Miss Austen eARC Review

 

Miss Austen

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GoodReads:

1840
: twenty three years after the death of her famous sister Jane, Cassandra Austen returns to the village of Kintbury, and the home of her family’s friends, the Fowles.
She knows that, in some dusty corner of the sprawling vicarage, there is a cache of family letters which hold secrets she is desperate should not be revealed.
As Cassandra recalls her youth and her relationship with her brilliant yet complex sister, she pieces together buried truths about Jane’s history, and her own. And she faces a stark choice: should she act to protect Jane’s reputation? Or leave the contents of the letters to go unguarded into posterity …

Based on a literary mystery that has long puzzled biographers and academics, Miss Austen is a wonderfully original and emotionally complex novel about the loves and lives of Cassandra and Jane Austen.

Book Information:
By: Gill Hornby
Publisher: Century/FlatIron Books
Page Count: 416
Format: Hardback, Paperback, eBook
Release Date: January 23, 2020

 

My Review

This book was deeply moving, the look at sisterhood and family was perfection especially in regards to the family Hornby is writing of. The Austens. A family quite close to each other and within that closeness an even deeper bond between Cassandra and Jane. She takes a bit of a mystery angle in this, trying to give us answers in the gaps Cassandra has left by culling certain correspondences with/regarding Jane. She was the gatekeeper and that is the role she plays in this novel.

This is all from Cassandra’s perspective but fluctuates between the past with Jane and the present, as she struggles to find and get hold of letters that could be harmful to Jane’s writing legacy and reputation.

One of the most beautiful things about this novel was the fact that it highlights the absolute contentment between the sisters. Of course, there were rough times and hardships, heartache, loss, and the wish of something more, but, through it all, they were fine with having each other. It was as if Hornby and Austen are shouting through different times to say ‘it’s okay to be single, to value love of family over romantic love, that it’s not necessary to lead a fulfilled life.’ But, the story and Austen’s novels also say, it’s just as okay to choose/have romantic love. I loved that quite a bit about Hornby’s novel. She’s taken a real-life mystery and made it into a delightful work of historical fiction.

Hornby’s prose is so reminiscent of what you enjoy in an Austen novel if you’re an Austen fan, and it just flourished. There wasn’t too much focus on small details, and the characters were so enjoyable. It was just the pacing which seemed to drag on in the present without aim sometimes that really threw me, but, it paid off in the end as the present did have its own purpose.

There’s also a very Jane Austen-esque story within that concerning some of the Fowle family as I mentioned above it’s the focus of the present. I enjoyed every minute of this book. I just felt at times it could drag which is why I did not give it a higher rating as it really put the story on pause almost by doing the pacing like that. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for my honest review.

If you’re in the U.K. Waterstones has a beautiful edition of this up for preorder, and there’s another signed edition available at Goldsboro, but, there’s also just the regular versions of course which all have the same amazing pages within!

My Great Reads of 2019

 

So these are books I read, in general, this year, they may have come out this year, they may have come out before, but, I wanted to just give you all a bit of a highlights reel of books I didn’t get to include on the other lists whether because they didn’t fit the genre or because I just loved too many of a certain genre lol, either way, here are some of my favorites.

 

YA Fantasy/Scifi

The Fever King

Shadow of the Fox

Soul of the Sword

Heart of Mist

Reign of Mist

The Phantom Forest

Spin the Dawn

We Hunt the Flame

A Spark of White Fire

Tiger Queen

Realm of Knights

The Deathless Girls

Gravemaidens

Tears of Frost

Girls of Paper and Fire

The Last Namsara

The Sky Weaver

This Mortal Coil

Fawkes

Blood Heir

The Weight of a Soul

Sorcery of Thorns

Reverie

Contemporary

The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Postscript

YA Contemporary

Becoming Beatriz

Coral

The Naseby Horses

 

Mystery/Thriller/Crime

Dead Man’s Blues

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone

The Devil Upstairs

A Death in Harlem

Starve Acre

Fantasy/Scifi

Anna Undreaming

The Bird King

The Little Snake

The Heart of Stone

The Veiled Threat

Lost Solace

Angel Mage

The Black Hawks

Practical Magic

The Priory of the Orange Tree

Graphic Novels

Horizontal Collaboration

Bloodlust & Bonnets

 

Other

The Art of Taxidermy

Women’s Weird

Foxfire, Wolfskin

Pursuit: The Balvenie Stories Collection

The Company of Eight [MG Fantasy]

Sense and Sensibility

Historical Fiction

The Pursuit of William Abbey

The Crown Agent

The Penelopiad

 

And here are the ones I will be screaming about again and again because that’s how good they are:

Crown of Feathers

[^There’s going to be a readalong of this starting very soon!^]

The Return of King Lillian

A House of Rage and Sorrow

Kingdom of Souls

Girls of Storm and Shadow

House of Salt and Sorrows

Favorite Historical Fiction Books: The Second Half of 2019

Hey guys! Check out some of my favorite historical fiction picks from July onwards of this year!

Clicking on the picture takes you to the GoodReads link, clicking on the title takes you to my review!

 

6. The Last Word

The Last Word

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1861. Miss Lucinda Leavitt is shocked when she learns the author of her favorite serialized novel has died before completing the story. Determined to learn how it ends, Lucinda reluctantly enlists the help of her father’s young business partner, Mr. David Randall, to track down the reclusive author’s former whereabouts.

David is a successful young businessman, but is overwhelmed by his workload. He wants to prove himself to his late father, as well as to himself. He doesn’t have the time, nor the interest, for this endeavor, but Lucinda is not the type to take no for an answer.

Their search for the elusive Mrs. Smith and the rightful ending to her novel leads Lucinda and David around the country, but the truths they discover about themselves—and each other—are anything but fictional.

5. Photographer of the Lost

The Photographer of the Lost

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4. The Swords of Silence

The Swords of Silence: Book 1: The Swords of Fire Trilogy

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Where once new ideas and beliefs were accepted, now the country’s military dictator, the Shogun, is shutting his country down to any outside influences.

Father Joaquim Martinez, who left Portugal to make Hizen Province, Japan, his home, has been tending quietly to the lives of his villagers, but everything is about to be thrown into turmoil, as the Shogun has outlawed Martinez’s beliefs. Those who won’t recant or accept banishment, face a death sentence.

With the threat of a massacre looming, and the Shogun’s samurai closing in, Father Martinez must decide, if he is willing to risk everything, to save those he has sworn to protect.

 

3. In The Shadow of Wolves

In the Shadow of Wolves

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The Second World War is drawing to a close, but the world is far from safe. Left to fend for themselves, women and children are forced out of their homes in East Prussia to make way for the advancing victors. As the Russian soldiers arrive, the women know that they are still very much in danger, and that for them, the fight for survival is only just beginning.

Facing critical food shortages and the onset of a bitter cold winter without heat, the women send their children into the nearby forests where they secretly cross the border into Lithuania, begging the local farmers for work or food to take back home to their waiting families. Along the way the children find cruelty, hardship and violence, but also kindness, hope, and the promise of a new and better future.

Based on meticulous research, this stunning and powerful debut novel by Alvydas Šlepikas tells for the first time the story of the ‘wolf children’ and the measures many families were forced to take in order to survive.

 

 

2. A Tapestry of Treason

A Tapestry of Treason

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Her actions could make history – but at what price?

1399: Constance of York, Lady Despenser, proves herself more than a mere observer in the devious intrigues of her magnificently dysfunctional family, The House of York.

Surrounded by power-hungry men, including her aggressively self-centred husband Thomas and ruthless siblings Edward and Richard, Constance places herself at the heart of two treasonous plots against King Henry IV.  Will it be possible for this Plantagenet family to safeguard its own political power by restoring either King Richard II to the throne, or the precarious Mortimer claimant?

Although the execution of these conspiracies will place them all in jeopardy, Constance is not deterred, even when the cost of her ambition threatens to overwhelm her.  Even when it endangers her new-found happiness.

With treason, tragedy, heartbreak and betrayal, this is the story of a woman ahead of her time, fighting for herself and what she believes to be right in a world of men.

 

1. The Secrets We Kept

The Secrets We Kept

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A thrilling tale of secretaries turned spies, of love and duty, and of sacrifice—inspired by the true story of the CIA plot to infiltrate the hearts and minds of Soviet Russia, not with propaganda, but with the greatest love story of the twentieth century: Doctor Zhivago.

At the height of the Cold War, two secretaries are pulled out of the typing pool at the CIA and given the assignment of a lifetime. Their mission: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR, where no one dare publish it, and help Pasternak’s magnum opus make its way into print around the world. Glamorous and sophisticated Sally Forrester is a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit all over the world–using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Irina is a complete novice, and under Sally’s tutelage quickly learns how to blend in, make drops, and invisibly ferry classified documents.

The Secrets We Kept combines a legendary literary love story—the decades-long affair between Pasternak and his mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, who was sent to the Gulag and inspired Zhivago’s heroine, Lara—with a narrative about two women empowered to lead lives of extraordinary intrigue and risk. From Pasternak’s country estate outside Moscow to the brutalities of the Gulag, from Washington, D.C. to Paris and Milan, The Secrets We Kept captures a watershed moment in the history of literature—told with soaring emotional intensity and captivating historical detail. And at the center of this unforgettable debut is the powerful belief that a piece of art can change the world.

 

The Crown Agent ARC Review

 

Just gonna copy and paste this for all backlogged reviews lol:

Oh, look, another backlogged ARC review. I know. Shocking.

October was the month we moved, and November I was still trying to tame the chaos of the new house, and I was also sick for like two weeks lol. Anyway, onto my review!

 

The Crown Agent

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GoodReads:
A ship adrift, all hands dead. A lighthouse keeper murdered in the night. The Crown needs man to find the truth. Doctor Mungo Lyon, his reputation tarnished by the Burke & Hare scandal, and forbidden to practise as a surgeon, is the wrong man.

That’s exactly why the Crown chose him.

Purchase Links

Amazon UK | Amazon US

**The links to the book used in this post are Affiliated links, should you click on my links and use them to purchase this book, it will gain me some monies, and will cost you nothing, but gotta disclose this first.**

 

My Review

Guys.

GUYS.

Holy cow, I’m surprised by how much I loved this!! I hated not being able to snatch it up sooner, like I feel so silly for not just kick away the rest of my tbr for this before it actually published. Alas, being overwhelmed is never a good look so here we are, a little late to the part.

This is the start of a new character of the hour, Mungo Lyon, a doctor turned to espionage. You may wonder how he got to such a different place as far as careers go and I have to say the answer was amazing. His mentor purchased bodies for students….off…Burke & Hare. If you don’t know about these guys, they were two murderers in Edinburgh who killed people to sell to/for science as a fresh body was always in need to teach.

Due to this association, Dr. Lyon’s surgeon’s career is bleak, but there comes a chance to change his fate and he decides to jump right in.

And as he decides to go forward, trouble trails closely behind him.

Seriously, I felt for poor Mungo, he just never caught a break.

This means the novel was definitely fast-paced, plot-driven and full of adventure and mystery.

This also means this was a perfect read for me the lover of mystery and …okay let’s face it, I love lots of things and lots of books just like the rest of you. Anyway! It was honestly such a fantastic read for me and I loved the characters we were introduced to. There were secret societies, spying, Burke & Hare ‘lore,’ and the delicious historical background!

The mystery of it all was steeped in the sort of secret society mythology that I always love. There’s even adventures on the seas. And I loved reading about Scotland in all its beauty, but I may be biased.

This read gets 4.5/5 cups of hot chocolate from me, and I would like to thank Sandstone Press for the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. I cannot wait to read the next Dr. Lyon book!

The Pursuit of William Abbey – Blog Tour

 

 

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GoodReads:
A hauntingly powerful novel about how the choices we make can stay with us forever, by the award-winning author of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and 84K.

South Africa in the 1880s. A young and naive English doctor by the name of William Abbey witnesses the lynching of a local boy by the white colonists. As the child dies, his mother curses William.

William begins to understand what the curse means when the shadow of the dead boy starts following him across the world. It never stops, never rests. It can cross oceans and mountains. And if it catches him, the person he loves most in the world will die.

Gripping, moving, and utterly thought-provoking, this novel proves once again that Claire North is one of the most innovative voices in modern fiction.

 

My Review

Once more, my huge apologies for the late post, I’ve really just been bed ridden and cranky and sleeping when I’m not awake to be cranky.

But.

I got to read this book in between bits of my coughing and grumpiness and I did not expect the book to have such a profound effect on me, but it did.

Confession time this is the first time I’ve read a Claire North book [Or Webb or Griffin book] and so I went in with not knowing what to expect other than the basis of the book sounded SO intriguing.

William Abbey is a very complex character in his own emotions that he presents, but his actions are all driven by his reactions and instincts, it’s really great to have such an in depth character. You’re not meant to necessarily like Abbey but in learning his story, I think the important part is to understand him, to see why he made his choices for better or worse.

North doesn’t soften the aspects of colonialism that are rather prominent in this book and I loved that. For so long to stretch your empire was seen as a noble thing, one used to justify almost anything, but even then not everyone would have seen it as noble, some knew, whether they admitted it or not, that it was wrong. An abuse of power and an abuse on fellow humans in the worst atrocities.

Abbey was a product of this time, not to justify what he did and didn’t do, just that you learn that some people were simply not strong enough in mind or heart to do the right thing when it was so easy to just let things happen.

For Abbey this results in him being cursed and now, well, his eyes are open and he’s left to continually travel the world in trying to outrun his curse.

Others see his curse as a gift, whether they are cursed or not, and some, those who have so long abused power in their noble works for the empire see it as a gift that THEY can use.

I would say though this story had a lot of tragedy in it, it also held hope, even if hope wasn’t always the truth that people like Abbey, a truth-speaker, could know without a doubt.

While Abbey is cursed to flee from his shadow, it’s never far and carries the weight of the truth of it, and if it catches up to him….someone he loves will die. But Abbey is not the only one to have this ‘affliction’ and I loved that we got to see how even power could try and corrupt and use such a personal curse for its own uses.

There’s a lot of great moments in this book, twists and turns of the human heart that I didn’t expect and honestly every page gave me something to think about.

A stupendous read that crosses over the genres of historical fiction, fantasy, and more.

I think it’s certainly worth the read and North’s prose is easily read with a sort of eloquence that makes it flow rather quickly. So despite the length of the book, it seems to fly by as Abbey shares his story with Sister Ellis.

I would say hands down this was one of the best reads of the year for me, I’d put it up there with some of my favorites now and I feel so incredibly lucky to have had the chance to read this.

It’s just a story about the complexity of humans and their nature, and it’s not always pretty, but it is honest and raw and there is a certain beauty in that.

Five cups of coffee from me, I’m off to go sleep more. Thank you so much to Orbit and Compulsive Readers Tour for a chance to read and review this honestly as part of the blog tour.

About the Author

Catherine’s first novel, Mirror Dreams, was completed when she was 14 years old. The book was published in 2002 and garnered comparisons with Terry Pratchett and Philip Pullman. She went on to publish a further seven young adult novels under her own name, earning her extensive critical acclaim and two Carnegie nominations for her novels Timekeepers and The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle.
While studying International History at the London School of Economics, she wrote an urban fantasy series for adults, writing as Kate Griffin. On graduating LSE she went to the Royal Academy for Dramatic Arts to study Technical Theatre and Stage Management. Throughout her training she continued to write, and while working as a lighting technician at the Royal National Theatre wrote her first Claire North novel, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, which became a word-of-mouth bestseller and was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. The follow-up Touch was described by the Independent as ‘little short of a masterpiece’, and her next novel The Sudden Appearance of Hope won the 2017 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. Her recent novel The End of the Day was shortlisted for the 2017 Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award, and her latest book, 84K has been shortlisted for the Brave New Words and Philip K. Dick Awards.
Catherine currently works as a live music lighting designer, teaches women’s self-defense, and is a fan of big cities, long walks, Thai food and graffiti-spotting. She lives in London.

 

The Rest of the Tour

Pursuit of William Abbey blog tour asset 2

Photographer of the Lost

Hey everyone, I am excited as this is my second really highly rated book on the same day to have a blog tour for, and it’s only the second day of the month! Woo!

 

Photographer of the Lost Cover

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Until she knows her husband’s fate, she cannot decide her own… An epic novel of forbidden love, loss, and the shattered hearts left behind in the wake of World War I 
1921: Families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors of the Great War have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He is considered ‘missing in action’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph taken by Francis in the post, hope flares. And so she beings to search. 
Harry, Francis’s brother, fought alongside him. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last things they ever said. Both brothers shared a love of photography and it is that which brings Harry back to the Western Front. Hired by grieving families to photograph gravesites, as he travels through battle-scarred France gathering news for British wives and mothers, Harry also searches for evidence of his brother. 
And as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they get closer to a startling truth. 
An incredibly moving account of an often-forgotten moment in history, The Photographer of the Lost tells the story of the thousands of soldiers who were lost amid the chaos and ruins, and the even greater number of men and women desperate to find them again. 
Every photograph has a story, every story needs an ending. 
Book Information:
Written By: Caroline Scott
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Published On: 31st October 2019
Format: Hardback
Price: £12.99

My Review

I remember the first time I read ‘The Book Thief’ it utterly consumed me on an emotional level, it was rare that a non-fantasy book could have such a huge impact on me. That was a while ago, but, last night as I was reading the last few pages [because of course I procrastinate] I knew that this review was going to be raw to write.

This book is SO poetic in its prose, it’s very rare for me to enjoy books written in present tense in general, but after just simply noting it was in fact in present tense, I never gave that a second thought. It was engrossing, emotional, endearing, so many other awesome e words I’m sure, but really it was just simply amazing.

Harry’s job may seem morbid on paper but he tries to provide answers and closure to those who hire him,. but what he has trouble facing is his own future and feelings, so he turns to them to help blot out what he cannot change or figure out.

Harry lost two brothers during the war, his eldest brother also being Edie’s husband. One day Edie receives a photograph of her MIA presumed dead husband, and it brings the past hurtling forward while throwing the future up in the air, tilting everything on its side.

This book was a journey, a spiritual and, as I said already, emotional one.

The perspectives shift, Harry and Edie at various point during and after the war. There’s loss, grief at its rawest form, and love in perhaps its most vulnerable form.

So many now have not realized that after the war was sometimes as hard as during, though this is continually true for anyone who has been affected by war. After WWI it was the issue of not being able to locate your loved ones, not knowing if they were dead or alive, never knowing where they would be buried, and this is something that most in the Western World hadn’t dealt with on such a large scale.

It was a perfect point to use in history, so often overshadowed and I loved that Scott used this. Her writing style was practically flawless for me and the book is one I intend to carry in my heart for the rest of my life.

You felt as if you were looking through War Torn France with them through a majority of it, and their emotions slid from the page to your heart.

I don’t want to give away more of what happens, but, suffice to say if you have any interest in a book set post WWI that will fill your heart, this one is for you.

Thank you to Anne and the Publisher for a copy of this in exchange for my honest review as part of the blog tour.

 

About the Author

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Caroline completed a PhD in History at the University of Durham. She developed a particular interest in the impact of the First World War on the landscape of Belgium and France, and in the experience of women during the conflict – fascinations that she was able to pursue while she spent several years working as a researcher for a Belgian company. Caroline is originally from Lancashire, but now lives in southwest France.

 

The Rest of the Tour

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