Review: The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden

38391059Verdict: Still in love.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Re-Telling

Published by Ebury Publishing, January 10 2019

Find it on Goodreads.

One girl can make a difference…

Moscow has burned nearly to the ground, leaving its people searching for answers – and someone to hold accountable. Vasya finds herself on her own, amid a rabid mob that calls for her death, blaming her witchery for their misfortune.

Then a vengeful demon returns, renewed and stronger than ever, determined to spread chaos in his wake and never be chained again. Enlisting the hateful priest Konstantin as his servant, turmoil plagues the Muscovites and the magical creatures alike, and all find their fates resting on the shoulders of Vasya.

With an uncertain destiny ahead of her, Vasya learns surprising truths of her past as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all…

I adored this beyond measure.

I am a huge fan of this trilogy, have been ever since reading the very first chapter of the first book. I was both super excited and a bit apprehensive before reading this book – but I didn’t have to worry because Katherine Arden absolutely sticks the landing here. This book is both a great conclusion to this brilliant series as well as a great book in its own right.

What Arden does better than most authors I read is building an atmosphere so immersive I become lost in her (impeccably researched) world. I found reading this book a very rewarding experience and I am definitely a life-long fan. Drawing on Russian fairy tales and real world figures to build a world uniquely her own, Arden tells a story of a girl and her choices. Whatever happens in this book is always filtered through Vasya’s lenses and her destiny and I am in love with this. Vasya is a difficult character but someone I could not help root for. I wanted her to find her place and be happy. She is allowed to be prickly and nurturing, she can be rash and caring, and altogether wonderfully rounded. Her relationship to the Winter King just worked for me in this book (I was not fully on board in the book before) and I really liked the overwhelming tenderness between those two.

I adore how the world becomes more complicated as Vasya grows and the scope increases. Things that seemed very black and white to her in the first book become more ambivalent, people grow while staying true to their characterization, and overall the world becomes ever more believable.

Arden has a very distinct and very beautiful writing style that hints at her influences while being very much her own thing and from the very first chapter I was glad to be back in her capable hands. There is a rhythm to her writing that I find very beautiful and this coupled with a story that wraps up strong makes this a strong contender for my favourite book of this year (I just know it’ll make the list).

Other books in the series:
The Bear and the Nightingale: 5 out of 5 stars
The Girl in the Tower: 4 out of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Ebury Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Lies Sleeping (Rivers of London #7) by Ben Aaronovitch

36534574Verdict: Great, as always

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Published by Gollancz, November 2018

Find it on Goodreads.

The seventh book of the bestselling Rivers of London urban fantasy series returns to the adventures of Peter Grant, detective and apprentice wizard, as he solves magical crimes in the city of London.

Martin Chorley, aka the Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud, and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring Chorley to justice.

But even as the unwieldy might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that Chorley, far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan. A plan that has its roots in London’s two thousand bloody years of history, and could literally bring the city to its knees.

To save his beloved city Peter’s going to need help from his former best friend and colleague–Lesley May–who brutally betrayed him and everything he thought she believed in. And, far worse, he might even have to come to terms with the malevolent supernatural killer and agent of chaos known as Mr Punch….

This is one of my all-time favourite series – and this installment was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint, as usual. There is just something charming and compulsive about this series that makes me very happy.

I won’t write about the plot so much, because doing so invariably would spoil the books that came before (and what twists and turns there were) except to say that I found the way the story went and how some parts wrapped up highly satisfying. I know that there is a novella coming out in a few months (I am so glad!) but except for that I do not know where the story will go next – but wherever it is, I am sure I will be reading it.

The best part, as always, is Peter’s wonderful narration, this time aided by the absolutely brilliant Kobna Holdbrook-Smith who narrates the audiobook to perfection. I felt a bit spoiled, having pre-ordered the paperback and then buying the audiobook but it was definitely worth it. Peter’s tone and his sense of humour are as brilliant as ever – but what I appreciate most is that he is a genuinely good person, always striving to be better. This is something I am always looking forward to in my reading, especially in a genre saturated by anti-heroes, and something I needed at the end of the long year that was 2018.

There were some genuinely heartbreaking and heartwarming scenes in this book (the dancing! It made me teary eyed) and the ending was so very wonderful – I cannot wait for my partner to read this book so that I can squeal at him.

If you like Urban Fantasy and haven’t checked this out, I highly recommend you do – I love Ben Aaronovitch’s mix of police procedural and highly inventive fantasy, his characters are wonderfully drawn and realistically diverse (it is set in present-day London after all), and his storylines (especially the overarching ones) are exciting and well-thought-out.

 

Favourite Fiction Books of 2018

I have already talked about my least favourite books and my favourite non-fiction books of the year. Today I can finally talk about the fiction books I loved the most this year. These are books I read this year but not necessarily ones published this year. I have tried putting them in order of preference, but this order might have been a different one had I done it another day.

11) Florida by Lauren Groff

36098092I adore, adore Lauren Groff’s writing and her newest short story collection was one of the best things I read this year. I am slowly making my way through her back catalogue because I love the way she structures her sentences and her stories. These stories center (as the title indicates) on Florida, but more so they center women and their difficult relationships to themselves and their children. Beautifully done. Full review here.

10) Hidden Legacy Book 2 and 3 by Ilona Andrews

And this is where I cheat a little. I obviously adored reading many of Ilona Andrews’ books this year and this second series written by the duo made me very happy indeed. I adore the worldbuilding and I appreciate the central couple, which all things considered is surprisingly drama free and honest in their interaction.  My series review can be found here.

09) Kate Daniels’ Book 3 and 4 by Ilona Andrews

I adored my whole reading experience of this series, which I read completely this year and couldn’t not put it on my favourites list. I most of all loved books 3 and 4 which I read on two consecutive days, reading way too long into a night (something I don’t really do all that often because I need my sleep to properly function at work). These books are wonderfully plotted with a brilliant world and a relationship at its heart that I rooted for way too much. My two series reviews are here and here.

08) Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

36396289My favourite of the Man Booker longlisted books I read this year, I cannot believe this nearly went under my radar (I blame the cover which I do not like and which everybody else seems to weirdly love). Johnson retells an ancient myth and thoroughly modernizes it. I loved her prose and her play with perspectives (I do love a well-done second person narrative) and thought this was impressively done, even if the ending makes quite a lot of the subtext text and consequently loses some of its magic. My review can be found here.

07) Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

38606192This book made me very, very happy. I love fantasy books inspired by fairy tales and when they are set in the winter, I am in love. I adored this. My review can be found here.

 

 

06) A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel

16158505By far the best short story collection I have read this year. And my favourite cover. I love the way Ramona Ausubel’s language flows and how she constructs her beautiful but dark stories. (review here)

 

 

05) Vita Nostra by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko

38633526I cannot believe I left this book off when I excitedly published this post 20 minutes ago. Because I loved this so! It is so very custom-made for me that I cannot comfortably recommend it because I am so not objective, but believe me when I say it is brilliant and special and so so very worth reading. I am currently mostly positive that the next book will be translated into English as well and I cannot wait to spend more time in this world. My full review is here.

04) Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

35412372One of the first books I finished this year – and what a start that was. Emezi’s debut novel explodes on the page into something stunning and beautiful and very different. Their story is intimate and violent and apparently at least partly autobiographical in the best possible way. My review can be found here.

03) Monstress Vol. 2: The Blood by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

33540347The only comic series I am currently properly following, something about the collaboration between Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda really blows me away. The art is stunning and the story intriguing. It is a bit complicated to follow but all the more rewarding I find. I have heard people saying they cannot stomach the brutality of the story line, but for me it works extraordinarily well – the grimness of the world is juxtaposed with the stunning brilliance of the art. (Review here)

02) There There by Tommy Orange

36356614I adored this book from the very first page. Something about Orange’s prose just clicked with me and I was very impressed with the way he constructs his characters and their voices. I cannot wait to see what he does next. My review can be found here.

01) The Pisces by Melissa Broder

37590570It feels like I just cannot stop talking about this book. Of all the books I have read this year, this one sticks out the most. It might not technically be the best book I read but it is for sure my favourite. I just loved everything about this, but most importantly I found Lucy an incredible protagonist. My full review is here.

What were your favourite books of the year?

Favourite Non-Fiction books of 2018

If you had told me a few years back that I would read enough non-fiction in a year (for fun that is) to be able to name favourites, I would not have believed you. This year, however, I have read more non-fiction than ever before. Around a quarter of the books I read this year were non-fiction and some of those were absolutely breathtaking. Today I want to talk about five of those.

Mean by Myriam Gurba

34381333I adored this. One of the first books I read this year, this has stuck with me. It took me a few essays to get on board with the writing style but once I did, it blew me away. Myriam Gurba’s impeccable structure tore my heart out once I realized what she was working towards and I am in awe by her command of her tone. Do read this, please. My review can be found here.

Dopesick by Beth Macy

40821527I still have not written a review for this and at this point I am not sure I will still do it. I have fallen of the waggon a bit (I really should not wait this long to get my thoughts down). This book is still absolutely worth reading. It is an impeccably researched overview of the US-American opioid crisis, enriched by case studies of people affected. Macy manages to show both the immediate, private reach of this crisis and the overarching problems in the health system that led to it.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

25175985Laura Bates talks about sexism here, the small acts and the larger acts and how they together form a society that is not particularly nice to women (or men for that matter). Drawing on the extensive collection of women’s experiences with sexism and an impressive amount of research, Bates has written an incredibly important book here and one that should be required reading. My mini review can be found here.

Not That Bad ed. by Roxane Gay

35068524Another book dealing with sexism, this anthology edited by the brilliant Roxane Gay is brilliant and heartbreaking and absolutely stunningly put together. There was not a single weak essay here and the diversity of voices shows the impact rape culture has on us all. Some essays hit me hard, some made me angry, all of them are needed. I cannot wait for the upcoming works of some of these brilliant women (mostly Lyz Lenz’ non-fiction book about her faith and her own failed marriage and Aubrey Hirsch’s graphic memoir she is working on). You can find my review here.

Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot

35840657I adored this fragmented, short, impressive memoir. Terese Mailhot put all her pain and anger on the table and refuses to back down – I have so much respect for this. I still do not have the words to adequately talk about this book other than that it spoke to me. My review can be found here.

What was your favourite non-fiction book this year? I am always looking for recommendations.

Series-Review: Kate Daniels #6 – #10 by Ilona Andrews

I am usually not good at finishing series – but this one I could not leave alone. I had a rather longer break between the ninth and the tenth book because I wanted to read the spin-off book inbetween but was not all that excited about reading about Hugh d’Ambray. And then I did not want this series to end.

While I think that the first five books were overall stronger, I still enjoyed the second half of the series a whole lot. Ilona Andrews really are one of the high points of my reading year. (I did also read their Hidden Legacy series before finishing this one.) I don’t feel like I can write proper (or even mini-) reviews for this second half of the series as I mostly sped through the books. Also reviews would need to be spoilery and I don’t want to do that. So what I will do is tell you the ratings I gave the books and then gush about what I loved in the series as a whole.

Continue reading “Series-Review: Kate Daniels #6 – #10 by Ilona Andrews”

Favourite Book Covers of 2018

I want to talk about so many of my bookish thoughts of this nearly finished year that I figured I might as well start early. Because while I think my favourite books my still change (there are over two weeks left yet), I don’t think my favourite covers will. I will be concentrating of the covers of the books I have actually read because otherwise we might be here forever.

Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko

38633526

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

35448496

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

34666764

Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot

35840657

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

37590570

And finally my absolute favourite cover of the year, even if the book has been published for a while:

A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel

16158505

Series-Review: Hidden Legacy (Nevada Baylor Trilogy) by Ilona Andrews

This year really is the year for Ilona Andrews books for me. I speed-read this trilogy within 48 hours and loved every second of it, I mean, except for those godawful covers (seriously, why do the covers have to be so bad?!). I just love the way the Andrews tell their stories, I adore how they create their worlds that feel lived in and plausible (within the parameters of the story), and I might try and read all their other books before the end of the year.

As this is a series review I cannot promise to avoid spoilers, so beware if you plan on reading this.

Burn for Me

I needed something fast paced and fun and have been relying on the Andrews to deliver just this. I adore the world they have created here: some time in the last two hundred years a serum was discovered that led to people developing magic powers. As these powers are genetic, Houses with specific powers have emerged and changed human society in lots of different ways, subtly and overt. Nevada Baylor is the head of a family led PI firm and gets drawn into house politics in general and Mad Rogan’s world in specific. I adore female PIs in urban fantasy and Nevada is just a wonderful character overall. I like that she has a loving and stable family, I found her strength wonderful, especially because she isn’t prickly, she is just no non-sense. And the male love interest did not make me want to claw my eyes out. I had so much fun here.

4 out of 5 stars

White Hot

Set soon after the events of the first book, the mystery around the conspiracy deepens, when Nevada is hired to find the killers of Cornelius Harrison’s wife. Again, she butts heads with Rogan, and again she is in over her head. But she is still wonderfully strong and principled and Rogan starts developing a proper personality. I adored this so very much. I sped through it in record time and I am just so very invested in their relationship. This is a big strength of Ilona Andrews’ books: the love story at the core is always one I root for to no end and this one is my favourite so far. While I think Kate Daniels (from the other series I binge-read this year) is the better character with the overall more compelling arc, I found Curran often a bit unbearable. Rogan on the other hand really worked for me: yes, he can be difficult but he really tries to be a better person for Nevada.

4,5 out of 5 stars

Wild Fire

When I started this book, I was already on a bit of a high – and I adored this so much as well. I like how Nevada always tries to be the best person she can and how she trusts the people in her life to know what they are doing. I like how her relationship to Rogan is, if not completely without its jealousy, ultimately one of deep trust. For me, my favourite part of this book was the family dynamic at its core. I spent many a page cheering this wonderful family on and their banter made me snicker. I am very excited to read the next trilogy in this series and to know where everything goes next. I also have a theory about the cliffhanger at the end that I am hoping to be correct about. Because I would love this.

4 out of 5 stars