Review | The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

tenthousandTitleThe Ten Thousand Doors of January (2019)
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Publisher: Little, Brown
Imprint: Orbit
Read: 2nd – 5th September 2019
Genre: historical fiction; fantasy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

“In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored and utterly out of place. But her quiet existence is shattered when she stumbles across a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page reveals more impossible truths about the world, and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.” (Synopsis from publisher)

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Review | Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

godsofjadeTitleGods of Jade and Shadow (2019)
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Publisher: Quercus
Imprint: Jo Fletcher Books
Read: 5th August – 1st September 2019
Genre: historical fiction; fantasy; mythology
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy scrubbing floors in her wealthy grandfather’s house to do more than dream of a life far from her small town in southern Mexico. Until the day she accidentally frees an ancient Mayan god of death, who offers her a deal: in return for Casiopea’s help in recovering his throne, he will grant her whatever she desires. From the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City and deep into the darkness of Xibalba, the Mayan underworld, Casiopea’s adventure will take her on a perilous cross-country odyssey beyond anything she’s ever known. Success will make her every dream come true, but failure will see her lost, for ever…” (Synopsis from publisher)

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Review | Under a Dancing Star by Laura Wood

underadancingstarTitleUnder a Dancing Star (2019)
Author: Laura Wood
Publisher: Scholastic
Read: 1st – 3rd July 2019
Genre: young-adult; historical fiction; romance; retelling
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

“In grey 1930s England, Bea has grown up kicking against conventions. There are so many rules. She must marry. She can’t choose. She must keep the family estate safe. But when Bea goes to spend summer in Italy, a dazzling new world opens up. There are moonlit nights, and beautiful vistas – and Ben. A cocky young artist who just happens to be infuriatingly handsome too. One night, under the stars, their friends set them a challenge. It’s a duel of kisses. The rules: sparks must fly. Dreams must come true. Neither party may fall in love. A long hot summer of kisses and mischief unfolds. But storm clouds are gathering across Europe. Is their perfect summer ending? Or is this just the start?” (Synopsis from publisher)

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Review | Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

daisyjonesTitleDaisy Jones & The Six (2019)
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher/Imprint: Cornerstone/Hutchinson
Read: 3rd – 7th April 2019
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“They were the new icons of rock and roll, fated to burn bright and not fade away. But on 12 July 1979, it all came crashing down. There was Daisy, rock and roll force of nature, brilliant songwriter and unapologetic drug addict, the half-feral child who rose to superstardom. There was Camila, the frontman’s wife, too strong-willed to let the band implode – and all too aware of the electric connection between her husband and Daisy. There was Karen, ice-cool keyboardist, a ferociously independent woman in a world that wasn’t ready for her. And there were the men surrounding them: the feuding, egotistical Dunne brothers, the angry guitarist chafing on the sidelines, the drummer binge-drinking on his boat, the bassist trying to start a family amid a hedonistic world tour. They were creative minds striking sparks from each other, ready to go up in flames. It’s never just about the music…” (Synopsis from publisher)

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Review | The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman

darkdayspactTitleThe Dark Days Pact (2017)
Author: Alison Goodman
Publisher/Edition: Walker Books
Read: 18th – 26th November 2018
Genre: fantasy; historical fiction; young-adult
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“Brighton, July 1812. Lady Helen Wrexhall is spending the summer season in Brighton, where she will continue her Reclaimer training and prepare for her duties as a fully fledged member of the Dark Days Club. Her mentor, Lord Carlston, believes that a Grand Deceiver has arrived in England, and there is no time to lose in preparing Helen to fight it. As she rushes to complete her training, Helen finds herself torn between her loyalty to Carlston and the orders of the Home Office, who wish to use her to further their own agenda. Meanwhile, the Duke of Selburn seems determined to try and protect her, irrespective of the risk to himself. With so much at stake, Helen must make an agonizing choice between duty and devotion.” (Synopsis from publisher)

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Review | The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

evelynhugoTitle: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (2017)
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Read: 3rd – 10th September 2018
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career. Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.”
(Synopsis from author’s website)

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Review | The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

girlfromeverywhere.jpgTitle: The Girl from Everywhere (2016)
Author: Heidi Heilig
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Read: 13th – 16th February 2018
Genre: fantasy; young-adult; historical fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It was the kind of August day that hinted at monsoons, and the year was 1774, though not for very much longer.

Sixteen-year-old Nix Song is a time-traveller. She, her father and their crew of time refugees travel the world aboard The Temptation, a glorious pirate ship stuffed with treasures both typical and mythical. Old maps allow Nix and her father to navigate not just to distant lands, but distant times – although a map will only take you somewhere once. And Nix’s father is only interested in one time, and one place: Honolulu 1868. A time before Nix was born, and her mother was alive. Something that puts Nix’s existence rather dangerously in question… Nix has grown used to her father’s obsession, but only because she’s convinced it can’t work. But then a map falls into her father’s lap that changes everything. And when Nix refuses to help, her father threatens to maroon Kashmir, her only friend (and perhaps, only love) in a time where Nix will never be able to find him. And if Nix has learned one thing, it’s that losing the person you love is a torment that no one can withstand. Nix must work out what she wants, who she is, and where she really belongs before time runs out on her forever.” (Synopsis from the publisher)

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Review | The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin

Title: The Wicked Cometh (2018)
Author: Laura Carlin
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: 1st February 2018
Read: 1st – 6th January 2018
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

‘This newspaper has taken note that the past month has been remarkable for the prevalence of cases where men, women and children are declared missing. Scarcely a week passes without the occurrence of an incident of this type’ – The Morning Herald, Tuesday 13 September 1831

Down the murky alleyways of London, acts of unspeakable wickedness are taking place and the city’s vulnerable poor are disappearing from the streets. Out of these shadows comes Hester White, a bright young woman who is desperate to escape the slums by any means possible. When Hester is thrust into the world of the aristocratic Brock family, she leaps at the chance to improve her station in life under the tutelage of the fiercely intelligent and mysterious Rebekah Brock. But whispers from her past slowly begin to poison her new life and both she and Rebekah are lured into the most sinister of investigations, dragging them into the blackest heart of a city where something more depraved than either of them could ever imagine is lurking… (Synopsis from publisher)


“My advice is don’t rely on a man to be on time and don’t trust all what the newspapers write in their dailies.”

The Wicked Cometh marks a departure for me – it’s the first time in quite a while that I’ve chosen to read a book that has no hint of fantasy or magic, and is purely historical fiction, albeit with a generous helping of the Gothic. The Wicked Cometh is the kind of historical fiction I enjoy – it doesn’t sugarcoat or glorify the Victorian age, instead it presents a London that is more about the blood and excrement in the back alleys of the busy thoroughfares than the refined drawing rooms of the elite in society. It proclaims to be “a novel of darkest London” and this book goes to some very dark places indeed, with the book opening with its protagonist, a parson’s daughter, now down-and-out, Hester White, asleep in an outside shed with only the ragged clothes she’s wearing as protection against the cold wind of the night that whistles through the slums in which she lives, a slum from which many people are going missing, with no explanation, or concern raised. What emerges from this less than auspicious start, via the fortuitous happenstance of a carriage accident putting Hester in the path of the aristocratic Brocks, is a story about how far it is possible to rise and fall and what nature of crimes both the upper and under classes commit in everyday life. It concerns the question of the period – can the lower classes be educated and, therefore, have a better “value” in the eyes of the government and society at large? These macrocosmic concerns are, naturally, dealt with through the journey of the novel’s protagonist Hester, as she meets some unsavoury characters along the way, in the slums and drawing rooms alike.

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Review | The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis

28666153Title: The Butcher’s Hook (2016)
Author: Janet Ellis
Read: 7th-9th April 2016
Genre: historical fiction; romance
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Janet Ellis’ début has been variously described as bold, dark, weird, and brutal – all of these adjectives suit the first-time author’s historical fiction romance but still don’t quite do justice to its brash and unapologetic narrative.

” ‘In this world we, not an invisible deity, are the architects of our lives.’ He waited to see what I would say, bouncing his fingers against his lips. I said nothing.”

Set in 1763, Ellis paints a realist picture of Georgian London through the eyes of nineteen-year old Anne Jaccob, a daughter of sufficiently wealthy parents whose entire life is confined and constricted to the walls within which she lives. As all respectable young ladies, she is educated only enough for good sense (no less, no more) but her determination to be more, to pursue more for herself than the insipid husband her parents have organised for her to marry, leads to an education in life that few would expect initially from a book that bears the phrases ‘Georgian London’, ‘historical fiction’ and ‘romance’. In fact, the Georgian society that Anne walks amongst is worlds away from the gentility of country balls and careful courtship seen in the likes of Jane Austen’s novels, and the great strength of The Butcher’s Hook lies in the (at times) horrible and surprising turns that the path of this novel takes its readers down from the very first pages.

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