The night came, cold. – A short Story

Happy New Year, dear readers! My new year resolution for A Tale of Short Stories, is to be more present, through writing short stories, as well as continue to review books for you.  To kick off with my new year resolutions, I would like to present to you my latest work. I hope you will like it. Please remember to share it on social media, leave comments and feedback. What worked? What didn’t? spill the beans in the comment section! I am always happy to repay the favor 😉 Happy reading!

– Kalieta

PS: A BIG thank you to Elyse, who proofread my story. You rock! 🙂

1

The day ended abruptly. The streets were empty, with an occasional stray animal breaking the now thickening silence. The city was plunged into darkness, and street lanterns were the only reminder of human civilization. Somewhere within the darkness, tears broke.

+

Anne stood by the fireplace, arms wrapped around her waist, gaze lost in the dancing flames. It had been a day since Michael had left, leaving behind a stream of thoughts and doubts. Had she gone too far this time? Last time they had such a big fight she thought they wouldn’t survive it, and somehow they did. She never thought they could do worse than on that day, but today’s fight seemed to prove her wrong. Was this the last straw, after all? Anne couldn’t say. She stood there, heart heavy and empty at the same time as the grandfather clock stroke the hour. Released from the temporary hypnoses, Anne looked away from the flames and into the stormy night outside of her home. It was ironic how nature was able to match her mood.

Reaching into the rear pocket of her jeans, Anne retrieved her cell phone. She always kept it on silent and consequently, always missed calls. She checked the call log, looking for a familiar name. There were three missed calls: two from her mother and one from the doggy care. None from Michael. She’d hoped he would have called, asked to come back, or told her how much of a jerk she had been. It was true; she could be an asshole sometimes, pushing his buttons when she clearly knew better. Staring at the phone, however, did not relieve her worries. There were no calls nor texts from him. She wondered where he could have gone. Had he had a proper meal? Did he remember to take his heavy duty rain coat? What about his pain medication? It was so strange to continuously worry about someone she had been ready to reap apart emotionally not so long ago. She wondered if he struggled as much as she did at the moment. How could one love and hate someone so passionately at the same time? Between her hands, her phone began to flash away.

“Michael? I was wondering if you were going to call at all…” she blurted out into the receiver.

“Hello?” a coarse voice echoed back.

“Who is this?” Anne was confused. The voice did not belong to her husband.

“Paul, ma’am. I am with the park services. I found the phone on the bench as I was doing my rounds and…”

“Where is Michael?” Anne interrupted.

“Ma’am, that is why I am calling. I haven’t seen anyone since my shift started and was hoping you could help locate the phone’s owner. With the bloody rain outside, I fear the owner might have gone to seek refuge. I’m surprised the phone didn’t drown in all this rain. Would you like to pick it up and return to its owner?” Paul chatted away.

A silence followed.

“Y-yes. Yes, I will be there shortly. Where are you located?”

She wrote the address down, hung up, and headed for the door. The storm was restless, giving the street an ominous look. Anne hurried into her car, anxious to get to the Warren Park, located only a few blocks from their home. It was not the biggest, nor the most entertaining park in the city. On a good day, it gave local suburbans a means to enjoy nature with a ten mile trail that span around the neighborhood. Anne loved to venture there for her morning runs. There was no real scenery, but the park was always well taken care of. Michael loved to sit on the bench, his nose in between the pages of a book, while she was getting her exercise done. Warren Park was part of their routine, something that grounded them to the area. Now, however, it was quite an unwelcome sight.

Anne sat in the parking lot, watching the rain curtain envelop her car. She reached into the pocket of her rain coat and pulled out Michael’s phone. She had retrieved it from Paul, who had been kind to meet her by her car, thus avoiding her to actually face the rain. The phone he’d placed into her hands was in fact her husband’s. Paul reiterated to her that he had not seen anyone outside, considering the weather condition. Anne could hardly doubt him. She looked through Michael’s phone and message logs; the last entries dated from a day ago, before they had the fight. She sighed, wondering how he could have lost his phone, and more importantly, why had he been at the park? Anne went through her pocket, reaching for her phone. She dialed a number, and after a few rings, a woman picked up.

“Beth, hi, it’s me.”

“Hi Anne! Is everything okay?” Beth inquired.

“Yes, everything is fine. Is Michael with you by any chance?”

“No, why? Was he supposed to come over? I’ve been all over the place today! I can’t remember if he was to come by today or later this week?” Beth continued.

Anne sighed at the other end of the line.

“No, Beth. I – I just thought he might be with you, that’s all. I’ll try Jason.”

“Is everything alright?” Beth repeated herself.

“Y-yes. I will call you back later, Beth. Thank you, and say hi to Tom and the kids.”

“Okay, honey. Will do. If you need anything, you know we are just down the street!”

“Yes, thank you.” Anne hung up.

Michael wasn’t at his sister’s. Nor was he at his best friend, Jason’s. Anne did not want to worry, but she was beginning to feel unease. It was not like Michael to disappear without giving notice. It had been one of the first things Anne had loved about him when they first started dating. She loved how reliable Michael was; how she could always reach him. Now, however, she wondered if something had happened to him.

Jason hadn’t seen Michael since last weekend when they all went bowling. Just like Beth had earlier, he asked her if everything was fine. Anne didn’t want to alarm anyone by telling them the truth: that Michael had left a day ago, and since seemed to be missing. She hoped that he would turn up as soon as he realized he didn’t have his phone. Perhaps he had gone back to their place while she was out to retrieve it? Anne didn’t want to create chaos and have everyone worry over something that might actually be nothing. With this resolve, she drove back home.

+

The hands of the grandfather clock finally aligned. It had now been thirty-six hours since Michael had left the house. Anne had tried to sleep but kept tossing and turning in bed, wondering where he could be. She finally got up, as the clock rung past two in the morning. She looked at her phone for a missed call, but nothing showed. She poured herself a glass of water and slowly moved into the living room, which seemed to be the gravitating point of their existence. Anne wondered if she should call the police. After all, it was not like Michael to disappear. Outside, the rain had subsided. There was no soul to be seen; no noise to be heard. The storm had come and gone, leaving behind darkness and an unusual silence. Perhaps now, he would come? What if he didn’t? What if something had happened to him, while she had been downplaying all the scenarios? Anne began to shiver at the thought of a worst possible scenario. Anne headed for the front door, snatching her parka off the hook, and nervously putting it on. She didn’t care that she was still in her pajamas. She was more preoccupied by the urgency of the situation.

Stepping into the darkness, she walked briskly down the street, hands in her pockets, breathing the cool autumn air. The streets were illuminated by lanterns, shaping a way for her. It was cold, and very quiet. Anne moved as fast as she could. Three blocks down, she turned right and crossed the lawn of a white colonial style house. Without thinking twice she began to knock intensely at the front door. Soon, her knock morphed into pounding. Somewhere dogs began to bark. Finally lights turned on inside, and soon, the door flung open.

“What on earth…Anne!” Beth stood at the door, securing her bathrobe around her waist.

Anne broke into a loud sob as her sister-in-law drew her inside the house. Tom was standing by the staircase. Beth waved him away as both women made their way into the kitchen. Beth pulled a chair, and eased Anne into it.

“What happened, Anne?” Beth asked, as she was trying to calm Anne down.

“He- he hasn’t come home, Beth” Anne blurted in between sobs.

“Who? Michael?”

“Y-yes.”

“Maybe he stayed out late with the boys, you know how men get.”

“N-no. It’s been close to two days now. And…they found his phone.”

“Who?” Beth frowned.

“P-paul…with…the…park services” Anne responded.

She told Beth and Tom, who had finally joined them around the table, the events of the past forty hours. With a heavy heart, Anne finally called the police, reporting Michael as missing. An officer took her statement over the phone and read back to her a case number which she could use to inquire about the status of the report, if needed.

2

The rain had stopped only to pick up again a few hours later. Michael reached for his phone, only to remember that he had lost it the night before. He relied on it for everything, and now, he felt a bit lost. Had Anne called him? Despite the years of being married, Michael still had trouble guessing his wife’s next moves. They had a pretty good fight this time, the kind that leaves you wondering who is the craziest in this fight. Anne had accused him of cheating, and as any man would, he had played the offended. He didn’t want to be the sore loser in this fight, even if she was once again right. Michael thought that if he’d push back hard enough, she would eventually break and feel guilty for having ever doubted his intentions. She had picked up the bait of course, and they fought for a long time, before he took off. It had all been an act of course; he was not at all offended by her accusations, but was once again impressed by how clever his wife was. She never ceased to amaze him. Michael wondered again if Anne was eaten up by guilt, or if she was still mulling over in anger. He should have gone home the next day, but the rain had interfered. Well… the rain, and Veronica.

Michael felt warm hands wrap around his naked torso. He turned in bed to face the half awake, half asleep Veronica. He found his way to her apartment after the rain came down on him and had been here since. Veronica was nice to him. She was young, as they always were, and never asked much. She just wanted them to spend time together, like this, without a care of what tomorrow could bring. Michael liked that insouciance about her, and about their relationship. He knew this was only going to last as long as it could. Perhaps a few months, at best a year, max two. Eventually he was going to leave her, return to his wife and their picture perfect life. He always wondered why other men, who kept a side chick, ever pretended that they would leave their spouses for someone else. Why pretend to want to get back to square one? Who, so late in the game, really wanted to start everything over? Not him. He liked the little system he had created. He had an amazing wife and a wonderful home to come to, and when he got bored by its perfection, because he was human after all, he strayed away. Some might call him an asshole, say he was going to go to hell. Perhaps, but at least he was living. No one could really guarantee what afterlife – if that was really a thing – would bring. Plus, it’s not like Anne was always a gift either, Michael thought.

“What should we do today?” Veronica asked, as she was lazily stretching in bed. The cotton sheet slid down her torso, revealing her small breasts. Michael wandered his eyes over the new vision, before sighing. He didn’t have his phone, and he had been gone for too long. If Anne wasn’t worried by now, she would have at least called Beth or Jason, asking about his whereabouts. He didn’t want to raise more suspicion than was necessary — not after the tantrum he threw trying to defend himself in front of his wife.

“I’m sorry, babe, but I need to head home soon.”

Veronica didn’t argue. She rolled over to the other side of the bed, and without a care got out of the bed. “Suit yourself” was all she said as she vanished into the bathroom.

Michael left the bed and without ceremony, got dressed. He left before Veronica could reappear. The rain was still pouring outside, and somewhat, he was thankful for it. He walked for a few blocks, entered Joe’s Shack, grabbed a few beers, and when he could barely get up, finally left the place, heading home.

3

Anne was sitting in her bed, eyes dried. She stared at the door, which Beth had left open after she dropped her off earlier in the day. She was told by the police that because her husband was not suspected to have been kidnapped and had not been convicted of crimes, the case would be considered as not of greatest importance. The officer on the line wanted to be reassuring, telling her that perhaps her husband had lost track of time and would be back soon enough. They would still run a search on the license plate of his car, in case he was in some trouble. They would be in touch, the officer finally said. Beth had been there while Anne was on the phone talking to the police. She had offered to stay, also worried about her brother’s whereabouts. However, she did not think Michael was in any substantial danger, as did the police.

Now that she was alone in her home, Anne wondered if they were right. Maybe she was overreacting because of how bad her and Michael’s fight had gone. Was it guilt eating her up? Exhausted by all her thoughts and worries, Anne laid back down and tried to sleep. Downstairs, she heard a door opening. Flying out of the bed, Anne hurried to the bottom of the stairs. Lights were on in the kitchen. She proceeded cautiously into the room, anxious to know who had come in. Tom and Beth had a set of keys to their home, just as they did of theirs. Beth had told her she would be coming back later, but Anne didn’t think it would be this late. Could it be Michael after all? As she entered the room, her husband stood in the middle of it, casually spreading butter on his toast. He lifted his head, and their eyes met.

“You’re home.” Anne mumbled.

“I am” Michael agreed.

They stood there, in silence, assessing one other. Anne was slightly relieved to see Michael. He seemed drunk, but otherwise fine. She wondered where he’d been all this time, but also, she didn’t want to know. Perhaps because she knew already; perhaps because there was no point in starting fighting again. A weight that had been there for the past two days slightly lifted off her chest. She slowly made her way to the refrigerator and pulled out eggs and bacon. Without a word she busied herself at the stove. She placed the eggs on a plate and topped them with bacon. She sliced the bread, which she always kept on the counter, and made her way to the table. She freed her hands of the plates and turned to Michael.

“Let’s eat” was all she said.

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Katherine Arden’s “The Girl in the Tower” (The Winternight Trilogy #2) – A Review.

34050917Story   ★★ 
Writing ★★  
Cover   Mystery ★★★

PROS:Captivating 
      Well written
      Beautiful characters 
      Vivid imagery and descriptions 

CONS: None!


Not sure if anyone still stops by this little corner of the web, but I am back! Hopefully for a longer period, as my life is slowly getting back together after the last 4 tumultuous months. To ease back into blogging, I thought reviewing a sequel would be very much appropriate. So here I am.

If you remember, at the beginning of this year, I had reviewed The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden. I loved every page of it, and I looked forward to the sequel. Usually, with sequels come questions, and apprehensions. For example, would you love the sequel as much as you did the first book? Would the author stay true to the story or go on a tangent in the middle of it? Would the ending be disappointing? Or would you have something to look forward to (and ultimately hope for) after the last words are read? All of these are totally warranted. As a reader, we all make a commitment. We commit our time, our emotions and our thoughts to the book and the story. It is thus normal that we expect things in return.

The Girl in the Tower, the second book of The Winternight Trilogy, continues on with the story of Vasya, in the same magical tone as told in the first book. Vasya, now older and a bit wiser, is left if the choice of marry or spend her life in a convent as a nun. Neither option seem to agree with this Vasya, who is only left with one option: flee before she can be forced into a life she doesn’t wish for. As in The Bear and the Nightingale, Vasya seeks help – even unconsciously – from Morozko, the winter god. With Solovey, the horse Morozko gifts her, she goes on to travel through Russia dressed as a boy, and hoping to see the parts she has never been to. Her journey leads her to the rescue of three young girls from bandits, and later back to her favorite brother Sasha, and their cousin: the Grand Prince of Moscow – Dmitri, who thinks of her to be his cousin Vasilii – a man. This deception, although not intentional, leads Vasya into much more trouble, as her true identity eventually gets revealed to all, putting her, Sasha and her sister Olga at risk.

Throughout the book, we can note Katherine Arden’s beautiful use of prose, and travel to old Russia through Vasya’s eyes. Each page is a turner, with intrigues lying around, and the battle between ‘old’ Rus and new Russia unveiling in this fantasy. We get a glimpse of the life during that time, especially of the place women held in society, and how they were treated. If The Bear and the Nothingale had some flaws, I can confidently say that this sequel was even better than the first part. I found The Girl in the Tower to be more complex and more nuanced, and I think fans of the first part will love this second part, where history, fantasy and magic cohabit together in harmony.

 

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


BUY THE BOOK:pre-order on Barnes & Noble | Amazon
FOLLOW KATHERINE ARDEN: Website
MORE INFO
 Language: English
 Genre:Science Fiction, Fantasy, Magical Realism
 ISBN: 9781101885963
 Release date: December 05, 2017
 Publisher: Random House Publishing Group - Ballatine

Blake Crouch’s “Good Behavior” – A Review.

good-behavior-blake-crouchStory   ★★★★
Writing ★★★★
Cover  
Mystery ★★★★

PROS: Well structured 
      Emotional
      Suspenseful
      Real characters 

CONS: No real ending (what?)
      Author comments throw off the 
      reading cadence

Whoop whoop. Who doesn’t love to read a book that has been adapted for television? When I first received Good Behavior: The Letty Dobesh Chronicles, it was yet to be aired. Now, you can watch the first season on TNT (rather, catch up on the already completed first season) featuring the lovely Michelle Dockery (aka Downton Abbey’s own Lady Mary).

Anyway. Today I’ll tell you a bit about the book itself,since ahem, this is after all a book-review, and not a TV series, blog.

Good Behavior: The Letty Dobesh Chronicles by Blake Crouch is a collection of his three interlinked novellas (The Pain of Others, Sunset Key, and Grab), which follow the (mis)adventures of Letty Dobesh, a thief and drug junkie fresh out of the prison and who finds herself back on the market, stealing for hire. Because the book has been adapted for television, after the first story is over, we are offered a commentary from Blake Crouch on the idea behind the storyline, and what he envisions for Letty as the star of the new TV show. It is like watching behind the scenes of the show after you’ve finished an episode. A bit unusual in the book setting, but nonetheless interesting. I enjoyed the commentaries by Blake, but also found it to somewhat break the reading rhythm. The stories are well written, in a fast paced rhythm that are expected of a crime/mystery style novel. Letty Dobesh is pretty personable, and we often feel bad for her, as her  bad choices are really dictated by her desire to change and do good – hence the clever title Good Behavior.

By now you’ve guessed, I enjoyed this book. Although I understand these were novellas put together as a book, I still would have liked them to be rewritten to actually make one novel, and not a novel in three parts. The reason is that when all was said and done, there was no real ending, no real epilogue/conclusion for the reader to fall on. We can just assume that Letty’s Good Behavior was only temporary and that her desire to reunite with her son and be a good mom, is not as strong as being a world-class thief. I did enjoy however the cliffhangers that were presented to us in each storylines, leaving me completely shocked and mesmerized in the end. To find what will happen next to Letty, I, the reader, am only left with one solution: to watch the TV adaptation. Well done, Blake, well done. However, can we next time have an actual novel with a beginning and an end to satisfy the readers, please? That was my only grievance for this book, and that is why I gave it a 4 star.

That being said, if you love crime/mystery novels, and don’t mind them telling three different stories that build on each other til the end, and love interesting female characters, well, this book is for you. It can be devoured in a couple of hours over a cup or glass of your favorite beverage (Letty would approve).

Thank you to NetGalley, and Thomas & Mercer for an ARC of  Good Behavior: The Letty Dobesh Chronicles by Blake Crouch, in exchange for an honest review.


BUY THE BOOK: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound
FOLLOW BLAKE CROUCH: Website
MORE INFO
 Language: English
 Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thrillers
 ISBN-10:  1503940497
 Published: November 15, 2016
 Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Emma Cline’s “The Girls” – A Review.

the-girls-emma-clineStory   ★★★
Writing ★★★
Cover   
Mystery 

PROS: Well structured
      Emotional
 
CONS: A little slow beginning
      No strong characters
      No real plot twists

You have probably seen Emma Cline’s book all over the internet by now. It seemed at one point to be THE book you ought to read, if you were only going to read one book (after all it made it to the NY Times Bestsellers list!).

I really had high hopes for this book. And maybe that’s the problem. I am not sure it if was all the hype constructed around the book, or if it was my hope to read the next “Gone Girl” with an even bigger story twist. Instead… well. It was all but that.

The Girls is Emma Cline’s debut novel and it tells the story of Evie Boyd, a young privileged teenager, who finds herself drawn by a group of girls living in some sort of made-up boho camp ( really a run down ranch), and following an older man as their leader. It is very clear whose story Emma Cline is trying to tell: the infamous Manson clan. The story doesn’t get any more original from that point, instead, we are offered to relive the horrors of the past but it a very slow fashion. Where one would hope to see strong female characters and their take of what it must have been like to be part of a cult like Manson’s was, we are instead offered a pretty pale version. Evie is another stereotyped rich girl who finds herself sucked into something bigger than she had bargained for. We are supposed to feel bad for her, but instead I fell very annoyed by her character and disappointed by all the other female characters in  this book.

As you can imagine by now, I didn’t think much of this debut novel. Yes, it was well structured and well told, but the magic and the surprise elements were just lacking. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong inspiring ourselves from history (what would be do without a good historical fiction anyway?), but there must be something more compelling than just regurgitating facts and changing names. There must be an element of surprise for the reader, and the characters have to be compelling enough to lead us til the end. However, in my humble opinion, The Girls missed the mark.

I give the book a solid 3 stars, and that is mostly due to the fact that despite Emma Cline missing the ‘Thrill’-bandwagon, she was pretty good at describing scenes and translating how Evie felt and why she was drawn to the leader of the cult. We get it – she is lonely, feeling unloved, and desperate for attention. Emma Cline made me understand Evie’s struggle, and why Suzanne seemed so appealing to her. But like I said, besides that, there was nothing else to the story, and that is very sad.

I think Emma Cline has potential to write a good novel, and I hope that someday I will come across a much enticing novel that will really make me rate it 5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley, and Random House for an ARC of  The Girls by Emma Cline, in exchange for an honest review.


BUY THE BOOK: Amazon
FOLLOW SARA AHMED: Website
MORE INFO
 Language: English
 Genre: Fiction, Coming of Age, Thriller
 ISBN-10:  0735208182
 Published: June 14, 2016
 Publisher: Random House Large Print

Sara Ahmed’s “Living a Feminist Life” – A Review.

living-a-feminist-life-sara-ahmed
Writing     ★★  
Cover       Informative 

PROS:  

CONS: Redundant 
      Too much repetition
      Narrow definition of feminism
     


I like to switch up my reading a little, going from fiction, to non-fiction and vice-versa. I saw Living a Feminist Life by Sara Ahmed some months ago, and was really looking forward to read it and learn from its content.

I thought about whether or not I should share my review of the book with you, as I really don’t like leaving negative reviews. I am always looking to promote authors and encourage them in their labor. However, life is not all made of roses.

Living a Feminist Life by Sara Ahmed aims to show how feminist theory is generated from everyday life and the ordinary experiences of being a feminist at home and at work. The promise to the reader is huge; to understand what feminism is and how to lead a feminist life. However, within the first pages of the book, I quickly realized that I was not going to finish it. I tried my best to get through the book, telling myself that I just needed to get through the (long) introduction and that then! the book and all its promises would be revealed to me. I should have known better. The introduction sets the tone to the book, serving as a preview of what is yet to come. Sara  Ahmed starts off the book as one would expect, through a recollection of memories of her childhood that led her to become a feminist. However, her writing is very scattered and quite redundant. She justifies repetition as a way to reinforce an idea. Although it may be true, I found it quite annoying to find words and concepts to be regurgitated to me every two paragraphs, as if I, the reader would not be able to grasp the highlighted concepts and understand the full implications of what being a feminist or leading a feminist life entails.

I also could not really agree with Sara Ahmed’s view of feminism. It seems that for her, feminism is really a result of either sexism or harassment. However, I believe that feminism embraces many social injustices and seeks to bring social justice as a whole, by promoting an egalitarian and respectful society. Also, Sara Ahmed thinks of feminism as being something that is “sensational”. In fact, she goes through several paragraphs to define the term for us readers (in case we do not understand it), and reiterate that feminism is sensational. I can’t agree with that, as it seems like feminism is a superficial cause, that is not even a cause, but merely a trend which everyone is slowly adopting. Feminism is much more than that.

Living a Feminist Life, should have been a guide to all those who seek to lead a feminist life. Instead, I thought it was more of a memoir, a recollection of life events that led the author to become a feminist. It is also a repository of inspirational quotes by other famous feminists. As such, I think the book should have been titled more like “A collection of personal experiences” or something like “How I live a feminist life, and what inspires me“. I personally have not learned much from this book, and probably this is because I couldn’t make my way through its end. I guess, not all books are meant to be finished, and despite my reluctance to give up, I had to make amends and close the book.

Of course, this is my take on Living a Feminist Life. Another person might have actually enjoyed it better than I did. I really wish it had been me.

Thank you to NetGalley, and Duke University Press for an ARC of  Living a Feminist Life by Sara Ahmed, in exchange for an honest review.


BUY THE BOOK: Amazon
FOLLOW SARA AHMED: Website
MORE INFO
 Language: English
 Genre: Non-fiction, Feminist Theory, Ethnic Studies
 ISBN-10:  0822363194
 Published: February 3, 2017
 Publisher: Duke University Press Books

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