London, 1883. Actress Lizzie Dixie drowned in the River Thames, so how was she murdered five years later in Highgate Cemetery?
Intrepid Fleet Street reporter Penny Green was a friend of Lizzie’s and Scotland Yard needs her help. Does Penny unwittingly hold clues to Lizzie’s mysterious death? Penny must work with Inspector James Blakely to investigate the worlds of theatre, showmen and politicians in search of the truth.
But who is following her? And who is sending her threatening letters?
Penny is about to discover that Lizzie’s life was more complicated, and dangerous, than she could ever have imagined.
I finished this one yesterday and found myself trying to figure out how I felt about the book. I mean, I didn’t HATE it, but I didn’t like it either. Penny, our MC, has an interesting back story, but I still thought her actions didn’t make a lot of sense.
In the end, I think it was just that writing was pretty – well, average. We only got to really know 2 characters in the book, and they were still a little flat. The pacing was off, all the action occurs in the beginning and the very end. There was a lot of telling, a lot of dialogue, but not much to hint at what characters were actually feeling.
I do enjoy this time period, and I admit to being intrigued by the female reporter angle. But really, there are better Victorian era mysteries out there. I would not recommend this one and I don’t plan on reading more by this author. However, it is a first novel, so it’s possible the series gets better as it goes on. I won’t be bothered to find out.
I love some good fantasy involving the fae. I like fluffy happy fairy tales too, but sometimes I like the darker tales, the ones that remind you that those Fair Folk can be spooky and otherworldly beings as well as beautiful and kind. I just read two fae books in a row, and while neither was as good as I hoped, one was better than the other one. Neither of these were specifically YA books, but either one could be read by any age.
I’ll start with the one I am recommending (with reservations).
I read the first one in this series, The Invisible Library, last month I believe and I thought it was quite fun. In that one, Junior Librarian Irene is given a new apprentice and sent into a world to retrieve a rare book. When she is there, she discovers that the fae are rather powerful in that world, which also has some steampunk aspects, and narrowly escapes being murdered by the one person to escape the Library oaths.
This book starts a little while after that one. Slight spoiler: she is assigned to remain on that world with. Her assistant Kai, who has secrets I won’t spoil, but trust me they’re big, gets kidnapped in this one and taken to an alternate Venice entirely ruled by the fae. Irene has to get him back before war breaks out. More noticeable plotholes than the first book, but more dragons, so it sort of events out. Irene is still awesome, but too impulsive. I liked the Train. If you’re looking for a fun series that sort of bridges the YA/adult gap, this one would be a good place to start. Right now this series is four books long, but it sounds like the author has even more planned, so this is a good one to check out if you want something you can really enjoy.
This one was not as good as the previous book. You might know this author from her Rebel Mechanics or Enchanted, Inc series. This one was at the library so I thought I would give it a try. Emily gets kidnapped by the fae – there’s a lot of that going around – and big sister Sophie wants to get her back. Lots of faery politics, some romantic tension, and a bulldog. Not a lot to this book, and Sophie really takes her time, but I liked the picture of the fae world and I liked Emily. I didn’t like that it took Sophie so long to figure things out. Probably won’t read more in this series.
So that’s it for today. Also, I’m thinking of starting a BookTube channel. Let me know in the comments if you would watch and what you’d like to see from me if I do. Happy reading!
I just read two fun books in a row, both YA, both ones I would recommend.
The first is The Plastic Magician by Charlie M Holmberg. I’ve blogged about her before, even did a giveaway of one of her books. (Speaking of which, I should do another giveaway soon!) So it’s no secret that I enjoy her writing. This book is an add-on to her Paper Magician series, but introduces an entirely new main character. Here’s the synopsis.
Wall Street Journal bestselling author Charlie N. Holmberg returns to the enchanting world of The Paper Magician.
Alvie Brechenmacher has arrived in London to begin her training in Polymaking—the magical discipline of bespelling plastic. Polymaking is the newest form of magic, and in a field where there is so much left to learn, every Polymaker dreams of making the next big discovery.
Even though she is only an apprentice, Alvie is an inventor at heart, and she is determined to make as many discoveries—in as short a time frame—as she can. Luckily for her, she’s studying under the world-renowned magician Marion Praff, who is just as dedicated as Alvie is.
Alvie’s enthusiasm reinvigorates her mentor’s work, and together they create a device that could forever change Polymaking—and the world. But when a rival learns of their plans, he conspires to steal their invention and take the credit for it himself.
To thwart him, Alvie will need to think one step ahead. For in the high-stakes world of magical discovery, not everyone plays fair…
Alvie is a young German American woman who can’t wait to learn magic. She’s even chosen her field – The newly emerging study of plastics. She gets chosen for a very prestigious apprenticeship in England and sets off. Not a lot of plot going on here, but Alvie was so much fun as a character and the world was so engrossing that it didn’t bother me that the villain was really obvious. There was a light romance – very light – but it was a sweet one. I would recommend it to lovers of light fantasy.
Which brings me to my second book, The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. I saw this recommended by a Good Reads friend, so when I saw a copy at the library, I had to grab it. It’s based on this extra-dimensional library that maintains the language and literature of the worlds. Cool, right? Here’s a synopsis.
Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure from a spectacular debut author. One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction…
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen.
London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested–the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something–secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself. Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option–because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself.
A fun romp that goes completely over the top. Vampires and airships and far and alternate worlds all combine in this crazy little book. I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but I was in the mood for slightly goofy fun and this book was just what I needed. Irene and Kai are great characters and there’s still plenty of mystery left for the next book. It’s the first in a series, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest.
Today I have a guest post from historical fiction writer Karen Charlton. An English graduate and a former teacher, she now writes full-time and lives in a remote fishing village on the North East coast of England. She is a stalwart of the village pub quiz and her team once won the BBC quiz show ‘Eggheads.’ Her other claim to fame is that she won a Yorkshire Tourist Board award for writing Murder Mystery Weekends. Her series featuring Inspector Stephen Lavender and Constable Woods are available through Amazon here. Her books are available on audio, in print, and on Kindle Unlimited.
My Detective Lavender Mysteries, published by Thomas & Mercer, are the fictional adventures of Stephen Lavender, who was a real-life Principal Officer with the Bow Street Police Office in London.
By the early 19th century, Principal Officers had a variety of different and important roles although they were still nicknamed ‘Bow Street Runners’ as if they were messenger boys. Apart from supporting their colleagues solve crime in the capital, they were often sent out to help magistrates in the provinces with difficult cases. They also took part in undercover work in periods of insurrection, for example, during the Luddite riots in the Midlands and were available for hire by wealthy landowners.
They were Britain’s earliest private detectives and they were famous throughout London. The exploits of Stephen Lavender in particular filled many column inches in The Times. He was a Regency celebrity.
They were the only policemen allowed into Buckingham House (the forerunner of the palace) and did security work for the Bank of England. On some occasions, they were even sent abroad to help with crimes and criminals who had spilled out over our borders onto the continent.
Unlike modern crime fighters, the Bow Street officers usually worked alone. However, successful crime fiction novels normally have a pair of heroes – or heroines – resolving the mysteries. So, I decided to change history and gave Lavender a side-kick, Constable Ned Woods, in keeping with this modern literary convention. Woods brings down-to-earth humour and kindness to the novels and is a great foil to Lavender’s slightly-introverted, bookish intelligence. Many readers tell me he is their favourite character.
I frequently find records of Lavender’s cases in the newspapers and often use them as the basis for the plots of my novels. For example, the third book in the series, The Sculthorpe Murder, is based around one of Lavender’s most famous cases which was extensively reported. In 1818, a gang of thugs burst into the home of an elderly man called William Sculthorpe who lived in rural Northamptonshire. They viciously attacked and robbed the eighty-seven-year-old and his son.
The newspapers are always vague about how Lavender actually solved his cases. They tend to be rather gory publications and prefer to dwell more on the horror; the size of the pool of blood and ‘the large quantity of clotted blood that had settled in the victim’s mouth.’ This lack of detail about the police procedure of the time gives me plenty of opportunity to flex my imagination and use artistic license. This is how I prefer to work. I take the bare bones of a real case and then make up the rest. My latest mystery, Plague Pits & River Bones (to be published: 11th January 2018) is a mixture of one of Lavender’s real cases and several other fictional sub-plots.
Inevitably, other real characters do occasionally appear in my books. These have ranged from William, Duke of Clarence and his mistress, the famous actress, Dorothy Jordan; to the artist, William Turner, other Bow Street officers and a range of British Politicians. However, Magdalena, Lavender’s spirited and exotic love-interest, is a figment of my imagination.
My favourite part of writing is usually the first 50,000 words. I tend to think about my books for over a year and when I start writing the words flow over the page with the smoothness of silk. By the time I’m at 50,000 words, it usually gets more difficult. I’ve often got three or four sub-plots running at the same time and dozens of loose ends to tie-up. At this point, I usually take a little break. I hate the cold, dark British winters and last year I flew south to the sunshine of the Canary Islands for a month to finish Plague Pits and River Bones.
But I normally spend this ‘break’ time pottering around my beloved garden, or reading a historical fiction novel by another author (my favourite genre.) Then I come back to my desk refreshed, and race towards the dramatic conclusion. The best two words when writing a novel are always: ‘The End.’
But it’s usually not long before the voices of Lavender and Woods are clamouring in my head, demanding another outing.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Title: Monsters I Have Known: A Collection of Short Stories
Author: Jess Hartley
Genre: paranormal, thriller, and horror short stories
Come take a walk in the shadows alongside award-winning writer/editor/novelist, Jess Hartley, as she leads you through 13 intriguing tales of monstrous beings – supernatural or otherwise. In this, Hartley’s first solo anthology, readers will find a broad offering of genres – horror, romance, steampunk, fantasy and more – including her never-before-published murder mystery novella – Love Never Dies. Monsters I Have Known collects both well-loved favorites from previously published anthologies and never-before-seen fiction, presenting them with insightful introductions to share with readers some of the circumstances surrounding each story’s creation. A must-have introduction for those new to Hartley’s work.
Wow, what a great collection of stories. I’m not normally a fan of horror, but I love a good spooky ghost story. When I was approached to review this book, I wasn’t sure I would like it. I’m glad I took a chance.
It’s hard to pick which story I liked best, but the first one, Love Never Dies, was the longest. In this one, the main character finds herself walking up the beach to her house. Nothing feels right, but it’s only her and her husband. What could be wrong?
My favorite story was Immaterial Witness. Liz gives tours in Bisbee, Arizona, the most haunted town in America. She gets a chance to be on a podcast, but the slimy host has plans of his own. He wants all the dirt, but Liz has a big secret. She can see ghosts, and she’s not about to expose them to a third-rate journalist looking to exploit the dead. Really good story.
This month is a perfect time for this collection. You should totally check this one out. It’s available on Amazon.
Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for his family. The only thing of value he has is something he can’t sell—the thick silver cuffs he’s worn since birth. They’re clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he’s never been able to get them off.
One day, Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them. Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.
Meanwhile, Raisa ana’Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She’s just returned to court after three years of freedom in the mountains—riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets. Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But her mother has other plans for her—including marriage to a suitor who goes against everything the queendom stands for.
The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Hans and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.
If that description sounds like a classic fantasy trope, the Farm Boy made good and the Ruler in Exile, well, it is. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, this book takes a lot of the tried and true and makes them interesting.
Han also goes by Hunts Alone or Cuffs, depending on whether he’s up the mountains with the clans or down the hill in the city. Either way, he’s a tough, independent guy who’s used to looking over his shoulder. But now, with what seems like half the queendom looking for his blood, it’s time for him to put his childhood behind him and grow up. If he can survive that long.
Princess Raisa also needs to grow up, but this time, I mean she needs to stop being such a spoiled brat. I really wanted to shake her and tell her to quit making such stupid decisions. But then, I’m an adult and she’s only 15. She’s allowed – expected, even – to make a few mistakes like kissing the wrong boy. And wow, does she ever make mistakes.
Both Han and Raisa are caught in political maneuvering beyond their control. Wizards are tired of the tight controls that have been placed on their power. Sure, a wizard nearly caused the end of the world 1000 years ago, but times have changed and they want to be in charge again. Raisa’s mother, the Queen Marianna, is weak and easily influenced, just when a weak ruler would cause the most trouble for the land. Stubborn as Raisa is, no one could call her easily influenced.
Chima has a talent for writing realistic YA characters and relationships you care about. That’s not to say the writing is bad. It’s not. But it’s the plot and the characters that shine. I think she could have done a better job with the setting, at least with the clan. But the city is easy to imagine.
I would definitely recommend this series. I started it on audio and got so aggravated at not being able to follow the story fast enough that I got it on ebook as well. So that should tell you how much I liked it! A little bit predictable at the end, but I’m looking forward to the next book.
If you like a little humor with your mysteries, Donna Andrews has got a series for you. Meg Langslow is a blacksmith whose family has a tendency to get involved in stuff that leads to murder. She has discovered a wide array of murder victims over the years, but she keeps her head and always manages to figure out who done it.
I love funny books, so I took a break from my Off the Shelf challenge this month and read two of Andrews’ latest books, Lord of the Wings and Die Like an Eagle. All of them have birds and bird-related puns in the title.
Lord of the Wings revolves around the mythical town of Caerphilly, Virginia where they’ve begun a new Halloween Festival. Things were going pretty smoothly until someone started a strange scavenger hunt. It started at the zoo and ended in a murder. The next book in the series, Die Like an Eagle, centers around Meg’s twins and their first baseball team. The books are #18 & 19 in the series, but you can start anywhere really and give it a go. My favorite is probably We’ll Always Have Parrots which involves a fan convention. It is just hilarious. Great reads for curling up with a good book.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions, however, are my own.
Title: Forgotten Reflections
Author: Young-Im Lee
Setting: Korea 1950s
I must admit that I haven’t read much modern Asian fiction, and even less Asian historical fiction, so when I was offered this book, I was excited to read it. When I got a look at how long it was, I admit to second thoughts. I’m glad I stuck with it because it was a great read.
This is two stories in one, the story of Iseul as a girl, and the one of her as a grandmother now suffering from Alzheimer’s and living in assisted care. Her granddaughter starts digging into her grandma’s past when they move her into the care facility. Meanwhile, Iseul herself is remembering her past.
Iseul grew up in a small village in Korea. She barely remembers the Japanese soldiers who roared through her town, killing her mother and many of the villagers. Now Iseul is old enough to help her father with his paper-making business. She attracts the notice of Jung-Soo, son of the local bigwig, and that relationship will shape the rest of her life. She and Jung-Soo become aware that the village has a secret Communist cell and soon war breaks out.
I won’t spoil the rest of the book, but I can say that their paths part, but neither can forget the other one. When they are reunited, everything has changed. Several times with this book, I thought it was so long I was never going to finish, but I just couldn’t give up on it.
Like I said, I’m not familiar with Korean books, and the author says that she was only born in Korea and grew up in the Philippines. But the writing is very different from what I’m used to. Sometimes the narrator (the granddaughter) addresses the reader directly. The way Iseul talked made me laugh too. She’s not like any other MC I’ve read this year, that’s for sure.
I definitely recommend this one. If you’re in the mood for a good long book, this one should be on your list.
I’d whispered the entire thing. Every detail that fit into words. It sounded so much more civilized when I whispered it, when I turned down the volume of the fear and disgust. But horrible things whispered are still horrible.
Jennifer’s family is turned upside down when she discovers a photograph of a young girl – a girl who looks surprisingly like Jennifer. The trouble – the picture is 20 years old. Her mom has lied about her past. She’s not an only child. She has a sister. Jennifer wants to meet this aunt, get to know her, but her mother wants Jennifer to leave it alone. After some negotiations, Jennifer heads to Maine to discover her family’s past and along the way, discover herself.
I heard a little about this YA book, enough to add it to my list and then forget about it. But when I found it free on Kindle Unlimited, I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did. I don’t read a lot of contemporary YA. Most of what I read is fantasy, so this was a change of pace for me, but it turned out to be a good one.
The story kind of struck home for me. My mom also had a sister she didn’t talk about. Her sister wasn’t a secret or anything, but it was still a big shock when this woman called from out of the blue saying, “Hi, I’m your aunt.” I already had an aunt, and I knew this woman was not her. I guess I experienced this story from the other side.
Our relationship was still distant and things didn’t turn out quite the way they did for Jennifer, but I still felt it was worth getting to know something about this stranger who was my relative. Now my mom and my aunt have both passed away and I can only guess at what their relationship used to be.
I recommend this one to anyone who likes contemporary YA. There is some romance, but that wasn’t what stuck with me about the book. What I liked was the main character herself and her journey to figure out who she was and where she belonged. 3.5 stars/5