Lovely War by Julie Berry

Lovely War
by Julie Berry

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Date: 2019
Pages: 480
Fiction/Non-Fiction: Fiction
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Days to Read: 7
Purchase Locations: Amazon and Kindle Audible Book Depository Booktopia Dymocks QBD

A sweeping, multi-layered romance with a divine twist, by the Printz Honor-winning author of The Passion of Dolssa, set in the perilous days of World Wars I and II.

It’s 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She’s a shy and talented pianist; he’s a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it’s immediate and deep–and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.

Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who’s played Carnegie Hall, he’s a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that’s before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who’s already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.

Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.

Julie Berry is an American Author who has written 12 books so far in her career, with The Lovely War being her most recent release.

The Lovely War follows our wondrous Greek Gods, namely Aphrodite, Aries and Hephaestus as Aphrodite defends herself as she and Aries are put on trial for their affair. To defend herself Aphrodite tells two stories of love from the first world war. Throughout which we begin to see the world and the god of Love does.

The way that Julie Berry tells the stories of these for characters doesn’t make it feel like a historical fiction. Most of my previous experience with historical fiction has been dry and difficult for me to feel engaged in. As I saw reading ‘The Lovely War’ I felt transported back to the story of the first world war and the experiences of these characters. I was utterly invested in the outcome of their lives.

Hazel and James’s love story was one that I was wholeheartedly invested in. The Character were well written and had so much dimension and depth. You could really see how their characters change and develop through the war and what that does to a person and their connections within society.

Aphrodite as a narrator was an aspect of the book that I found really interesting. Looking and the relationship between love and war from the perspective of love was something I hadn’t seen before. I really enjoyed that the narrator was a character and seeing the little additions and notes the character makes throughout the story.

I’m not sure if this qualifies as a “dislike” but I felt that I was so invested in the story that when the main four characters we follow were treated badly I was really sad. I really didn’t like the racism that was clear in the times of the first world war, but I feel like that’s more of my own issue.

Overall, ‘The Lovely War’ is a transformative book that sends the reader back in time as they listen to a tale weaved by a god. The experience is one that can make someone appreciate the love that they have in their own lives.

Plot: 8.5/10
Ease of reading: 8/10
Character Development: 8/10
World Building: 8/10
Quality of Writing: 7/10
Overall: 4.5/5

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale
by Katherine Arden
#1 in the Winternight Trilogy

Publisher: Del Rey Books
Date: 2017
Pages: 323
Fiction/Non-Fiction: Fiction
Genre:  Histoical Fiction
Days to Read: 11
Purchase Locations: Amazon & Kindle Audible Book Depository Booktopia Dymocks

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

The Bear and the Nightingale follows Vasilisa a young girl living in on the brink of the wilderness in a fantasy version of Medieval Russia. She lives in a town that believes in both the christian church and the stories of old. After her mother passes away Vasilisa’s father heads to Moscow and brings home a new wife. 

Vasilisa soon discovers what happens when a truly devout woman decides that within the town household spirits will no longer be honoured and is backed by the new town priest. From the moment they arrive things begin to go downhill, from freezing winters to failing crops Vasilisa becomes highly worried about her family’s ability to survive the harsh winters. 

So, this book has A Lot going on. Vasilisa is a fantastic main character. She is wild and brave and not afraid to stand up to the norms of medieval Russia where she is oppressed and expected to be obedient. I really liked how she was wild at heart and cared deeply for the household spirits, even when it caused her to be labeled as a witch. 

The story as a whole was interesting and definitely something I hadn’t read before. Russian myth is not something I am familiar with however it is definitely mythology I would be interested in finding out more about. The story definitely had some magic woven into the hardships of winter described. 

Katherine Adren’s writing lends itself to the historical fiction fantasy genre. There were some beautiful description of the settings. Even being in the midst of summer here in Australia it was like I could feel the bitter cold Russian Winter being described. I find that particularly important to a book with such depth and detail as this. Without a greatly detailed and engaging setting I can end up feeling like the story is to dense and I am unable to get past the denseness to the beauty behind it. 

As I listened to the story on Audiobook I found it a bit hard to keep track of all the names they were definitely not super complicated but I did find that I muddled them up quite a lot. I don’t know if that is necessarily a critique of the book or just my listening skills. 

There were a few characters that I really disliked throughout the story. Vasalia’s stepmother Ana was one of them. I found her totally irrational and completely unfair to Vasalisa to the point where she was clearly treating her poorly. 

I also absolutely despise and I mean despise Constantine the priest who comes to the village. It has absolutely nothing to do with him being the religious figurehead and everything to do with him being the worst person ever. The fact that he blatantly blames a child for his actions and thoughts is something that bothers me to no end. He is also quick to sacrifice anyone but himself -even his more devout follower – when given the option to protect himself by doing so. I would get so outraged while I was reading. Especially when he wouldn’t let Vasilisa run away and the only answer for him was for her to go to a convent, even though running away would culminate in the same result. 

The beginning of the story is slow. It was a bit difficult to get into. There are so many events that happen in quick succession that are necessary for the story but also happen way too fast. I also found some moments unnecessary. While in Moscow one of Vasilisa’s brothers decides to become a monk. I don’t know if I missed something or if this will become important to the next two books but for ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ there seemed to be no reason that we spent so much time with him coming to the decision. 

The first book in this beginning to a Historical fiction trilogy that weaves the stories of Russian mythology. It follows a wild hearted protagonist who was definitely a trailblazer born into the wrong century. 

Plot: 6/10
Ease of reading: 7/10
Character Development: 6/10
World Building: 6/10
Quality of Writing: 6/10
Overall: 3/5

February 2020 TBR

After having what I consider a decent start to the year, when it comes to reading specifically, I am keen to get into February and continue on this reading streak!

Overall I really want to get to all 13 of these books in February. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

What are your reading plans for February?

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Song of Achilles
by Madeline Miller

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Date: 2011
Pages: 352
Fiction/Non-Fiction: Fiction
Genre:  Historical
Days to Read: 1
Purchase Locations: Amazon and Kindle Audible Book Depository Booktopia Dymocks QBD Scribd

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

If you are just stumbling upon my blog with this review, first of all, Hi, my name is Kate. If there is something to know about its that I love all things mythology but what began my passion was Greek Myth, Legend and History. This is a relatively new thing that I have discovered about myself as I recently (in the last couple of years) visited Greece and went on a classical Greece tour which was utterly amazing and taught me so much about the incredible myths of the country. I also married a greek – opa! – which has not only made me an honorary greek but introduced me to a wealth of knowledge through his family.

After I read Circe also by Madeline Miller I knew that I would be picking up Song of Achilles. To be brief Song of Achilles follows Patroclus through his life and journey which finds him at the battle of Troy with the hero Achilles. The intricacies of this story are incredibly woven with the depth of the characters and a plot rich in history. I loved every minute of it. I felt as though I was sitting by a fireside drinking in the knowledge of a legendary story.

Patroclus really makes readers feel something. He is a character with great empathy for others and a desire to help people. He wishes to learn more about the people he encounters and not only teach them but also learn as much as he can from then. I felt his giving nature in all of his interactions with people.

The descriptions of both Pthia and Troy were incredibly rich in detail and as a reader I really felt as though I was in the story experiencing things along with our characters.

Song of Achilles is a story I cannot wait to revisit in the future and experience these amazing characters over and over again. If you are someone who enjoys Historical Fiction or Greek myth this book will definitely give you one incredible story.

Plot: 9/10
Ease of reading: 6/10
Character Development: 9/10
World Building: 9/10
Quality of Writing: 8/10
Overall:5/5

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
By Taylor Jenkins Reid

Publisher: Atria books
Date: 2017
Pages: 391
Fiction/Non-Fiction: Fiction
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Days to Read: 1
Purchase Locations: Amazon and Kindle Audible Book Depository Booktopia Dymocks QBD

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jump-start her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late ’80s and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds – revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love – Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Written with Reid’s signature talent for “creating complex, likable characters” (Real Simple), this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means – and what it takes – to face the truth.

‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ is the second most recent work by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It was the first of her novels that really took off in terms of hype and popularity particularly on both BookTube and within the bookstagram community.

It was the first book I’d heard of from the author and I can’t say I was instantly intrigued. This was mostly for my lack of desire to read contemporary fiction or historical fiction so I dismissed it as one I wouldn’t enjoy.

I was however proven wrong, my own stubbornness really gets in the way of reading some great books sometimes. Even though ‘Daisy Jones and the Six‘ was the book that really had me eating my words about contemporary fiction, ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ would definitely of had the same effect if I had read it first.

I didn’t feel like I was reading about unrelatable characters in an unrelatable time even with Evelyn Hugo largely following her time in Hollywood from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. The descriptions were so vivid and there was a personal connection with Evelyn that made it feel like it was happening right now.

There are so many topics and movements that are covered throughout ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ including an exploration of sexuality and the laws around gay rights at the time. I really felt for the characters that were being affect by the laws and by extension the real people that lived through that time.

There were so many emotions I experienced through this story. I didn’t really think I was a super emotional reader until this year but apparently I am. I definitely found joy in this story but I also felt genuinely sad at points and may or may not of cried.

I love when stories have the ability to do that, it really shows that as a reader I was connected to these characters.

‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ was an book for the ages. It is one that I believe has the staying power to be in important book for people to read that also gives readers a glimpse into the glamours and the reality of old Hollywood.

Plot: 7/10
Ease of reading: 7/10
Character Development: 8/10
World Building: 8/10
Quality of Writing: 8/10
Stars: 4/5

What did you think if The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo?

‘Wings of Olympus’ by Kallie George Review

Wings of Olympus

by Kallie George

Publisher: Harpercollins
Date: 2019
Pages: 224
Fiction/Non-Fiction: Fiction
Genre:  Mythology
Days to Read: 2
Purchase Locations: Amazon & Kindle Book Depository Booktopia Dymocks

Take flight with Pippa and her winged horse in this heartfelt two-book series about a young girl who must win the hardest race in ancient Greece in order to stay with her closest friend.

High on the slopes of mighty Mount Olympus, among the sun-splashed meadows and sparkling waters, glide the winged horses of the ancient gods. Here up high is normally no place for a lost, parentless girl like Pippa. But once every hundred years, the gods and goddesses descend to the mortal realm to choose jockeys for their winged horse race—and Pippa is one of the lucky children chosen to ride.

With her undersized, impetuous winged steed, Zephyr, by her side, Pippa has to confront the greatest challenge of her life: achieving victory in a race across the sky.

No one expects Pippa and Zephyr to win, or even finish, this death-defying race. A poor orphan who’s spent her life working in stables, Pippa doesn’t seem to belong in the world of the gods. And while she loves Zephyr with all her heart, he’s smaller than the other winged horses racing. But if Pippa and Zephyr don’t find a way to win, the gods will separate them—forever.

To stay with Zephyr, Pippa will have to work harder, train longer, and dare more bravely than her competition. In a race filled with petty, jealous gods and goddesses and a host of ruthless riders, Pippa must prove that love is greater than might.

Find me a book with a pegasus on the cover and honestly I am completely and utterly in, I don’t care if it’s a middle grade. I genuinely heard about ‘Wings of Olympus’ on Youtube and bought it as soon as I could. Because I am crazy for anything Greek Myth!

In the story we follow mostly Pippa who is an orphan who wishes for more from her life and is an avid horse lover. Pippa along with other children are selected by different Gods to compete in a race to choose then next pegasus that will assist Zeus. Obviously everyone wants to win.

The middle gradeness of the story really comes through not only in the cast of characters being children but also the gorgeous moral storyline and the ultimate story of trusting yourself and your instincts. its honestly so cute!

Pippa is a determined mine character. We don’t get to experience much of her really with the book being so short but I love her dreamer quality. I love reading from a dreamers point of view an the selflessness that comes along with that. I was really on her side from the get go.

One this I wish was different about this story would be the length, I want more!

Wings of Olympus is a quick and fun read that is so light hearted and whimsical that I can always get around it.

Plot: 5/10
Ease of reading: 10/10
Character Development: 6/10
World Building: 6.5/10
Quality of Writing: 7/10
Stars: 4/5


What is your favourite thing to read about?

Review: ‘Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel’ Adapted by Mariah Marsden

‘Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel’

Adapted By Mariah Marsden

Publisher: Andrew McMeel Publishing
Date: 2017
Pages: 332
Fiction/Non-Fiction: Fiction
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Days to Read: 1
Purchase Locations: Amazon & Kindle Audible Book Depository Booktopia

Schoolyard rivalries. Baking disasters. Puffed sleeves. Explore the violet vales and glorious green of Avonlea in this spirited adaptation.

The magic of L.M. Montgomery’s treasured classic is reimagined in a whimsically-illustrated graphic novel adaptation perfect for newcomers and kindred spirits alike. When Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert decide to adopt an orphan who can help manage their family farm, they have no idea what delightful trouble awaits them. With flame-red hair and an unstoppable imagination, 11-year-old Anne Shirley takes Green Gables by storm.

Anne’s misadventures bring a little romance to the lives of everyone she meets: her bosom friend, Diana Barry; the town gossip, Mrs. Lynde; and that infuriating tease, Gilbert Blythe. From triumphs and thrills to the depths of despair, Anne turns each everyday moment into something extraordinary.

The spirit of Anne is alive and well in Mariah Marsden’s crisp adaptation, and it’s a thrill to watch as the beloved orphan rushes headlong through Brenna Thummler’s heavenly landscapes. Together Marsden and Thummler conjure all the magic and beauty of Green Gables. Like Anne herself, you won’t want to leave.
— Brian Selznick, author/illustrator of “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” and “The Marvels”

‘Anne of Green Gables’ is a classic that I’ve wanted to pick up in who knows how long. I finally did so in graphic novel form. I didn’t really know what to expect, all I knew was that Anne had red hair and freckles and a crazy imagination. All those things help true, but what I didn’t know was that she is an amazing character for girls to read about.

While I was reading I got genuinely teary on the train, Anne is a character that even as a reader I wanted to fiercely protect. She’s the underdog from the beginning that really seems to be the most imaginative of characters. Her emotions are like a roller coaster (accurate to children these days) and she would say things that she would later regret, but I enjoyed how readers saw her thought process as to what she was sorry for or when she wasn’t sorry at all. This really looks at when it is necessary to apologise and when maybe you do not need to.

I really enjoyed my time with Anne in the Green Gables, the full novel is something that I am definitely putting on my wish list to pick up in the future.

Plot: 8/10
Ease of reading: 10/10
Character Development: 6/10
World Building: 7/10
Quality of Writing: 9/10
Stars: 4/5

Review: ‘Sky in the Deep’ By Adrienne Young

‘Sky in the Deep’

By Adrienne Young

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Date: 2015
Pages: 491
Fiction/Non-Fiction: Fiction
Genre:  Mythology
Days to Read: 9
Purchase Locations: Amazon & Kindle Book Depository Booktopia Dymocks QBD

Part Wonder Woman, part Vikings—and all heart.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating. 

I have heard so many mixed reviews on ‘Sky in the Deep’. Some people DNF’d it and some people like it, so I decided I needed to read it for myself.

We follow a girl named Eelyn who see’s her brother on the battlefield while fighting the Riki – an enemy clan. Thinking her brother dead she kind of freaks out and when the two clans meet each other in battle the next day she follows her brother. This leads into the rest of out story with Eelyn being forced to live and work among her enemies. While doing this she discovers the humanity in the rival clan and I feel like you can guess the rest.

Eelyn is a character I find extremely stubborn. She really doesn’t want to change her views about this enemy clan. She is a bundle of contradictions. She feels like she is starting to understand the Riki one second and then mutters about how she could kill them in a second the next. I really wasn’t sure how I felt about her. I never wanted anything bad to happen to her but I also thought she was kind of brutal towards people who were helping her.

The plot of this story is slow and limited in its existence. We get a very shallow back story into why these two clans absolutely hate each other but nothing that really fuels that fire to me. I struggled to really understand why they were fighting or feel the need behind it. Within the story we spend a lot of time with Eelyn processing the truth of her brother and being standoffish towards people who are helping her, this I felt I understood more, however I was still not that invested in the plot. I definitely felt that the enemies to lovers troupe was predictable as much as I like both characters and the ending while nice, was predictable from about half way into the story.

I did absolutely love the setting. ‘Sky in the Deep’ takes place in gorgeous snow capped mountains and stunning Fjords. I was definitely getting Norway vibes through out this read and really want to visit Norway now. I do wish there had been a bit more description.

Overall, I didn’t like nor dislike reading ‘Sky in the Deep’ I think if you like reading about battles then it might be your jam but it is a slow read that isn’t long enough for us to really get invested in the characters.

Plot: 4/10
Ease of reading: 6/10
Character Development: 5/10
World Building: 4/10
Quality of Writing: 6/10
Stars: 2.5/5