vasya was a great protagonist. She's adorable and quirky and I loved watching her grow up throughout the story. The other characters were equally interesting and all were sympathetic, even Anna and Konstantin despite being the stories villains. 

 

The biggest drawback to the book for me is the ending of the climax did feel a little rushed and brushed passed. Like, there was kind of a deus ex machina I felt towards the end. The resolution fit with the overall build up the story had, which I appreciated, but I do think the execution could have been better. Like the pendant. It didn't seem to have anything to do with the resolution, which is what I kept expecting. Maybe I missed something and need a reread. 

 

I wasn't a fan of Vasya ending with "I will never get married because I'm a strong independent woman", simply because I'm tired of female protagonists in modern fairy tales making that declaration. It'd be nice to have a fairy tale where that wasn't a big concern, and while it wasn't out of character for Vasya, it also felt like it was added just to make her a "modern" hero. Like, her not wanting to get married had no impact or bearing on the overall plot at all. And her leaving her family to travel did feel out of character for her since all throughout the story we see how important her family and her village are to her, to the point she's willing to die for them. Then she's suddenly like, "I'm out, bye"? I just feel like if Arden was committed to the story ending this way, which clearly she was, she could have made these decisions clearer and more relevant throughout the whole novel.

 

This is completely a me problem, though, since what I'm getting at is the decisions at the end are just things I personally don't like in the story. Overall she wrote everything well and I'm just SUPER picky about my fairy tales. And I loved the relationship between Vasya and Morozko and wished she had shown us more of that. That to me would have been more interesting than her failed betrothal, but again, personal taste here. 

 

Final rating: 5 out of 5. When I push past my pickiness, this story is amazing and damn close to being a perfect story.

 

Final thought: Wish Baba Yaga was in it but I guess we can't have it all.

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review 2017-03-19 12:36
A magical fairytale with a touch of the classics
The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel - Katherine Arden

Thanks to NetGalley and to Random House UK/Ebury Publishing for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily choose to review.

I’m a big fan of fairy tales and I’m always happy to discover new tales and stories that fit in that category, or that retell some old classics. And I love the stories based on old folktales that capture the beauty of old language, customs and the historical times and places long gone. The Bear and the Nightingale reminded me how much I like these stories and how the best of them are irresistible, at least for me.

Set in Russia (before it was Russia, as the author explains in her notes), the novel creates a great cast of characters, those “real” (princes and princesses, labourers, farmers, villagers, a landed family with food connections), others with a touch of the paranormal, like the protective spirits (of the house, the door, the stables, the forest, the lakes) that might turn nasty if not fed or treated kindly by human beings, the horrific ones (Death, The Bear, vampires), and animals, like the magical nightingale/horse of the title.

The character at the centre of the story, Vasilisa (Vasya), is the youngest child of her mother, Marina, who wanted to have a girl who would be like her. Marina had the ability to see things others couldn’t (the spirits of the forest, of the house, and she could also talk to animals) and she wants to pass her ability on. She dies when her daughter is born, and young Vasya grows among a family who loves her but doesn’t fully understand her. She can talk to horses, they teach her how to ride, and she can talk to the spirits others believe in but can’t see. She loves the old fairy tales and later realises they’re not only fantasy and old-wives tales. As is still the case, people fear what they can’t understand, and a newcomer, a priest, tries to change things by getting rid of old beliefs and putting the fear of God into people’s hearts. This can only lead to disaster.

The descriptions of the landscapes, the houses, the creatures, the atmosphere and the weather are beautifully achieved, in a style reminiscent of classical fairy-tales. The characters are also fascinating and we get a good understanding of their psychological make-up and of what moves them. Particularly interesting are the priest and Vasya’s stepmother, who try as they might, can’t reconcile their wishes with what is expected of them, but Dunya, the housemaid and ersatz mother to Vasya is a touching character, the family relations are heart-warming and even the animals have their own personalities. The author explains that she has tried to adapt the Russian names to make them easier for English-speaking audiences, and in my opinions she succeeds in both, maintaining the particular characteristics of Russian names, whilst not making it confusing or disorienting. The poetry of the language is another great success and I found the book impossible to put down.

There are many moments of sadness, scary moments, and also moments of the story that will make us think (Vasya is different and misunderstood, accused of being a witch despite her efforts to save her village and her people, the weight of custom and the role of men and women in traditional societies are also subject to discussion, family ties and religious thoughts…), but it is a magical story that will make us remember the child we once were. A word of warning, this is not a story for young children, and although some of the imagery is familiar as is the case with many of the classics, there are cruel and terrifying moments as well.

As an example of the writing, I wanted to share some of the passages I highlighted:

At last, they saw the city itself (Moscow), lusty and squalid, like a fair woman with feet caked in filth.

“In Moscow, priests are in love with their standing and think overmuch of the gold in their churches. They eat fat meat and preach poverty to the miserable.” (This is Sasha, one of Vasya’s brothers, who later becomes a monk).

Here, Vasya complaining of her lot in life:

“I am foolish. I was born for a cage, after all: convent of house, what else is there?”

“All of my life,” she said, “I have been told ‘go’ and ‘come’. I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me….”

Just in case I didn’t make myself clear, I love this book, and although I know it’s not the type of book that everybody will like, I’d recommend that you check a sample or the read inside feature and see what you think. You might be rewarded with a magical reading.

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review 2017-03-17 15:09
A magical fairytale with a touch of the classics
The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel - Katherine Arden

Thanks to NetGalley and to Random House UK/Ebury Publishing for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily choose to review.

I’m a big fan of fairy tales and I’m always happy to discover new tales and stories that fit in that category, or that retell some old classics. And I love the stories based on old folktales that capture the beauty of old language, customs and the historical times and places long gone. The Bear and the Nightingale reminded me how much I like these stories and how the best of them are irresistible, at least for me.

Set in Russia (before it was Russia, as the author explains in her notes), the novel creates a great cast of characters, those “real” (princes and princesses, labourers, farmers, villagers, a landed family with food connections), others with a touch of the paranormal, like the protective spirits (of the house, the door, the stables, the forest, the lakes) that might turn nasty if not fed or treated kindly by human beings, the horrific ones (Death, The Bear, vampires), and animals, like the magical nightingale/horse of the title.

The character at the centre of the story, Vasilisa (Vasya), is the youngest child of her mother, Marina, who wanted to have a girl who would be like her. Marina had the ability to see things others couldn’t (the spirits of the forest, of the house, and she could also talk to animals) and she wants to pass her ability on. She dies when her daughter is born, and young Vasya grows among a family who loves her but doesn’t fully understand her. She can talk to horses, they teach her how to ride, and she can talk to the spirits others believe in but can’t see. She loves the old fairy tales and later realises they’re not only fantasy and old-wives tales. As is still the case, people fear what they can’t understand, and a newcomer, a priest, tries to change things by getting rid of old beliefs and putting the fear of God into people’s hearts. This can only lead to disaster.

The descriptions of the landscapes, the houses, the creatures, the atmosphere and the weather are beautifully achieved, in a style reminiscent of classical fairy-tales. The characters are also fascinating and we get a good understanding of their psychological make-up and of what moves them. Particularly interesting are the priest and Vasya’s stepmother, who try as they might, can’t reconcile their wishes with what is expected of them, but Dunya, the housemaid and ersatz mother to Vasya is a touching character, the family relations are heart-warming and even the animals have their own personalities. The author explains that she has tried to adapt the Russian names to make them easier for English-speaking audiences, and in my opinions she succeeds in both, maintaining the particular characteristics of Russian names, whilst not making it confusing or disorienting. The poetry of the language is another great success and I found the book impossible to put down.

There are many moments of sadness, scary moments, and also moments of the story that will make us think (Vasya is different and misunderstood, accused of being a witch despite her efforts to save her village and her people, the weight of custom and the role of men and women in traditional societies are also subject to discussion, family ties and religious thoughts…), but it is a magical story that will make us remember the child we once were. A word of warning, this is not a story for young children, and although some of the imagery is familiar as is the case with many of the classics, there are cruel and terrifying moments as well.

As an example of the writing, I wanted to share some of the passages I highlighted:

At last, they saw the city itself (Moscow), lusty and squalid, like a fair woman with feet caked in filth.

“In Moscow, priests are in love with their standing and think overmuch of the gold in their churches. They eat fat meat and preach poverty to the miserable.” (This is Sasha, one of Vasya’s brothers, who later becomes a monk).

Here, Vasya complaining of her lot in life:

“I am foolish. I was born for a cage, after all: convent of house, what else is there?”

“All of my life,” she said, “I have been told ‘go’ and ‘come’. I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me….”

Just in case I didn’t make myself clear, I love this book, and although I know it’s not the type of book that everybody will like, I’d recommend that you check a sample or the read inside feature and see what you think. You might be rewarded with a magical reading.

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