Mystery

The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell

the devil aspectEverything about The Devil Aspect spoke to me: it is set in Czechoslovakia in 1935 (I grew up in the Czech Republic), has a psychological aspect, is Gothic and full of Eastern European folklore. I was sold before I even started reading it. 🙂

Let’s take a look at Goodreads’ summary first, shall we?

A terrifying novel set in Czechoslovakia in 1935, in which a brilliant young psychiatrist takes his new post at an asylum for the criminally insane that houses only six inmates–the country’s most depraved murderers–while, in Prague, a detective struggles to understand a brutal serial killer who has spread fear through the city, and who may have ties to the asylum. 

In 1935, Viktor Kosarek, a psychiatrist newly trained by Carl Jung, arrives at the infamous Hrad Orlu Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The state-of-the-art facility is located in a medieval mountaintop castle outside of Prague, though the site is infamous for concealing dark secrets going back many generations. The asylum houses the country’s six most treacherous killers–known to the staff as The Woodcutter, The Clown, The Glass Collector, The Vegetarian, The Sciomancer, and The Demon–and Viktor hopes to use a new medical technique to prove that these patients share a common archetype of evil, a phenomenon known as The Devil Aspect. As he begins to learn the stunning secrets of these patients, five men and one woman, Viktor must face the disturbing possibility that these six may share another dark truth. 

Meanwhile, in Prague, fear grips the city as a phantom serial killer emerges in the dark alleys. Police investigator Lukas Smolak, desperate to locate the culprit (dubbed Leather Apron in the newspapers), realizes that the killer is imitating the most notorious serial killer from a century earlier–London’s Jack the Ripper. Smolak turns to the doctors at Hrad Orlu for their expertise with the psychotic criminal mind, though he worries that Leather Apron might have some connection to the six inmates in the asylum.

Steeped in the folklore of Eastern Europe, and set in the shadow of Nazi darkness erupting just beyond the Czech border, this stylishly written, tightly coiled, richly imagined novel is propulsively entertaining, and impossible to put down.


What did I think?

Let me put it this way: I have a feeling, this book will haunt my dreams for a while. 🙂 Its Gothic setting, enriched with folk legends, created a creepy sense of something gloomy and evil lurking in dark sections of Prague‘s cobbled streets. And I loved it.

I will not lie to you – there is a lot of gore involved. I grew up reading Stephen King and certain aspects of this book brought me back my teenage obsession with horror. If that is something that can bother you, you may want to proceed with care.

There are two story lines that intertwine:

The first one is told by Viktor – an ambitious psychologist that is working with six serial killers trying to uncover their ‘Devil Aspect‘. Viktor‘s work is based on collective unconscious – a theory introduced by Carl Jung to represent a form of the mind that contains memories and impulses of which the person is not aware of.

The second narrative is told by Lukas – a detective trying to capture a murderer called Leather Apron, who is replicating crimes of Jack the Ripper.

The plot is working out if the Devil Aspect exists as well as finding out who the murderer is.

Russell skilfully leaves a trail of breadcrumbs, which we can follow if we pay close attention to it. The answers to the mystery are all there, but we must carefully look for them. That is what I really appreciated. The ending wasn’t a giant twist for me but the process of finding out the answers was a lot of fun and left me with a smug sense of self-satisfaction in the end.

smug


The Devil Aspect is set in Czechoslovakia in 1935. Czechs call this period ‘First Republic‘ – Czechoslovakia was formed in 1918, after the World War I ended, and its First Republic stage lasted till Munich agreement in 1938. I thought Russell splendidly captured the Czech nature. I loved how he got certain behavioural nuances, sometimes only locals are aware of. It felt authentic and I honestly am impressed by that.

I also appreciated the local folklore. I remember it, as if it was yesterday, my grandma symbolically spitting three times over her left shoulder to ward off any evil powers as the devil is known to be sitting on people’s left shoulders. This superstition is mentioned in the book amongst many others and brought me back a lot of nostalgia.


Overall, it is a relatively fast paced and highly atmospheric read.

I had a lot of fun guessing the mystery part of this book and recommend The Devil Aspect to those, who enjoy dark Gothic / horror stories.

I would like to thank both the author and the publisher, Little Brown Book Group for an advanced readers copy of this book in an exchange for an honest review. 


Over to you my friends. 

Do you enjoy these types of books?

If you do, fancy recommending me similar books please? I crave more…. thanks! 🙂

Bookish

I am a Dragon Rider and Fantasy is my Genre #GenreTag

One of my favourite blogging friends, Alexandra, tagged me recently in the ‘This is My Genre Tag’.

If you don’t know Alexandra’s blog yet, please pop over to say hello – her posts are witty, thoughtful and full of heart.

Recently, Alexandra launched a new reading / writing project –

her SPACE FLEET Is Seeking New Recruits!

I will be taking a part in it and if you like sci-fi / fantasy please come over for a visit. I hope some of you will join us on this big space adventure. 🙂


Without further ado, let’s have a look at my favourite genre. 🙂TolkienWhat is your favourite genre?

I love many genres, but if I really, really have to choose one, it would be fantasy.

And to be more precise, it would be myth / folk inspired fantasy.

Who is your favourite author in this genre?

J.R.R. Tolkien for sure.

“Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

For that bitter-sweetness his books bring me.

For that imagination, exquisite language, careful attention to detail and that hope that is felt throughout his stories. His books are extremely quotable and as a fellow dreamer, my favourite quote of his is: “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” .

I also enjoy books from Neil Gaiman, George R. R. MartinRick Riordan and Katherine Arden.

What is it about the genre that keeps pulling you back?

Imagination sprinkled with possibility.

Whenever I read historic fiction, nonfiction or fiction in general, I tend to get bogged down by details wondering if they are correct. It sometimes distracts me from the story. Fantasy on the other hand is one wild ride.

I appreciate the myth inspired stories because I’m drawn to our ancestors’ need to explain the world around them.

I also like to ride dragons from time to time and enjoy getting lost in Rivendell whenever time permits. 🙂

What is the book that started your love of this genre?

There is no book per se – my grandma and my dad would read me myths and folk legends as bedtime stories. My love for fantasy started from hearing those as a child and I still remember, as if it was yesterday, how I would ask them to read me just one more story…. 🙂

If you had to recommend at least one book from your favourite genre to a non-reader/someone looking to start reading that genre, what book would you choose and why?

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – because it is a hauntingly beautiful coming-of-age story that is heavily inspired by Russian folklore.

It’s such an atmospheric winter book – perfect for this current season! 😊 My review of this book can be found here

Why do you read?

René Descartes once said: Cogito ergo sum. (I think; therefore I am.).

I would like to extend that to reading: I read; therefore I am.

How can one think without reading? That’s my logic anyhow.. 😉 😉


If you have time / haven’t done this tag already, I’d love to hear from:

Gemma | Lisa | Melanie | Orangutan | Leslie

Non Fiction

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime

“On February 20, 1984, my mother checked into Hillbrow Hospital for a scheduled C-section delivery. Estranged from her family, pregnant by a man she could not be seen with in public, she was alone. The doctors took her up to the delivery room, cut open her belly, and reached in and pulled out a half-white, half-black child who violated any number of laws, statutes, and regulations—I was born a crime.”

Trevor Noah‘s Born A Crime will make you both smile and cry. There is something raw about it that will get to you. Noah‘s coming-of-age story during the end of apartheid era stole my heart and is, in my opinion, one of the best memoirs I have read so far.

Let’s take a look at Goodread‘s summary first:

The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime New York Times bestseller about one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humour and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.


Noah is a stand up comedian and knows how to entertain his audience. I wholeheartedly recommend listening to this as an audio book. Noah speaks many languages, imitates different accents extremely well and the audio platform was born for his performance. Honestly, it’s that good. There is of course a high level of personal investment there, given he is telling us his story, his take on growing up in post apartheid South Africa.

It is emotional, full of heart and there were many times I laughed but had tears in my eyes.

Born A Crime is a tribute to Noah’s mother, Patricia. His love and adoration for his mum is an ever present theme throughout the entire memoir. You feel it not only from his words but also from the sound of his voice. I needed a lot of tissues during those last chapters of his memoir. Trevor’s mother, a deeply religious and fierce woman taught him to “challenge authority and question the system”. She also “did what school didn’t. She taught him how to think.” 

“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 has many messages: feminism, povertyracism, privilege, religion… it’s all there. I find Noah intelligent and highly articulate – his stories are full of wit and heart. He doesn’t want us to feel sorry for him but he does want us to consider what a privilege is and what it truly means to live a free life. One minute we are laughing at adventures of one extremely mischievous young boy, the next we are being hit with realities of apartheid.

“The genius of apartheid was convincing people who were the overwhelming majority to turn on each other. Apart hate, is what it was. You separate people into groups and make them hate one another so you can run them all.” 

Born a Crime shows a deep bond between a mother and her son and its messaging will leave you with many thoughts to ponder about long after you finish it.

I wholeheartedly recommend it.

PS. Lupita Nyong’o has confirmed that she is set to produce and star in a movie adaptation of this memoir. I can not wait to see it!


Over to you my friends.

Have you read this book? If so, what do you think?

If not, would you consider it?

Happy reading and thanks for stopping by! 

Bookish

Experience Based Gifts for Book Lovers (Minimalist Edition)

‘Tis the Season.jpg

Wow, only two weeks till Christmas. How is it possible? I still remember very vividly last year’s festivities. 🙂 If you are a bit like me, a mildly disorganised, last minute ‘it can wait’ type of person, you may find some of those ideas below useful. 🙂

Some of you may know that I am a self-proclaimed minimalist. I like not to own too many things. I love giving experience based gifts and if asked, I usually suggest them from the receiving end as well.

My intention is not to make anyone feel bad about their own gifts. I am not against material possessions nor am I judging anyone. I just want to give you some other present ideas for your ‘bookish’ loved ones.

None of these links below are sponsored; I am stating my own opinions and am not affiliated with any of these companies below. I thought I should disclose that just in case! 🙂

  • Book talks given by favourite authors

I enjoy reading author’s parting words as well as their stories on how books of theirs came about.

Book talks give us opportunities to meet our favourite authors, find out more about their work and creative process in general. They can also connect us as we can discuss our favourite books with alike minded ‘new’ friends. 🙂

Here is a list of upcoming talks in the UK for some ideas. As I am a keen adventurer, I especially like the sound of Sir Ranulph Fiennes: Living Dangerously talk.

Book talks can also be found at authors’ pages. For example my favourite Tara Westover has an event page here.

As I am eagerly anticipating the release of King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo, the great news for my US based friends is that she will be touring US early next year – a lot of tickets are sold out already but you may still be of luck and grab some tickets for your loved ones that enjoy reading books from this author.

  • Bookish events – exhibitions, festivals, literature conventions

I would also label bookish events under ‘let’s connect’ category as they celebrate our favourite author’s work, we get to meet some kindred spirits and may leave inspired and giddy to read yet another book from that author. They can also be a great way of getting to know new authors.

For UK readers, here’s a rather comprehensive list of events happening next year.

I especially like the sound of Harry Potter’s History of Magic hosted by the British Library that is sadly sold out now but could be used as an inspiration for any future gifts when it’s brought back again.

By the way British Library hosts some brilliant exhibitions, some of them are even free and can be used as the ‘I’m inviting you to this exhibition as our time together gift’ if you are short on money.

For Young Adults: YALC is the UK’s Young Adult Literature Convention – a celebration of the very best young adult books and authors. YALC takes place each year as part of the London Film and Comic Con. Tickets can be bought here.

  • Escape rooms for mystery readers

Taken from Wikipedia: an escape room, also known as an “escape game”, is a physical adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints, and strategy to complete the objectives at hand.

I think this experience based gift could appeal to those, who enjoy reading detective stories or any other stories that consist of suspense and mystery. The puzzle solving aspect as well as a group based activity, could make this a great family gift or a gift for a group of friends.

There are so many escape rooms available these days, I usually check their ratings on TripAdvisor first though.

  • Writing classes & meetups

If your loved one is a keen writer as well, why not to enrol them into some writing classes to practice their skills? I would probably check this one in advance though to prevent offending anyone! 😉

Masterclass has many, but rather pricey classes, such as the one given by Margaret Atwood.

Writing meetups could be another options. I love the idea of meeting with fellow writers in person to discuss our work. It’s again that social aspect of it that really appeals to me.

  • Gifts that keep on giving

There are many book charities out there that promote learning, reading, and education in general. I am not going to tell you, which one to support, should you decide to do so. It is a personal choice and whatever appeal to you is the best way forward.

I think donating on someone’s behalf is such a sweet gift and could make either a great stockings filler (if a donation is small) or a main gift, if you decide to go that way.

Here are a few charities but the list is definitely not a comprehensive one, so please do your own research if you wish to go down this path:

BookTrust transforms lives by getting children and families reading . It is the UK’s largest children’s reading charity. Each year they reach 3.4 million children across the UK with books, resources and support. I especially love their Spark programme.

Books2Africa is saving books from going to landfill in the UK, and is shipping them instead to students and teachers across Africa.

National Literacy Trust is working with schools and communities to give disadvantaged children the literacy skills to succeed in life.

I love Pencils of Promise for its transparency, 100% direct giving promise as well as for their belief that everyone deserves access to quality education.


There you have it my friends, my few ideas on experience based gifts.

Do you have any other ideas? Fancy sharing them with me?

Thanks for reading, I appreciate you being here. ♥♥♥

Fantasy

Wolf-Speaker by Tamora Pierce

Wolf Speaker

Do you remember how much I enjoyed Wild Magic – aka Book 1 in The Immortals series? Just in case, your memory is as good as mine, you can check it out here.

Wolf-Speaker is Book 2 in the series. Before we dive in, let’s take a look at Goodreads’ take on it:

Diane has wild magic: the ability to talk to and sway the actions of animals. When Daine is summoned to help a pack of wolves – friends from her old village – she and her mentor, the legendary mage Numair, travel to Dunlath Valley to answer the call. But when they arrive, Daine learns that it’s not only animals whose lives are threatened; people are in danger, too.

Dunlath’s rulers have discovered black opals in their valley. They’re dead set on mining the opals and using the magic contained in the stones to overthrow King Jonathan. Even if it means irreversibly damaging the land – and killing their workers. Daine must master her wild magic if she is to save the ones she loves – both human and animal . . .

I love Tamora Pierce’s books. They tend to consist of a strong moral message and there is this sense of wholesomeness about them that just makes me so happy.

I enjoyed Wolf-Speaker but didn’t love it as much as I did its predecessor.

I think the main reason is that it felt somehow slow. I sadly found some of its parts quite repetitive, purely because our main character Daine is learning about her powers and the same scene is repeated over and over as she practices her new skill on various animals.

With that said, there was enough sensory information included that kept me engaged. I got to become a bat, a cat, an eagle, a wolf and much more. I felt Pierce really researched various animals and wrote about them very vividly at times. That was the reason why the repetitiveness didn’t feel perhaps as tedious as it could have felt had such sensual information been omitted from the book.

I also felt that villains were not developed. They got introduced but we didn’t get to know them. That made them a little bit one dimensional. I like well-developed villains to understand their motives. To see what drives them, why they became that way. Sadly, I felt this was a little bit of a let-down for me.

Let’s take a look at what worked for me:

I appreciated that this book challenged our perception of good vs. evil. Daine grows in this book again. Not only is she developing her new magical skills but her beliefs about what is good or wrong get challenged on a regular basis.

The messaging is that just because someone behaves questionably, that doesn’t necessary make them bad. And the same applies to the entire group of species, let it be humans, immortals or animals. The so called ‘goodies’ get also questioned – nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes and that’s OK. Given this is a MG book, I think there could be a very powerful lesson for our youngsters to experience.

I also enjoyed the environmental aspect of this book. We only have one planet to look after. Daine cares about the environment and the impact of a possible destruction of wolves’ habitat was explained extremely well. Again, another great learning point, to which I applaud from my end.

Despite some of the points above, I still enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading book three in the series.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves animals as they are pretty much the main characters in this book. 

I would like to thank to both the publisher, Pan Macmillan as well as the author, for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. 


Now over to you.

Have you read anything by Tamora Pierce yet?

Thanks for reading and for being here! ❤️❤️❤️

Monthly Wrap Up

November Wrap-Up

MonthlyWrapUp @ UnfilteredTalesI have written this post million times in my head, usually just before falling asleep. I have finally bit the bullet and will try to put my somehow chaotic thoughts into words.

November brought me back my favourite fantasy genre. I thoroughly enjoyed being surrounded by mythical creatures whilst discovering new worlds (here and here).

I also participated in the Nonfiction November – a celebration of everything nonfiction (week 1, week 2, week 3 and week 4).

Nonfiction NovemberI have found some amazing blogs and will be writing a post on which nonfiction books I want to read based on all those fantastic posts from fellow bloggers I read last month.

I am an avid reader that enjoys living on different planets, solving crime mysteries, learning new skills and theories, imagining alternative words and much more.

i am a reader

Books have always been my safety blanket and I am forever grateful that there are here for me to read. With that said, I haven’t read or listened to a book for more than two weeks.

A few weeks ago, me and my family lost our beloved grandmother, whom I was very close to. I am still processing all those emotions that range from anger, sadness, grief, despair, hope etc. I am finding it hard to read right now as my attention wonders a lot and I just can not concentrate.

Side note: I’m at utter peace with not reading. I am focusing on feeling what I need to feel right now.

Before I end this post, let me tell you a little bit about the person I miss everyday.

My grandma was the type of person, who would not use heating to save money, but then she would give that money to her children and grandchildren. She taught me how to see the good in everyone, how laughter and singing can heal us and how fulfilling it is to serve others.

I lived with her during my late teenage years and learned so much about her childhood during World War II as well as our extended family history. She always cherished peanut butter as it reminded her the end of the war – when the American soldiers brought it with them whilst freeing our country.

She was my favourite person and I am so angry she had to go. I sometimes forget she is no longer with us – for example when I see something I think she would like, I immediately think ‘what a great Christmas gift this will be for her’. I sometimes think ‘I need to tell her xyz next time I talk to her’. And then I remember… Moments like these can rip our hearts open and sadness comes in another wave yet again.

I know I’m not the only one feeling a loss. Our lives are precious. I am reminding myself to let my loved ones know how much they mean to me on a regular basis.

I’m not writing this post to make you sad. I am writing it to celebrate one wonderful life that touched so many hearts.

And to let you all know how glad I am that you are here.❤️

Happy reading my friends!

Non Fiction, Nonfiction November

NONFICTION NOVEMBER Week 4: Reads Like Fiction

Nonfiction NovemberWelcome to another post in the Nonfiction November series. For those of you new to this, Nonfiction November is hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?, Julie at Julz Reads, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, and Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves.

If you haven’t read my previous post in the series yet, you can find:

Week 1 – My Year in Nonfiction post here , Week 2 – Fiction with Nonfiction Book Pairing here and Week 3 – Be The Expert/Become the Expert here.

For those who need a recap, Nonfiction November is a month-long celebration of all things nonfiction. Each week, we’ll have a different prompt and a different host looking at different ideas about reading and loving nonfiction. This week our host, Rennie from What’s Nonfiction, has a totally new topic for us to discuss:

Reads Like Fiction (Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction): Nonfiction books often get praised for how they stack up to fiction. Does it matter to you whether nonfiction reads like a novel? If it does, what gives it that fiction-like feeling? Does it depend on the topic, the writing, the use of certain literary elements and techniques? What are your favorite nonfiction recommendations that read like fiction? And if your nonfiction picks could never be mistaken for novels, what do you love about the differences?

I always fall for a good story. And I honestly don’t mind if the story is fictional or based on real events. As I appreciate an excellent story telling, my favourite non-fiction reads that compare well to fictional reads are following:

  • Memoirs

I appreciate raw memoirs that tell us stories of growth and self-discovery. I talked about those two categories in my pairing fiction with non-fiction post here.

One of my favourite memoirs is Steph Davis‘ book Learning to Fly: An Uncommon Memoir of Human Flight, Unexpected Love, and One Amazing Dog. Davis is a well known rock climber amongst the climbing community and appeals to me because of her love of animals as well as her fight for creating a sustainable future for our next generations. I loved her memoir as it’s full of growth, there we go again! 😉 , and talks openly about how she dealt with her loss and gave me hope in our strength to push forward and lean into discomfort when needed.

  • Journalism

Remember how much I enjoyed Jon Ronson‘s So You Have Been Publicly Shamed book? His writing belongs to a category of journalism that is very dear to me.

This category of non-fiction reads extremely well because the authors are… journalists.. .. and they have been trained to write compelling stories. 😉 I especially enjoy how these authors build their cases, a bit by bit the tension starts going up, I am hooked and want to know more.

My favourite authors that belong to this category are: Malcolm Gladwell (I absolutely love his books),  Jon Ronson and from the TV world, Louis Theroux and his thought provoking documentaries.

  • Travel documentaries

I enjoy travelling. I am also happy to go to places via a compelling travel documentary. I really enjoyed Tim Butcher‘s Blood River – a documentary of his mission to re-create the expedition of H. M. Stanley in 1870’s – travelling alone through the Congo. It’s an incredible book and I got to read it weeks after returning from Africa, which magnified my memories of this beautiful continent. Butcher is a journalist as well – which means this book would probably fit the category above as well! 🙂

  • Mythology & Folklore

I talked about myths in my pairing fiction with non-fiction post here. In my opinion, to those who love fantasy and are still reluctant to read non-fiction, folk stories are a great introduction to this particular genre.


I hope these posts somehow increased your appetite towards non-fiction. 🙂

As always, I love hearing from you – what’s your favourite ‘reads like fiction’ books amongst non-fiction? 🙂