Book Review · Books

The Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore [BOOK REVIEW]

The Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore [BOOK REVIEW]

I had the amazing opportunity to participate in another instagram readalong – this time reading the Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore with some amazing bookstagrammers. We even had a wonderful Q&A chat with the author once we finished the book. Huge thank you to the team at Tandem as well as the publisher, Granta Books, for sending me a copy of the book to read and review!

About The Book:

The Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore [BOOK REVIEW]


Publisher: Granta Books

Pages: 304

Format I read it in: Hardcover

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK | Amazon US

Synopsis:

England, 1643. Parliament is battling the King; the war between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers rages. Puritanical fervour has gripped the nation, and the hot terror of damnation burns black in every shadow.

In Manningtree, depleted of men since the wars began, the women are left to their own devices. At the margins of this diminished community are those who are barely tolerated by the affluent villagers – the old, the poor, the unmarried, the sharp-tongued. Rebecca West, daughter of the formidable Beldam West, fatherless and husbandless, chafes against the drudgery of her days, livened only by her infatuation with the clerk John Edes. But then newcomer Matthew Hopkins, a mysterious, pious figure dressed from head to toe in black, takes over The Thorn Inn and begins to ask questions about the women of the margins. When a child falls ill with a fever and starts to rave about covens and pacts, the questions take on a bladed edge.

My Thoughts:

As soon as I laid eyes on the cover and the synopsis, I knew I had to read it. And it didn’t disappoint at all. I just had to shift my expectations a little bit.

The Manningtree Witches is a book set in England in 1643, where witch hunters were quite popular and many women were killed after being accused of witchcraft. This book is actually inspired by true events that happened in history. The focus was more on the historical aspect and bringing life to the characters, rather than the supernatural elements.

We never get a full clarification whether Beldam West, her daughter Rebecca and the other women were actually witches, and we get a glimpse of their lives and their imprisonment. We get a front row seat of their feelings, and how this impacts them as well as the community. It was so interesting to also get a point of view from the perspective of the witch hunter. As the villain that he is, I loved getting to know his opinion on the situation and his reasoning.

“But if a witch can be in two places at once, as you say, then I cannot prove my innocence by those same means. Nor, it seems to me, by any other. I can say again and again, a thousand times, sir, that I am not a witch, and have no traffic with the Devil nor his spirits, and it will account for nothing. But if I say once that I am, then it will account for everything.”

The writing is very lyrical and also captures the old-style English.

I had to refer to my dictionary a few times, which has now become a rare occasion. And I really enjoyed learning some new words. I’m looking at you – lucre, extemporise, gaol, interlocutor and bray! You can immediately notice the love the author has for poetry. It took me a while to get into it, but after 80 pages I started loving it.

There were times when I was confused about whose point of view I am currently reading about. This slightly interrupted my concentration, but the story was wonderful in terms of timeline and storytelling.

The only reason of my rating is because my expectations were different going into the book. My need for paranormal elements and a bit of witchcraft weren’t satisfied. However, putting my expectations aside, this book beautifully represents the reality of witch hunting and the struggles so many women had to endure during these times.

If you want to read a book about the witch hunting in history, The Manningtree Witches is a wonderful lyrical take on the events that happened in Manningtree. However, if you want a book that has more “witchy” elements – I would suggest you skip this one.

Rating:

★★★

About The Author:

A. K. Blakemore is the author of two full-length collections of poetry: Humbert Summer (Eyewear, 2015) and Fondue (Offord Road Books, 2018), which was awarded the 2019 Ledbury Forte Prize for Best Second Collection. She has also translated the work of Sichuanese poet Yu Yoyo (My Tenantless Body, Poetry Translation Centre, 2019). Her poetry and prose writing has been widely published and anthologised, appearing in the the London Review of BooksPOETRYPoetry Review and The White Review, among others. 

Her debut novel, The Manningtree Witches, will be published in 2021 by Granta in the UK and Catapult in the US.

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Book Review · Books

The Elephant in the Room by Holly Goldberg Sloan [BOOK REVIEW]

The Elephant in the Room

I am so excited to finally share with you my review of The Elephant in the Room by Holly Goldberg Sloan. It was a true pleasure to read this book, and I devoured it very fast!

About The Book:

The Elephant in the Room


Publisher: Piccadilly Press

Pages: 256

Format I read it in: uncorrected proof

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK | Amazon US

Synopsis:

In this beautiful book, we follow young Sila, whose mum had to travel to Turkey one year ago to try and solve her immigration status and be able to return to the United States. Sila is not handling the separation well and is not as happy as she used to be. She doesn’t talk as much as she used to and is ignoring her friends.

One day, she accompanies her father while he’s fixing a truck. On this trip, she meets an elderly man who has the most incredible story – he has just won the lottery months ago. Together, they end up rescuing a circus elephant called Veda. And the rescue also leads to Sila helping out during the summer, together with a boy called Mateo.

This summer will introduce Sila to sadness, excitement, friendships and a very unique connections between her, Mateo, and the amazing elephant Veda, who also has a story of her own.

My Thoughts:

The Elephant in the Room is a very heartwarming book and I love how positive it felt, despite the obvious challenges that Sila is facing right from the very start. Honestly, my feelings were enhanced while reading this book, and I recall now how strongly I wanted to hug Sila, when she thought her wearing a certain shirt had an impact to her mum’s fate.

“Goodbyes were more important than they appeared to be.”

We have many characters that are going through a difficult period in their life; Sila is missing her mother, Gio his wife. Veda, the elephant, has been separated from her mum and sent with the circus. And Mateo is struggling to fit in. I wish he could’ve had a glimpse of how Sila and Mateo’s mums were feeling with their situations as well. In my opinion, Mateo’s character is portrayed very beautifully. I loved reading Mateo’s POV, his feelings, his thoughts. And I also love the fact that Veda has a POV as well – that was a very nice touch!

“The circus people could teach her to do many things. But they could not teach her to trust them. Or to ever forget her past.”

I really enjoyed this book!

It was very emotional and it highlights how children react to changes in their lives. It also shows the human and animal interaction, and how animals are able to understand feelings, as well as how sometimes humans can communicate better with animals as well. Furthermore, the friendships and the positivity in this book is overwhelming! Good people are all around us, we just have to find them, or let them find us. However, the only remark I have is that this book is too short and I wish the ending was longer. Unfortunately, it all unraveled rather abruptly in the last 20 pages and I wish we dived into that more slowly.

“Is something better because you don’t see it all the time?”

If this book is made into a movie, I would love to see it! I think many people would enjoy watching it as well. To conclude, if you are looking for a heart-warming fast read about a witty girl, unusual boy and an elephant that befriends them, The Elephant in the Room is the book you want.

Rating:

★★★★

About The Author:

Holly Goldberg Sloan was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and spent her childhood living in California, the Netherlands, Istanbul, Washington, DC, and Oregon (where she graduated from high school).

The mother of two sons, Holly lives with her husband (the writer/illustrator Gary Rosen) in Santa Monica, California. I’ll Be There was her debut novel. Her next book, Counting By 7s, was Amazon’s best novel of the year for middle grade. Her book Just Call My Name is a follow up to I’ll Be There and takes place several months after the ending of the first novel.

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Book Review · Books

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1) by Sarah J. Maas [BOOK REVIEW]

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1) by Sarah J. Maas [BOOK REVIEW]

It took me so long to start reading House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas and now that I’ve read it, I am so hyped for the next book. I wish I started it sooner, but I’m also glad I didn’t, because now I don’t have to wait too long for the second book in the Crescent City series.

About The Book:

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1) by Sarah J. Maas [BOOK REVIEW]


Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Pages: 803

Format I read it in: hardcover

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK | Amazon US

Synopsis:

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

My Thoughts:

Oh my goodness, what a turbulent masterpiece this was! I didn’t expect so many plot twists. And I didn’t expect to care about so many people in this book! My emotional tank can only take so much!

I was reading House of Earth and Blood for a whole month, and I realised that I read books longer when I’m really devouring them. This book was one of those. The beginning was slow, but I enjoyed diving into this new world Sarah J. Maas created. And then we had a big plot twist and I was both heartbroken and hooked.

I loved how slowly we get to know Bryce, and at the same time, she slowly gets to know herself better too. We start to understand why she is the way she is. The way she copes with grief and is unable to trust anyone was so relatable to be, and this is also the reason why I enjoyed the slow burn romance as well. It fit so well with Bryce’s character and with her story.

The world was confusing at times, but things began to clear up near the end. I am also sure that when the next book comes, it will clear more things up as well. My favourite bits were the Drop ritual and the concept of different houses. I am looking forward to see the rivalries and perhaps even a bit of history between them. That’s something I think I will really enjoy.

Aside from Bryce, we get to know Athalar Hunt as well, and I really loved his story too. His story is so sad, especially his enslavement. I also couldn’t help but admire his loyalty to Bryce, especially in the end. And his ability to speak up and act for what he truly believes in, and what he believes is right and fair. But aside from Hunt, this book features so many characters that deserve a mention. Danika, Lehabah, Ruhn, Jesiba are just a few, and they were all so vividly alive and full of spirit, unlike many side characters from other books that often get forgotten.

There is so much I love about this book!

The fantasy that is able to touch reality so well. A world full of magic and powers, but also the core human feelings too. Friendships, love, betrayal and death hits all the same. And even though living in a fantasy world, Bryce is sometimes more real and more human than most of us. Be ready to laugh, cry, fall in love (slowly) and dive into an adventure of good versus evil in another masterpiece created by Sarah J. Maas. Cannot wait for the second book in the Crescent City series!

Rating:

★★★★★

About The Author:

The fantasy writer Sarah J. Maas (USA), January 22, 2020. Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan

Sarah J. Maas is the #1 New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the Crescent City, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and the Throne of Glass series. Her books have sold more than twelve million copies and are published in thirty-seven languages. A New York native, Sarah lives in Philadelphia with her husband, son, and dog. 

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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:
 Amazon UK | Amazon US

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