Tag Archives: historical

Book Review: Black Cairn Point by Claire McFall

Published 6th August by Hot Key Books.

25326323Goodreads Synopsis: Two survivors, one terrible truth.
Heather agrees to a group camping holiday with Dougie and his friends because she’s desperate to get closer to him. But when the two of them disturb a pagan burial site above the beach, she becomes certain that they have woken a malevolent spirit. Something is alive out there in the pitch-black dark, and it is planning to wreak deadly revenge.
One year later Heather knows that she was very lucky to escape Black Cairn Point but she is still waiting for Dougie to wake from his coma. If he doesn’t, how will she prove her sanity, and her innocence?

My Review: It’s safe to say I am a huge fan of Claire McFall – Ferryman and Bombmaker are undoubtedly two of my favourite UKYA books. I’ve been eager to read even more of McFall’s work (I can’t get enough of her atmospheric writing!) so when I heard about Black Cairn Point, I was ecstatic.

devoured this book. I was hooked from the beginning, up until the last word. Heather and four of her classmates go on a camping trip, for Dougie’s birthday – it’s an abandoned beach, near an ancient Cairn, which is an old Pagan burial area. But when, suddenly, some terrifying things are beginning to happen, Heather’s certain it’s linked to the Cairn.

The characters are fantastic – just as I’d guessed they be, because years after reading Ferryman, I still have Dylan and Tristan in my head! Heather felt so unflinchingly real to me. The chemistry between all of the characters was brilliant; Claire has captured teenage drama really well, the fluctuating relationships  and rising tensions were really fun to read about.

The story spirals from feeling like a cutesy teen holiday to a dark tale of murder and mayhem – it’s gripping, shocking, and gets progressively more terrifying with every page! Chapters alternated between the ‘then’ and ‘now’ – ‘then’ being on the camping trip, and ‘now’ is Heather’s time in an institution one year later with a therapist, trying to get to the bottom of the story before Dougie wakes from his coma. Scary, nightmarish things are revealed from both time periods, and I was racking my brain throughout to work out what the outcome could be on the camping trip, and one year later.

Claire McFall takes her books in completely unpredictable directions, and this one is possibly the best of hers. It is so hard to talk about the best bit of the book without spoiling it, and I want to keep this review spoiler-free, so I’m not even going to mention what I thought about the last pages as everything clicked into place. All I’ll do is give you this accurate depiction of me in GIF form:

Trust me, everyone is gonna look like this when they read the end.

Overall, just, ahem, please go and buy Black Cairn Point as soon as possible. It’s a thriller with an unbelievable twist that will render you completely speechless. Even before I’d finished it, it became one of my favourites of this year!

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Black Cairn Point from the publisher. In no way at did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: My Brother’s Secret by Dan Smith

Published May 2014 by Chicken House books.

20554182Goodreads Synopsis: Germany, 1941. 12-year-old Karl Engel is looking forward to joining the Hitler Youth, like all boys his age.

But when his father is killed, his rebellious older brother Stefan shows him things that leave his faith in the Führer shaken. Who is the real enemy? What is the meaning of the flower sewn inside his brother’s jacket? Karl soon finds out, as he becomes involved in a dangerous rebellion.

My Review: I really got into Historical YA Fiction last year, but this year I haven’t really gotten the chance to read that much! That’s a big reason why I was really excited to read My Brother’s Secret. I really wasn’t let down; it was a really enjoyable book, with lots of twists, and packed with emotion.

My Brother’s Secret reminded me a lot of The Book Thief: if you’re a fan of Markus Zuzak I definitely recommend this. It’s got similar themes of friendship, and rebellion, and is set in World War Two Germany. The story follows Karl Friedmann, a boy who is passionate about the Hitler Youth and serving his country. But after his father is killed in action, his thoughts about and pride in his country start to change, and he begins to discover that Germany has its rebels, and that he might be becoming one of them.

Right from the beginning I was really stuck into the story. I loved how the setting was described. Dan Smith’s writing is really likeable. I could almost feel like I was there, in Karl’s underground bomb shelter, riding across the fields with Karl’s best friend. The writing is really captivating and brought a lot of imagery.

The characters were all well developed. Karl’s personality changes a lot over the course of the story and I found it really interesting, to see him transition from being so passionate about Germany and the Fuhrer to committing rebellious acts. One character I would have liked to hear more about, though, definitely would be Karl’s brother. The story is centered around Karl’s discovery of his sibling’s rebel Edelweiss Pirates group, but for some reason I don’t think I saw… enough of him? The plot is mainly centered around Karl discovering the ‘other side’ of his village. I think I would’ve liked to hear how his brother joined the Edelweiss Pirates (The really interesting, real life group of rebels).

Overall, My Brother’s Secret was a really well written novel! I really loved Dan Smith’s writing. The plot was pretty unpredictable, and the last few chapters were so action-packed and shocking, I couldn’t put the book down. Karl was a really great main protagonist. I really loved how much he developed over the course of the plot. My Brother’s Secret really captures the impacts on German people in WW2. I’ll definitely be looking out for Dan Smith”s other title, My Friend the Enemy, now!

My Rating:

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I received a copy of My Brother’s Secret from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

 

Book Review: Daughters of Time by the History Girls

sorry for a bit of a late review on this! I forgot to post it last earlier, in March… *facepalm* Enjoy anyway- and you can also check out my post from the Daughters of Time blog tour HERE!

Published March 2013 by Templar books.

20409955Publisher’s Synopsis: Look through fresh eyes at the stories of some of history’s most remarkable women, in this inspiring collection of short stories by the finest female authors writing historical fiction for children today: The History Girls. Subjects include: Queen Boudicca, Aethelfled, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Julian of Norwich, Lady Jane Grey, Elizabeth Stuart, Aphra Behn, Mary Wollestonecraft, Mary Anning, Mary Seacole, Emily Davison, Amy Johnson and the Greenham Common women. Authors: Penny Dolan, Adele Geras, Mary Hoffman, Dianne Hofmeyr, Marie-Louise Jensen, Catherine Johnson, Katherine Langrish, Joan Lennon, Sue Purkiss, Celia Rees, Katherine Roberts, Anne Rooney and Leslie Wilson.

My Review: Daughters of Time is an anthology by the History Girls, a group of women writing at the popular history blog that you can check out here! It’s full of inspiring and engaging stories about some of history’s most important and influential female figures, who are often overlooked.

It took me a while to get into the book properly, as I don’t think I was in the right mood for a historical read, though I’m not quite sure why! I did end up reading a few books in-between this: which might have been a bad thing because it meant I took longer to finish… but also, as an anthology, this is the perfect book to dip in and out of whenever.

A lot of the stories, I really enjoyed; there were a couple I didn’t really like- though overall, Daughters of Time’s stories are excellently written. They transport you to the lives of queens and heiresses, to the lives of female pilots and activists. The writing was descriptive, and fun to read- as were the facts about each ‘Daughter of Time’ at the end of every story. I think that my favourite story had to be the final one, which is about the female activists fighting against nuclear war. I also enjoyed reading the story about Amy Johnson!

Overall, Daughters of Time did take me quite a while to read, but it was definitely really enjoyable. The stories are well written and it was really interesting- it shocked me that whilst so many female historical figures have made huge influences, I’d never heard of a large amount of them! The pieces were all well written and really interesting. As I do feel about most anthologies, though; I did wish that each story was longer! Recommended to any fan of historical books, and to anyone looking for a very different and very insightful read.

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Daughters of Time from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

 

Book Review: The Madness by Alison Rattle

Published March 2014 by Hot Key Books.

18482292Goodreads Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Marnie lives in the idyllic coastal village of Clevedon. Despite being crippled by a childhood exposure to polio, she seems set to follow in her mother’s footsteps, and become a ‘dipper’, escorting fragile female bathers into the sea. Her life is simple and safe. But then she meets Noah. Charming, handsome, son-of-the-local-Lord, Noah. She quickly develops a passion for him – a passion which consumes her.

As Marnie’s infatuation turns to fixation she starts to lose her grip on reality, and a harrowing and dangerous obsession develops that seems certain to end in tragedy. Set in the early Victorian era when propriety, modesty and repression were the rule, this is a taut psychological drama in which the breakdown of a young woman’s emotional state will have a devastating impact on all those around her.

My Review: The Madness was a really haunting, fascinating read. From page one, I was transported to Marnie’s world, and I really loved it. I enjoyed Alison Rattle’s The Quietness last year, so I was really looking forward to her next YA book. I’m really happy it didn’t disappoint!

At first, The Madness seemed just like a historical romance novel (which it is, but, well, it’s much darker as well!). The love story develops well throughout the book, and it all seems quite sweet, until you get to certain points from Noah’s perspective that make you rethink everything you assumed about his feelings for Marnie. The last part of the book was pretty terrifying! Marnie begins to go mad, her thoughts entirely about Noah, and the ending was completely gripping.

Marnie is loveable. She lives by the sea with her Ma and Smoaker, and her Ma runs the famed Sea Cure- which consists of dipping ill women into the water to cure them. She’s disliked by all of the town, because of a certain (scary!) incident that happened and because of her leg, meaning she has to limp. I found it really easy to understand her. Alison Rattle is talented at crafting characters that are really easy to love and that stay in your head long after you finish the book- as also shown in her YA debut.

Told from different perspectives- through third person and Noah’s diary entries, I got a really good insight into both of their personalities. The story seemed very tense all of the way through, and I was completely absorbed! One thing that did confuse me quite a lot, though, is that in the first part of the book, the story is in one person, then that switches to another for the second and final part. I think I understand why that was done, because it really gets inside Marnie’s head as her obsession takes over, but it did take me quite a while to get used to as the language is very different compared to the more formal third person that part one of the book is told in.

Overall, The Madness is a really memorable, haunting but also powerful read. I thought that Alison Rattle’s debut YA novel was pretty dark… but this one is darker in quite a few ways! I think it’ll be big for adult readers as well as YA ones. The characters were so well developed, and so was the setting- I could visualise everything really well and I was left thinking about that ending long after the last page. The only reason that I disliked the book a little is because of the writing style change. It was a good idea, but at the same time, it does take a lot of getting used to and confused me a bit. Really recommended, though, to fans of historical fiction and romance!

My Rating:

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I received a copy of The Madness from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Page to Film: Adaptions I’m most excited for in 2014!

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There are so many other movies to be excited about,too! Debbie @ Snuggling on the Sofa made this brilliant post about them.

Leave a comment with what you’re most excited for! (: As well as these, I’m also excited about all the Marvel movies out soon, like X Men: Days of Future Past, Captain America: Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy! I hope you enjoyed the graphic-y thing (:

Belle Époque

By Elizabeth Ross, published by Hot Key Books.

Belle EpoqueGoodreads synopsis: When sixteen-year-old Maude runs away to Paris, her romantic dreams vanish as quickly as her savings. Increasingly desperate for money, she answers a mysterious advert: ‘Young Women Wanted for Undemanding Work. Apply In Person To The Durandeau Agency.’ But the work is very strange indeed. Maude discovers she is to be a repoussoir – an ugly young woman hired by Parisian socialites to enhance their beauty.

Maude is humiliated – but faced with destitution, what choice does she have? Quickly (and secretly) selected as the perfect companion for the Countess Dubern’s daughter Isabelle, Maude is thrown into a decadent world full of parties, glamour and astonishing cruelty. Maude finds that academic Isabelle is equally disenchanted with the Parisian social scene, and the girls form a tight bond. But when bohemian artist Paul and the handsome Duke d’Avaray are introduced into the girls’ lives, their friendship will be tested to its limits. The girls are about to discover the true meaning of being beautiful…

My Review: I don’t think I’ve read much set in France before, let alone a historical France, so Belle Epoque was a really interesting read for me! I was really looking forward to starting it as the synopsis sounded very different and also, the cover is just gorgeous (Just look at it! SO PRETTY!). I really grew to love the setting! Paris, France… I was thinking the whole thing would be quite glamorous, but Belle Epoque showed the darker side of historical Paris… which was hugely entertaining to read about. It was quite shocking, really: ‘Ugly’ girls are hired through an agency by rich Debutantes for parties- the rich girl hiring will look even more beautiful next to the ugly hired girl. Just- what? That’s pretty mean. The subject really interested me, though, so I really enjoyed that aspect of the book.

The plot was very well thought out, and very unpredictable. Though I could tell that Maude was most definitely going to be with this rich girl Isabelle throughout the book, there were a lot of shocks in store for me! I had guessed, a little way into the book, that Isabelle was going to be this sour, stuck-up, horrible rich girl who made life awful for Maude, who’d seek revenge somehow. However, I got that entirely wrong! Isabelle had this secret life, revealed to no one, and made her a whole lot nicer, and I grew to like her a lot more after that was revealed. I really loved that twist in the story. I really wasn’t expecting it! There were loads of other great twists throughout the story, keeping me reading. I loved the whole outcome: There were two heroes to the plot, really, and a great ending for both Maude and the employees of the Durandeau agency.

Maude was a character I struggled to like at first, unfortunately. I would have liked to know why, exactly, Maude had decided to leave, penniless, for Paris. She seemed a bit too confident that she was going to build this glamorous life and seemed a bit too shocked when it didn’t turn out her way. Then, I started to warm to her personality, as I got to know more and more about her through her joining the Durandeau Agency. She became a much more loveable character, whom I really wanted everything to turn out great for! I didn’t really understand why she fell in love with one man, but did understand one other, the Pianist. The love triangle created was pretty tense for Maude, and I was ecstatic when everything turned out how I’d hoped!

A character I also grew to love was Isabelle, I mentioned before how she was most definitely not what I had expected. She really wasn’t! I loved the secret side of her: I don’t suppose I can reveal much, or it’ll ruin the surprise, but her rebellious personality I could really relate to. She loved the kinds of things I loved, though she did it behind the back of her strict, marriage-obsessed mother. The rebel-thing going on with her added some tension to the story. I loved that! Isabelle’s unlikely friendship with Maude was just amazing. You’d never expect the two of them to become even slightly friends. However, I could see this bond between them towards the end of the story- the relationship they had was just beautiful, really, and laced the story with themes of unlikely bonds. I really loved it, more, I think, than I enjoyed the love aspects of the book!

Overall, Belle Epoque is a really great read. I enjoyed it a lot! Although I couldn’t really connect with the main character at first, I really got to love her, as well as Isabelle- and of course Paul, one love interest who was just brilliant! The plot was really great- loads of unexpected parts, and the narration (through the eyes of Maude) was really good too. I loved the setting, of historical France, going through a really interesting period of time (The time period was called La Belle Epoque- translating as Beautiful Time, for fellow non-French speakers! Thank the almighty Google Translate for that.), and the job Maude had in this was shocking, but also strangely intriguing. Elizabeth Ross most definitely did her research on this- details were so accurate. Reccomended to Historical fiction fans, or people who love great stories about friendship!

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Belle Epoque from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

ALSO: Hot Key Books have this absolutely beautiful book trailer for Belle Epoque! It’s really stunning. Go take a look at the beautiful trailer, people!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTpIp6XaQsE]

Witchstruck

By Victoria Lamb, published by Corgi.

WitchstruckGoodreads synopsis: Meg Lytton has always known of her dark and powerful gift. Raised a student of the old magick by her Aunt Jane, casting the circle to see visions of the future and concocting spells from herbs and bones has always been as natural to Meg as breathing. But there has never been a more dangerous time to practice the craft, for it is 1554, and the sentence for any woman branded a witch is hanging, or burning at the stake.

Sent to the ruined, isolated palace of Woodstock to serve the disgraced Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and half-sister of Queen Mary, Meg discovers her skills are of interest to the outcast princess, who is desperate to know if she will ever claim the throne. But Meg’s existence becomes more dangerous every day, with the constant threat of exposure by the ruthless witch-finder Marcus Dent, and the arrival of a young Spanish priest, Alejandro de Castillo, to whom Meg is irresistibly drawn – despite their very different attitudes to her secret.

My Review: Witchstruck was an extremely enjoyable book! I wasn’t entirely sure it would work at first, quite honestly- a paranormal romance? In the Tudor era?- but I still was really curious to see what the book would be like. On reading it, I was totally sucked into Meg’s world full of witchcraft, secrets, and lies. The concept definitely worked, and it’s so original. From the first page I was really interested in Meg’s story, as she assists with her aunts’ illegal magick with Elizabeth in a dark cell in the middle of the night. Very rebellious with a paranormal twist, so I instantly fell in love with this idea. Who wouldn’t? I also loved the setting. As already said, Witchstruck is set in the Tudor era. The author has captured this medieval world immaculately, and I found myself not wanting to leave it once the book ended! More specifically, the book is set in an isolated-to-the-world area, called Woodstock, where Meg Lytton waits on Elizabeth, after she was banished by her sister. It was all so realistic, because it is actually true that Elizabeth was under house arrest in Woodstock. I found it very clever how Victoria Lamb has entwined the fantasy with the facts, keeping everything accurate but adding a fantastical element that makes the story so exciting!

The plot was really great. There was a great build up to the story, with the beginning pages showing Meg, her aunt, and Elizabeth committing treason of Witchcraft. That set the tone for the rest of the story very well. It was so predictable that Meg was going to fall head over heels for Alejandro, a Spanish priest sent to keep Elizabeth true to Catholic faith, practically as soon as she saw him, but it was pretty enjoyable to read their journey, as they meet and get closer. The synopsis of this story, and the blurb of the book makes the book seem ridiculously romantic, but I didn’t really see it like that. It was more of rebellion, in my opinion, as I think the most romantic pages of the book were the last few: where a really happy ending (or beginning, as it is for book two!)take place, that I won’t tell you, so you’ll have to read this to find out, takes place!

Meg was a really great character. I understood her straight away; realised she was so scared of being caught but so eager to practice her paranormal gift. I really admired that determination with her- as that seemed to make her such a realistic, three-dimensional character. I really enjoyed watching her become close to Alejandro, and her emotions were just so real… and very well shown through the writers words. As well as Meg, I also quite liked Alejandro. He was a little mysterious: not much was revealed about him. However, he was made to be such a likeable character. He seemed to me like the Jace Wayland (heartthrob of City Of Bones, by Cassandra Clare) or the Tudor era!

As for the writing, Victoria Lamb obviously has some real talent. She’s made a subject, the Tudor era- a topic I’ve been over so many times in school, seem fresh and new, and much more fun to read about. I love her style of writing so much. I got a detailed, brilliant understanding of Meg and her struggles through a flawless narration!

Overall, Witchstruck was a really great piece of historical fiction. I’m really starting to get into the genre, though I’ve only ever read as historical as the Victorian Era. However, Witchstruck has given me a great introduction to Tudor stories, and ‘m really looking forward to reading more books like this! The plot was really great, and the author’s idea just genius. She’s combined interesting, intriguing facts with imaginative magick that spices up the story. I really loved it! Thanks to the amazingly awesome Harriet, I have a copy of Witchfall, the sequel, too. I really can’t wait to begin it; the effective ending to this book was a really shocking cliffhanger, in a way!

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Witchstruck from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.