Netgalley Reviews Catch-Up Part 2

My last Netgalley reviews catch up was books I’d read mostly around the time of release, but never got round to reviewing. This post is the books I’ve read more recently – and yes, most of them came out months and months ago. Sometimes life happens.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

midnight bookstore cover

I have to admit, this book was not what I expected at all, but I enjoyed it a lot once I got into it properly. That did take a significant portion of the book, but there was a moment when it all just suddenly clicked and I didn’t want to put the book down. Set primarily in the bookstore of the title, our lead character is Lydia, one of the booksellers. The Bright Ideas Bookstore is something of a haven for people who don’t quite fit in, or are acing hard times, and one night, as she’s closing up, Lydia comes across the body of one of these people after he’s hanged himself. This prompts Lydia to find out what would lead Joey, her favourite ‘bookfrog’ to do such a thing, but it leads into her own past in ways she could never have imagined. Matthew Sullivan is brilliant at drip-feeding bits of information throughout the story, and although I did guess some of the conclusion slightly before the end, I was utterly gripped by the mysteries unfolding in front of me. I highly recommend it, just be aware that it’s slow to get into, and parts of it are quite explicitly gory.

4/5

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

eleanor oliphant cover

To be fair to myself, I will point out that I didn’t get this one until a few months after its original release, so I’m not quite as late as I look. I wish I’d read it sooner, because it really is as good as everyone says it is. It’s a really hard book to try and review, because I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but it’s a proper life-affirming story. Eleanor is prickly and yes, a little bit strange, and she has no idea how to navigate social situations (for reasons that become very clear during the course of the book), but she’s a brilliant character with so much to love and she’s so relatable in many ways. To see her start venturing out of her comfort zone, even though it’s for slightly dubious reasons, feels like I imagine watching your child take their first steps does. There is a plot, but really this book is absolutely character driven, and it’s utterly wonderful. Read it.

5/5

Paris For One and Other Stories

paris for one

I’ve never read a Jojo Moyes book before, so I thought short stories might be a good way to start, but unfortunately I didn’t really connect with any of the stories. I suspect this is more me than Moyes, since I know short stories often aren’t enough for me, but I also think that romance stories aren’t a good fit for me in general. Although I will say that romance in these stories is very much a subjective thing. The ones I liked most were the two longer stories – the title one, and Honeymoon in Paris (which is apparently a prequel of sorts to one of Moyes’ novels). I don’t think there’s really a lot else I can say about about this book though. It was an enjoyable enough read for 90 minutes, but I’m probably not going to search out the author’s other books.

3/5

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Book Review: Spinning Silver

I actually can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to get round to reviewing Spinning Silver. I loved Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, so I was very much looking forward to Spinning Silver and it did not disappoint. I think I might even have liked it more than Uprooted. I certainly fell for the characters in a much deeper way.

spinning silver cover

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

First of all, can we talk about that amazing cover?! I love it so much, and it is, in my opinion, so much better than the US cover. Everything you need to know about Spinning Silver is right there on the cover. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but you totally could here.

Anyway, to the actual book. The story is very loosely based on Rumpelstiltskin, but Novik twists it to become the story of Miryem, Irina and Wanda, three very different young women whose lives intertwine in unexpected ways. It’s clearly Eastern European inspired, and it’s clearly a fairytale, but it’s very much also based in reality. I was horrified at the way the other villagers treated Miryem and her family, just because they were Jewish, but it’s a matter of historical record that this was happening all over Europe during the period the book is set. Irina and Wanda, too, have stories that ring historically true – the daughter of a duke, forced to marry a monster in order to raise her father’s stature, and the daughter of a drunk abuser, forced to scrabble in the earth for anything she can find so she and her brothers can survive. I loved the way these stories intersected, especially how Miryem claiming what she was owed gave Wanda hope and love.

I loved all three women with all of my heart. They were fantastically well-written, and I honestly felt bereft after I finished the book because I had no more time to spend with them. When I was reading Spinning Silver, I was so totally engrossed that it was a surprise to raise my head and find myself still in the office at lunchtime. I was utterly transported. I also loved the way Novik changed my opinions of the Staryk king and Mirnatius, the tsar Irina is forced to marry. They’re not good people, but they have their reasons and they can change. It was really interesting to get point of view chapters from both of them, considering they were the villains of the piece.

The writing is beautiful too. The settings are vividly evoked, to the extent that even now, months after I read it, I can still picture some scenes in my head. It reads like a true fairytale, and I didn’t want it to end. Obviously it did though, and although I know some people who did’t like the ending, I thought it was perfect for the story that had been told.

In short, what I’m trying to tell you is that you need to read this book. It’s definitely up there as one of my favourites of the year (and it’s had some stiff competition) and if you like books that sweep you away to somewhere new, Spinning Silver is definitely for you.

5/5

A copy of the book was sent to me by Jamie at Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. Thanks Jamie!

Book Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

So picture books aren’t normally my thing. I can appreciate the artwork, but they’re not something I usually review, because they’re not something I read. But when I was offered the chance to read this picture book, well I couldn’t resist! Buffy the Vampire Slayer is incredibly important to me as a show – I was roughly the same age as Buffy when it was airing, and for all that I wasn’t fighting monsters every night (or living in California), she was a very relatable character. I watched every episode, bought most of the merchandise and just generally basked in the awesome that was Buffy and her friends. So of course I had to read Buffy the Vampire Slayer – the picture book!

buffy cover

The cult classic ’90s TV show is now a charming book for the youngest fans in the Buffyverse!

In this new picture book story brought to life with enchanting, colorful illustrations, kid readers can learn about what the world’s strongest vampire slayer was like when she was a kid! What’s that strange sound coming from inside the closet? Join little Buffy, Xander, and Willow as they investigate bumps in the night, seek advice from their school librarian Giles, and encounter all your favorite Buffyverse monsters. Complete with gorgeous illustrations by Pop Classics artist Kim Smith, this sweet, silly, and not-so-scary book makes a perfect bedtime story.

Just look how cute it is! The illustrations are great throughout, and it’s a charming little story about what might be hiding in 8 year old Buffy’s closet. Personally, as a fan of the show, I had issues with the chronology and continuity of the show being messed about with, but no child is going to care about that. Just be aware if you’re an adult reading it to your children that you might feel a little frustrated.

I don’t have kids myself, but I know someone who does, so I took Buffy the Vampire Slayer round to read to little A, who is almost four. She wouldn’t admit it, but I think she did find it a bit scary, despite what the blurb says above. Even though she was scared though, she still loved the book and wanted to read it again, which I think is the ultimate seal of approval! I’ve read books to A before and she’s always got a little bored, but she was completely engaged with Buffy for the whole story and started trying to read it herself. She was also completely ready to fight any monsters she might find!

I gave Buffy the Vampire Slayer 3/5, mostly because of the continuity issues I mentioned above, which is probably slightly unfair, but I couldn’t get past them. However, from a child’s point of view, I’d say it’s probably at least a 4/5 – it’s fun and a little bit scary, with a good message about being kind to others and asking for help if you need it. Kids will love it!

3/5

A copy of the book was sent to me by Jamie at Quirk Books in exchange for an honest review – thanks Jamie!

Netgalley Review Catch-Up Part 1

It will surprise none of you to learn that I’m very behind on my Netgalley reviews. Well, all reviews actually (also not a surprise I suspect). I was determined to make an effort to read more of my netgalley shelf this month, and I don’t think I’m doing too badly. That does mean I need to get some reviews actually written though, so time for a mini review catch up I think!

Clean

clean cover

I have a confession to make: Clean is the book that sent me into a massive blogging slump months ago. I just couldn’t figure out how to review it, and I felt guilty for not writing a review of a book I very much enjoyed, by an author I like a lotSo I just ended up not writing anything at all, apart from blog tour commitments. I’m not sure anything has changed really. I still have no idea how to review it! Clean is the story of Lexi, the daughter of a London-based Russian oligarch, who’s been left to her own devices for most of her life. Aged 17, she accidentally overdoses on heroin and her brother decides enough is enough and packs her off to a very exclusive rehab. There, she tries to put her life back together and meets a group of people who all have their own demons to fght. It’s an excellent book, which doesn’t pull any of its punches when it comes to the effects of addiction – any addiction, although the focus is obviously on Lexi. I definitely recommend it, but it’s a hard book in many ways, and if you’re going to pick it up, I’d absolutely recommend a bit of research into its contents to make sure you’re ok with it.

4/5

Unveiling Venus

unveiling venus cover

Unveiling Venus is the sequel to Following Ophelia, which I’d really enjoyed last year. Both books follow Mary Adams and her transformation into the mysterious Persephone Lavelle, the toast of London’s artistic circles. Unveiling Venus sees Persephone travel to Venice with her friend Kitty, where things don’t go as expected. I must admit it’s been a long time since I read the book now, and I don’t remember that much about it. I know I didn’t enjoy it as much as Following Ophelia, I think because I missed a lot of the supporting characters back in London, but also because Mary/Persephone doesn’t always act very sensibly. And of course she doesn’t – she wouldn’t have ended up as Persephone if she always took the sensible route! But it did seem like she was almost a different person to the one we’d previously met. However, the author did bring the setting alive, and I still very much enjoyed Unveiling Venus.

3.5/5

The Wren Hunt

wren hunt cover

I loved The Wren Hunt when I read it earlier this year. It’s full of magic and mystery, a sweet romance and family dynamics, and it’s beautifully written too, so it feels magical. Wren is an Augur, a group of people who used to have powerful magic. Their magic is fading because their enemies, the Judges, now control the sources of it in a bid to destroy the Augurs themselves, and it’s up to Wren to find the information her family needs to stop the Judges. The only way she can do this is to take on an internship with the important Judge Cassa Harkness. When she does so though, Wren finds that things are not always as they seem. The Wren Hunt is a great book which gripped me from the beginning and then didn’t really let go. There’s a real sense of the danger Wren is in duing her internship, and I really felt for her as she tried to reconcile the information she’d found with what she already knew. Highly recommended!

4/5

The Smoke Thieves

smoke thieves cover

I have another confession: I’m not a huge fan of Sally Green’s work. I only made it halfway through Half Bad, which I know so many people love, and I felt bad about it because she’s kind of local. But The Smoke Thieves seemed much more my kind of thing, so I was excited to give it a go. And it was pretty good. There is some problematic stuff in there, but generally it’s solid epic fantasy, with a bunch of ragtag misfits slowly coming together to fight evil rulers. It was nothing special or different though, and parts of it were quite slow. As with any book featuring multiple points of view too, there were characters I wanted to get back to and characters I couldn’t wait to get away from. I’d have liked a book with more focus on Catherine in particular, as she had the most interesting story in my opinion, but I’m sure there are people who hated her and prefered another character instead. In short, I’m glad I got to read it, but I’m not sure I’ll be desperate to read the sequel.

3.5/5

Almost Love

almost love

Some of you will know that I’m a huge Louise O’Neill fan. Asking For It and  Only Ever Yours are stunning books, so I was really looking forward to reading her first adult novel, Almost Love. Sadly, I didn’t like it as much as her YA novels, but it’s still an excellent portrayal of a kind of love we don’t really get to see much in fiction (or I don’t anyway). Almost Love is the story of Sarah, and it switches between Sarah as a 24 year old, in an obsessive relatonship with an older man, and Sarah in the present, about 5 years later, in a different relationship. Sarah is very much not likeable. She makes appalling decisions, and her obsessiveness over Matthew, the older man she met at 24, is incredibly annoying, especially as it’s still affecting her life five years after they split up. But that’s because we see it from the outside. It’s perfectly clear to us that Matthew doesn’t love Sarah, or even want to be in a relationship with her, he just wants to use her. To Sarah, that means he wants her, and she’ll do anything to be wanted. I thought it was a compelling book, and it’s definitely worth a read.

4/5

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these! What did you think of them?

All books featured in this post were provided by the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.