4 star, adult

The Witch Elm by Tana French

Image result for the witch elm

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life: he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

The Witch Elm asks what we become, and what we’re capable of, when we no longer know who we are.



4 Drink Me Potions


‘I’ve always considered myself to be, basically, a lucky person.’

Going into this book, I had expected some sort of existential, philosophical discovery kind of journey, but that is really not what I got. Instead, it was a murder mystery sort of novel (my favourite!) with a large twist. In The Witch Elm, Toby is a well-rounded, generally deemed good person, who suffers a life-changing event and is seemingly never the same after. Struggling with his head injury, Toby rapidly finds himself in a state of constant confusion, with muddled memories adding to his paranoia.

Having escaped to the Ivy House for refuge with his dying uncle, things quickly turn around when a skull is discovered inside a large elm tree in the garden. Again Toby’s life is plunged into mystery, with detectives and police at every corner. Who around him can he trust, when he can’t even trust his own memories and character?

The Witch Elm follows the main protagonist, Toby, who starts off high and mighty (though not too haughty) but quickly falls to rock bottom. Even we ourselves as readers are not sure if we can trust Toby with his disjointed memories. This made for a very interesting read as usually a whodunnit novel doesn’t involve yourself as a prime suspect. Everyone appears suspicious, but we also can’t rule out ourselves as a possible suspect either, making this story an exciting journey from the beginning all the way to the dramatic climax and denouement.

I really enjoyed that this book explored a lot of aspects of identity and self-awareness. How much does who you are as a character really play into your actions? Also, how strongly do people judge your actions by how closely it matches your perceived character? There is a very interesting exploration of this whole reality versus perception of character and actions that is a motif found throughout the whole book.

The beginning did start off a little bit slow for me, and the lucky nature of Toby was a little bit irritating. But as I got to about half-way through the book, I actually found myself really entranced in the whole scenario, not unlike how Toby must have been feeling in the book himself. Each persona in the book was well thought out and developed in such a way that even though everyone’s character was clear as day, it was difficult to pin down any incriminating evidence. Just when you think that things are about to be resolved, things take another tumble and whirl around until the very final resolution. It was definitely an exciting roller coaster of a journey that was gripping all the way to the very end.

Overall Recommendation:
A haunting story of rediscovering yourself on the backdrop of a murder mystery. Toby is a classically lucky guy up until he slides right to the very bottom. The story follows him as he struggles to remember what might or might not have been, and who he can trust when a human skull is found in his garden. The Witch Elm is a gripping tale that explores how the perceived reality versus the actual truth might differ. What we discover about our true selves might sometimes be better left unknown. If you enjoy a thrilling murder mystery where literally everyone is a suspect, you will probably enjoy this book. If you like that idea with the addition of a self-(re)discovery journey layered on top, then I would definitely recommend this book.

YA

Review: Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows

Series: Fallen Isles Trilogy #1

before she ignites -jodi meadowsBefore

Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.

But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.

After

Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.

No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.


3 Drink Me Potions


**Before She Ignites comes out September 12, 2017**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

What can I truly say about this novel, hmm? I know there are several factors that have gotten everyone excited. Dragons being namely the biggest one. In a world post-Game of Thrones popularity, dragons are a wonderful thing to have in a story. But does this do it justice? Or the rest of the story, for that matter?

Here’s what I liked and disliked about Before She Ignites.

LIKES:

There was a lot of interesting worldbuilding going on, although it came together very slowly. The 7 islands and their corresponding gods that ultimately belonged to a larger story of creation. I loved that although each island followed and portrayed the traits of their particular god, each Book of rules that they followed ultimately reflected similar beliefs and values. I’ve become pretty invested in how each island looks on situations differently, and how they may hopefully come to see each other from the other’s perspective.

The amazing morals of equality, both by race and by gender.
At the heart of this book is a fight for equality among all the islanders, without one group being lowered compared to all the rest. Our protagonist, Mira, really stood up for the Treaty she was named for and that she believed wholeheartedly where peace and equality could be found among everyone.

-That brings me to the growth of Mira.
It was slow and steady, but it did progress over time. She was a little naive and definitely unlearned in trials of hardship when she first was thrown into prison. I always love a good story that tests and allows the protagonist to find out just what she is made of. I’m glad to say that Jodi Meadows really honed in on this as Mira had so many difficult choices to make throughout the book.

The intrigue and mystery of what had brought Mira to the prisons in the first place.
She was the face of the Mira Treaty that provided new rules for peace among the islands. She was basically a political figure (without having all the power of one since there was a council acting behind her), so the downfall into a prisoner definitely played a major part in keeping me with this book, even with all the dislikes (SEE BELOW).
Plus, a good secret always got my blood tingling and makes me ridiculously stubborn in figuring it out.

Here it is, of course, the dragons are a plus.
Getting to read about how dragons were revered as children of the gods and were kept safe in sanctuaries to preserve them from extinction was a lot of fun. I think Meadows had a lot of fun with it, creating different Latin names for the various species and their particular abilities and features. I think she should make a glossary at the back to make it even more clear and enjoyable for all the dragon fans out there, but otherwise, I was impressed enough with the amount of detail provided here.

DISLIKES:

-The slowness. Moving at like a glacier’s pace.
I’m not kidding. By 50% of the book, I was wondering if Mira was ever going to see the outside of her prison walls. I truly thought that this book would probably just be in this one setting: the darkest prison of all the islands.
The only action took place when she was being tormented by her rival, aka a guard who seemed to have taken a particular interest in Mira’s secret. Otherwise, it was pages of what should I do? and let’s mimic the girl in the dungeon across from me in her cell exercises. It was frankly tiring at times and I wished for a change in scenery (besides the BEFORE flashbacks that occur between chapters).

-A romance with Aaru?
I put this in the dislikes simply because I’m uncertain if there is one? I think it’s hinted but it’s hard to tell as Aaru is from the island of Idris, known for being silent. Their secret coded language (aka like the Morse code) was cool enough, I suppose, but at this rate it seems their relationship is rather cool and on level with a good friendship. Who knows? I may start cheering for something to happen with her bestie and personal guard, Hristo. Since nothing literally fired up my heart between any of the characters.
And that would have at least made things more exciting.

I’m not sure how to sum up my feelings, even after finishing this novel for a while now. Before She Ignites has its merits and I can plainly see that book two is being set up for great things. It’s just getting through the foundational stuff here that can be slow and somewhat confusing at times as the pieces slowly start to fall into place. I regrettably say that I have mixed feelings about the book.

Overall Recommendation:
Before She Ignites really lays it on with the world building and its secrets. Jodi Meadows holds these secrets close to her chest as we slowly figure out what has brought upon the downfall of beloved political figure, Mira. The suspense is slow in simmering, and the pace can feel utterly exhausting at times, but as secrets start unfolding and the bits of action occur, there are wondrous things that this book could do to me. If you can last through the slow layout of the core foundations to this world building, I believe this book could truly astound with a protagonist who learned more about who she is and what her role is among her beloved islands. Before She Ignites has the potential to blow us away – especially in book 2.