Saturday 14 November 2020

Book Review - The Familiars

Title: The Familiars

Author: Stacey Halls 

Publisher: Zaffre 

Release Date: 24 Sept. 2019 

ISBN-13: 978-1785766145

To save her child, she will trust a stranger. To protect a secret, she must risk her life . . .
Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn't supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.
Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong.
As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the North-West, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?
Soon the two women's lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood's stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.
Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

My Review
This is definitely not my usual type of read, I picked it up in the bookshop a few months ago purely because I thought it was an absolutely gorgeous cover, in reality it shimmers and catches the light and when you look closely you start to see lots of other details in the artwork. With a cover that beautiful I had to pick it up. The first sentence of the synopsis put me off, it said 'In 1612...' and i almost put it down as I don't do Historical novels, but I felt like I should give it more of a chance, as I continued to look at it and saw that it was about witchcraft and mysteries I thought it sounded really good. I had a book giftcard to spend and thought I might as well try something different.
I started to read this last weekend and in one sitting I had got through 200 pages, I found Fleetwood to be a rather charming main character and I felt myself connecting with her and instantly wanting to know more. Likewise with Alice, she was a bit of a mystery but something about her would draw me in.
There is quite a lot of descriptive language and after reading 100 pages I realised that not an awful lot had actually happened when I thought about it, but those pages had drawn me in and kept me reading, at no point reading this book was I bored or fed up. Everything that is in there has been crafted beautifully so that the book still flows but you get that added information that brings the whole world to life and make it feel all the more real. In fact, the book is set against the frenzy of the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials, Fleetwood Shuttleworth, Alice Grey and the other characters are actual historical figures. King James I was obsessed with asserting power over the lawless countryside by capturing “witches”, knowing that the characters are based on real people made it even more captivating, if not a little creepy. Some of the characters aren't that friendly and the description of one of the witches was truly scary. But it is also fascinating to think that some of these things really did happen. The book has clearly been well researched and put together. 
Fleetwood may only be 17 but she has been married for four years and suffered from multiple miscarriages, when she finds herself pregnant again she starts to worry, feeling ill constantly, put off her food and very pale she isn't sure what's going to happen, then she finds a letter from a doctor that her husband has hidden - a letter that says she will die if she gets pregnant again. At once she is unsure what to do, then she meets Alice who manages to calm her and make her feel well again. The pair start up an unlikely friendship, but with accusations of witchcraft around, it's dangerous to be a woman.
I loved the relationship between Fleetwood and Alice throughout the book, it changes and strengthens as the novel progresses and their dynamics are brilliant.
Fleetwood also changes in herself, she goes from being rather meek and obeying her husband's wishes to being quite bolshy and outspoken, willing to fight for herself and her friends and I really enjoyed seeing that development and strength arise and come through.
I think Halls is an amazing author and i can't believe this is a debut novel, her writing is so swift and has the ability to captivate you within a story, I will definitely be reading anything else she releases. In fact I have her second novel 'The Foundling' at my side ready to start.
I would highly recommend this book if you want something you can really get stuck into with elements of magic, friendships, mystery and justice. A truly great read.
My Rating




Saturday 7 November 2020

Book Review - Storm Watcher

Title: Storm Watcher

Author: Maria V Snyder 

Publisher: Leap Books, LLC 

Release Date: 5 May 2013 

ISBN-13: 978-1616030339


Luke Riley is lost. His mother's recent death has set Luke and his family adrift. Even though his father, twin brothers, and their three Bloodhounds are search and rescue volunteers, they have been unable to rescue themselves and become a family again. The summer after sixth grade looms in Luke's mind as a long, lonely three months where the only thing he can look forward to is watching The Weather Channel. Luke is fascinated with the weather, but since his mother's death in a storm, he is also terrified. Even the promised 13th birthday present of a Bloodhound puppy fails to lift Luke's spirits. He would rather have a different breed - a petite Papillon, but his father insists he get a Bloodhound.

When Luke decides to get the Bloodhound from Willajean, a dog breeder who owns Storm Watcher Kennel, he works out a deal to help at her kennel in exchange for the expensive dog. Thrilled to have a summer with a purpose, Luke befriends Willajean's daughter, Megan and together they plan how Luke can get a Papillon puppy instead of a Bloodhound. But nothing seems to work as they struggle with stubborn fathers, summer storms, unhelpful siblings, and hidden guilt. Can one little white dog really save both families?

 My Review

I have been a fan of Maria V Snyder's for years, having read the Poison Study series, I had never heard of this short novel before, but my mum received a signed copy and was awesome enough to lend it to me. Being busy at work, it's sat on my shelf for at least a month, but I finally got some down time today so I picked it up. At only 184 pages I knew it wouldn't take me more than a couple of hours, so was perfect to dip into. 

Luke has recently lost his mum and his whole life has changed, his brothers constantly pick on him, his dad is always busy and his friends don't know how to act around him, fearing a long summer ahead of him on his own, he's not holding out much hope for anything. Then he makes a deal with Willajean, a local dog breeder, if he works on her farm with her 30+ dogs for the summer, he can have a puppy of his own for free. Suddenly the summer is looking more interesting, especially when he meets her daughter - Megan. The pair strike up a friendship and Luke is learning a lot about dogs and about himself. I actually really liked that Snyder kept the pair as friends, there isn't the complication of a romance mixed into the story, just friends being there for each other.

Luke is obsessed with the weather and has a fear of storms, it's something that he has always been afraid of, a fear which only got worse after his mum was killed in a car accident caused by a lightning strike. There is a lot about weather in this book, and Snyder's past as a meteorologist clearly shines through, it wasn't too heavy or in your face though, just neatly weaved within the story. 

The characters are all very believable and you see them grow and develop over the story, I have always found Snyder to be an excellent creator of realistic characters. I think my favourite was Megan, she had more to her than originally meets the eye.

My only criticism of this book was that the ending felt quite abrupt, I honestly think that this book could have done with another 50-100 pages to fully wrap it up. I wanted more from the all and to know what came next. 

It's quite a simple story, it's aimed at middle grade - 9-14, so there are obviously limitations to the story and writing, but even so there is enough content there to create interest and there are plenty of messages and things to take away from the story. 

I would recommend this as a nice simple easy read that will sweep you away for a couple of hours, but it's definitely not on the same level as her other work. 

 My Rating