Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove #1) – Now up on my BookTube Channel

Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove #1) by Shelby Mahurin

My Rating: ###/5

GoodReads Rating: 4.21/5

Published September 3rd, 2019

 

The below is a summary of my rating and review. A full review is now up on my BookTube channel Octothorpe Reader.

 

I was gifted a copy of Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin by Jonathan Publishers for an honest review.  I did a buddy read with Sandra from @sandsandstories.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.And love makes fools of us all.” – GoodReads

PLOT / STRUCTURE:

####/5

WORLD-BUILDING / SETTING:

####/5

THEME:

##/5

CHARACTERS / CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT:

###/5

DIALOGUE:

#####/5

 

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BOOK DEPOSITORY

 

The Winter Soldier – my new gentleman friend

The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason

My Rating: ####/5

GoodReads Rating: 3.97/5

Published September 11th, 2018

 

I have indicated a spoiler-free and spoiler-included section.

 

“Vienna, 1914. Lucius is a twenty-two-year-old medical student when World War I explodes across Europe. Enraptured by romantic tales of battlefield surgery, he enlists, expecting a position at a well-organized field hospital. But when he arrives, at a commandeered church tucked away high in a remote valley of the Carpathian Mountains, he finds a freezing outpost ravaged by typhus. The other doctors have fled, and only a single, mysterious nurse named Sister Margarete remains.

But Lucius has never lifted a surgeon’s scalpel. And as the war rages across the winter landscape, he finds himself falling in love with the woman from whom he must learn a brutal, makeshift medicine. Then one day, an unconscious soldier is brought in from the snow, his uniform stuffed with strange drawings. He seems beyond rescue until Lucius makes a fateful decision that will change the lives of doctor, patient, and nurse forever…” – Goodreads

I was gifted a copy of The Winter Soldier by Pan Macmillan SA.

Trigger Warnings:
  • Violence and Gore

 

SPOILER FREE SECTION:

I have read many a World War II story, but this is only my second World War I novel.  When a book is praised by authors like Anthony Doerr and Elizabeth Macneal, it has a certain appeal.  Daniel Mason did not disappoint.  Fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, All the Light We Cannot See and The Girl You Left Behind will adore Mason’s writing style.

Lucius only ever wanted to be a doctor. He has visions of breakthrough medical discoveries and exploring the human anatomy (and fleeing from his awful mother), but war is not something he is prepared for… at all. Lucius is posted to a remote field church-turned-hospital, far removed from hygienic operating rooms and state-of-the-art medical technology. His only salvation is a single nurse who has learned what it requires to survive not just the war, but also the aftermath. But the 1914 Austro-Hungarian Empire has unforgivable winters; add to that, brutal war and Lucius is completely out of his depth.

The writing is impeccable.  Mason weaves a story that flows smoothly, is interesting and lets you feel deeply for each character.  The setting is well-crafted and adventures.  There are luscious evening dinners and harsh, gruesome battlefields.  It is a time where PTSD was not considered a medical diagnosis and the only priority is showing up, fighting the war and staying alive.  The story is both heart-warming and heartbreaking.  Part mystery, part war story, part romance – there is something for everyone.

SPOILER INCLUDED SECTION:

Lucius’s character development is relatable.  By the end of the book, I felt that I had made a new gentleman friend and was proud of the young man he had become, even if his story did not have a happy ending.

 

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BOOK DEPOSITORY | LOOT

 

The Confession – First 5-hashtag read of 2020!

The Confession by Jessie Burton

My Rating: #####/5

Goodreads Rating: 4.09/5

Published September 24th, 2019

“Rose Simmons is seeking answers about her mother, who disappeared when she was a baby. Having learned that the last person to see her was Constance Holden, a reclusive novelist who withdrew from public life at the peak of her fame, Rose is drawn to the door of Connie’s imposing house in search of a confession . . .”Goodreads

I was gifted a copy of The Confession by Pan Macmillan SA. This is an unpaid review.

At one point in your life; if you haven’t already, you will read a book that steals your heart, breaks into a million pieces and leaves you broken. This is not that book. This book is the opposite of that. The Confession rips your heart out of your chest, shatters it, leaves you aching and in anguish and then slowly and lovingly puts it back together. Jessie Burton uses Rose Simmons and Constance Holden to wrap their arms around you while you cry for their pain, comforts you with their confessions and helps you put your heart back together whilst piecing together their journeys into a story so beautiful it leaves you breathless.

Trigger Warnings:
• Child abandonment
• Abortion

“I don’t tell people about the yearning. The wonder. I tell them, You can’t miss what you never had!

Rose has always wanted to know about her mother, but her dad has never wanted to talk about Elise. As a little girl, Rose made up stories about her mother; who Elise was, where she came from, why she left… or how Elise died. But as an adult, having grown up without a mother leaves you incomplete. Having grown not knowing one single thing about your mother, leaves you completely incomplete. Rose is unhappy, lost and with no sense of self-awareness – it’s heartbreaking.

“Self-consciousness in a woman’s life is a plague of locusts!”

On a trip visiting her father, he finally provides some information about Elise. A woman named Constance Holden. As Rose tries to contact Constance to find out about her mother, her world is upended most unexpectedly. Who is Constance Holden? Does she have any answers? Does she still have contact with Elise?

“In both books, Holden seemed preoccupied with mothers and daughters, love, the nature and conditions of emotional punishments, and missed opportunity.”

This book is dazzlingly written; it’s like picking up a piece of poetry and seeing each anapest clearly and feeling the rhythm of each verse in your soul – without anyone having to explain it to you. Burton takes what she describes in her quote above about emotional punishment and missed opportunities and crafts a story of self-discovery and redemption. But it’s not for the faint of heart. If you loved books like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid and Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, you will adore this powerful novel about secrets, story-telling, motherhood, and friendships.

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BOOK DEPOSITORY | LOOT

The Beautiful – a Snapshot Review

The Beautiful (The Beautiful #1) by Renée Ahdieh

My Rating: ##/5

GoodReads Rating: 3.65/5

Published October 8th, 2019

This is not a full and comprehensive review, but merely a summary of my thoughts on the book.

PLOT:
#/5 – The plot is very limited and, in some instances, non-existent. Some chapters could’ve been stand-alone(s), as they add no value to the movement of the story.

STRUCTURE:
###/5 – The structure is well-thought-out, but the pace is so slow, that I lost interest 30% in. I was ready to DNF at 40%. I pushed through as I was one of the first people to jump up and down about this book.

WORLD-BUILDING:
##/5 – Here is a city that has so much rich history and culture. The potential is limitless. If you think of New Orleans, you see vibrant colors and celebration, you hear music, you feel curious and intrigued by mystery and a little frightened of all the rumors and legends. All of this could’ve been a beautiful backdrop to a fast-paced, well-loved and complex story (helloooo The Originals ? ? ? ! ! ! !), but it was mentioned ONCE. There is ONE Mardi Gras carnival scene.

THEME:
#/5 – The theme is unclear, and you are not even sure if there are actual vampires until much later in the book

CHARACTERS:
###/5 – As with We Hunt the Flame, the characters are why I wanted to finish the book. The characters are well rounded. There are characters that you want to fall in love with and there are characters that you want to love-to-hate and hate-to-love. The characters are relatable and interesting.

DIALOGUE:
#/5 – Most of the dialogue are thoughts and memories. Very little is spoken between characters and when done, feels disjointed and has you wondering: “what did I miss??”.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January – A Goodreads Choice 2019 Nominee

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

My Rating: ####/5

Goodreads Rating: 4.16/5

Published September 10th, 2019

“When I was seven, I found a door. I suspect I should capitalize that word, so you understand I’m not talking about your garden- or common-variety door that leads reliably to a white-tiled kitchen or a bedroom closet.
When I was seven, I found a Door. There – look how tall and proud the word stands on the page now, the belly of that D like a black archway leading into white nothing. When you see that word, I imagine a little prickle of familiarity makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. You don’t know a thing about me; you can’t see me sitting at this yellow-wood desk, the salt-sweet breeze riffling these pages like a reader looking for her bookmark. You can’t see the scars that twist and knot across my skin. You don’t even know my name…”
– The Blue Door, The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

I was gifted a copy of The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Must Read Books YA SA and Jonathan Ball Publishers. This is an unpaid review.

One of my favorite books from 2018 was The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. When I read the synopsis for The Ten Thousand Doors of January I felt the sentimental longing to go back to Anthony Peardew’s mansion, meet Laura for the first time and discover the story of The Keeper of Lost Things all over again. I had to know if TTTDoJ was going to leave the same wistful affection in my heart.

“But you still know about Doors, don’t you? Because there are ten thousand stories about ten thousand Doors, and we know them as well as we know our names.”

January Scaller is an orphan of sorts. She doesn’t belong anywhere; she doesn’t come from anywhere and she doesn’t know what the future holds. She feels ignored and alone and out of place. When January discovers a strange book that talks about Doors (with a capital D), other worlds, love, and adventure, how can she not read it? With each turn of the page, January’s whole life changes and she discovers there is one door that she will never be able to enter – the door before The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

“But I was done with the fanciful nonsense. No more doors or Doors, no more dreams of silver seas and whitewashed cities. No more stories. I imagined this was just one those lessons implicit in the process of growing up, which everyone learns eventually.”

I get a lump in my throat just telling you about January’s story and this book. It’s not like anything I’ve read before. Alix E. Harrow transports you into a world so magical and so full of adventure, you feel a little like the son or daughter of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, meets The Keeper of Lost Things.

Alix E. Harrow delivers the twists and turns of this magical, fantastical plot with elegance and confidence. Narration in sections of TTTDoJ nods to the narration at the start and end of The Age of Adeline (2015) and these were truly my favorite part(s) of the book. The narrator imprints on you that time weighs heavily on all the characters and for good reason.

“She became something else entirely, something so radiant and wild and fierce that a single world could not contain her, and she was obligated to find others.”

Every chapter is named for the Door discovered in the chapter and gives insight on what to expect throughout the chapter. Will it be a wonderfully lovely Door or a worrisome Door to be wary of? There is the Unlocked Door, the Door to Anywhere, the Door of Blood and Silver, the Burning Door and the Door in the Mist.

January’s Doors is going to stay with me for a long while still…

“…not every story is made for telling. Sometimes just by telling a story you’re stealing it, stealing a little of the mystery away from it.”

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BOOK DEPOSITORY | LOOT | READERS WAREHOUSE

The Guardian of Lies – A perfect read for the upcoming holidays.

The Guardian of Lies by Kate Furnivall

My Rating: ###/5

GoodReads Rating: 3.85/5

Published August 22nd, 2019

Fans of Tom Clancy and Kate Quinn – this one is for you.

“Eloïse Caussade is a courageous young Frenchwoman, raised on a bull farm near Arles in the Camargue. She idolizes her older brother, André, and when he leaves to become an Intelligence Officer working for the CIA in Paris to help protect France, she soon follows him. Having exchanged the strict confines of her father’s farm for a life of freedom in Paris, her world comes alive. 

But everything changes when André is injured – a direct result of Eloise’s actions. Unable to work, André returns to his father’s farm, but Eloïse’s sense of guilt and responsibility for his injuries sets her on the trail of the person who attempted to kill him.” – Goodreads 

I was gifted a copy of The Guardian of Lies by Must Read Books SA and Jonathan Ball Publishers. This is an unpaid review.

What an enjoyable story. This story has all the right ingredients for an intensely satisfying and captivating spy meets historical fiction tale. The writing is fast-paced, the dynamics between the characters are intense and interesting and just the right amount of romance is present so that everyone will enjoy it. I often found myself trying to predict the outcome, but just when I thought I knew who “the bad guys” were, Furnivall introduced a new twist and kept me on the edge of my seat. 

Most Historical Fiction novels are based in WWII (which I absolutely love), so it was refreshing to read a story set in post-war France where new history was being made. In this story, we are introduced to the start of the Cold War, Joseph Stalin, the creation of nuclear weapons and The Space Race. 

My absolute favorite thing about this book is the Southern France setting. The region of Camargue is some of the most natural and most protected regions in all of Europe, so I can just imagine how beautiful it was 65 years ago with The Mediterranean Sea on one side and full, luscious marsh plains in-land. 

Murder, lies, spies and secret agents, loyalty, betrayal, more secrets, more lies, fear, guilt, courage, and French wine – this book has it all!

The Deathless Girls – a Halloween Treat!

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

My Rating: ####/5

GoodReads Rating: 3.76/5

Published September 19th, 2019

Trigger warnings:

  • Threat of sexual assault
  • Animal cruelty and death
  • Slavery and abuse

I was gifted an unproofed copy of The Deathless Girls by Pan Macmillan South Africa for an honest review. This is an unpaid review. I did a buddy read with Tams @bookwolftams.

Ok, first things first, I loved this book and please, please, PLEASE can I have more Kiran Millwood Hargrave to put in my pocket and keep for rainy days.

So when you (see, I said when, not if, because you will want to) pick up this book, you need to put aside the misconception that this is a retelling of Brides of Dracula by Bram Stoker. It is not a retelling; I would classify it as the prequel to Brides of Dracula.

On the eve of their divining day, twin sisters, Lil and Kizzy are enslaved by a cruel lord and brutally taken away from their traveler-family. They are forced to work in a castle, along with Mira, a fellow slave girl. Lil feels drawn to Mira in a way she is not sure she understands. But is Mira, Lil’s happy ever after? Or does fate have something else in mind?

In this book, sacrifices are made, journeys are traveled, and loyalties are tested between sisters, friends, and alliances to understand how the Brides of Dracula became the “weird sisters”. It’s dark, gothic and twisty.

As an only child, I do not have first-hand experience with the bond that exists between sisters, but this book is so beautifully written, I had no problem relating to the unconditional love and the fierce protective instincts sisters have for each other.

The thought-provoking and dark feminist theme is captivating, I could have easily finished it one sitting. Tams and I did a buddy-read and to give ourselves time to read other books and of course; “adult”, we read it over a period of 7 days. At no point, was there any frustration or any “what just happened?”, “what is going on?”, “when does the story start?”. No, both Tams and I just agreed right from the first chapter: “Oh my gosh, I love this book so much!”.

A clear message throughout the book that resonated with me is that home is not a place, but that home is where your person or your people are. Home is wherever you choose it to be and you can change your fate and you are in control of your future.

How far would you go to be free again?