An emotional and clever tale of World War II and the women who gave their lives

Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity #1) by Elizabeth Wein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are quite a few Young Adult novels based on the stories of people during the years of the Second World War. Several of these have become huge bestsellers are they are often sought out as books to be studied within the classroom such as The Book Thief and The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas. I’d heard really good things about Code Name Verity and as it’s been a little while since I read a Second World War book in this genre I decided it might be nice to see whether it could be a valuable read for my 11-year-old who is going to be studying this time period at school.

This is an interesting book told through the eyes of a Gestapo prisoner in Nazi occupied France. Initially, we know very little about our narrator other than she is a British prisoner, although as she reminds us frequently she is, in fact, Scottish which I found quite amusing as being Scottish myself I know the pains we will go to in order to not be regarded as English. It is clear she has given in under pressures of interrogation and is now writing down what she knows about the allied war effort, the kinds of planes we use, where our air bases are and radio codes that we use for transmitting messages. As she tells us she is a coward, she has bought herself an extra two weeks of life in order to share all the knows with the Germans but ultimately she knows she will die at the hands of her captors.

As the story progresses we find that her way of telling what she knows about the war is both humorous, insightful and written through her experiences during the war. She is often scathing about the Germans who hold her, she is telling her story her way and sometimes this leads to her being punished for the things she says. There is lots of information about flying and the aircraft used during the war but if you can cut through this fundamentally this is the story of a young pilot Maddie who is as capable as any man at flying but during the war she is used for ground duties and eventually for ferrying planes around the UK for repair and to collect aircraft personnel. The story is Maddie’s and that of her best friend Queenie who she meets during her training. They are two people who outwith the confines of the war would never be friends. Maddie is the granddaughter of a Jewish bike seller whilst Queenie is a Scottish aristocrat from a large family with a title and immense wealth.

This story is really touching and we are given more information slowly throughout the first two thirds of the book where our prisoner tells us about how she comes to be in Occupied France and how this links to the stories of Queenie and Maddie. We know it won’t have a happy ending but the story is heartbreaking and engaging and the further into the book you go the more entrancing the story becomes.

The last third of the book is told by a different narrator, Maddie. In this part of the book we fill in the blanks that our Gestapo prisoner was unable to tell us and it is in this section that we learn the whole truth about the novel and as it ended I was left breathless by how cleverly crafted the story had been and how people will find the strengh to rise to challenges they never could have faced if not forced to do so through wartime.

A wonderful novel it is a great read, I wouldn’t recommend it for very young pre-teen readers but I’d say that the content would be fine for ages 13 and above. I also imagine that the often long descriptions of flights and aircraft may put some readers off who find themselves bogged down in this and unable to cut through it to the heart and soul of the story. I can understand perhaps why it’s not used as a school text as often as others of a similar genre.

I really enjoyed this book but I’d still say Prisoner of Night & Fog remains my favourite Young Adult WWII novel.

Liane Moriarty’s book is a wonderful mystery about friendship

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

HBO are about to launch a brand new, star-studded miniseries later in February based on this book by Liane Moriarty. Starring such big Hollywood names as Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley it is clear that the budget for its adaptation to the small screen hasn’t been insignificant. For a show to attract such a myriad of stars as it has there must be something significantly strong in the book for it to have found such attention.

The last book I read by Moriarty was some years ago now and was The Husband’s Secret, I remember it as being an okay read but it didn’t blow me away and so this book has been on my e-reader pretty much since it’s release and it was only my incessant need not to let the series begin without my having read the content upon which it is based that pushed it to the top of my list.

Based in a small, highly affluent seaside suburb in Melbourne, Australia it follows the lives of three women. Madeline is a mother of 3, happily married to her second husband she is preparing for her youngest daughter beginning to start Kindergarten. Making the whole transition worse is the fact her ex-husband’s child with his new wife is going to be in the same class and there’s just nothing Madeline hates more than the hippy-dippy lifestyle of the woman was replaced with. Also, we have wealthy and beautiful Celeste, mother of twins and wife of a successful businessman is also preparing to send her boys to school however it’s clear that behind the veneer of Celeste’s perfect life is a secret that she keeps from everyone around her.

Finally, we have Jane, a young single mother who has just moved to the area and has to transition her little boy into the school along with mothers and children she doesn’t know. On the first day of school, Ziggy is accused of bullying another child and she finds herself ostracised by the other mums and judgements made about her parenting. Jane though hides a secret also about the father she has never told Ziggy about and it scares her that perhaps the things her little boy is accused of could be true.

From the very outset of the book, we are aware that there has been a murder committed at a trivia night held to raise funds for the school. The book is written through the moths and weeks leading up to the crime and each chapter has interspersed snippets from police interviews with different members of the school community after the crime. From these, we are given tantalising glimpses of what happens but never the full picture as each person has their own perceptions of the evening’s events based on whom they have aligned themselves with in the bullying furore.

The book really pulls you on through the chapters, the mixture of chapters being told from each different lead characters perspectives means we get to share each of their stories and their friendship from each angle. The characters are well written and maybe because I know who is going to be playing each role in the series I could really see them clearly in my mind and you can see the actresses chosen really bringing their role to the screen perfectly. The police interview snippets are a really clever writing tool because it lets us see that no two people ever view the same situation in the same way and that what we observe from afar is not always the truth behind people’s actions. We also learn that bullying and cliques and name calling are something that we don’t leave behind in the school playground, even as adults people use these to give themselves power and status and the parallels between the adult’s worlds and those of their children is profound.

I did manage to guess one of the big reveals at the end of the book from around half way however it didn’t spoil the ending as I couldn’t have foreseen the murder itself and the way in which it took place. The book really did keep you guessing about that right up until the moment itself as there were various ways it could have played out. The fallout from the crime was handled very well and brought together characters that we hadn’t anticipated would find affinity with one another and taught us that absolutely everyone has secrets they don’t wish to share in life and sometimes it’s the things we don’t share that are the most powerful things about us.

I am now literally on the edge of my seat waiting for the television adaptation, I have a feeling it’s going to be a huge hit for HBO and for people who have not read the book they will fall in love with it as there is glamour and friendship and enough backstabbing to bring the screen to life. I know that now I will be watching with a clear indicator of what the ending will be but I still cannot wait to relive Madeline, Celeste and Jane’s journeys on screen.

 

Perhaps the best thriller ending I’ve ever read

Between You and Me by Lisa Hall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lisa Hall is a new author who has released for her first novel, Between You and Me, a tale of domestic violence and the shattering impact it can have on relationships and the ripple effect of that to all family members. The thing about this book though is I would honestly advise you to steer clear of reading lots of review on it before you pick up the book because there is a really big plot twist at the end of the book and I honestly can say I didn’t see it coming and I’m glad I didn’t so I am going to write a very careful but hopefully helpful review without giving too much away.

Sal and Charlie seem from the outside to have a very happy marriage, they have a young daughter Maggie and Charlie is climbing the ladder at work as a lawyer aiming to make partner. Having met at university and married young the couple have fallen into the routine where Sal is happy to help Charlie climb the career ladder by staying home and caring for Maggie full time whilst putting the career they loved as a teacher on hold.

The thing about the marriage though is that Sal is terrified of Charlie, lives in fear of how Charlie will react to every little thing that happens in their marriage. There have been incidents since they met which have been escalating where Charlie controls everything Sal does and if Sal doesn’t do precisely as told will be rewarded with a slap, a punch, things being thrown or broken or things withheld. It is a volatile relationship and one in which Sal lives in fear. Charlie is living with the shadow of a traumatic childhood raised in a house where a violent stepfather ruled the house. This has led to a cycle that has now passed onto Charlie’s own marriage.

The book leads us through a period where Charlie is trying to close a major deal at work and stress is building, as a consequence events at home become magnified and Charlie becomes more difficult to live with than ever, taking it out on Sal and reacting in violence. Sal knows that it’s time to escape but doesn’t know where to start and is too scared to take help, even from friend and neighbour Laura who seems to know what’s going on.

The writing in this book was amazing. I honestly have to say that the way it was written was so very clever as to not give even the slightest indication of the twist that this book’s final few chapters. I normally am really sharp and can spot twists before they come but this time when it happened I was really stunned. I had to go back and read a few chapters before. I was flicking back thinking “How did I miss that?” and it really challenged me as a reader.

It is a book that will make you stop and question how the author was able to do what she does with the plot so effectively and what is it about us as readers that

readers that allows us to make that possible and for us to be so blindsided by it. I would honestly say it’s one of the books that has surprised me the most. I wish I’d read it a few days earlier when I answered a question about the most surprising plot twist in the 30 Day Reading Challenge as there are few books that have surprised me as much as this one did.

I would highly recommend this book, if you love a good thriller and you liked Into The Darkest Corner or Gone Girl then this would be great for you.

Scarlet doesn’t deliver as much character development as I’d like but it’s an okay sequel

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Trying the sequel to a book you have really enjoyed is often a bit of a double edged sword, if it turns out that the book is as good as or better than the predecessor then you have sheer joy and a chance to spend more time with your favourite characters however there is always that fear that the second book is poorer than the first and instead of moving the story along in a fulfilling way it kills the vibes you had for your favourite characters and leaves you feeling that you wish they’d left well alone.

I think this initial worry is what meant I took nearly 6-8 weeks between reading Cinder and picking up the second Lunar Chronicles novel, Scarlet. Scarlet, like Cinder, is a fairy tale retelling and in this book we follow Scarlet, who is loosely based on Red Riding Hood, and a fighter she meets called Wolf. Scarlet’s grandmother has been taken from their farm and Scarlet has no idea where she is and no one seems to want to help her find the old woman. During her search she meets Wolf, a fighter who goes from place to place earning his living by fighting and he offers to help her find her grandmother.

This story of Scarlet and Cinder is fishtailed into the continuing story of Cyborg Cinder who we left at the end of book 1 in the series languishing in a New Beijing prison awaiting execution. In this book, she again plays a central role as she begins to adjust to the news that she is a Lunar and that she is, in fact, the lost Lunar princess, Selene. Her friend and love interest Emperor Kai has promised to hand her over to the Lunar Queen in exchange for her leaving his people alone and he is facing the moral dilemma of the safety of his people versus what his heart is telling him to do.

The stories of these two couples become intertwined in this novel and lead to more revelations about Cinder’s early life and the lengths people have gone to in order to keep her safe whilst also exploring the extent of the Lunar Queen’s plans for earth. There’s lots more action along the way and lots of romance too.

I liked this second book in the series but I do have to be honest I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did book 1. I think that I would have liked to have seen more plot development in this book. Essentially we didn’t move forward as much as I would have liked by way of showdowns between Cinder and her aunt. I also wanted some Kai and Cinder time which we didn’t get in this book. There were some high points though, I loved the time we had with Scarlet and her grandmother, the small family moments Meyer treated us too were really emotional and moving and I would have liked a little more of that. I also loved the bits with Cinder and Scarlet together which don’t come till quite late on in the book and I’m looking forward to more of this in book 3.

This isn’t my favourite series, I like the twist on the fairy tales and giving them a really futuristic twist but sometimes I think there’s a lot of focus on the surroundings and I would like more dialogue between the characters that is meaningful and emotional, sometimes it’s all a bit superficial. I want to fall in love with the characters but I find them a tiny bit two dimensional and I feel like I’m only ever scratching their surface, I want to know more, I want more detail. I hope we will get this as the series progresses because I want to root for them but I’m not totally invested in them yet.

It’s a good second book, it’s not as good as book 1 but I am willing to hang on in there and give book 3 a try.

A touching story of teenage love against the odds

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Young adult fiction is one of my guilty pleasures, although I now beyond the age group where I could ever be considered a young adult I find this genre is currently burgeoning with brilliant authors with some strong stories to tell and I enjoy reading them, they are an escape from the adult world back to a more innocent time when you didn’t have to worry about what bills to pay and what everyone is having for dinner that evening. A time when anything was possible and you have your whole future in front of you.

Jennifer Niven has become very highly regarded in this genre after her last novel “All The Bright Things” received rave critical reviews, I haven’t read that book yet however and I decided to start with Holding Up The Universe. I was lucky enough to listen to this book via audiobook as well as reading parts and whilst I do not regularly listen to audiobooks as I sometimes find they interfere with my enjoyment of the story, this adaptation was exceptional and it is highly recommended if this method of enjoying the book appeals to you more.

This is a great story of Libby Strout and Jack Masselin, two teens who are preparing to return to school after the summer break. For Libby however it is a huge undertaking, she was one “America’s Fattest Teen” unable to leave her home and having had to be cut out of her bedroom by emergency services very publicly a few years before. She has spent the last years losing weight and addressing the demons which caused her to eat excessively after the death of her mother. Not having attended school for many years she is now ready to return and face the world and her peers, she is fierce and happy and with a dream to be a dancer she makes one of the most endearing heroines I’ve read for some time. Vulnerable and yet feisty and strong it is almost impossible not to fall in love with Libby.

Jack doesn’t face a world without difficulties either, popular and enigmatic he is the centre of the popular kids at school but Jack is hiding a strange and unusual secret, he suffers from prosopagnosia, a condition which means that he is unable to recognise faces. Even the faces of the people he holds dearest he is unable to recall, he has to learn people by other identifying features such as their hair or size or sticky out ears in the case of his younger brother. Nobody is aware of Jack’s secret and he tries disguising it each day, leading to awkward situations such as when he kisses his girlfriends cousin thinking it’s his girlfriend and suddenly everyone is outraged at him.

Jack and Libby’s worlds are about to collide, at the outset of the book we are told Jack is going to do a bad thing but we aren’t aware what that thing is going to be. It is, however, going to be the catalyst that throws them both together and once they meet it begins a chain of events that will change both of their lives forever.

I literally loved this story, Jack and Libby are both incredible characters. Jack is cocky on the outside but struggling to hide his illness on the inside and so he uses his bravado to get him through. Inside he is a good guy, he tries to run with the crowd but his conscience jars him and we know he a decent human being. Libby is outwardly strong and feisty but inside she’s still struggling with people bullying her for her size and shamed by the fact everyone knows about her having to be cut from her home years before. It’s a story about how difficult high school can be to manoeuvre, the judgements teens make on each other and how cruel their jibes can be. How even the simplest of things can make you stand out from the crowd and how if your crimes are as heinous as Libby’s and you dare to be physically different to the extreme people will go to any lengths to let you know you aren’t wanted.

I read this book at the same time as watching the TV series 13 Reasons Why and whilst this book doesn’t by any stretch cover bullying to the same extent the themes resonated through both and left me feeling that for all that we have become more aware of the impact bullying can have there still seems to be no end to the ability for people to be cruel in their judgement of others in the ability to make themselves feel more secure. As is said in 13 Reasons Why, of course the popular kids are cruel that’s how they got popular in the first place.

I loved spending time with Jack and Libby, they are beacons of hope in a world where people allow themselves to become boxed in by the standards of others. They lift each other up and make us want to root for them and that is a very special thing.

A beautiful story of loss that has been adapted for the big screen

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am not one of these people who gets upset when books get turned into movies, for me it’s quite exciting to see stories I’ve loved brought to life off the page. Sometimes I’ve even discovered really good books on account of the fact I’ve seen trailers for movies that have then prompted me to go and find out more about the book itself.

I already knew a bit about The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman and had heard it highly recommended and it had been hiding on my e-reader with a promise that at some point I’d get around to reading it. Then I came across the trailer for the movie which is due to be released in October and I suddenly felt a burning urge to ensure I read it before I watch the adaptation to the big screen and I am very pleased I did and a little perplexed as to what took so long.

The Light Between Oceans is a story of a lighthouse keeper who moves to take over a new posting on a tiny island off the coast of Australia shortly after the end of the first World War. It is a remote island where the keeper can spend many months alone until the arrival of supplies by boat and they may not step foot ashore beside other people for years at a time. On one of his early trips back to the mainland he meets and falls in love with Isabel, the daughter of the local school headmaster and they begin corresponding and eventually marry and she moves with him back to his tiny island of Janus.

Their marriage is a happy one initially but is soon blighted by many miscarriages and stillbirths and it is shortly after the stillbirth of their son that a boat is washed up ashore on their tiny island containing the body of a stranger and his tiny baby daughter. Isabel is bereft from the loss of her own child and craving a child of her own and she persuades her husband that no one will know if they keep the tiny baby and say she is their own, after all the mother must also have drowned in the boat.

It’s a story where we feel the happiness of the family, there are only 3 of them on the island and they create their own little world together. They are happy and the little girl, whom they name Lucy, is loved beyond measure. They bring her home when they eventually get shore leave some 2 years later and introduce her to Isabel’s family and prepare for Lucy’s christening. It is then that they hear the story of a local woman whose husband and infant daughter were lost at sea approximately 2 years before and they realise that the mother they assumed to be dead is very much alive.

This is a book of complex emotions as a reader because you can feel Isabel’s pain, you can understand her choices and why under the weight of such intense grief and loss for her own baby she finds it easy to take the baby washed up ashore and use her as a way to fill that loss, choosing to persuade her husband to keep the baby. However as the book progresses we learn that whilst she has filled the gap left behind she has also developed a fierce protectiveness over her daughter that means that even when faced with another grieving mother seeking closure for her daughter lost at sea she cannot be truthful and admit what she has done. Instead she works tirelessly to justify her actions, to almost blackmail her husband into staying quiet with emotional threats.

One of the quotes that really stood out to me in the book to help understand Isabel’s feeling was the one that read “As a fourteen-year-old, Isabel had searched the dictionary. She knew that if a wife lost a husband, there was a whole new word to describe who she was: she was now a widow. A husband became a widower. But if a parent lost a child, there was no special label for their grief. They were still just a mother or a father, even if they no longer had a son or a daughter. That seemed odd.”

Tom is an entirely different character because he has no less love for the child but instead of feeling this as a signal to stay quiet about what they’ve done he finds his guilt presses him to want to reassure the mother that her child is safe. He is seeking redemption for his actions as a soldier during the war and as a way of righting his wrongs, he feels pressed to contact the other woman anonymously and let her know that her child is safe and loved.

The moral dilemma in this book is that we know that Tom is doing the right thing, the thing we like to think we would all do but we can understand the anger that Isabel feels at him for doing so, the increasing panic she feels that her child will be ripped from her. We want their child to remain theirs but we also know she doesn’t belong there. This is a wonderful book full of complex emotions and characters who are all essentially likeable and doing the things they feel are right and at the heart of the book is a child who is dearly loved by two families instead of just by one.

I have a feeling this will be a wonderful story on the big screen and that there will be many people who haven’t read the book who fall in love with the wonderful story. I cannot recommend it highly enough and will be desperate to see it as soon as I can to contrast it with it’s book version.

A beautiful historical novel from Kate Morton

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been a big Kate Morton fan since reading The Forgotten Garden and despite a dip in form in The Distant Hours she is definitely back to her best with The Secret Keeper.

From the first chapter it starts with a bang when Laurel Nicolson witnesses her mother Dorothy violently stab a man who comes to their quiet countryside home one summers afternoon. For years she has lived with what she saw without understanding why her mother would do such a thing but as she prepares for her mother’s 90th birthday many years later she begins to be drawn into the mystery even further.

Jumping between present day and London in the second world war we see the story through the eyes of Laurel, her mother Dorothy during the war and find out about the mysterious relationship between Dorothy and her friend Vivien. Twisting and turning from the start the writing is wonderful. The story is gripping and beautifully evocative of war time London. Just when you think you’ve got the ending all figured out it twists and turns again.

A brilliant book, I was reading it whilst on holiday in busy Blackpool and found that I couldn’t wait to keep going back to reading it, snatching moments in the car or a quick 5 minutes here and there to keep reading so gripping was the story. Very much recommended.

A beautiful conclusion to Rhysand and Feyre’s love story

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns & Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I kicked off my July reading this month with the third book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J Maas. I’ve read this series quite quickly over the past month or so and it was my first experience of this author but I’d heard such great things that it drew me to this series and I am so glad that I did.

This third book in the series will be the final one Maas writes from the perspective of Feyre and her mate Rhysand, we are anticipating more books in the world Maas has built but they will be focusing upon different characters from the world and so this book was where Maas had to really bring together all the threads of Feyre and Rhysand’s stories and make sure she also laid the groundwork for the book that is to follow.

This means that we pick up in this book immediately after the end of Book 2, with Feyre returning to The Spring Court with Tamlin having been torn apart from her mate Rhysand. Feyre is playing double agent though and has pretended she never felt anything for Rhys and is now going with Tamlin for the sole purpose of trying to infiltrate his court and find out all she can about their alliance with Hybern and the King of Hybern’s plans to attack the human realm. This return to the Spring Court was a great opening to this book, it allows us to connect with those characters we fell in love with in Book 1, Lucien and Alis and to allow us to re-examine the relationship with Tamlin and see just how dysfunctional it could have been.

The subterfuge Feyre undertakes to cause disharmony in the Spring court is a wonderful opening to the book, the wiles she uses to make Tamlin trust her while sowing the seeds of doubt in the minds of those close to him about his actions are brilliant. Feyre has reached the point in this book where she is strong and sure of herself, she has learned much about the strength of her powers and is willing to use them to ensure she protects the human world and to get back to the night court and Rhysand.

There is so so much that happens in this book, at nearly 760 pages and each one full of so much action it would take a long long review to break down each and every plot point and would also spoil for readers who haven’t delved in yet, however, there are a few areas I feel worthy of discussion at this point.

Firstly is the way in which this world and it’s characters have expanded over the course of the three books. When I think back to A Court of Thorns and Roses I now realise how small the world Maas painted was compared to where we finish at the end of A Court of Wings and Ruin. Throughout the books she has added to the world piece by piece and book by book until at the end of this series we have met such a rich cast that the world feels truly three dimensional. This is one of the things I have loved most about this series, Maas never makes any character feel short-changed from their time on the page. She takes the time to develop them all enough, to give them light and shade and a back story that we feel engaged in them, we like or dislike them enough that we truly care about their fate. This is really exciting because as we move away from Feyre and Rhysand in this series there are so many possibilities of who we could focus upon next that it is going to be so exciting to find out who Maas may choose. Will she follow Feyre’s sisters and their mates? Will she follow the story of Myriam and Drakon, who’s story was only hinted at near the end of this book? Will she explore Lucien’s backstory and his uncovering of his heritage? Each and every option sounds amazing and this is because of the way Maas builds her characters and weaves them in so that you never feel overwhelmed or confused about who is who but she almost without you noticing builds a whole world fo you to lose yourself in.

The second thing about this book was the way in which the action unfolded, I found this book had a really strong start, it immediately was back into the story with no stopping to fill in any backstory just moving the story along. I did find a little dip around 100 pages in and I’m not sure if that was down to me and I had a little struggle for 50 pages or so then suddenly I was back the moment and I could not put this down. My husband took my children out for the day on their school holidays and I got some precious alone time and for the 4 hours they were away I read this solidly getting through 250-300 pages. When my daughter came home she asked me how I could read that long without getting bored and I said to her that this book had had me shouting out loud at it’s pages. Punching the air in joy and at it’s ending crying my eyes out. It took me through so many emotions that it left me feeling drained by the end. There were such wonderful high moments and then heartbreaking moments that Maas had been building to over the course of all the books. Characters we had only touched on had their moment in the spotlight and left us loving them in ways we never thought they would evoke from us.

Finally, I am going to be sad not to follow Feyre and Rhysand in the next book, I love them and their relationship. They have become one of my all time favourite couples in any books I’ve read because of the way in which they support each other without question through all they do. The way they each are happy to let them be their own individual people with thoughts and decisions of their own whilst they are absolutely devoted to one another. We are given a small and unusual glimpse of what is to come in their future in this book and that was one of the most touching moments for me. I would dearly love to touch on them from time to time as the series moves on but whoever Maas focuses upon next has a huge legacy to live up to in this couple. They have been a joy to follow and I know I am not alone in having them very high on my favourite literary couples list.

I am delighted I have discovered Sarah J. Maas as an author and will be taking time over the months ahead to delve into her Throne of Glass series also, although I have a couple of other series I’d like to complete and try first. I now fully understand why so many readers were excited about this series and can say these books absolutely do live up to the hype they have received.

An amazing sequel and a beautiful progression of Maas’ wonderful world


A Court of Mist and Fury
 (A Court of Thorns & Roses #2) by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I made no secret of the fact I loved Book 1 in this series, A Court of Thorns & Roses and so I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold off on reading this, the sequel, for too long. I had heard so many amazing things about this particular book in the series that I knew that where the first had blown me away this one would offer an extra something special that would take the story and characters to the next level.

Following on a few months after the end of A Court of Thorns & Roses, we return to the Spring Court where newly created High Fae, Feyre is preparing to marry her true love Tamlin but is struggling to cope with the events of book 1 that occurred Under The Mountain and she is also feeling suffocated by Tamlin’s overprotectiveness and is chaffing against the increasing control he is exerting over her. She also is waiting to find out if the High Lord of the Night Court, Rhysand, will ever call upon her to honour the bargain they made where she would spend one week per month with him in the night court.

Firstly, let’s talk about Tamlin. I think we all loved him in the first book, he was kind and considerate and seemed the perfect gentleman to Feyre yet in this book he seems to have undergone a character transplant and is now controlling and secretive and content to have Feyre play the role of his wife but not to do anything else. This took me a bit of getting used to as it was such a different perspective to the Tamlin we’d loved. He went from being the hero to the villain in only a few chapters and kind of left my head spinning. Of course, this character transition allows us to move him aside for the arrival of the real hero of the hour, Rhysand, the enigmatic and slightly dangerous Lord of the Night Court.

Rhysand was great even in the first book, a little darker than in this book but there was always something about him that shone off the page. Let’s not forget he was the one person to back Feyre to be able to succeed in her first trial and did have her back, even if it was in a slightly dark fashion. In this book, he comes front and centre and boy does his arrival totally take away any lingering feelings we may have for poor Tamlin. When he whisks Feyre off to his home it is with kindness and consideration that he does so and from there, his little actions towards her get more and more endearing.

This book introduced a whole raft of new characters that also help to expand the world from Book 1 and take us to a totally different area of the Faire realm as we meet Mor, Azriel, Cassian and all of Rhysands closest confidantes. The relationships between them all are wonderful to read about and each character brings something to the story that makes you feel they are worthwhile characters to invest in. I also love that we return to the mortal realm and Feyre’s family and I am really keen to see how they will feature in the third and final chapter of this book.

The plot is great, this book clearly is setting up for a final showdown in the last book in the series and we are left with a suitably intriguing cliffhanger which is heartbreaking and yet exciting. We have now so many people we care about in these stories that we need to bring all of their individual strands to a conclusion and I cannot wait to see how Sarah J. Maas does this in A Court of Wings & Ruin.

What I love most about Sarah J. Maas’s writing is that she is wonderful at creating the Faere world, she adds so many beautiful and whimsical aspects to it that you really do feel transported as a reader. She uses such great descriptive language when writing and it pulls you in and means you lose yourself completely whilst reading. It’s a very special series and I literally cannot wait to delve into the third and final novel in the trilogy.

One of my favourite books this year, a wonderful book about the world of Faire


A Court of Thorns and Roses
 (A Court of Thorns & Roses #1) by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The A Court of Thorns and Roses series has been everywhere in the book world this month as the release of the third and last book in this trilogy had its release in May and everyone has been going crazy to read it. The author of these books seems to be held in such high regard by book lovers I literally had to give these books a try and see if they lived up to the hype everyone has been giving them.

Categorised as Young Adult books these can often be found in the bookstore with a warning sticker on the front stating that they do contain scenes that may not be suitable for younger teen readers due to scenes of a sexual nature and I would wholeheartedly state that up front, these are not books for the younger end of the Young Adult reader market but instead should be aimed at older teens and beyond.

This story is classed as a fairy tale retelling, loosely based on the Beauty & The Beast story but having read it I’d say that whilst yes you have themes from that fairy tale in there it isn’t something that leads this book entirely or consumes the story. The story of Feyre, a young girl who lives in a poor and bleak village trying to keep her father and two sisters fed and cared for any way she can we find her at the start of the book hunting for whatever food she can to get them through the winter. She kills a wolf in the forest and brings his hide home to sell for what money she can. What she doesn’t know is that the wolf she killed is actually a faire who has crossed the border between the fairy lands and the human world. We learn that years before the human world had been ruled by the Faire and that their retreat left the human world a desolate place, but now years later more and more incidents of Faire crossing the wall and harming humans are occurring and no one knows why.

Feyre is visited by a faire who tells her that because she killed the wolf she must either die to give a life for his life or she must come with him and live in the Faire world for the rest of her life. With little option, she goes with him back to his home where she finds out that he is the High Fae and ruler of one of the seven fairy courts, his specifically is the Spring Court, but there also exists the Summer, Winter, Autumn, Dawn, Day and Night courts. Instead of being unkind to her, Feyre finds that Tamlin is kind and thoughtful and only wishes for her to be happy and content. From there we are swept into a story of their growing love for one another.

The first 70 or so pages of this book were reasonably slow paced, Maas has a huge amount of scene and character setting to do and this takes us some time to achieve so initially the action is limited instead focusing on Feyre and the circumstances of her family and the travelling to the Faire world and her becoming familiar with all the characters of that world. What happens after this initial scene setting though is just magical. Maas paints her Faire world in such vivid clarity that it springs off the pages. Each and every chapter is filled with even more colourful characters and such a wonderfully gentle way in which she develops the relationship between Tamlin and Feyre.

The entire first half of this book is set entirely in Tamlin’s Spring Court and focuses closely on this aspect of the story but we are aware all the time of shadows on the edge of this world creeping inward and that all is not well in the Faire world and that a dark shadow hangs over them all. Tamlin himself is cursed never to be able to remove the mask he wears and show his true self and Feyre is aware that something terrible cast this curse but doesn’t know what. This leads us into the action-packed second half of this book which explores this curse.

I literally devoured this book in 2 days, I could not put it down. If I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about it, it’s written so vividly that it really stays with you in your mind. The characters are really engaging and we have a great mixture of the good and evil. It struck me as being a little bit like Game of Thrones meets Beauty & The Beast. There is all the fairytale love in part 1 and then all the vicious, violent politics of the seven courts and their ruler in the second. We even have a villain so evil she’d make Cersei Lannister look like Snow White. It is breathtaking. The second half of the book is all action, there is so much adventure and danger for Feyre that she has to overcome and the introduction of great new characters that expand the world and help us to understand just where this series may be going as we move into Book 2, A Court of Mist & Fury.

There are great moments where the plot unveils itself a little more and gives you a little more information as a reader and those are the points where I was shouting at my book, those Oh My God moments that have you wanting to jump into the pages and get involved. Awful twists and turns that really affect you emotionally and such excitement.

I loved this book so much, it was spectacular. It was by far one of my favorite books I’ve read this year so far. It was so much more than just a fairy tale retelling it was the setting up of what I know is going to be an amazing series moving forward.