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. 

Thursday, 15 November 2018

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 600
Publisher: Mantle 
Released: 20th of September 2018 

My real name, no one remembers.
The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe's life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist's sketchbook containing a drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?

What I Have to Say 

Kate Morton is a master of creating beautiful places. As much as many of the characters fell in love with Birchwood Manner, it was so easy to fall in love with it as the reader. I'm not a very visual reader, but even so, it's easy to imagine coming out of the trees and seeing the house appear, the many chimneys, the beautiful gardens with the roses and the Japanese maple, tended to nicely or not depending on the time period, and of course the light shining out from the attic window, welcoming you into the safety of the house. These images are so memorable and they feel so real.

I loved the characters, each different voice telling a different part of the story from a different time, part of the house's history and the secrets, both when they're happening an when they're being revealed. It was so fascinating to see each character finding out different secrets and keeping them hidden in various places for Elodie to have to piece together at the end.

My favourite voice was naturally Birdy's. She interwoven so deeply into the house and the story about it, existing timelessly, both outside of the narrative watching what happened and so deeply interwoven with every secret and every story. I think the way she talked about it all and the fairy story that made up the history of the house and how it was passed from person to person were my favourite parts of the novel.

This is the second book of Kate Morton's that I've read and I've been captured and transported by every word of each. They're more than a mystery story, they are a perfect escape from life and into a dark, twisting tale that will leave you guessing.

My thanks go to Netgalley and Mantle for providing me with copy for review. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 384 
Publisher: Gollancz
Released: 8th of November 2018 

In a palace of illusions, nothing is what it seems.

Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy. 

Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren't hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast.

Torn between duty and love, loyalty and betrayal, vengeance and forgiveness, the choices of Mari, Taro, and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku.

What I Have to Say 

This is definitely one of my new favourite books. Set in a world where yōkai live alongside humans, mistrusted and feared so much that they are enslaved, their powers bond by metal collars, it was so interesting to see the tensions between them and the ways that the different yōkai were fighting back against the system. 

I loved Mari. She was a beautiful character with so much strength in some ways and so much vulnerability in others. I loved that she struggled with her yōkai abilities and how she was so kind and different from the rest of the women in Tsuma. It was a really great take on the Crane Wife and showed the strength of women taking power back from the men who would enslave them. 

I loved it all. From the competition between the girls in the season rooms to the range of characters and their interactions in and out of the palace to the perfect ending, satisfying and compelling right to the last page. I loved the romance between Mari and Taro and was heartbroken by the way things changed over the course of the novel. 

There wasn't a character in this book that I didn't love (or love to hate) and I adored the little snips of stories about the gods throughout the book. This is definitely a book that any fantasy lover should pick up. 

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

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Blog Tour: An Excerpt from The Curious Case by Julia Golding

Happy Sunday, I'm here to share with you an excerpt from The Curious Crime, a thrilling new middle grade series from award-winning children's author, Julia Golding. The series looks into an alternative timeline in the Victorian era, picturing a world where women are banned from practising science and religion of any kind is outlawed. 

Released on the 7th of November, this fantastic new series is the perfect way to get children to look at science and the rights of minorities in a new way while following Ree and Henri and their menagerie of animal friends on their adventures, for a few synopsis click here!

Chapter One: 

 Of Dodos and Men 

There was a creature trapped in the rock.

Ree ran her fingers over the capital stone, feeling for the shape that lay just under the surface. A fin like a shark. Spindly hind legs like a frog. A beast that inhabited two worlds, walking out of the water to colonize land. Her desire to release it burned in her chest as she took up her chisel. She loved this moment just before she began to carve her picture. 

But what were the eyes like? The museum fossils gave no clues. Perched on the scaffolding, Ree looked beneath her at the display case covered with a sheet. Scuffing at a corner with the toe of her boot, she pushed the cotton aside. Exactly as she remembered, the stuffed turtle gazed mournfully up at her. Eyes like that would be perfect for the creature she was carving, she thought, imagining it leaving the tropical sea for the last time.

The dodo perched on the scaffold next to Ree croaked and deposited a dropping on the planks. “Philoponus, behave,” murmured Ree, picking up her mallet, “or do I have to put you back in your pen?”

Her friend, the last known of the species, made a deep grumble before he pecked up a fragment of stone she had already chiselled off. He hated it when she stopped paying full attention to him and concentrated on her craft. “Are you sure you should be eating that?” She asked absent-mindedly. Phil stretched his neck, his long broad beak with its hooked end pointing at the vaulted glass ceiling. He shook himself. Downy grey feather flew. 

Ree sneezed. “Idiotic overgrown pigeon. Look, I’ve got to work and you know it.” Setting the wooden handle of the chisel in her palm, she raised the mallet and gave a tap on the well-worn end. The blade cut into the sandstone, releasing a trickle of dust. Her fingertips caressed the gritty surface, wiping it clean. Her father had taught her that each block she worked already had its own ideas about what it should become. She had to ease the picture out, not force it against its will.

The boards creaked as her father, the foreman of the works, approached. A stocky man, nose bent on the bridge, he moved with the even pace of one who knew things should not be rushed. His knees clicked as he crouched beside his daughter.

“How is your project coming along, Ree?” 

She took a swig from her water bottle to clear her throat. “Good, Da. I’ve decided to do the animals moving out of the water onto land – you know, like the guides tell visitors?”

“That’s grand.” James Altamira scratched Philoponus’ neck, causing the bird to shiver with delight and lean heavily on the chief stonemason. The dodo really was the most affectionate, if attention-seeking, creature. “But keep your hat on right and tight, darlin’. Lord John and the trustees are making a surprise inspection sometime this week.” 

With a sigh, Ree picked up her cap and pulled it down over her ears, tucking her plaits inside. She wanted to cut her hair short but her father insisted she keep it long, ready for the day when she would have to go back to wearing women’s clothes. It was a dickens of a pain though because the dodo thought it was funny to pluck off the cap when she least expected. The dangerous joke had grown very tired. She had given up wearing the cap this morning, trusting that her high position would keep her hidden. 

“Don’t even think about it,” she warned Phil, recognising the look in his pale eyes, black pupils dilated. Most people would mistake the expression as wide-eyed innocence. She knew it to be mischief. “You’ll get me into hot water.”