Sunday 22 November 2015

'The Paris Architect' by Charles Belfoure (***.5)

Hello, readers! Today I am very happy to share with you another book review- this time it is Charles Belfoure's The Paris Architect. Now, during my very enjoyable time working at FMcM this summer, I was responsible for creating the press release for this book, and I sent off lots of copies to some very lucky readers! At the end of my time I was fortunate enough myself to be able to take home a copy. I started reading this book that summer, however with all the required reading I had to do for university I had to put it on a back burner until I finished all of my other reading! 

So, a few weeks ago I picked up The Paris Architect where I left off- and I was very glad I went back to it. I have always been fascinated by World War II history and in this aspect certainly the book didn't disappoint- seeing the horrors of the Nazi occupation of France through the eyes of a cynical and reluctant architect was such a fascinating read- a totally different angle from what I ever imagined. The Paris Architect is such a unique and beautifully written story, and I would recommend it to everyone interested in World War II history, and quite simply anyone who just likes a flipping good story

Intrigued? Read the blurb to find out more...

Like most gentiles in Nazi-occupied Paris, architect Lucien Bernard has little empathy for the Jews. So when a wealthy industrialist offers him a large sum of money to devise secret hiding places for Jews, Lucien struggles with the choice of risking his life for a cause he doesn’t really believe in. Ultimately he can’t resist the challenge and begins designing expertly concealed hiding spaces—behind a painting, within a column, or inside a drainpipe—detecting possibilities invisible to the average eye. But when one of his clever hiding spaces fails horribly and the immense suffering of Jews becomes incredibly personal, he can no longer deny reality.

Written by an expert whose knowledge imbues every page, this story becomes more gripping with every life the architect tries to save.

I really liked the progression of the story, and like with any great book, there was the perfect mix of tension, suspense, horror and even a bit of romance. The dialogue and relationship between the characters was particularly strong, and although the book wasn't long enough for me to get properly attached to any of the characters, I really liked the chemistry between all of them. In particular, the relationships between the German Gestapo and ordinary Parisian citizens was enjoyable and interesting to read about. I had a fierce dislike for Lucien throughout the whole of the book, and although I believe this was intended by Belfoure, I feel like it was mostly because he was so contradictory that I could never really believe him. For me, to fully enjoy a book I have to like or at least be able to relate to the protagonist, and I'm afraid with Lucien this was not the case. Even near the end of the book where he is meant to be redeemed, I couldn't quite sympathise with him or raise him to the level of a hero.

Having said that, there was one aspect of Lucien's character that I found really interesting, and that is the two sides of him that were continually in conflict throughout almost the entirety of the book. On the one hand, there's the ambitious aspect of his character that is obsessed with his architecture; then on the other hand, there's his parental, protective side who puts his life on the line for the Jews in his community. At times I found his character ambiguous to say the least, however most of the time I did find this really engaging. 

Although this book was really beautifully written, and in such a way that I could picture every scene, like a lot of the readers who have reviewed this book before me I had a few problems with the language used. Some of the phrases that Lucien and other people used, I don't think they would have used realistically. For example, when the priest calls Lucien 'asshole'- I found that a bit ridiculous, to be honest. A lot of the time, the language sounded slightly American.

The only other real problem I had was with the ending. This sounds a bit horrible from my part, but I kind of wanted a less of a satisfactory ending. Maybe it's because the last World War II novel I read was The Book Thief but I just wanted more of a complex ending instead of everything being wrapped up perfectly. It might just be me being a bit of a miserable person, but I'm not normally a fan of happy endings unless the whole of the book has been really lighthearted.

Despite these critical comments, however, I honestly really enjoyed The Paris Architect. Charles Belfoure is such a talented writer and I'm excited to pick up House of Thieves to give it a whirl. I would highly recommend The Paris Architect, especially if you're a fan of historical fiction or are interested in learning about World War II. 

Buy The Paris Architect here:

Check out Charles Belfoure here:

Until next time :)

Monday 16 November 2015

Delightful News | University of Manchester Student Blogger

Hello, readers! Today I have another piece of news for you...

About a month ago, I saw an advertisement on the University of Manchester Facebook page for a student blogger to join the student blogging team! I thought to myself, 'I'm a student... I'm a blogger... and the rest is history!

I was so chuffed when I found out that I got the job, and I am very happy to say that I have published my first post.

I would love it if you all could check it out and share, ect. You guys are all so supportive and I would really like my job as a student blogger to be a success. Even if you're not thinking of applying to Manchester (which you should, let's be honest!) it's a really good blog that gives honest insight into student life, and that obviously makes for some entertaining reading, to be honest.

As always, thanks for your support <3

Until next time :)

Tuesday 10 November 2015

WOLF BY WOLF: Five Minutes with Ryan Graudin

Hello readers, and happy Tuesday! As the days get shorter and mornings and evenings are darker, November is the perfect time to curl up with a hot drink and a great book. Luckily for me, so many amazing titles are coming out this winter, so I won't be stuck for choice! 

One of these incredible titles is Ryan Graudin's Wolf by Wolf, which was released on 5th November. Here's the blurb:

Code Name Verity meets Inglourious Basterds in this fast-paced novel from the author of The Walled City.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor's ball.

Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year's only female victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin's brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael's every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

Intrigued? Want to learn more about Ryan and her inspiration for writing Wolf by Wolf? Luckily, Ryan Graudin is on Delightful Book Reviews today to talk everything Wolf by Wolf!

How were you inspired to write Wolf by Wolf? How did you come up with the idea for the novel?

As I’m sure it’s easy to tell, Wolf By Wolf is a mixture of many different inspirations. The setting—a world where the Axis Powers won World War II—was the result of many, many years of studying the era and always wondering what if? The motorcycle race came to fruition after I watched the Long Way Round, a mini series where Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman ride from London to New York on the motorcycles via the Road of Bones in Siberia. (It’s SO FASCINATING. Go watch it now!) The idea of writing a competition set around such an epic journey was instantly appealing. These two things grew and grew, blending together in ways I never could have predicted.

Did you have to do a lot of historical research to write the book?

Absolutely. Research is just as important to writing alternate history as it is to writing straight historical fiction. You have to know the history well enough to manipulate it. In the case of World War II, I had to do a lot of reading and research on Adolf Hitler’s vision for his New Order. He had great plans for Berlin: including renaming it Germania and giving the city a complete architectural re-haul. His plans for the wider world were… disturbing. To say the least. I wasn’t prepared for how emotionally straining it would be to mentally dwell in this landscape for the better part of two and a half years. Most writers of WWII fiction that I’ve talked to express a similar toll/exhaustion. It was a horrific time in our world’s past, and yet it’s so necessary to remember.

I did tons of reading. I also did some hands on research with WWII firearms. My friends are actually professionals in the field. They made sure all of my firearms terminology and technique was correct. They also gifted me a Higonokami blade, like the one my character Takeo uses during the race.

Tell us a bit more about Yael. Do you see parts of yourself in her character?

Yael is a survivor. She’s been through far more than I or most people (hopefully) ever will. When I created her, I knew I wanted a strong heroine who was also emotionally vulnerable. She’s an assassin, but she’s constantly questioning the moral implications of killing. (Is a wrong deed wrong if it’s in the name of the greater good?)

As for parts of myself I see in her. Perhaps persistence? Yael just doesn’t give up, and neither do I, if I’m truly committed to something. 

Was it hard to combine both historical and fantasy aspects into one book?

When I first became an author, I was really afraid of author “branding,” or the idea that marketing people would want me to stay within a single genre for my career. Many writers do this quite successfully, but I’ve never been a one genre sort of girl. Fortunately, my publishers recognize this, and have actively encouraged my desire to jump genres and even blend them. The combination of alt history/fantasy/action adventure that is Wolf By Wolf came quite naturally to me.

Describe Wolf by Wolf in three words.

Whirlwind. Resonant. Battlecry.

Thank you, Ryan, for appearing on my blog!

A review of Wolf by Wolf will be published on my blog soon. In the meantime, check out all my links below:

Check out the Wolf by Wolf cover reveal and blogger's tea here

Check out Ryan's last takeover of Delightful Book Reviews here

Check out my review of The Walled City here

Check out Ryan Graudin here

Buy Wolf by Wolf here

Monday 9 November 2015


Hello, readers! This is a post that is quite overdue but I thought I would write it anyway. Basically, to cut a long story short...

Last month, I was featured in Tatler! 

I know right?! Weird.

I was so chuffed when I was asked by Tatler to write a post for the October edition of Teen Tatler, on the best YA books. It was such a good experience for me to have a deadline I had to stick to, and have something to re-draft until it was perfect. 

I included my favourite authors on this list, such as Marcus Sedgwick, Liz Kessler and Louise O' Neill, and if you haven't read ALL of these books already, I would highly recommend them.

The magazine is currently out of print *sadface* but my article is still online! Please like and share, your support is always much appreciated.


Thanks for all the love guys <3

Until next time!

Saturday 7 November 2015

'Six of Crows' by Leigh Bardugo (****)

Hello, readers! This weekend I am in London, visiting my homies (aka my fam) before I head back up to Manchester tomorrow! The weather outside is miserable and I am huddled in a nice warm blanket after going out for a fancy Brunch ('ooooh how South West London' I hear you moan) so now it is time to treat you to a book review!

I haven't done one of these in a while, mainly because it has been an age since I have actually finished a book. I know, shocking right?! I kind of underestimated how much work university would be. I don't necessarily mean academic study, because at the minute my timetable isn't packed and I'm not overloaded with essays or anything like that, but heading off to university and adjusting to a whole new way of life can be very overwhelming and busy. I am absolutely loving life in Manchester; I just need to learn to balance my work, social and blogging life!

Enough of the rambling. To summarise: I've been reading a book for about a month. That book is Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows. I loved it.

*Images taken from Tumblr*

I have known about Leigh Bardugo ever since I started blogging: Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm were the first two books sent to me by Orion to review. Therefore, I knew before I even started Six of Crows that it would be a book that I would adore, if only for the beautifully lucid writing style I had grown to love. Fantasy has never really been my number one genre of choice when deciding on a book in a book shop, but Bardugo incorporates so much more into her novels than just the fantasy elements. This alone is what makes her books so magical. 

What I loved most about Six of Crows was undoubtedly the characters. The relationship between them all provided a clear structure to the novel, and also made way for the lighthearted and most intense moments. When you can imagine a character clearly in your head, that is when you know that the author has spent months carving out these characters, ensuring the perfect combination for the events that take place in the book. My favourite characters were unquestionably Kaz and Nina. 

There was just something about them that made me immediately warm to them, and their flaws made them much more real to me. There's nothing worse than teenage characters who are so wise and beautiful and clever and smart. Sometimes it works just to make your characters normal. And although 'normal' doesn't really come into play in Six of Crows, they were at least believable and likeable, and they were characters that kept me fixated until the end of the book, and then wanting more. 

The magical, mysterious smoky atmosphere that I adored in Leigh's other books was wonderfully maintained in Six of Crows and I was SO SO GRATEFUL. I'm not the biggest fantasy fan but the Grisha world Bardugo has created leaves me completely transfixed; the complicated names and plot lines are easier to follow when you can imagine the entire scene in your head. I loved the descriptions of Kaz and Jordie in Ketterdam and of the Ice Palace near the end of the novel. These scenes were so intricately crafted that I had to underline certain sentences because they were just so damn beautiful!

Overall, I loved Six of Crows. I was never worried that Bardugo wouldn't live up to the acclaim of her other books, because I knew she would, but there was still that part of me that was whispering 'but Alix, you don't like fantasy!' You know what? Maybe I should stop saying that. Leigh Bardugo takes the fantasy genre and creates something so sparkling and unique. She mixes in romance, mystery, suspense, contemporary and so much more. It's like one huge gleaming cauldron of smoking ice: that's how I feel when I read her books. I hope that she continues writing forever more, the Grisha world is not something I want to leave any time soon. 

The only reason I gave this book 4*s instead of 5 is purely because of the length. I prefer relatively short books of about 300 pages, and this was just a little too long for me. If I read this book in the summer, I would have most likely given it 5*s, but with other commitments I couldn't completely devote myself to it, which is what I wanted to do.

If you're a fantasy lover or not, Six of Crows is 100% a must read. The Grisha world is so magical and unique. You will never read about a fantasy world more beautifully and faultlessly crafted.

I interviewed Leigh Bardugo on Delightful Book Reviews last year, check it out here!

Check out my reviews of Shadow and Bone Siege and Storm here!

Check out Leigh Bardugo here

Buy Six of Crows here 

Until next time :)