Blog Tour · Book Review · Books

The Windsor Knot by S.J. Bennett [BOOK REVIEW]

The team at Tandem Collective were kind enough to send me a free audiobook copy of The Windsor Knot by S.J. Bennett. I have been listening to audiobooks more often this year and I enjoyed this one too.

About The Book:


Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre

Pages: 320

Format I read it in: audiobook

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK | Amazon US

Synopsis:

On a perfect Spring morning at Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth II will enjoy a cup of tea, carry out all her royal duties . . . and solve a murder.

The morning after a dinner party at Windsor Castle, eighty-nine-year-old Queen Elizabeth is shocked to discover that one of her guests has been found murdered in his room, with a rope around his neck. When the police begin to suspect her loyal servants, Her Majesty knows they are looking in the wrong place. For the Queen has been living an extraordinary double life ever since her coronation. Away from the public eye, she has a brilliant knack for solving crimes.

With her household’s happiness on the line, her secret must not get out. Can the Queen and her trusted secretary Rozie catch the killer, without getting caught themselves?

My Thoughts:

The Windsor Knot is the first installment of a cozy mystery series set in England, called Her Majesty the Queen Investigates. As the title suggests, Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II is the detective, solving a crime that happens in her castle.

I feel like the idea behind it is good, but it didn’t deliver in the way I wanted it too. The writing was good, and the author has done amazing research on the monarchy. For instance, the circumstances of the murder was quite intriguing. However, the mystery aspect was way too cozy for me, and didn’t excite me, therefore my rating.

I loved the fact that the Queen herself had an assistant that was out in the field, gathering clues and talking to people. I think any other alternative would have been far too unrealistic. But the story still felt a bit flat, with a mediocre ending. I expected more plot twists and thriller elements, more uncertainty and higher stakes. But this book felt more like a story where we get to find out more of what the Queen’s daily life looks like, and in this version, she just happens to like solving mysteries as a hobby.

Even though it wasn’t my cup of tea, I am certain that people who love cozy reads will truly enjoy this one. It’s a very relaxing story, and it’s quite interesting to dive in the Queen’s world, even just for a moment. There were some amazing facts about the monarchy as well, and I was surprised that I knew some of them, as I live near Windsor and Ascot.

In conclusion, if you are looking for an interesting story, The Windsor Knot will please you. But if you like more hardcore mysteries, I suggest you find another book. I am not sure I will be picking up the next book in the series, but I will definitely be looking out for S.J. Bennett’s next books, as I loved the writing.

Rating:

★★★

About The Author:

SJ Bennett was born in Yorkshire, England in 1966, and lives in London. An army child, she grew up travelling around the world. Her first novel was published when she was 42, after a varied career and lots of procrastination. She is the award-winning author of several books for children and teaches and podcasts about writing.

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Book Review · Books

Emma by Jane Austen [BOOK REVIEW]

★★★

“Emma” by Jane Austen is one of those books that is both old and new at the same time. When reading it, you can clearly see time has passed. From the society, to fashion and language. However, certain situations still remain true even today, especially people’s characters and their reactions, and Jane Austen managed to include this all packaged in a wonderful story.

Matchmaking

The books starts as we hear that Emma Woodhouse’s friend and former governess, Miss Taylor, has married Mr. Weston. And because Emma introduced them to each other, she takes credit for her matchmaking, and decides that she will try and make another match. She attempts to match her new friend Harriet to Mr. Elton, but things don’t go exactly to plan. Harriet is interested in the farmer, Robert Martin, who even proposes to her. But Emma makes Harriet refuse the proposal and continue to seek Mr. Elton’s attention.

“And have you never known the pleasure and triumph of a lucky guess? I pity you. I thought you cleverer; for, depend upon it, a lucky guess is never merely luck. There is always some talent in it.”

When it comes to Emma, I have so many conflicting thoughts and opinions. I really adore how gentle of a soul she is. And how much she cares about the people around her. But I also didn’t like how nosey she is, and her fascination to be a matchmaker. She needs to learn to mind her own business. However, considering this is a book written in a certain time, I have to remember that it wasn’t just Emma, but the whole female society behaves in the same way, as annoying as that thought may be. Through the book, however, we do see a change in Emma, and a slight development in her personality, especially around her relationship with Harriet.

A Classic

To be able to truly appreciate “Emma” for the classic trait it is, you firstly have to be ready to adjust to a time in history where society is simply different. I have seen way too many people criticize this book for this sole reason. But people, you have to understand, that’s how things used to work back then. That is how it was, and if Jane Austin wrote anything different, she wouldn’t have been telling the truth.

I have realised that I read classic books much slower than contemporary ones. In fact, “Emma” took me a month. I couldn’t read it in one day, or binge 100 pages in a sitting. I could only manage a few chapters at a time. But I really enjoyed it! I devoured the writing, the difference in how people walked, talked, dressed. The difference in mannerisms, the difference in how parties used to be like. Even the difference in how certain situations were handled. The gossip especially. It was always there, as it is today, but it felt to me as if the gossip in the past was a bit more thoughtful. People talked about other people, because they cared. Today we all tend to gossip about people we don’t even know.

“A man would always wish to give a woman a better home than the one he takes her from; and he who can do it, where there is no doubt of her regard, must, I think, be the happiest of mortals.

I loved Knightley and his ability to tell Emma off. There is something really charming about him, that kept intriguing me throughout the whole book. And I also really liked Harriet, even though she couldn’t form her own opinion to save her life. I should have drank a shot every time I thought: “Dear girl, don’t you have your own brain to think with?”

I found Mr. Woodhouse very soppy and annoying. Quite selfish too. And quite franckly, he was lucky to have a daughter like Emma, that was always running around him, to attend to his needs. I could even see the book ending with Emma never being married, only to attend to her father. Even her actual marriage in the end had a certain compromise around her father’s happiness.

“That is the case with us all, papa. One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”

My favorite part of the book was Emma’s rant about Mrs. Elton. And not because of the rant itself. In fact, I think that Emma’s outburst was probably a bit over the top. I just loved how different it looks from today’s language, and that intrigues me. If you ever wish to enjoy that part, just head to the end of Chapter 32. It starts with “Insufferable woman.”

I really enjoyed “Emma” and I will now have to read the rest of Jane Austen’s work! I think it’s a true masterpiece that perfectly portrays a certain society in a certain moment of time. And even though written so many years ago, it still touches on points that affect us in the current world we live on. We are still matchmakers, we still gossip and party, we are greedy and we all long for happiness and love, and friends alongside us.

Purchase Links:
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Blog Tour · Book Review · Books

A Beautiful Spy by Rachel Hore [BOOK REVIEW]

★★★

A Beautiful Spy is a wonderful story about Minnie, a girl who becomes a spy for the British Government. Refusing to just settle down and marry, as she is expected to, Minnie wants excitement. Little does she know, with excitement, comes danger…

About The Author:

Rachel Hore worked in London publishing for many years before moving with her family to Norwich, where she taught publishing and creative writing at the University of East Anglia before becoming a full-time writer. She is married to the writer D. J. Taylor and they have three sons. Her last novel, The Love Child, was a Sunday Times bestseller.

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Synopsis:

The year is 1928, and Minnie is supposed to find a nice man, get married and have children. The problem is it doesn’t appeal to her at all. She is working as a secretary, but longs to make a difference.
 
Then, one day, she gets her chance. She is recruited by the British government as a spy. Under strict instructions not to tell anyone, not even her family, she moves to London and begins her mission – to infiltrate the Communist movement.
 
She soon gains the trust of important leaders. But as she grows more and more entangled in the workings of the movement, her job becomes increasingly dangerous. Leading a double life is starting to take its toll on her relationships and, feeling more isolated than ever, she starts to wonder how this is all going to end. The Russians are notorious for ruthlessly disposing of people given the slightest suspicion.

My Thoughts:

I have always loved stories about women that were spies in the time before and around the Second World War. There is something I always admire about these women. Their determination to make a difference, their bravery and their dedication, despite the big risks. The willingness to serve a cause, knowing well what the repercussions are.

Through Minnie’s life, we got to see the highs and lows of being a spy in a much emotional environment. It was refreshing to see all the emotions Minnie was going through. Being a spy and living a double life impacted her greatly, and we could see her struggling to keep up. This closeness to the character made Minnie much more loveable and relatable person to me as a reader.

I felt that at times, the story would go into one direction for a few pages, but with no apparent goal. Sometimes, this would keep me off track and confuse me. Most of the chapters told a story that achieved a certain goal by the end of a chapter, and in times when this didn’t happen, it really threw me off. It was as if I was waiting for something to happen, and when it didn’t, it left a bitter-sweet taste in my mouth.

However, I truly enjoyed the story, and I devoured it incredibly fast. I only received it a few days ago, and I was wondering if I’ll made it in time to finish it for my book tour stop, but reading it was not an issue. I am so glad that I saw a part of Minnie and her life story, and the fact that this book is inspired by an actual true story is even more fascinating to me.

If you love historical fiction, especially books about women spies, please pick up “A Beautiful Spy” by Rachel Hore. It’s a powerful and emotional adventure about a woman living two lives and wanting to make a difference in the world.

Purchase Links:
 Amazon UK | Amazon US

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Book Review · Books

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna [BOOK REVIEW]

★★★★

Oh my goodness, what a book! The Gilded Ones is the first book in the Deathless series, and it’s already much talked about! Get ready to dive into a YA Fantasy that will brutally show you what happens when society believes oppression is okay. And how one girl, who is deemed different and therefore, cast away from her village, will rise up and fight for her freedom!

I am so thankful to a few teams, for letting me be part of this experience and sending me a copy of this book. Thanks to LoveReading and LoveReading Kids, Usborne YA and Tandem Collective.

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Deka grew up and lives in Otera, a kingdom with patriarchal values. The Kingdom has the Ritual of Purity, where every girl’s worth is being determined by the colour of her blood. When a girl reaches a certain age, she needs to prove she’s “pure”. If she bleeds red, she is “pure” and is accepted as part of the village and required to wear a mask.

When the day comes for Deka to undergo the Ritual of Purity, she bleeds gold – the colour of impurity, of a demon. She faces a consequence worse than death, and is saved by a mysterious woman who tells Deka of her true nature. Deka is an Alaki, a near-immortal with exceptional gifts. And this woman offers her a choice: fight for the Emperor, with the other Alakis, or be destroyed…

“Giving us impossibilities and calling them choices.”

My Thoughts:

The Gilded Ones is everything I expected it to be and more. From the very first page, I cared so much for Deka. As the chapters went on, I couldn’t peel my eyes off the book. Firstly, the world building is spectacular. Namina Forna created this fictional world, and society so cruel that it made me hurt for Deka and the other Alakis.

These people don’t really appreciate and accept the worth of a woman, even when she is considered “pure”. The women in the village are only there to bear children and be housewifes. They are also required to wear a mask to cover their faces. Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with being a housewife and staying home. But it has to be the woman that makes that choice. And in this society, the woman has no voice, no space to make a choice, no other option. And these are the “pure” women we are talking about. What about those that are deemed “different”?

The Alaki

Deka and the others like her bleed gold, and therefore, the society thinks they are evil. The society is afraid of anything that is different to them, and therefore rejects it. These girls are subject to terrible things, And through Deka and her friends’ experiences, we find out about the most gruesome and brutal things that can happen to women, in a society led by men and voiceless women. These girls now have to fight for the Emperor, having no other choice, and stay together. However, they have some unexpected powers, especially Deka, that with time, she will learn to use. Their training and battles will teach them things that will change them forever.

“The physical body – it heals. The scars fade. But the memories are for ever. Even when you forget, they remain inside, taunting you, resurfacing when you least expect.”

Remember your scars! Embrace them! Let them remind you where you came from, what you went through. Let them remind you how much you’ve achieved! Without those scars, you would never be the person you are today.

As a YA Fantasy, The Gilded Ones exceeds everything!

There is danger, adventure and magic. There is Deka’s main storyline, that drives the story forward as we learn more about her and her role in this world. But there are also the stories of her many Alaki friends she meets, all bearing their own weight, all powerful and emotional in their own way. I especially loved that we had a romance creeping into the book, but it so subtle and never took importance in the story. I loved how independent Deka was, and how well represented it was that love can exist in your world, and you can care about someone, but it doesn’t have to define you as a person, or affect your decisions. This is not the case with most of the YA Fantasy books, and I am so glad that this book focused on it.

Namika Forna wrote a masterpiece, and this book will go a long way! It’s all about that raw brutality and pure emotions dripping into every single page. My heart was breaking for Deka, Britta, Belcalis and the other girls! The Gilded Ones is a book that shows how to live past the stereotypes, and when oppressed, to fight for freedom! It shows in a brutal way what would happen if a certain behaviour becomes supported by the general public and becomes the new norm. It also shows that you can fight through it. And considering today’s world is not too far off from this fantasy, hopefully we’ll all learn a little bit more about important topics worth talking about!

Purchase Links:
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Book Review · Books

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman [BOOK REVIEW]

★★

After reading all the books in the Arc of a Scythe series and loving them all, I couldn’t say no to a new Neal Shusterman book. After all, his writing is magnificent. I am so thankful to Hanna from SparkPoint Studio, for providing me with an e-arc Netgalley copy of Game Changer.

Read my reviews of the Arc of a Scythe series:
1. Scythe
2. Thunderhead
3. The Toll

Synopsis:

Ash is a football player. And by football player, I mean hand-egg player. He plays rugby. You get my point. Anytime he takes a hit on the field, his life changes. He moves into another dimension, or an alternative reality, where things are slightly different from his previous reality.

At first, his changes are small and insignificant. However, they quickly turn into universes where society is stuck in the past and he finds himself looking at life with an entirely different perception.

And if he isn’t careful, the world he’s learning to see more clearly could blink out of existence…

My Thoughts:

The reason I loved all the Arc of a Scythe books were mainly because of Neal Shusterman’s writing, ability for storytelling and incredible world-building. The writing in Game Changer was great, and the idea about the alternative universes was phenomenal! I was hooked, and it was quite easy to get into. I read it very quickly and enjoyed reading it overall. However, the world building and the entire plot somewhat lacked purpose. This was the main thing I struggled with through the entire book.

Neal Shusterman takes on many important topics, and through Ash, he covers these as he moves into each alternate universe. He faces a world where segregation is normal. A world where his sexual orientation changes, and even a world where he wakes up one day as a woman. Alongside these changes, there are other changes as well, like drug dealing, trying to help a person that might be in an abusive relationship, even eliminating people along the way with no consequences.

All of these topics are extremely important, and each of these need to be talked about.

There need to be books that cover these issues, and I am glad this book exists because of that reason. Because at least people, especially young readers, will be aware of these issues if they pick up this book. However, I think that because of the way this book was set up, and how quickly Ash moves from one universe to another, the issues don’t really get resolved. Even by the end, where he ends up being the hero, he hasn’t really fixed anything, or raised any awareness. It ends up with the “Meh, it could’ve been much worse (because I’ve been in the alternate universes, and trust me, I know)”. And this didn’t sit well with me at all.

I rooted for him to make a change for everyone that is impacted. Not just for himself, and when it affected him. I wanted him to fight for his best friend, when Leo got separated from him in the universe where segregation was legal. And I wanted him to keep fighting, but he didn’t really even try. And no, organising a high-school dance party that includes black people is not considered helping when one of your friends is in prison for no apparent reason. I just expected more from Ash…

However, considering how complicated of a character Ash is, and how much he seems to be unaware and uninterested in general issues, unless it directly affects him, it made me think that perhaps, this was Neal’s point all along? Create a character like him to provoke a discussion, provoke a reaction, and show us that we need to play our part in society as well if we want true changes. I want to think that this is the case, and for that, I would still recommend it to young readers.

Game Changer is nothing like the Arc of a Scythe series.

But it will make you think about important topics such as racism and sexuality. Even though I wasn’t quite satisfied with Game Changer, I still think it’s a very important read. Especially for the current and future generations. And I hope that some day, this book will age in a way where the issues that are covered will be redundant.

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK | Amazon US

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