Chrissi Cupboard Month

All posts in the Chrissi Cupboard Month category

Conspiracy Of Blood And Smoke (Prisoner Of Night And Fog #2) – Anne Blankman

Published January 16, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The gripping sequel to Prisoner of Night and Fog. The epic tale of one young woman racing to save the man she loves during one of history’s darkest hours. For fans of The Book Thief and Beneath a Scarlet Sky.’

It’s terrifying and incredible to think how much of this story is true’ Elizabeth Wein, author of Code Name Verity on Prisoner of Night and Fog 

Gretchen Muller has three rules for her new life:

1. Blend into the surroundings
2. Don’t tell anyone who you really are
3. Never, ever go back to Germany

Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: she used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. When she made an enemy of her former friends, she fled Munich for Oxford with her love, Daniel Cohen. But then a telegram calls Daniel back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside down when he is accused of murder.

To save Daniel, Gretchen must return to her homeland and somehow avoid capture by the Nazi elite. As they work to clear Daniel’s name, they discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and escape in time – or will Hitler find them first?

What did I think?:

Conspiracy Of Blood And Smoke is the second book in the Prisoner Of Night And Fog duology and if you like young adult historical fiction with a strong focus on Germany just prior to World War II, this is definitely the series for you. I’ve always had an interest in that period of history and love to indulge myself in a mixture of fiction and non-fiction so when I thoroughly enjoyed Prisoner Of Night And Fog recently, I was determined to find out what happened to Gretchen and Daniel in the follow up novel. Now, there’s always a worry for me that the second book in a series isn’t going to match the first but luckily Anne Blankman has written another stellar outing for our star-crossed lovers and it was wonderful to be back in Gretchen’s world once more, particularly when she returns to 1930’s Germany. The research the author has done into this period of time shines through in a believable, frightening and super atmospheric story that I devoured in about two sittings.

I’ll try to be kind of vague for those of you that haven’t read the first novel in the series yet but basically all you need to know is that Gretchen, former pet and golden girl of Adolf Hitler is forced to return to Germany with her Jewish boyfriend, Daniel after he receives a telegram in England that makes him worry for his friends and families lives. They return back to Germany in absolute secrecy and in disguise as Daniel is now a wanted criminal and Hitler is obviously very sore at the fact that his former Nazi protégée Gretchen is now in love with a Jewish man. Being discovered would mean certain death for both of our protagonists but they are determined to first of all, clear Daniel’s name for a murder he never committed, and to expose Hitler for the psychopath he is suggested to be to the British authorities before he can have the chance of ruling Germany and starting a war.

This series was recommended to me by my wonderful sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads and I literally jumped at the chance to read it when she told me the synopsis. You might know that I’m not the biggest fan of romance but for some reason, Gretchen and Daniel’s romance just touches my heart. I’m not sure if it was because she was raised by Hitler to hate all Jewish people and when she eventually met Daniel, she realised that Hitler’s propaganda was completely false and incredibly dangerous. I have to say, I am a bit of a sucker for a Romeo/Juliet type love story and this is exactly what this relationship feels like. However, I also adore that the author challenges normal gender stereotypes (especially in 1930’s Britain/Germany) by making our lead female protagonist quite the brave heroine that thinks nothing of risking her own life in order to save Daniel.

Another thing I love about this series is that not everything is tied up with a bow. We know as a reader, there isn’t necessarily going to be a happy ending, we realise from history that Hitler DOES end up becoming Chancellor of Germany and obviously, we understand that World War II did happen and a huge number of people lost their lives. The “bad guy,” cannot be vanquished in this case but Gretchen and Daniel do manage to carry out a great deal of good that alerts certain individuals to exactly how dangerous in fact Hitler really is. This novel feels for me like one big adventure with such fast-paced action that at times it almost left me breathless. Expect the unexpected, suspend your disbelief slightly and just enjoy the evocative world that Anne Blankman has created.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Conspiracy Of Blood And Smoke by Anne Blankman is the third book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest for the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

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The Heart Of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2) – Mary E. Pearson

Published December 6, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save Lia’s life, her erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar’s interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.

Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: There’s Rafe, who lied to Lia but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be savages. Now that she lives among them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country… and her own destiny.

What did I think?:

The first book in the Remnant Chronicles, The Kiss of Deception, was a huge surprise for me a couple of years ago in that I was shocked how much I enjoyed a novel quite heavy on the romance side of things. If you’ve followed my blog for a while you might remember I tend to roll my eyes/turn my nose up a little bit when things get a bit romantic. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy love in novels, I do of course but it has to be done in just the right way otherwise things can get a little bit cringey. The Kiss Of Deception really spoke to my cynical little heart and I kid you not, I was practically swooning at the sweetness of it all. My worry with The Heart Of Betrayal is that it wold suffer from the dreaded second book syndrome and my expectations for the series were already sky high. Whilst it was not a five star read like its predecessor, it was still a brilliant read and I’m excited to see how the story is going to conclude in the final novel, The Beauty Of Darkness.

So, trying to avoid major spoilers, Lia has become a prisoner in Venda, under the rule of the dangerous Komizar, taken there by a man she thought she trusted. Her magical gift has been discovered and the people of Venda begin to revere her and are delighted by her presence. Meanwhile, Rafe hot-foots it to Venda too in an attempt to rescue Lia, in disguise as the Royal Emissary of Dalbreck to disguise who he really is. Both struggle to maintain their relationship when the memories of their mutual deception threaten to overwhelm them. Lia is also wrestling with her opinion of Kaden who she feels has betrayed her but ultimately, the real test of her strength lies in pacifying and fooling the Komizar of Venda, who develops a rather particular and obsessive interest for her. Set against war, major political upheaval and dastardly plans, Lia must draw on all her resources and make some questionable allies if she is to have any hope of escape.

A lot of people have expressed their thoughts on the love triangle in this series and I’d like to throw my own opinions into the mix. I honestly don’t believe there actually is a love triangle to speak of in this novel – in that the main female protagonist has feelings for both of the male leads in love with her. It is pretty clear to me where Lia’s heart lies and I think she deals with the situation very well. Kaden as a character I have to admit I’m not warming towards and indeed at times I was a little bit frustrated with his thoughts and actions. However, I adore Lia for her determination, pig-headed stubbornness and kindness of heart and there were a number of other secondary characters introduced that I also enjoyed. The Komizar was a fantastic “love to hate him,” villain with such darkness and brutality behind his character that he made for a tantalising reading experience. The world-building as with the first novel was top notch although I would have liked a little more political intrigue and a little more action, rather than all the thrills being concentrated in the final moments of the story. This made for a jaw dropping ending, that’s undeniable but I felt it kind of threw the pace of the entire book off slightly. Saying that, this was a wonderful sequel to The Kiss Of Deception and I’m now one hundred percent invested in this world, the characters and their future, however tenuous that might seem.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

December 2017 – Chrissi Cupboard Month #8

Published December 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

It’s December, and that means….drum roll please…it’s Chrissi Cupboard Month!

Hello everyone! Every other month I alternate what I’m reading quite specifically between three things. It’s either Real Book Month (in February and August) where I try and read all the physical books just waiting to be devoured on my bookshelves. (and that’s a lot!) Then there’s Book Bridgr/NetGalley/ARC Month (April and October) where I try and catch up on all those ARC/review copies sent to me by authors, publishers, NetGalley and Book Bridgr. (also a lot!) Finally, there’s Chrissi Cupboard Month (June and December) where I try my best to get through all the books my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads lends me (you’ve guessed it – there’s lots!). So this is what I’ll be reading for the month of December:

Paper Butterflies – Lisa Heathfield

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

The Savages (The Savages #1) – Matt Whyman

Conspiracy Of Blood And Smoke (Prisoner Of Night And Fog #2) – Anne Blankman

The Last Beginning (The Next Together #2) – Lauren James

I honestly can’t pick out a single book from this little pile that I’m most looking forward to, Chrissi has told me great things about all of them. I’m excited about completing the two duologies from Lauren James and Anne Blankman and there’s obviously been a lot of hype about the Angie Thomas novel, The Hate U Give which I was absolutely determined to read this month. Have you read any of these books? I’d love to know what you think!

Six Of Crows (Six Of Crows #1) – Leigh Bardugo

Published November 29, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.

What did I think?:

I’ve read some reviews of Leigh Bardugo’s work and generally, people seem to have quite strong opinions of her Grisha trilogy (Shadow And Bone, Siege And Storm, Ruin and Rising) compared to the Six of Crows duology in that they prefer one over the other. I was one of those people that loved the Grisha trilogy and when I heard all the hype about this novel I was beyond excited. To be perfectly honest, I thought it was just as brilliant although I did find it quite different stylistically speaking, and you can clearly see a stronger development of writing in the creation of some fantastic, unforgettable characters and an intricate, thrilling and very nail-biting plot.

Told from a number of different perspectives, Six Of Crows focuses on a motley crew of six main characters (hence the name!) that are all flawed, wanted criminals, tricky and sneaky in their endeavours or lost and just seeking a family to call their home, never mind how unconventional it might be. All our characters: Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias, Jesper and Wylan have their individual little secrets or tragedies in their pasts and all have their own motives for attempting to pull off the most unbelievable heist. They are offered a vast sum of money and in return must recover a notorious scientist imprisoned in the impenetrable Ice Court. Impenetrable, as its boundaries have never, ever been breached. However, with confident Kaz Brekker in the lead, this dysfunctional group of friends start to believe that they might just be able to pull it off.

There’s been many comparisons of this novel to a young adult version of Oceans Eleven and I would definitely agree with that although it does have some quite violent scenes, which adults might want to be aware of for younger readers. However, the absolute power in this beauty of a novel comes with the characterisation. I don’t think I’ve ever rooted for a gang of characters as dubious as these for such a long time – I really wanted them to succeed in their mission and I really loved the complexity of their personalities, their difficult pasts and their relationships with each other, which were just gorgeous and quite heart-breaking at times. Like most reviewers, I fell head over heels for the romance between Kaz and Inej (which was portrayed just delicately enough for this cynical romance reader right here!) but I also loved the difficult relationship between Nina and Matthias and Jesper’s wonderful humour brought some much needed light relief to the narrative during the multiple nerve-wracking moments. Just writing this review has brought back memories of how invested I was in the characters when I read it and I’m determined to read Crooked Kingdom as a priority early next year. I can’t wait to see how the story ends!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) – Marissa Meyer

Published November 24, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mark her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? Fans will not want to miss this thrilling conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s national bestselling Lunar Chronicles series.

What did I think?:

It’s finally time for my review of the last book in The Lunar Chronicles, Winter. If you haven’t read the previous books in the series and love young adult fiction with adorable, sassy and unforgettable characters and a magical, fairy-tale edge please go right now and read Cinder, the first novel in the series. If you finish it feeling a bit underwhelmed, do me a favour and just give Scarlet, the second novel a shot. This is exactly how I felt and as soon as I read Scarlet and then Cress, I became a sucker for this world and all the characters within it. How do I feel now that I’ve read the last book in the series? A bit deflated I have to admit, but oddly satisfied at the same time. Everything was wrapped up beautifully in my opinion and the entire novel itself (all 800+ pages of it!) was a wild, thrilling ride that I never wanted to end.

Each book in The Lunar Chronicles has chosen to focus on a different female protagonist, loosely based on a fairy-tale character i.e. Cinder/Cinderella, Scarlet/Little Red Riding Hood, Cress/Rapunzel and in this latest instalment, we focus on Princess Winter/Snow White whose evil stepmother in the plot is a familiar villain in the series, Queen Levana whom we got to know very well indeed in the novella just prior to this book, Fairest. Princess Winter is another fascinating protagonist – sweet, kind, instantly loveable but slightly crazy from Lunar sickness. This is because she refuses to use her Lunar power in the same way that her stepmother does and suffers intense and troubling hallucinations as a result. The novel follows all the protagonists from the previous novels in the series as they land on the planet Luna and attempt to overthrow Queen Levana, with the help of a terrifying revolution and, of course Princess Winter.

I don’t think I need to say much more than that, that’s pretty much the plot in a nutshell, avoiding all potential spoilers! You would think being such a long novel (particularly for a young adult book) it would be slightly tedious and take far too long to read. Not the case at all. I flew through this story in a matter of days, partially due to the sheer number of exciting action sequences and last minute plot twists that made Winter such a roller-coaster and a genuine pleasure to read. It’s not literary fiction – so don’t expect flowery prose and intelligent, intricate language but I read it for the thrilling plot and the wonderful characters which, by the end, I couldn’t get enough of. As a piece of fantastical young adult fiction, it fulfils the brief and so much more besides and I would recommend it to anyone who feels like they need a little magic or escape from the monotony of regular life.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5) – Marissa Meyer

Published November 11, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

What did I think?:

The Lunar Chronicles is one of my arguments for giving a series another shot. I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the first book in the series, Cinder but I was persuaded to carry on and after Scarlet and Cress, I became quite the fan. Fairest is another fantastic addition to the world that Marissa Meyer has created and is in fact, a novella that should ideally be read between the third book, Cress and just before the final book in the series, Winter. I don’t think you should feel obligated to read this short tale (I know not everyone loves novellas) and you won’t miss out on anything important but personally, I thought it really brought something special to the series as a whole and if you have the opportunity and the inclination to read it you definitely should!

I say you won’t miss anything if you choose not to read it because in Fairest we actually travel back to the past, more specifically the past of Queen Levana, following her childhood and adolescence with absent, cold parents and the events that precipitated the horrific accident she had which leads her to hide her true self away from others by using glamour. I don’t really want to say too much about what happens in her life but the reader certainly comes to understand why she has become such a wicked, calculating villain in the most recent novels. Levana certainly goes through some harrowing experiences which may even lead to you feeling some sympathy for her as a character but in fact, it is the way that she deals with these issues and wreaks her revenge that leaves you with little hope for her redemption.

This was such a fascinating insight into the heart and mind of the Lunar Chronicles’ most despised villain and even though it is brief, at merely 222 pages, it packs an almighty lot of action, intrigue and emotion into those pages making it feel much “meatier,” as a result. I love to hate Queen Levana in this series but I was so impressed how Marissa Meyer managed to elicit my pity and sympathy at points in the narrative when she faced certain trials in her life. Not for long, mind you. By the end, she was completely back to the mean, nasty and despicable character that we know and appreciate from the full-length novels in the series. I just have to mention the cover art as well for this series which is truly magnificent and was a huge factor in me picking up these books in the first place. The Lunar Chronicles is due to finish with the final novel, Winter which I’m eagerly anticipating but have to admit to feeling a bit sad realising this is soon all going to be over! Until the re-read that is.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Next Together (The Next Together #1) – Lauren James

Published October 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

How many times can you lose the person you love? 

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.

Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?

Maybe the next together will be different…

A powerful and epic debut novel for teenagers about time-travel, fate and the timelessness of first love. The Next Together is told through a mixture of regular prose, diary entries, letters, “original” historical documents, news reports and internet articles.

What did I think?:

I really love having a sister who is also a book blogger. She understands the excitement of review copies and makes some brilliant recommendations that, because she is my sister and obviously knows what I like, I’m certain when she raves about a book that I should expect great things. This was the case with The Next Together, part of a duology and encompassing so many genres that you would think it would feel a bit muddled. Not in the slightest. This novel is part historical fiction, part science fiction, part fantasy and part romance and manages to slot into each of these categories with ease and grace making it such an exciting and rewarding reading experience.

This is the story of Katherine and Matthew who have lived many lives/reincarnations, from the The Siege of Carlisle and The Crimeon War in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries respectively, to the near futures of 2019 and 2039. Each time they live their lives they encompass different roles i.e. a noble lady and her servant, an ambitious journalist and his eager assistant, two talented scientists who make a breakthrough discovery and finally, two teenagers who are attempting to find out more and clear the names of the scientists who pre-dated them. In each life, they meet each other and fall deeply in love and then are torn apart when something happens in that particular time period to kill one of the pair. The story based in 2039 is critically important and may shed some light on why Katherine and Matthew can’t simply have a “happy ever after,” but we get some wonderful glimpses of those three other past lives that are both poignant and heart-warming.

As I mentioned before, this book has got a bit of everything genre wise, and I loved how the author combined all the elements to make this a fascinating, exciting and at times, nail biting read that I thoroughly enjoyed. As with all romance novels, I’m always worried that the romance could come off as a bit cheesy but I had no need to worry with The Next Together. Katherine’s wonderful and hilarious sense of humour and Matt’s strong, dependable persona made their relationship a delight to read about and wasn’t at all sickly sweet or unbelievable. I adored how Lauren James told the story in a mixture of notes, emails etc between Katherine and Matt which provided a lovely modern contrast between the more historical sections of the narrative and again, for me, made the love between them feel all the more authentic. I’ll be reading the second novel in the duology, The Last Beginning very soon and cannot wait to get started (especially after the gripping ending!) If it is in any way, shape or form as beautiful as The Next Together I’m in for a huge treat.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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