The Bear and the Nightingale


I have a soft spot for fairy tales. I think in the mystical, the fantastical, the other-worldly, stories can inhabit a special, revealing place, and I love getting swept up by a narrative that takes me to a different space.

The Bear and the Nightingale (Del Rey, out now in hardback; paperback releasing in October 2017), is a Russian fairytale, all about the sinister and unknown things which may lie around us, in the deep and unknown woods. The story, in its snowy, rural setting, is written in a lyrical and beautiful style, with vivid descriptions and exquisite pacing.

This is one of those books which hooked me from the blurb:

"In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods... "


I mean. For someone who loves a bit of Gaiman, Pullman and Morgenstern...that's my kind of intro!

The story follows Vasya, our headstrong, wild girl, the youngest child in the Vladmirovich family. Growing up without her mother, who died shortly after Vasya's birth, she is the baby of the family, who is doted upon by her older siblings. Vasya has inherited her mother's gift of the second sight and spends her time in congress with the spirits and guardians of the land around her. She befriends many of the spirits and tries to aid them as the rest of her village start to move away from them and from the ancient magic. Concerned that Vasya will never marry without changing her ways and becoming a dignified and proper young lady, her father remarries. From here, things begin to unravel, and the forces of the old magic and the modernising ways are thrown into conflict.

This is an evocative, unputdownable book, full of elegant prose and beautiful moments. I found myself gripped as the story unfolded and missed my tube stop on more than one occasion as I was so gripped by the world if snow, folklore, old gods and hearth-spirits. Recommended.






Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book to review from the publisher. All opinions, thoughts and ponderings are my own.
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Before the Rains



I have a confession to make.

Before I did my one-month internship at Penguin last year, I'd never read a Dinah Jefferies book. I'd heard of the books, and heard good things, but hadn't ever picked one up or added it to my reading list. And truly, I'm not sure why. I love a bit of romance, and books set in far-off climes, but for some reason I hadn't gravitated to Dinah's books.

Which is a shame, because they are lovely.

While I was interning at Penguin it was all systems go to promote The Silk Merchant's Daughter, Dinah's smash hit novel of 2016. It's a great read, full of detail, and I very much enjoyed it (after mailing out oodles of copies, bound up with pretty ribbons, I had to get a copy to satisfy my curiosity - I'd seen the cover so often!). Flash forward to this year and Dinah has another book releasing, and I was delighted to be asked to be part of the blog tour for it.

Before The Rains (Viking, releases tomorrow!) is a charming, stirring tale of love, duty, forgiveness and finding where you belong. Set in an India blooming into being as the days of British Rule were beginning to fade and as the first overtures towards independence were being made, this book is full of colour and life, and describes quite wonderfully a time now long gone. Jefferies captures the raw beauty of the subcontinent, the majesty of the castles and palaces, the prim and proper British ways, and serves up a story full of twists and delights.

The protagonist, Eliza, is a thoroughly modern woman, and I enjoyed understanding more and more of her story as the chapters unfolded. I enjoyed that she was not a woman without flaws, but rather a multifaceted, interesting woman. This made me really want to root for her to have a happy ending, whatever form that might take! Her passion for photography and her wish to improve the lives of others we truly admirable.

The romance in the book is handled quite beautifully, something which I think is no mean feat - all too often I've read romances where the love and lovemaking can descend into a cheesefest, but the love story here is full of tension, more than one twist, and some poetic, magnetic moments. I really wanted the central pair to end up in one another's arms, which is always the sign of a good romance, non? I also liked that the stakes were high, and that the plot truly kept me guessing right up to the end to see how things might play out!

Before the Rains is a lovely book, and I tore through it on a couple of long train journeys - this is interesting, vivid, readable fiction. Thank you to Viking for asking me to be part of the blog tour - you can check out what other bloggers are saying by visiting their pages too (details in the image below).   









Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book to review from the publisher. All opinions, thoughts and ponderings are my own.
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I'm Claire, a thirty-something teacher, writer and blogger living in London.

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