Blog Archive

Thursday, February 22, 2024

The Book of Doors by Gareth Brown - Book Review

Publication Date: 13th Feb 2024

Genre: Mystery, Time Travel, Urban Fantasy 

3 Stars 

One Liner: Great premise, uninteresting characters 


New York City

Cassie Andrews works in a cozy café-cum-bookstore and has a routine life. One evening, she is gifted a unique book by an old customer. Taking it home, Cassie and her friend Izzy discover that the book is magical and can take them to any place through the door. Cassie is delighted to own the Book of Doors, enjoying the prospect of traveling at a whim. 

However, she doesn’t acknowledge the danger the book attracts until faced with violence and danger. There’s a mysterious man who can help her. However, Drummond Fox is battling his demons and hiding from enemies. Out there is someone so evil that nothing will stop them from getting what they want. 

The story comes in multiple POVs of Cassie, Drummond, Lund, The Woman, Lottie, and a few others. 

My Thoughts: 

How can I resist a premise like that? I don’t bother with comparisons (unless they involve a book I hate), but I do have the mentioned titles in my TBR, so it counts (maybe). 

The concept of books as magical objects, not just a door to places and different times, but with an ability to do good or evil, is fascinating. 

Time as a cyclic (and wheel-like) entity aligns with the Indic theory, so it was easy enough to go with the flow despite the lack of explanation. 

Characters are important for any book. What can a reader do if she doesn’t connect with the MC? I wasn’t impressed with Cassie, and my opinion didn’t change even at the end. Izzy was better (if we ignore how physical attributes are important for most women in the book). 

Drummond could have been ‘the MMC’, but he was uninspiring. A bookish male lead is a great idea. Having him act as a ‘coward’ instead of a fighter is also a nice touch. He can still be interesting, given the potential in his backstory. 

The Woman- I loved her intro. Imagine an antagonist who is evil personified and will destroy the world with nonchalance. My kinda lady! However, she has no character development. That’s all she is, which makes her as solid as a torn page. And the reason for her evilness is… I don’t know. I like the concept but not the execution. It feels so anticlimactic. 

The uneven pacing and multiple POVs didn’t help either. Though we get the story from different perspectives, none of them are compelling narrators. The magic system was okay, but nothing wow. I also have some questions. 

I appreciate the gory parts being matter-of-fact (or maybe they weren’t, but I couldn’t connect). Either way, nothing moved me- not Cassie's grief or the Woman’s evil. 

There’s a hint of what could be called romance, but thankfully, we don’t explore it. The best decision made in the book. I rounded the rating up to 3 stars just for this.

To summarize, The Book of Doors has an intriguing premise but is underwhelming as a whole. Of course, if you connect with the FMC, you will enjoy the book a lot more. 

Thank you, NetGalley and William Morrow, for the eARC. 

#NetGalley #TheBookofDoors 


Monday, February 19, 2024

Roses for the Dead by Jenny O'Brien - Book Review

Series: Detective Alana Mack #2

Publication Date: 14th Feb 2024 

Genre: Police Procedural, Contemporary  

4 Stars 

One Liner: Better than book one and enjoyable 

Detective Alana Mack is worried when a woman goes missing from the same train where another one has died. It appears that a killer is targeting women and leaving their bodies along Dublin’s Dart train line. As bodies pile up, Alana knows she has to solve the case as soon as possible. 

Things get even more complex when she receives a threatening message. Can Alana use the clues to find the killer and prevent more deaths? 

The story comes in third-person POVs from Alana (more), Paddy, Lorrie, and the killer. 

My Thoughts: 

The second book in the series reads well as a standalone. It is also better than the first book in many ways. The POV jumps are not random but are limited to four characters and come in different chapters. There’s no excessive dwelling on the past except for a couple of references for new readers. 

Multiple cases soon converge into a single/ dual track. The circumstances are such that the police are trying hard for a breakthrough. This means they go through the same information a few times. However, something new turns up each time to prevent monotony. 

Alana is also better in this one. Yeah, she is still abrupt and a touch rude. But it doesn’t put the reader off. We can see her stress and the calculated risks she has to take. Moreover, her thoughts and emotions are centered on the cases most of the time, so it is easier to empathize with her. Her disability is seamlessly woven into the plotline to keep it real and is aligned with her arc. 

We get the killer’s POV quite early, which means it is easy to guess who it is. I did guess who it was in the first third itself, but that didn’t make the story any less intriguing. There are a couple of twists, though nothing major. Yet, the plotline keeps you hooked to see if you’re right. 

The pacing is slow, as I assumed. This will be a slowish series, and that’s okay. The story doesn’t drag. Moreover, things take time when the police and forensics are involved. 

Alana and Paddy make a great team. The non-romantic relationship between them is a great plus. Paddy has a side track, which adds a layer to his character. They are both complex people, so the series should be interesting as we proceed. 

The Dublin setting doesn’t come alive in this one, but there’s enough to follow the case. The setting has changed from book one to two (it was a seaside place last time), so that could also be the reason. 

The ending has a touch of hope for Alana’s personal track, though she and I are in no hurry to take the leap. Let’s go slow and steady. 

To summarize, Roses for the Dead is a compact police procedural with some intriguing characters and an absorbing plot. Looking forward to the next in the series. 

Thank you, NetGalley and Storm Publishing, for the eARC.  

#NetGalley #RosesForTheDead

***

TW: Descriptions of injuries after bullying and physical abuse. 


Saturday, February 17, 2024

The Library Murders by Merryn Allingham - Book review Blog Tour

Series: Flora Steele Mystery #8

Publisher: Bookouture

Amazon: https://geni.us/B0CLRWF1ZXsocial

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/200663367-the-library-murders 

Publication Date: 20th Feb 2024

Genre: Historical Cozy Mystery 

4 Stars 

One Liner: A good mystery 

Blurb: 

Bookshop owner and amateur detective Flora Steele and her fiancé, crime writer Jack Carrington, discover words can kill as they solve their most puzzling case yet…

It’s a sunny morning in Abbeymead as Flora cycles through the village and knocks on the door of the local library, planning to deliver a gift to librarian Maud Frobisher to mark her retirement. But Flora is shocked when she finds Maud slumped in the corner, and even more startled when she recognizes the man holding the murder weapon – an enormous hardback book.

Flora’s known Lowell Gracey since her college days, but what is he doing working for Maud and now the main suspect in her murder? Suspicion mounts when Flora and Jack discover that Lowell is heavily in debt and that a priceless rare first edition has recently gone missing, but Lowell is adamant that he’s innocent, and Flora believes him.

The pair are once more drawn into an investigation, but who would kill a beloved librarian? Perhaps Rose Lawson, a mysterious newcomer to Abbeymead, is known to be in dire financial straits? Or pompous bestselling author Felix Wingrave, who rumors say would do anything to get his hands on a valuable book for his collection?

Then, the village is rocked by the discovery of a second body. Flora and Jack realize a vital clue lies in the pages of a novel – but the plot is thickening, and the killer is closing in…

Flora and Jack are determined to solve this fiendish case by the book – but will this be the end of their story?

A completely page-turning and addictive cozy crime mystery. Fans of Agatha Christie, Faith Martin, and Joy Ellis will adore this unputdownable series!

My Thoughts: 

Flora Steele and Jack Carrington are back in action to solve yet another crime in Abbeymead. 

Flora and Jack are busy helping Basil Webb to organize a crime Conference in the village. Despite their apprehensions, they hope the conference will bring enough people and sales. However, the last thing they expect is the death of Maud Frobisher, the retirement-ready librarian. 

When Inspector Alan Ridley makes an immediate arrest, the sleuthing duo is not convinced. They decide to investigate on the side and soon find out that almost everyone seems to have a motive for murder. When another death rocks the village, Flora and Jack know they should act fast and catch the killer (without getting killed). 

The story comes in Flora and Jack’s third-person POVs. 


How did we reach the eighth book already? Flora and Jack are delightful characters, and you can’t help but root for them when they go sleuthing. 

While the book still works as a standalone, it’ll be more enjoyable if you read at least the previous 2-3 books. The dynamics in their relationship will be easier to understand with some background knowledge. 

The mystery is independent and decently done. The reveal makes sense, and we take a logical path to uncovering the secrets. Flora and Jack have some differences of opinion, but both have the same goal –dig up the truth and find the killer. 

There’s a sub-track, which I thought would be complex. However, I like how it is sorted. This is a cozy mystery, after all. No point in complicating things more than necessary. 

Young Charlie is fifteen now! Can you believe it? I miss his younger days, though I hope he’ll one day play a bigger role in solving a crime (pretty please). 

The books in the series are small, compact, and steady-paced. This one is no different. I’d have liked it better if we got a little more detail about the crime conference and the authors who attended. While one of them gets space, there is no chance of character development. 

As always, I love historical settings in my cozy mysteries. Abbeymead village in 1958 is old-school but with more touches of modernity than the locals would like to accept. Yet, we see a balanced narrative where the side characters are good but with some flaws, and the grumpy ones have some redeeming qualities. 

To summarize, The Library Murders is a solid addition to the series and an entertaining read. There are a couple of leads for the next book, so I’m curious to see where it goes (and hopefully, no more delays for the wedding). 

Thank you, NetGalley and Bookouture, for the eARC. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book. 

#NetGalley #TheLibraryMurders

***

Author Bio – Merryn Allingham

Merryn taught university literature for many years, and it took a while to pluck up the courage to begin writing herself. Bringing the past to life is a passion, and her historical fiction includes Regency romances, wartime sagas, and timeslip novels, all of which have a mystery at their heart. As the books have grown darker, it was only a matter of time before she plunged into crime with a cozy crime series set in rural Sussex against the fascinating backdrop of the 1950s.

Merryn lives in a beautiful old town in Sussex with her husband. When she’s not writing, she tries to keep fit with adult ballet classes and plenty of walking.

https://merrynallingham.com/ 

https://www.facebook.com/MerrynWrites  

https://twitter.com/merrynwrites

Sign up to be the first to hear about new releases from Merryn Allingham here: https://www.bookouture.com/merryn-allingham

***

This has been a pitstop on the blog tour by Bookouture (@bookouture). Thank you for stopping by! 


Thursday, February 15, 2024

The Warm Hands of Ghosts by Katherine Arden - Book Review

Publication Date: 13th Feb 2024

Genre: Historical Fiction, WWI, Paranormal 

2.7 stars 

One Liner: Umm… tries too hard 

Jan 1918: Laura Iven is an efficient field nurse even after an explosion left her wounded. Back home in Halifax, Canada, she continues to volunteer at a local hospital. However, the news of her brother’s death in war results in too many questions and not enough answers. Laura decides to travel to Belgium as a volunteer at a hospital to find out the truth. 

Nov 1917: Freddie Iven thinks he is dead until he realizes he is alive, but the clock is ticking fast. He and a German soldier (the enemy), Hans Winter, have survived. However, life is uncertain and dangerous with the war around them. What happens when the new acquaintances have to decide their next step?  

With the brother and sister haunted by the ghosts of the past and present, can they find a way to save others and themselves? 

The story comes in the third-person POV of Laura and Freddie (Wilfred) in alternate timelines (1918 and 1917). 

My Thoughts: 

After many recommendations for the author’s famous trilogy, I was delighted to see a standalone work by her. It’s easier to read a single book than three (that too, big ones). Alas, the result is disappointing. 

The bare bones are intriguing- World War 1, PTSD, soldiers, nurses, healing, hope, and a touch of paranormal. What’s not to like? But why is the book like this? 

Laura should have been a terrific character. She is an efficient nurse, someone capable, assertive, decisive, and determined. The character is exactly the kind I like to read. Yet, there wasn’t a single instance I could empathize with her. 

Freddie gets more of my support. He also has some intense emotions to display. His vulnerability has the pull to connect with the readers. Winter is decent, too, in a grumpy, wounded hero kind of way (he is not a hero here). 

The desolate and bleak side of war comes across very well and is the highlight of the book. Can’t say it’s something new, but still, the desired impact is achieved.  

Now, I love paranormal touches in books. But this one almost went over my head. I’m not a Christian, nor do I know much about the theories like ‘end of the world’ or the Book of Revelation. I could guess who the fiddler was, but there’s nothing new/ unique about the concept. (Moreover, my go-to expert on the topic has yet to read the book, so I couldn’t ask and spoil it for her.)

There’s some love inserted in the last section. Not sure whose idea it was, but the book would have been better without it. Or, the concept could have been explored in detail. Healing is different from trauma bonding. And can we please respect platonic friendships for what they are without forcefully turning them into romantic tracks? Also, given the period, the lack of self-exploration on certain aspects is unrealistic. 

The ending is hopeful. But then, everything so easily falls into place! In fact, the same happens almost throughout for Laura. She puts in 1x effort, and others clear the path for the rest. 

The author’s note helped me understand a few things. It reminded me of when I spent extra time and care on a project in college because the topic was a favorite. However, the final result was an average piece and not something I could call my best in any manner. I gave it a lot more than what was necessary. 

To summarize, The Warm Hands of Ghosts has its moments but fails to impress as a package. The slow pacing doesn't help either. Maybe readers with more knowledge about religious concepts will understand and like it better. 

Thank you, NetGalley and Random House Publishing (Del Ray), for the eARC.  

#NetGalley #TheWarmHandsOfGhosts

***

P.S.: I skimmed a few reviews after drafting mine. Apparently, the chapter titles are biblical quotes from the Book of Revelation. 


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Tristan/ Yseult by Harry Bonelle - Book Review - Blog Tour

Published in January 2024

Publisher: ‎ Unicorn Publishing Group

Hardback Price (UK): £15 

ISBN: 9781911397908

Buy on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tristan-Yseult-Harry-Bonelle/dp/1911397907/ 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/199687414-tristan-yseult

4 Stars 

Blurb: 

A duel on an empty island sets the course for one of the greatest romances ever told. As the lovers of legend meet, something new is born, and something eternal is revealed. Their names will forever be spoken as one. This modern retelling of Tristan and Yseult sheds a stark light on the beauty of the Celtic tale.

My Thoughts: 

There are countless retellings of Tristan and Yseult (Isolde), though I wasn’t aware of the story until I saw the book. This is a poetic retelling with a different focus. 

Based on my quick search on the net, it seems many retellings deal with the forbidden and doomed love between Tristan and Isolde. While this narrative poem also tackles the same topic, it brings a fresh perspective and presents the tale in a unique manner. 

The book begins with a preface by the author where he provides a brief insight into the story, his version, and the inspiration for his poem. The poem, he says, is highly inspired by Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (opera) - not the content but the music. While I haven’t heard/ seen the opera, the poem indeed emphasizes sound effects through words. 

The narrative verse is neatly divided into three parts, which are further categorized into chapters. The titles hint at the events in the respective sections. 

As the poet said, there is no mention of the word ‘love’ anywhere in the poem. Yet, we cannot help but feel the longing between the two main characters during the brief period they spend together. Yseult is nursing almost dead Tristan back to life in secret. This binds them in an unexplainable bond.

The narrative used enjambment to achieve the disjointed and fragmented rhythm. The rhythm changes often to align with the events. Sometimes, we get broken sentences, sometimes sharp orders, and mellowed longing at other times. There are alliterations and random rhymes, not deliberate but more to suit the context. The same goes for repetition. 

These are my favorite lines from the book - 

For course of days and short short nights

The healer and her haul are bound.

The poem starts on the sea with Tristan on the waves, his duel, and his injury. It progresses to Yseult finding an unconscious Trsitan, healing him, the role of Brangenn, the maid, the interaction between the lead couple, and finally, their separation. There’s even a two-page chapter in Stream of Consciousness, the fever dream of Tristan, written with no punctuation or capitalization. 

It can take a while to get used to the style, but once you understand, the words flow faster and better. It will help if you have a basic idea about the original story since the style doesn’t have space to offer a lot of detail or backstory. 

To summarize, Tristan/ Yseult is a creative and innovative retelling from a different perspective. It is a sound-based poem rather than a lyrical one, so go with the right expectations. 

My thanks to Anna (Random Things Tours) and the author for the eARC. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book. 

***

About The Author – Henry Bonelle 


Harry Bonelle is a Classics graduate of Homerton College, Cambridge. He later trained in Acting for Screen at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and now works as an actor. Tristan/Yseult is his first work to be published.

***


This has been a pitstop on the blog tour conducted by Random Things Tours (@RandomTTours on Twitter). Thank you for stopping by! 


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

The Tainted Cup by Robert Jackson Bennett - Book Review

Series: Shadow of the Leviathan #1

Publication Date: 06th Feb 2024

Genre: Mystery, Fantasy 

3 stars 

One Liner: Good mystery drowns in a vague setting 


Eccentric investigator Ana Dolabra is asked to solve the case of the mysterious death of an Imperial officer in the Empire. The dead man is now a tree or has a tree growing from his dead body. 

Dinios Kol, Ana’s new assistant and an engraver with ever-lasting memory, goes to the scene to collect information for his superior. As they find more details, it’s clear that the death is not an independent incident. With what seems to be a threat to the Empire itself, Ana and Din have to find the culprit before it’s too late. 

The story comes in the first-person POV of Dinios Kol. 

My Thoughts: 

The premise is wonderful, and the combination of mystery and fantasy made me curious. 

The mystery is the best part of the book. I like how complex and layered it is. Ana (despite everything) has turbo-charged grey cells that work 24*7. Din is solid and balances out the equation well. While some readers may find Din bland, I like that it is his personality. He is supposed to be that way. Imagine him being like Ana. That would be super annoying. Din is good the way he is. 

The revelation also comes in stages. Even though we get lengthy dialogues with explanations, these are followed by fast-paced action scenes to balance the narrative. 

Some secondary characters are promising. I quite liked meeting them. It’ll be nice to see them in the future books. The names are typical fantasy stuff- made up by throwing together random alphabets. Not an issue since I do the same, lol. 

When I read fantasy, I tend to go with the flow and see where the story takes me. However, that approach didn’t help here. I still have little to no idea about the setting. On a side note, shouldn’t this be a dystopian fantasy? That way, I can tick off a reading challenge prompt! 

Man, the pacing is slow. There is a lot of detail about the setting, which sadly doesn’t translate to an imaginable output. I’m someone who finds it easy to visualize settings and scenes. Yet I couldn’t see beyond the outlines. (Translation- it needs better editing) 

Ana tries hard to be Sherlock but doesn’t get close. Maybe the character was just herself, we’d have better luck. There’s potential buried under all that swearing and cursing. Saying the F-word a million times doesn’t make anyone cool or whatever. 

Still, I admit I chuckled a few times, even when danger was looming over. The monsters (which are just as vague but super duper huge) tend to come out at random. 

The first chapter is terrific. The subsequent ones, not as much, make it hard to sustain interest after the initial burst of intrigue. Luckily, the last section is solid, which pushed the rating from 2 to 3 stars. 

A special mention about the cover for this edition. At first glance, I thought the red part was a cracked bowl with some bluish fumes around it. Then I realized I was wrong. The bigger red portion is the sky with a red sun (or whatever the Empire has). The crack is a breach in the sea wall. The haze is detailed, with steps, exotic plants, and the main characters. There’s a cup on the side and a couple of lanterns on the opposite corners. The design is brilliant once you start reading the book. 

To summarize, The Tainted Cup is a layered mystery set in a fantasy world. It would make a great read with some strict editing and clearer world-building. If I read book #2, it’ll be for Din. 

Thank you, NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton (Hodderscape), for the eARC.  

#NetGalley #TheTainedCup