Monday, 27 January 2014

A Murder In Auschwitz

A Murder In Auschwitz
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy!
Source: Copy courtesy of Goodreads Giveaways!

Auschwitz 1944, an SS officer is found standing over the body of a comrade, the smoking pistol still in his hand, a murder in a place full of murders. The officer is adamant of his innocence. With no confession, a court martial is forced, asked to pick a fellow officer to defend him, he picks the only man he can feel he can trust. But, he makes one other request, to have a prisoner, a Jew, also a lawyer to help his defending officer build his defence case. In exchange for the chance to see the family he was seperated from, former criminal defence lawyer Manfred Meyer is forced to build a defence for him. Meyer must unravel the deceit, the lies and the secrets surrounding the SS officer murdered, and the defendant.

Berlin 1929, we start to follow Manfred Meyer and his family through their lives in Berlin. We follow Meyer as he rises from intern, to assistant to a leading Criminal Defence lawyer at a highly respected law firm, following along his cases get more complex. We follow the lives of Meyer and his family as the Nazi party eventually comes to power, things slowly start to change, life becomes more and more difficult for Meyer as a Jew in Berlin. Then when the knock comes at the door, we follow Meyer on a terrifying train journey to the place where so many lost their lives. Where so many innocents where murdered.

I was sent a copy of this book that I had one from Goodreads in exchange for a review, and it's one of the best I have received. This book for me, brought so many memories flooding back. When studying History at school, we went to visit a concentration camp in Berlin, and while not exactly the same as Auschwitz, it bared many of the same hallmarks, the shooting wall, the chambers where experiments where carried out, crematoriums, and similar bunks. As I was reading, I kept flashing  back to that trip and everything I had seen which made this book even more emotional for me.

Stephenson must have done a hell of a lot of research for this book, there was lots of detail about the process entering Auschwitz, and the day to day life of the prisoners, as well as the build up to Nazi power and what went on once they where in power. Everything described I could picture so clearly despite never having been to visit Auschwitz myself. The story is a cycle, starting with Meyer and his life leading up to the ending when he first arrives at Auschwitz in alternating chapters with the second thread of the story starting with him arriving, and his life at the camp including the murder trial of the SS officer. It was really very brilliantly written, with lots of threads, historical accuracy and the alternating chapters kept it fresh and engaging.

The flow of the book was very smooth, moving easily between the different years in the chapters. The book was very fast paced, lots happened, and everything fit together perfectly. I was hooked right from the first page, the writing was very atmospheric and very haunting. The characters where also very well written, and had plenty of depth, I also got the impression that a certain SS soldier, may not agree with what was going on, but didn't want to be killed himself so went along with it, something I'm sure many of them felt. There was a very authentic and real feel to the book, when I started reading the book, I briefly wondered if this wasn't a history book, and not a work of fiction.

A Murder In Auschwitz is incredibly well written and researched, expertly weaving the many threads in to one complex plot. The mystery is very intriguing, I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but I couldn't tell who the killer was, I was at the author's mercy, believing everything I was presented with. I couldn't put the book down, the love Meyer had for his wife was truly beautiful, and the mystery kept me intrigued right up until the end. While the processes of Auschwitz are described in concise detail, some of the details are truly horrifying to think about, but there wasn't too much in depth detail, or dwelling on the more gruesome aspects of life at the camp.

A Murder In Auschwitz is an incredibly emotional read, I ended up finding myself crying once or twice, and the entire book has a huge impact on you, even after you've finished reading. A truly beautifully written book, by a very talented author. I'd never have guessed this was his first book!

Sunday, 26 January 2014


Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: BUY!
Source: Copy courtesy of NetGalley

Talia Lyons lives in a world where nuclear pollution has meant that the current generation of kids are mostly born with "Talents", mind control...mind reading...morphing..that kind of thing. People with Talents are in a war with the coalition that thinks that Talents need to be feared and segregated, that they need to be ashamed of their Talents. When Talia and her parents are visiting the states to meet with the director of TOXIC, the agency helping Talents, her parents are murdered in front of her by the coalition leader, Ian Crane's men.

The director of TOXIC offers her a choice....she chooses revenge. Talia goes to a school exclusively for Talents, and is taken in by the director and his wife and child. Talia spends years training to become a Hunter, and to get her revenge on Crane. 16 year old Talia is poised graduate from McDonough School for the Talented, but first she has to complete her final year living at the Elite Headquarters and going on missions with Henri and Erik, the two members of her team. Henri is convinced he can make her ability, to read and influence the minds of others, work in the field for the first time in their history. Talia's the only thing standing in her way, when a mission proves she may not be up to the life she so craves, and with her solo mission and graduation looming, she has to be on top of her game.

Unfortunately for her, her questionable boyfriend is set to break her heart, and her gift has certainly let her down in that front, but she also feels an impossible connection to Erik. Erik's Talent is to mimic other's Talents, and when he's around Talia his thoughts and feelings are projected to her, she's not sure if what she feels is real or all him.

Can she maintain her focus? Can she defeat Crane? Or will hidden secrets come to the surface?

Oh my God, I love this book! I've literally just finished reading and I'm sad it's over and I need to get the other books and just disappear back in to the world, I hated leaving the world created and wanted to stay there forever!

The whole backstory to what happened to the world, and the kind of mythology surrounding Talents was so rich and detailed and unique. It was all presented in a unique way, while being concise and not bogging down the story or making you bored. We find a lot of it out through Talia when an entire chapter will focus on her letting us know what happened, as if she's speaking right to you.

Talia has got to be my favourite character and heroine in a while, she's so badass. She's strong, even though she doesn't always think she is, and she's determined to get what she wants. Not to mention if you make her mad *coughDonovancough* she will totally destroy where you live with just her mind. Oh yeah. Badass. I felt such a connection with Talia that only intensified as the book went on and we learned more about her, she came across as relateable, and to me she was very real and humanized.There was so much depth to her, and all of the other characters we're introduced to. Every single one of them jumps off the page, and appears clearly in your mind, and lodges in your heart.

This is one of those books I get really emotionally invested in really fast and I'm just like "aaaaah". The source of my "aaahh" this time came from the romance going on. So Davis did this really cool thing where you don't realize Donovan is shady at all. Maybe I'm naive, or maybe i'm just stupid, but when you first meet him in the book, I really liked him and I was like aaww he's such a sweetheart. But then it all changed.

Davis starts the book off with us not having much background on the characters, until Talia provides it on herself fairly quickly, and as we go along regarding the others. For me personally, I felt like when it started, my perception of the characters is totally different from what it is now. You think they're one thing, then a few chapters later you realize they're not. I found it awesome to see characters true selves revealed to you bit by bit.

Back to the romance, it all changed when Donovan turned out to be incredibly shady, and I'm sat here reading like "he wouldn't would he? No I'm just so jaded and pessimistic to think that"  and then I got proved right which sucked for me and Talia. BUT the good thing was that everything between those two was presented in a very real way, so real, that you really really want to punch him. In the face. With a brick.

The OTHER good thing is Erik. We start off thinking he's just her team member, but he's slowly revealed to be so much more through his actions. You realize that Erik's not an ass, he's kinda sweet and he really likes Talia. I'm not gonna lie, I was so torn at one point with Donovan and Erik, but when Donovan started being kind of a jerk, Erik's sweetness in comparison for someone who's supposedly a man whore, really had me rooting for him. I thought Erik was just so cute to her, and when everything went down, I was excited for their romance, but then Davis broke my heart and now I have to wait for the next book for the rainbows and unicorns in their romance.

The world building was intense, I had such a clear picture, it was like a movie was running of it in my minds eye while I was reading. It was about 11:30 am when I got sucked in to the world Davis had thing I know, I've finished the book and looked up to find myself sitting in total darkness at 5pm. I was oblivious to the outside world the entire time I was reading. The prose and the world created where so brilliant I lost myself entirely.

All of my focus and attention was on what was happening in the book, and that was partly because of the things I've already mentioned, but also because the book has all the qualities that keep you glued to the page and not want to stop reading. The pace of the book was fast, loads happened, there was always something going on from action to romance to funny moments, the flow of the book was smooth, there was no parts that bored you with irrelevant information or with too much detail, it was perfectly written.

The plot itself was very intricate with lots of threads, and everything is played close to the authors chest until it's revealed, I had one idea of what I thought was going to happen, to being totally wrong. I kind of guessed the big Donovan reveal, but only when the scene in the cabin started, until that point and after that point, I was putty in the authors hands, unable to guess anything that was going to happen, and being taken on a roller coaster of emotions.

I have a feeling that the plot is going to get more complex, with more hidden threads being revealed. Talented is an excellent start to a series that sets the grounds for the next book, without taking away from the story itself.

Talented is full of action, drama, romance, laughter, and emotions. Never before in my life have I had such an urge to deck a fictional character. I have fallen in love with this book, it's characters and the world created, and I really need to get my hands on the next books!

Think of a female James Bond, with a bit of Sookie Stackhouse mixed in, along with a moderate dash of revenge, and the fighting skills of Buffy.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

A Breath of Frost

A Breath of Frost
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy or forever regret it
Source: Copy courtesy of Bloomsbury
File Under: Book Hangover books!

The year is 1814, the place is bustling London, teeming with activity and witchcraft. Three cousins, Emma, Gretchen and Penelope, the daughters of the three Lovegrove sisters, are in the midst of their first season, after having been presented to the Queen. The young Lady's are attending another tedious ball, when Emma is jostled and drops her mother's bottle necklace, the only thing she has to remember her mad mother locked in her house in Berkshire. When the bottle breaks...a lot more than Emma's feelings are hurt.

With the breaking of the bottle, gates all over London are open, allowing dark and sinister things through. But it also breaks the binding spell put on the girls by Emma's mother to protect her, allowing their powers to manifest. The girls each have their own unique power and familiar, Emma's becomes apparent when it rains inside a carriage, Penelope touches a ring and spends an uncomfortable few minutes being burned at the stake and Gretchen's head starts buzzing when magic is performed wrong.

With the underside of London suddenly revealed to them, Emma also has to deal with the insufferable Cormac, the boy who kissed her then did a standard guy move and acted like she never existed, who turns out to be one of the Keepers, members of the Order, the police of the magical world. The Keepers are after Emma because of her mother's power and what she did, which means Cormac is showing up all over the place. Did I forget to mention that the Order are also after Emma because a couple of girls who happen to be witches, have all been murdered, their magic stolen, and then covered in ice, and Emma is inexplicably drawn to each murdered girl but a magical wind, and her magical trace is all over them? Yeah. Minor problem that.

Emma and her cousins are sent to a fancy Finishing School, which happens to be a school of magic for ladies, to learn to control their magic. Emma has to dodge ghouls, hellhounds, navigate the Goblin Market, and most terrifyingly....her fellow Debutantes. With Cormac confusing Emma's feelings, Emma and her cousin's have to stop the spirits of the Dark Witches known as the Greymalkin Sisters, and seal the gates once and for all , with the help of a Madcap called Moira and a couple of Gargoyles. Will they succeed? Or will they end up with their magic bound, and going mad?

Oh my God. I just...have so much to say about this book. Everyone knows I love Alyxandra Harvey, The Drake Chronicles are one of my ultimate favourite book series, and I read everything buy her. Not since her Drake Chronicles have I felt this energized about a book. I have what I term as a Book Hangover. Since finishing A Breath of Frost, my Book Hangover means I'm still in the world created in the book, and as soon as I finished, I wanted to start reading it all over again!

Alyxandra Harvey is incredible at world building, and A Breath of Frost is no exception, it's like she cast a magical spell herself to suck you through a portal straight in to the mirky streets of Regency London. I could practically smell the rain, and hear the bustling street sounds. The prose is atmospheric, and as always, cinematic, I mean c'mon people, these books are begging to be made in to a movie! Quit holding out on us all!

Harvey uses a few short, but powerful words to create her descriptions, that are so vivid you can see them clearly in your minds eye. As soon as you start reading, you're hooked from page one, unable to put the book down. You find yourself with it seemingly glued to your hand, your eyes unable to leave the page.

A Breath of Frost has such a wealth of beautiful imagery, yet everything is very concise, from descriptions, to backgrounds to lore. The story is told mostly from Emma's point of view, but also Cormac, Gretchen and Penelope, as well as flashbacks from her mother's point of view. This allowed us to get a deep understanding of the world the story is in, and the characters, quickly and concisely without endless and monotonous text. The flashbacks themselves where handled in a unique way, keeping the reader's interest and being concise and keeping with the flow of the book.

The change from point of view to point of view was seamless and effortless, a true indication of how talented a writer Harvey is. The entire pace of the book was hold-on-to-your-hat fast, with a brisk flow unencumbered with pointless dialogue or text.

Emma is my new favourite heroine, she's just so strong and witty. No matter what's thrown at her, she doesn't run away, she faces it head on and refuses to be bullied or intimidated in to backing down or being obedient. I love her snappy retorts and her refusal to be cowed. The relationship between Emma and her cousin's, Gretchen and Penelope, was truly beautifully written, they may as well have been sisters. They're supportive of each other, and would defend each other until their last breath. All three of them are written so fiery and full of life, you can't help but love and admire them and make a mental note of their retorts. Particularly Penelope's Shakespearean cursing, and Gretchen's snarky one liners. I do love a fellow lover of snark. just....*sigh* so beautiful and so incredibly adorable. Initially I thought he was a bit of prat with how he was treating Emma, but then you see his point of view (gotta love multi points of view for this understanding) and you see he's in love with Emma, and it gradually comes out that he was being how he was to protect her. There's an un-ending stream of cute moments between them as well as flirty that have you going "aaaawww" and feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, a feeling Harvey is an expert at inspiring in her romances. Their relationship progresses so perfectly, as things slide in to place and they finally admit their feelings. Harvey's romances are always aaww worthy, and inspire a certain jealousy, because no real life bloke will ever match up! Cormac and Emma's relationship was the perfect romance, and perfectly sweet, and I can't wait to see how they progress knowing their feelings.

Now, the plot. The original blurb does not do it justice, and is my custom, I got over excited and fleshed it out way more than was probably necessary, but when I get excited about a book my rambling and need to get everyone else to love it as much as me is unstoppable.

The plot for A Breath of Frost is a web of many different and very unpredictable threads. We have the romance, the main one being Emma and Cormac, but I've already seen another potential one, and then there's the brief glimpses of Emma's mother. But more than that, we have the mystery of who the murderer is, I freely admit to following the train of thought given and being convinced it was Daphne, so when the actual murderer was revealed I was genuinely shocked.

A Breath of Frost has many twists and turns, and all of them are unpredictable, from the mystery of the murderer to the deep, dark family secrets revealed. I was kept guessing the whole way through, which added to the enjoyment for me. The threads of romance, mystery, murder and magic are expertly woven in to a truly  fantastical and greatly enjoyable plot. The lore surrounding witches and magic is truly unique, making the book stand out from all other's in the genre, not to mention the added lore of the Gargoyle's and other creatures. I really loved how Harvey wrote the witches familiars in to the story, it was truly unique and never has been done before.

So much happens in the nearly 500 pages, but you never once find yourself bored, or getting easily distracted, the book is truly a page turner and utterly gripping. We go from a ball to a murder to the strange magical happenings, to finding out about being a witch, to a goblin market, to a ship, to a school of magic, to a period of time at the school, to more murders and a house that is straight out of a gothic horror book. I promise you, there's not a moment when you find yourself bored.

A Breath of Frost takes us on a truly magical journey through the streets of Regency London, filled with incredibly unique mythology and lore concerning magic and gargoyles not to mention the romance, mystery and murder. A Breath of Frost is a true  page turner, giving you the warm and fuzzies one moment, making you all emotional the next, to having you laughing so hard your sides hurt, like me, you won't want this book to end!

Do yourself a favour this cold and rainy January, pick up A Breath of Frost and get drawn straight in to the heart of the story, and surround yourself with magic and a beautiful romance. As for me, I will be nursing my Book Hangover, resisting the urge to start reading it again straight away and starting my one woman campaign to get this made in to a movie! Well...I have to do something to fill the void in my life until the second book!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant

The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: ARC Courtesy of NetGalley
File Under: Gothic Mystery

Anne Merchant has always been the weird outsider, hard not to be when you're the daughter of the local mortician, and the poorest family in their very rich ZIP code. After her mother commits suicide and Anne finds the body, her father wants her to have a better chance at life, which means being sent to a boarding school for the rich and spoilt on Wormwood Island.

Cania Christy and the island it's on is cut off from the rest of the world, no electronics and only one 15 minute phone call a week. No fraternizing with the villagers, there's even a red line painted on the ground to seperate them from the school. But Cania Christy is shrouded in mystery. Everyone at the school is obsessed with becoming Valedictorian. Everyone has a PT, something they have to live and breathe such as seduction, to become Valedictorian, and the students are graded on everything as part of the competition. Anne is mysteriously drawn to Ben, the son of Dr. Zin, the school's recruiter, who keeps dropping hints about the school.

It soon becomes clear the school isn't what it appears. Anne hears screams and gunshots in the night, students mysteriously disappear, and it turns out that the students parents paid their tuition, not in money...but in favours.  Everyone seems to be in on a secret Anne doesn't know about, and as she parts the shroud of cloak and dagger surrounding the school...she quickly wishes she hasn't.

Okay, so I was kept guessing right up until the end of the book. When the big reveal came I was sat smacking my forehead like "of course!", there's so much mystery and twists and turns, you can't guess what's going to happen next.

There's a minor love triangle that really doesn't merit being a distraction, romance isn't the main point of this book. It's a little add on, if anything. I did love the relationship between Anne and Ben especially when you find out their past. Pilot's part in the story was very intriguing. I loved the character of Molly, Ann's own Fairy Godmother to her Cinderella, and I loved the character of Anne. She's determined to find out the truth and not just accept her situation and what she's told.

The world building and the prose was fantastic. As soon as you start reading, you dive straight in to a grim and dreary world, I pictured the island as very dark and grey. This is probably one of the best mystery books I've ever written. It was creepy at points, there where splashes of romance, but there was so much mystery that was impossible to work out, and when you're told the big secret, there's still more to be uncovered.

As you read the mystery unravels, but there's more and more threads woven in to it, and more secrets and questions. It's the only Supernatural high school story with not a vampire, werewolf or fairy in sight.

The ground work has been set for what looks to be like a very popular series. The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant was fantastically written, the atmosphere oozes off the page, and the world sucks you in and traps you right until you finish reading. Not even Sherlock Holmes himself could predict what's going to happen next. A fantastically unique book that refreshes the Supernatural genre. I for one cannot wait to see what comes next!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...