Mini Series Review: All Souls Trilogy – Deborah Harkness

 

Synopses:

A Discovery Of Witches: Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. 

Shadow Of Night: Seeking safety, Diana and Matthew travel back in time to London, 1590. But they soon realize that the past may not provide a haven. Reclaiming his former identity as poet and spy for Queen Elizabeth, the vampire falls back in with a group of radicals known as the School of Night. Many are unruly daemons, the creative minds of the age, including playwright Christopher Marlowe and mathematician Thomas Harriot.

The Book Of Life: After travelling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.


So I need to get back into the swing of things, and I thought that starting with a mini review would be best for that particular purpose – especially given that my thoughts on this series can be summarised quite easily. As this is my first mini review, I thought I’d try the: THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE VERDICT format – and see how that is received and if it actually works for both you and me. 

THE GOOD:

  • The story wasn’t quite your typical romance, it actually felt informative in terms of its content – I found the prominent historical aspects really enjoyable to read.
  • Book 1 and 3 moved at a comfortable pace, I felt like the storyline flowed nicely.
  • The characters were, for the most part, padded out – although I have to say that neither Diana nor Matthew were my favourites of the lot – I just found the rest so much more compelling.
  • scienceLike okay, if I looked more deeply into things, I’d probably find some problems with some of the concepts, but I think all in all these books were rather well researched.

    THE BAD:

  • THE SECOND BOOK….. Literally all my problems with this series lie within the second book. It was slow, there were too many bloody characters, it spent too much time in places which didn’t deserve it and just overall irked me.
  • (THE NOT SO BAD BUT STILL ANNOYING) Diana got on my nerves at some points, but then really – most of that occurred yet again during the second novel. Middle book syndrome anyone??

    THE VERDICT:

    Overall, I’d definitely say that this series is worth a read, books 1 and 3 make a compelling argument to oppose the crimes committed by the middle novel, so as long as you can actually get through Shadow Of Night – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars 

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Book Review: The Letter – Kathryn Hughes

Synopsis:the letter cover

Every so often a love story comes along to remind us that sometimes, in our darkest hour, hope shines a candle to light our way. Discover the Number One bestseller that has captured thousands of hearts worldwide…

Tina Craig longs to escape her violent husband. She works all the hours God sends to save up enough money to leave him, also volunteering in a charity shop to avoid her unhappy home. Whilst going through the pockets of a second-hand suit, she comes across an old letter, the envelope firmly sealed and unfranked. Tina opens the letter and reads it – a decision that will alter the course of her life for ever…

Billy Stirling knows he has been a fool, but hopes he can put things right. On 4th September 1939 he sits down to write the letter he hopes will change his future. It does – in more ways than he can ever imagine…

The Letter tells the story of two women, born decades apart, whose paths are destined to cross and how one woman’s devastation leads to the other’s salvation.


I received a copy of this book  from Headline Review via Bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review.

This book, I don’t even know where to begin… it made me feel a lot… and by a lot I mean my book journal (yes, I have one of those – a beautiful Leuchtturm 1917 ExLibris Journal… and it’s my baby) references to “feels” the majority of the time (aren’t I eloquent)…

By page 11, I was gripped and slapped with the cold, hard reality of this book. Hughes wasn’t going to beat around the bush, she wasn’t going to sugarcoat things – instead we are thrown into a horrifying tale straight from the beginning. Those triggered by domestic abuse should probably stay away from the book because the topic does feature for quite a large part of the story…

I really liked how the two stories interlinked by the end of the book. I anticipated that they would, but it was done quite well. Only objection I would have to the way in which Hughes executed that part of the novel, was that it depended very much on accidental happenings, and I was struggling to see all of it realistically occurring… Nevertheless, that ignored, it was heartwarming to see everything come together in that way. Especially after the introduction of William’s character.Whilst it took his image a while to establish itself in my mind and at best he was only 2.5 dimensional, I was rooting for him more than I had ever done for a character in this particular genre. I really admired his resilience in the whole situation as I’m unsure whether I’d be able to demonstrate the same frame of mind – especially with so many setbacks.

I was also largely affected by Tina’s story… and I prayed to god that she would come out in one piece. And whilst initially that wasn’t distinctly so, I’m glad that Hughes brought out her sewing kit and stitched Tina back together.  I would have been very angry had it not been the case.

Hughes did something remarkable during her book… Whilst I cried because of a dog at one point of the story; it was largely expected as dogs always turn on the waterworks in novels and films for some reason – even more easily than humans do which could be slightly concerning if one dwells on the fact… But she also managed to make me pity a truly evil man, for a split-second… but I felt deeply sorry for what had happened to him a few moments prior – it was like a punch to the gut… which was a strange sensation to feel due to his vile nature. However, any positive feelings I may have had for his character had largely disappeared by the end of the book, even when he tried to redeem himself.

I would recommend this book to fans  of historical romances with a modern twist and wonderful parallels but would definitely give a heads-up to those triggered by miscarriages and abusive situations as I think it would be unfair not to give a warning when writing about this particular book which centered around both of these topics.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

“Everything belongs somewhere”

-Ava

Book Review: These Shallow Graves – Jennifer Donnelly

Synopsis:these shallow graves cover

Set in gilded age New York, These Shallow Graves follows the story of Josephine Montfort, an American aristocrat. Jo lives a life of old-money ease. Not much is expected of her other than to look good and marry well. But when her father dies due to an accidental gunshot, the gilding on Jo’s world starts to tarnish. With the help of a handsome and brash reporter, and a young medical student who moonlights in the city morgue, Jo uncovers the truth behind her father’s death and learns that if you’re going to bury the past, you’d better bury it deep.

Publication Date: Oct 27, 2015

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Bonnier Publishing and Hot Key Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

***SPOILER FREE***

I don’t read historical fiction… I just don’t usually find historically based novels very compelling to read and yet this book was exactly that (after I got rid of my bias towards the genre which only took a chapter or two) and I could not put it down.

The way Donnelly presented the 19th Century New York was amazing, I had a huge case of wanderlust (maybe not to live there forever, but certainly to visit – considering the fact that I am partial to modern day technology and would find it difficult to adjust to the harsh conditions of the 19th Century) whilst reading, each setting was described perfectly, and only helped to develop the mystery in ways which were cleverly crafted – I was sold completely!

This was only added to by the brilliant characters, my favourites being Jo (duuhhh, she kicked so much butt it was impossible not to like her), Eddie, Oscar and Fay (for a similar reason to Jo). I found the message behind Jo’s character poignant, she was curious and determined in a patriarchal world and I thought that she was an amazing microcosm for the way in which women were treated and presented in those times, with their dreams being seen as frivolous and nonsensical and definitely not achievable – especially by a lady of the upper class of society who had a much different path laid out for her, bred to produce a strong bloodline and not much else… I was glad that Jo was enabled to explore her dream throughout the book and wished that others had received the same opportunity much earlier in history than it was made possible…

Whilst romance was a central theme of the novel, it played along well with other ideas such as friendship, and mystery which in my opinion were equally as important when it came to turning the clockworks of the plot.

The ending was heart-warming, I was so happy about the turn of events and glad for all the characters, because it truly was a happy ending, worth re-living, especially after the feels attack caused by the earlier chapters.im so happyI would definitely recommend this books to fans of mystery and historical novels with badass heroines and romance weaved in throughout. I will  certainly be looking forward to reading this again, and looking at Donnelly’s other works.

My Rating: A strong 4.5/5 Stars

“The moment a girl learned how to talk, she was told not to.”

Josephine Montfort