Katherine Arden’s “The Bear and the Nightingale” – A Review.

The photo shows a book cover illustratinga forest in the winter, a small wooden house and a feminine figure walking towards the lit house.Story   ★★ 
Writing ★★  
Cover   Mystery ★★

PROS: Captivating 
      Well written
      Beautiful characters 
      Vivid imagery and descriptions 

CONS: occasional over-use of adjectives


Well hello there! This year I am on a mission to read more and consequentially, review more books. I am always happy to receive a free advanced reader copy to review.

What drew me to Katherine Arden’s debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale was the reference to Russian Tales, which animated my childhood. I was excited to see how she would use them to tell a new tale. And I am so happy I got to read this book, which plunged me right as I had hoped, into my childhood and the magic world of Ded-Moroz (the Slavic equivalent of Santa Claus, call him Father Winter), Baba-Yaga (a witch who looks like a grandma), Russalka (a mermaid with magic powers) and so on. Words cannot describe how much pleasure I had reading this “new tale”.

The Bear and the Nightingale, a classic fairytale told in a new light, tells the story of Vasilisa (Vasya) Petrovna, youngest daughter of the grand lord of Lesnyaya Zemlia, Pyotr Vladimirovich, who is also brother-in-law to the grand Prince of Moscow, and of her family. Pyotr Vladimirovich was happily married with four children, Kolya, Olya, Sasha and Lyoshka when his wife Marina died in childbirth, bringing to this world his last born – Vasya. Vasya, her mother told Pyotr, would be like her mother was – gifted with the magical blood of her bloodline. As she dies, she begs her husband to take great care of her daughter. Vasya grows curious of mind and of a wandering nature. She strives to be like her brothers, especially Sasha whom is her favorite; she takes upon herself to dress like a boy, and go onto exploring the surrounding forest. She also befriends the house spirits the villagers all leave ritual offerings for, but which only she is able to see.  Seven years after Marina’s death, Pyotr decides to take a second wife. He goes to Moscow, to introduce his sons, Kolya and Sasha to their uncle and Prince of Moscow. The Prince himself has a daughter, Anna Dmitrievna, who is said to be crazy, as she sees demons everywhere. To kill two birds with one stone, and ensure his son’s successful succession to the throne, the Prince of Moscow strikes a deal with Pyotr: he will take his daughter as his second wife, and in return, Pyotr’s daughter Olya will get to wed a Prince herself. Sasha decides to join a monastery and serve God, meanwhile Kolya insults a man who turns out to be Morozko, the winter-king. Again, Pyotr finds himself striking a deal in Moscow: he promises to give a gift Morozco has intended for his youngest daughter, Vasya in return for the life of Kolya. As Pyotr returns to Lesnyaya Zemlya, he brings back with him a wind of change. A reluctant bride who will prohibit the villagers to continue to give offerings to the household spirits, through the influence of a new priest, Konstantin Nikonovich. With his arrival, and the promotion of Christianity, horrible things will start to happens, of which only Vasya will have the power to stop.

The book is packed with action, and with sub-story lines which indicate Katherine Arden’s plans for a sequel. Written in a lyrical format, The Bear and the Nightingale is evocative, vivid and rich in beautiful descriptions and imagery. It is a page-turner, with beautifully written scenes waiting at each corner. The introduction of so many characters never feels confusing or overwhelming; instead, each character builds the story and invites us to follow them in their journeys. Besides offering us a new re-tale of classic Russian fairy tales, Katherine Arden also takes inspiration in the transitional period of Medieval Rus’. She explores the slowly rising influence of Christianity on pagan societies, and its clash with the old Rus’ – worshipers of old gods and the traditions that embrace it. Throughout the novel we thus note the clash between old traditions and new ones, acts of bravery and fear, and of course good and evil. Overall, it is a tale beautifully told, and I cannot wait to read the sequel of The Bear and the Nightingale.

Thank you to NetGalley, and Random House Publishing Group – Ballatine and Del Rey for an ARC of The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, in exchange for an honest review.


BUY THE BOOK: Amazon
FOLLOW KATHERINE ARDEN: Website
MORE INFO
 Language: English
 Genre:Science Fiction, Fantasy, Magical Realism
 ISBN-10: 1101885939
 Published: January 10, 2017
 Publisher: Random House Publishing Group - Ballatine

M.K. Harkins “The Reader” – A Review

the-reader-mk-harkinsStory   ★★ 
Writing   
Cover   Mystery 

PROS: Captivating
      Funny
      Wonderful characters
      Interesting story-line

CONS: The notion of Soul Mate 
is quite redundant

I finished this book a while ago, but didn’t get around to reviewing it until now. So without further ado, here we go.

I was a bit skeptical when I first began the reading of The Reader. I feared this would be another “Twilight” style melodrama, but I was wrong. Right from the first page, I got hooked. The book opens up with the protagonist, Ann, waking up on a beach without any recollection as to where she is and how she got there. Two young men – Archer and Devon, find her and from that moment on, the book picks up in pace. We learn that the world has always been populated to some extent by Readers, Seers and Hijackers, and that a war between the Readers and the Hijackers is going on, and the victory lies in the discovery of who the Lost One is. Ann slowly discovers this paranormal universe and her identity as a Reader, but furthermore her place as a Lost One and everything that it entails. Very quickly, Ann has to learn to distinguish who her friends are from her enemies, as her abilities will help tip off the balance between Good and Evil.

I loved the story-line, and the characters. When I thought I had all of them figured out, M.K.Harkins did a good job by throwing me off the loop with story spins waiting around the corner. The story is told beautifully, and Ann is quite a funny person. I couldn’t stop myself laughing. The paranormal world described is also well set up to compliment the real world in which we live. I loved that Ann is both strong and vulnerable, and witted. Every character was well developed which made the whole story more believable. I did however find a bit annoying the over use of the word Soul Mate throughout the book.

It’s been a long time since I was this thrilled by a paranormal novel, and I was very happy to devour The Reader, which M.K. Harkins did a wonderful job putting together. If you enjoy fast paced novels, paranormal/dystopian worlds, real characters, then you should definitely add The Reader to your next to be read pile of books.

Thank you to NetGalley, and author M.K. Harkins for an ARC of The Reader by M.K. Harkins, in exchange for an honest review.


BUY THE BOOK: Amazon
FOLLOW M.K.HARKINS: Website
MORE INFO
 Language: English
 Genre:Science Fiction, Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance
 ASIN: B01IM9A6KY
 Published: August 17, 2016
 Publisher: MK Harkins

Luke Gracias “The Devil’s Prayer” – A Review

the-devils-prayer-luke-graciasStory  ★★ 
Writing ★  
Cover Mystery 

PROS: Captivating
      Suspenseful
      Strong characters
      Beautiful narrative

CONS: Slow beginning

Oh Boy.

I finally finished The Devil’s Prayer and I still can’t stop my heart racing with excitement. It has been a while since I had read a book this good. And boy was it good!

The Devil’s Prayer is a historical fiction, and even more a thriller in its way. It opens in Spain, in a convent, with the death of a nun. The first pages set the tone for the whole book, with the reader forming instantly questions, such as What are the pages the nun stole from an ancient book? Why did she steal them? Why would monks of her rank be after her? and Why would she kill herself as a result? We then learn that the nun had two daughters, Siobhan and Jess, and of the two, Siobhan is the one after the truth about her mother’s unusual death. Without going into details, and not wanting to spoil the book for you, Siobhan flies out to Spain, to pay her respects to her mother’s body and maybe learn the real reason why their mother abandoned them a few years earlier to become a nun, and why she decided to end her days so abruptly. When she gets to Spain, what Siobhan finds is more than what she had bargained for, as she retrieves her mother’s confession and learns her ties to the Devil and the importance of the Devil’s Prayer.

At the beginning of the book, I could not help but draw some comparison and similarities with Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, but as I read more, The Devil’s Prayer stood on it’s own. Luke Gracias did a fantastic job with his debut novel, offering an interesting and pretty well researched background on religious belief, while exploring the coexistence of Good and Evil, of God and the Devil. He masterfully shapes the story throughout various timelines, both during Sister Benedictine’s time (who is the mother of Siobhan), as well as way back to the 1220s. Although the book started a bit slow, the pace quickly picks up once we enter the “Confession” part of the book. The Devil is revealed and with him, human’s love for a good bargain. The narrative and its characters are strong, and Gracias masterfully uses historical timelines to tell his story, and draw the reader in suspense with a major cliffhanger waiting for them at the end of the book. Throughout the book, one has to put aside his/hers preconceived notions about Good and Evil, and foremost about religion in itself and embrace, even if it’s just as a work of fiction, the possibility that “maybe” as we pray to God, the Devil also listens, stirring along dreadful events for which we just have no explanations.

If you love historical fiction, fast paced suspenseful stories, mysteries, religious conspiracies…then you will love The Devil’s Prayer. I could not put it down from the moment I picked it up, and I am glad I was offered the opportunity to read it and review it fro you all. I am very impressed by the details and the research Luke Gracias has performed for his story, and I cannot wait to read more from him in the future.

Thank you to NetGalley, author Luke Gracias, and Australian eBook Publisher for an ARC of The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias, in exchange for an honest review.


BUY THE BOOK: Amazon
FOLLOW LUKE GRACIAS: Website
MORE INFO
 Language: English
 Genre:Historical, Horror, Thriller, Fiction
 ASIN: B01BXR4838
 Published: February 18, 2016
 Publisher: Australian eBook Publisher