5 Stars, Book review, Fantasy, Historical fiction, Katherine Arden

Bee Reviews: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

- the bear and the nightingaleFormat: Paperback, 430 pages

Published: 5th October 2017 by Del Rey

Genres: Fantasy, historical fiction, fairy tales

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…


Review

So, this book was bought for me as a gift. And what a GREAT gift it was. I’ll explain in this review exactly why this book was perfect for me, and why you should read it too.

Nothing changes, Vasya. Things are, or they are not. Magic is forgetting that something ever was other than as you willed it.

So, I’m a Psychology student, and something that we have touched on in class is the concept of a “collective unconscious”. This is basically a part of the unconscious mind that is shared with pretty much everyone in any given circle. Arguably, folk stories, fairy tales – these all contribute to the collective unconscious. If you spoke to any random person in the streets of Britain and started talking to them about, say, Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast, they would know exactly what you’re talking about. You’re on the same wavelength. Magical stories like The Bear and the Nightingale also contribute to the collective unconscious, by weaving together beloved Russian folk stories to make the most magnificent fantasy novel.

“All my life,” she said, “I have been told ‘go’ and ‘come.’ I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me.”

The only thing that tops a fairy tale for me, is a fairy tale from a different culture – it’s fascinating getting an insight into a whole world I didn’t know existed. I’m thrilled to find out this book is part of a trilogy and I can’t wait to read the second installment!

Sleep is cousin to death, Vasya. And both are mine.

I don’t know how Katherine Arden manages to write a fantasy novel that is also so relatable. Although she can see things no one else can, Vasya is just like us. She is spirited, she is headstrong, she is both troubling and troublesome. Although her trials and tribulations are as different as can be from the average person, Vasya is an entirely wholesome protagonist.

It is a cruel task, to frighten people in God’s name.

It’s not just Vasya – I could read a whole novel about any one of the characters. Lovely Olga, sweet Irina, Marina and Pyotr’s backstory, Dushya, Sasha – Arden could release a trilogy on one or all of these characters and I’d pick it up in a heartbeat.

There is magic in your bones. You must reckon with it.

Fair warning: tears *might* be shed. The story has twists and turns, and there’s a lot of love and laughter, but also some loss. More than anything, this is a heart-warming fantasy that anyone can sink right into. I don’t normally compare authors to authors or books to books, but if you loved Uprooted by Naomi Novik, or anything by Eva Ibbotson, you will for sure love The Bear and the Nightingale.

But I think you should be careful, Batyushka, that God does not speak in the voice of your own wishing. We have never needed saving before.

Tip: there’s a glossary of words at the end of the book. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise this until I got to the end.

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3 Stars, Book review, Non-fiction

Bee Reviews: Dare Not Linger – The Presidential Years by Nelson Mandela, and Mandla Langa

 

- nelson mandela

Format: Kindle edition, 384 pages

Published: 19th October 2017 by Macmillan

Genres: Non-fiction, biography

Rating: ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

‘I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.’ Long Walk to Freedom

In 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first president of democratic South Africa. Five years later, he stood down. In that time, he and his government wrought the most extraordinary transformation, turning a nation riven by centuries of colonialism and apartheid into a fully functioning democracy in which all South Africa’s citizens, black and white, were equal before the law.

Dare Not Linger is the story of Mandela’s presidential years, drawing heavily on the memoir he began to write as he prepared to finish his term of office, but was unable to finish. Now, the acclaimed South African writer, Mandla Langa, has completed the task using Mandela’s unfinished draft, detailed notes that Mandela made as events were unfolding and a wealth of previously unseen archival material. With a prologue by Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, the result is a vivid and inspirational account of Mandela’s presidency, a country in flux and the creation of a new democracy. It tells the extraordinary story of the transition from decades of apartheid rule and the challenges Mandela overcome to make a reality of his cherished vision for a liberated South Africa.


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

It’s always difficult finishing the works of someone who has since passed, but Mandla Langa does a great job. That said, Dare Not Linger does still rely heavily on factual information which is in complete juxtaposition to the emotion in Long Walk to Freedom.

 With freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk has not ended yet.

I would recommend this biography more for people who are heavily invested in politics, particularly that of South African politics. I know little about South African politics, so in this sense, Dare Not Linger was somewhat difficult for me to read and fully comprehend.

5 Stars, Book review, Contemporary, Gail Honeyman

Bee Reviews: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

oliphantFormat: Kindle edition, 336 pages

Published: 9th May 2017 by Pamela Dorman Books

Genres: Fiction, adult, contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. All this means that Eleanor has become a creature of habit (to say the least) and a bit of a loner.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of a quirky yet lonely woman whose social misunderstandings and deeply ingrained routines could be changed forever—if she can bear to confront the secrets she has avoided all her life. But if she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

I thought this book was a rom-com. I thought this was going to be another Bridget Jones. I was wrong: it’s so much bigger and better than that.

If the book has one failing, it’s that there is insufficient mention of Pilot. You can’t have too much dog in a book.

I struggled to believe that this was a debut novel. It was so well-written, not a single word was out of place; so well-crafted, you might well believe at first that it was based on a true story (and you might have to keep reminding yourself that it’s not!).

I opted instead for a coffee, which was bitter and lukewarm. Naturally, I had been about to pour it all over myself but, just in time, had read the warning printed on the paper cup, alerting me to the fact that hot liquids can cause injury. A lucky escape, Eleanor!

My favourite thing about this novel is nothing is as you might expect. While reading this novel, I would constantly guess what was going to happen next – and I always got it wrong. The twists and turns through Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine will definitely keep you on edge! You will cry your eyes out – from laughter, and from sadness.

There are so many books in the world – how do you tell them all apart? How do you know which one will match your tastes and interests? That’s why I just pick the first book I see. There’s no point in trying to choose. The covers are of very little help, because they always say only good things, and I’ve found out to my cost that they’re rarely accurate. “Exhilarating” “Dazzling” “Hilarious”. No.

Women are almost always written into one of two categories; they are either the girl everyone clambers to be friends with, or the girl who is too good to be like other girls. Eleanor isn’t either of these. As a protagonist, she is unlikely, unfathomable, and yet somehow a character everyone can, in some way, relate to. She is witty and insightful, and watching her grow throughout the novel made me feel like a proud mother (unlike Mummy).

There are all kinds of reasons why they might not look like the kind of person you’d want to sit next to on a bus, but you can’t sum someone up in a ten-second glance. That’s simply not enough time. The way you try not to sit next to fat people, for example. There’s nothing wrong with being overweight, is there?

Eleanor provides a wonderful, filter-free insight into our world. This covers everything from weird “human mating rituals” like dancing, to the importance of even the briefest of encounters with strangers. Eleanor is an empty vessel just waiting to be filled up with love. No, not love from a romantic partner, as the synopsis might insinuate. She is waiting to be filled up with love for herself.

No one had ever shown me the right way to live a life, and although I’d tried my best over the years, I simply didn’t know how to make things better. I could not solve the puzzle of me.

Seldom do I find a novel that I truly can’t put down. But I managed to finish this book in about six days, which is a testimony of how great this novel is. Honeyman has really done a number on the world with this debut novel, and I can’t wait to read more of her work when it comes. I would highly recommend this novel to absolutely everyone and anyone under the sun.

3 Stars, Book review, Crime, Mystery, Paula Hawkins, Thriller

Bee Reviews: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

into the waterFormat: Hardback

Published: 2nd May 2017 by Transworld Publishers Ltd

Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Crime

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Waterstones


Synopsis

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.


Review

This is no The Girl On the Train, as it was advertised as. And that’s a good thing, because if an author wrote two books that were the same, that would be very boring. This book did fall somewhat flat for me after The Girl On the Train after a first read though. While I had problems with the debut novel, at least it was fast-paced – this certainly was not.

It’s, like, when someone has an affair, why does the wife always hate the other woman? Why doesn’t she hate her husband? He’s the one who’s betrayed her, he’s the one who swore to love her and keep her and whatever forever and ever. Why isn’t he the one who gets shoved off a fucking cliff?

I loved the feminist aspect of this novel. This book is coming for all the people who have crucified women for simply existing. It’s all about how women who dare to speak up or women who prove challenging are silenced – but in this case, silenced in quite a lethal way.

No one liked to think about the fact that the water in that river was infected with the blood and bile of persecuted women, unhappy women; they drank it every day.

Overall, this is a strong follow up novel to the much hyped-up The Girl On the Train. Somewhat difficult to follow but still a very satisfying read.

5 Stars, Book review, Contemporary, John Green, Young Adult

Bee Reviews: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

turtles

Format: Hardback

Published: 10th October 2017 by Penguin

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

It all begins with a fugitive billionaire and the promise of a cash reward. Turtles All the Way Down is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity.


Review

Where do I start with this novel? I wasn’t entirely sure at first where it was going – all I knew was that I was glad not to be Aza. Aza really struggles against her compulsions, and does all the right things but faces all the wrong outcomes in her battle against herself. Aza is a wonderful example of when thinking becomes overthinking, which becomes nothing short of a curse.

This term chronic pain captures nothing of the grinding, constant, ceaseless, inescapable hurt. And the term crazy arrives at us with none of the terror and worry you live with. Nor do either of those terms connote the courage people in such pains exemplify.

But Aza is also just like everyone else: she has to keep up with work in school, she does everything to appease her best friend, she has an overbearing mother to reassure. Throw a little OCD into the mix and, suddenly, everything is even more chaotic. And to make things worse, her potential lover’s father goes missing, and Aza takes it upon herself to solve this mystery.

The whole problem with boys is that ninety-nine percent of them are, like, okay. If you could dress and hygiene them properly, and make them stand up straight and listen to you and not be dumbasses, they’d be totally acceptable.

I cannot put into words how accurately Green portrays the mental health experience; the inescapable thoughts, the constant feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness, and, most of all, the way everyone says they will be there for you and everyone gets fed up. My favourite thing about this novel was how it was all show, not tell. Aza never once spoke about her symptoms: she just felt. The reader gets to see everything first-hand, everything from how Aza’s spirals begin, to exactly how a person with mental health problems can both isolate themselves, and also feel isolated (which are often two separate, although sometimes related, occurrences).

[…] she told me that beauty was mostly a matter of attention. “The river is beautiful because you are look at it,” she said.

I would definitely say this is my favourite John Green book to date. It is raw, emotional, and I didn’t even realise I had a heart until it got broken and remade by this book. It is bursting with Greenesque quotes that will make you laugh, think, and, of course, roll your eyes. I’ve never read another book like this before, and I have certainly not read a book in a while that has made me question whether I really do know it all. This book is filled with love and laughter and, above all, hope. The kind of hope everyone needs. Not the hope that things will get better, because oftentimes that hope is an illusion, but the hope that things will still be okay.

Your now is not your forever.

I would recommend this book for people who fall under the following categories:

  • People experiencing mental health problems (warning: may be triggering as Aza’s compulsions are quite severe)
  • People who have never experienced mental health problems
  • People who think OCD is “cute” or “quirky”
  • Everyone else
  • Turtles

Have you read this book? What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

4 Stars, Book review, Historical fiction, Mystery, Nancy Campbell Allen, Romance

Bee Reviews: The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen

thesecretoftheindiaorchidFormat: Kindle edition

Published: 1st August 2017 by Shadow Mountain Publishing

Genres: Historical fiction, Romance, Mystery

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Wordery


Synopsis

Anthony Blake is in love with his best friend’s sister, Sophia Elliot. But his plans to court her are put on hold when he is forced to resume his role as an undercover spy for the Crown. A secret document listing the names of the entire network of British spies-including his own-has been stolen. To protect Sophia, Anthony cuts off all ties to her and exchanges his life as an honourable earl for the façade of a flirtatious playboy.

Heartbroken and confused, Sophia travels to India, hoping to find healing in one of the most exotic regions of the British Empire. But the exotic land isn’t as restful as she had hoped. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery of a missing sea captain, a possible murder, and a plot that could involve the prince of India. And when Anthony appears at the British Residency, asking questions and keeping his distance from her, she is stunned.

She still loves him, and, in her heart, she knows he loves her too. But how can she rebuild her relationship with him if he won’t confide in her? Does she dare offer her heart to him a second time, or will their love be lost under the India sun?


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

Somehow the fact that this novel is part romance completely missed me when I requested an ARC. Had I known it was a romance novel, I would have skipped it, because I’m human and we tend to stick with what we know. But I’m glad I picked it up because I ended up thoroughly enjoying it!

It’s so difficult writing characters who are complex and likeable, but, for me, the author nailed it perfectly. A book is always easier to read when you like the characters you’re supposed to.

She always insisted that if a man and woman have love and affection, a desire to put each other above all else, that life is liveable under any circumstances.

In terms of the plot, I enjoyed reading about the history between Sophia and Anthony, their funny encounters across the voyage to India, and about the mystery that was to unravel – a missing document containing information that could put all of their lives at risk.

The fact that this novel is set in India also sets it apart from other novels of this genre. It was interesting reading Sophia’s take on being in a completely new country. I managed to devour this book in mere hours and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a light read with a very satisfying ending.

3 Stars, Book review, Michelle Richmond, Mystery, Thriller

Bee Reviews: The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

themarriagepactFormat: Kindle edition

Published: 25th July 2017 by Bantam

Genres: Thriller, suspense

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Wordery


Synopsis

Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.

The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter… Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples. And then one of them breaks the rules. The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule. For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.


Review

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this novel. It’s a bit of a slow-burner, but at the same time, it’s never not enjoyable to read. The novel is told through Jake’s perspective – he talks about how much he loves Alice and how they got married and how they came across The Pact, something of a cult that brings law into marriage. If you don’t pick up that phone call from your spouse, if you’re emotionally unfaithful, The Pact will punish you for it.

Whenever I feel old […] Alice tells me to imagine taking a picture of myself, then to imagine myself twenty years in the future looking at that picture, thinking how young I looked, hoping that I had enjoyed or at least recognised my youth.

The goal of The Pact is to make marriages last. And it does just this – Jake is pleased when Alice comes home earlier from work, and it aids their marriage. Except when Jake and Alice learn that the key to The Pact’s success if that couples who don’t fit in mysteriously disappear. Through prison sentences and torture, Alice and Jake have to find a way of leaving The Pact while holding onto their lives.

Sometimes you just have to walk back across that burning bridge.

This sounds like an exceptionally suspenseful novel. On Goodreads, it’s marketed as a thriller. But for me, it didn’t really have that fast-paced element, except towards the end. It was suspenseful when Alice and Jake were forcefully taken away, and when they went on the run – but it was also anticlimactic in the sense that the build-up didn’t quite match the end result.

The boy is picking the starfish up and throwing them back into the water. The academic approaches and asks, “What are you doing?” And the boy tells him that the tide is going out and the starfish will die. Confused, the academic says, “But there are so many, millions even, how can it matter?” The boy leans down, picks one up, and throws it far out into the ocean. He smiles and says, “It matters for that one.”

I feel this is more a fault of marketing, perhaps. Because for me, I enjoyed this novel as more of a “books that make you think” novel. I’ve never thought harder about the concept of marriage and why it’s so unsuccessful these days. Also, with Jake’s insight as a relationships counsellor, I enjoyed reading the facts about marriage and generally life itself.

The fact of couples  coming together is based more upon timing and circumstance than magic.

To summarise, this was a really enjoyable book to read. I finished it in a day because it was that good. I just wouldn’t say it’s particularly a thriller, perhaps something of a dystopian mystery novel, but definitely a philosophical book that provides a deep insight to marriage.

5 Stars, Book review, Historical fiction, Ian Mortimer, Sci-Fi

Bee Reviews: The Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer

theoutcastsoftime coverFormat: Kindle edition

Publication: 15th June 2017 by Simon & Schuster UK

Genres: Historical fiction, Sci-Fi

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

December 1348. With the country in the grip of the Black Death, brothers John and William fear that they will shortly die and go to Hell. But as the end draws near, they are given an unexpected choice: either to go home and spend their last six days in their familiar world, or to search for salvation across the forthcoming centuries – living each one of their remaining days ninety-nine years after the last.

John and William choose the future and find themselves in 1447, ignorant of almost everything going on around them. The year 1546 brings no more comfort, and 1645 challenges them still further. It is not just that technology is changing: things they have taken for granted all their lives prove to be short-lived.

As they find themselves in stranger and stranger times, the reader travels with them, seeing the world through their eyes as it shifts through disease, progress, enlightenment and war. But their time is running out – can they do something to redeem themselves before the six days are up?


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

This is by far the most quotable novel I have ever read. Mortimer is definitely one of the most skilled writers of our time, in language and through his imagination. His ability to manipulate the reader to feel exactly how he wants them to feel is to be admired.

To hate yourself is to squander the privilege of being alive.

So this poignant story follows two men faced with purgatory if, in the next six days of their lives, they’re unable to perform a pure good deed. The trick is, for each of the six days they live, they’ll be ninety-nine years in the future. Aside from the barrier this presents in terms of language, fashion and technology, good deeds somehow become harder to achieve through the centuries.

There’s so much beauty in the world, don’t close your eyes to it just because you’ve lost your own small patch of happiness.

This is an excellent piece of historical fiction that highlights the changes, both small and substantial, that have taken place over the last few centuries. Funny and factual, I would definitely recommend this novel to people who enjoy reading historical fiction.

People need a common enemy. War is one of those things that binds us together. You could say that men need someone to oppose – otherwise we start fighting among ourselves.

Another dimension of this novel is that it is highly philosophical. John and William together embrace the prospect of dying while pondering the existence of humanity. I feel as though this dimension of the novel should have a whole genre of its own, a “books that make you think” genre, because that would suit this novel perfectly. Rarely do I come across a book that I read, and I feel a changed person afterwards. This is one of those books.

I finally understand the beautiful secret of dying. It is that one may, at last, escape the tyranny of time.

I’m exceptionally impressed by what a good read this book turned out to be and I hope to explore more of Mortimer’s work because if it’s anything like this novel, I’m sure it’ll turn out to be a great read.

4 Stars, Alison Weir, Book review, Historical fiction

Bee Reviews: Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession (Six Tudor Queens, #2) by Alison Weir

ab1Format: Kindle edition

Published: 18th May 2017 by Headline

Genres: Historical fiction

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Wordery


Synopsis

A novel filled with new insights into the story of Henry VIII’s second—and most infamous—wife, Anne Boleyn. The second book in the epic Six Tudor Queens series, from the acclaimed historian and bestselling author of Katherine of Aragon.

It is the spring of 1527. Henry VIII has come to Hever Castle in Kent to pay court to Anne Boleyn. He is desperate to have her. For this mirror of female perfection he will set aside his Queen and all Cardinal Wolsey’s plans for a dynastic French marriage.

Anne Boleyn is not so sure. She loathes Wolsey for breaking her betrothal to the Earl of Northumberland’s son, Harry Percy, whom she had loved. She does not welcome the King’s advances; she knows that she can never give him her heart.

But hers is an opportunist family. And whether Anne is willing or not, they will risk it all to see their daughter on the throne…


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

Okay so I’ve never picked up Phillipa Gregory book in my life even though I have all twelve of her books on my shelves, but I think Alison Weir can give me my fix of Tudor historical fiction novels.

Where do I start with this book? It was enormously long, it took me several weeks to finish, but I enjoyed almost every minute of it. Weir’s writing had a way of magically transporting me 500 years back in time. My experience of reading this novel has implanted scenes in my mind as clear as memory – the views from Hever Castle, the hustle and bustle of Margaret of Austria’s court, every turn of the page was a new experience.

I thought I knew a lot about the Tudors prior to reading this book, but how I was wrong. There was so much to learn, and the facts made this novel all the more interesting. This is Weir, an acclaimed historian, weaving together the facts of Anne Boleyn’s life with a bit of imagination to deliver a novel that’s thrilling from start through until finish.

The only bit that was frustrating as a reader was the length of the novel allocated to Anne Boleyn’s wait for Catherine of Aragon’s and Henry’s marriage to be dissolved. But I think this is a great reflection on how frustrated Anne Boleyn probably felt. I also wasn’t sure about Henry’s characterisation at first, but it was interesting to see the renowned monarch in a different portrayal to that which I had initially imagined.

I would definitely recommend this detail-packed novel to others interested in historical fiction, and I can’t wait to read the prequel Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen.

4 Stars, Book review, Colleen Hoover, Contemporary, Romance

Bee Reviews: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

it ends with us

Format: Kindle edition, 367 pages

Published: 2nd August by Atria Books

Genres: Romance, contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Wordery


Synopsis

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up – she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, and maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily, but Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan – her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

With this bold and deeply personal novel, Colleen Hoover delivers a heart-wrenching story that breaks exciting new ground for her as a writer. It Ends With Us is an unforgettable tale of love that comes at the ultimate price.


Review

Warning: This review contains spoilers and also trigger-warnings for domestic violence.

Okay, so I have very mixed feelings with regards to this book. At first, I’ll be honest, I couldn’t stand it. I loved finding out about Atlas, but that was it. For the first half of the novel, I crawled through it. I hated Ryle, I hated who Lily was when she was with Ryle – but I hated all of this more in the second half of the novel, and this was a good thing.

Imagine all the people you meet in your life. There are so many. They come in like waves, trickling in and out with the tide. Some waves are much bigger and make more of an impact than others. Sometimes the waves bring with them things from deep in the bottom of the sea and they leave those things tossed onto the shore. Imprints against the grains of sand that prove the waves had once been there, long after the tide recedes.

Writing about domestic abuse isn’t easy. Hoover should be commended for writing this in a sensitve, hollistic way. The only thing I didn’t like was how everything worked out so easily. Lily had money, she wasn’t forced to go to work. But this would have been a whole different novel of its own.

I don’t think this is a romance novel. This isn’t about either of Lily’s two love interests. This is about Lily Blossom Bloom (yes, that is her real name) breaking the cycle of abuse, and I’ve never been more proud of a fictional character.

Cycles exist because they are excruciating to break. It takes an astronomical amount of pain and courage to disrupt a familiar pattern. Sometimes it seems easier to just keep running in the same familiar circles, rather than facing the fear of jumping and possibly not landing on your feet.

It’s easy to love someone, slightly less so after they’ve wronged you, but it’s harder still to love yourself enough to leave someone who has hurt you. Lily got there eventually, and it was no easy feat, but she demonstrates the devastating effects of abuse, both from the experience as a bystander, and as a survivor.

Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s the love. If there was no love attached to the action, the pain would be a little easier to bear.

I’m not sure that this is a book I would read again, but it’s certainly one that everyone should read and take lessons from, which, as Hoover says, is the purpose of the book. It’s not so much for entertainment, but a journey of personal growth in itself.