The Curious Affair of the Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief by Lisa Tuttle

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What drew me to this novel was the long title. It made me curious (ha-ha) as to what this novel would be like.

For several years, Miss Lane served as a collaborator and friend to Miss X, a member of the Psychical Societs – only to discover that Miss X was a fraud. Upset by this betrayal, Miss Lane leaves to go find new employment, and she does so with Mr. Jasper Jesperson, a consulting detective. While she is much happier in her current position as assistant detective, the cases aren’t plentiful and money is a bit tight. They need a breakthrough case, something that will give them a reputation – and some cash. Then they get one: it involves a somnambulist, the disappearance of several mediums, and a cat stuck up a tree. And Jesperson and Lane are the perfect people to solve this case! 

Sometimes a novel just doesn’t work for a reader. This is one of those times. I’m going to go through the list of things that caused this novel to not work for me, but keep in mind that it may just be a case of personal preference.

When I began reading this novel, I was startled by the pacing of the book. The focus was more on recounting events rather than showing the true passage of time and the full events, which was a bit disappointing; I would have preferred to have read the scenes in real time.

I was also taken aback by the similarities between Jesperson and Sherlock Holmes. The author did allude to Sherlock Holmes in the very beginning so I knew that there would be comparisons between these detectives and him. However, I wasn’t expecting the author to create characters and relationships so strikingly similar. While I love Sherlock Holmes, I don’t like seeing characters that try to emulate him.

I didn’t like the main characters in the story, which is unfortunate because it led me to not like the story. Jesperson was quite whiny and I didn’t like his ideologies; he believed himself to be the next Sherlock, and showed a great deal of selfishness and arrogance in his decisions. Miss Lane was a bit annoying, and that made it hard to get through the story, which is pretty much told through her perspective.

My favorite thing about this story is the Victorian Era setting for this novel. The author really did a good job in staying true to this time period and I just love reading novels set in Victorian England. I also quite liked the mystery itself, as it had a lot of funny and interesting aspects to it.

Overall, this was an interesting story but the characters didn’t work for me, and that is why I didn’t really enjoy this novel as much as I could have. While I give this novel a 2.5/5 stars, I’m sure there are others that would rate this novel higher!

Happy reading ~

 

Shadows of the Dead by Jim Eldridge – DCI Stark #2

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

London, 1921. Lord Johnny Fairfax has just been discovered dead in his study, along with another victim: an American man who was visiting Fairfax unexpectedly. For DCI Paul Stark, this case is more personal than just a heinous crime: he’s currently in a relationship with the former Lady Fairfax, Lady Amelia. And she is one of the top suspects. However, Lord Fairfax had his fair share of enemies, which means the suspect pool is large. And nobody knows who the American is and what his connection is to Lord Fairfax. As Stark digs deeper, he uncovers evidence of a shocking conspiracy that could mean doom for the British Establishment.

When I first read this novel, I was unaware that it was the second book in a series. However, that wasn’t too much of an issue as the author provided enough detail about everything that I didn’t feel like I missed out on much. This was an interesting historical mystery in that it involved more detail than many historical fiction novels I’ve read. There was a lot of name-dropping of historical figures, which at first was cool but eventually got tedious, especially since they weren’t always that important for the story. I also found that this book was more about DCI Stark’s private life than the mystery itself, which isn’t always a bad thing, but in this case, it made me lose interest in the story. So while the novel had an intriguing plot and was well-written, it just didn’t do it for me. I’d give this a 3/5 stars and recommend this to someone who is really interested in historical fiction (like… REALLY interested)!

Happy reading ~

A High Mortality of Doves by Kate Ellis

It’s been a while since I’ve read a classic historical fiction crime novel. I’ve heard about this author’s work but I’ve never had the pleasure of reading anything by her, so I thought this would be a good time to accomplish both goals. Here is my review:

It’s 1919 and the village of Wenfield is still trying to recuperate from 4 terrible years of war, as it comes to terms with the loss of so many men. The last thing this place needs is the brutal murder of a young woman. When Myrtle Bligh is found stabbed to death in the woodland, with her mouth slit to accommodate a dead dove, everyone is horrified by the nature of the crime. During the war, Myrtle spent time as a volunteer nurse with Flora Winsmore, the daughter of the local daughter; along with other volunteers, the girls cared for wounded soldiers at the nearby big house, Tarney Court. After 2 more women are murdered and left in the same circumstances, the village calls in Inspector Albert Lincoln from London, a man who is also suffering from the aftermaths of war. With rumours of a ghostly soldier with a painted face being spotted near the scene of the murders, the village is thrown into a state of panic – and with the killer still on the loose, who will be the next to die at the hands of this vicious soldier?

This was definitely an interesting novel. The author did a good job of creating a realistic impression of the historical time period, replete with examples of the social issues and prejudices that were prevalent in those days. The writing style was interesting, flitting between different characters. Flora had her own designated chapters that read more like diary entries, and Albert’s chapters were in 3rd perspective. At first, I didn’t really enjoy this style but it stopped mattering as I focused more on the story. The plot was intriguing and there were many avenues of investigation that the author explored. The ending definitely took me aback, as I wasn’t suspecting this direction; however, it wasn’t satisfactory for me and felt more like the author chose to do this just to add a thrill element. In other words, it wasn’t as well thought out as it could have been. The relationship between the two main characters was also not something I enjoyed; I don’t usually like novels where infidelity is accepted and I also felt as if the romance was not too well developed. Overall, a nice historical fiction with an interesting crime twist. This novel didn’t wow me but it wasn’t terrible, so I would give this a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Goblin by Ever Dundas

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I read a premise that is just straight-up weird, I can’t resist the urge to read the book. The premise itself becomes the mystery and my curiosity won’t let me rest until I discover what it is all about. That was how I felt when I came across this novel and so, I was very glad to have received this book through NetGalley and the publishers!

Goblin is an outcast girl growing up in London during World War 2. She is rejected by her mother, ignored by her father, and only finds solace in the company of her older brother and her animals. After witnessing a shocking event, Goblin retreats into a self-constructed imaginary world where she can be safe. And so begins her feral life amidst the wreckage of London, with only her family of abandoned animals to keep her company.
It is now 2011, and an elderly Goblin receives an unwanted phone call to return to London amidst the riots. But returning means facing the ghosts of her past, something which she may not have the strength for. Will she finally discover the truth she has been hiding from?

I think calling this novel a blend between fantasy and reality might be a bit of a stretch. And the reason that I say this is because it misled me a great deal. From the premise, I thought that I would be reading about a girl who flits back and forth between different realms and it is up to the reader to discover which is the truth. The novel is better depicted as flitting between past and present, and there is always this feeling that something is being hidden from the reader and from the protagonist herself. Yes, she makes up things and creates her own reality, but I wouldn’t go so far as to portray it as a fantasy because technically, not much of what she says is fake. Most of it is real. Aside from this contradiction, I really did enjoy this story. It is deep and complex, and you get lost in Goblin’s world. She is a unique character, one that I have never really encountered and seeing things from her perspective is just such a bizarre and amazing experience. Her life is absolutely ridiculous in its trajectory but that’s what keeps the story moving, and keeps the interest of the reader. As the story continued to build, and the digging for the truth begins, the author ramps up the tension – and this is done beautifully, by the way. I was holding my breath, turning the pages as fast as I could until I finally reached the end. And the ending was abrupt, I won’t lie, but it worked because this is just one of those books that doesn’t really follow the rules. In short, I think this was a very interesting novel that takes place during World War 2 and features a very unique female protagonist; however, if you are expecting some major fantasy elements, then you may find yourself disappointed.

Happy reading ~

Plague by C. C. Humphreys

I really like historical fiction novels but I don’t read many books in this genre. Perhaps it’s because I always find myself being recommended thrillers or fantasy novels. I was looking at what book to read next and decided that this historical fiction had an interesting enough premise to give it a shot… so here is my review:

London, 1665. It has been 5 years since Charles II was restored to the throne, and he has spent these years enjoying everything London has to offer. Cockpits, brothels, and the theatre run rampant, with both women and men performing alongside each other. But not everyone is happy with these developments. Some see this “liberation” as a new Babylon and decide that it is time to clean up London… through murder. And no one is spared from the scalpel of this cruel killer, be it a royalist member of Parliament or a whore. But they all have 2 things in common: they are found with gemstones in their mouths and it is evident that they have been … sacrificed. Amidst all of this pandemonium comes the plague, back in full force leaving no one safe… and so, murder has found a new friend.

I thought I would enjoy this novel a lot more than I did. The characters were quite interesting, and I really liked the way the author introduced each one, giving them all their own chapter and spotlight at the very beginning of the book. The language of the book was perfectly written to fit in with the surroundings; the author did a great job setting the scene. However, I felt that the plot itself was lackluster, at times dragging and at times rushed. Some parts of the plot were quite unnecessary and that just made it harder for me to get through this novel. I thought that the plague would play more of a role than it did but it just served to set the scene. Overall, this book had interesting characters and a perfect setting, but lacked in a strong and interesting plot. I would recommend this to anyone looking for an adventure story.

Happy reading ~

House of Names by Colm Toibin

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I really wanted to read this novel because of its connection to Ancient Greece. I don’t know much in this area as I always focused on Ancient Egypt, but I was eager to step into this area, even if it is through a retelling.

“I have been acquainted with the smell of death.” So begins Clytemnestra’s tale of the tragic saga that occurs in her life: how her husband, King Agamemnon, sacrificed their daughter, Iphigeneia, because he was told that would help him win the war against Troy; how Clytemnestra sought revenge against him by collaborating with a prisoner named Aegisthus, who became her lover; how Agamemnon returned from 9 years in the war with his own lover; and how Clytemnestra finally achieved vengeance – and faced the dark consequences of her actions.

This story was told from 3 perspectives: Clytemnestra, Electra (her other daughter), and Orestes (her son); this was unique and unexpected, as I had thought the story would just be from Clytemnestra’s point of view. It was an interesting story that really took the time to evaluate the various repercussions of each action. However, nothing really resonated with me. For some reason, the actions and the characters and the emotions … it all seemed very removed. Nothing stirred my heart or made me feel sympathy or empathy; it almost felt like I was reading an interesting history book. This is definitely more of a literary fiction than anything else, and I think the author really tried to do indepth character analyses for all of the protagonists involved in the story. However, there was no connection felt between me and the characters, and this lack of caring caused me to lose interest in this story. I would recommend this for anyone who likes to read retellings based on Greek tales.

Happy reading ~

The Moon In The Palace by Weina Dai Randel

When I read the premise of this novel, it reminded me of one of the asian dramas that I love watching. I’m a sucker for historical dramas and this seemed right up my alley. I was excited because this novel is based on an actual historical figure, whom I know nothing about and I felt that this would be a really interesting way to learn about her. So here is my review:

As a concubine, it is imperative that one is able to capture the Emperor’s attention. Many paint their faces and style their hair attractively. Others present the Emperor with fantastic gifts. Still ore rely on their knowledge of seduction to draw his interest. But young Mei knows nothing of these womanly arts… and yet, she will give the Emperor a gift he will never forget. Mei’s intelligence and curiosity, while marking her as an outcast among the other concubines, impress the Emperor. But just as she is in a position to seduce the most powerful man in China, divided loyalties split the palace in two, culminating in a perilous battle that Mei can only hope to survive.

This novel was captivating in its richness and writing style. The author did a fantastic job of making the story come to life. Every little detail was accounted for, from the types of food that was eaten, to the customs and intricacies of court life. It really set the stage for the events that transpired in the book. I love reading about politics and hierarchies that exist within kingdoms, and this novel definitely did not disappoint in that aspect. There was always something intriguing going on, and this book kept me on my toes; I literally could not pull my eyes away. However, this novel did have its flaws. From the description of this novel, I expected Mei to be a great deal more cunning and intelligent. However, she is portrayed as extremely trusting and her ability to move up in the ranks is mostly attributed to luck and help from others. This was a disappointment to me, as I was really looking forward to seeing a battle of wits between the different concubines. There was a romance aspect in this novel that was interesting but fell a bit flat; I couldn’t really believe in the love between the two characters so I didn’t really care for the romance at all. While this novel gives off the impression that this book will be about Mei and her exploits, it’s really more about her observing things going on in the court and also mentioning some of the near-miss situations she is involved in. I cannot say that she ever actively did anything that made me applaud her bravery or intelligence. While I cannot speak for the historical accuracy of this novel due to my lack of knowledge, I will say that this novel was extremely interesting and had me hooked from page 1 despite the negative factors. I’m probably going to read the next book in this duology; I just hope that Mei becomes a stronger and smarter character in it!

Happy reading ~

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer L. Ryan

What intrigued me about this book is that it was projected to be an uplifting novel that is set in the time of WWII. You don’t come across that often. Most historical fiction novels set during this time period are distressing, and focused on the horrors inflicted on people by the Nazis. While this novel doesn’t ignore these issues, it also doesn’t dampen the spirits and seeks to show that love and courage can be found in all forms. That was enough to get me interested in reading this novel!

As England enters WWII’s dark period, a spirited music professor named Primrose Trent arrives to the village of Chilbury. There, she decides to set up an all-women’s choir, which goes against the edict of the Vicar. Resurrecting themselves as “The Chilbury’s Ladies’ Choir”, the women of this small village use their voices and songs to bring hope to themselves and their community, as the war tears through their lives.

This was an enjoyable read that lived up to its reputation of being inspiring and uplifting. It is told from the perspective of many people in the village, through a medium of journals and letters and announcements. I quite liked that the author chose to do it this way rather than having a single narrator; it produced such a well-rounded story with a great deal of depth and charm. The author introduces us to a whole host of characters, each unique and equipped with different skills to deal with the changes that are happening in their lives because of the war. Each character was beautifully created with a perfect balance of skills and imperfections; it was a delight to watch them grow and change throughout the course of the novel and its events. Spoiled children mature and become selfless, righteous women learn to let go of prejudices, and ugly personalities reveal themselves. Each character has their own little subplot going on, and yet the author manages to tie everything together beautifully – and I can imagine that this must have been a very difficult task to orchestrate! The effect was wonderful, with a poignant, cohesive, charming story emerging. If my previous remarks haven’t been obvious enough, this novel is a character-driven story and it is done remarkably well. At various different time points, I felt a kinship with almost all of the characters. This is definitely one of my favorite books on WWII, and it shows the strength that women can have in uniting a community, facing their own internal fears, and being a source of comfort to those around them during times of distress.

Thank you to NetGalley, Blogging for Books, and Crown Publishing for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading ~

A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain – Kendra Donovan #2

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW EXCITED I WAS TO GET AN ARC OF THIS NOVEL!! I absolutely loved the first book in the series and as soon as I saw this ARC I wanted to get my hands on it ASAP! I had to wait so long to read and publish my review on it, but it was so worth it! So here I go:

Former FBI agent Kendra Donovan is still stuck at Aldridge Castle in 1815 and has found no way to return to the 21st century. And that’s just one of her many problems. She soon finds out that the Duke of Aldridge’s nephew, Alec, is under suspicion for murdering his former mistress, Lady Dover, who was found viciously stabbed and disfigured. Lady Dover had plenty of secrets, many which could ruin the lives of other people – which doesn’t exactly narrow the list of suspects. In order to clear Alec’s name, Kendra must navigate the treacherous 19th century to pick apart the strands of Lady Dover’s life.

This novel. I loved it. I have to say that this is one of my favorite novels that involves time travel. The author does such a great job of highlighting the struggles that Kendra has adapting to her new place in time, with her new status and her lack of power. It puts things into perspective and makes one realize that women have come along way from the 1800s – even if we still have a ways to go! Another thing I really like about this series is that Kendra isn’t some helpless woman who needs the men around her to solve all her problems. She is very adept at taking care of herself and figuring things out on her own. This image of power remains with her even though she is not in the 21st century, and I really liked that the author maintained that. The way the author showed the disparity in attitudes, mindsets, and language between Kendra and the people she interacted with in the 19th century was really interesting to read about. I also really enjoyed the actual mystery itself and the way Kendra and her allies worked together to solve it. All in all, this was a great read that caught my interest just like the first book in the series! I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book!

Happy reading ~

My Last Lament by James William Brown

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Aliki is a lamenter, one who mourns and celebrates the passing of life. She is the last of her kind, part of a Greece that is evolving and moving away from its rural culture. When an American researcher asks Aliki to record her laments, Aliki instead chooses to sing her own story, which begins in a village in northeast Greece when Aliki witnesses the execution of her father by the occupying Nazi soldiers. A young girl with no other family and nowhere else to go, Aliki is taken in by her friend Takis’s mother and is joined by a Jewish refugee and her son, Stelios. When the village is torched and its inhabitants massacred, only Aliki, Stelios, and Takis manage to escape – just as the war is ending.
As the three make their way across chaotic post-war Greece, they become a makeshift family, bound by friendship and grief and threatened by betrayal and madness.

This novel was well-written and had an interesting premise. However, it wasn’t the story I was expecting. Reading the premise, I thought that the focus would be more on how Aliki became a lamenter and what it all means culturally, as lamenting is a process I am not familiar with and would love to read more about. Instead, this novel focused on how Greece was affected by the invasion of Nazi soldiers. Yes, this is a perspective I have not read about as of yet. But there was really nothing to make this novel stand out in my mind in comparison to every other novel on the same topic. The switch from the present time to the recounting of past memories was not always very clear; at times, I found it to be jarring when the switch happened and had to read the page over again to be clear. This wasn’t a terrible book by any means, but it wasn’t what I was expecting, and so it left me a bit disappointed. I would recommend this book for anyone wanting to read about the Nazi occupation of Germany. Because that is the main focus of the book. Not lamenting.

Happy reading ~