Cuckoo by Sophie Draper / Blog Tour

Cuckoo by Sophie Draper

 

41061962Publisher: Avon

Publishing Date: 29th November 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 297

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thrillers

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

’Spooky and absorbing. I was gripped from the first page!’ CASS GREEN

There’s a stranger in your house…

When her stepmother dies unexpectedly, Caro returns to her childhood home in Derbyshire. She hadn’t seen Elizabeth in years, but the remote farmhouse offers refuge from a bad relationship, and a chance to start again.

But going through Elizabeth’s belongings unearths memories Caro would rather stay buried. In particular, the story her stepmother would tell her, about two little girls and the terrible thing they do.

As heavy snow traps Caro in the village, where her neighbours stare and whisper, Caro is forced to question why Elizabeth hated her so much, and what she was hiding. But does she really want to uncover the truth?

A haunting and twisty story about the lies we tell those closest to us, perfect for fans of Ruth Ware and Cass Green.

my-review

Caro, after the death of her mother and then father, has been raised by her stepmother. They’ve never seen eye to eye, so when after her death Caro finds out that she – together with her sister with whom she had grown apart – has inherited the house, she’s surprised. Even more so when her sister relinquishes the inheritance. Recently separated from a boyfriend, and with job as an illustrator that she can do everywhere, Caro decides to take on the task of clearing the house out, while waiting for the probate to clear. Soon strange things begin to happen at the house, and Caro starts to ask herself what’s happening. She also finds things that she doesn’t remember from her childhood, photos and different things that make her start to wonder why can’t she remember so much from her childhood? Why did Elizabeth hate her so much?

The author managed to capture the creepy, chilling atmosphere however there was no tension for me. It started in a great way, intriguing and full of questions, the odd things happening at the house Caro was staying at were intriguing at the beginning but quickly it dramatically slowed down, the things started to feel repetitive and not so dramatic, and yes, the author’s writing is very descriptive and vivid but I could live without reading about every single detail of the house, or the town – there was no progress to the story. And so I started to skim – reading: firstly because the pace was much too slow for my liking, and secondly, because I desperately wanted to arrive at the final twist that so many of the reviewers rave about. And when it happened… Well, guys, what shall I say, I’ve guessed it already long ago. I was of course hoping till the last moment that it wouldn’t finish in such obvious way, but well, it did.

I couldn’t put my finger on the main character. I suppose I should have compassion with her, fell for her but I simply couldn’t understand her actions. She seemed to be very naive and to make every mistake possible, and to make any bad choice possible. Yes, usually characters that have flaws feel much more realistic but not Caro, and moreover, she didn’t learn by her own mistakes. While sometimes it could make you, the reader, feel compassion, maybe understanding, for me it was just frustrating. She never tried to overcome her problems and fear, she just went with the flow, agreeing to everything that was happening in her life. Laptop suddenly gone? Oh well, it simply happens, right? The end left me thinking if Carol really did get her “happy end” or if she was too gullible to see the real intensions of Craig, or what were his intentions, to be honest.

The setting of the house, creepy, old and solitary, out of a small town, with unfriendly neighbours, in the middle of winter, snowed in couldn’t be better. But the potential in this simply hasn’t been taken.

It’s not that I didn’t like this book but I also didn’t love it. There was a great potential to it and it pained me to see that it wasn’t utilised. The turns and twists were there, and the author tried to make them unpredictable and unique. There is the constant feeling of isolation and that something is going to happen which is necessary in this kind of books. I think that the problem is with me, and I’m guessing that if I haven’t been reading so many books in this genre, I’d enjoyed “Cuckoo” much more. So if you’re into a slow – paced creepy story about abused and neglected child, about family secrets, about hate and revenge with a ting of gothic to it simply try this novel.

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25 Days ’til Christmas by Poppy Alexander / Blog Tour

25 Days ’til Christmas by Poppy Alexander

 

cover150320-mediumPublisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 1st November 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 352

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

Christmas is a time to get together…

Kate Thompson used to love Christmas. But that was before her husband went away with the army and didn’t come home. Now she can hardly stand the festive season.

But Kate knows there is more to life than this, and her son Jack needs a Christmas to remember. What she needs is a Christmas miracle, and if there isn’t one on its way, she’ll just have to make her own.

So begins Kate’s advent countdown to the best Christmas ever. She has it all planned out, but you can’t plan for the unexpected, and when her life starts to unravel can her friends and the community around her help her save Christmas for all of them…?

Curl up and countdown to Christmas with a heart-warming festive romance, perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan, Debbie Johnson, and Holly Martin.

Rating: five-stars

Kate Thompson hates Christmas, since her husband was killed four years ago during his service abroad as a soldier. However, her son Jack is desperate to have a lovely Christmas, with a tree and presents. Kate, struggling financially and emotionally, doesn’t know what to do and how to do this. She’s stuck at a low paid job, now she must also sell Christmas trees dressed as an elf and freezing and is not sure what the future is going to bring. Her friend comes up with an idea of doing a special advent calendar with a festive activity to do together for every day in the countdown to Christmas.
Daniel is not looking towards Christmas after the death of his sister. He used to buy Christmas trees from Kate and he knows only as Christmas tree girl. They start to bump into each other more and more and soon realises there is much more to Kate than meets the eye. But Kate’s life is really complicated – can she cope? Will she cope? Can somebody help her?

Kate was a great leading character – there were so many challenges on her way, her life was so demanding and yet she more than often put others above herself. Struggling with money, with being a single mum, she was a realistic, genuine character. It was beautiful and also heart – breaking to see how much she tried to organize the unforgettable Christmas for her son and how far she’s go to guard him. The idea of Kate creating the advent calendar for Jack and making the time so special for her and her little boy was brilliant. The Christmassy things that they were supposed to do in the countdown to Christmas were so nice and so different to everything that we’re used to, and now I really feel like preparing something like this for my family.

The pace in this story was just spot on, and there were many things happening, and the book itself brings together threads of different characters. The chapters are more or less a countdown to Christmas – it is a second book in the last weeks that I’ve read written this way, though they were both absolutely different in style and voice but this way worked great in both of them. I loved how it shows that Christmas is not only about commerce and presents but about what it really is that counts – family, friendship, helping each other, appreciating what we have. It was a real rollercoaster journey, full of ups and downs, filled with feelings and emotions. It tugs at all the right heart – strings, it’s this kind of book that’ll make you smile and cry, that is poignant and uplifting. The author has in such a gentle, subtle way dealt with so many tough and heavy issues and there was the overwhelming festive spirit. She has touched upon different things, some of which I don’t often read about, and it was truly great, thought – provoking and eye – opening. Poppy Alexander is for sure an author to have on your radar, I’m already waiting for her next offering. Highly recommended!

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A Winter Kiss on Rochester Mews by Annie Darling

A Winter Kiss on Rochester Mews by Annie Darling

 

 

40540663Publisher: Harper Collins

Publishing Date: 29th November 2018

Series: Lonely Hearts Bookshop #4

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

A heartwarming and hilarious Christmas romance!

Tis the season to be jolly!

But on Rochester Mews, two unlikely lovebirds are struggling to find their festive cheer.

Star baker Mattie has hated Christmas ever since she had her heart broken on Christmas Eve. The only thing she hates more is the insufferable Tom, who has rubbed her up the wrong way since she started running the tearoom next door to his bookshop. So when Mattie and Tom are left in charge in the frantic festive days before Christmas, it might be cold outside but things are sure to heat up.

Can a bookshop full of romantic novels, a life-sized reindeer and a mistletoe kissing booth persuade two scrooges to fall in love with Christmas… and each other?

Rating: five-stars

In “A Winter Kiss on Rochester Mews” we’re back to Happy Ever After, the best romantic fiction bookshop in the world, and to the adjoining tearoom run by Mattie Smith, a very talented patisserie chef. She’s been running it for two years already, after coming back from Paris – heartbroken and disappointed and badly judged. This all happened around Christmas, so it’s not a wonder that she’s not the biggest fan of the festive season. Or men. Tom Greer still works in the bookshop, wearing cardigans with patches on the elbows, and the only thing that he has in common with Mattie is the fact that he also hates Christmas. Other than that, it seems that they rub each other only the wrong way. But after Nina moving out from the flat above the bookshop, Mattie and Tom become flatmates – how is it going to end?

There are so many things happening in the bookstore and at the tearoom! Posy is heavily pregnant and ready to cry at any given moment, Nina is back at the shop and is determined to bring the festive atmosphere there, and so with the reindeers in their original size, mistletoe photo booth it slowly starts to look like “Christmas vomited over it”, which for Tom and Mattie, both total anti – Christmas, is at least one common ground to complain.

This time the story focuses strongly on Tom, the enigmatic and enigma – like member of Happy Ever After team who hates romance, and Mattie, who always wears black, runs the tearooms by the bookshop and hates all man. Again, those two, as well as the rest of the gang, and they’re all mentioned in the book, hallelujah, they were just my kind of characters – believable in the way they were, with their ups and down, secrets and troubles, with days that were sometimes better and sometimes worse and their banter, and you know, it is often that you want to bang the characters heads together for them to see the light eventually – and I didn’t want to bang their heads together! They were simply brilliant as they were. Although, I must admit, there was a moment that I felt so sorry for Mattie, when she was blanked out by the others after revealing Tom’s secrets, and I mean, they all – Posy, Verity and Nina, all wanted to know them, right, and then Tom also blanking her out and it was just soooo unfair.
I love how all the characters have their own stories to tell. Mattie’s heart was badly broken in the past and the return of her ex – boyfriend Steven doesn’t bode well. Tom, the very modern feminist, was so full of surprises and well, he always meant really well, even though it might not have looked like this at the first sight. The way those two were starting to find each other in this very complicated and uncomfortable arrangement of living in the same flat above the bookshop was absolutely sweet, hilarious and uplifting. Annie Darling, just like Debbie Johnson, can so brilliantly write about feelings and emotions, they’re so beautifully captured and they simply sound genuine and honest.

I’ve finished reading this book grinning from ear to ear, there was so much joy and optimism here, it really made me feel better and lighter. It was a delight to read and it was almost as good as the first book in the series, “.The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts” though, to be honest again, it is probably one of the most gorgeous novels in the world and of all time. I really could read more about the Lonely Hearts Bookshop, it’s one of my absolutely favourite series, and I so hope to see more from the characters in the future, though guys, to be totally honest, the last sentence in this book looks like the very final one, sniff.

Altogether, this book was a perfect read – I loved every single moment of it. It was full of fantastic characters that are down – to – earth and brilliantly funny and comic moments, but it also touched upon some heavier issues. There was the Christmas spirit, bookshop full of romance books and mouth – watering festive baking – I don’t need anything more! Highly recommended!

 

The List that Changed My Life by Olivia Beirne

The List that Changed My Life by Olivia Beirne

 

40901450Publisher: Headline Review

Publishing Date: 22nd November 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 336

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Sometimes all you need is a little push…

When Georgia’s sister is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, she promises to do everything her older sibling can no longer do, resulting in a journey that will change her life forever…

Georgia loves wine, reality TV and sitting on the sofa after work. She does not love heights, looking at her bank account, going on dates, or activities that involve a sports bra. And she will never, ever take a risk.

That is, until her braver, bolder, big sister finds out that she won’t be able to tick off the things she wanted to do before turning thirty, and turns to Georgia to help her finish her list.

With the birthday just months away, Georgia suddenly has a deadline to learn to grab life with both hands. Could she be brave enough to take the leap, for her sister?

And how might her own life change if she did?

A hilarious and heart-warming journey of a lifetime, showing us what it means to really be alive.

Rating: four-stars

“The List that Changed My Life”, the debut novel by Olivia Beirne, follows Georgia Miller, a twenty – six year old woman from London, working as an assistant to a designer. Even though Georgie is a great designer herself, she now acts as a runner/organizer/general dogsbody for her boss’s wedding and wouldn’t dare to show her her designs. Georgie’s sister Amy is a fit and cheerful PE teacher, and they both share a very strong bond. It’s no wonder then that when Amy is diagnosed with MS, Georgie’s world collapses as well. Amy challenges Georgie with a bucket list, full of things that she won’t be able to do herself – they’re mostly very out of Gerogie’s comfort zone, so will she be able to do it for her sister? And how much is her life going to change if she did?

I love books about lists, probably because they (the lists) never work for me in my life. And here it was a list that was a little bit different, because it was written for somebody, not by our main character herself. It was for her, from her sister. And well, there were things that really weren’t the easiest ones to do, to complete. No wonder that Georgia was a little sceptical, and it was a real joy to read how she worked her way through all the items on the list. I liked the way the idea of the list was executed, it was this little bit different to all the other lists that I’ve read about and it didn’t feel too meh or too utilised.

Georgia herself was such a lovely and compelling character. Yes, sure, sometimes I’ve got the vibe that she’s letting other people take her life over, that Jack’s involvement into her list was a bit too much, but other than that she was a lovely, friendly young woman that loved her sister so much. She’s been constantly pushed out of her comfort zones and we know ourselves how uncomfortable it can be, but she learnt how to value her life and how to stand for herself during the time. And, let’s be honest, mostly we’re really glad that we’ve done this step, no? I really liked the relationship between Georgie and her sister Amy, though there were moments that I had a feeling that Amy was a little bit too possessive, as if she wanted her sister only to herself, as if Georgie wasn’t allowed to have her own life. It was especially apparent after Amy’s accident on the steps, and as much as I could understand Georgie, that she wanted to be as quickly as possible with her sister, I couldn’t help but felt a little disappointed at the way Amy reacted – as if it was Georgie’s duty to be around her all the time. Georgie was always there for her sister, for better or worse, and I think she deserved a little life of her own as well. But those two had a great bond, that’s for sure.

“The List that Changed My Life” was light, funny and poignant, heart – warming debut novel about love, sisterhood and about how much you are able to sacrifice for those you love, how far you’d go for them. It was emotional, and it was incredibly humorous, there was a lightness to it even though it touched upon such a serious issue as being diagnosed with MS, but it didn’t make my cry. It was about stepping out of your comfort zones and taking advantages and opportunities. It was life – affirming and also thought – provoking, showing that it’s not so difficult to test your limits and to simply enjoy and appreciate what the world has on offer. I’m already looking forward to next Olivia Beirne’s novel, she’s certainly one to watch.

 

Every Colour of You by Amelia Mandeville

Every Colour of You by Amelia Mandeville

 

 

38393699Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 15th November 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adults), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Living back at home and spending most of her time behind a checkout till, it’s fair to say things aren’t going quite as Zoe had planned. But she’s determined to live every day to the full, and she’s spreading her mission of happiness, one inspirational quote at a time.

Since his dad died, Tristan has been struggling with a sadness that threatens to overtake everything. He can’t face seeing his friends, can’t stop fighting with his brother, and as much as he pretends to be better, the truth is he can’t even remember what ‘normal’ feels like.

One person can change everything.

When these two meet, Zoe becomes determined to bring the missing colour back into Tristan’s life. But the harder she tries to change the way Tristan sees the world, the more she realises it’s something she can’t fix – and in trying to put him back together, a part of her is beginning to break . . .

A novel to break your heart and put it back together again – Every Colour of You is the debut novel from Amelia Mandeville, with heart-wrenchingly relatable characters, big emotions and an unforgettable story.

Rating: two-half-stars

Zoe and Tristan meet at the hospital and they paths start to cross in the most unbelievable ways. Tristan is suffering from depression and his world is this of a very dark colour, and meeting Zoe brings rainbow colours into his life. Zoe is also determined to help him raise again after the sudden death of his father – but the more she tries the more reluctance she meets. Also, her own world starts to crumble around her – are they both going to find what they’re looking for? Will the fall apart or maybe will they manage to pick themselves up?

Zoe was a complex and complicated character but instead of falling for her, she just annoyed me. I do get where she was coming from and why she was like this, but her being SO chirpy, SO bouncy, SO relaxed was just too overwhelming. On the other hand, even without knowing till the very end what it is that she has, I did care about her. There was simply something in her that made her outstanding. However, I couldn’t connect with the characters so in the end I really couldn’t care less what’s going to happen to them. Tristan was so overdone with his image of “bad boy” that eventually I found myself rolling my eyes at him. I guess we were supposed to fall for him and to sympathize with him, but well, I simply didn’t like him. Sure, the author has done a brilliant job in capturing his character, him being so torn and troubled – I can’t deny this and I don’t want to deny it. But altogether he was not likeable for me.

I appreciate what the author tried to achieve with her writing, and also I must say here that her writing style is really good for a debut novel. It was thought – provoking and full of questions that were actually aimed at the readers which was really exceptional and different, as it truly makes you think. I just couldn’t shake off the feeling that the author has tried much too much to deliver a book with messages of love, second chances and not taking life for granted. It was too obvious, too strongly emphasized and while I really appreciated what she tried to do here, it just was too obvious for me and simply didn’t work for me. Theoretically, this book had it all, a poignant plot and it touched upon many important issues, such like depression, health conditions, death and grief and maybe it’s going to work for younger audience, I personally think Ms Mandeville tried too much and overdone it. It felt very repetitive and slow.

Overall, too overplayed, too dramatic, too much. However, the author deserves a standing ovation for choosing such heavy topics for her debut novel. There is the issue of having two dads as parents, which was tackled in such a light, forthcoming and charming way; of course the issue of depression and the way it affects whole families; the issue of living with a heart condition and not being sure how long you still have to live. You can easily see that the author has done her homework, as she writes about details that we wouldn’t notice but that often define people suffering from depression. Perfectly describing the rawness of mental and physical illness, therefore full of emotions, the most deepest and raw ones. Sadly, not for me.

 

Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of death by M.B. Vincent

Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of Death

by M.B. Vincent

 

 

38745714Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 18th October 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Welcome to Castle Kidbury – a pretty town in a green West Country valley. It’s home to all sorts of people, with all the stresses and joys of modern life, but with a town square and a proper butcher’s. It also has, for our purposes, a rash of gory murders …
***Fast-paced and funny, this is a must-read for all fans of a classic murder mystery – think The Vicar of Dibley meets Midsomer Murders ***

Jess Castle is running away. Again. This time she’s running back home, like she swore she never would.

Castle Kidbury, like all small towns, hums with gossip but now it’s plagued with murder of the most gruesome kind. Jess instinctively believes that the hippyish cult camped out on the edge of town are not responsible for the spate of crucifixions that blights the pretty landscape. Her father, a respected judge, despairs of Jess as she infiltrates the cult and manages, not for the first time, to get herself arrested.

Rupert Lawson, a schooldays crush who’s now a barrister, bails her out. Jess ropes in a reluctant Rupert as she gatecrashes the murder investigation of DS Eden. A by-the-book copper, Eden has to admit that intuitive, eccentric Jess has the nose of a detective.

As the gory murders pile up, there’s nothing to connect the victims. And yet, the clues are there if you look hard enough.

Perfect for fans of MC Beaton, this is cosy crime at its most entertaining and enthralling.

Rating: three-stars

Jess Castle finds herself back in a place she was steering clear of – home, in Castle Kidbury. She’s just suddenly left her job at Cambridge and reluctantly came back. Her relationship with her father, the Judge, is not the most closest one, and she finds her hometown incredibly boring – that is, until there is a murder and a body of a local man is found. It doesn’t look like a normal assassination, it looks more like crucifixion, which – very conveniently – is Jess’s speciality, so she starts to act as the unofficial consultant to the local DS Eden. However, the body count increases, the more pagan symbols appear and everyone becomes a suspect. So Jess has not only to try to solve the murder but also try to refurbish her relationship with her father, and eventually decide what it is she wants to do with her life.

I really liked the small town atmosphere, this specific community spirit that the authors have captured in a great way. In Castle Kidbury everyone knows everyone and knows everything better – that is, until a murder happens. Or two. Or even more. There was a bunch of quirky, bouncy characters that I, unfortunately, felt unattached to. However, they were all really different and interesting and I think that more than often we have to take them with a pinch of salt.
It is written in a very detailed way, with attention to details, not only when it comes to describing the murder scenes. It was really easy to imagine the town and the characters and the authors have way with words. It was also incredibly well researched, with a solid historical and religious background. The banter between the characters was truly enjoyable, especially the witty and clever exchanges between Jess and DS Eden – they were quick, sharp and humorous, especially when they were interrupted by DC Knott.
I have no idea who and why could the be the assassin. The authors have done a great job pulling wool over our eyes, with complicating things, and making almost everyone in the book a suspect. However, I am not sure if I’m really satisfied with the ending, I think after being introduced to all the paganism, symbolism etc I was expecting a different ending. On the other hand, it was surprising, unexpected and twisty, so what’s not to like, right?

However, this book confused me. It dragged on, and it simply couldn’t keep me hooked. I skipped passages because they were not engaging. This story didn’t work for me, didn’t sit with me. I loved all the gory details, and the idea for the plot, but all the other things, the characters just made me feel confused, they were somehow not complete. I am disappointed with this, as I was sure that this book, written by MB Vincent, who’s actually a married couple and one half of this couple belongs to my absolutely favourite authors, is going to be a real cracker for me. The romance aspect was a little askance, I’d say, and it didn’t feel too natural and realistic, especially in this story. It seemed that Jess wanted it much more than the male character, that she somehow forced him to blossom into her. There was a little of will they/won’t they but it was for sure not like all the others that I keep reading in my books, but it just felt underdeveloped and ragged.

Altogether, “Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of death” is a brilliant mixture of sharp humour, murder, mystery, gory details and also some romance. Regardless of the terrible murders, the story is told in a light and warm way, and I’d dare to call is a cosy murder. It was different, an unique read that was like a breath of fresh air and I’m really sorry it didn’t work for me. However, I do hope there is more to come from this author(s).

 

The Witches of St. Petersburg by Imogen Edward – Jones (Blog Tour)

The Witches of St. Petersburg by Imogen Edwards – Jones

 

 

42188918Publisher: Head of Zeus

Publishing Date: 25th October 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 464

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 04.04.2019)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Inspired by real characters, this transporting historical fiction debut spins the fascinating story of two princesses in the Romanov court who practiced black magic, befriended the Tsarina, and invited Rasputin into their lives—forever changing the course of Russian history.

As daughters of the impoverished King of Montenegro, Militza and Stana must fulfill their duty to their father and leave their beloved home for St. Petersburg to be married into senior positions in the Romanov court. For their new alliances to the Russian nobility will help secure the future of the sisters’ native country. Immediately, Militza and Stana feel like outcasts as the aristocracy shuns them for their provincial ways and for dabbling in the occult. Undeterred, the sisters become resolved to make their mark by falling in with the lonely, depressed Tsarina Alexandra, who—as an Anglo-German—is also an outsider and is not fully accepted by members of the court. After numerous failed attempts to precipitate the birth of a son and heir, the Tsarina is desperate and decides to place her faith in the sisters’ expertise with black magic.

Promising the Tsarina that they will be able to secure an heir for the Russian dynasty, Militza and Stana hold séances and experiment with rituals and spells. Gurus, clairvoyants, holy fools, and charlatans all try their luck. The closer they become to the Tsarina and the royal family, the more their status—and power—is elevated. But when the sisters invoke a spiritual shaman, who goes by the name of Rasputin, the die is cast. For they have not only irrevocably sealed their own fates—but also that of Russia itself.

Brimming with black magic, sex and intrigue, The Witches of St. Petersburg is an exquisite historical fiction debut novel filled with lush historical details from the Romanov era.

My Review

“The Witches of St. Petersburg” introduces us to two sisters, princesses from Montenegro, married well into Russian aristocracy. However, no matter how much Militza and Stana try, they’re not being accepted by the court. They need the influence though – their father counts on Russian help, so the sisters ingrate themselves with the Tsar and Tsarina, bringing a holy man to help them conceive the son, the so – much – needed – to –  boost – morale Heir to the throne. When it doesn’t work, they try magic and another holy man in the person of Rasputin – but are they going to loose all their influence with his arrival?

Even though my knowledge of Russian history is rather non – existent, there are some periods of times that pick my attention, and the Romanovs’ story is one of them. This book has for sure delivered in matters of the descriptions of the Russian aristocracy, their lives and all the ins and outs of the court life. There were balls and parties, jewellery, incredible dresses, tons of gossip and conspiring and I enjoyed those parts of this story very much. Yes, there came a moment that there was a ball one too many, that they started too feel like a copy of each other but I still think that they were the most colourful and best parts of this novel.

There are many characters in this book. Hundreds of them, actually. Brownie points go to the author for the names – list at the beginning of the novel, although my copy being on kindle I couldn’t just turn back the pages to see who is this character and what’s their background, and I had really huge problems to keep on track with all of them, especially as their names either sounded all the same or changed all the time. Still, the characters were ones of a kind. There came a moment that I stopped to try to understand them – they had their own motives and motivations and of course we have to take into consideration the times the story took place – people needed something all time, there were political businesses to be done and they were not afraid to stop at nothing. They were selfish and looking after their own business only – though is it different nowadays? But it was also fascinating to see how the two “Black Princesses” worked their way into the Palace, how irreplaceable they became to the Tsarina – a thing that so many have tried and failed at before them.  They were incredibly interesting and different to all the characters that I usually read about. Especially Militza and her abilities, I was fascinated with her ability to see things other people didn’t notice, and of course with her magic skills. I think you could easily say that she was a powerful witch, but I also had a feeling that she was not a “complete” witch – she wasn’t able to do magic, just like that, she could use her skills only in particular aspects of life – or so, at least, it looked like for me.

I’m really in two minds about this book. It could be a great read but I had a feeling its potential hasn’t been used there. It felt chopped and not too coherent,  and the jumping between things and events and time seemed as if it wasn’t planned. Some of the scenes were really too much for me – the half – developed chick, keeping of the miscarried fetus or simply the idea of the Tsarina dropping to her knees to eat someone’s vomit… I’m not too soft nor sensible but well, no. Just no. On the other hand, I do understand that the story needed it. And to be honest, the pace felt too slow. It is a large book, with almost 500 pages and it simply started to feel repetitive – the sisters try to help the Tsarina all over again, they attend one ball after another and they’re not accepted and are being called they’re witches smelling of goats we get this on repeat. There was so much potential in this book, and some really interesting concepts but the development was what was being missed for me. It was as if the author had some great ideas but didn’t know how to execute them.

“The Witches of St. Petersburg” is a book that plays with supernatural, with dark magic, with paganism. In a brilliant way it describes the shallowness of the Russian aristocracy, it deals with using and being used. The characters are full of charisma and even though you may not understand all of them, I think you’re still going to appreciate them for their personalities. It was vivid, engaging and gave a great insight into Russian history – in retrospect you can’t help but understand the fact of the revolution, with Tsar under cocaine influence and his wife, not being able to think for herself without asking Rasputin for an advice. A captivating and different read about power, about favours, mixing reality with supernatural.

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