Review: Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick

This is based on the real life story of Arthur Ransome, British children’s book author who was a journalist during World War 1 in Russia and also a spy to both maybe Great Britain and the Bolsheviks. I’ll admit I had never heard of Arthur Ransome and I thought this was just another take on Snow White. This is what you get for buying books based on the title but it was interesting. Ransome, had an interest in Russia and before he became a journalist, wrote a book of Russian fairy tales. He wasn’t meant to be a spy but because of his position as a journalist that gave him access to people high in the Russian and Bolshevik’s government including Lenin and Trotsky he became an asset to the British government during the war. The thing he seems to never really know who he’s spying on. In true mediocre white man style, he stumbles into a exciting life thanks to being the right place at the right time and not necessarily based on skills or talent. While in Russia, he falls in love with Evegnia, the secretary to Trotsky. As things become more and more dangerous as Bolshevik revolution goes on, Ransome had many opportunities to go back to England but always goes back to Russia to be with Evegnia, which sounds romantic but we know nothing about her beyond she is Trotsky’s secretary and Ransome is in love with her. He gives up his life in England, his daughter, puts himself in danger for her and yet why? What is so great about her? What does he love about her? It’s almost like she’s afterthought in this story which is where things of this novel fall apart. I understand this is his story but motivations are important and supposedly he does a lot of what he did because she was in love with her but she’s barely a character in the novel. We get more of Trotsky and Lenin then we do her. It’s just disappointing but also not surprising that the stories and lives of women come second or not at all to the men in the lives. That they exist only to further the man’s story. Ransome would eventually marry Evegnia and they would be married until they both die and that’s great but I want to know her story. I want to know more about her. I’m tired of reading stories with full formed men and paper thin women. Male authors do better.

Quick Review: A Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson

You thought the The Truly Devious series was over didn’t you? I did too. I’m not mad that Maureen decided to write another book but I’m also still waiting for the 4th book in her Shades of London series. I think I may have to let that go. Anyway, Stevie’s fame after solving the Ellingham murders is starting to fade and she’s back home for summer vacation when she gets the offer to work at a summer camp and help a new unsolved mystery. In 1978, four teen camp counselors went into the woods to smoke some weed and never came out alive. Stevie makes arrangements with the new camp owner that her friends from Ellingham also have jobs to help her with the case. Stevie is smart and clever and can deduce things that most of us would never think about but she’s also full of anxiety and even though she solved multiple murders, can she do it again? I like that Maureen is exploring this in her work because anxiety is a bitch. It doesn’t matter how successful you are, it never leaves you. I also really like Nate. I feel him. He just wants to be left alone in his treehouse and do nothing. He wrote one great book when he was younger and the expectations to write another great book have almost paralyzed him but it shows some real growth. I wish Janelle got a little bit more to do because she is also a great character. Here’s hoping that there are more and she gets a more central role. For mystery lovers, I do recommend this book. You don’t have to have read the first three books to know what’s going on as this is a standalone mystery but you should read the first three books because they are fun.

Quick Review: Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

**THIS POST CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS FROM THIS BOOK AND PREVIOUS BOOKS FROM THE GRISHAVERSE**

In the latest book in the Grishaverse, King Nikolai, Zoya and Nina all prepare for war on many fronts. The biggest threat comes from the north as the Fjerdians have the military might but in the South, the Shu Hans are taking a more subtle approach. Not to mention, the people of West Ravka are looking to succeed. Nikolai has to deal with all of this while also deal with rumors that he may not be a legitimate Lantsov and there’s also the whole demon living inside of him. Leftover magic from the Darkling and the fold. There is a lot going on but the pacing is good so it never feels overwhelm. Nikolai is worried he won’t be able to keep Ravka together. Zoya is afraid of her power and that she will fail her country and Nina can’t let go of her anger of losing Matthias while falling in love with Hanne. The book goes back and forth between Nikolai, Zoya and Nina as well as a few new characters as we untangle all the various threads of the story. They weave together really well and is never overwhelming. It was good to give a few characters some closure but don’t worry. This will not be the last book in the Grishaverse as it ends on a clear set up for a new series. Guaranteeing that some sidelined characters will be back in a big way.

Quick Review: Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare

Fourteen books and countless novellas in to the Shadowhunters Chronicles, you pretty much know what you are going to get. Lot’s of diverse characters. Action, romance, agnst and humor sprinkled throughout. There is at least one character questioning their identity, at least two characters who are madly in love with each other but convinced the other doesn’t feel the same way about them. Another end of the world plot that they have to uncover, usually having to do with something bad that the Shadowhunters have done in the past and now are paying for it. Chain of Iron is no different and I know this and yet I keep reading on. I guess because despite it all, I still want to know what’s going to happen next. Clare has a way of populating her books with well rounded and thought out characters. They feel real. They are complicated and simple. They may be otherworldly but still live in a space that feels like every day. I may not know what if feel like to battle demons but I do know what it feels like to feel lonely or out of place. I guess that’s why they are so popular because no matter who you are there is a character that represents you somewhere in the series. This series takes place in turn of the 20th Century London but still full of diverse characters because it is England after all and the Empire was in full swing. There are LGBTQ+ characters because they have also existed in this time period even if the media of the time didn’t reflect it. So yes, fans of the books are going to love this as much as the others but new readers may feel a little daunted by the all the references and subplots to previous and upcoming books. Basically don’t start here if feel like jumping on the Shadowhunter train.