reviews

Hall of Smoke by H.M. Long

Hall of Smoke by H.M. Long

Hessa is an Eangi: a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, with the power to turn an enemy’s bones to dust with a scream. Banished for disobeying her goddess’s command to murder a traveller, she prays for forgiveness alone on a mountainside.

While she is gone, raiders raze her village and obliterate the Eangi priesthood. Grieving and alone, Hessa – the last Eangi – must find the traveller and atone for her weakness and secure her place with her loved ones in the High Halls. As clans from the north and legionaries from the south tear through her homeland, slaughtering everyone in their path Hessa strives to win back her goddess’ favour.

Beset by zealot soldiers, deceitful gods, and newly-awakened demons at every turn, Hessa burns her path towards redemption and revenge. But her journey reveals a harrowing truth: the gods are dying and the High Halls of the afterlife are fading. Soon Hessa’s trust in her goddess weakens with every unheeded prayer.

Thrust into a battle between the gods of the Old World and the New, Hessa realizes there is far more on the line than securing a life beyond her own death. Bigger, older powers slumber beneath the surface of her world. And they’re about to wake up. (publisher)

Hessa is an Eangi warrior-priestess who gets punished for disobeying a direct order to kill a lone traveller. After her village is destroyed and believing to be the last Eangi left, she vows to kill the traveller and fulfil her task. But during her quest, she learns things about the gods that threaten her lifelong beliefs and her devotion to them. Old gods are trying to get back their power from the new gods.

The story is told from Hessa’s point of view, and she was a likeable character and a loyal to her friends. It was interesting to see how Hessa goes from being a devoted follower to question everything and doubting the gods. She hadn’t travelled far from her village before and now seeing different places and customs makes her question things more. During her journey, she meets Nisien, a Souldorni horseman, who is more cynic towards the gods and their powers. They become close friends, but it was nice that they stayed just friends through the book. I hope we learn more about Estavius in the next book.

I liked how big part the gods played in peoples lives. Like you could actually talk and interact, and occasionally fight, with them. Somehow that, and their actions, made me think Xena/Hercules world and the line from Hercules intro kept playing in my head: “… a time of myth and legend, when the ancient gods were petty and cruel…” Maybe that’s just me but yeah… Everyone keeps talking about the Viking style and all I can think is Xena…

What a great debut and I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from the author!

4/5

Published: Titan Books (January 19, 2021)
Format: ebook
Source: Netgalley

reviews

Lana’s War by Anita Abriel

Lana’s War by Anita Abriel

Paris 1943: Lana Antanova is on her way to see her husband with the thrilling news that she is pregnant. But when she arrives at the convent where he teaches music, she’s horrified to see Gestapo officers execute him for hiding a Jewish girl in the piano.

A few months later, grieving both her husband and her lost pregnancy, Lana is shocked when she’s approached to join the resistance on the French Riviera. As the daughter of a Russian countess, Lana has the perfect background to infiltrate the émigré community of Russian aristocrats who socialize with German officers, including the man who killed her husband.

Lana’s cover story makes her the mistress of Guy Pascal, a wealthy Swiss industrialist and fellow resistance member, in whose villa in Cap Ferrat she lives. Together, they gather information on upcoming raids and help members of the Jewish community escape. Consumed by her work, she doesn’t expect to become attached to a young Jewish girl or wonder about the secrets held by the man whose house she shares. And as the Nazis’ deadly efforts intensify, her intention to protect those around her may put them all at risk instead. (publisher)

After Nazis killed her husband, Lana joins the French resistance hoping to avenge her husband and is told to get to the Riviera. There she is meant to pretend to be the mistress of Guy Pascal, a wealthy businessman.

The book was fast-paced, quick read and was lighter in tone than most WWII books. It’s set in Riviera which isn’t the epicentre of the war and Nazis, which does make it less dark than most books. There were many times that I was frustrated with Lana and her actions during the book. Especially, in the first half of the book, she didn’t seem to fully understand the whole resistance thing with the need to hold secrets and not trying to involve everyone in it somehow. There was one character that I wasn’t sure if he’s good or evil, does he help the Nazis or not.

That the book was fast-paced wasn’t always a good thing. At first, Guy criticises Lana about everything and then just suddenly is in love with her. At times it feels like we jump in time missing more interesting incidents. Like when people are rescued to Switzerland. But Lana is just fretting at home and then it’s just said that the thing went well. I mean there goes a lot of interesting stuff that could have been implored. I’m in two minds about the ending. Didn’t hate it but didn’t like it either.

3/5

Published: Atria Books (January 12, 2021)
Format: ebook
Source: Netgalley

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BEST BOOKS OF 2020

Number Of Books Read: 62
Number of Re-Reads: 0
Number of DNFs: 0

Archangel’s Storm by Nalini Singh
Archangel’s Legion by Nalini Singh
His Castilian Hawk by Anna Belfrage
Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews

reviews

The Berlin Girl by Mandy Robotham

The Berlin Girl by Mandy Robotham

Berlin, 1938: It’s the height of summer, and Germany is on the brink of war. When fledgling reporter Georgie Young is posted to Berlin, alongside fellow Londoner Max Spender, she knows they are entering the eye of the storm.

Arriving to a city swathed in red flags and crawling with Nazis, Georgie feels helpless, witnessing innocent people being torn from their homes. As tensions rise, she realises she and Max have to act – even if it means putting their lives on the line.

But when she digs deeper, Georgie begins to uncover the unspeakable truth about Hitler’s Germany – and the pair are pulled into a world darker than she could ever have imagined… (publisher)

Georgie is a young journalist who is sent to Berlin just before the start of the war with another British journalist Max. The last time she was in Berlin was during the Olympics and the city has changed since then and so has the atmosphere there. You can feel that the war is coming.

A large part of the book was about the foreign press and the relationship they had with each other. And it was a nice touch because it’s not a world I’ve read before. Some of the more detective-style/spy stuff felt little far fetched.

Georgie meets a young junior Nazi officer who doesn’t seem to fit the typical image of a Nazi. In hindsight, it’s easy to say but I kinda wanted to yell at her to “run for your life” when she kept seeing him for information. It was also frustrating because Georgie has been complaining about how other countries don’t see through Nazi propaganda and lies. And then she tries to justify to herself going to a date with one and then trying to separate the man from the uniform. Like what are you doing?! But I would have liked to see more about how this charming young man turned into an ardent Nazi follower who fanatically believed the ideology.

In the end, the book was just ok. Not bad but not great either.

3/5

Published: Avon Books (October 29, 2020)
Format: ebook
Source: Netgalley

reviews

His Castilian Hawk by Anna Belfrage

His Castilian Hawk by Anna Belfrage

For bastard-born Robert FitzStephan, being given Eleanor díOutremer in marriage is an honour. For Eleanor, this forced wedding is anything but a fairy tale.

Robert FitzStephan has served Edward Longshanks loyally since the age of twelve. Now he is riding with his king to once and for all bring Wales under English control.

Eleanor díOutremeróNoor to familyólost her Castilian mother as a child and is left entirely alone when her father and brother are killed. When ordered to wed the unknown Robert FitzStephan, she has no choice but to comply.

Two strangers in a marriage bed is not easy. Things are further complicated by Noorís blood-ties to the Welsh princes and by covetous Edith who has warmed Robertís bed for years.

Robertís new wife may be young and innocent, but he is soon to discover that not only is she spirited and proud, she is also brave. Because when Wales lies gasping and Edward I exacts terrible justice on the last prince and his children, Noor is determined to save at least one member of the House of Aberffraw from the English king.

Will years of ingrained service have Robert standing with his king or will he follow his heart and protect his wife, his beautiful and fierce Castilian hawk?

Edward I is trying to gain control of Wales. Robert FitzStephan is Edward’s man and while fighting in the marches he kills a man, which results in a wife in the form of a daughter of the murdered man. Not the most promising start to married life. And then there is Robert’s long-time mistress who isn’t just about to let go of her man.

Oh, I’ve waited for Belfrage to get back into a medieval world and I wasn’t disappointed!

Eleanor “Noor” d’Outremer is not too happy to hear she has to marry the man who killed her father and brother. And having Welsh blood does complicate things even more. Still a young girl when she marries and having lost her whole family, she has to grow up fast in those uncertain times. The start of Robert’s and Noor’s marriage is rocky, and I wanted to slap Robert so many times. But hey, it can only get better right? He did grow on me after a bit though.

I liked Noor and it was great seeing her finding herself while at times standing up to her husband and the queen. I’m looking forward to learning more about that inheritance thing and her Castilian family.

I don’t remember if I’ve read a book that has this much Eleanor of Castile on stage. Not sure I liked her but still.

Can’t wait for the next book in the series!

4,5 stars

Published: Troubador Publishing (September 28, 2020)
Format: ebook
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

About the Author

Had Anna been allowed to choose, sheíd have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The Kingís Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England.

More recently, Anna has published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients. While she loved stepping out of her comfort zone (and will likely do so again ) she is delighted to be back in medieval times in her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk. Set against the complications of Edward Iís invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrityóand love.

Find out more about Anna on her website or on her Amazon page. You can also follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Blog Tour Schedule

Saturday, October 24
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Monday, October 26
Excerpt at Coffee and Ink

Tuesday, October 27
Review at Rajiv’s Reviews

Wednesday, October 28
Guest Post at Novels Alive

Friday, October 30
Excerpt at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Sunday, November 1
Interview at Reader_ceygo

Tuesday, November 3
Review at YA, It’s Lit

Wednesday, November 4
Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Friday, November 6
Review at Passages to the Past

Monday, November 9
Excerpt at I’m Into Books

Tuesday, November 10
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, November 12
Excerpt at Chicks, Rogues, and Scandals

Monday, November 16
Review at Reader_ceygo
Review at Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, November 17
Review at Books and Zebras

Wednesday, November 18
Review at Novels Alive

Thursday, November 19
Review at Books, Cooks, Looks

Friday, November 20
Feature at The Lit Bitch
Review at Bookramblings
Interview at Books & Benches