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review 2017-03-23 14:25
The Witchfinder's Sister - Beth Underdown

THE WITCHFINDER’S SISTER is Beth Underdown’s debut novel. The story is set in England in the seventeenth century, and follows the story of Alice Hopkins. In 1645 Alice is forced to return from London to the small Essex town of Manningtree to her brother Matthew’s house, after the death of her husband. She and Matthew left on poor terms, and she has not spoken to him apart from the letter she received notifying her of their mother’s death. The Matthew Alice returns to is very different from the brother she remembers. He now has powerful friends, and soon Alice hears that he is gathering a list of women’s names.

 

With the mentioning of witchcraft, witch-hunts and the Witch Finder General, you might be forgiven for thinking of the Salem witch trials – but they happened almost fifty years after the very real events Underdown draws upon to write this book. Matthew Hopkins was a real person who in three years managed to try, convict, and kill around 230 people (and not all of them were women).[1] Going into THE WITCHFINDER’S SISTER I must confess that I knew very little about this period of British history – I did know that there had been a Witch Finder General in the UK, but not where or when.

 

I can honestly say that THE WITCHFINDER’S SISTER surprised me. Although the subject matter of the book is without a doubt dark and disturbing and therefore hard going at times, by the time I was in the final quarter of the book I just could not stop until I reached the end! Even having some inkling about how the story could go, Underdown provided plenty of surprises along the way, which kept me turning the page.

I found Alice Hopkins to be both a compelling narrator and an interesting main character. When we first meet her, Alice is making the journey from London to Manningtree after the death of her husband. Watching Alice’s journey through this book I have to say that I think she is one of the strongest people I have read about – though I don’t think she would agree with me. In a time when women would have had very little rights or freedoms, Alice really stood out to me and I found myself rooting for her from the beginning.

 

Reading about Matthew Hopkins through his sister was an interesting experience. Alice still remembers him as the boy she grew up with, and was close to before her marriage. Underdown does a fantastic job at capturing Alice’s mixed feelings towards her brother – and made me feel them too. I thought the story was well told, and flowed really well. To me it felt believable, like we really were hearing Alice’s own words about the events she witnessed and uncovered about her brother. I also enjoyed the almost magical realist elements to the narrative – it helped to create the feeling of unease that must have been prevalent at the time.

 

It goes without saying that THE WITCHFINDER’S SISTER by Beth Underdown is not a read for the faint of heart. But if you want a gripping read that will keep you turning the pages, whether you’re a fan of historical fiction or not, then I highly recommend giving this book a try. As someone who isn’t particularly a fan, I found THE WITCHFINDER’S SITER easy to get into and easy to follow. The story is compelling and the characters are interesting. If you think this might be your cup of tea, then it is well worth giving this book a go.

 

[1] The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, ‘Matthew Hopkins’ in Encyclopædia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Matthew-Hopkins [accessed March 01 2017].

 

Originally posted on The Flutterby Room as part of the blog tour. I got a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. You can find the original post here.

Source: theflutterbyroom.com/2017/03/23/review-the-witchfinders-sister-by-beth-underdown-blog-tour
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review 2017-02-10 17:20
Corpus - Rory Clements Corpus - Rory Clements

CORPUS by Rory Clements is the first book in a new spy thriller series. The story is set in late 1936, and tells the story of Cambridge history professor Thomas Wilde whose life gets caught up in a series of murders. The story is set during a period of great political turmoil within the UK as King Edward VIII is being forced to decide between Mrs Wallis Simpson and abdicating the throne. Something more than a few people are not happy about. Alongside this, Britain is split between the growing powers of Communism and Fascism, creating a huge powder keg about to explode.

CORPUS was my introduction to Rory Clements, as I have read none of the books in his John Shakespeare series, so I only had the blurb to go on when I picked this book up. CORPUS honestly blew me away. It was everything I wanted in a historical thriller. The world was at once both familiar and alien. The story was engaging, and I found it easy to slip into Thomas Wilde’s idiosyncratic world in the university town of Cambridge (which didn’t get city status until 1951). The world and the characters felt very real, and as such I found the story to be a real page-turner.

Clements tells a really interesting story. I enjoyed the way he shifted the narrative between several different perspectives, as it allowed me to build a broader picture of what was going on. The scope of the narrative is pretty broad, and there is a lot going on but I found it pretty easy to keep track of events – even those that were deliberately mysterious. I’ll be honest, CORPUS really reminded me of John Le Carré’s Karla Trilogy in terms of the feel of the story, although not so much in terms of the content.

I found the plot of CORPUS to be compelling; once I got into the story I found myself just consuming pages. I think Clements really captured the feeling of a lot going on; there are a lot of interconnected narratives, which form the picture of what exactly is going on during the latter half of 1936 in this book. Thomas Wilde was an interesting main character. He is both part of the world of academics at Cambridge, and apart from it too which I thought gave the story an interesting perspective. I also think Clements did a good job at capturing the tension within Britain and the rest of the world during this tumultuous period. I don’t know a lot about this particular period of time, but I think those that do would also enjoy this book.

If you are interested in a historical thriller, then I totally recommend this book. Even if you are just looking for a historical novel or a thriller then you should definitely consider giving CORPUS a try. I honestly don’t think it will disappoint you. Clements has created a really interesting world and crime, and Thomas Wilde is an interesting main character. I also think if you’ve never tried either genre before then CORPUS may just be the place to begin. I really enjoyed reading CORPUS, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in the series.

Originally posted on The Flutterby Room as part of the blog tour. I got a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. You can find the original post here.

Source: theflutterbyroom.com/2017/02/10/review-corpus-by-rory-clements-blog-tour
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review 2017-01-05 21:25
The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel - Katherine Arden

THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE by Katherine Arden is a beautiful book. It has a gorgeous front cover, and the story inside is delightfully magical. This debut novel tells the story of a young girl, Vasilisa Petrovna – Vasya to her family: the youngest child of Pytor Vladimirovich and Marina Ivanovna. THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE follows Vasya, as she grows up, the daughter of a lord in a small Russian village. Vasya isn’t quite like the other girls, not even her elder sister. Her life changes with the arrival of her father’s second wife, Anna Ivanovna, and Father Konstantin Nikonovich.

 

THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE is a magical Russian fairy tale, but at its heart it is a story about family. Arden beautifully evokes the hard cold beauty of Russian life in the fourteenth century in a small village, as well as the gross opulence of Moscow’s Tsars. Although THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE is without a doubt Vasya’s story, Arden splits the narrative focus between four characters as they all play a pivotal role in the tale: Vasya, Pytor, Anna, and Father Konstantin. For me this split narrative focus worked well as it allowed a broader picture of events to be painted. I especially liked the fact that this was done through third person narration as it allowed me a bit more insight into the characters than I would have otherwise achieved.

 

If you have read BLOOD RED, SNOW WHITE by Marcus Sedgwick then I think you will enjoy THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE – I certainly did. Although BLOOD RED, SNOW WHITE is a young adult novel and is set in the twentieth century I think the two books have a similar feel – particularly the fairy tale aspect of both stories. I do think if you have a good knowledge of Russian history and folklore then you will definitely enjoy THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE as I think Arden has left a few “Easter eggs” for people with such knowledge to enjoy. I only know a little, but I still found the story engaging and easy to follow. The book did start a little slow, but once I got into the story it was an engrossing tale.

 

The way Arden blended the everyday and the fantastical was brilliantly done; the story reads like a “real” fairy tale. I also liked the fact that we get to know Vasya before events come to a head. All the characters felt very real, even those who were not human. If you are looking for something a little dark, but full of hope, to welcome in the New Year then THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE is definitely a book you should be picking up. It is truly magical.

 

Originally posted on The Flutterby Room. I got a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. You can find the original post here.

Source: theflutterbyroom.com/2017/01/05/review-the-bear-and-the-nightingale-by-katherine-arden
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review 2016-09-24 18:33
Book Review - Matching the Evidence
Matching the Evidence: The Major Crimes Team - Vol 2 - Graham Smith

Firstly, there was nothing actually wrong with this novella, I just didn’t particularly enjoy it.

I’m not a fan of police procedural (or football), and I think one of the mistakes I made when agreeing to read this, was not realising it was volume two in a series until I opened it up on my Kindle. Although the story itself can be read as a standalone, I’m personally driven by characters and their personalities, and although there were a lot of characters in this novella, I didn’t feel I really connected with any of them. I am wondering if some of those characters are introduced in more detail in the first novella, and this is the reason for my lack of connection.

This novella seems to be going down very well with other readers, so I suspect many readers who thrive on police procedural will thoroughly enjoy this, so you can pretty much ignore my opinion. Those who know me well, know I’m a bit hit and miss with crime novels. I either absolutely love them, or just don’t get on with them. There’s no middle ground with me when it comes to crime, it seems, although I have learnt that the less police procedural the better.

Thank you to the publisher, Caffeine Nights Publishing for a copy of this novella in exchange for an honest review.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1759628131
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review 2016-09-01 14:32
A Boy Made of Blocks - Stuart Keith

A BOY MADE OF BLOCKS is Keith Stuart’s debut novel. It tells the story of Alex and his eight-year-old son Alex, who is on the autistic spectrum. Alex’s marriage to Jody has been pushed to the breaking point, and as the book starts he is moving in with his best mate Dan. As Alex works out what this break means for him his son begins playing Minecraft. The game opens up a whole new world for Sam, and presents a place where father and son have the opportunity to learn how to connect with one another. Together they learn that sometimes things must break so you can build something better.

When I got an email from Little, Brown Book Group about this book I was instantly curious; as the father of a child with autism I was curious to see what sort of story Stuart would tell. I can honestly say that I was not disappointed. A BOY MADE OF BLOCKS is a thoughtful, compelling, and really emotional read not because one of the characters has autism but because Stuart tells a compelling story that just draws you in. A BOY MADE OF BLOCKS is at its heart the story of a father and son learning how to connect with one another.

Alex narrates the book, and we get to see events unfold from his point of view. I thought he was a compelling narrator, and once I started reading the story just flowed. I really enjoyed following Alex’s journey through the book, and I liked the fact that he made mistakes but he also learnt from them – even if it took him a while. I also really enjoyed the fact that while it’s obvious that Stuart has borrowed elements of the story from his own experience with his son, they don’t define the story, they just enhance it.

The plot of A BOY MADE OF BLOCKS is quite complicated, and there is a lot going on within the narrative. It would be easy to say that this book is just about autism, but it’s not. A BOY MADE OF BLOCKS is about how complicated and confusing life is. It’s about how things change, but also stay the same. It’s about taking chances and trying new things. It’s about parenthood and growing up. And it’s also about not letting the past define us. It’s also about love; both the romantic kind, and the love between a parent and child.

If you want a book that is going to suck you in and tell you a good story then I highly recommend that you add A BOY MADE OF BLOCKS to your to-be-read list. A BOY MADE OF BLOCKS is a heart-warming story about a father and son learning to connect with one another, a perfect late summer early autumn read to curl up with.

Originally posted on The Flutterby Room. I got a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. You can find the original post here.

Source: theflutterbyroom.com/2016/09/01/review-a-boy-made-of-blocks-by-keith-stuart
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