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:
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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:
 Amazon UK | Amazon US

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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:
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Book Review · Books

Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare [BOOK REVIEW]

Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare [BOOK REVIEW]

★★★★

I was reading Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare as part of the Tandem readalong on Instagram. I love Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter series, and it was such a unique experience to read Chain of Gold while chatting to people about it at the same time. Needless to say, I loved the book, and can’t wait for the second book, Chain of Iron, to come out. Huge thanks also to the team at Walker Books, for the copy of the book!

Synopsis:

Chain of Gold is the first book of the Last Hours series, and it’s set in Edwardian London. We meet shadowhunter Cordelia Carstairs, a warrior trained to battle demons. When her father is awaiting trial for a crime he may have committed, she and her brother travel to London in hope to prevent the family’s shame. Cordelia’s mother wants her to marry into a suitable house, but Cordelia is more determined to be a hero than a bride.

While in London, Cordelia meets her childhood friends, James and Lucie Herondale, and their world of ballrooms and picnics. Cordelia and Lucie are promised to be parabatais when they get older. And Cordelia also has to keep her love for James a secret, who is promised to marry someone else.

But a shocking series of attacks happen in London, and these monsters are nothing like the ones Shadowhunters have fought before. These demons can walk in daylight, damage Shadowhunters with poison and are impossible to kill. With London under quarantine, Cordelia and her friends discover that their own connection to a dark legacy has gifted them with incredible powers—and forced a brutal choice that will reveal the true cruel price of being a hero.

My Thoughts:

I loved Chain of Gold so much! It was everything I expected it to be and more! The story line is a very exciting one and as soon as I got familiar with all the characters and plot, I couldn’t put it down. I have read The Mortal Instruments and The Dark Artifices series prior to reading this book, and the Shadowhunter world felt very familiar to me. I knew some of the names, but it didn’t make much of a difference.

If you have read the Infernal Devices series, many characters will be known to you. But at the same time, if this is your first Cassandra Clare book, you’ll still be able to enjoy it. The first few chapters explain the Shadowhunter world quite well, as well as the Downworlders. In fact, if this is the first book you pick up, it will probably make you want to read the other books as well.

The writing is a masterpiece.

Cassie Clare, as usual, doesn’t disappoint. As soon as I start reading any of her books, I am immediately transported into this fictional world. I also loved the group of friends. It reminded me of the group of friends in the Mortal Instruments series, because of how close they are, and how they are not afraid to sacrifice each other to save one another. They are so unique and different, but that makes them all click nicely together.

“It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives.”

Cordelia was one of my favorite characters. Her bravery and her strong will. I mean, not everyone can wield Cortana, and she managed to do that!

“Ah, the famous Cortana. A sword that bears no runes, yet can kill demons, they say.”

I also loved Lucie’s creative mind and ability to find good in everyone. Also, her amazing ability (not saying anything else). James and his ability to think fast, to lead the group and to be the first one to go into a battle. Anna’s ability to discard the rules and live life as she wants. Matthew and Thomas, as well as Alastair and Christopher, all with their own troubles, but always there for their friends, ready for anything. Jesse. Oh God, Jesse. That boy made me love him so much, especially during the last few chapters. And not to forget, the amazing Jem, also known as Brother Zachariah. He was a true gem in this book, and his advice was priceless to James many, many times.

“We do not get to choose when in our lives we feel pain.” said Matthew, “It comes when it comes, and we try to remember, even though we cannot imagine a day when it will release its hold on us, that all pain fades. All misery passes. Humanity is drawn to light, not darkness.”

It’s always hard to write reviews without spoiling anything.

With Cassandra Clare’s books, it’s exceptionally hard! But I will say this – it’s another YA fantasy into the Shadowhunter universe, and it’s full with magic and intrigue. You’ll start caring about these people, and their lives will be in danger and each chapter will leave you wanting more. There are demons, ghosts, magic, warlocks, faes and vampires. And always shadowhunters, saving the day. I’ll definitely be reading the next book in the series, and I hope you’ll join me too!

Purchase Links:
 Amazon UK | Amazon US

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Book Review · Books

All That’s Dead by Stuart MacBride [BOOK REVIEW]

★★

All That’s Dead is book number 12 in the Logan McRae series, however, each of these books can be read as a standalone, as it features Inspector Logan McRae in different situations. This was my first novel from the series, as well from Stuart MacBride, and I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve only just met the hero that is Logan McRae and I’m planning on hanging out with him more in the future.

Synopsis:

Scream all you want, no one can hear…

Inspector Logan McRae is looking forward to a nice simple case – something to ease him back into work after a year off on the sick. But the powers-that-be have other ideas…

The high-profile anti-independence campaigner, Professor Wilson, has gone missing, leaving nothing but bloodstains behind. There’s a war brewing between the factions for and against Scottish Nationalism. Infighting in the police ranks. And it’s all playing out in the merciless glare of the media. Logan’s superiors want results, and they want them now.

Someone out there is trying to make a point, and they’re making it in blood. If Logan can’t stop them, it won’t just be his career that dies.

My Thoughts:

I had the pleasure to listen to the audiobook by a narrator with a Scottish accent and I loved it! It managed to bring Stuart MacBride’s humour and beautiful writing to life like I wouldn’t be able to do it myself by simply reading.

It took me a while to fully get into the story, and to be quite honest, I never truly did. Mostly it’s because the political aspect of the book was not interesting to me, and I was merely into it from the investigation side of things. This is also the only reason I gave this book a 3-star rating.

Aside from the political aspect, I enjoyed the thriller elements in the book. I was hooked on the investigation scenes, and there were many plot twists that kept me intrigued. Same goes for the storytelling. Stuart MacBride did an amazing job there. I could vividly imagine the scenes only from his descriptions and I really enjoyed his hilarious metaphors. Each character was amazingly done, with their own little storylines and personal development, all culminating into a great ending to sum everything up.

Even though my first, this book will definitely not be my last from the author. If you are looking for a gripping political mystery thriller with a witty inspector, read All That’s Dead!

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