Thursday, 13 December 2018

Codename Villanelle and No Tomorrow by Luke Jennings

Codename Villanelle 

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 224 
Publisher: John Murray 
Released: 26th of June 2017 

She is the perfect assassin.

A Russian orphan, saved from the death penalty for the brutal revenge she took on her gangster father's killers.

Ruthlessly trained. Given a new life. New names, new faces - whichever fits.

Her paymasters call themselves The Twelve. But she knows nothing of them. Konstantin is the man who saved her, and the one she answers to.

She is Villanelle. Without conscience. Without guilt. Without weakness.

Eve Polastri is the woman who hunts her. MI5, until one error of judgment costs her everything.

Until stopping a ruthless assassin becomes more than her job. It becomes personal.

Originally published as ebook singles: Codename Villanelle , Hollowpoint , Shanghai and Odessa. 

No Tomorrow 

Pages: 256 
Publisher: John Murray 
Released:  28th of November 2018

In a hotel room in Venice, where she's just completed a routine assassination, Villanelle receives a late-night call.

Eve Polastri has discovered that a senior MI5 officer is in the pay of the Twelve, and is about to debrief him. As Eve interrogates her subject, desperately trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, Villanelle moves in for the kill.

The duel between the two women intensifies, as does their mutual obsession, and when the action moves from the high passes of the Tyrol to the heart of Russia, Eve finally begins to unwrap the enigma of her adversary's true identity.

What I Have to Say 

I really enjoyed Killing Eve, the series on the BBC, so when I saw the books, I thought I'd give them to read. It wasn't as good as the series, the writing was a little clunky and the plot was quite long and drawn out (which is more understandable now that I know it was a series of eBooks), I think that the way that they changed it for TV was better. It did however make much more sense in the books when they went to Shanghai. I'm not sure why they changed it to Germany in the series. 

I did like having more details about the characters. Villanelle got a lot more background and detail in Codename Villanelle and it was so cool to see more about her life and the way she became an assassin. In the second book it was Nico who I loved to see more from. In series he was kind of in the background being there and getting annoyed at Eve's growing obsession with Villanelle. But in the book he was funny and quirky. He was so sweet and he had goats. It was worth reading for the antics of the goats. 

The other thing that I liked better in the book was the ending. It was so different from the series and it was far more satisfying. 

I think it was worth reading, but I was off-put by a lot of the sex and the gritty stuff that wasn't really needed. Villanelle was unecessarily crass in some scenes and it just wasn't my thing. I also felt that telling everything about Villanelle's identity in the first few paragraphs took away all the mystery and suspense. The series kept a lot of surprises so it kept you watching and guessing. The book was very lacking in this respect. 

If you loved the series though and want to see more behind the characters and the parts of their personality that had to be dropped for the series, then it's worth reading, but perhaps not if you're not into grimy, gritty crime. 

My thanks go to John Murray and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 352
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's UK 
Released: 4th of October 2018 

They called us the Mercies, or sometimes the Boneless Mercies. They said we were shadows, ghosts, and if you touched our skin we dissolved into smoke ... 

Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are Boneless Mercies – death-traders, hired to kill quickly, quietly and mercifully. It is a job for women, and women only. Men will not do this sad, dark work.

Frey has no family, no home, no fortune, and yet her blood sings a song of glory. So when she hears of a monster slaughtering men, women, and children in a northern jarldom, she decides this the Mercies’ one chance to change their fate.

But glory comes at a price …

What I Have to Say 

For me this was Skyrim in book form. Or at least Skyrim the way I play it. Tough Nordic Girls battered into warriors by years of harsh winters and fending for themselves. April Genevieve Tucholke's writing drew me so deeply into Frey's world that it felt like I was part of the sisterhood. And it was a beautiful sisterhood. I could have read about these four girls fighting to make something of themselves beyond where their fate had led them all day. 

This for me is the perfect Feminist book. It didn't have the background of so many of the books around where women are subjugated through rape only. Books that try to empower women and show them fighting back while still reducing them to just their bodies. In The Boneless Mercies, the only mentions of rape are alluded to pleasure houses and it shows the few options there are for women without actually showing the violence that is used against them. Coming to the story at the end of the struggle. When the Mercies make the decision to fight for more was the perfect way to show the struggles of women without showing the violence. 

Every word of this book was perfect: the ending and fighting the monster, the Cut-throat-queen,the empowerment of women through the entire book. There wasn't anything I didn't like. It was beautiful and made me feel like a warrior just reading it. 

This is supposedly a standalone, but the ending certainly left it open for more. If I never get to see another story from the Mercies and this world, I will be very disappointed. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me with this copy for review. 

Friday, 7 December 2018

Christmas at the Palace by Jeevani Charika

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 368 
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre 
Released: 18th of October 2018 

Campaigner, feminist, doctor, humanitarian - all words that Kumari would use to describe herself. Potential princess? Not even in the vocabulary.

But when Kumari's charity work catapults her into the limelight and brings her to the attention of Prince Benedict - playboy prince and sixth in line to the British throne - all bets are off.

Royal party boy, charming rogue, England's most eligible bachelor - Prince Benedict is all those things. Or at least he was. These days he's taking life more seriously, following in his dear mother's footsteps and focusing on charitable causes.

When he meets Kumari the attraction between them is instant. But, according to the press, Prince Benedict might just have found the most unsuitable bride.
Will love win the day?

What I Have to Say 

This was a lovely book, but another one that just didn't have enough Christmas in for me. From the cover, I expected a book filled to the seems with Christmas, but it was only the last hundred pages that really was about Christmas at the palace. If it hadn't had Christmas in the name, I wouldn't have minded so much, it was just that my expectations were so different. 

I also think the way that they did the flashback for the main content of the story didn't really work for me. It didn't leave much suspense as to whether they'd end up together or what would happen in their relationship. 

I loved Kumari's character though. I loved how focused on charity she was, how brazen she was. How she wouldn't take no for an answer for a lot of the time, despite the fact that it could get her and the whole royal family in trouble. 

The romance may have fallen a little flat for me, but Kumari made up for everything. I loved her so much. 

My thanks go to Bonnier for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Evie's War by Holly Webb

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 300
Publisher: Scholastic 
Released: 4th of October 2018 

In the seaside town of Whitby, when the United Kingdom is on the cusp of World War One, Evie and her family are touched by tragedy when Evie's younger brother Alexander dies unexpectedly.

As Evie's mother and father struggle in their own ways to come to terms with their loss, Evie's older brother David distracts himself with the ever-growing threat of war and Evie and her sister Kitty find ways to keep their spirits up.

But when the threat of war turns into reality and David enlists in the army, Evie's mother is truly heartbroken. And as the family does their best to contribute to the war effort, they also struggle with the sacrifices each of them are forced to make.

Based on the real-life bombing of Whitby in 1914, this beautiful, powerful and important read by Holly Webb is devastating but also wonderfully uplifting

What I Have to Say 

This was everything that I wanted from Skylark's War but didn't get. I loved setting, the relationship between the family members, the angle of loss that was clear from the very start of the book. I loved the way that Evie and her sister Kitty contributed to the war effort (especially the horse blanket) and I loved love loved the dogs. 

I've never thought about dogs during wartime, as so as not to spoil parts of the books, I won't say too much now, but the dogs were definitely my favourite part of the book. It can be hard to find decent representations of dogs in fiction sometimes, but Max and Brandy were perfect. Max was definitely my favourite, he was just written so perfectly. 

The backdrop of Whitby was a very interesting one. I've never read a book set in one of the seaside towns during wartime before. The way that the war touched them in such a massive way, with the bombing of Whitby and the ship really brought home the danger of the war in ways that home front war books often doesn't. 

This was such a sad, dramatic story and was written in an uplifting way. It's a hard balance to write about the subject matter in a way that treats it serious and puts across the horrors of war while also leaving the reader feeling uplifted.

If, like me, Skylark's War left you a little wanting or you just want to see more of the home-front during WW1, I would definitely recommend Evie's War. 

My thanks go to Scholastic for providing me with this copy for review. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Frostfire by Jamie Smith

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 288
Publisher: Chicken House 
Released: 1st of November 2018 

Chosen for the honour of bonding with a frostsliver - a fragment of the sentient glacier that crests her icy home - Sabira embarks on the dangerous pilgrimage to the top of the mountain. But when a huge avalanche traps her on the glacier and destroys the pass, Sabira is determined to find another way home. In order to survive, she must face up to the merciless mountain - but there are dark and fiery secrets hiding in its depths ...

What I Have to Say 

This took me a little while to get into, but I really loved it by the end. The scenic background of the book made it stand out compared to other books I've read lately. The description of the mountain and the vast scale of it really come across in the writing. You can almost feel the cold of it chilling you to your bone. It really brought home the situation that Sabira is in, stuck on the moutain, alone (mostly) and having to rely on all of her wits and those of the frostliver just to survive. 

Everything beyond that fitted in perfectly. The conflict between the two societies worked really well and the way that it played into the main story as well as the backstory of Sabira's brother and his own attempts to get a frostsliver were perfectly entwined with with the story. 

If I had one complaint, it's that the frostsliver didn't have a name. It had a nicely defined personality but I really think that it would have been given a name at some point. 

My thanks go to Chicken House for providing me with this copy for review.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Shadow of the Fox Blog Tour: Guest Post by Julie Kagawa

I am so happy to be part of the Shadow of the Fox blog tour. It is truly an honour to host Julie Kagawa, as she has been one of my favourite authors for so long. 

I also was able to request a piece that meant a lot to me, as I'm so fascinated by language, especially Japanese. So I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did. 

The Language of Shadow of the Fox 

Language was very important to me while writing Shadow of the Fox, especially the specific meaning of certain names.  For example, Yumeko, the kitsune protagonist of the story, has a very specific name. Yume is 'dream' in Japanese, so her name translates to dream child or child of dreams.  Tatsumi's demon possessed sword Kamigoroshi literally means 'godslayer,' and his family name  Kage (pronounced 'kah geh' not 'cage') is Japanese for 'shadow.'

Similarly, the families of Iwagoto are all named after the elements. The four Great Clans are the Hino, Mizu, Kaze and Tsuchi: Fire, Water, Wind and Earth.  The minor clans make up the Tsuki, Sora and Kage: Moon, Sky and Shadow, while the Imperial family is the Taiyo, the Sun clan.  The clans often reflect their families' element, with members of the Fire clan being seen as impulsive and hot tempered, the Earth clan as stubborn and immovable, and the Shadow clan as secretive and mysterious.

Even the names of the cities and buildings are important.  Chochin Machi, a small town that Yumeko and Tatsumi come across in their travels, means 'Lantern Town,' and is strung with thousands of red paper lanterns that light up the night.  The Shadow clan's home castle is Hakumei-jo, which means Twilight castle.  The Hayate shrine in the Wind district of the Imperial city means 'gale.' From the people to the towns to the forests and buildings, almost every named thing has a hidden meaning. And while most of them are not in the glossary at the back of the book, I took great care in all the names that went into Shadow of the Fox.  

Shadow of the Fox is available from any good book shop or online retailers. For my review of the book, go here

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Roar by Cecelia Ahern

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 352
Publisher: Harper Collins 
Released: 1st of November 2018 

I am woman. Hear me roar.

Have you ever imagined a different life?
Have you ever stood at a crossroads, undecided?
Have you ever had a moment when you wanted to roar?

The women in these startlingly original stories are all of us: the women who befriend us, the women who encourage us, the women who make us brave. From The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared to The Woman Who Was Kept on the Shelf and The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged her Husband, discover thirty touching, often hilarious, stories and meet thirty very different women. Each discovers her strength; each realizes she holds the power to make a change.

What I Have to Say 

This is a book of thirty stories but I could have read a hundred. I loved the titles and how witty it all was. I loved the characters and how every story was a twist on reality. It embraces the absurd, bringing it together with emotions grounded in reality to make a beautiful story that's powerful and feminist and so fun to read. 

The Woman Who Wore Pink was my favourite. It was such a hilarious look on the gender construct and a look at how society would be if these concepts of gender policing were taken to an extreme, with gender police (dressed in pink and blue, obviously) were there to patrol to make sure each gender is staying in their respective lanes: writing in the right colour pen, drinking from the correct colour cup and using the bathroom assigned to them based on the shape of their private parts. It serves to highlight some of the problems surrounding gender expectations in our society by showing it in such an over-exaggerated extreme. 

The other stories ranged between humour and heartbreaking, but all of them had an underlying message of female power and strength. A feminist must read. 

My thanks go to Harper Collins and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review.