The Diamond Eye Review (Audiobook)

Book: The Diamond Eye

Author: Kate Quinn

Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Mila talks to her friend Vika about her dissertation, and numerous other non-man related topics are discussed by female characters throughout the book.

Content Warnings: War, PTSD, alcoholism, blood & gore, mentions of sexual assault, sexism, emotional abuse, death, grief, violence, mentions of adult/minor relationship, gun violence, murder, medical trauma, stalking, sexual harassment, toxic relationship, sexual assault, child marriage, forced marriage

After loving both The Rose Code, and The Alice Network when I read them last year, Kate Quinn’s latest release The Diamond Eye immediately went to the top of my radar, particularly when I found out it was based on the life of a real woman sniper from WWII. I’m glad to say that I enjoyed The Diamond Eye just as much as I did The Rose Code and The Alice Network, and I’m once again impatiently waiting for Kate Quinn’s next book to come out (I will probably end up reading The Huntress soon to fill the void, as that’s the only one left of her WWII books that I’ve yet to read). Here is a short synopsis of the book:

In the snowbound city of Kiev, wry and bookish history student Mila Pavlichenko organizes her life around her library job and her young son – but Hitler’s invasion of Russia sends her on a different path. Given a rifle and sent to join the fight, Mila must forge herself from studious girl to deadly sniper – a lethal hunter of Nazis known as Lady Death. When news of her 300th kill makes her a national heroine, Mila finds herself torn from the bloody battlefields of the eastern front and sent to America on a goodwill tour.

Still reeling from war wounds and devastated by loss, Mila finds herself isolated and lonely in the glittering world of Washington, DC – until an unexpected friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and an even more unexpected connection with a silent fellow sniper offer the possibility of happiness. But when an old enemy from Mila’s past joins forces with a deadly new foe lurking in the shadows, Lady Death finds herself battling her own demons and enemy bullets in the deadliest duel of her life.

Based on a true story, The Diamond Eye is a haunting novel of heroism born of desperation, of a mother who became a soldier, of a woman who found her place in the world and changed the course of history forever.

As with all of Kate Quinn’s other novels, I loved the narration of this one, I’m so glad that Kate Quinn has Saskia Maarleveld as the narrator for all her books because she just does such a wonderful job. Once again Maarleveld does a myriad of different accents (largely Russian of course for this book) and she does an impeccable job with all of them, and reads in such a engaging way that you can’t help but be drawn into the story. I swear I would listen to anything if Saskia narrated it, she’s that good!

Where both The Rose Code and The Alice Network had multiple main characters, Mila is of course the star of the show in this one and I have to say, I LOVED HER. Her wry sense of humour was immediately endearing to me, and I loved how fierce and determined she was, & how skilled she was at her job. Mila is such a complex, interesting character, she’s fierce and ruthless when she needs to be but she’s also a history nerd with a cracking sense of humour who just wants to make the world a better place for her son, and I think Quinn got the dichotomy between sniper and student just right. I definitely came away from the book wanting to learn more about the real Mila, because Quinn’s version was just so fascinating. It was so weird thinking throughout the book that Mila was the same age at the time as I am now, I definitely could not imagine going through everything that she went through.

Quinn also has a very colourful cast of supporting characters, who in this case were actually largely real people. I really loved Mila’s friend Lena Paily (this is probably spelt wrong, I’m very sorry but I’ve only heard it said and not seen it written down), she was so funny and added a good dash of humour to the story as well as just having a lovely friendship with Mila, I loved seeing how they supported each other in the male dominated world of the military. Quinn always does such a good job of portraying female friendships in her books and this one was no exception.

Eleanor Roosevelt was a particular standout for me also, I loved seeing how her and Mila’s friendship blossomed (and yes, that part is real, they were friends in real life!), their scenes were some of my favourites in the book and the part where they discussed Mila’s fear of failure is one that really stuck out for me. I don’t really know a huge amount about Eleanor Roosevelt (I didn’t do a massive amount of American History in school, and whilst I did do some in Uni, we discussed FDR more than we did Eleanor) but this book definitely had me wanting to know more.

On the flip side, Mila’s first husband, Alexei was the ACTUAL WORST. He’s emotionally abusive to Mila, very heavily implied to be a child groomer (He and Mila married when she was only 15 because he got her pregnant, and throughout the book, he’s mentioned as being attracted to “very young women”) and I just wanted to hit him every time he appeared. When Mila was finally able to stand up to Alexei, I practically cheered!

As with all the other Kate Quinn books I’ve read, this book follows two different timelines, though the “past” and “present” timelines are much closer together in this book than in any of her others: the “past” follows Mila in 1941 and early 1942 during her time fighting on the Eastern Front and the “present” follows her in the summer and autumn of 1942 during her American goodwill tour in DC. I much preferred the war storyline to the one in DC, as it was more action packed and we got to see Mila’s skills as a sniper. The DC storyline was kind of slow to get going, though it did get better towards the end.

The DC storyline also heavily relies on a lot of fictionalisation which I didn’t love. Whilst the storyline following Mila’s war years is largely based in fact, the DC storyline follows a fabricated assassination attempt on President Roosevelt which I just felt was largely unnecessary as it was so clearly made up and honestly Mila’s life was exciting enough without it. There were parts of it I enjoyed towards the end, and I did not see the twist with the “marksman” who follows Mila throughout the book coming (especially that Alexei was the one who was able to work out his identity) but generally it just felt over the top to me and I didn’t feel like the book really needed it. I really didn’t like the marksman either which made his chapters a bit annoying to read, all I could think when listening to them was how much of an idiot he was for underestimating Mila.

Quinn had clearly done her research, I love that so much of the story was pulled directly from Mila’s memoir and that she put so much effort into making sure that the historical detail was right. I appreciated that in her author’s note (which I was so glad was actually included in the audiobook version of this book as it wasn’t in either The Rose Code or The Alice Network) explained where she had pulled from the real history and what bits she had fictionalised, the large majority of it really was taken from Mila’s memoir, which was so cool!

I really enjoyed Quinn’s writing, she created such a vivid setting of the Eastern Front battlefields in WWII and her writing is so engaging, it really pulled me into the story. I didn’t love the repetitive chapter intros though, whilst I appreciate the idea behind the “official/unofficial” memoir, showing what Mila really thought as opposed to the Soviet propaganda version, it got a little dull after a while.

There was lots of action in this book which I liked, Quinn was very good at portraying the horrors of war on the Eastern Front, and I loved seeing Mila in action as a sniper, I know some reviewers said they found the sniping sections overly detailed, but I really loved it, and it made sense to me that Mila would be that detailed about it, as the book is narrated in first person as if Mila is telling you her own story.

As with Quinn’s other books, this one does also have a helping of romance in it, and as expected, it was not my favourite part of the book. Lyonya and Mila have a sweet relationship, and I was crushed for her by what happened to him, but I can’t say I would have massively missed him if he hadn’t been there. Kostia is also really sweet and supportive (and the fact that he typed and bound her dissertation for her definitely had me swooning) but I did roll my eyes slightly that Mila ended up involved with both of them. I guess I can’t be too mad as Quinn did take that detail from her memoir, but it’s just so cliche in a book that a woman with two close male friends in her life would end up having both of them be interested in her. I do kind of wish Kostia and Mila had stayed friends, just because it would have been nice to have them be platonic sniper partners only and to have that intense connection not necessarily be a romantic one, but they did at least have good chemistry so it’s probably more a me just not being that into fictional romances thing than anything else.

The emotions definitely hit hard in this one, Quinn does not shy away from the horrors of war and the trauma that Mila experiences, which I appreciated and thought was really well done. I also appreciated that she did balance the horror with the levity of some humour, with the scene where Mila rips into a male journalist for asking a sexist question at a press conference during her US tour being a particular highlight.

The chapters were generally quite short which I appreciated as it kept me engaged with the story and kept it ticking along nicely.

Quinn hinted at a couple of potential ideas for new books in her author’s note which had me incredibly excited: if she really is going to write a book about Vika, the tank driving ballerina who plays a minor role in this book, I would be THERE FOR IT. Her talking about “British Intelligence, Russian Blood and American Steel” also suggested that there might be a book from her focusing on the American side of the war (as we’ve already had British Intelligence in The Rose Code and now Russian Blood with The Diamond Eye).

Obviously the timing of this book’s release is a little unfortunate given the current war between Russia and Ukraine, though that’s not Quinn’s fault. There are some parallels between the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, and it was interesting to hear the conversations about Ukrainian vs Russian identity between Mila and Fartanov, Mila who is staunchly Russian in her identity, despite being Ukrainian by birth as she does not see any difference between Russia and Ukraine, and Fartanov who is staunchly Ukrainian. Those conversations definitely had me wondering how Mila would feel about the current invasion if she was alive today.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Diamond Eye! I loved Mila, I thought she was a fantastic main character and I so want to learn more about the real Mila now, I loved the friendship between Eleanor and Mila, I loved wartime storyline, and as always, the narration was fabulous. I think had it not been for the fictional assassination storyline, this book could easily have been a five-star one, but as it was, it was still a fantastic book which highlighted the contributions of a lesser known historical woman fantastically. I can’t wait for Kate Quinn’s next book, whenever that comes out!

My Rating: 4/5

My next review will be of Portrait of A Thief, by Grace D. Li, which I’ve already finished, so it’s just a case of finding the time to write the review up!

Top Ten Tuesday #369

Hi all! Hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, once again, nothing much new to report here.

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, and so that means another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is a Book Quote Freebie, but instead of deciding on a particular theme for my quotes, I thought I’d just share a selection of the Best Quotes From My Ten Most Recent Reads. These will go from my most recent reads down to the furthest back. So here we go:

  1. “Museums never like to grapple with their history of colonialism. If you remove everything that was looted, then what’s left?” -Irene Chen, Portrait of A Thief

I had my issues with Portrait of A Thief, but it did raise some interesting points about museums and the ongoing discussions about objects stolen from other countries through colonialism.

2. “Life isn’t always going to be war….and you’ll do yourself a grave disservice if you live your every moment-not just your wartime moments but your gentler ones-by a standard as harsh as never miss.” -Eleanor Roosevelt, The Diamond Eye

This snippet comes from one of my absolute favourite moments of The Diamond Eye, when Mila and Eleanor are talking about failure, and how women put so much pressure on themselves to always succeed and feel they are never allowed to fail. It’s such a beautiful moment as we’ve seen Mila constantly striving for perfection throughout the whole book, that it’s lovely to see Eleanor reassuring her here that perfection is an impossible standard for anyone and it’s okay to fail sometimes.

3. “Would you add that which I cannot tell you to your prayers?”

“Everyday, sister”

-Manizheh and Rustam, The River of Silver, SA Chakraborty

This exchange happens in Manizheh’s story in The River of Silver, and I won’t spoil what it’s about in case you haven’t read any of the Daevabad books, but it’s a very poignant and emotional moment between the siblings.

4. “Because if even a single woman was involved, they wouldn’t have decided that a man who’d been working there one day was a more likely source of information than a woman who had been there for years.” -Adelaide Morrissey, A Marvellous Light, Freya Marske

This made me practically snort with laughter whilst I was listening to the audiobook. I love Miss Morrissey and I hope she’s featured even more in the second book so that we get treated to even more wonderful zingers like this one.

5. “My pain was never more valuable than his potential.” -Chanel Miller, Know My Name

There were so many amazing, powerful lines from Chanel’s memoir, but this one from her victim impact statement is one that has definitely stuck with me since reading.

6. “Could it be possible that for the first time in my life, I’ve found a place to belong?” -Rosalind Franklin, Her Hidden Genius, Marie Benedict

Poor Rosalind, the amount of misogyny she had to deal with and the lack of credit for her work on DNA within her lifetime was just maddening!

7. “Darling, you must never become accustomed to the extraordinary and the outrageous. If you do, little by little, you’ll learn to accept anything.” -Arvid Harnack, Resistance Women, Jennifer Chiaverini

I realise the irony in my choosing a quote from a man for a book called Resistance Women, but this was just one that stuck with me after reading, I think it’s just as relevant now as for the situation Arvid is talking about in the 1930s.

8. “On a few occasions it did look as if Olive was trying to sidle into the conversation with an amusing anecdote of her own, or more likely to see if they might drop some crumbs her way-or even, such is her hopeful nature, that they would offer to fetch her a platter of assorted snacks from the buffet.” -Dog Days: A Year With Olive and Mabel, Andrew Cotter

This made me laugh out loud because having had a Labrador myself, their love of and constant seeking out of food is pretty legendary.

9. “Whenever you hear a story about villainous women, you should ask who is telling the story.” -This Poison Heart, Kalynn Bayron

I have to admit, I can’t remember the name of the professor that Briseis was speaking to in this conversation, but I really loved the point she made as so many women have been villainised throughout history and it really does all depend on who is doing the telling.

10. “We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.” -Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood, Trevor Noah

There are a lot of really funny moments in this book, but I thought I’d choose a more poignant quote to end on, since funny as it is, this book does also deal with a lot of serious issues, many of which still affect South Africa today.

So there we go, those are some quotes from ten of my most recent reads. Have you read any of these books? Did you enjoy them? What have you been reading recently? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, the topic this time is Comfort Reads but in all honesty, I tend to have Comfort TV Shows/Movies more than books, so I think I’ll share some of those instead.

Top Ten Tuesday #368

Hi all! I hope you’ve had a good week since I last did one of these, mine has once again been fairly quiet, just more work as usual.

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, and so that means another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Books I Was So Excited To Get and Still Haven’t Read, and buckle in, because this is going to be A LONG ONE. I am the queen of being really excited to get books and procrastinating reading them for years, so we’re looking at double edition of TTT today (actually it’s Top Twenty Two Tuesday, I couldn’t even stop myself at twenty!):

  1. Off The Page-Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer (Bought In 2016)

I was so excited for this sequel because I really enjoyed the first book, Between The Lines, but then it just kind of got lost in the shuffle of other books and I never got around to it. I’m actually not so sure if I would enjoy it now as I’m quite a bit older than I was when I read Between The Lines, and cutesy YA romance is not really my thing anymore (not that it really was back then to be honest, but I think I did enjoy the occasional one at 16/17 whereas I really don’t now).

2. Wintergirls-Laurie Halse Anderson (Bought at YALC in 2016)

Honestly, I think this one may have been a discount buy on the YALC Sunday in 2016, but I do remember being excited for it because I’d heard a lot of good things about it. Since then I’ve read one of Halse Anderson’s other books, Speak, and I wasn’t a huge fan, I would still like to try this one but my excitement has waned somewhat since I bought it.

3. The Fixer-Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Received in 2017)

I got this in one of my #otspsecretsister parcels, a kind of all year round Secret Santa that a group of bloggers (Brittany, Alyssa and Amy) used to run on Twitter, and it was super fun, I did it for a couple of years. Anyway, this book was one of the books I received in my parcels for the project, and it sounds really fun, it’s about a teenager whose sister is a political fixer in DC and she accidentally falls into being a “fixer” for her high school.

4. Inkheart-Cornelia Funke (Bought in 2017)

I bought this when I had a day out book shopping in Edinburgh, it’s one of those books that I wish I’d read as a kid, but kind of missed out on. I still really want to read it, the whole idea of being able to read characters out of books is catnip to me, but it’s been in storage for a while (along with a lot of my books, I just wasn’t able to bring them all back from Uni) so I’m not sure when I’ll get to read it. Whenever all my stuff is finally in one place if that ever happens!

5. A Court of Wings and Ruin-Sarah J Maas (Bought at YALC in 2017)

This is kind of cheat one, because I did start reading it last year but just wasn’t really in the mood. Honestly, though I liked ACOMAF, I was never as big a fan of the ACOTAR series as I was the Throne of Glass series, and the more Sarah J Maas books you read, the more you realise they’re kind of same-y. I don’t think I’ll read A Court of Silver Flames, so I don’t think I’ll feel massively bad if I bow out of ACOTAR here, though I may decide to come back to it at some point.

6. Every Word-Ellie Marney (Received in 2017)

I got this as a birthday gift from a former Secret Sister, but again, I’ve just not got around to reading it. I would definitely still like to though, as I remember enjoying the first book in the series, and it’s a really fun take on a Sherlock retelling.

7. The Guilty Feminist-Deborah Frances-White (Bought in 2018)

I’m a feminist but……I bought this book when I went to one of Deborah’s tour stops for it in 2018 and it’s been sitting on my shelf gathering dust, along with several other feminist non-fiction books that I say I’ll read and then proceed to leave for years. I really will read this one one day as I do love the podcast, but an hour or so a week of the podcast is a much smaller time commitment!

8. Everyday Sexism-Laura Bates (Received in 2018)

I got this one as a Christmas gift in 2018, and ironically, have read one of Laura’s more recent books since then! It’s another of the previously aforementioned sad languishing feminist non-fiction. I will read it at some point, as I really loved Men Who Hate Women and plan to listen to her newest book on audio, but I’m not quite sure when.

9. Feminists Don’t Wear Pink-Scarlett Curtis and contributors (Bought in 2018)

I pre-ordered this, went to Waterstones to pick it up ON PUBLICATION DAY……and have yet to read it. I keep telling myself I’ll start reading some of the essays in between reading other books, but have I done that yet? Of course not! I really will, I think it’s just a case of being in the mood for non-fiction.

10. The Tyrant’s Tomb-Rick Riordan (Bought in 2019)

This one’s a toughie because honestly, really not been feeling The Trials of Apollo, I think I have reached the stage where I feel too old for Rick Riordan books, which is a shame because he’s been a favourite author for so long….but also not surprising as I’m 25 and his books are aimed at the 9-12 set! I did at one point think I would finish the series out, but I’m just not feeling the pull.

11. Good Girl, Bad Blood-Holly Jackson (Bought in 2020)

I got this one fairly soon after finishing A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder, thinking I’d read it right away and then I just….didn’t. I’ve planned to pick it up several times in the last couple of years, but having such an awful slump in 2021, and still not really reading as many physical books as I once was, I just haven’t got around to it yet. Hopefully when my physical book reading starts to pick up again, this will be one of the first I get to.

12. Only Ashes Remain-Rebecca Schaeffer (Bought in 2020)

I bought this one off Amazon (yes, I know, I know, but I do very rarely use Amazon for books that aren’t audiobooks now) right after finishing the first one, I was so excited to dive in….and then I just didn’t. A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder came up as the book of the month in my Book Club on Goodreads and I really wanted to join in with that, and then somehow I just kept finding other books I’d rather read. I did really enjoy the first one though, so I’m sure I will get to this at some point, and now that the series is complete, I do have slightly more impetus to.

13. Where Dreams Descend-Janella Angeles (Bought In 2020)

This is another one that I started last year, and then just wasn’t in the mood for because reading slump. I fully intend to go back to it, as it sounds so up my street, but I just wanted to give myself the best chance of enjoying it and I knew I wasn’t going to the way my reading mood was last year. Hopefully soon!

14. Rule of Wolves-Leigh Bardugo (Bought In 2021)

I was actually really in the mood to read this after watching Shadow and Bone last year, as I really wanted to dive back into the Grishaverse. But because of aforementioned reading slump, a gigantic book was hardly going to help matters, so I decided to put it off until I felt more in the mood for a chunkster. Honestly not sure when that will be as I’m still not really feeling like reading long books now, but we shall see. I will finish out the Grishaverse at some point (or at least this part of it, I know Leigh has indicated there will be another Six of Crows book further down the line and you guys know I will be all over that).

15. Dead or Alive-Derek Landy (Bought in 2021)

I was really excited for this, pre-reading Seasons of War, but then I read Seasons of War towards the end of 2020/beginning of 2021 and I just didn’t like it much, definitely my least favourite instalment of the new Skulduggery books, so Dead or Alive kind of slipped down my priority list. I would definitely like to get to Dead or Alive, and Until The End at some point, but much like Rule of Wolves, they’re both kind of chunky and I need to be in a particular mood for chunky books!

16. Mister Impossible-Maggie Stiefvater (Bought In 2021)

I will admit I wasn’t enamoured with Call Down The Hawk, but I was still excited to see more Ronan and so naturally I pre-ordered it. But then my massive reading slump happened last year and I just didn’t get around to 90% of the books I planned to. Hopefully once my reading has settled back into something like normal, I will get around to this.

17. City of Spells-Alexandra Christo (Bought in 2021)

I pre-ordered this one last year as I loved Into The Crooked Place and was super excited for it, but then I got into a reading slump, and well just never got around to it. I think I may have actually lent this one to a friend so I’m not sure if I actually have it at the moment……I guess I’ll find out when I pack up all my books to move!

18. Bridge of Souls-VE Schwab (Bought in 2021)

Another victim of my 2021 reading slump. I really wish it had happened in any other year, because I had SO MANY NEW BOOKS I was excited for last year and did I read ANY OF THEM? Well some on audio, but largely no. I’m sure this is one I will get to this year because it’s nice and short, and I’d like to finish out Cassidy Blake’s adventures (Schwab has said this is it for now, but that there might be more in the future, which I really hope there is because I rarely read MG anymore, but I really enjoyed the first two books in this series).

19. Endgame-Malorie Blackman (Bought in 2021)

After just finishing the second season of Noughts and Crosses last week (YES, a certain event from the books did hit me just as hard on screen, and even though I knew it was coming, I was still almost crying by the end.) I definitely do feel quite motivated to finish out the book series, even if I didn’t love Crossfire as much as I was hoping for. Again, this is one I probably would have read last year had not it been for the slump.

20. Once Upon A Broken Heart-Stephanie Garber (Bought in 2021)

AGH I’M SO EXCITED FOR THIS ONE. This is probably going to be the next one I dive into after finishing Gallant, because I just can’t wait anymore, I’ve heard such good things and I want to see for myself. Again, I would have read it last year if I’d been in a better reading mood, but better late than never right? And this way, I will have Ballad waiting for me soon after, so it’s really a good thing I didn’t read it straight away and have to wait a year. Good planning…..not procrastination at all…..

21. The Bronzed Beasts-Roshani Chokshi (Bought in 2021)

Of all the victims of the Great Reading Slump of 2021, this is probably the one I was most disappointed not to get to. The Silvered Serpents ending on such a wicked cliffhanger, I was so excited to get The Bronzed Beasts and by the time it arrived….just not feeling it anymore. Definitely a high priority one for this year though, I need to find out how the story ends.

22. All of Us Villains-Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman (Bought in 2021)

Again, I’m just calling this one good planning so I can read the two books in the duology back to back (I say, knowing full well that I absolutely WILL leave the second book a good year before I read it, probably even more). This one sounds super good and I do love villains but it’s another victim of the slump! Hopefully this year.

So there we go, those are all the books I was so excited to get and still haven’t read (aka the victims of Jo’s great reading slump of 2021 + a few extras). Have you read any of these books? Did you enjoy them? Any I should absolutely prioritise? Are you good at reading books when you get them or do you procrastinate horribly like me? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, this time it’s a Book Quote Freebie (and I’m off work so you’ll actually get it at a reasonable hour for a change!). I’ve done quite a lot of Quotes on a theme for my Thursday Quotables though, so instead of doing ten quotes all on the same theme, I’m just going to share the Best Quotes From My Ten Most Recent Reads, with the best quote for each book.

Top Ten Tuesday #367

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, mine has been fairly quiet, I’ve just been working as usual.

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, and so that means another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Bookish Characters, so I thought I’d just talk about ten of my favourite bookish characters. I was a little worried this list would be quite similar to one I did a few years back on Characters Who Would Make Good Book Club Leaders, but I’ve read a lot of books since then and only about half of this list is the same! So I think that’s reasonably good going:

  1. Hermione Granger-Harry Potter series-JK Rowling

I do try to limit my Harry Potter features as much as possible these days, given that JK Rowling is…..awful to put it mildly, but I couldn’t talk about my favourite bookish characters without mentioning Hermione! Hermione was one of the first characters I read about that really felt like me (although I have to say, I was never as studious as she was!) and so she’ll always have a special place in my heart. And without her, Ron and Harry would not have made it past book one…..

2. Annabeth Chase-Percy Jackson and The Olympians-Rick Riordan

Who’s excited for the Percy Jackson Disney+ series? I’m super excited, I can’t wait to see how the trio do, and so happy to see actual kids in the roles! Annabeth I love for a lot of the same reasons as Hermione, but I also thought it was so cool to see a kid with dyslexia who still really loves reading even though it’s not always easy for her.

3. Liesel Meminger-The Book Thief-Markus Zusak

The way Liesel just wants to devour stories, just loves words so much that she would do anything for them, I feel that. Though I don’t think I’d resort to stealing…..though she does steal quite a few from book burnings, so maybe it’s more like liberating? Anyway, I just love her and the joy and power that she is able to find from words and stories.

4. Grace Bennett-The Last Bookshop In London-Madeline Martin

Honestly, if I had to describe Grace Bennett, it would basically be, Liesel Meminger as a grown up but English and with less book stealing. The two are eerily similar! What I loved most about Grace though was getting to see her foster a love of reading as an adult, so many books about readers show them discovering their passion as kids, which is great, but it was also really cool to see a book where the MC hasn’t had a lifelong passion for books but through finding the right book for her, is able to open a door into a whole world of reading!

5. Matilda Wormwood-Matilda-Roald Dahl

As a book loving kid, Matilda just had my whole heart. Her coming back from the library with a trolley full of books…..I could definitely relate to that, I never had a trolley, but I would always take out huge stacks of books every week from the library and read them as fast as I could before coming back the next week to devour more!

6. Alizayd Al-Qahtani-The Daevabad Trilogy-SA Chakraborty

As far as I can tell, Ali is less a fiction reader, and more a reader of history and thick economics documents, but a book nerd is a book nerd, no matter what you love to read about! The fact that he and Nahri bonded over him teaching her how to read definitely endeared me to him where I’d initially been lukewarm. Nothing turns a bookworm to your side faster than knowing you are one of us!

7. Edwin Courcey-A Marvellous Light-Freya Marske

HE USED MAGIC TO BUILD HIS OWN LIBRARY CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM. I can’t even with how beautifully nerdy and wonderful that is. Edwin is a prickly bookworm with a secret heart of gold and for that we must protect him at all costs. I was slightly lukewarm with A Marvellous Light overall, but my love for Edwin and Robin definitely kept me reading.

8. Enrique Mercado-Lopez-The Gilded Wolves Trilogy-Roshani Chokshi

I would love to just sit down with Enrique over a large slice of cake and chat about history. I think we’d have an amazing time!

9. Aelin Galathynius-Throne of Glass series-Sarah J Maas

I have an Aelin quote on my wall: “I can survive well enough on my own if given the proper reading material.” And honestly? Same Aelin, same. I wasn’t actually a massive fan of Aelin in the beginning but she grew on me over the course of the books, and I think her love of reading definitely helped that.

10. Mila Pavlichenko-The Diamond Eye-Kate Quinn

All of Kate Quinn’s characters in her books I’ve read so far have been readers, which is understandable that authors pass on their passions to their characters, but Mila was actually a real person and one of the things that immediately endeared her to me was her passion for history as that’s obviously something I share. I loved the fact that her dissertation was on such a niche nerdy topic and that she brought it to the battlefield with her!

So there we go, those are some of my favourite bookish characters, both new and old! Have you read any of these books? Who are some of your favourite bookish characters? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, we’re talking Books I Was So Excited To Get But Still Haven’t Read, and OH BOY. This could be a long one.

Top Ten Tuesday #366

Hi all! I hope you’ve all had a good week, after my very busy last week, I’ve had a fairly quiet Bank Holiday weekend, which was much appreciated.

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, and so that means time for another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week is One Word Reviews For The Last Ten Books I Read, which was an idea submitted by Susan @ Bloggin’ Bout Books. Tough one, Susan! I always have a tendency to be very wordy in my reviews, and I’m not so good at summing up my thoughts into just a couple of words (or in this case, a single word), so this is going to be a challenge for me, but I’ll give it a go (I will also link to my full reviews for the ones I’ve done them for if you’d like to see my more detailed thoughts):

  1. The Diamond Eye-Kate Quinn


2. The River of Silver: Tales From The Daevabad Trilogy-S.A. Chakraborty


3. A Marvellous Light-Freya Marske


4. Know My Name-Chanel Miller


5. Her Hidden Genius-Marie Benedict


6. Resistance Women-Jennifer Chiaverini


7. Dog Days: A Year In The Life of Olive and Mabel-Andrew Cotter


8. This Poison Heart-Kalynn Bayron


9. Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood-Trevor Noah


10. The Nobleman’s Guide To Scandal and Shipwrecks-Mackenzi Lee


So there we go, it’s a fairly short one from me today, but that’s what the topic called for! Have you read any of these books? Did you enjoy them? What would your one word review for any of them be? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, this time we’re talking about Bookish Characters, which is always a fun one to do, and hopefully one I’ve not done before? At least not recently anyway!

Jo Talks Books: What Makes A Good Audiobook Narrator?

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good month since I last did one of these, April has been super busy for me, with work picking back up again due to the Spring Booster vaccine programme and 5-11 year olds being offered the COVID vaccine now here in the UK, hence why this post is coming right at the end of the month.

Anyway, as I’ve been reading mainly audiobooks over the past year and a bit, I wanted to talk a little about what I think makes a good audiobook narrator, now that I’ve sampled a wide variety of different audiobooks with different narrators.

I started properly listening to audiobooks on a regular basis since 2019, and since then it’s become one of my go-to ways to consume books. But the narrator of an audiobook can make or break your listening experience: I’ve had some audiobooks where I really wish that I’d just read the physical copy because the narrator has detracted from my experience of the book and I’ve had many where listening to the book has really made the experience for me and I couldn’t have imagined consuming the book any other way.

A good example of narration that I’ve found has worked really well for me, is memoirs where the author reads their own work. I’ve not read all of the memoirs out there, and I’m sure not everyone who writes a memoir would necessarily be a fabulous narrator, but by and large, I’ve found authors reading their own work to be a really good experience. Sometimes it’s because the author themselves is a performer, like Trevor Noah, he does a great job of narrating the audiobook of his memoir Born A Crime and I would largely put that down to him being a comedian: he already knows how to tell a story in an engaging way which is vital for audiobook performances.

Sometimes it’s because the author themselves is the only one who can tell that story authentically. For instance, I read Chanel Miller’s memoir, Know My Name earlier this year and listening to her tell her story of sexual assault in her own words, not only made the experience more powerful for me, but I also couldn’t imagine anyone else doing the audiobook narration, it just wouldn’t come across the same way if it had been someone else reading her words, especially as the memoir is so much about her reclaiming her voice. I would guess that’s why the large majority of memoirs seem to be read by the author in the audiobook version, after all, who can do more justice to your life’s story than you?

Generally, though, most fiction audiobooks are read by voice actors. After almost three years of listening to audiobooks, almost fifty different audiobooks and various different narrators, I’ve had my fair share of narrators. Some have been really fantastic and I’ve gone on to seek out audiobooks narrated by them specifically because I enjoyed their performance so much, and some…..well I’ve not listened to anything by them again. By and large I would say my experience with audiobook narrators has been overwhelmingly positive, there are very few that I have flat out hated, but certain audiobook narrators definitely stick in my mind more than others.

For me the narrators that stick out the most generally have one or both of two traits: they are excellent at accents and make each characters’ voice memorable and distinct, or they really capture the atmosphere of the book and make the story come alive, so you don’t just feel like you’re listening to words on a page, you really do feel like you’ve been immersed in the world of the story.

My two favourite audiobook narrators I’ve discovered since I started listening to audiobooks, Saskia Maarleveld and January LaVoy, do both of these things brilliantly. Saskia Maarleveld is fabulous at different accents, and in all the books I’ve listened to her narrate, seems to do about twenty different accents over the course of the book (I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea), and even narrates entire audiobooks in an accent that isn’t her own. This really brings all of the different characters to life for me, and allows me to keep everyone straight in my head which I really appreciate.

January LaVoy narrates the Diviners series (and I’m sure a lot of other things that I’ve yet to listen to her in) and she MADE those books for me. Obviously they’re good books anyway, but January LaVoy captures the atmosphere and creepiness of the story so well, that it really brought the stories to life for me and honestly, if she’d not been the narrator for the first book, I’m not sure if I’d have carried on reading as I was kind of unsure about the first book but I loved her narration so much that I carried on, which I’m really glad for as I enjoyed the rest of the series much more. January LaVoy definitely made the stories feel like a performance, each character has such a distinct voice (no mean feat with such a large cast) and she even sings in places, the whole listening experience was almost like having a theatre show playing in your ears!

AJ Beckles and Jordan Cobb who narrate the A Song of Wraiths and Ruin duology also do a fantastic job in creating the atmosphere of the world, oral storytelling traditions are huge part of the ASOWAR world so it felt very fitting that the narration of the audiobooks lent into that a lot, Beckles and Cobb were so good at creating the atmosphere of the world of Sonande, and it really added that extra level to the stories for me.

Narrators really capturing the characters personalities is also really important for an enjoyable audiobook experience. Both of the narrators I just mentioned are great at doing that, but I also wanted to mention an audiobook where I didn’t like the story as much, but the narrator’s portrayal of the character really made it. That book is Caroline Kepnes’ You, narrated by Santino Fontana (yes, Hans from Frozen, or OG Greg from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend). The actual book I could kind of take or leave, I’ve actually found the Netflix show much better, but Santino’s performance was really fantastic. He captures Joe’s creepiness so well, it’s almost hard to listen to at points, he’s that convincing!

Christian Coulson in The Nobleman’s Guide To Scandal and Shipwrecks is another one who captures the personality of the narrator really well. He brings Adrian to life so completely that you almost forget that it’s a narrator reading the story and feel like Adrian is actually telling his own story to you. Adrian’s book was the only one of the Montague Siblings books that I listened to and I was so glad I did in the end because Christian’s performance just made it so enjoyable.

So then we have the ones that fall into the not so standout category. My problems with audiobook narrators tend to stem from a couple of key issues. The main one is that I just don’t like the voice, which is obviously not really something that anyone can change, some voices you gel with, some you don’t. This happened to me with The Poppy War, and whilst the narration was not the only issue I had with the book, it did kind of put the book on the backfoot right from the off. I just didn’t find Emily Woo Zeller to be a particularly engaging reader, and as I mentioned above, I really need character voices to have a clear differentiation and hers just didn’t.

I also found this with The Song of Achilles, Frazer Douglas just had a very flat and monotone style of reading, and I’ve found that for me, I need quite animated voices to keep me engaged. His voices for the female characters were also not great, which is something I’ve found to be a bit of a reoccurring problem with male narrators (at least the ones I’ve listened to), their female voices tend to be a bit too high pitched and it just irks me!

This also happened with We Were Liars, Ariadne Meyers had kind of a grating voice, and she just wasn’t all that enjoyable to listen to for almost seven hours!

Other issues I’ve had is that the narrator is just too quiet and I can’t hear what they’re saying properly, so I have to turn the volume up too loud just to hear them speak. Granted, that could be an audio quality issue rather than a narrator issue, but it definitely does pull you out of the listening experience because your ears start to hurt after too long listening on full volume! This was a big issue I had with Sky Breaker when I listened to it last year, both Caitlin Davies and Natalie Naudus seemed to be incredibly quiet speakers!

Then there’s those narrators who just don’t differentiate enough between characters’ voices, this was one of my big problems (among many) with Dangerous Remedy. The narrator, Flora Montgomery, really didn’t differentiate between the characters’ voices much at all, so it was hard to tell who was speaking when and that made the story so much more difficult to follow than it really needed to be. Differentiation between character voices is so important in audiobooks, it really brings me out of the story when I can’t tell who is speaking in which part because I find it hard to follow.

I had the same issue with The Bear and The Nightingale, Kathleen Gati also really didn’t differentiate her character voices enough and there are 10,000 characters with seemingly 10,000 different names between full names and nicknames, so I really needed more distinct voices to follow what was going on.

There’s also some narrators who do different accents for the characters but do them so badly that it becomes super grating. I love listening to different accents, and when people do them well, it can be brilliant but when they do them badly, it can be super cringey. This was a big problem for me when listening to the audiobook of Lore, Fryda Wolff’s reading voice was fine, but her accents really took me out of the story. She did a really terrible French accent for Iro and then her British accent for Van was the kind of really hammed up posh British accent for an American audience that just grates on me.

So to summarise, the best audiobook narrators for me have a combination of: impeccable and distinct accents for all the characters, an ability to capture the atmosphere of a book and they capture the personalities of the characters well. But most of all, I think what I find with the best audiobook narrators, is that I’ll finish reading the book and feel like I couldn’t possibly have consumed the story in any other way. If I finish and think, eh, I might have liked that better as a physical book, then the narrator hasn’t done their job properly (for me anyway!). If when I’m done, I think, wow that was amazing, the narration really added something to the story that I don’t think I would have got in the physical copy, then that’s a fantastic narrator and those are usually the ones that I go on to read multiple books by.

What makes a good audiobook narrator for you? Is there anything that I didn’t touch on that you think is really important for your listening experience? Do you have any recommendations of really good narrators for me? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll have another discussion post up for you next month, and in a rare turn for me, I actually already know what I want to talk about! This may change, but at the moment, I’m thinking I want to write about the recent trend of Book To TV adaptations, and why I enjoy TV series adaptations of books more than films (generally!). In the meantime, I’m hoping to get up my review of my latest read The Diamond Eye up at some point during the week, so keep an eye out for that, and I will of course have my regular Top Ten Tuesday post up on Tuesday.

Top Ten Tuesday #365

Hi all! Hope you’ve all had a good week, I’ve had a bit of a whirlwind last couple of days, I had a job interview in London yesterday and went to this really cool exhibition at the British Library today, it’s all about the news and the way it’s been told over several centuries, and they had so many cool artefacts from across history right up to the present day. If you’re in London, I would definitely recommend it, it’s running till the 21st August. One of my personal favourite exhibits was a news clipping on the Jack The Ripper murders, but the stories go even further back, there was even an article from the time of the Great Fire of London! I have to admit it was kind of the perfect exhibition for me as it combined two things I love to nerd out about: history and news!

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, and so that means it’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week is a cover freebie, which I know you guys always love, so I’ve decided to share my favourite Red, White and Black covers in honour of my fave author VE Schwab, who often has this colour scheme on her book covers (and no, the covers will not all be her books!). I decided to make this one a bit trickier for myself in only using covers that had all three colours on them, but it turns out it wasn’t actually that hard: lots of covers use this combination! So here we go:

  1. Children of Blood and Bone-Tomi Adeyemi

I love this cover, I think it’s really striking, the whole dark background and the white hair really makes the red in the text and the headscarf pop and I love that the Black MC is front and centre on the cover.

2. Ruin and Rising-Leigh Bardugo

I actually prefer the redesigned cover for this with the firebird on it because I just like those designs better, but this fit the brief for the colours I was going for this week. I do like the red, I think that’s very striking, I’m just not really a big fan of what I think is meant to be the palace design (the black building).

3. Romanov-Nadine Brandes

I love the colours on this so much, the red and the gold feel very Christmassy to me, though it’s not a Christmas set story! The white is only really in the title text, but it’s there, so I’m counting it. I think the colour combinations on this are just genius, the red, the white, the black & gold, it just all goes together so well, and there’s such intricate little details like the drops of blood, ugh just so gorgeous.

4. A Psalm of Storms and Silence-Roseanne A. Brown

I love the designs on these covers so much, they’re so intricate, and gorgeous and so wonderfully reflective of the West African inspired setting and again, it’s great to see two Black characters front and centre on a cover like this. I almost wish I’d read this in physical copy so I could have the gorgeous covers on my shelf, but I can’t regret it too much as Jordan Cobb and AJ Beckles are fabulous narrators.

5. Ace of Shades-Amanda Foody

This is definitely my favourite of the three Shadow Game UK covers, the colours are so vivid, and I love the level of detail. From the card suits making up the background of the cover to the silhouette of the City of Sin, to the playing cards falling down around the title, it’s all just so cleverly put together and I really love it. The other two covers for the series are fine, but I just like the colours and design of this one the best (and was slightly sad they changed the UK cover colour for Queen of Volts from purple to green).

6. Caraval-Stephanie Garber

Okay so this one may be a tad more tenuous than some of the others on the list, but there is a splash of red at the centre of the starburst there, so I’m counting it! I love the simplicity of all these covers, the designs are all actually fairly simple, but the colours really make them pop.

7. A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder-Holly Jackson

All three books in the series would have worked for this prompt, but I chose the first one for the simple reason that it’s the only one I’ve read! A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder is neither the prettiest nor most exciting cover I’ve got on this list, but it works for what it needs to do and the idea of having the cover be Pip’s “murder board” is pretty cool.

8. Death Bringer-Derek Landy

I really miss the old style Skulduggery Pleasant covers, the style for the most recent instalments in the series is similar, but it’s not quite the same, it’s hard to put my finger on exactly what has changed about them, but I don’t like them as much! I could have used Bedlam, a later book in the series for this prompt too, but I liked this book better so I went with it. This is one of my favourite covers of the whole series actually, the colours really pop and I love the design of Skulduggery and Val in the graveyard.

9. Heartless-Marissa Meyer

This is another of those books that I really wish I’d read as a physical copy rather than as an e-ARC because the cover is so pretty. I love the way the hearts are incorporated so much into the design, from the leaves to Cath’s face, to the A in the title, it’s very fitting for a Queen of Hearts origin story.

10. The Night Circus-Erin Morgenstern

This just barely qualifies but the red of the scarf, and the little hints in the title mean it just scrapes in there. I actually wasn’t a big fan of The Night Circus (I know, shock horror) but I do really love this cover, I think it’s a great example of where minimalism on a book cover can actually be more outstanding than books with super splashy colours all over them.

11. Not Even Bones-Rebecca Schaeffer

Another example where minimalism really works for the book. The design of this with the blood and the scalpel is such a good idea for a book where the main character’s job is dissecting supernatural creatures and it also gets across the creepy aspect of the book really well.

12. A Conjuring of Light-VE Schwab

Yes we made it to the author that inspired this whole list (this is what I get for doing it in alphabetical order!). I honestly could have chosen any number of VE Schwab’s books for this list as she’s had the red, white, black colour combination on many of her books but I chose A Conjuring of Light for the simple reason that I think the colours pop the most on the black background (as compared to the white background of ADSOM and the red of AGOS). I’m so curious to see whether the red, white, black theme continues with Threads of Power or if the covers go in a whole new direction. We’ve not had a grey background for Grey London yet…..though grey is really not the best colour for a book cover!

13. Unwind-Neal Shusterman

The covers of this series get the creep factor so right, that eye staring out of the DNA helix will always haunt me! Red, white and black are a great combination for spooky covers and the combination of the colour and the design here has you instantly knowing, before you even open the book or look at the blurb…..this is going to be a creepy book.

14. The Scorpio Races-Maggie Stiefvater

I don’t know what cover gods Maggie Stiefvater has working for her….but she’s never had a bad cover (okay, that’s a slight lie, the Mister Impossible cover was not great). You get the point though, her covers are generally always on the money. I actually picked up The Scorpio Races based on this cover alone, and though I didn’t completely love it, it did lead me to The Raven Boys, so I will be forever grateful for that.

15. Enchantee-Gita Trelease

This is another one where I really wish I’d got the physical copy rather than the e-arc because it’s so pretty. I love the little details like the two different Camilles in the gates, one from her Paris life and one from her Versailles life, I love how ornate and beautiful the gates are, the little card suit symbols embedded in the cover (as gambling is a big part of the book) and of course the balloon at the top is so gorgeous.

So there we have it, those are some covers with Red, White and Black covers for your viewing pleasure this week. And those are just the ones I’ve read, this list would probably have been way longer if I’d included my TBR books too! Have you read any of these books? Do you like red, white and black as a colour combination on covers? Or do you prefer brighter covers? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week for another Top Ten Tuesday, this time we’re doing One Word Reviews For The Last Ten Books I Read. I am probably going to find this difficult, as an incredibly wordy person, but hey, at least you know you’ll be getting a short post from me next week!

Top Ten Tuesday #364

Hi all! Hope you all had a good Bank Holiday weekend (if you were off over the long weekend, I know not everyone gets Easter off), I was working on Saturday, but aside from that, I had the rest of the weekend to myself and we actually had nice weather for once here in the UK, so I spent my free time reading on balcony, as you do!

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, so time for another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re talking Bookish Merchandise I’d Like To Own. Now if there’s one thing I love collecting, it’s book themed items, whether that’s prints, tote bags, keyrings, you name it, I probably have it. My most prized item is a Darker Shade of Magic themed necklace I have (it’s a little pendant with As Travars on it, it’s super cute!), which I’ve worn to several VE Schwab signings! It’s safe to say that I had a lot of fun compiling my items for this week’s list and I’m sure some of them will make their way into my home in the not-so-distant future:

  1. The Book Thief Cover Art Print (BookCoverArt, Etsy)

I have one of these cover art prints on vintage paper already, it’s one of the cover of A Darker Shade of Magic (naturally), gifted by my friend Nicola for Christmas one year. But I really do love this idea, and I would happily start a collection of these. This is my favourite version of The Book Thief’s cover (ironically not the one on the copy I own!) and I would happily have this on display in my room.

2. Caraval Notebook (RedBubble, Zulfa Begum)

I really don’t need more notebooks, but I absolutely adore Zulfa Begum’s designs! When I was doing the Secret Sister Project on Twitter, I got a Night Circus notebook she designed for my secret sister and it’s still one of my favourite gifts I ever bought for any of my sisters. She also has a really gorgeous design with Legend’s top hat that I would happily buy as well, if I had infinite funds to spend on book themed merchandise. I really recommend her shop if you like book merch as she has some really lovely designs.

3. Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading Pillow (RedBubble, Troxbled)

A sentiment I often feel, so why not have a pillow that says it? The only problem being that unless it was in front of me, no one would see it!

4. Percy Jackson T-Shirt (RedBubble, shmurr)

I did think about a Camp Half-Blood t-shirt, but unfortunately, orange really isn’t my colour! Instead, this purple T-shirt with one of my favourite jokes from the whole Percy Jackson series, would work much better for me.

5. Addie LaRue Print (RiddlesandRavens)

All of my VE Schwab prints are A Darker Shade of Magic related (unsurprisingly as it’s my favourite book of hers), but this Addie LaRue print from RiddlesandRavens is so gorgeous that I would happily add it to my print collection.

6. Throne of Glass sticker (RedBubble, sashabookishart)

I already have quite a few Sarah J Maas themed stickers on my laptop, but if I had enough room (which I sadly don’t!) I would definitely add this one to my laptop. It’s so pretty and I love that it’s a book themed quote!

7. Six of Crows sticker (RedBubble, lizzybdoodles)

Again, I’m somewhat lacking in the space for more stickers, but if I wasn’t, this Six of Crows sticker is delightfully creepy and I would love to add it to my collection.

8. Hunger Games Pin (Etsy, BlackFishBookery)

I was initially looking for a Mockingjay pin, but in my search, I found this one which I actually think is prettier than the Mockingjay pin. I love the colour, and would like to have a Hunger Games pin that’s a little different from the usual Mockingjay.

9. Skulduggery Pleasant sticker (RedBubble, TheTwinBorn)

For most of my years at Uni, I had this quote on my door. Barely anyone understood it, but it made me smile every time I saw it. Again, if I had room on my laptop, I would definitely get this one. Though to be honest, I could quite happily stick this to my door at home and really confuse my parents!

10. Six of Crows necklace (Etsy, TheFandomOutlet)

TheFandomOutlet has several different necklaces inspired by characters from the Grishaverse, and whilst Nina is my favourite SoC character, I chose the Matthias inspired one as the one I wanted, despite him being my least favourite character. What can I say? The wolf and the snowflake just make the best aesthetic for a necklace! It was a close call between this and the Kaz necklace though, as I love the crow and the top hat on that one.

So there we go, that’s just some Bookish Merchandise I’d Like To Own. Do you like bookish merchandise? Do you have any? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week for another Top Ten Tuesday, and it’s a cover themed post, which is always a favourite one to do. We get to choose our theme though, so in honour of my favourite author, VE Schwab, I’m going to follow her colour scheme and do Books With Red, White and Black Covers (and no I won’t just include VE Schwab books!).

The River of Silver: Tales From The Daevabad Trilogy Review (Audiobook)

Book: The River of Silver

Author: S.A. Chakraborty

Narrator: Soneela Nankani

BECHDEL TEST: Uncertain, didn’t keep track!

Content Warnings: Mentions of past suicide attempts, torture, attempted rape, mentions of war, genocide

SPOILER WARNING: This review may contain spoilers for all three books of the Daevabad trilogy. If you have not read them, and do not wish to be spoiled, stop reading here.

After devouring the entirety of the Daevabad trilogy during the first lockdown in 2020 (well mostly anyway!), I really wasn’t expecting there to be any more content from the Daevabad world. So my surprise and delight when I saw that SA Chakraborty had released a collection of short stories from the Daevabad world this year was naturally very high! I’m always a little wary of short story collections as I’ve found them very hit and miss and there’s always a few stories that tend to fall a little short. This was no exception, there were some really outstanding stories, but there were also a few that I did wonder why they made the collection. Still, it was a great treat to return to the Daevabad world, and I would happily do so again if SA Chakraborty were to decide she wanted to write more stories in this world. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Bestselling author S.A. Chakraborty’s acclaimed Daevabad Trilogy gets expanded with this new compilation of stories from before, during, and after the events of The City of Brass, The Kingdom of Copper, and The Empire of Gold, all from the perspective of characters both beloved and hated, and even those without a voice in the novels. The River of Silver gathers material both seen and new—including a special coda fans will need to read—making this the perfect complement to those incredible novels.

A prospective new queen joins a court whose lethal history may overwhelm her own political savvy…

An imprisoned royal from a fallen dynasty and a young woman wrenched from her home cross paths in an enchanted garden…

A pair of scouts stumble upon a secret in a cursed winter wood that will turn over their world…

Now together in one place, these stories of Daevabad enrich a world already teeming with magic and wonder. From Manizheh’s first steps towards rebellion to adventures that take place after The Empire of Gold, this is a must-have collection for those who can’t get enough of Nahri, Ali, and Dara and all that unfolded around them. 

As I stated at the top of the review, I had mixed opinions on the different stories, I think that’s only natural, there were about fifteen different stories here and I was more invested in certain characters than others when I read the original books anyway, so I don’t think I would have ever loved all the different stories equally. Some of my favourites were Zaynab’s story which showed in more detail what she did during the battle in Kingdom of Copper, I loved seeing more of Zaynab and wished we could have had even more from her (she only gets one story where she is the main focus, though she does play a role in a second one) whereas Ali and Muntadhir are featured more heavily. I also really loved seeing the early development of Jamshid and Muntadhir’s relationship as it gave me an insight into both of them that you don’t really get in the book.

Other stories I could have done without, the story about the scouts in the wilderness of Daevstana and what they discover there, kind of bored me, I didn’t really care about some random scout, even if the story did give a nod to one of the major reveals of Kingdom of Copper. The story with Dara and Nahri on their way to Daevabad in The City of Brass, whilst funny, also didn’t really add much.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Hatset’s story, we don’t get to see an awful lot of her in the main trilogy, only in the final book, so I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it so much. She’s a very interesting character, and if Chakraborty ever wanted to write more about her, I would definitely read it.

I can understand why she didn’t, but I think it might have been fun to see a story from Ghassan’s POV, we get a glimpse through Hatset of a not so tyrannical man once upon a time, so I just think it might have been interesting to see through the eyes of a younger Ghassan himself. Also I just always love the villain so even a story with him being evil would have been fun.

I really appreciate that Chakraborty signposted the spoilery stories, so you could avoid them if you hadn’t yet read that book. Personally I would recommend reading all three before this one as I think you’ll get much more out of it, though I will admit, having read them almost two years ago, there was a lot I had forgotten!

I was glad Soneela Nankani returned once again as the narrator, I enjoyed her in the original trilogy, so I was glad to see she narrated again here.

Some of the stories were a little longer than I would have liked, there was Jamshid chapter that was almost an hour long and the Alternative Epilogue to the Empire of Gold, fun as it was, was also almost an hour long and I prefer chapters to really be 30 mins or less as a rule, 40 is okay, but once we start getting to 45-50 or longer, it just starts to feel a little tedious to listen to.

I would love a spinoff about Dara, Aqisa and Zaynab after that alternative epilogue, that sounds like it would be a lot of fun and I really hope that Chakraborty wants to expand on that someday!

I did find some of the stories a little hard to follow, like the Jamshid one taking place during the days leading up to and during the final battle in City of Brass and the Ali one that took place between City of Brass and Kingdom of Copper, there was so much jammed into them that I found I lost my place in the story several times whilst listening.

I love the humour in this series, there were so many funny moments across all of the stories.

It was really nice to see Jamshid and Muntadhir in a good place in this (for the most part), there are quite a few fakeouts where either one or both of them nearly die in the trilogy, so it was nice to see the pair of them together and happy for a change in at least some of the stories!

Having some of the gaps filled into what happened in Nahri and Muntadhir’s marriage was also really great, I felt like we lost quite a lot there with the five year time gap between City of Brass and Kingdom of Copper, so it was nice to have a little of that fleshed out here.

I can’t really get too into it without being super spoilery, but that final Nahri story was just *chef’s kiss* such a treat for fans of the trilogy. I won’t say anymore, only that it takes place after The Empire of Gold, and I’m sure you’ll all love it!

There’s not a massive amount more to say about this book without getting into super spoilery territory, so all I can say is: I do think this is worth a read if you liked the Daevabad trilogy. Yes, there were some stories that stood out more than others, and some that I personally would probably have pruned from the collection, but overall, this was a very welcome return to the Daevabad world, and gives some great insight into characters who don’t get the spotlight in the main trilogy, and allows even more of an expansion for some of our old favourites as well.

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of The Diamond Eye, Kate Quinn’s latest novel, which I think I will be done with in the next week or two. I’m really enjoying it, definitely one of my favourite reads of the year so far, for sure.

Top Ten Tuesday #363

Hi all, I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these! Did anyone watch the series finale of Killing Eve yesterday? I have FEELINGS about the way it ended so if you also do, I would be very happy to have a spoilery chat in the comments!

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, so time for another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re talking Top Ten Authors I Haven’t Read Yet But Want To. I decided to exclude 2022 debut authors from this list, as I thought that would be too easy, given that they will only have the one book, so for this list, I chose any author that has two books or more that I want to read. It was still hard to narrow down though! Here we go, just some of the authors I haven’t read yet, but want to:

  1. Betsy Cornwell

Her latest book, Reader, I Murdered Him sounds like so much fun: Victorian vigilantes? YES PLEASE. She’s got quite a few backlist books as well, so if I like the most recent one, I may dive into the rest of her backlist books.

2. Stacey Halls

I’ve got two of Stacey Halls’ books, The Familiars and The Foundling, and I’ve heard really good things about her books from my friend Hannah, so I’m hoping I’ll love them. I like that they’re both set in time periods that I don’t read a lot from, the 17th & 18th century and they focus on women from that time.

3. Maureen Johnson

I’ve heard really good things about the Truly Devious series and I want to try and read more mysteries as I generally enjoy them when I do. I’m a little sceptical about a mystery where you don’t get the resolution in one book, but I’m willing to give them a try.

4. Victoria Lee

I’m most excited for Lee’s latest novel, which is the book of hers I bought, A Lesson In Vengeance as it combines many things I love, boarding school stories, witches and LGBT+ romance (specifically f/f in this case). Her adult fantasy also looks fun as well, so I’m hoping I will love A Lesson In Vengeance and go on to read her other books.

5. Lisa Lueddecke

I’ve been following Lisa on Instagram for a while, and she seems lovely, so I really want to finally get around to reading her books. She also really lucked out on the cover front, as all her books’ covers are gorgeous which attracts me to reading them even more.

6. Amy McCaw

Amy was my Secret Sister for the Secret Sister Project run by the On The Same Page team on Twitter, so we were pen pals for a good six months back in 2017/2018, so naturally I really want to support her books. I bought Mina and The Undead last year, I’ve not got around to it yet, but I definitely want to, maybe this October, as its very much a Halloween vibes book!

7. CJ Sansom

I love the Tudors, so this series following a detective in Tudor England sounds right up my alley. I’ve been meaning to start this series for ages, so maybe this year will be the year?

8. Stuart Turton

My friend Hannah really enjoyed Evelyn Hardcastle and it’s so widely acclaimed that I’d really like to see what all the fuss is about. His second book sounds really fun too, I can never resist anything that involves pirates! I own both, so will have to get around to them at some point.

9. Fonda Lee

I’ve heard really great things about the Green Bone Saga all over Twitter, so I definitely want to see what the fuss is about. Plus I’m always looking for new adult fantasy authors to try, so we’ll see if Fonda Lee is up my street.

10. Janella Angeles

I meant to read Where Dreams Descend last year, but a book slump prevented me from really getting into it. I’m hoping to go back to it this year now that I’m feeling less slumpy and hopefully read the second book in the duology, When Night Breaks too.

So there we go, those are some Authors I’ve Not Read Yet But Want To. Have you read any of these authors? Did you enjoy their books? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week for another Top Ten Tuesday, this time we’re talking Bookish Merchandise I’d Love To Own, so basically an excuse for me to scour Etsy, which I always love!