The Confession by Jessie Burton | Book review

Hello There

Another Sunday, another book review. It’s currently quite gloomy outside and I’m drinking coffee while writing this post, so truly, it is the perfect time to blog. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, but I recently finished The Confession by Jessie Burton, which I was lucky enough to get an e-ARC of, so I thought I’d share my review of it with you all today!

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The Confession by Jessie Burton

Published on September 19th by Picador

Summary: The sensational new novel from the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist and The Muse.

One winter’s afternoon on Hampstead Heath in 1980, Elise Morceau meets Constance Holden and quickly falls under her spell. Connie is bold and alluring, a successful writer whose novel is being turned into a major Hollywood film. Elise follows Connie to LA, a city of strange dreams and swimming pools and late-night gatherings of glamorous people. But whilst Connie thrives on the heat and electricity of this new world where everyone is reaching for the stars and no one is telling the truth, Elise finds herself floundering. When she overhears a conversation at a party that turns everything on its head, Elise makes an impulsive decision that will change her life forever.

Three decades later, Rose Simmons is seeking answers about her mother, who disappeared when she was a baby. Having learned that the last person to see her was Constance Holden, a reclusive novelist who withdrew from public life at the peak of her fame, Rose is drawn to the door of Connie’s imposing house in search of a confession . . .

From the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist and The Muse, this is a luminous, powerful and deeply moving novel about secrets and storytelling, motherhood and friendship, and how we lose and find ourselves.

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MY THOUGHTS ON THE CONFESSION

I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All quotes used in this review may have changed upon publication.

You’re all so brilliant, and you’ve got so much going for you. And if you haven’t got to where you wanted to get by the time you’re twenty-five, you should probably thank your lucky stars. Seriously. Because if getting there is hard, holding on to your dream is possibly even harder. Nothing ever stays the same.

— Jessie Burton, The Confession, p. 345.

When I got approved for this e-ARC, I was absolutely thrilled, because I adored the author’s previous novel, The Muse, and I was so looking forward to reading more of her words.

The Confession is a historical fiction novel built on one of my favourite tropes of that genre: alternating between points of view from different eras, which will eventually come together to resolve a mystery, so I loved its storyline. It is a compelling narrative about family, love, loss, relationships, motherhood and embracing who you are, which I really enjoyed. Be warned that there is a trigger warning for abortion in this book, so be careful if it’s something that triggers you.

I know historical fiction can be a bit daunting for some readers, as it means going to a different time and place, it can be complicated to read, but I feel like historically speaking, The Confession was easy to get through. The historical setting is immersive and easy to picture, as it was set in 1980s Hollywood, which doesn’t feel that far away, so it could appeal to readers who aren’t used to reading historical fiction.

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The Confession is mainly about three women: Elise, Connie and Rose, and their paths through life, which I really enjoyed reading about, though the characters weren’t always likeable. On one hand, my favourite to read about was Rose, a 35 years old woman, whose storyline was set in 2017. Her story was about self-discovery, as she is aching to know the truth about her mom who left her when she was littl, since she believes it will fill a void inside her. She was a relatable character and I could see a lot of myself in her, as she hadn’t figured herself out just yet.

On another hand, the book followed Elise, whose storyline was set in the 1980s, and I really didn’t like her, but was still curious about her story. While she was really flawed and I felt like her characterization wasn’t always as in-depth as Rose’s, the author managed to keep me interested in her story and secrets. To be honest, I didn’t always get her, I don’t really know what drove her nor what she wanted in life, so that was a shame.

Last but not least, this novel was about Constance, a writer whose book is about to be adapted into a movie in L.A. in the 1980s and a secluded writer in 2017. Connie wasn’t a very likeable character either, she was cold and heartless at times, but she was so authentic and she shone through way more than Elise did. I also adored reading about her as she was older, as well as reading about her writing.the-confession-aesthetic

The Confession‘s main romance is about Elise and Connie, which I loved reading about, though they definitely didn’t have an healthy relationship. I loved that it was about two women falling in love with each other in the 1980s, but it wasn’t about them realizing they loved women, nor coming out. They already knew they were queer, it wasn’t made a big deal and it went from there. I love reading about coming out stories, they’re so important, but love stories about queer people without this storyline are really important as well.

Just like in The Muse, Jessie Burton’s writing style was engaging and beautiful, making me highlight so many quotes and always being excited to get back to it. Every time I picked up The Confession, I couldn’t stop reading it, especially in the second half, when we were starting to get answers and so many chapters ended on cliffhangers. The novel finished on an open-ending, which I thought was fitting to the story, though I felt like the last chapter was unnecessary, as I don’t think it added much to the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this, though not as much as Jessie Burton’s previous novel, The Muse. Most of the characters feel authentic and while they aren’t always likeable, the author kept me interested in them. I really enjoyed this story overall and I’m looking forward to reading more of Jessie Burton’s works in the future.3-5-stars.jpgAre you planning on reading this book? Have you read Jessie Burton’s other works?lots of love

 

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave | Book review

Hello There

As I am beyond excited for autumn and Halloween, I started on my Halloween reading… In August. One of the books I was eyeing the most for Halloween was The Deathless Girls, which is a f/f reimagining of the brides of Dracula. I was lucky enough to be approved for an e-ARC of it and read it as soon as I could (I was so excited!). It’s coming out next week in the UK, so I thought I’d share my review of it with you all today!

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The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Published on September 19th 2019 by Orion Children’s Books

Summary:  Gothic, intoxicating, feminist and romantic – this is the breathtakingly imagined untold story of the brides of Dracula, by bestselling author Kiran Millwood Hargrave in her much-anticipated YA debut.

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…

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MY THOUGHTS ON THE DEATHLESS GIRLS

I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Deathless Girls sounded like such a promising read, perfect for autumn: who wouldn’t want to read a f/f reimagining of Dracula, which gives a voice to the voiceless? In Dracula, it is mentioned that the vampire has three brides, two dark, one fair. The Deathless Girls is the story of two of them.

From the first few words, The Deathless Girls is a brutal story and doesn’t shy away from the realities of history. It follows Lil and her twin sister Kizzy, which see their family and community slaughtered and burned to the ground on the eve of their seventeenth birthday, before they are enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, ruler of the land. They are then taken away to his castle, where they become serving girls and eventually cross paths with Dracula.

As expected, this novel is full of gothic elements and I really enjoyed reading about them. It goes from the darkness in humans’ hearts, which can be filled with hate and prejudice without any reason, to the more supernatural gothic elements, exploring the myth of the vampire. All in all, the setting was believable and was great for a book you’d read during autumn or near Halloween.

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At its core, The Deathless Girls is a character-driven story, but I unfortunately didn’t connect much with the main character, Lil. I liked reading about her enough, but it never went beyond that, which is a shame. I was also really looking forward to reading about her relationship with her twin sister Kizzy, but their relationship was more told than showed, so I couldn’t understand the love they had for each other. Speaking of Kizzy, I didn’t like that she was depicted as the almost perfect, always right, almost superior to everyone else,prettier twin that everyone has to follow! It was really cliché and didn’t help me to connect with the characters either.

I have to be honest though, as this book is about the brides of Dracula, I had huge expectations on how the author would deal with the vampire myth. I think she did a great job… for the little bits we got. I expected most of the book to focus on the vampire myth and to pick up on Dracula’s story soon enough, but it wasn’t the case. The Deathless Girls is a slow-paced book and sure, it focuses on the backstory of two of Dracula’s brides, but you have to wait about two thirds of the way through before the vampires are mentioned. That being said, the last hundred pages of the book were amazing, as they were gripping and finally focused on the myth of the vampire. It was chilling and exactly what I expected from this book, but I’d have liked to read about that before.

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The Deathless Girls is much more of a backstory book that doesn’t involve vampires that much, and while I didn’t expect that, there are some parts of that I enjoyed. Indeed, Lil and Kizzy came from a traveller community, I really liked how it was explored. I find it to be a very interesting topic, as it is rarely touched upon and the author discussed the prejudice people from settled communities can have towards the traveller ones. The novel also mentions folklore of the travelling communities, which was great to read about, but I’d have liked to know more about that. I understand that in part, as the girls are ripped away from their homes and in a way of their identity, but it’s only a very small part of the story when you consider the summary, and that was a shame for me.

To be honest, most of the book felt abrupt and rushed to me. I found the romance really sweet and I really liked Mira, but would have liked more build-up for some scenes to make it believable. Like I said, the vampire elements come into play only in the last third of the book, and so do The Deathless Girls themselves. This novel felt like such an interesting idea, but I didn’t really like its execution: I found the final decision of the main character to be barely explained and anticlimactic, plus the final bride of Dracula was barely mentioned in the epilogue, getting two lines and not even a real name, which I found a bit ironic.

Overall, I liked this book, but am a little frustrated. I wish this book had been longer, so it had gotten more build-up, because it ended up being underwhelming. This story was such a great idea, had a diverse cast of characters, but I felt like everything was rushed to go to the end, but because of that, I didn’t have time to get invested into the characters, the story or what was at stake for them. Still, I think readers will enjoy it more than I did and that it works well as a Halloween read.

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Are you planning on reading this book or have you read it already? Do you have recommendations for books with vampires?

lots of love

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier | Book Review

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Hello There

Last night, I finished reading Daughter of the Forest *quite late* and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. For the first time in a while, it motivated me to write an entire review, because there was so much I wanted to say, there is so much I loved about it and I thought it would be the occasion to start sharing my book reviews here as well! I read this book as part of #MythTakeReads, which is hosted by Ashleigh @ A Frolic Through Fiction and Charlotte @ Bookmarks and Vlogging.

🌸 What is Daughter of the Forest about?

This novel follows Sorcha, the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, but her joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, which only Sorcha can lift-by staying silent.

If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever. When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all…

🌸 My thoughts on the book

I’ve been so curious about Juliet Marillier’s works for years now, because I feel like everyone adores them, Daughter of the Forest being their favourite, so I was really looking forward to finally reading it! Before I really get into the review, this book has a trigger warning for a graphic r*pe scene, so be cautious if you decide to read it.

Daughter of the Forest starts off when Sorcha is young and follows her from childhood into womanhood. It is quite dense and slow-paced, but I found that it was so worth it! I even devoured the second half of it, for I had to know what would happen to Sorcha, and I finished reading at 1:30 a.m., which rarely ever happens to me. This book was so immersive, beautifully written, felt like a fairy tale and I couldn’t get enough of it (which makes sense, considering it is a fairy tale retelling of The Six Swans)! I also really liked how it discussed the way sorcery was perceived and prejudiced opinions you can have on your (supposed) ennemies.

I adored reading from Sorcha’s point of view and felt close to her. I almost felt like her emotions and reactions were mine in some situations, and I admired her so much, she was such a quietly strong character. Moreover, her love for her brothers shone throughout and while there were six of them (which can be hard to keep track off), they all had a different voice and it was easy for me to remember them. One of my favourite things to read about in fiction is sibling dynamics in a big family; Daughter of the Forest totally delivered in that regard, I loved these siblings so much! I also came to care for so many of the secondary characters of the novel and I would love to see them again.

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I had read somewhere that Juliet Marillier was amazing at world-building and weaving folklore into her stories and I totally agree with that! This book is set in a medieval-inspired Ireland, where the Fair Folk meddles in mortal’s stories and magic and curses exist. The world-building was phenomenal, I felt like I was walking alongside Sorcha through the different landscapes and everything was so well-researched! I’m really excited to read more of Marillier’s works to get immersed in her magical worlds again.

Because it is set in a medieval world, Daughter of the Forest was really brutal. Truly, I understand some situations and how women’s choices were assumed without asking them, because that’s what was happening at the time and it was discussed and challenged in regards of the modern audience of the book, but it wasn’t the case for every situation. Indeed, I had some issues on the topic of age difference in the romance (I wish it had been developped more, the transition from Sorcha being considered a child to a woman felt rushed) and the way consensual and loving sex was glossed over when r*pe had been described at length. I’d probably have rated this book five stars if it weren’t for that.

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I really loved that a few storylines were left hanging open, I have a feeling some of them will be really important in the later books and I cannot wait to read about that. While I was finishing the book, I spent I don’t know how much time trying to find matching editions of the next two books, because I need to read them NOW.

If you can’t tell, I fell in love with this novel and while I have a few criticisms about it, I couldn’t stop reading it, I adored Sorcha and the other characters and I only want one thing: to go back to that world already. Daughter of the Forest was such a beautiful, heartbreaking and immersive story and I totally understand why people adore Juliet Marillier’s writing, I can see myself becoming a fan as well.

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lots of love

The Familiars by Stacey Halls | Book review

You probably know by now how much I adore history, considering I used to be a history major and find any excuse I can get to watch period dramas or read historical fiction (by a big plot twist, I even miss historical research a lot these days). So of course, I always browse the historical fiction section of Netgalley and that’s how I stumbled upon The Familiars, which I added on Goodreads really quickly: I mean, 17th century England and witch trials? I’ll read that, thank you very much. I got really excited when I was approved to read an e-ARC of it and as it’s releasing today, it’s time I talk about it some more!
 
 Published on: February 19th 2019 by MIRA
Genres: historical fiction, paranormal
Number of pages: 352
 
Goodreads summary: Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Then Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help her deliver a healthy baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft.
 
Is there more to Alice than meets the eye? Fleetwood must risk everything to prove her innocence. As the two women’s lives become intertwined, the Witch Trials of 1612 loom. Time is running out; both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.
 
Rich and compelling, set against the frenzy of the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials, this novel explores the rights of 17th-century women and raises the question: Was witch-hunting really women-hunting? Fleetwood Shuttleworth, Alice Grey and the other characters are actual historical figures. King James I was obsessed with asserting power over the lawless countryside (even woodland creatures, or “familiars,” were suspected of dark magic) by capturing “witches”—in reality mostly poor and illiterate women.
 
MY THOUGHTS
 
Disclaimer : I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.  All quotes I used in this review might have been changed in the final copy.

“She certainly looks like a witch. She is very thin and rough-looking, with black hair and a sullen face. My mother says never trust someone with black hair because they usually have a black soul to match.”

I have black hair.” (p. 26)

 
I have to admit that going into this, I didn’t know much about the Pendle Hill Witch Trials, I only knew Pendle because of Joseph Delaney’s Wardstone Chronicles (he got inspired from history so much for his Pendle, and my favourite book of the series is the fourth one, set there, what a surprise). Reading about those events was both frightening and fascinating, because of the awful fate these women were to know and it became even scarier when I read the author’s note and that Stacey Halls explained that all her characters had actually existed. In any case, I felt like I was in early 17th century Lancashire, Stacey Halls did a great job at recreating its atmosphere.

The names of the Lancashire Witches

 

Moreover, as said in the summary, The Familiars explored the rights of women in different ways, from gentry-born women to the poorer ones, who didn’t have wealth or status to protect them and it was really interesting. It showed how little choice, on their different scales, women had at that time. For Fleetwood, our gentry-born main character, it was about making a good marriage, then having to produce an heir for her husband, whereas for Alice, it was about keeping a job and surviving, when no one really cared about her: in a way, both only could count on themselves, and later on each other. On another hand, The Familiars explored the way men had power over women, whether it was through their marriages or even when it came to the law: they barely were held accountable for their actions, which the author discussed through the main character’s point of view.
 
“I remembered Alice’s words: I am afraid of lies. Now I knew what she meant: lies had the power to destroy lives but also create them.” (p. 198)

I adored the main character, Fleetwood, because I could relate to her so much. While she felt helpless, she never gave up and tried to do all she could to stay alive, then to save Alice, when she could have stayed in her comfortable, but imperfect, life. Her friendship with Alice was so heartwarming, because it was portrayed in a healthy way: the both of them had been brought together by Alice’s job as a midwife, but came to mean so much more to each other and to always be there for the other.

 
The Familiars started with exciting chapters before slowing down, then I wondered where the author was going and thought I knew, until it took me by surprise several times, which I loved. It had such a gloomy atmosphere as the story progressed, to the point that I could be as tense as Fleetwood. From the moment this novel first took me by surprise, I couldn’t stop reading, because I had to know what would happen next. It might have been a bit slow in the beginning, but it was all worth it as I kept thinking about the story, even when I wasn’t reading this novel.
 
On top of that, I really liked that the author always made me doubt whether the “witches” had magical powers or not. I found the theme of the familiars really interesting, as it had to do with natural magic and the way Fleetwood encountered magic was really well-written, as she was an outside point of view on the topic of magic. 
 
Last but not least, I can’t say much because it would be a spoiler, but I adored the very last chapter! I am often disappointed by endings, but it wasn’t the case at all here, I thought it was a perfect way to conclude!
 
Overall, if you love historical fiction and are intrigued by witch trials stories, I would totally recommend you this one! It portrayed a friendship between two women from different parts of society in a healthy way, had a gloomy atmosphere like I love and discussed the rights of women at the time. It was Stacey Halls’ debut, so I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for more of her works, because this one sure was amazing.
 
 
Do you like historical fiction? 
What is your favourite time period to read about?