Book Review: Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper

The story told in this historical novel is immensely satisfying to read. The book is both imaginative and mesmerising, and the details of the trials of the servant girl and her dissection are chilling yet captivating. This book was very hard to put down and is a prime example of how to write an interesting historical novel. This book is based on a true story, although of course not all of the details are true to the original. The following is a spoiler-free review.

newes from the dead by mary hooper book cover for review

Book Blurb: Anne can’t move a muscle, can’t open her eyes, can’t scream. She lies immobile in the darkness, unsure if she’d dead, terrified she’s buried alive, haunted by her final memory—of being hanged. A maidservant falsely accused of infanticide in 1650 England and sent to the scaffold, Anne Green is trapped with her racing thoughts, her burning need to revisit the events—and the man—that led her to the gallows. Meanwhile, a shy 18-year-old medical student attends his first dissection and notices something strange as the doctors prepare their tools . . . Did her eyelids just flutter? Could this corpse be alive?

Newes from the Dead is a supreme example of the injustice many lower-class people, and in particular women, faced in the past. Anne Green is wrongly accused of infanticide, and in a male-dominated world of courtrooms and aristocracy there is no justice for this woman who is seen as a threat. She is not a perfect human, and it is fair to say that she had her flaws, but they are nothing compared to the characters of Master Geoffrey and Sir Thomas who take advantage of and despise this girl. The medical aspect of the novel is also fascinating and the back and forth chapters between past and present are effective in telling us the story of Anne Green.

In conclusion, I found this to be a highly interesting read and would recommend it to readers who like historical fiction.

R/T: Rose and Thorn (Please see About section for more information)

Rating: 4/5

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Book Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Emotive and powerful, Letters to the Lost is a novel that will keep you hooked till the very last page. It is a stunning book in which two characters find each other through their shared pain to build an extraordinary friendship, share words of wisdom, and eventually romance. The following is a spoiler-free review.

letters to the lost by brigid kemmerer book cover for review

Book Blurb: Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope. Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past. When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

Juliet and Declan are very different but fairly likeable characters. They both have their flaws. Juliet is judgemental of Declan’s outward demeanour and past, whereas Declan can be quite passive aggressive. They both, however, manage to add something very meaningful to each other’s lives. The anonymity in their communication is very interesting as they both know each other at school but do not realise this! This enables them to communicate to each other freely and with less judgement. There are many moments in the novel when you think they will reveal or find out who they are.

The book focuses more on their friendship, but romance comes in at the very end of the novel. It is story of friendship turning to romance, which is beautiful in its own way. Overall, this is a heavy read which was well-written and gives a message of hope.

R/T: Rose and Thorn (Please see About section for more information)

Rating: 4/5

Book Review: Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

If you haven’t yet tried Lockwood and Co. and are a fan of ghost stories then I have one question for you: what have you been doing?! I am quite infatuated with this series (and no it does not matter that it is aimed at middle graders). It is action-packed, hilarious, and definitely creepy! The storylines are engaging and keep you on your toes, and the first novel in the series is no exception. The Screaming Staircase is full of suspense and had me hungry for more.
The following is a spoiler-free review.

the screaming staircase in series lockwood and co by jonathan stroud book review.

Book blurb: A sinister Problem has occurred in London: all nature of ghosts, haunts, and spectres are appearing throughout the city, and they are not exactly friendly. Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see and eradicate these unnatural foes. Many different Detection Agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business. In ‘The Screaming Staircase’, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood & Co, a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision. After an assignment leads to both a grisly discovery and a disastrous end, Lucy, Anthony, and their sarcastic colleague, George, are forced to take part in the perilous investigation of Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Will Lockwood & Co. survive the Hall’s legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room to see another day?

The plot of The Screaming Staircase is both clever and interesting. It has been intricately put together and the world that Stroud has created is fascinating. The weapons of choice against the ghosts are really interesting to read about: lavendar, iron chains, salt, metal fillings, and rapiers! The events in Combe Carrey Hall are very creepy and the creation of suspense has been done well. I found myself turning the pages quickly with eagerness.

The characters are also very likeable; Lucy, Anthony, and George are a trio that doesn’t fail to put a smile on my face (OK not as good as in Harry Potter, but still pretty amazing). They are nerdy, brave, and independent. Each with their own set of skills, they work extremely well and bring plenty of laughs to the book. Lockwood and Co. are a team not to be reckoned with.

Overall, Lockwood and Co. series makes for an amazing, fast-paced, suspenseful read. It is full of amazing characters and the storylines will keep you wanting more.

Have you read the series? Do you enjoy similar novels?

R/T: Rose and Thorn (Please see About section for more information)

Rating: 4.5/5

Book Review: The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

The Nowhere Girls is as empowering as it is emotive. Amy Reed’s novel explores society’s vulgar reactions towards females who call out those of the opposite sex for rape. The book follows the story of a group of misfit girls who create a society (The Nowhere Girls) to try and raise awareness about sexism and sexual abuse, including that of a girl called Lucy who was gang-raped by fellow pupils at her school. Whatever you do, be prepared to feel incensed in behalf of the characters! This book carries an important message of female unity and strength and is thoroughly interesting to read. The following is a spoiler-free review.

the nowhere girls by amy reed book cover for review

Book Blurb: Grace wants nothing more than to be invisible at her new school, but when she learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town after accusing the popular guys at school of gang rape, she convinces Rosina and Erin to join her mission to get justice for Lucy. They form an anonymous group of girls to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students. As the Nowhere Girls grow in numbers, their movement becomes about more than sex and transforms the lives of its members, their school, and the entire community.

When Grace Salter moves into her new home, the last thing she expects to find are haunting messages scratched into the furnishings of her room. I found these messages to be effective at portraying the emotional turmoil of the girl who was gang-raped and whom the community did not believe. I found Rosina (a queer rocker) and Erin (the odd brainiac) to be really interesting characters; in fact it probably goes to show that no matter how different girls are as individuals, together they can be a force to be reckoned with! I also found the headteacher to be particularly well-characterised; a frustrating woman who acknowledges that there are problems yet does whatever she can to protect the reputation of her school.

The only criticisms I have is that I wasn’t sure how realistic the community’s reactions are to a feminist group in modern day America. There is an uproar and attempts at shutting them down, and although there are incidences when girls are not belived if they have been raped, I think it is unlikely that in this day and age a feminst society would be banned in a non-conservative town. Also I feel like some points in the book had such anti-men vibes that I began to feel that it was unnecessary to take it so far but that it my personal opinion. I felt that it may have been better to include some male involvement in the feminist society rather than just paint all men with the same brush.

R/T: Thorn (please see About section for information) 

Rating: 4/5

Warning: contains content on rape and harassment. Please do not hesitate to contact me for more information.

Have you read this novel and what did you think? Does this sound like your kind of book? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson

Enchanting and imaginative, The Star of Kazan is one of those rare books that I love because of how beautifully written it is. The descriptions of Vienna (where the author herself grew up in) are spectacular. Very rarely do I read descriptions of places and find myself in them without even trying. As to the story itself, historical fiction is one of my favourites, and even though it was a bit predictable (perhaps because I am slightly older than the target age group), it was engaging and I found it hard to put the book down. You know you’ve found a good book when you don’t need to force yourself to continue reading it! The following is a spoiler-free review.

A book cover of the star of kazan by eva ibbotson for a book review.

Book Blurb: In 1896, in a pilgrim church in the Alps, an abandoned baby girl is found by a cook and a housemaid. They take her home, and Annika grows up in the servants’ quarters of a house belonging to three eccentric Viennese professors. She is happy there but dreams of the day when her real mother will come to find her. And sure enough, one day a glamorous stranger arrives at the door. After years of guilt and searching, Annika’s mother has come to claim her daughter, who is in fact a Prussian aristocrat and whose true home is a great castle. But at crumbling, spooky Spittal Annika discovers that all is not as it seems in the lives of her new-found family . . .Eva Ibbotson’s hugely entertaining story is a timeless classic for readers young and old.

The Star of Kazan is a story about a girl called Annika who is trying to find her way in the world. Although she faces some hardships in the story, I would overall describe it as a feel-good novel because that is how I felt at the end of the book. The characterisation of her gypsy friend Zed, and the three professors were particularly excellent. I really enjoyed how unconventional the professors were with their set routines and interests. Annika herself is kind, though not as rebellious and spirited as I would have liked her to be. This is one criticism that I have as I felt she was a bit ungrateful towards Ellie and Sigrid who found and raised her; I expected more loyalty on her part. However, what she lacks in, her friend Pauline makes up for with her bravery and fierce nature despite her agoraphobia (fear of crowded places).

Some of the highlights in the book were the Giant Wheel and the Imperial Spanish Riding School. I would also highly recommend it for food lovers; I absolutely loved the descriptions of the Viennese recipes for meals and desserts. Simply scrumptious! If you are looking for a historical read with a good storyline that is suitable for both adults and children then I would say go ahead and read this book.

R/T: Rose and Thorn (please see About section for information) 

Rating: 4.5/5

Book Review: After The Fire by Will Hill

A dark and enthralling story, After the Fire tells the dramatic story of seventeen-year-old Moonbeam’s terrifying life in a cult, her climactic escape, and her rehabilitation into the outside world. This novel is different and really makes its impression; it is like a dystopian fiction set within a normal world and every page is interesting from start to end. I would describe this book as suspenseful, riveting, and inspiring.
The following is a spoiler-free review.

after the fire by will hill book review showing a teenage girl book cover

Book Blurb: Father John controls everything inside The Fence. And Father John likes rules. Especially about never talking to Outsiders. Because Father John knows the truth. He knows what is right, and what is wrong. He knows what is coming. Moonbeam is starting to doubt, though. She’s starting to see the lies behind Father John’s words. She wants him to be found out. What if the only way out of the darkness is to light a fire?

I absolutely loved the strong character of Moonbeam. She struggled through many hardships during her time within The Fence, but she has a ferocious nature and is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. She is a true feminist icon and her desire to help the other children is amazing. Also, how cool is her name? Furthermore, I also liked Agent Carlyle, his dark humour, and fatherly protectiveness towards Moonbeam. It was lovely to see their relationship play out.

In contrast, the cult leader Father John is a despicable, initimidating and power-hungry character who strikes fear into those around him. Locking children in metal crates in the Texan heat, manipulating people into labouring for him, and only allowing two pieces of bread per day as nourishment? Yep, Father John is a repellent character. The author did a fantastic job at creating characters of such opposite force.

If you are looking for a dystopian-like fiction novel with a strong lead character and lots of twists and turns on the way, then I would definitely recommend this book. It is exciting and original.

R/T: Thorn (please see About section for information) 

Rating: 4.5/5

Book Review: Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

Perhaps this is an unpopular opinion, but I believe this book does not reach its full potential. Far From the Tree has a promising plot which focuses on the intertwined lives of three adopted teenagers who find out they are siblings. They are all experiencing problems in one way or another and the author explores these throughout the story. The novel has several positive inspiring moments, however I took issue with some aspects of the book and generally did not find it engaging until the last couple of chapters. The reasons for this will be explored below. The following is a spoiler-free review.

far from the tree by robin benway cover book review

Book Blurb: Being the middle child has its ups and downs. But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including–Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs. And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

There is no doubt that the issues raised by the novel are of great value, such as self-identity and teenage pregnany. The problem lies in how this novel was put together and the awkward characterisation. I found the book to be very slow-paced without much flow to it; the ideas were disjointed and made it hard to empathise with the characters. For instance, at the start of the book Joaquin says he is happy that he has no siblings and would be devastated if he had some. Soon after, when he finds out he has two siblings, there is no exploration of how this affects him. He is suddenly completely fine with it, and it was disappointing that small things like this were not picked up on. There were also editing mistakes within the novel where one character is talking and then a different character’s name is used to continue the sentence. I know it seems like nit-picking, but these little things can be annoying!

As to to characterisation, I did not like Maya at all. She is an extremely irritating character who I would describe as self-absorbed and ungrateful. I can see why this novel has appeal from an objective standpoint, however I felt no connection to the characters and that is a problem because it means this novel did not make me feel anything.

On a positive note, I did find the last few chapters interesting and I liked how the novel felt nicely wrapped up; the ending was pleasant and poignant to read. However, overall this novel is just missing something and it is hard to pinpoint what it is exactly because it appears to be several small things.

R/T: Rose and Thorn          (please see About section for information) 

Rating: 2.5/5