From her lookout in the crumbling mansion that was her childhood home, Ginny watches and waits for her younger sister to arrive. Vivien has not set foot in the house since she left nearly fifty years ago; the reclusive Ginny has rarely ventured out, retreating into the precise routines that define her days, carrying on her father’s solitary work studying moths.
As the sisters revisit their shared past, they realize that their recollections differ in essential and unsettling ways. Before long, the deeply buried resentments that have shaped both their lives rise to the surface, and Vivien’s presence threatens to disrupt Ginny’s carefully ordered world.
2 / 5 stars
I’m going to start with the things I liked about this book: the Gothic feel with the crumbling, isolated manor house, an older than normal narrator, a family history filled with secrets, the way it built up to what promised to be an exciting revelation at the end, the overall morbidity.
But there were two big issues that I had with it.
The ending was a huge letdown. I felt like it was building up to some big exciting revelations that changed the way I see everything Virginia had told me, but I was left with the fuzzy nothingness of ‘decide what you think happened’. I think this is a lazy way to end a book, it’s for authors that can’t decide what to do or how to make enough of an impact. I admit that sometimes (rarely) it works but how can you make any sort of decision when there just isn’t enough information given? It’s a guessing game that you never know if you’ve won.
My biggest issue is with what this book seems to say about people with autism. (view spoiler)The implications here seems to be that being autistic makes a person capable of murder and I don’t agree with that at all.
So much promise was let down by a poor ending and a questionable attitude towards autism.
The Behaviour Of Moths
November 1st 2009
The year is 1792 and it’s winter in Berkeley Square. As the city sleeps, the night-watchman keeps a cautious eye over the streets and another eye in the back doors of the great and the good. Then one fateful night he comes across the body of Pierre Renard, the eponymous silversmith, lying dead, his throat cut and his valuables missing. It could be common theft, committed by one of the many villains who stalk the square, but as news of the murder spreads, it soon becomes clear that Renard had more than a few enemies, all with their own secrets to hide.
At the centre of this web is Mary, the silversmith’s wife. Ostensibly theirs was an excellent pairing, but behind closed doors their relationship was a dark and at times sadistic one and when we meet her, Mary is withdrawn and weak, haunted by her past and near-mad with guilt. Will she attain the redemption she seeks and what, exactly, does she need redemption for?
Rich, intricate and beautifully told, this is a story of murder, love and buried secrets.
3 / 5 stars
The Silversmith’s Wife is a very slow-moving story of the shocking murder of a silversmith and the impact it has on the lives of the people around him.
This is a book full of people with secrets. It touches on different people and their thoughts but never shows us their whole, much is kept hidden, often the people in the story don’t understand themselves their own thoughts and actions. It makes it a murky story to read but I find it a much more accurate portrayal of the human character than those books where everyone seems to have a defined purpose and clear cut opinions on everyone and everything. It just makes for more difficult reading.
I call it a murky story because not only the characters do odd things and their motivations are often unclear, what they do is often unclear too. A lot of the big events seem to happen off-page and are alluded to or described very loosely for us to fill in the details ourselves.
Where it succeeds is in creating an oppressive, heavy atmosphere and a world that is brought to life with very detailed characters and lots of historical details. Everyone in the book seems trapped, miserable, held captive by the rules of society in lives that they don’t really want.
There are a lot of characters in the story, some drop in and out and I found it hard to remember who they were. Despite this wide cast of characters, it makes me feel like there are only 10 people in the whole of London and they all know each other and everyone is either a silversmith or the child or partner of one.
I don’t mind slow-moving stories but for me, this one is just too dreary and has too many miserable characters in it with murky motivations for me to really like it. Though saying that, I read it very quickly. Towards the end, it picks up the pace a bit and it leads us nicely to the revelation of who really did kill the silversmith.
The diary entries from Pierre Renard, the murdered man, at the start of each chapter were really what kept me reading. In each one, we find out more of the secrets of his life and find out more about how cruel and self-obsessed he really was. Without them, I feel I would have become bored very quickly because the story is so slow-moving and seems to follow people around a lot without much really happening. Mary, the Silversmith’s Wife is an especially dull person. Though it’s part of the story that she has become that way through Pierre’s treatment of her, it still makes her very difficult to read. The excerpts from Pierre’s diary show the other side – he was not a nice man and through these excerpts I found myself finding the sympathy towards his wife that the story needs.
Read this one if you like slow-moving and dark stories full of historical detail but if you’re looking for an exciting murder story, then this probably isn’t one for you.
The Silversmith's Wife
January 16th 2014
This is the story of four sisters Grimm – daughters born to different mothers on the same day, each born out of bright-white wishing and black-edged desire. They found each other at eight years-old, were separated at thirteen and now, at nearly eighteen, it is imperative that they find each other once again.
In thirty-three days they will meet their father in Everwhere. Only then will they discover who they truly are, and what they can truly do. Then they must fight to save their lives and the lives of the ones they love.
3 / 5
I was so confused by the start of this that I very nearly gave it up as a bad job.
The narration jumps not just between 5 different characters but also two different times, giving a short burst from each one before cycling back round to the start. It took at least a third of the book before I got a grasp on it, I felt like every time I started to get into the story it threw me back out again.
I don’t like the idea that abusive men can be changed by love and that felt like a very strong theme here. Leo comes across as almost a psychotic killer, murdering the Grimm Sisters every chance he gets in revenge for one of them killing his friend – even though it was self-defence. But he meets Goldie and even though at first, his aim is to get to find out her weaknesses to make it easier to kill her too, his love for her changes him to the point where he would die to protect her.
What kind of message does that send to young people that might be reading this book? Don’t give up on abusive partners because your love might be the thing that saves them? Personally I think that Goldie should have run very far and very fast to get away from Leo.
Unhealthy relationship issues aside, the writing style I found captivating and when I got the hang of the jumping around and got into the flow of it I found it a beautiful story to read. The character development – the glimpses into their lives and their personalities is in-depth and insightful. I did start to enjoy it but then I found the ending super rushed and I found it overwhelming for all that build-up to end so abruptly.
I just can’t get past my issues with the way it portrays relationships though and that, added to the difficult start and rushed ending, are a massive let down for what could otherwise have been a jewel of a book.
I received a free copy in return for an honest review.
The Sisters Grimm
Menna van Praag
Young Adult Fantasy
February 6th 2020
On Gullstruck Island the volcanoes quarrel, beetles sing danger and fish can see the future. But look closer into the mists and you might glimpse…
The jewelled smiles of a persecuted tribe.
A tattooed band of warriors hell-bent on revenge.
A blue-skinned bounty hunter painted with the ashes of those he’s killed.
And two girls with a deadly secret, running for their lives.
4 / 5 stars
A beautifully written and thoughtful adventure story.
Hathin is one of The Lace – a tribe isolated, distrusted and excluded from island life. Her sister Arilou is one of The Lost – certain people who can send their mind and their senses out from their bodies and roam around the island. They act as messengers, spies, weather predictors and are very highly regarded. But Arilou needs constant care because she seems unable to return her mind to her body.
Arilou is to be tested for her abilities by the government and her family hope that she will bring back respect and a better standing for The Lace as a whole. But on the day of the tests, The Lace are attacked and Hathin must take Arilou and run for their lives.
Hathin is brave and courageous but just a normal girl trying to do the best for her sister and her people. She’s not super intelligent, super strong or super caring and because of that, I found her easy to relate to and so even more inspiring.
The adventure is fun and scary at the same time, the story has a lot of darkness in it. It’s based on prejudice and genocide but manages to tackle these in a way where it feels like an important part of the story but not likes it is written just to be a moral lesson. The darkness is tempered by the fairy tale feel of the story and the tone is kept hopeful without being overwhelming.
As good a character as Hathin is, the real star of this book is Gullstruck Island itself. The different tribes and the landscapes feel real, the volcanoes are given personalities of their own with the myths that exist around them. This is a book that you can get lost in and the landscape and people of Gullstruck Island are a big part of that.
This book has everything – good story, good characters, a world that feels real and beautiful writing to hold it all together.
If I had to pick a fault with it there are maybe a few too many lucky escapes and convenient events that help Hathin along her way. She doesn’t always think her way out, sometimes it is just handed to her. But that’s kind of standard for an adventure story and didn’t spoil it too much, these kind of stories are always a little unrealistic.
I highly recommend this, if you want an adventure story, this is almost perfect.
Young Adult Fantasy
December 16th 2008
The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilizations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives.
And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them.
Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded by layers of protection–and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.
Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.
Revenger is a science fiction adventure story set in the rubble of our solar system in the dark, distant future–a tale of space pirates, buried treasure, and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism and of vengeance.
3 / 5 stars
Alistair Reynolds writes some fantastic sci-fi and the world he has created here is weird and as interesting as ever. How can I not like a book with space pirates and treasure hunting in?
Unfortunately, the main character wasn’t compelling enough to carry the story. I liked the idea of Fura Ness but actually I couldn’t stand her. Her ego is way out of control and we hear time and again how events have changed her, how she has lost all emotions and will do anything now for revenge. I want to root for her, a female character that is cold and ruthless, but honestly, it comes across as showing off. If her actions were left to speak for themselves I might have been able to connect with her more.
Apart from Fura, I liked the book. I was really enjoying it when Fura and her sister Adrana signed onto Mornetta’s Mourn to get away from their over-controlling father. They sign on with a crew of treasure hunters as bone readers and start to understand the whispers that come from an alien skull that allows the ship to pick up leads on treasure – strange planet style ships that are full of valuable alien tech. The crew is full of interesting characters and the story is interesting and I started to think that I would love this book.
But then their treasure hunting adventure goes badly wrong and that’s where Fura Ness starts to get annoying. I did enjoy the rest of the book but I couldn’t help thinking I’d rather be reading about their adventures as treasure hunters rather than Fura Ness’ revenge quest.
I loved the sci-fi and I loved the weirdness but I just couldn’t connect with the main character. It’s still one of the better young adult sci-fi books I’ve read but if there are any sequels to this I hope they are about different people.
Young Adult Sci-Fi
September 15th 2016
Symir – the Drowning City. home to exiles and expatriates, pirates and smugglers. And violent revolutionaries who will stop at nothing to overthrow the corrupt Imperial government.
For Isyllt Iskaldur, necromancer and spy, the brewing revolution is a chance to prove herself to her crown. All she has to do is find and finance the revolutionaries, and help topple the palaces of Symir. But she is torn between her new friends and her duties, and the longer she stays in this monsoon-drenched city, the more intrigue she uncovers — even the dead are plotting.
As the waters rise and the dams crack, Isyllt must choose between her mission and the city she came to save.
3 / 5 stars
Isyllt Iskaldur is a necromancer sent to the occupied foreign city of Symir to aid the rebels fighting to regain control. Her interest isn’t altruistic though, her sole intention is to distract the Emporer from pursuing an invasion attempt against her own country.
Symir, the city she is sent to, is a city with waterways and masked balls, reminiscent of Venice. It’s supposedly full of pirates, smugglers and exiles and the locals have a rich culture and worship the river.
From the description, this book sounds like it should have a strong atmosphere with lush places but I didn’t get a feel for the city or the world at all. Even the bustling marketplaces felt flat, like a trip around the 5 stalls that are left in Wakefield city centre nowadays,
It didn’t help that I was confused by all the different names – the places, the races, the military and terrorist groups, the types of mage; I was well and truly lost by how it all fitted together. It’s one of those that drops you straight into the middle of a story without stopping to explain anything but I didn’t feel like it even drip-fed the info, it just didn’t bother with it at all.
I’ve no idea on how the magic system is supposed to work and with Isyllt being a necromancer that should have been interesting and well rounded. So she has a diamond where she can trap the souls of the dead that haven’t moved on but her other abilities are fuzzy and it felt like they were made up when needed to get her out of a fix.
A saving grace though, the characters were all done well, a lot more time was spent on them than the world they inhabited. I felt like I knew Isyllt I just had no idea what she was supposed to be doing and actually, in the end, she went all that way just to give a bit of money to the revolutionists. What was the point of sending her? She didn’t do much to help the revolution at all. I did like her though, she just muddled through getting into fights and making a mess around her but she felt genuine and relatable.
Lots of good ideas and the characters were done well but overall very dry and a bit confusing. I reckon the sequel could be better and I’d be willing to give it a go.
The Drowning City
The Necromancer Chronicles
September 1st 2009
From the second you’re born, every achievement, every failing, every significant moment are all immortalized on your skin. There are honourable marks that let people know you’re trustworthy. And shameful tattoos that announce you as a traitor.
After her father dies, Leora finds solace in the fact that his skin tells a wonderful story. That is, until she glimpses a mark on the back of his neck; the symbol of the worst crime a person can commit in Saintstone. Leora knows it has to be a mistake, but before she can do anything about it, the horrifying secret gets out, jeopardizing her father’s legacy and Leora’s life.
3 / 5 Stars
An interesting central idea but beyond that, there is nothing original about Ink.
A young woman with fantastic abilities or an unusually strong will realises how unequal and prejudiced her society is and takes on the fight to change it. There’s a stong Hunger Games / Divergent influence going on here. There is even a series of tests to decide what career you will have for the rest of your life.
Leora is not quite a strong enough character to carry a whole book series, she is dull and mostly uninteresting. But I can maybe forgive that for being intentional. The most interesting thing about her is actually that she is just another normal citizen – she’s a sheep, as sold on the propaganda as everyone else around her. For most of this book, she stays that way. Seeing the way she is forced to see things that don’t gel with the ‘truths’ of her society and the way she still tries to reconcile that with what the government she trusts completely tells her is the best thing about this book. There is some character growth for her along with a lot of potential for her to develop some personality for the next books.
If the normal side of her was played up more I would have been more into this but Leroa is too special. An amazing tattooist, a unique ability where she can read people’s tattoo’s and tell their whole life story, she’s too unusual and too amazing and it doesn’t fit with the normal girl feel to the start of it. Hunger Games and Divergent worked because the main characters were always odd bods, Ink had the chance to do something different with Leroa but the got ditched by the wayside by the end of this first book.
The focus around tattoos I enjoyed. Leora is training to be a tattooist, a career not many, if any, women in her society choose. Though I don’t know really why that was included because not much is made of it. Leora doesn’t face much discrimination, it takes the tattooist she is apprenticed to about a week to decide she is the most amazing thing in the world ever.
I also appreciate how morbid it is, when Leora’s father dies his skin is taken off and made into a book of his tattoos. In this way, he and all of Leora’s ancestors live on in the memories of their family. To add to this they have the continuous naming ceremonies where the names of all the dead are read out one by one in a bid to keep the memory of every person alive.
There is enough here to give this book it’s own personality but it’s too obviously the same story at the bottom of it all.
Young adult dystopia by numbers, it’s not a bad book but it doesn’t live up to the originality of the world it’s created. Beautiful cover though.
Young Adult Sci-Fi
February 2nd 2017
An earthquake in Masada, Israel, kills hundreds and reveals a tomb buried in the heart of the mountain. A trio of investigators—Sergeant Jordan Stone, a military forensic expert; Father Rhun Korza, a Vatican priest; and Dr. Erin Granger, a brilliant but disillusioned archaeologist—are sent to explore the macabre discovery, a subterranean temple holding the crucified body of a mummified girl.
But a brutal attack at the site sets the three on the run, thrusting them into a race to recover what was once preserved in the tomb’s sarcophagus: a book rumoured to have been written by Christ’s own hand, a tome that is said to hold the secrets to His divinity. But the enemy who hounds them is like no other, a force of ancient evil directed by a leader of impossible ambitions and incalculable cunning.
From crumbling tombs to splendorous churches, Erin and her two companions must confront a past that traces back thousands of years, to a time when ungodly beasts hunted the dark spaces of the world, to a moment in history when Christ made a miraculous offer, a pact of salvation for those who were damned for eternity.
2 / 5 stars
Daft and trashy and even though it’s got vampires in they are rubbish, non-scary, and kind of boring, vampires.
It’s way too heavy on the religious side for me – the ‘good’ vampires exist on the sustenance of drinking the blood of Jesus – which sounds like it should be awesome but actually just means the blessed wine that they have in the catholic churches. And when they drink it they get bizarre flashbacks of all the sins they’ve committed. Which is conveniently very useful in providing the readers with one of the backstories of one of the main characters.
Still, I enjoyed reading it, I went in expecting it to be nonsense and it is but Erin and Jordan are interesting and not overly stupid and there’s lots of the racing about and the puzzle-solving that I want from this kind of book.
It could have been much darker with the addition of actual vampires, but honestly, they are outdone by the killer animals – bats bears and wolves that are luckily very easily killed. There is never enough danger to make it scary and the vampires are too tame and not very exciting.
Overall it’s a lot duller than it should have been but it’s ok for a cheesy holiday read if you have limited options.
The Blood Gospel
The Order of the Sanguines
James Rollins (Goodreads Author), Rebecca Cantrell
January 8th 2013
Time for another book list, I haven’t done one of these in a while!
This one is inspired by me getting married earlier this year, it seems like weddings are all I’ve thought about for the past year or so and it feels fitting to create a book list based around that.
The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient #2) by Helen Hoang
I downloaded this for something fun to read, I didn’t have very high expectations for it really but I fell in love with the characters and I really enjoyed the story.
Khai is determined not to start a relationship with anyone, he has convinced himself that he doesn’t have emotions and can’t connect with anyone the way his family want him to. His mother can’t accept that and intervenes, bringing in Esme in the hope that Khai will warm up to her and fall in love. It’s so funny, in a sweet way, watching how confused he is when he starts to have feelings for Esme but doesn’t really understand what’s happening to him.
Esme is super sweet and trying hard to make a better life for herself and her daughter but even so, she doesn’t want to marry Khai just for his money, she wants to be able to support them herself. She quickly falls for Khai though and starts to try and convince him they should be together. I admire her determination! I don’t normally like stories where the woman is trying to convince the man into a relationship but Esme charmed so much I didn’t mind it.
The two of them have a lot of chemistry and funny and charming interactions and this is overall just very enjoyable. I’m happy to see it’s part of a series, I need to go back and read the first one now!
The Wedding Date delivered exactly what I was looking for: a fun and frivolous story that I could read quickly and not have to think about too hard.
I was surprised though by how much I liked Sam. She wasn’t daft and didn’t get herself into stupid cringy situations and I thought she was actually very funny. Her internal monologue made me laugh a few times! Jake was lovely and the attraction between him and … – the most important thing in this type of story – was alive and well.
More could have been made of the Scottish setting and some of the characters were a bit too one dimensional. There wasn’t much life in the story outside of Sam and Jake, the wedding felt a bit flat and the mother’s lack of personality started to get irritating rather than funny after a while. In fact, the whole story started to drag and get a bit daft towards the end.
Overall I found this an enjoyable read even if the end was a bit slow. A good one for the beach!
Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
Agnes has a lot to deal with, she’s fighting to keep her house, plan a wedding that isn’t hers, deal with a dead body in her cellar and if all that wasn’t enough, someone keeps trying to kidnap her dog.
I really loved Agnes and Shane. Agnes is quirky and independent and Shane is sensible and practical and very honest. The two together set some serious sparks going and their dialogue was just right. Chemistry wise this book was spot on.
The story started off promising but was just a bit too far into zany with so much going on that I found it hard to keep track of the plot, who was falling out with who, who was falling for who, who had been killed off, and who all the suspects were. It got way too messy for me to keep up with. It could with maybe fewer characters, or, even though I hate to say it because I love a good murder mystery, fewer deaths.
There is no lack of interesting and colourful supporting characters but again, way too many of them so the story felt cluttered with subplots. I would have liked more time with Agnes and Shane, their romance was overwhelmed by all the other stuff going on. I wanted more of them and their funny arguments!
I did enjoy this one though, Jennifer Crusie has long been one of my favourite romance writers and while this isn’t one of my favourites by her it still stands head and shoulders above the rest of the romance field.
I loved the character of Daisy. Independent and original, she’s not afraid to be herself. Linc is almost her exact opposite, hard-working and inoffensive he cares a lot about what people think about him.
The setup for them moving in together and pretending to be engaged is weak but I didn’t think about it too hard and the rest of the story covered for it. It’s fun and the characters are interesting and bounce off each other nicely.
I felt a bit uncomfortable with the way Linc was trying to change Daisy. It was like he thought she wasn’t good enough, her furniture was too shabby for him and Daisy wasn’t normal enough. I felt quite sad when he made her feel bad for the work she had done to make their home cosy and welcoming. In the end, though, it seemed to be more about how they both had to compromise to build a relationship together that worked. Daisy had to accept that Linc liked things neater and more orderly then she was used to and Linc had to learn to accept Daisy for being unusual and not try to make her into a show wife. It doesn’t sound romantic but I’m on board for a bit of realism where normally in romance novels we get characters that have an instant where they have a massive 180 in what they can live with because LOVE.
The story is not the strongest but it’s fun to read and the romance between them is believable.
One thousand years ago, a wish was made to the Harbinger of Change and a sword of rage and lightning was forged. Kamigoroshi. The Godslayer. It had one task: to seal away the powerful demon Hakaimono.
Now he has broken free.
Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has one task: to take her piece of the ancient and powerful scroll to the Steel Feather temple in order to prevent the summoning of the Harbinger of Change, the great Kami Dragon who will grant one wish to whomever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. But she has a new enemy now. The demon Hakaimono, who for centuries was trapped in a cursed sword, has escaped and possessed the boy she thought would protect her, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan.
Hakaimono has done the unthinkable and joined forces with the Master of Demons in order to break the curse of the sword and set himself free. To overthrow the empire and cover the land in darkness, they need one thing: the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. As the paths of Yumeko and the possessed Tatsumi cross once again, the entire empire will be thrown into chaos.
3 / 5 stars
I really struggled to get into this. It felt like there was nothing happening, the story feels like filler – like a setup for the final book. And I’m sick of Yumenko’s running commentary on what her insides are doing, we get details of how her blood is chilling and her stomach is churning, the girl needs to sort out her diet.
I still love the setting and the world – there’s more on the empire and the places and people in it, and more of the monster world too which I found interesting. I could read about the different demons all day and I love how they’re based on Japanese folklore.
I was hoping for more development of the members of Yumeko’s gang too but it felt like that had been skipped over and they just ended up as space-filling caricatures. It spends longer with them but they’re not filled out any more than they were by the end fo the first book. Reika could be such an interesting person, her personality and her skills remind me of Rei from Sailor Moon, but all she does is scowl at everyone and disapprove of everything anyone does. Okame and Daisuke have a relationship building but it felt forced into the story.
The fun side quests and the adventure feel of the first book were also sadly missed. The stakes were definitely upped at the end of the first book and there is more danger and a bigger fight to face but it didn’t get dark enough to make up for the fun feel being ejected.
I also missed the interaction between Yumeko and Tatsumi. The other characters didn’t have the same spark to make up for it and when Yumeko and Tatsumi meet up again at the end it highlights what a big gap their interactions left in the story.
The ending though I loved! No spoilers but it was exciting and unexpected and lived up to the build-up and set the scene perfectly for the next book.
The story is still interesting and even if this book didn’t meet my expectations I still need to see where it goes and how it ends. I’m hopeful for the next book and I will be excited to get my hands on it.
I received a free copy in return for an honest review.
Soul of the Sword
Shadow of the Fox
Young Adult Fantasy
June 25th 2019