The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd Book Review

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Publisher: John Murry Press, Two Roads

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publish Date: 6 February 2020

Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

A truly wonderful book that moves the heartstrings and leads you to question the climate issue of the present. Glasfurd has chosen to write a historical novel about the year known as, the Year Without Summer: 1816. In the Sumbawa Islands, Indonesia, Mount Tambora stood at14,100 feet but the 1815 eruption reduce its hight to 9,350 feet while also killing over 71,000 people and throwing so much ash into the atmosphere it leads 1816 to be known as a year without summer. Crops failed, livestock died and famine became widespread in North America and Europe. The eruption of Mount Tambora was a super-colossal explosion, the worst in modern times with the eruption of Krakatoa coming in second.

It is during this year that Glasfurd has written 6 stories, the majority based on living persons, that show how the year without summer affected their lives. Starting with the most famous; Mary Shelly. Mary during 1816 is traveling with her future husband Percy Shelly and Claire Clairmont to meet with poet Lord Byron and his doctor, Polidori, in Switzerland. This meeting in Switzerland leads to one of the literature greatest moments. The “incessant rainfall” and unusual summer would led to a competition over ghost stories that would see the birth of Frankenstein. Next is the famous artist John Constable who saw his life change drastically in 1816 due to bereavement, marriage, and painting. Sarah Hobbs is much less known. In real life, she was the only woman condemned to hang for the Ely and Littleport riots of 1816 but her sentence was commuted. The riots concerned farmers, grain costs and unemployment. Although the issue was bubbling away on the back burner the 1816 crop failure acted as the spark that led to the riot. In the book, Sarah mimics real Sarah’s life but it is very loose. Cleverly, Glasfurd doesn’t just concern herself with 1816 she also writs a narrative based on the account of the Captain of the Benares. In this narrative the ship’s Doctor, Henry, records his mission first, to discover the cause of a sound, believing it to be pirates, to then discover the immediate aftermath of the Mount Tambora’s eruption. This account is quite graphic and heart-wrenching! Next a fictional character and narrative. An American Preacher settled in Vermont, Charles Whitlock, stands firm and convinces his flock of farmers to remain and weather the storm when they were preparing to leave, thereby leading to disastrous consequences. And Lastly, Hope Peter, a returning soldier from the Napoleonic Wars who finds the remains of his home.

All six narratives interested me deeply, I know from reading some other reviewers’ reviews that they could have done without some and could have had more of others, but I felt that all the narratives played a part in what the author ultimately wanted to achieve. An example of what a natural disaster, that has an enormous effect on climate change, can do to all types of people at different stations and situations. It wasn’t until recently that 1816 could be connected as a consequence of the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 and that the 1 to 2 degree chill effect had impacted the world through famine, politics and social unrest. A lot of parallels can be drawn from 1816 and today – but as the author questions, what does this knowledge give us?

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an E-ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

A Light in the Depths by Christopher C. Fuchs Review

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Publish Date 8 Feb 2020

Star Rating 5/5

Fuchs is back, with a powerful follow up to that cliff-hanger he left us with! A Light in the Depths is the second and final part of Rildning’s story which began in The Depths of Redemption. Unlike The Depths of Redemption Fuchs has changed his writing style back to character point of view charters, letting us get inside the minds of his vast cast.

The last book left us with the fall of Nalembalen and Rildning’s journal filled with New World secrets falling into the hands of the enemy. This book begins a year after the fall. The Gallerlanders still won’t use horses and metal leaving them vulnerable, they have won some victories but not enough. There is one last meaningful location left to the Gallerlanders, Gilgalem, and our heroes flee to it to prepare its defenses but allies are needed. Envoys are sent off in winter to potential allies, hoping to make common cause. Unfortunately, the enemy who are flowing across the New World have the same idea, making the Gallerlanders potential allies into their vassal-kings. Add to the mix: heart-rendering deaths, many a battle and seeing the great cities of Eglamour and Rachard be birthed and grown, The Light in the Depths becomes a book just can’t be put down, even for toilet breaks.

Unfortunately, I can’t go into more story without going into spoilers, so I will leave it here. However, I can do shout out to some of my favorite elements within this book. Hilsingor of Ned Gollen, Marshal of the Frontier Corps of Pemonia. is a fantastic character and a lover of wine, cheeses, and strategy, a person I could get along with in real life and gives off echoes of Sun Tzu. Then, there is a wolf among the sheep, an enemy operative who sits on the psychotic scale who successfully causes chaos from within while perfecting the perfect stick eye at Rildning. The Naren-Dra are impressive, I picture them as the Gods sitting in Olympia, watching the mortals below and messing with their life’s when they seem fit or come too close. Next, is a Macavalian Raffen vassal-king, willing to do whatever is needed regardless of what others think. Throughout, we are left to guess whether his surrender and adoption into the Brintilian Empire is sincere. But the biggest shout out goes to the creepy jailer of the Nyden. A sweet blind jailer who offers comfort in pitch dark cells only to help you by stabbing your eyes out through the cells’ keyhole. His scene was writing soo well mimicking gothic horror that it leaked into my nightmares. After all, what would you need your eyes for, in the dark, he was just helping…

A lot happened in this book, it’s well-paced and thoroughly engaging. It also, left a lot of room for future books, which is exciting. I would love to spend more time with the Naren-Dra and the Macavalian Raffen vassal-king. The only disappointing part: this book marks the end of Fuchs’s rapid release of books. Now comes the long wait…. luckily, I hear through the grapevine Fuchs will be publishing two new novelettes: Arcodum and The feuding Tower, this year to help tie us over until the next big book. If you haven’t already subscribe to the Earthpillar website, www.earthpillarbooks.com. By doing so, you get not just all the news about the upcoming releases, you also get Fuchs other two novelettes for free, The Revolution Machine and The Fourth Messenger. But ultimately, Christopher C. Fuchs write faster!

Thank you to Loremark Publishing for an E-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

We Are Monsters – Brian Kirk Book Review

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Star Rating 5/5

Release Date 16 January 2020

I loved this book, the second half more than the first though the first is needed to set the stage. Alex is a Psychiatric Doctor working in an asylum and is being groomed to become the next Director of the hospital by his mentor and current director. However, unbeknown to Alex’s mentor, their treatment methods differ greatly. Alex’s mentor believes in holistic treatment with antipsychotic drugs used only when necessary whereas Alex believes heavily in antipsychotics, to the point he may have secretly created an antipsychotic that can cure schizophrenia. Unfortunately, while the antipsychotic works fine animals, the formula needs to be adjusted to work on humans. Luckily Alex has a schizophrenic brother and a whole hospital full of patients to use as test subjects or perhaps just one criminally insane serial killer.

The book focuses more on questioning, what is sanity? as we learn that, due to past traumas doctors are not quite sane themselves. Also, explored is how people with mental disorders ought to be treated – holistically or with mind-numbing drugs? As I previously said I prefer the second half of the book where we go down the rabbit hole of the mind of the insane or perhaps, a living Salvador Dali painting. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to explore these issues in a fictional way or for anyone who wants to escape into madness for a few hours.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher Flame Tree Press, for an advanced electronic readers copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau Book Review

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Star Rating 4/5

Publish Date 16 January 2020

The book cover of Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau was the first thing that captured my attention. With a figure, I first assumed falling through the air it immediately invoked thoughts of Alice in Wonderland. This was helped along with silhouettes of the tops of circus tents I was sure this would be a book for me. The description went on to explain that the book is a historical fiction mystery involving the hedonism of Coney Island in 1911, one of America’s richest families and a web of deceit and lies as well as a few dead bodies.

I don’t know much about Coney Island apart from it being an amusement park playground mixed with nature’s oddities. But I soon learned that Dreamland was one of three amusement parks and unfortunately was destroyed by fire and was never rebuilt. The story is set in the final months before this fateful fire happened. A leading family of New York is holidaying in Coney Island at the request of a potential fiancée to one of the girls. It is not a destination the family would normally choose but the potential suitor is a rival in fortune to them and this marriage is a priority, therefore the family will dance to any tune the eccentric suitor wishes. In the middle of all this is Penny, a daughter of the leading family who wants to distance herself from the family and be an independent woman. She’s only here at her sister’s request and her family’s threats. However, Coney Island provides more freedom than she would have expected and the weeks she spends there, change her from the inside out. Soon bodies start to appear all over Coney Island, there is a murderer among them, but how close?

I enjoyed this book even though I was expecting a lot more hedonism and nature’s oddities from the time. More of an illusion I guess? However, Coney Island was simply the backdrop to the story and not the story. This does not diminish the actual story as the book is well written, with greatly developed characters and a very enjoyable read. It moves at a good pace and having put the book down I wanted to pick it back up again. Unfortunately, life kept getting in the way.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an advanced electronic reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Two Amazing Historic Fiction Books Out Today: The Other Bennet Sister and The Lady of the Ravens

Today, 9 January 2020 marks not only my best friend’s birthday (Happy Birthday Amy!) It also marks the release date of two amazing Historic Fiction books that I devoured within days of receiving them. First up:

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

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Star Rating: 5 Stars

I read this book during the festive season and it fitted in perfectly! A book about not fitting in, being an underdog, becoming a swan and true love, while under a blanket with a cup of cocoa and the Christmas tree lights twinkling set a romantic atmosphere.

The title says it all, The Other Bennet Sister, is the story of the least popular and outgoing Bennet sister from Jane Austin’s’: Pride and Prejudice. If you’ve been following my blog then you’ll know underdogs are my kryptonite! Until this book, I hadn’t spared a thought for Mary. She was always in her charismatic and beautiful siblings’ shadow and this is how the book starts. The first part is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Mary’s point of view and we discover a lonely character who has distanced herself and tries too hard to have her own qualities to stand upon. There is a beautiful heartbreaking sentence in this part of the book that describes it perfectly.

“Her hard work and effort had brought her the expertise she longed for, but it had been achieved at the cost of a simple enjoyment she once loved” Kindle Location 209.

This quote is appealing as I think we all have felt overshadowed and taken something we loved to such an extent that we lose sight of why we loved it to begin with. In this part, we also learn about the approval Mary desperately wishes for from her parents and how their marriage destroyed Mr. Bennet’s ability to bond with the younger girls and ultimately was to shape Mary’s view on marriage. Thus the book is set for Mary to learn about other marriages and to decide which model she believes to be the best.

The middle part is consumed with the Collins’ marriage. Poor Mary and Mr. Collins find friendship only to have Charlotte Lucas become jealous. Charlotte got my heckles up in this book, I was rooting for Mary to become Mrs. Collins especially as Collins’ depiction in this novel is so loving and Charlotte’s so cold.

The last part is where the novel comes into its own. Mary becomes a swan and emerges from her shell. So much so that she becomes caught in a love triangle. One suitor is steady and loving while the other is exciting and impulsive reminding the reader of echos of Darcy and Wickham. Luckily, Mary’s aunt has sound advice.

“The man who declared his affections most readily is not necessarily the man who feels them most profoundly.” Kindle Location 5237.

But, does Mary listen?

A truly wonderfully written tale of the novel Pride and Prejudice and I would highly recommend it.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an E-ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson

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Star Rating: 4 Stars 

The Lady of the Ravens is a great idea for a book and I really enjoyed reading it. I’ve long been a fan of the Tudor Historical Fiction genre and got excited when I came across this book. The legend of the Ravens of the Tower is famous: it is believed that the Ravens are the guardians of the Tower of London. As long as the Tower of London stands so will the rule of the kingdom. The legend is so important that the Ravens are still looked after in the tower to this day and you can visit them. They have their own carers who look to their every need and to date they have never left the tower.

This legend is weaved into this novel. King Henry VII has won the throne of England, the country is trying to heal itself and soldiers don’t like ravens. We follow Lady Joan Gildford nee. Vaux from her time serving Princess Elizabeth of York after King Henry VII’s victory, to the alter and beyond to when she rises to the position of Maid of Honor. Joan is the Lady of the Ravens. She is enchanted by them and is a supporter of their survival and comfort. She knows of the Raven legend and the soldier’s dislike of them. They are used as target practice for archers and Joan makes sure that their bad opinions of them are changed. Beautifully, the ravens near misses coincide with troubles on King Henry VII’s throne, thus reinforcing the legend.

I’ve given this novel 4 stars as I felt some storylines felt incomplete and brushed over important issues. One of King Henry VII’s biggest threats was the presence of Perkin Warbeck, the Pretender. We don’t meet him in the book, he is only ever talked about yet he is talked about at great length. I expected more from this storyline as there was a lot of potential in the way this book is written; but the second half of his story, especially the capture, imprisonment, and execution was more of a footnote. The same can be said for Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick. My other gripe with the novel is that it ended too soon. Prince Arthur and Queen Elizabeth were still alive at the end of the novel but Joan’s life became more dramatic after their deaths. Joan went to France with Princess Mary for her marriage to the King, she was part of King Henry the VIII’s great matter and she married a second time, to a youth she looked after in the novel. Perhaps a sequel to the book is coming… I hope so for there are many stories still to go and I’m very found of Joan and the Ravens.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an E-ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Let’s Be Weird Together by Brooke Barker and Boaz Frankel

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Star Rating: 3 Stars

When I first came across this book I thought this was the book for me and my husband. I pictured myself running up to him and making him look at the cartoon or passage I just read and us laughing together. I consider our relationship to be weird and we lovingly judge each other for it. So reading about another couple who are weird or weirder than us, was very compelling. What similarities did we have with each other, where my husband and I about to find out we are actually boring and normal?

The book was fun and was broken up with history stories and cartoons. All in all, I read it in one sit in and it flowed well. However, after reading it, I felt disappointed. The couple are cute and do, do weird things that people do in loving relationships but it felt too much like an inside joke between two people that I was peaking into. I’m sure if I wrote this book with my husband they would be saying the same. The beauty of a weird relationship is that it’s between two people and trying to explain it to everyone else means it doesn’t quite translate.

With all being said and done, this isn’t a bad book. It’s a book that you would read if you were in a situation where you forgot your current book and wanted something light to read.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me an Electronic Advanced Readers Copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Depths of Redemption by Christopher C. Fuchs Review

Spoiler Warning – There are spoilers in this article about The Depths of Redemption

The Depths of Redemption is the second published novel by Christopher C. Fuchs. It is the first installment in a two-part prequel to his debut novel: Lords of Deception. It must be noted that this novel deviates from Lords of Deception as the main character is new to the reader, as well as his territory and adventure. This decision to explore the universe by spreading out histories and characters is refreshing and reminiscent of Terry Pratchett’s’ Discworld. A complaint I tend to have with authors who create universes is that once the main story has concluded the universe is forgotten. I much prefer to explore universes nooks and crannies!

This book is written in the first person, unlike the first novel which was written in character POV chapters. We begin with Arasemis and his pupil in the present looking at two ancient books that hold invaluable histories. One of the books is a journal and it is this journal that we dive 800 years into the past. The journal belongs to Rildning, a Colonial Knight who is undertaking an expedition to make an alliance between New Lorin of the Old World and the natives of the New World, Pemonia. They start off as a strong group of five however as they delve deeper into the New World, the New World begins picking them off and the true dark purpose of the expedition comes to light. Rildning, fight for survival in the unknown wilderness and his hope to find a greater meaning to his existence means he undergoes major character changes and becomes a prisoner of the natives. Luckily his changed character is enough to win the native’s trust but the Old World is coming for the New and a great army sits on the fringes of the native’s capital city. Unbeknown to all but a select few, the capital city is harboring a secret, one which could produce lasting peace or utter destruction. Rildnings’ journal, originally written to record the assignment of creating an alliance suddenly becomes a dangerous weapon, if the enemy ever got their hands on it.

Within the wilderness of the New World Fuchs has created a fantastical environment that is beautiful but when it becomes dark, it becomes dark! Not to mention a new language which as readers we begin to learn ourselves through the journal. The number of creative elements within this novel are staggering. Though judging by the debut novel, this is not surprising.

My only complaint is that I really like the character of Orren. Since he was so right about his speculations of the New World and stood a figure of ridicule for it. I would have loved to have seen him be proven right and explore the world he suspected existed. Unfortunately, I have to admit that a character cannot survive in a story just because I want him to be triumphant, his gentle soul had to depart to keep the story authentic. He could never have survived the dangers of this adventure no matter how true his heart was. I wish that he had lived but I like an author who’s not afraid to kill a character for the sake of the story. It hurt in a way George R. R. Martin specializes in….and he was only a tiny part of the book and his death was off-screen!

Lords of Redemption is out today: 8th December 2019. Get your copy now from Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes and Nobels or ISBN 978-1-946883-02-5 at your local bookshop.