The Girl the Sea Gave Back Review

The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young.

I’ll start off by saying I absolutely adored the cover for this book, it was what first attracted me to it. A girl in Viking-esque style stepping out of a choppy sea? Amazing. As usual I did no research on this book before reading it, and therefore had no idea this was the second in a series. Thankfully it doesn’t directly follow on from the previous book, because that would have been very confusing. Instead the main character from the previous book appears as a very minor relation to one of the main characters in this book, Halvard. This review is a bit messy, but so were my thoughts about this book so it couldn’t be helped. The synopsis:

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

Now, if you’ve read the first book, I’m assuming you went into this book knowing about the history between all the clans and who the Svell are. I didn’t, and if you are going to read this book, I highly recommend reading The Sky in the Deep first. You can read this one and understand it, but it takes some detective work to have any idea what’s going on.

Some basic details I picked up were that Tova comes from a territory not connected to the mainland, from a people called the Kyrr. They’re mysterious and no one messes with them. On the mainland there are the Svell, who Tova lives with, and the Nadhir, who are made up of two joined clans, the Aska and the Riki. Some people called the Herja attacked the Nadhir a while ago. While this book is described as a standalone, I think I would have got less distracted by random details if I had read the first one.

The book is written in first person from two perspectives, Tova and Halvard. Tova is a Truthtongue, which means she can read the runes. The Svell hate her and think she is an insult to their god, so want to kill her while their Tala (holy person) keeps her alive for his own uses. Tova is uniquely in tune with the spinners, who control the destiny of gods and men. She can sense the web the spinners weave, and occasionally hears things. I did a bit of research and while the spinners are called the Norns in Norse mythology, they are roughly equal to the fates in Greek mythology. This book definitely felt more historical fiction than fantasy. Halvard is the heir to the Nadhir chieftain and the link to the previous book.

The writing of this book was the best bit about it. There were some stereotypical features such as memory flashbacks to provide background to Halvard and Tova and some outsiders who save the day, but the plot got better as the book went one, with the mysterious Kyrr who Halvard knows and the brief encounters between Tova and Halvard before they meet properly. I really enjoyed the simple, evocative descriptions of setting and the vivid writing of action, the mixture of fate and free will, inevitability and brutality.

The ending was my favourite part of The Girl the Sea Gave Back. That sounds like an insult, but I don’t mean it as one, it’s just the book took me a while to get into and everything pulls together very dramatically near the end. It had the contrast between Tova and Halvard tentatively trusting one another, Tova finally not feeling like an outcast and a great final battle. There was a bit of romance if you like that kind of thing, although I slightly thought Tova and Halvard should be left as friends. Overall I would recommend this book, but only after reading the first one. Would I survive? Maybe not, I’m not a particularly violent person.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Review

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I ordered The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo from the library after seeing a recommendation on twitter for F/F February. I didn’t read the synopsis, just went and ordered it, so when it arrived I was a little apprehensive as it isn’t the kind of thing I normally read. However, my expectations were blown out of the park. I adored The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and would highly recommend it. Here’s the synopsis:

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 is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ’80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a mesmerizing 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 costs–to face the truth.

The novel is written in first person, switching from Monique to Evelyn when Evelyn begins to tell her life story, and switching back to Monique at various intervals. The intervals are done by husband, that is to say Evelyn goes through her life husband by husband and pauses after each one while other things go on in Monique’s life. I was hooked by the time I had got 43 pages in (weirdly specific, I know) and to be perfectly honest I was hooked well before that. In the sections where Evelyn narrated, I was spellbound and temporarily forgot that any other plot was going on apart from the telling of Evelyn’s life story. There are also newspaper articles scattered throughout, showing the world’s reaction to what was happening inside Evelyn and Monique’s intense little bubble.

The world of Hollywood that’s portrayed is vivid, glamorous and glorious and exciting and absolutely fascinating. There was not a single moment without drama in the life of Evelyn Hugo and I was gripped, genuinely caring about what happened and desperate for everything to turn out okay even as hints were dropped that something was off. Evelyn’s tumultuous relationships with her seven husbands reveal many secrets, the mistakes Evelyn made and the lessons she learned which she tries to impart to Monique as Monique asks the biggest question on her mind: which husband was Evelyn Hugo’s true love?  Now, I have no idea what one of the notes I made means and I’ve already taken it back to the library, so if anyone decides to pick up the book after reading this review (YOU SHOULD) please explain what this means: ‘Sudden plot twist without actually being a plot twist in the middle’. Enigmatic.

And in the last moments, where it is revealed why Evelyn Hugo chose Monique for her story? Incredible. What an ending. I was happy, then I was sad. Oh my gosh. What a book. Read it. Go for it. I didn’t think t would be my thing either, yet here I am raving about it. This book has love and drama and a strong willed woman living her life the best she can. Would I survive this book? It’s set on earth so I suppose if I’m still alive to write this review then I’d do just fine.

Enchantée Review

Enchantée by Gita Trelease

Enchantée is a YA historical fantasy, in which Gita Trelease takes us back to revolution era France. The hardest bit about writing this review was definitely finding the é, I searched Word for so long before it occurred to me that I could just google it. I have literally no tech skills!

So my main point about this book is it is definitely more fantasy than historical, at least I found it so. It felt more like a fairytale set in a world roughly based on revolution era France rather than an accurate historical retelling. It took me a moment to get used to it, but once I had adjusted my expectations I really enjoyed this book. Some moments of the French Revolution are mentioned, but they are not graphically described and it misses a sharpness necessary to be a realistic representation of history.

That being said, Enchantée is wonderful. It is sweet and addictive, beautiful and soft. I expected something harsher, but instead got love and magic and revolution all sweetly woven together. It follows the story of Cecile, an orphan who looks after her younger sister and protects them both from her horrible older brother. With money running out, she disguises herself as a Duchess using magic her mother taught her and dives into the glamorous, poisoned apple of Versaille. The story grows more and more intense as Cecile is wrapped up and pulled into the luxurious world of the aristocrats she has hated for so long. The story flows beautifully and carried me along as we met a range of characters all hiding their own secrets as they gamble the nights away.

I really enjoyed the ending and I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants some magical fun set in the French Revolution. Would I survive this? I honestly have no idea. I think I would enjoy being an aristocrat, but having my head cut off and being forced to marry someone I don’t want to doesn’t sound so fun…

A Twist in Time Review

A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain

(Picture from Goodreads since I read it as an ebook)

The Kendra Donovan Mysteries are, in my humble opinion, a hugely underrated series. They follow the adventures of ex-FBI agent Kendra Donovan after she is somehow transported back to 1815. A Twist in Time is the second book in the series, the first being a Murder in Time. This review will include minor spoilers for the first book, so if you intend to read it and don’t want spoilers, please don’t read on!

In A Twist in Time Kendra is unfortunately (for her, not the reader) still in the past despite her best efforts to get back to the twenty first century. She is called to London along with the Duke she is staying with after his nephew is suspected of the murder of Lady Dover. This book is full of more people being shocked by Kendra’s ‘American’ (future) manners, murder and crime, Alec and Kendra irritating each other and high society in 1815. Amazing.

I really enjoy the plot and writing style and characters of these books. It’s the perfect trifecta. The plot is well paced, with lots of action and constantly moving. The writing style flows smoothly and carried me along through the story, ramping up the tension in some places and drawing moments out in others keeping the reader gripped. Kendra’s twenty first century background means that she notices everything different between the past and present, therefore alerting the reader to key differences between the centuries especially when considering the different classes. Kendra coming from an FBI background as well means she is very observant and is always shaking things up within the 1815 method of solving crimes.

A Twist in Time is a brilliantly written historical crime novel which carries on from the excitement of the first book excellently, full of rich descriptions and historical details. I desperately want to read the next book and I will somehow get my hands on it, even if neither of the counties I have library cards for have it! I’m not sure if I could survive in the 19th century- no toilets or proper cleaning materials sounds like a nightmare, not to mention how restricted women were!