❧ audiobook review
THAT ENDING THO
I didn’t think I was going to be okay with the ending. I was really, really worried about the ending for a second there.
This book is set at the end of the Cold War, in the heart of Berlin, as Ralf and Oz fall in love.
But of course, in the end, 1989 meant neither of those things. It just meant Oz and espionage – how grand that word sounds now. And, I suppose my family, and the terrible things we did.
Angst and espionage, you say?
(I’m not sure I ever recovered from the gut-punching angst that was London Spy, but sure, I figured let’s give 1989 yearning and secrecy a try.) This is another Joe Jameson narration, and it is a truth universally acknowledged that if Joe Jameson narrates a book, I will listen to it. (If you’ve been following my reviews, he’s one of my favourite audiobook narrators so far. He voiced The Prince of Thorns, The Last Romeo and The Magnificent Sons. Three amazing books, by the way. Deffo check them out!)
This book was a wonderful historical fiction about young love and family obligations. Fergusson’s writing is lovely and I’m so glad I gave this book a chance! Oz and Ralf are wonderful characters!
Also, his description of his mum at the start straight up gives me Sex Education vibes.
I really enjoyed this book and I’m definitely going to look out for more books by Ben Fergusson in future.
Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve
I absolutely fell in love with the Mortal Engines film by Peter Jackson, which I’ve reviewed here, and ever since I watched it, I’ve been wanting to read the book. I finally had time to finish it the other week and I ADORED it. There are a few big differences from the film, but I loved both in their own way. For anyone who loves dystopian fiction, definitely dive into this series.
“You aren’t a hero, and I’m not beautiful, and we probably won’t live happily ever after,” she said. “But we’re alive, and together, and we’re going to be all right.”
Oh my goshhhhh, this book is so fantastic, I cannot. Hester/Tom are so fucking perfect together. The scene where he’s specifically told not to tell Hester and in less than a second goes, nope, Hester’s gonna be mad if I don’t and then runs off to tell her immediately is *chef’s kiss* These two are so perfect together I canNOT.
Tom looked round at her, and saw more clearly than ever before the kind, shy Hester peeping from behind the grim mask. He smiled at her with such warmth that she blushed.
This entire book has me like, protect Hester Shaw at all costs she is precious, despite the fact that, you know, she could break my face with her pinkie finger.
But seriously, this book is soooo good. And as grim as it is, this universe is fascinating! I definitely love Tom and Hester as much as I did in the film. Anna is a total badass, too! I also adore Kate and Bevis. Precious little investigator duo \o/
Anywho, I must get the rest of the series!
My newest novel is going to be published at the end of the month! It’s a fantasy, science-fiction, dystopia, romance, action/adventure mashup.
Once upon a time, inhabitants of another world tore a hole through the universe and came to Earth. They called themselves Suriias, and rivalled humans in knowledge and skill with one great exception: they had magic.
War followed. Humanity lost. And three hundred years later, humans are on the brink of extinction.
Orphans Thorn and Thistle live in hiding. They are the last of their families, the last of their friends. They scrape by, stealing to survive and living on the streets or hiding in sheds. But even under the brutal regime of the Suriias, there are places where humans can mingle in secret with magical sympathisers, and one night Thistle gets an unexpected offer of marriage from a Suriia with high standing and friends in all the right places. For Thistle, it’s a chance at safety and comfort; for Thorn, it’s a chance to find the ones who killed her parents.
And so the pair move into the capital city of Courtenz. An urban monstrosity of magic and might, false friends and flying cars, drones and death tolls, the new city promises a fresh start – and new love – for both.
But if there’s one thing Thorn knows for certain, it’s that dreams can swiftly turn into nightmares.
A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)
by Deborah Harkness
‘I saw the logic that they used, and the death of a thousand cuts as experimental scientists slowly chipped away at the belief that the world was an inexplicably powerful, magical place. Ultimately they failed, though. The magic never really went away. It waited, quietly, for people to return to it when they found the science wanting.’
TEA! WINE! BOOKS! MAGIC!
This book is basically an ode to all the things a historian loves: archival research in old libraries with numerous texts and tomes, historical tangents, philosophical debates, and an investigation into the inexplicable and wondrous. I’m also fairly certain I’ve never encountered two characters who love the history of wine and tea more than Diana and Matthew. Bless their hearts.
A Discovery of Witches is the first in a trilogy that follows the fantastical adventures of Diana Bishop, a professor/witch who is spending her summer in Oxford for research on alchemical texts. But it’s in the archives that she stumbles upon something: a book that everyone in the magical world wants to get their hands on. Diana, though a witch, wants nothing to do with magic and pretends not to notice the book or its magical ~allure. That is, until a vampire named Matthew Clairmont catches her notice.
Matthew, along with an entire library of magical onlookers (i.e. magical stalkers), all want the book. For some reason, though, only Diana has ever been able to access it. This discovery leads to a spiral of events that put Diana in danger as various vampires and witches try to get the book. Few of the book’s seekers care about Diana’s wellbeing, leaving her with only Matthew and her aunts to help. Her aunts, Sarah and Emily, were wonderful! Very motherly. They’re both witches themselves and I love their scenes. I also loved Matthew’s relationships with his family: especially Marcus, his son and Ysabeau, his mum. The story eventually leads the main couple from England to France and then to the United States, so there’s a good bit of setting changes. The library scenes were probably my favourite, though!
This is a vampire tale quite different from Buffy or Vampire Diaries. I was reminded a bit of Twilight at the start, but not because the storylines are the same (they’re not) or because Diana is similar to Bella (she isn’t), or because the vampires are similar (they’re totally, totally, totally different), but rather because Matthew reminded me a bit of Edward at the start. That sort of quiet, reserved, chivalrous type who lurks in the shadows. That changed pretty quickly, though. Matthew is much, much darker than Edward. His history is long and brutal and he makes no attempts at hiding it. There are some seriously interesting events in history that he’s been party to. This is a book that lauds history, so you do get a lot of historical moments re-imagined through the lens of vampires and witches, which was seriously cool. Diana and Matthew are the epitome of researching academics, which I adore ♡ Their chemistry is also unreal.
I’m definitely curious about book two, Shadow of Night, especially given that ending! OH MY GOSH.
Has anyone else read this trilogy? Or seen the show?
Lie With Me by Philippe Besson
No matter how much you want to respect someone’s freedom (even when you consider it selfish), you still have your own pain, anger, and melancholy to contend with.
I was not prepared for this story AT ALL.
I first picked up Lie With Me because I love Molly Ringwald – and Molly Ringwald surely has great taste in LGBT French novellas?! And, she totally does. Lie With Me is a beautiful, tragic, raw novella that’s left me quite unsure what to do with myself. I just want to reach into the book and wrap my arms around Thomas, Philippe and Lucas.
He says I’m a boy of books, from somewhere else.
The story follows Philippe and Thomas in a small French village in the 1980s. They start a quiet, hidden away relationship. The story’s quite short (only about 160 pages), so to avoid spoiling anything I’m just going to say that this is a stunning piece of literature. Truly. But be prepared to cry your eyes out.
It’s a curious notion, love: difficult to identify and define. There are so many degrees and variations.
I’m going to have so little time to read very soon, so of course I decided to start three awesome books in tandem.
I’m absolutely loving A Discovery of Witches. It follows a historian witch who discovers a magical book in Oxford and is suddenly a target for magical creatures. Matthew, the vampire she ends up dating, is fascinating. The backstories are really interesting and I’m excited to see where it goes. There’s a television show based on the trilogy, but I haven’t seen it yet and I kind of want to read all three books before I watch it.
Lie With Me is one that came to my notice because it’s a French book by Philippe Besson that Molly Ringwald translated into English. I really like Molly Ringwald and was interested to check it out. It’s a short novella set in France and tells the love story of Philippe and Thomas in the 1980s. I’m really liking it so far and the writing is absolutely lovely.
I also just got Wicked Fox, which is a Korean fantasy novel that I’ve been excited to read for months now. It’s about a gumiho, which is a nine-tailed fox in Korean mythology. I’m listening to this one on audible and the narrator’s really good!
Anyone read any of these? ♡
There are so many books on my list that I’m eagerly awaiting reading and these are just the start! Some great finds, though. Of these four, the first is an ARC to read and review, the second was gifted to me by a friend, the third is a new short from Tor (I really do love their short stories!), and the last is a new nonfiction book on the Korean War that I got pretty much the day it came out. I really respect Charles J. Hanley’s previous work, so I’m definitely going into this one ready to be well informed. If you haven’t read it, definitely check out The Bridge at No Gun Ri.
The Wolf and The Water by Josie Jaffrey
Some secrets are worth killing for
The ancient city of Kepos sits in an isolated valley, cut off from the outside world by a towering wall. Behind it, the souls of the dead clamour for release. Or so the priesthood says.
Kala has never had any reason to doubt their word – until her father dies in suspicious circumstances that implicate the city’s high priest. She’s determined to investigate, but she has a more immediate problem: the laws of the city require her mother to remarry straight away.
Kala’s new stepfather is a monster, but his son Leon is something altogether more dangerous: kind.
With her family fractured and the investigation putting her life in danger, the last thing Kala needs is romance. She would rather ignore Leon entirely, however difficult he makes it. But when she learns the truth of what really clamours behind the wall at the end of the valley, she faces a choice: share what she knows and jeopardise her escape, or abandon him to his fate along with the rest of the city.
If she doesn’t move fast, then no one will make it out of the valley alive.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
Everyone in Fairview knows the story.
Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.
But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?
Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.
This is the story of an investigation turned obsession, full of twists and turns and with an ending you’ll never expect.
Wait for Night by Stephen Graham Jones
Wait for Night by Stephen Graham Jones is horror story about a day laborer hired to help clean up a flooded creek outside of Boulder, Colorado, who comes across what could be a very valuable find.
Ghost Flames: Life and Death in a Hidden War, Korea 1950-1953 by Charles J. Hanley
A powerful, character-driven narrative of the Korean War from the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who helped uncover some of its longest-held and darkest secrets
The war that broke out in Korea on a Sunday morning 70 years ago has come to be recognized as a critical turning point in modern history, as the first great clash of arms of the Cold War, the last conflict between superpowers, and the root of a nuclear crisis that grips the world to this day.
In this vivid, emotionally compelling and highly original account, Charles J. Hanley tells the story of the Korean War through the eyes of 20 individuals who lived through it–from a North Korean refugee girl to an American nun, a Chinese general to a black American prisoner of war, a British journalist to a US Marine hero.
This is an intimate, deeper kind of history, whose meticulous research and rich detail, drawing on recently unearthed materials and eyewitness accounts, brings the true face of the Korean War, the vastness of its human tragedy, into a sharper focus than ever before. The “Forgotten War” becomes unforgettable.
In decades as an international journalist, Hanley reported from some 100 countries and covered more than a half-dozen conflicts, from Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq.
What’s everyone else looking forwarding to reading this month?
I found a bunch of great audiobooks and audibles this week. A lot of them are free, too, which makes me happy! If you have an Audible account, definitely take advantage of the free offers because I somehow overlooked them until recently and there’s actually some pretty good stuff on offer.
I’m currently listening to The Folding Star (literary fiction, lgbt+), which has been on my list for a bit, and The Rise of the Iron Men With Misha Glenny (politics, free!). The narrator of The Folding Star is so good (Samuel West!), I definitely recommend this one for easy listening and beautiful prose. The Rise of the Iron Men is a series by Misha Glenny, looking at the rise of populist leaders around the world. Also looks at how Covid-19 affected their power. Very interesting stuff and it provides a detailed overview of six current leaders. I’ve listened to 2/6 so far.
I’m also really looking forward to these ones (all free!): In Search of Black History with Bonnie Greer, Romeo and Jude, Six Degrees of Assassination, Nicholas Nickleby: The Dickens Collection, We Need to Talk About the British Empire, A Grown-Up Guide to Dinosaurs, A Grown-Up Guide to Oceans, and Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets.
Anyone else listening to good audiobooks? Do share!