Friday, 20 June 2014

Gingerbread by Robert Dinsdale

This book intrigued me as soon as I saw it. Succinct title, mysterious cover and once I read the premise, I had to try it. 

In Wintery Belarus, a young boy has just lost his mother to cancer. Asher her only living relatives, the boy and his grandfather take it upon themselves to honour her last request and scatter her ashes in the woodlands of her childhood. 

Frightened to leave the city and still grieving, the boy and his papa embark on the journey, taking the last of his mama’s famed gingerbread. 

The grandfather has always told stories for the boy, but as they delve deeper into the woods, the stories become much darker and scarily real. Grandfather has a history with the forest and his return to the wild after so many years away has unimaginable consequences for both man and boy.  

I thought the way this story was put together was excellent. With the sad events at the start, the grandfather and grandson are thrown together and so the foundations of their relationship are built upon their shared task and impending journey, but also develops as that journey continues on. The grandfather’s stories, which are a mix of fairytales and past events, makes it much more interesting to read and also builds up suspense to the events surrounding the main characters in the present.  

You have the grandfather’s side of things with his stories but you see a lot of the action from the little boys point of view. Children have such an innocent and wonderous view of the world and this perspective in the story telling gives a vaguely magical tone to the narrative. 

With the interweaving stories and pleasantly descriptive prose, I found myself getting quite emotionally invested in the characters. Robert Dinsdale paints vivid imagery of the tale and tugs at your heartstrings in the process. 

Gingerbread is a fascinatingly dark and enigmatic story of past lives and family, with touches of history and the magic of fairytales and folklore, which together make this a worthwhile read. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

Readers of this blog may know that I am quite partial to historical novels and the Tudor period is one of many of my favourite periods in history. 

I remember learning about the Tudors in school and being fascinated by King Henry and his strong of ill-fated wives, and the ins and outs of Tudor court. Now as an adult, I've learnt even more about the nature of court politics that could never be taught in school; the affairs, the gossips and the scandals on which both reputations and lives could be overturned in an instant. 

I was delighted to be sent a copy of Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle to review, but after reading the press release and seeing that it was the follow up to her debut novel Queen’s Gambit, I had to read the first installment straight away. 

In Queen’s Gambit we are introduced to Katherine Parr, who is rejoining court after losing her husband. As she readjusts to the gossiping, backstabbing and fickle nature of the court, she finds herself courted by the King himself and before she knows it, she is made Queen.

As well as her unexpected ascension to the throne, we also have the story of her faithful maid Dot Fownten, who has also unexpectedly risen from her Lady’s helper to the right hand of the Queen of England. Their relationship is a beautiful friendship and almost sisterhood of two women who are so far apart in status and yet more true to each other than the closest of friends could be. 

I think Katherine Parr’s time on the throne may the least documented time in Tudor history, as I've always found the other wives’ stories seem to dominate this era. Elizabeth Fremantle depicts Katherine as a strong, intelligent and caring heroine and I adored her character from the start. She is exactly as I would picture an ideal Queen to be, especially with all the trials and tribulations she had to deal with, including her dangerously capricious husband, her ambitious brother, the precarious state of religious and political affairs and the backstabbing drama of life at court. 

From the first page I was hooked into this turbulent and colourful period in time. Not only are the characters incredibly well painted, but the era bleeds from pages in a riot of rich English settings and sumptuous scandals. I thoroughly enjoyed this and can’t wait to get stuck into the second book. 

Queen’s Gambit is a luscious read for history lovers and fans of the Tudor period, where under the pomp and extravagance of the elite, nobody, not even a Queen is truly safe.  

Monday, 9 June 2014

You're The One That I Want by Giovanna Fletcher

It was more than a year ago that I read the debut novel from Giovanna Fletcher, Billy and Me. It was a pleasant read and with its equally bright, attractive cover I was curious to see how her second novel would pan out. 

Maddy is on her way down the aisle to marry her childhood friend, the gorgeous and confident Rob, who she is in love with. Next to Rob as his best man is her other best friend from childhood, loyal and sensitive Ben. If it wasn't Rob she was marrying, it just as easily could have been Ben, whom she also loves. 

The three met at primary school and became inseparable throughout their school days. The story follows them as they go through adolescence and then start adult lives away from home at University. 

As they go through trials and tribulations of University life, the group dynamics change over time and Maddy’s heart is torn between the two men she cares most about in the world. 

We watch them grow up and evolve into adults up until the day of the wedding, where Maddy’s choice will affect all three of them for their rest of their lives. I enjoyed how the story was told from the alternating perspectives of Maddy and Ben, and from such a young age so that you really get a sense of the characters. I adored Ben’s character and really felt for him throughout the story. 

The story is told in such a grounded way that it made me reminisce about my school days and especially about my University days (God, how I miss them!). I thought it was quite similar to You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane (if you've read that and liked it then I think you will enjoy this). 

I actually enjoyed this book tons more than Billy and Me, and devoured it in about a day. Even if you've not read Giovanna Fletcher before, this is certainly one to try if you like chick-lit or romance. 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Silver Mirrors by A.A. Aguirre

I was introduced to the first Apparatus Infernum novel Bronze Gods in November last year and was blown away by the mix of steampunk, crime and fantasy blended together in Bronze Gods by husband and wife writing duo A.A. Aguirre. As well as being awesome books, I think the cover art is stunning too!

The second instalment of the trilogy, Silver Mirrors is out now and continues the story of crime fighting officers Janus Mikani and Celeste Ritsuko. On their last assignment, they ended up disrupting an ancient ritual of powerful, dark magic.

Despite saving the city, the consequences of this appear to have made matters worse. Machines have developed consciousness, elementals are running wild and pirates are mounting more sea-based assaults than ever.

As the crime rate across the land rises, Mikani and Ritsuko embark on an adventure that takes them across the stormy seas and back and sees them facing more dangers than ever before. Silver Mirrors doesn’t hang about and gets straight into the thick of things. It seems as though there is no rest for the two hero detectives.

In the first book, the pair’s relationship seems to be blossoming into something more than just work colleagues, and this is explored further in the story. Alongside a potential romance, there is plenty of investigating to be done and there are lots of strange and unusual crimes for them to look into. The steampunk and fantasy inclusions really make this set of stories unique and a pleasant change from straight laced crime novels (not that I’m averse to those either!)

If this sounds like a book you would enjoy, it would be better if you did read Bronze Gods first, it will definitely be worth it. For any established A.A. Aguirre fans, I would love to know your thoughts on the novels here! Fantasy, crime, steampunk and more; there is something for everyone within the Apparatus Infernum series!