4 Stars, Book review, Crime, Historical fiction, Horror, Lauren A Forry, Mystery

Bee Reviews: Abigale Hall by Lauren A Forry

abigale hall coverFormat: Kindle edition, 376 pages

Published: April 11th 2017 by Skyhorse Publishing

Genres: Historical fiction, Gothic, Crime, Mystery, Horror

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Wordery


Synopsis

Amidst the terror of the Second World War, seventeen-year-old Eliza and her troubled little sister Rebecca have had their share of tragedy, losing their mother to the Blitz and their father to suicide. But when they are forced to leave London to work for the mysterious Mr Brownawell at Abigale Hall, they find that the worst is yet to come…

There are tales that the ghost of Mr Brownawell’s bride-to-be haunts the desolate mansion, and in the village there are shocking rumours of maidservants meeting a terrible fate within its walls. But is it superstition that Eliza should be afraid of or is there something real and deadly lurking in the dark, dusty rooms of Abigale Hall? Yet vicious, cold-hearted housekeeper Mrs Pollard will stop at nothing to keep the mansion’s terrible secrets, and she exerts a twisted hold over Rebecca.

To save herself and her sister descending into madness, Eliza must wage a desperate battle to escape back to London and uncover the horrifying truth before Abigale Hall claims two more victims. Taut and suspenseful, Abigale Hall is a thrilling debut from Lauren A. Forry.


Review

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

It’s difficult to believe that this is a debut novel because, really, it’s too good to be true. This novel was fast paced all the way through with the author giving away enough to keep you guessing – but never more than that.

Packed with horror among other things that will send chills running down your spine, Abigale Hall is everything it should be of its genre, plus a little more. There were times when I was clutching my Kindle close to me, screaming in anticipation, something that no novel has ever made me do before.

There are more mysteries for Eliza to unravel than that of Victoria’s ghost, Mr Brownawell’s wife-to-be before she met her untimely death. Rebecca, Eliza’s sister, is a mystery in herself, as well as the lingering question of what really brought Eliza and Rebecca to the haunted manor in the first place. And will Peter, Eliza’s sweetheart, ever make it to save the two girls?

Everything about Abigale Hall is well thought out, and if this is Forry’s debut novel, I can’t wait to see what else she churns out. Dripping with suspense right the way through, I would definitely recommend this to fans of horror/mystery stories.

Warning: if you’re going to delve into this novel, just remember, fairytale endings don’t exist.

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5 Stars, Book review, Fantasy, Samantha Shannon, Sci-Fi

Bee Reviews: The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon (The Bone Season #3)

the song rising alternate cover

Format: Kindle edition, 384 pages

Published: March 7th 2017 by Bloomsbury

Genre(s): Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Wordery


Synopsis

Following a bloody battle against foes on every side, Paige Mahoney has risen to the dangerous position of Underqueen, ruling over London’s criminal population.

But, having turned her back on Jaxon Hall and with vengeful enemies still at large, the task of stabilising the fractured underworld has never seemed so challenging.

Little does Paige know that her reign may be cut short by the introduction of Senshield, a deadly technology that spells doom for the clairvoyant community and the world as they know it…


Review

I have to admit, I was anxious to read this book for the same reason the author was anxious to write it: the fear of being let down/letting people down. I thought back to all the TV shows I’ve ever watched where the first couple of series were amazing and then suddenly it went downhill and you wonder where it went wrong. But this? You can tell how in touch Shannon is with her characters and her world that she managed to produce another fabulous novel. There’s an art to writing a series, and much more so a septology (further reading: J. K. Rowling), that few writers can master – and Shannon is right up there with them.

The third book in the series is every bit action-packed as promised. I’ve been busted a few times by colleagues at work from where I’ve been unable to stow my Kindle away quick enough because this book is just that good. There’s a lot of world-expanding here as there have been in the first two books which some authors might find off-putting to write about but Shannon takes it in her stride.

I imagined, too. And so imagination became my nemesis; my mind created monsters out of nothing.

To put into perspective just how much I love this book: I rarely delve into the fantasy genre anymore. I’ve been let down time and time again by fantasy / YA authors (and you only have to scroll back a few posts for an example). But this is the one fantasy series I would recommend to anyone who’s never tried out the genre before. Everything is just extraordinarily thought out, you could almost believe it were real – and that’s before you compare the political agenda of Scion 2059 to real life 2017.

Another favourite about this novel is that Shannon doesn’t do the typical fantasy / YA thing and kill for shock value. Everything is calculated and you could almost believe Shannon cares as much about her characters’ welfare as the typical overly-emotional reader (such as myself). That said, I did nearly cry on the bus when a character died – as often is the case in war – but it would have been unrealistic if no one ever died.

What I will tell you is that you cannot force yourself to mourn. Sometimes, the best way to honour the dead is to simply keep living. In war, it is the only way.

Needless to say, I can’t wait for the remaining four novels, and if there’s a two-year gap between each novel, then so be it. A masterpiece doesn’t happen overnight, and I’m glad to witness the creative journey that is The Bone Season series.

My only qualm with this novel is that everyone knows going from Folkestone to Calais is much better than going from Dover to Calais, but I might just be showing my roots here.

4 Stars, Book review, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, William Horwood

Bee Reviews: Hyddenworld (Spring) by William Horwood

hyddenworld william horwoodFormat: Paperback, 505 pages

Published: January 1st 2011 by Pan Publishing (first published January 1st 2009)

Genre(s): Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon


Synopsis

It has lain lost and forgotten for fifteen hundred years in the ancient heartland of England – a scrap of glass and metal melded by fierce fire. It is the lost core of a flawless Sphere made by the greatest of the Anglo-Saxon CraeftLords in memory of the one he loved. Her name was Spring and contained in the very heart of this work is a spark from the Fires of Creation.

But while humans have lost their belief in such things, the Hydden – little people existing on the borders of our world – have not. Breaking the silence of centuries they send one of their own, a young boy, Jack, to live among humans in the hope that he may one day find what has been lost for so long. His journey leads him to Katherine, a girl he rescues from a tragic accident – it’s a meeting that will change everything. It is only through their voyage into the dangerous Hyddenworld that they will realize their destiny, find love and complete the great quest that will save both their worlds from destruction.

Their journey begins with Spring…


Review

This book had me feeling mixed emotions initially. It’s very confusing, so, readers, sit tight! This is by no means a light read, but a very rewarding one. Horwood has an exceptional imagination, and his style of writing is otherworldly. This is a comment recycled over and over again by critics, but there truly is something Tolkienish about Horwood’s writing.

The things I didn’t like about this book include that it was confusing, long-winded, said something in several chapters that could have been written in one. Again – very Tolkienish. There was also something magical, enchanting, bewitching about this novel, and I can’t wait to continue the adventure in the sequels! I hope they’re just as spectacular, and the reading experience is just as enthralling as it has been for this one.

Fantasy, J R R Tolkien, Samantha Shannon, Sara Raasch, Top 5 Wednesday, YA Fantasy

Top 5 Wednesday: Five Fantasy Books On Your TBR

(This is part of a meme hosted by the Top 5 Wednesday Goodreads group.)

Again, my top five list is rather lacking, so if you have any great fantasy reads that I’m missing out on, please let me know!

1. The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon (The Bone Season #3) is the most anticipated fantasy novel of the year. This series follows Paige Mahoney, now-Underqueen of London’s criminal population, as she navigates life as a clairvoyant in the 2050s. The third novel in the septology promises to be just as captivating and dangerous as the 2.5 books before it.

2. Beren and Lúthien is the latest posthumous novel to be released by J. R. R. Tolkien (edited by Christopher Tolkien). This love story promises to be very different to your typical romance novels. A forbidden love between a mortal man and an immortal Elf is by no means an easy when your father-in-law sets you on a mission that puts everything, including your life, at stake.

3. Okay, I know that Frost Like Night by @sararaasch (Snow Like Ashes #3) has been on my TBR pile for a very long time, but I’m too uncertain about what I’m going to do with my life when I finally put this series to rest! The final installment that follows Miera’s struggle in bringing the kingdoms of Primoria together to fight the Decay that threatens their land is, I’m sure, going to be every bit action-packed as it sounds.

Do any of these books particularly take your fancy? Is there anything obvious that I’m missing? Let me know in the comments!

5 Stars, Ayisha Malik, Book review, Romance, Women's Fiction

Bee Reviews: The Other Half of Happiness by Ayisha Malik (Sofia Khan #2)

the other half of happiness coverFormat: Kindle edition, 448 pages

Released: April 6th 2017 by Zaffre

Genre(s): Women’s Fiction, Romance, Muslim Fiction

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Wordery


Synopsis

Sofia Khan is just married. But no-one told her life was going to be this way…

Her living situation is in dire straits, her husband Conall is distant, and his annoyingly attractive colleague is ringing all sorts of alarm bells.

When her mother forces them into a belated wedding ceremony (elopement: you can run, but you can’t hide), Sofia wonders if it might be a chance to bring them together. But when it forces Conall to confess his darkest secret, it might just tear them apart.

A book to make you smile, laugh and cry, this is the story of a mixed-race marriage and a mixed-up family, for anyone who’s ever struggled to balance their pride with their principles, or stuck around to try to mend a broken heart.


Review

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

I honestly don’t know where to start with this. To impress upon you just how much I enjoyed reading this book, I managed to finish it in five days, a record as of late. I was hooked from the very beginning, something I rarely find in books these days. I was actually constantly going on about it to my friends, another rare thing I get from books these days.

Note to self: Must not become person who pretends their life is perfect via the medium of social media.

Let’s start with the negatives: the book could have done with more editing, Sofia often contradicted herself in places, but this is only a minor detail I picked up on. I also picked up on some typoes but this could be exclusive to the ARC copy.

Everything else: now I really don’t know where to start. Sofia’s perspective was a wonder; she notices everything and points it out in a way you might not have thought of before. She’s by far the funniest protagonist I’ve read of so far, so if you’re looking for a laugh, please pick up this book right away! Sofia and her friends’ endless tales of mischief are hilarious, and her problems as a thirty-something-year-old struggling to make it in a hectic world are still as relatable as the problems of your average protagonist.

People don’t get what they deserve generally, do they?

Mum didn’t deserve to lose her husband. Auntie deserved one who appreciate her. Murderers don’t deserve freedom. But if we all began thinking about what we deserve and what life gives us, well: that way bitterness lies.

Another good reason to pick up the book? Connall O’Flynn. Aside from being Irish (which has its own attractiveness by itself), he’s the strangest, most enigmatic character I’ve come across recently, and this has little to do with the fact that he’s struggling to navigate his way through life as a Muslim convert.

On a slightly more serious note, this novel also touches on issues of perceptions of Islam, without being preach-y. If you’re curious about the end product of the mixing of two completely different cultures, I would certainly recommend this novel. It’s different, funny, insightful, and it will answer all of your basic questions about the religion that we see so much of in the news (for all the wrong reasons).

I told him that brown weddings tend to be less about the bride and groom bound to each other for eternity and more about three hundred guests, bound to the promise of biryani.

This novel is categorised as “Women’s Fiction”, but really, it can be enjoyed by anyone: woman, man, non-binary, Asian, white, Muslim, non-Muslim, etc. This is the first book I’ve ever read with a non-white protagonist and I’ve discovered a whole realm of underrated fiction.

The one thing I’m sad about is that the author is unlikely to write further books about Sofia Khan’s adventures, in favour of writing for a different sort of genre. Which is fair, but this book doesn’t feel like closure for Sofia’s fictional life; rather, the beginning of some new adventures!

3 Stars, Book review, Historical fiction, Romance

Bee Reviews: Unnoticed by Amanda Deed

cover108951-largeFormat: Kindle edition

Published: March 1st 2017 by Rhiza Press

Genre(s): Christian Fiction, Romance, Historical Fiction

Rating:  ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Wordery | Book Depository


Synopsis

Plain Jane O’Reilly is good at being unnoticed. Detested by her stepmother and teased by her stepsisters, Jane has learned the art of avoiding attention. That is until Price Moreland, an American with big dreams, arrives in her small town.

Does she dare to hope someone might notice her?

However, Price Moreland may not be the prince that the whole town thinks him to be. Was his desire to be a missionary a God-given call, or just a good excuse to run from his past?

Complete with an evil stepmother, a missing shoe and a grand ball, Unnoticed takes the time-old Cinderella fairy tale and gives it an Australian twist.


Review

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

I’ve read a lot of Christian fiction novels in my time – they’re quite enjoyable in a historical context – but this is definitely the most Christian one I’ve read so far. This is by no means a criticism as it can still be enjoyed by anyone, but more a heads up if it’s not really your thing.

Something I wasn’t sure I could get with was the author’s continuous use of description. You could probably go pages without any real action or dialogue, just the characters reflecting on themselves, which is important but also could happen in other ways. Additionally, miscommunication as a plot line can only be used so many times – and this novel certainly exceeded this.

Aside from this, the characters were pleasantly enjoyable. They were all written in-depth, a far cry from the original telling of Cinderella where people are evil because they just are. Deed certainly displays her deep understanding of human nature in this novel which makes it such a good read. My favourite parts included Deed exploring issues with the Christian community, and when the characters you thought were wicked turned out not to be so wicked after all.

2 Stars, Book review, Sci-Fi

Bee Reviews: September Sky by John A Heldt

 

september skyFormat: Kindle edition, 412 pages

Published: January 1st 2015 by John A Heldt

Genre(s): Sci-Fi

Rating:  ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon


Synopsis

When unemployed San Francisco reporter Chuck Townsend and his college-dropout son, Justin, take a cruise to Mexico in 2016, each hopes to rebuild a relationship after years of estrangement. But they find more than common ground aboard the ship. They meet a mysterious lecturer who touts the possibilities of time travel. Within days, Chuck and Justin find themselves in 1900, riding a train to Texas, intent on preventing a distant uncle from being hanged for a crime he did not commit. Their quick trip to Galveston, however, becomes long and complicated when they wrangle with business rivals and fall for two beautiful librarians on the eve of a hurricane that will destroy the city. Filled with humor, history, romance, and heartbreak, September Sky follows two directionless souls on the adventure of a lifetime as they try to make peace with the past, find new purpose, and grapple with the knowledge of things to come.


Review

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

I would like to preface this by saying that perhaps I wasn’t the best candidate for reading this novel. My review could potentially be biased as I don’t often read books of this genre, so maybe I’m not as appreciative of Heldt’s writing as much as someone else would be.

Let’s start with the positives. This novel is certainly the work of creativity unparalleled in a field where there is an abundance of recycled plots and ideas. It’s very refreshing being presented with Chuck and Justin’s antics, and this novel certainly challenged my perception of the world, both in terms of historical contexts and modern day too. Heldt has a lot of potential as an author to expand on his ideas and take them to the next level. But there were also some points to consider for the next novel Heldt writes.

This novel doesn’t really start until a quarter of the way through. I wouldn’t recommend this novel to someone with pea-sized patience like myself. The other thing that really bugged me was the characters. I didn’t really have much of a problem with Justin, but Chuck somehow felt too wooden to me. In spite of the novel practically surrounding him, with his perspectives, his history (both recent and ancestral), Chuck never came to life for me. For me, this was the most off-putting thing. Whether this is down to the writing or how the story turned out, it’s difficult to ascertain. But this novel remains a strong indication of Heldt’s superb writing abilities!

Sarah J Maas, Top 5 Wednesday, YA Fantasy

Top 5 Wednesday: Books You Felt Betrayed By

top5wednesdayfantasy02_1

top5wednesdayfantasy2_2

(This is part of a meme hosted by the Top 5 Wednesday Goodreads group.)

1. The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas: I’m quite an easily pleased reader, so, after my friends showered this series with praise endlessly, I was quite looking forward to reading it.

This series follows Celaena Sardothien, an assassin who is punished for her crimes by serving in the salt mines of Endovier, but brought back to Adarlan with the promise of freedom if she successfully wins a competition under the training that the Crown Prince, Dorian, can offer her. But under the rule of the magic-hating King, things quite quickly go awry for Celaena in the proceeding novels.

The first book in the series was very promising, the second book slightly less so but still a pleasure to read. After the third one though – I had to wonder what in the world went wrong. I stuck with the series until the fifth book, Empire of Storms, came out last September, upon which I decided I might not read the next book, or indeed, Chaol Westfall’s novella to be released later this year which will undoubtedly do the character even further injustice.

I feel betrayed by these books because they held so much promise. In my opinion, the series should’ve ended after Crown of Midnight.

Am I being too harsh or do you agree? Do you have extra thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments!

4 Stars, Book review, Romance, Women's Fiction

Bee Reviews: Love in an English Garden by Victoria Connelly

love in an english garden victoria connellyFormat: Kindle, 320 pages

Published: 14th March 2017 by Lake Union Publishing

Genre(s): Women’s Fiction, Romance

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Wordery


Synopsis

The Jacobs family has lived at Orley Court for generations. But when Vanessa Jacobs’s husband dies and leaves the property to her, she finds costs spiralling out of control. In order to stay in their beloved home, she and her daughters will have to sell part of it off—a decision that drives a wedge between Vanessa and her live-in mother-in-law.

The new owners of the north wing are Laurence Sturridge and his father, Marcus. Laurence wants to escape the constant pressure of his corporate job in London, while Marcus longs to heal from the grief of losing his wife. Could the beauty of Orley Court offer them a fresh outlook on life?

As the two families embark on a challenging new chapter over the course of a glorious English summer, secrets are revealed and relationships tested. But as Orley Court begins to weave its magic over them, will it be love, above all, that brings the two families together?


Review

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

Connelly only had to whisper the words “Orley Court” to have me hooked. Anything to do with old English manor houses, courts, castles, is already a must-read on my list. This novel is every bit promising as the synopsis sounds. Connelly is an exceptional writer who has a power with words that very few authors seem to possess these days.

It was hard to comprehend that he’d never see her again, never hear that warm voice on the end of the phone, never sit at the kitchen table whilst she buzzed about making tea. When a person died, they took away so many little everyday things that could never be replaced.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author so I can’t compare it to her previous works. However, Connelley’s sensational ability to intertwine characters and plots to deliver what stories are really about is rare and astounding. The characters’ backgrounds were so varied which made the novel so much more interesting, displaying the power of the author’s imagination.

He liked the way the old house seemed to talk to him in a succession of squeaky doors and floorboards. He’d heard that old houses breathed and moved,but he hadn’t really paid that any attention until he’d experienced it for himself.

The only thing about this novel was in the middle and towards the end when some of the writing seemed rushed. Dialogue was sometimes emotionless bar the odd bit of punctuation, and there were passages with detail so little that I, as a reader, couldn’t quite envisage what the author wanted me to. But the worst of the poorly-written parts are still better than many of the better-written parts in other novels, and this is what really stood out in the book for me.

I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who’s interested in the mysterious workings of the world and how sometimes stars align, people meet in all the right places, and the world could be ending but everything just works out.

5 Stars, Book review, Historical fiction, Kate Atkinson

Bee Reviews: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

kate atkinson life after lifeFormat: Paperback, 622 pages

Published: January 30th 2014 by Black Swan (first published March 14th 2013)

Genre(s): Historical fiction, Sci-Fi

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Wordery


Synopsis

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.


Review

I had so many high hopes for this novel, I was worried Atkinson wouldn’t be able to meet my expectations. But every single hope was surpassed with flying colours.

“He was born a politician.”

No, Ursula thought, he was born a baby, like everyone else. And this is what he has chosen to become.

Let’s start with the negatives: some parts did drag. It wasn’t the number of times Ursula’s story was restarted, which was a necessity in a story as complex as this, but it was the ways the story would diverge from what the reader was led to believe was the centre of the story: Ursula. But really, this story was about something a lot bigger than the protagonist, only the reader wouldn’t know this from the first half of the novel.

Her heart swelled with the high holiness of it all. Imminence was all around. She was both warrior and shining spear. She was a sword glinting in the depths of night, a lance of light piercing the darkness. There would be no mistakes this time.

This book was full of wonders I’ve never previously experienced in a book. It brings up questions we don’t often ask, and bears answers we don’t expect. This novel is definitely one for the thoughtful, the ones who question if there’s really more. Heartwarming, tear-jerking and hilarious all at the same time, if this story and its infinite exquisite characters don’t touch you, nothing else will.