Confessions of a Reader

'Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.' – Mason Cooley


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Book Review // The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

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Format: Paperback
Published: 12th March 2015
Publisher: Phoenix (Orion Publishing Group Ltd)
Pages: 238

This is a non-spoiler review.

Blurb:

A wondrous and redemptive debut novel, set in a stark world where evil and magic coincide, The Enchanted combines the empathy and lyricism of Alice Sebold with the dark, imaginative power of Stephen King.

“This is an enchanted place. Others don’t see it, but I do.”

The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Fearful and reclusive, he senses what others cannot. Though bars confine him every minute of every day, he marries magical visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs, with the devastating violence of prison life.

Two outsiders venture here: a fallen priest, and the Lady, an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners’ pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honor and corruption-ultimately revealing shocking secrets of her own.

Beautiful and transcendent, The Enchanted reminds us of how our humanity connects us all, and how beauty and love exist even amidst the most nightmarish reality.

First Sentence:
This is an enchanted place. Others don’t see it but I do.

My Thoughts:
I just absolutely adored this book. It was – for me – absolutely beautiful. Dark, poetic, intense and thought-provoking. I’ve not read a book quite like this in a long time, if ever.

Firstly, this is Rene Denfeld’s non fiction debut – which astounds me. The way this book is written suggests an author with many, many previous works. I didn’t know what to expect when starting this book, it took me a few pages to really get sucked into the story. It has a writing style that I’m not used to, you need to savour the words. The prose is so beautifully written, every single word flowed with such ease. It is truly stunning.

The Enchanted explores many different themes. Here are just a few that I picked up on whilst reading – identity, loss, love, crime, reality of prison and death row, imagination, redemption, longing, understanding and being accepted. 

I really enjoyed the POV the story is told from. Choosing a death row inmate to tell the story, as opposed to an outsider, was a brave and brilliant decision. It is unlike anything I’ve read before. I found my feelings and values completely contrasting throughout the book because of this narrator. I felt absolutely horrified in some respects, and then I found myself feeling sorry for him – even though I knew that morally he had done something wrong. This, in my eyes, is the work of a great author.

The character ‘stories’ were so intriguing. Each of them were like real people, they have been created and moulded into people that I felt I knew. The pain, heartache and suffering in all of them was so heartbreakingly raw – it mustered up so many different emotions in me.  

I researched Rene Denfeld and found out that she is in fact a death-penalty investigator herself. What an amazing insight into the world of crime, death row and the people who are considered monsters. It really gave the book that extra ‘edge’ for me.

A deep and beautifully written book, that has so many underlying messages. Raw, real and edgy. I will definitely be adding this to my favourites shelf.

StarRating5 out of 5 stars

Website: renedenfeld.com
Twitter: @renedenfeld


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Birthday Book Haul!

Hello!

I recently celebrated my Birthday and naturally got some lovely new books. I may add more to this pile – I still have some money left and I might venture into a few charity shops. Here is what I have (so far!) –

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His Other Life by Beth Thomas // The Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson // The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld // Me Before You by JoJo Moyes // Half A King by Joe Abercrombie //Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

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The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

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Wailing Ghosts by Pu Songling // The Terrors of the Night by Thomas Nashe

I haven’t gone completely overboard, as I am still trying to cut down my TBR pile. I don’t actually have physical shelves for these books at the moment either, so they are all stored in a huge box – not very practical.

Have you read any of these? Are there any new releases that you would recommend?


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Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted buy The Broke and The Bookish. Each week they post a new topic and invite everyone to share their lists.

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Top Ten Books on my Spring TBR List

This isn’t based on spring or 2015 releases, but it is a list of books I really want to get to within the next few months.

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The Death House – Sarah Pinborough // A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J Maas // The Doll’s House by M J Arlidge // Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier // All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

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I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith // Heir of Fire – Sarah J Maas // Final Empire – Brandon Sanderson // Stolen – Lucy Christopher // Half a King – Joe Abercrombie

Have you read any of these? Are there any that you think I need to read immediately?

Thanks for stopping by, Happy Reading!


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Book Review // Charm by Sarah Pinborough

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Format: Hardback
Published: 18th July 2013
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 224

BUY: Amazon | Book Depository

This book will count towards my British Book Challenge.

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

CHARM is a beautifully illustrated re-telling of the Cinderella story which takes all the much-loved elements of the classic fairytale (the handsome prince, the fairy godmother, the enchanted mouse, the beautiful girl and, of course, the iconic balls) and puts a modern spin on the characters, their motives and their desires.

This is fun, contemporary, sexy, and perfect for fans of ONCE UPON A TIME, GRIMM, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN and more.

My Thoughts:

I actually enjoyed this novel more than the first in the trilogy, Poison. The second instalment tells a reworked version of Cinderella, with appearances from characters who appear in the first novel.

The plot worked well for me, it was fast-paced and actually only took me just over a day to read. Again, Sarah Pinborough has shown her talent as a creative storyteller. The way in which she has created new, modernised characters and reinvented a well-known fairytale is truly commendable. I really enjoyed how the story went along, I was engaged throughout.

I liked the dark, slightly twisted edge that these retellings have. They aren’t all sweetness, light and ‘Disney-esque’. There is a particular scene involving a little toe, which definitely isn’t part of the Disney version – it was quite gory. I actually liked the darker side to them, it became rather refreshing!

The imagery and descriptions throughout were so vivid, the prose was so well-written and flowed beautifully. Sarah Pinborough writes so effortlessly. I didn’t find the sexual scenes so awkward this time either, which was a plus for me.

The epilogue of this one surprised me. Strange, yet it worked and I definitely didn’t see it coming.

I will read Beauty to finish of the trilogy (and tick another goal off of my 2015 Reading Challenge).

StarRating4 out of 5 stars

Website: www.sarahpinborough.com
Twitter: @SarahPinborough

 

 


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Book Review // Poison – Sarah Pinborough

Poison

Format: Hardback
Published: 18th April 2013
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 200
Series/Standalone?: Series (#1 Tales from the Kingdoms)
Genre: Adult Fantasy: Fairytale Retelling

BUY: Amazon | Book Depository

This book is counting towards my 2015 Reading Challenge & British Book Challenge.

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Synopsis taken from Goodreads:

Poison is a beautifully illustrated retelling of the Snow White story which takes all the elements of the classic fairy tale that we love (the handsome prince, the jealous queen, the beautiful girl and, of course, the poisoning) and puts a modern spin on the characters, their motives and their desires. It’s fun, contemporary, sexy, and perfect for fans of Once Upon a Time, Grimm, Snow White and the Huntsman and more.

My Thoughts:

I was SO excited about this book. I am a real sucker for fairytales and modern retellings, so was excited about this. And the cover is pretty! I discovered it whilst looking up Sarah Pinborough’s latest novel ‘The Death House’ on Goodreads, then realised I could use it towards my 2015 reading challenge.

I enjoyed parts of this book but parts of it didn’t work for me at all. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. Firstly, I really liked how the author has given these fairytale characters more depth, more human traits. The novel encompasses desire, greed, envy, isolation, depression and manipulation. The characters are more human, as opposed to just ‘fairytale creatures’. Snow White is a modern, independent girl – no longer doe-eyed and soppy. I liked this, she was gutsy and could drink the dwarves under the table, a great twist on the original.

Secondly, I enjoyed the integration of different characters, to create an entirely new tale. This really is creative storytelling in my eyes.

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I was confused at times as to who the author was writing for. In some parts it could have been for a teen or young adult audience. Then a few pages in we get quite a explicit scene between two characters. I know this is labelled as an adult fiction, clearly due to the erotic scenes and swearing, but some of it could have easily been a YA novel.

The thing that really bothered me was purely down to my personal taste. I don’t enjoy reading particularly erotic and explicit sexual scenes in books. I don’t know why, maybe I haven’t found the right one? I find it very uncomfortable. This novel has a few scenes like this in, luckily not too many. I just found these awkward, I know they may be realistic but they just don’t sit well with me. I maybe should have guessed from the synopsis that it would include scenes like this, but I like to take risks with books sometimes.

So, although I did enjoy elements of this book I didn’t love it. I am hoping that the second novel Charm, may improve slightly – I really want to like this series. I have reserved book #2 from the library, and have already borrowed book #3. I will definitely pick up The Death House, as it has a completely different premise and I was impressed by the authors creative storytelling in Poison.

StarRating3 out of 5 stars

Have you read any books by Sarah Pinborough? Any you would recommend?

Website: http://www.sarahpinborough.com
Twitter: @SarahPinborough

 

 


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Book Review // The Apothecary – Maile Meloy

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Format: Paperback
Published: 1st July 2012
Publisher: Andersen Press UK
Pages: 352
Series/Standalone?: Duology
Genre: Children’s Adventure & Fantasy

BUY: Amazon | Book Depository

This book is counting towards my 2015 Reading Challenge.

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Synopsis taken from Amazon:

A dose of magic could save the world . . .

Fourteen-year-old Janie Scott is new to London and she’s finding it dull, dreary and cold – until she meets Benjamin Burrows who dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin’s father, the mysterious apothecary, is kidnapped he entrusts Janie and Benjamin with his sacred book, full of ancient spells and magical potions. Now the two new friends must uncover the book’s secrets in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies – Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons.

My Thoughts:

I discovered this book after watching a YouTube video by Mercedes at MercysBookishMusings (my favourite booktuber!). I was really intrigued and managed to find it in the library.

I absolutely loved the illustrations in this book. Throughout the entire novel there are gorgeous little sketches, that really add to the atmosphere.

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The plot was action packed and fast paced. It was a real page turner that had me guessing the entire time. I loved the incorporation of potions and magic. Two of the potions enabled the characters to fly and become invisible. I loved this element – an old apothecary creating magic potions and passing down his skills to his son (with obvious mishaps and adventures along the way!).

The story is ultimately about friendship and learning right from wrong. There were points in the novel where I thought young children might struggle with a concept or idea, or struggle to understand some of the terminology. This was immediately remedied by the author, describing the idea in a paragraph or few sentences afterwards. This was done in a non-patronising way, Maile Meloy has definitely written for her target audience.

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Some of the chapters are slightly violent. There is death, kidnapping, characters held at gunpoint. These scenes are not described in too much gory detail though, remaining suitable for the target audience.

There is also a historical element to the novel. Set in the early stages of the cold war, dealing with atomic bombs, radiation, Russia and Soviet spies. Educational value is well disguised within the novel – giving readers an insight into war, the british school system at this time and the importance of family.

A great, fun read that satisfied my need for magic and fantasy. I would definitely like to read the second book, The Apprentices.

StarRating4 out of 5 stars

Website: www.mailemeloy.com
Twitter: @mailemeloy

 

 


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White Hart – Sarah Dalton

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“Don’t let it win by becoming the person it expects you to become. That’s the only thing we can do in our lives, fight against those who put us down.”

      WhiteHart

      Format: eArc (NetGalley) I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

      Published: 5th March 2014
Publisher: Sarah Dalton

Pages: 233
      Series/Standalone?: Series!

      Score: 5 out of 5

 Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Smashwords (free for this week only, with promo code RW100)

 Synopsis taken from Amazon:

Mae never asked to be craft-born. She never wanted that burden.

The realm needs magic again, and the the King of Aegunlund has been waiting for the first craft-born girl to marry his son, Prince Casimir.

In Mae’s town of Halts-Walden, the ambitious miller claims his daughter Ellen is craft-born. Mae knows this is a load of hogwash, but she’s glad Ellen will have the unfortunate pleasure of becoming queen instead of her. All she has to do is sit back and wait until Casimir and Ellen are married, then she will finally be free of the threat of her fate. But on that day an event so shocking and terrible occurs that Mae finds herself entering the neighbouring cursed forest on a quest she never thought she’d have to follow.

Join Mae as she rides her white stag through the Waerg Woods with a pampered prince at her heels. She’s out for revenge and nothing, no one, will get in her way

My Thoughts:

Yes, yes, yes! Yet another YA fantasy novel that I adore – thank you Sarah Dalton!

Firstly, I absolutely LOVE the cover. I was completely drawn in by this and thought it was really simple yet intriguing. It really conveys the fantastical element of the novel, without giving anything away.

The writing, oh my word the writing. Sarah Dalton has a true gift, this book is written beautifully. Each page had such vivid imagery and description, the prose flowed from chapter to chapter, keeping pace and momentum. I felt like I knew everything about the realm, Waerg Woods and villages, but there was still always more to come.

The setting is awesome. A world in which class matters, people are ostracized and isolated due to their heritage. A vile dictator, who calls himself King – I really hated this man! The Waerg Woods are terrifying. Throughout the journey of our main protagonists, Mae and Casimir, the woods become an eerie, fantastical place in which they encounter many hurdles. I won’t give too much away!

Mae and Casimir, I love them! Mae is our female heroine – a strong, independent and stubborn young woman seeking revenge. I enjoyed her struggle with her emotions and inner demons, coming to terms with her gift. I was rooting for her the whole time, willing her to do the right thing!

Casimir is our swoon factor, a royal prince accompanying Mae in order to find his betrothed. At first I wondered if I would grow to like him. He was the stereotypical, pompous prince, spoilt rotten. As the story develops we get to know him better and he certainly shows his vulnerability. Throughout his journey  I feel he builds courage and breaks down his social class prejudices.

Anta, Mae’s stag – he was a wonderful addition to the narrative and became a lifeline, aide, support and friend. Incorporating an animal into the mix is wonderful and not something I have read much of.

The ending……cliffhanger….suspense….Noooooo! I want to know what happens, now! I can’t believe that the story ended as it did, hats off to you Sarah Dalton – I will definitely be purchasing the next instalment!

Thank you for the opportunity to review this book, I wish Sarah Dalton the success she truly deserves.

‘A MUST read! A YA fantasy novel which is beautifully written. A good balance of fantastical elements, romance, and powerful setting. Great characters and vivid description – you will definitely want to read the next one!’

Blitz INTL Giveaway!

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-Signed copy of White Hart + Charcoal drawing
-Ebook copies of White Hart & other Sarah Dalton books
-10$ Amazon gift card

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