THE GIRL IN THE TOWER by Katherine Arden

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingalecontinues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.


Title : The Girl in the Tower
Author : Katherine Arden
Series : Winternight (book two)
Format : physical hardback
Page Count : 384
Genre : historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : Del Rey Books
Release Date : December 5, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This was a reread for me, my third in fact (!), and yes if you’re feeling deja vue I had also just reread The Bear and the Nightingale for the third time, too. I still cannot believe how long it’s been since originally reading this series, considering how much I love this world, but I am so happy to be reunited.

Witch. We call such women so, because we have no other name.

That said, as with my recent review for book one, I’m going to cheat and just copy in parts of my original reviews from GR here to the blog. Mostly because I’m lazy but also because none of my opinions have actually changed.

Has the world run dry of warriors? All out of brave lords? Are they sending out maidens these days to do the work of heroes?
There were no heroes. There was only me.


I honestly don’t know how to review this book. So much of this story relies on book one’s plot and information but the basics are : The Girl in the Tower is a story about a brave girl and her impossible horse. But it’s also a story about the tug of war between the faith in the old world, the myths and the legends, and that of God and wealth and power. It’s about the harsh bite of cold, the hollow cramp of an empty belly, villages burned to the ground, girls stolen away in the night, and a power desperate to be unleashed from its bridle. And through all that, Vasya is still fighting for her place in the world — not that of marriage or stuck in a convent, but for adventure.. and to be believed by those she loves. The politics in book two take a sharp turn, though they’ve always been present, and an uprising must be stopped even as an ghost from Vasya’s past, who plays a significant role in a present-day evil, is laid to rest.

It is going to end. One day. This world of wonders, where steam in a bathhouse can be a creature that speaks prophecy. One day, there will be only bells and processions. The chyerti will be fog and memory and stirrings in the summer barley.

The Bear and the Nightingale is like a slow-moving chill, it creeps up on you and chips away at your warmth ever so subtly, until you’re frozen. Whereas The Girl in the Tower is more like trying to out-pace a blizzard. Both books are enjoyable but in this sequel we see Vasya tested even more than she was in the first book.. and we also see her rise above. She gets a glimpse of who she could be if not for the constraints of her sex and it’s bittersweet and beautiful.

Curiosity is a dreadful trait in girls.” 

Knowing how this one played out in advance, I loved picking up on all the clues, all the foreshadowing, that Arden laid out for her readers. None of the excitement was lost; and certainly none of the trepidation, either, for a specific chapter with a certain race. I now feel my own bit of added trepidation knowing what awaits me in book three. I want to race to it but I also want to lurch to a halt and wait. I want both. I want it all.

Suffice it to say, you need to read these books. Arden’s series is atmospheric, harsh, brutal, unkind, beautiful, magical, wonderful, hopeful. It’s everything. You deserve some of that.

THE SUGARED GAME by KJ Charles

It’s been two months since Will Darling saw Kim Secretan, and he doesn’t expect to see him again. What do a rough and ready soldier-turned-bookseller and a disgraced shady aristocrat have to do with each other anyway?

But when Will encounters a face from the past in a disreputable nightclub, Kim turns up, as shifty, unreliable, and irresistible as ever. And before Will knows it, he’s been dragged back into Kim’s shadowy world of secrets, criminal conspiracies, and underhand dealings.

This time, though, things are underhanded even by Kim standards. This time, the danger is too close to home. And if Will and Kim can’t find common ground against unseen enemies, they risk losing everything.



Title : The Sugared Game
Author : KJ Charles
Series : The Will Darling Adventures (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 288
Genre : LGBTQIA+ romance/historical fiction
Publisher : KJC Books
Release Date : August 26, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m not sure my feelings about this book are entirely fair as I’ve come out of quite a bit of a lull/slump and I knew the first book I picked up might suffer for it. But I thought a KJC might help battle that prediction and also I mean she’s kind of a guaranteed pick me up. And yet..

I don’t know about you, but the position of hand puppet to [spoiler] does not appeal to me.”
Nor me. If I want someone sticking their hand up my arse–
Oh, do go on.”
I’m not going to be [spoiler]’s hand puppet either, was what I meant.

Certainly not a bad book, not that I think she even has one, and a three star is far from a dislike but I didn’t quite enjoy this installment as much as book one. We did have some good reveals and how this plays out into book three will be interesting but to be honest I found myself less enamoured by the MC and the love interest and instead was just rooting for the ladies of the story. They had felt like full and realized characters in book one and yet they definitely stole the show for me in this one. And I love that it went that way because they are certainly deserving of a spotlight.

That said, if you are not yet on the KJC train you absolutely have to. If not this series, another, find a standalone, whatever. If you’re into queer fiction or historical fiction or where the two meet and you aren’t reading this author? What even are you doing!

Hoping that book three goes out with a bang but also hoping to not be battling anymore slumps between now and then. Fingers crossed!

THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life.

When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.



Title : The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author : Taylor Jenkins Reid
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 402
Genre : contemporary / historical / LGBTQIAP+ romance
Publisher : Washington Square Press
Release Date : June 13, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated



Hollis’ unrated review

Yep, we’re doing this unrated thing again. Because I don’t know how to feel.

Sure, I’m getting out of a slump. Sure, the world is bouncing back — in part — from something awful, and that offers much distraction. And sure, life is kind of terrible right now. But. I still don’t think that impacted this read as much as I wish it had.

I like you impure and scrappy and formidable. I like the Evelyn Hugo who sees the world for what it is and then goes out there and wrestles what she wants out of it.

At first I thought I was just struggling with the character in the contemporary timeline. I didn’t like her at the beginning and didn’t like her at the end and she doesn’t offer up much in the middle so it doesn’t count. But just when I thought I would be trading in my like, and my fascination, of Evelyn into love.. it didn’t quite go that way.

You have worked so hard for a life so grand. And now all you want are the smallest freedoms. The daily peace of loving plainly.

I appreciate, and respect, that TJR wrote complicated women in this story. And there’s nothing wrong with finding a person, man OR woman, hard to love. But compounded by so many things, one of which was the drama, it was a lot. Reading of the struggles of queer people, of wanting to be part of the Stonewall riots, particularly in today’s climate, though? The struggles with identity, both in race and orientation, it all hits so hard. And feels very close. A lot of this, I think, was well done; though I don’t have a stake in either so my opinion means little. But it felt tangible. Heavy. But I kept waiting for an emotional connection and it never landed. Maybe it was the writing. Maybe it was just the Too Much of it all. I don’t know.

You do not know how fast you have been running, how hard you have been working, how truly exhausted you are, until someone stands behind you and says, “it’s okay, you can fall down now. I’ll catch you”

I am happy to have been pulled out of the world for a bit. I was wonderfully and totally distracted for a few hours. And I love that this book means so much to so many people and is out there doing so much for so many. I’m sad I’m not one of them. But don’t let this deter you. If you’re one of the handful of others still to read this? I still think you should pick it up.

A KISS FROM MR FITZGERALD by Natasha Lester

It’s the roaring twenties in the Manhattan of gin, jazz and prosperity.

Women wear makeup and hitched hemlines and enjoy a new freedom to vote and work. Not so for Evelyn Lockhart, who is forbidden from pursuing her passion to become one of the first female doctors. Chasing her dream will mean turning her back on her family: her competitive sister, Viola; her conservative parents; and the childhood best friend she is expected to marry, Charlie.

In a desperate attempt to support herself through Columbia University’s medical school, Evie auditions for the infamous late-night Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway. But if she gets the part, what will it mean for her fledgling relationship with Upper East Side banker Thomas Whitman – a man Evie thinks she could fall in love with, if only she lived a life less scandalous . . .

Captivating, romantic and tragic, A KISS FROM MR FITZGERALD follows a young woman ahead of her time amid the fragile hearts and glamour of Jazz Age New York.


Title : A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald
Author : Natasha Lester
Format : eARC
Page Count : 345
Genre : Historical Fiction
Publisher : Sphere/Little Brown UK
Release Date : October 29, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

This was a such an epic story, told over years with character development to hold on to. It was also a feminist story that really opened my eyes to the misogyny in the 1920s and women being on that cusp of being able to break free.

Evie the protagonist, was a women from a good family with a desire to study and become an doctor. She went through so many hurdles in this story and danced as one of the Follies to pay for medical school. Scandal upon scandal!

There was an intricate story running underneath this where family was complex, difficult and not always a family you’d want. I loved Evie’s character and how she was able to be determined and overcome such a lot. I was interested to read the research underpinning these times, and women studying to be a doctor in the acknowledgements. Thank goodness we live in a time where women advocate for women and men are feminists too.

The Follies storyline was interesting and I would have liked a little more focus on this at times. Life in the hospital was brutual but friendships and hope saw Evie through.

The way this story ended and wrapped up really was so fulfilling. The romance was slow burning and beautiful, the family aspects were eventually wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and learnt more about this time in history and what a women’s life could be like.

I don’t normally add trigger warnings but I do want to in this case, as I feel there are themes that could be difficult for some. TW: graphic details of the death of babies during labour/delivery.

Thank you to Little Brown UK for the gifted review copy.

GOLDEN EAGLE by Lauren Gilley

In 1942, Chekist Captain Nikita Baskin led his elite group of Soviet Secret Police into the wilds of Siberia on a mission to retrieve a “volunteer.” 

Sasha Kashnikov, Tomsk University student and trapper’s son, became a werewolf, an intended weapon against the Nazis. But in truth, he was meant to be the Familiar of the vampire Rasputin. 

In a clearing north of Stalingrad, amid blood-stained snow, Rasputin died, the pack burned, and Nikita and Sasha set off toward eternity together, bound by tragedy, and trust, and a tenderness neither would name. 

In modern day New York, their pack of two has grown to include two detectives, an artist, and the former tsarevich of Russia. And after what occurred in Virginia, Nikita and Sasha have reached a breaking point. Sasha, an unusually strong alpha wolf, remains unbound, and the forces on all sides of the looming war will want a chance to claim him – to make him a weapon again. 

All Nik has ever wanted to do was protect his precious Sashka. 

And all Sasha wants is to be more than a friend and little brother to the man – the vampire – he loves most. 


Title : Golden Eagle
Author : Lauren Gilley
Series : Sons of Rome (book four)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 661
Genre : paranormal / historical fiction
Publisher : HP Press
Release Date : December 23, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

It may have been my own fault for reading books three and four back-to-back, after having put some space between the first three, but this is easily my least favourite of the series. Nothing awful, and certainly not worth giving up on, nor even a reason to not consider the series if you haven’t yet, but.. not my favourite.

In complete contrast to book three, in Golden Eagle we spend all our time in present day and reunite with.. well, pretty much everyone we’ve met across this series. We also got some payoff I was hoping for as far back as book one. But it left me with some pretty mixed feelings because I felt a lot of the characters, or maybe just moments, felt so out of character. Which was frustrating because there are so many characters in this world in general and many that I can pretty definitively say I do not like — or only tolerate. So to be stuck with everyone and to have the ones I do love.. feel strange? Mixed bag.

This was the most romance heavy of the series which I definitely would’ve loved had my precious beans felt a little more like themselves but it wasn’t all bad. Some moments? Pure swoon, pure loveliness, pure steam. But it does give the reader a bit of whiplash going from very different tones in each book. It keeps it interesting, that’s for sure, particularly considering the wordcount. Just something to keep in mind, though.

That said, even with the few typos or missed punctuation marks, something I noticed started to occur in book three and we had a few more of them in this book, considering the aforementioned wordcount, considering all the history and reference points, everything that goes into this, and what the author is listing them for on amazon? Ridiculous. A steal. There is definitely a lot of good in this world, in these books, and I’m keen to still read on — but now that I’ve caught up I am in for a wait as who knows when book five is due to come out! Shucks.

NONE SHALL SLEEP by Ellie Marney

The Silence of the Lambs meets Sadie in this riveting psychological thriller about two teenagers teaming up with the FBI to track down juvenile serial killers.

In 1982, two teenagers—serial killer survivor Emma Lewis and US Marshal candidate Travis Bell—are recruited by the FBI to interview convicted juvenile killers and provide insight and advice on cold cases. From the start, Emma and Travis develop a quick friendship, gaining information from juvenile murderers that even the FBI can’t crack. But when the team is called in to give advice on an active case—a serial killer who exclusively hunts teenagers—things begin to unravel. Working against the clock, they must turn to one of the country’s most notorious incarcerated murderers for help: teenage sociopath Simon Gutmunsson. Despite Travis’s objections, Emma becomes the conduit between Simon and the FBI team. But while Simon seems to be giving them the information they need to save lives, he’s an expert manipulator playing a very long game…and he has his sights set on Emma.


Title : None Shall Sleep
Author : Ellie Marney
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA historical fiction/thriller
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : September 1, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I think I would’ve enjoyed this a lot more if the tone, or writing style, had been a little different. Because the way this thriller unfolded, the chase, the crimes and the why, the whole set-up of using teens to hunt those who hunt and kill teens, is all fascinating. The fact that the backstories of these these junior investigators (not highschool age, this is a bit more realistic than that) were so traumatic, in very different ways, and how they battled those demons to do this work.. it was great.

Equally great was sidestepping much of what the female protagonist had gone through. We get hints, terrible hints, but nothing is explicitly explained and instead Marney lets us use our imagination — the scariest thing she could’ve done. It also, in a way, feels protective. Conversely, though, the author also leans into that when it comes to another character and that tease, as opposed to hitting us with every terrible thing, carries so much more weight.. but for a different purpose.

However. I felt quite removed from.. a lot of this. Maybe that was purposeful because there are pretty gruesome, not to mention traumatic, moments but Marney didn’t linger over them, didn’t sensationalize them, as they were already impactful. And yet still.. there were maybe only two highly charged moments that I truly felt, was truly moved by, and that just wasn’t quite enough.

I’m also left very curious as to how things wrapped. Is this the beginning of a series, maybe? Could there be more? I would absolutely read on. Maybe being familiar with the style would make a follow up book more enjoyable. I don’t know. But these two characters have me so curious as to where they would go next. Plus I liked how effortless it was to be thrown into the eighties without a thousand blinking neon signs reminding us of that fact at every turn. It was nice to leave the current timeline and skate back to something different. Even if it wasn’t sunshine and rainbows.

If you’re looking for thrills and chills during this spooky season, I would totally give this a try!

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

DRAGON SLAYER by Lauren Gilley

n 1931, a golden-haired man in fine clothes appeared to a Siberian boy. An apparition in the snow. 

In 2018, he guided a pack of misfits to his prison. A man made of sharp smiles, and smoke, who they can hear, but can never touch. He calls himself a prince, but how much does anyone really know about Prince Valerian of Wallachia? Is he friend, or foe? Is he real at all? 

Val has spent the past 550 years as a prisoner, venturing where and when he can, dream-walking, using his powers of astral projection to escape the confines of his cell. His jailers call him “brother-killer,” and “traitor” – old rumors of the immortal realm carried forth by the sinister Ingraham Institute, a secret place hidden deep in the forest, bent on using the blood and powers of immortals to fight a gathering threat too terrible to reveal to the mortal world at large. 

Now, Val’s brother, the infamous Vlad Dracula, is awake, hellbent on stopping the boys’ wicked uncle, Romulus, once and for all. But first, the boys will have to come to terms with one another – and perhaps finally come to understand the tragedies that played out almost six centuries ago. 

In Book Three of the Sons of Rome Series, dream-walk to 15th century Romania, to a Wallachia besieged by the Ottoman Empire, and two immortal brothers fighting for their lives. Inspired by the true story of Vlad Dracula, and his family, Dragon Slayer travels from the palace at Tîrgovişte, to the Ottoman court, to the siege of Byzantium. A tale of brothers, and betrayal; of captivity, and revenge. 

The immortals of the world are gathering, and Vlad and Val, the original sons of Rome, stand poised to lead the charge against a timeless evil. If only they can keep from killing one another… 


Title : Dragon Slayer
Author : Lauren Gilley
Series : Sons of Rome (book three)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 791
Genre : paranormal / historical fiction
Publisher : HP Press
Release Date : April 30, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I wish this was an easy, uncomplicated, round-up to four star book but I struggled a bit with this one.

I was so excited to have more historical storytelling in this world, because it’s been some of the bits I’ve loved the most, and Gilley gave me that.. and then more. And more. And more. Do you see that page count? This book is hella long. And I definitely feel like it did not need to be as long as it was. There is no doubt that history is one of this author’s passions, or she’s just incredibly committed to her plot, and her research alone and dedication to that time period? Definitely deserves recognition. I just wish it had all felt necessary to the plot, you know? Most, sure. All? For me, no.

I liked the beginning, I even like the reason for how and why we got thrown into the past, and for a while it was working for me. But there was a lot of information and time to slog through before we shifted gears back to the present, which I didn’t think I would have anticipated as much as I did, but that’s where this book really felt solid.

I think what surprised me was how.. soft some of these characters were. Val, in particular. I mean, if you’ve read the book, you know what I mean. I just want to hug him. Even Vlad the bloody Impaler had his moments. Though I’m not quite sure I bought some of the rationale regarding the latter’s behaviour.. even with all (and I mean all) that backstory. It felt a little flimsy. Likewise, I feel like Val had the ability to do certain things to connect with his family during a specific and critical time and didn’t and.. I also don’t quite know why. So I feel like part of this was a little tough to get behind. Which is what adds to my mixed feelings, particularly considering the word count and everything we had to get through to circle back to where we ended up in book two.

So I’m happy this ended on a strong note otherwise I would be sad. We had quite a few surprises in the last 20% or so; things didn’t go quite how I expected, and one of those surprises had me sitting straight up with what I’m sure was a dumfounded !!! look on my face. I caught the foreshadowing literally the paragraph before but I was still unprepared. And then we get that last chapter which leaves us hanging after another surprise kick to the face and boy oh boy if I didn’t have book four already on my kindle.. that said, if we don’t get some rewind time with the New York crew? Imma be mad.

So, yes, for all my whining about wanting more “in days gone by..”, Gilley definitely heaped far too many helpings onto my plate. I am definitely soft over all these characters (honestly, it’s kind of ridiculous how precious they all are..), and though it is obviously not a quick read, it’s still worth it. I’m hoping book four knocks it out of the park, though!

THE SILVERED SERPENTS by Roshani Chokshi

They are each other’s fiercest love, greatest danger, and only hope.

Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost ― one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumoured to grant its possessor the power of God.

Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.

A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.


Title : The Silvered Serpents
Author : Roshani Chokshi
Series : The Gilded Wolves (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : YA historical fiction / fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : September 22, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

You know the chorus from Paramore’s Decode? How did we get here? I used to know you so well? Well that’s what was running through my head as I finished this book. How did I go from confused tolerance for book one to.. exceedingly enjoying this one? Every now and then this happens to me and it only reinforces my behaviour to read on in series that I maybe didn’t love or had mixed feelings on. Yet when it works in my favour I’m still always surprised.

Be a light in this world, [..], for it can be very dark.

I mean, it could still all go to shit in book three, but right now? Hi hello. We like.

As per usj, this is a sequel, so there’s not much I can or will say. But if you loved book one? I think you’ll love this, too. And for those, like me, who were uncertain or confused or not wholly into it? I might suggest you push on. Everything is still the same, I can’t quite articulate how things have changed (besides the obvious spoilery ways), but I found this one a lot easier to follow.

You rescued us. This almost feels like a fairy tale, and I’m the damsel in distress.
You’re not a damsel.”
I am in distress, though.
But–
Let me have this.”

While I don’t think I ever really got sucker punched in the feels, or felt anything was particularly funny or humourous, I nonetheless felt more connected to these characters and their myriad tragedies, losses, or heartbreaks. It’s weird. I was so disconnected from them in book one but now? I don’t know how it happened.

When she thought of evil, she did not think of mechanical monsters swimming in lake waters, but of people; [..] the people who hid cruelty behind politics.

I will say this was also an easier book to visualize (always my number one problem with this author’s writing) but there were still two scenes that stuck out to me where I was really grasping to understand how things were happening or what it looked like. So, like, literally almost everything I struggled with in book one doesn’t apply to this one. We love that!

My life, and whatever is left of it, will not be what his soul gnaws on to regain its strength. My death is not in service to his character, and I will not be a sacrifice simply for him to find peace of mind. He is not my responsibility to save.

I’m definitely keen to see these characters come back from where they’ve ended up and how this whole story wraps. Bring on 2021 (.. and for more reasons than just this book! all the reasons!).

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss+ and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE by Katherine Arden – double review!

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind–she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed–this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.


Title : The Bear and the Nightingale
Author : Katherine Arden
Series : Winternight #1
Format : Ebook / physical hardback
Page Count : 328
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Del Rey Books
Release Date : January 12, 2017

Reviewer : Micky / Hollis
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 -4 star review

This read has been a journey, from starting the wrong book in the series first – I started Girl in the Tower, I don’t know how to explain my idiocy. Then I got back on track with the right book and found a slow build of the world and story. By mid-way I didn’t know if I was going to move from my middling feeling but the second half completely won me over.

This was a historical story of a Russian family, reasonably well off, living in a forest community with harsh conditions. But really this was a story of folklore, a reimagining of Russian tales and assembled around the character of Vasilisa (Vasya). Vasya was a daughter, a sibling but more than anything, she was wild, free and spirited. Added to that spirit, she saw the forest and house spirits and made friendships with them.

Some of Vasya’s family were great and some were not. I enjoyed reading about the family dynamics, her father, her brothers and her step mother. For a while though, it seemed slow and Vasya was young for a long time. In retrospect, I see how this built to a story of detail and depth and it made the foundation for the second half rich.

I loved when we finally got to Morozko, I felt like the whole story had been sewing seeds to get to this point. The cresendo of the story was creepy to me but I got through those aspects and loved where the story ended up. So here I am, converted unexpectedly. I feel like this is one of the cleverest tales I’ve read and I’m really looking forward to starting The Girl in the Tower again.

Thank you to the posse who have been book-pushing this one for a few years but mostly to its first champion, Hollis the bear-pusher.


Hollis’ 4 star review

This was a reread for me, my third in fact (!), and for some reason I thought my last visit had been more recent, that I had read this last year. Nope, it was 2018. I cannot believe how long it’s been, considering how much I love this world, but also I was definitely due to revisit. I needed this. And I had some rereading buddies along for the ride this time which as a lot of fun.

I think you should be careful, [..], that God does not speak in the voice of your own wishing.

That said, I’m going to cheat and just copy in parts of my original review from GR here to the blog. Mostly because I’m lazy but also because none of my opinions have changed.

It’s time to put aside dreaming. Fairy tales are sweet on winter nights, nothing more.

For fans of UPROOTED who have still not read this book, I have one caution for you : I did feel the beginning of this book to be a little slow. But that’s likely because most readers come into this expecting a breakneck fantasy instead of a fairytale. Additionally, Arden takes the time to set up her story, layer it, with different perspectives from different characters prior to the birth of our heroine. And those multi-perspectives continue even as Vasya does become our main gateway into this story.

So you mean to go to the woods and die? A noble sacrifice? How will that help anyone?
I have helped all I can, and earned the people’s hatred. If this is the last decision I can ever make, at least it is my decision. [..] I am not afraid.

However, that slowness doesn’t mean it’s boring. Unlike the aforementioned novel this book is compared to, THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE is one in a series, not a standalone, so we can afford this gradual unfurling of setting, people, and atmosphere. And they are all excellent.

Magic is forgetting that something ever was other than you willed it.

The first in the Winternight Trilogy blends legend with religion, myth with reality, and the upcoming battle to be waged between two forces, all set in the northern region of Rus. Vasya’s character was so charming and she’s also such a perfect role model for any YAers reading this book; strong, not traditionally pretty, adventurous, kind, wanting more for herself than is expected of her sex. Really, she’s a role model for us all. 

All my life, I have been told to ‘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 to me.

Wild and fey, she roams the woods, seeing things others don’t, and eventually it’s she who sees the damage being done by the newly arrived priest who urges the townsfolk to let go of the old ways and embrace God. The use of fear as a tool is what lets in the very real, very evil, darkness, what puts Vasya and her family at risk, and while there is loss and tragedy that befall those she loves, there is still such hope and lightness in the story. 

You should not have left your hearth.
I had to. They were going to send me to a convent. I decided I would rather freeze in a snowbank. Well, that was before I began to freeze in a snowbank. It hurts.

The last time I had read this book I was preparing for book three. Now, knowing everything that is to come, and how it all ends, gave me such a new perspective, let me pick up on a few things I might’ve missed. And yet it didn’t take away any of the joy, the heartbreak, or the wonder. This story is so magical, Arden’s writing so bewitching and clever, and even in the telling it really feels like curling up with an old favourite, a familiar tale you’d grown up with but forgotten over the years. It’s nostalgic and comforting and yet I am so excited to read on and get to THE GIRL IN THE TOWER. Where it’s everything I mentioned above but so so much more, too.

THE GILDED WOLVES by Roshani Chokshi

No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.

It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.

Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive. 


Title : The Gilded Wolves
Author : Roshani Chokshi
Series : The Gilded Wolves (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 386
Genre : YA historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : January 15, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

You know when you’re reading something that has bits of everything you love, and you’re mostly following along with plot or worldbuilding or mythology (mostly might be generous..), so you think you’re having a good time? That’s what my experience with THE GILDED WOLVES was like.

I’ve avoided this for ages because of my weird struggles with Chokshi’s writing and all the comparisons to the other big YA heist story/series but finally decided to give it a try. And.. yeah, I think I liked this? I think? Maybe?

Honestly. Who looks at a vase covered in bull testicles and says, ‘You. I must have you.’?
The bored, the rich, and the enigmatic.

The middle is easily the best part of this book. I found it slow going to settle into the setting, and all the complicated clues and problem solving with esoteric history lessons or references we were made to follow along with, and I found the ending was both rushed and hard to picture (which I find a common problem with this author, I just can’t picture what she’s describing), and that was before we jumped around with short chapters, and the passage of time, from all the POVs before a little nugget of a game changer to end the installment. But the middle? The middle was a good time. I felt I was starting to know the characters, even if for the most part we rehashed a lot of the same things we had learned in the beginning, but I love me an ensemble, so, it’s cool, it’s good. But the problem in hindsight is now I don’t really think I know any of them. Everything feels very surface level and I’m left feeling like spent a few hours watching actors perform a play instead of eavesdropping on real lives. Does that make sense?

Additionally, there was kind of a dead giveaway to a particularly element/event with how this story unfolded. I won’t say what it was (I deleted it, actually) because maybe some readers won’t pick up on it. I only noticed because I’ve been tricked this way before. I see you, authors. I see you.

Also why was the poison issue never addressed? I was 98% convinced there was a time travel element at play (sorry, is this a spoiler?) and then, nope, but then.. why?

So, yes. I think there was some greatness in here, particularly in the diverse cast and the representation, and overall the author is clearly very smart to piece all these historical tricksy bits together. I’m too dumb for it, obviously, but it felt well researched. I just wish I had been able to picture things. I wish the big climax had been a little less extreme, or easier to follow. And I wish the ending had flowed instead of feeling so chopped together to close or unpick some loops for book two.

I’m curious to read on, though, so I guess we’re coming out of this one with a win. Though I tend to read on more than I should so.. is it? I’ll stop now.

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started