Book Review: The Vine Witch (The Vine Witch #1) by Luanne G. Smith

Book Blurb:

A young witch emerges from a curse to find her world upended in this gripping fantasy of betrayal, vengeance, and self-discovery set in turn-of-the-century France.

For centuries, the vineyards at Château Renard have depended on the talent of their vine witches, whose spells help create the world-renowned wine of the Chanceaux Valley. Then the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when sorcière Elena Boureanu was blindsided by a curse. Now, after breaking the spell that confined her to the shallows of a marshland and weakened her magic, Elena is struggling to return to her former life. And the vineyard she was destined to inherit is now in the possession of a handsome stranger.

Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel naively favors science over superstition, and he certainly doesn’t endorse the locals’ belief in witches. But Elena knows a hex when she sees one, and the vineyard is covered in them. To stay on and help the vines recover, she’ll have to hide her true identity, along with her plans for revenge against whoever stole seven winters of her life. And she won’t rest until she can defy the evil powers that are still a threat to herself, Jean-Paul, and the ancient vine-witch legacy in the rolling hills of the Chanceaux Valley.

Published October 1st 2019 by 47North

My Review:

Can we just take a moment to appreciate that cover? Gah, I think it’s so flipping gorgeous! I mean, just look at it! Earthy, mysterious, almost decadent in a way with those dark hued colors–whoever came up with that cover deserves a raise.

Anyway! On to the book itself!

The writing was masterfully done. Lyrical and elegant, in a way. It was definitely an instance of the form serving the narrative, because I’d go so far to say the writing was pastoral. And the celebration of earth–and of living simply with the earth, appreciating its beauty and gifts–was definitely a strong theme throughout. I’ll be honest, it made me long to get out and visit a vineyard, go hiking in the woods, spend the day at a lake–anything related to nature. So, mission accomplished, Vine Witch!

Elena’s character was such a delightful one to follow, thanks to her flaws. Her need for revenge clouded her judgement, which I could respect (after all, if I’d been cursed and spent seven years working to undo it, I wouldn’t be a happy camper either). And her recklessness contributed to some of the problems she encountered. Those mistakes made her feel like such a relatable person, drawing me deeper into her conflict and investing me in her story.

My only critique would be the romance plot. It could have, in my opinion, been fleshed out more. I couldn’t exactly see the sudden shift from awkward, to wary, to love that the narrative followed. It felt more like it was tossed in simply because a love subplot was needed. But I think the seeds were there, they just needed more attention to flourish.

Overall, I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down until I finished, only taking a quick break to shoot of a text to one of my reader friends telling her to drop everything and get this book! It’s such a captivating read! 4.5 out of 5 stars!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

Book Blurb:

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

Published October 6th 2020 by Tor Books

My Review:

Let’s talk Addie LaRue for a second.

I’m a massive fan of Victoria Schwab. Like, huge. She’s a phenomenal writer, an excellent story-teller, and she manages to captivate me completely when I crack open one of her books. Gah, I want to be able to write like that!

Addie LaRue is an excellent story. Strong writing, beautiful depths, imaginative characters. And she tackles an issue I’m sure many people have struggled with at some point in their lives: the fear of not living and the knowledge of limited time.

For that, I appreciated this book. Truly, I did. And I loved it for that reason because that’s a theme that speaks to me right now: the fear that I’m wasting time.

I wanted to love this book. I truly, genuinely did.

But I’m not sure that I do.

Now don’t confuse me not liking a book for it being a bad book–those are two completely different things here. Writing is art, and art makes you think. This book accomplished that (boy howdy, did it accomplish that) but at the end of the day, it didn’t leave me with the sense of wonder that I come to expect from Schwab’s stories.

Maybe that’s the point, though?

Wonder doesn’t come from friends-turned-rivals finding the secret of superpowers or a man in a fabulous coat traveling through parallel worlds. It’s supposed to come from the simple things: waking up next to a person you love each morning or being able to pick up a pen and leave a mark on a page. The wonder comes from simply being alive, being able to connect with others, to have the chance to live.

And this book works as an alarm, a reminder, that you’re supposed to be grateful? That you’re supposed to appreciate what you have because it could be gone in the next second? That you fight for what you want, rather than look for shortcuts, but don’t get so caught up in dreams that you forget what truly matters. So lost in the nebulous what-if of daydreams and miss out on the magic you already have: friends, family, loved ones.

I’m sorry that this review has become less me gushing over the writing and more an existential book-induced crisis, but I think that just speaks to the power of this book.

It’s a thought-provoking, lyrical story about love and loss.

And actually, you guys, I think maybe I do love this book after all. 5 out of 5 stars.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Book Blurb:

Aiden Bishop knows the rules. Evelyn Hardcastle will die every day until he can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest at Blackheath Manor. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others. With a locked room mystery that Agatha Christie would envy, Stuart Turton unfurls a breakneck novel of intrigue and suspense.

For fans of Claire North, and Kate Atkinson, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a breathlessly addictive mystery that follows one man’s race against time to find a killer, with an astonishing time-turning twist that means nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

Published May 7th 2019 by Sourcebooks Landmark (first published February 8th 2018)

My Review:

“Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day . . . quite unlike anything I’ve ever read, and altogether triumphant.” – A. J. Finn, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Woman in the Window

I’m not sure who A. J. Finn is but, but he’s absolutely correct. This book definitely blends together the precise whodunit of an Agatha Christie novel with the frustrated repetition of Groundhog Day. And their lovely little baby is an excellent read, no doubt about it!

This novel opens brilliantly with a very confusing in medias res introduction. Which, added with the confusion our poor protagonist has because he can’t remember anything about where he was or how he came to be there, gives this mystery an extra layer of depth. Not only are we attempting to uncover the murderer of Evelyn Hardcastle, but we’re attempting to uncover the mystery of Aiden too. Layers upon layers of mystery, wrapped up in one of the most atmospheric settings imaginable: a near-dilapidated mansion cut off from the outside world by thick forests and swirling fog.

Excuse me while I squeal delightedly in the corner.

For me, atmosphere is half the battle when you have a thriller/mystery combo on your hands. And this one delivers handily. The characters are entertaining, well-written, and complex (each one has their fair share of secrets and flaws) but the house–THE HOUSE–sets the scene perfectly with its fading glamour. This house was the equivalent of those past-prime prima donna characters–the ones pouring on makeup and jewels to hide the truth: that age and time effect everything. Still grasping to youth and beauty, still trying to look as it did fifty years ago, the owners of the house desperately clutch to the veneer of past splendor. Gah, it was so good! And then as Aiden went through his rigmarole of solving the murder, more and more of the house was explored. He went into rooms he hadn’t previously entered before in each iteration, and learned more of it’s history, pulling away the mask until he saw the truth of it exposed. To me, the house had the most character of all. And I appreciated that on a deep level.

I also loved the pacing. It kept me hooked from start to finish, granting small discoveries and answers while tacking on more and more until we reached the climax of the book and the whodunit reveal ensued. Those last few pages dropped bombshell after bombshell, which left me winded after I finished. But the best part was after I finished, I leafed through the pages to see the breadcrumbs Turton had left along the way. It delighted me to no end to find the little clues sprinkled throughout the narrative, pointing the way to the murderer and the truth.

This was an absolute gem of a book. Great pacing, excellent mysteries, and a phenomenal setting kept me riveted from start to finish. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an atmospheric mystery, complete with twists and turns that will leave you breathless long after the story’s finished. 5 out of 5 stars!

Book Review: Dune (Dune #1) by Frank Herbert

Book Blurb:

Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. Coveted across the known universe, melange is a prize worth killing for…

When House Atreides is betrayed, the destruction of Paul’s family will set the boy on a journey toward a destiny greater than he could ever have imagined. And as he evolves into the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib, he will bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

Published August 2nd 2005 by Ace Books (first published June 1965)

My Review:

Holy Hera.

If you haven’t read this book, drop everything AND READ IT.

The setting, the characters, the themes, the intrigue, the revenge–my dudes, this book has it all. And then some. Oh my Lanta, does it sing. Just…just hear some of these lines:

“What do you despise? By this are you truly known.”

“Hope clouds observation.”

“It is so shocking to find out how many people do not believe that they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult.”

“The mind commands the body and it obeys. The mind orders itself and meets resistance.”

“Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.”

I mean, the depth and poetic style of writing just haunts you throughout this book. There’s a reason this book remains one of the most well-beloved and critically-acclaimed science fiction stories of all time. Paul’s arrival on Dune and his navigation of the Fremen world captivates whoever ventures within this story’s pages. There is so much wisdom, so much experience, tied into the ebb and flow of the story.

I would call it a masterpiece.

And what makes it truly iconic is how well it remains relevant. Revenge, finding your purpose, familial obligations, fear of the future–all these themes persist. Regardless of the age we find ourselves in, they remain.

It definitely deserves 5 out of 5 stars. Easily. If you enjoy sci-fi, and haven’t read Dune yet, then what are you waiting for?

Book Review: In the Hall with the Knife (Clue Mystery #1) by Diane Peterfreund

Book Blurb:

A murderer could be around every corner in this thrilling YA trilogy based on the board game CLUE!
When a storm strikes at Blackbrook Academy, an elite prep school nestled in the woods of Maine, a motley crew of students—including Beth “Peacock” Picach, Orchid McKee, Vaughn Green, Sam “Mustard” Maestor, Finn Plum, and Scarlet Mistry—are left stranded on campus with their headmaster. Hours later, his body is found in the conservatory and it’s very clear his death was no accident. With this group of students who are all hiding something, nothing is as it seems, and everyone has a motive for murder. Fans of the CLUE board game and cult classic film will delight in Diana Peterfreund’s modern reimagining of the brand, its characters, and the dark, magnificent old mansion with secrets hidden within its walls.

Published October 8th 2019 by Harry N. Abrams

My Review:

Did anyone have a serious obsession with the game CLUE when they were younger? I used to beg my family to play it with me constantly. I’d even let them pick which version we’d play: the VHS, the classic, the one with the cell phones, etc.

There’s just something about solving a murder in a prestigous mansion that draws me in.

The faded glamour of the scene, the cast of suspicious characters, the secret passages and even more secretive motives–I love it all. It’s like putting together a puzzle, except you don’t have to sit there staring at your card table for hours upon end. It’s dynamic, constantly evolving and changing, plus you never know what you’ll find when you peek into the next room.

This book mirrored that CLUE feeling nearly perfectly. I loved seeing the new spaces, meeting the new characters, watching them interact as they solved the mystery. The atmospheric pull had me in its clutches and I loved every second of it. I especially applauded the crisp writing and brisk pacing that transported me so easily to Blackbrook Academy. I couldn’t put this book down, which in my opinion, constitutes high praise for any book.

That being said, it is a CLUE story. There’s a pattern, a rhythm, an algorithm of characters and places that you come to expect from anything CLUE-related. Not to say that it’s a bad thing–when I go to eat a chocolate chip cookie, I want it to be a chocolate chip cookie (and not a cleverly disguised oatmeal raisin imposter). I appreciated the predictability inherent in a CLUE novel. But if you’re hoping for something a bit more uncertain or up-in-the-air, look somewhere else.

Also, keep in mind this is a YA novel. While there is a murder that takes place, the characters’ motives and secrets are a bit tame when compared to the more hard-boiled adult murder mystery novels out there. Again, it’s what I signed up for after reading the blurb, but keep that in mind if you crack this book open and keep expecting the dark and depraved to emerge.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel! If you love CLUE games and YA mysteries, you can’t go wrong with this choice. 4.5 out of 5 stars (only because I figured out the bad guy based on narrative form rather than plot–but that’s such a small detail).

Book Review: Twinned Shadow (The Shadow Series #1) by Candice Bundy

Book Blurb:

A Foothold In Two Different Worlds, And No Safety In Either…

I, Becka Rowan, live in a time of uneasy peace. A fragile truce stands between humans, shifters, and the fae-touched—those who turn inward to their Houses for loyalty and protection and live in isolation from the outside world.

For an ungifted like me, that’s impossible to do.

Born of the fae but not blessed with their powers, I’ve grown up as an outcast within the human world. Humans don’t trust people like me with fae heritage, and the fae don’t bother with the ungifted. I said screw it and embraced college, determined to make my own fate.

Just when I thought I could start a prestigious internship and continue my quest to address interspecies conflict, someone murdered my twin sister, an adept illusionist and heir to our family lineage.

So, I’m going back home to say goodbye. Back to House Rowan. I take a deep breath, knowing after a short few days I’ll return to the city, free again from the melodrama of the House I was raised in.

There’s just one hitch in my plan—Quinn, a fae-touched member of the Enforcer’s Guild assigned to investigate the killing. Quinn doesn’t let the typical fae prejudices against the ungifted prevent him from staying close to me. Uncomfortably close. Besides, he needs my help to figure out what happened to my sister.

How can I refuse?

Published January 13th 2020 by Lusios Publishing LLC

My Review:

The premise of this book was an excellent hook. An outcast diving back into the world she’d been banished from to find her twin sister’s murderer? I’m down for supernatural mysteries and this one promised to deliver.

Especially after the first few chapters, when we get to meet Becka. I loved her fierce independence and adoption of human culture. Denounced by the fae-touched, she embraced the Other, which was humanity in this case (humans and the fae-touched had a war a while back and the hostilities and prejudices are still trickling down to Becka’s time). While I loved that refusal to associate with anything tied to the people that banished her, I would have loved to see more bitterness come as a result of it. Or even bitterness toward humans, who might have tolerated her living among them, but still didn’t truly accept her. Candice Bundy goes to great pains to express how limbo-locked Becka is, not belonging to either group, but her personality doesn’t seem to reflect it truly. Sure, she has a few mean things to say to her family, but at the end of the day, it felt like she wasn’t truly messed up by their abandonment. She played nice (even though her family treated her horribly because of her ungifted status), slid back into the role of a dutiful daughter, and only made a few snappy retorts.

Quinn was similarly another character I had a few issues with. He seemed to be on the ball with everything. A revelation in the case was made to Becka, but then we had Quinn in the background, admitting that he knew that revelation already. It made him seem too perfect. Aside from his dark reputation (which actually wasn’t that dark as his reputation was as someone who seemed to value fairness over bigotry) he was the perfect book boyfriend: attentive, hot, mysterious, and charming.

The plot itself, at the beginning, was very engrossing. I followed along with the mystery, eager to uncover the clues and meet with the suspects. But when the culprit was announced, I felt disappointed. I won’t go into too many specifics, as I don’t want to spoil anything, but the stereotypical motivation and lackluster climax didn’t live up to the expectation I’d set from the stellar beginning of the book.

With all that said, I definitely encourage reading this book! I enjoyed it immensely and the only reason I’m drawing attention to these points is because after reading the author’s work, I feel like she can do better. I see great potential in her and I’m excited to see her skills progress as she keeps writing! 4 out of 5 stars!

Book Review: Demon Magic and a Martini (The Guild Codex: Spellbound #4) by Annette Marie

Book Blurb:

When I first landed a bartending job at the local guild, I didn’t know a thing about magic. These days, I’m practically an expert on the different magical classes, but there’s one nobody ever talks about: Demonica.

Turns out they have a good reason for that. My guild is strictly hellion-free, because who wants to risk life and limb to control the biggest bullies on the mythic playground?

Well, some people do, and now a demon has been loosed in the city. My three best friends are determined to slay it, but even badass combat mages are critically out-magicked. And that’s not all. The monster they’re tracking—it’s not hiding. It’s not fleeing. It’s not leaving a trail of corpses everywhere it goes.

The demon is hunting too. And in a city full of mythics, it’s searching for deadlier prey.

If we can’t unravel the demon’s sinister motivations, more innocent people will die, but finding the answers means digging into dark secrets … and learning truths I never wanted to know.

Published April 12th 2019 by Dark Owl Fantasy Inc.

My Review:

How on earth does Annette Marie write books that I simply can’t put down? It’s the darndest thing really. I start one of her books and all too soon, hours have skated by without me realizing and I’m flipping that last page.

She hits it out of the park once again in her fourth installment of her Guild Codex: Spellbound series. The plot hits the ground running, thrusting Tori and the Crow and Hammer Guild into the center of a demon hunt. Scary stuff, given the expert world-building and characterizations both in this novel and leading up to it in previous books.

The world-building, once again, is one of my favorite parts. I love how magic doesn’t always make things easier for the characters occupying this world. It’s a love-and-hate relationship, just like with social media for example, that has it’s good parts and it’s bad ones. The complexity of guild interactions, how the laws are set up by the MagiPol, and the prejudices and taboos all give this novel a very real feel.

That level of detail and imagination bleeds over to the characters as well. We learn more about our favorite Crow and Hammer mythic trio, the elements teased out expertly in the narrative. And, in the center of it all, we have Tori’s spunk, sass, and flaws prevalent as she tries to navigate this demon hunt.

What can I say? 5 out of 5 stars!

Book Review: Long Witch Night (Red Witch Chronicles #2) by Sami Valentine

Book Blurb:

Lights, Camera, Poltergeist. A Hollywood dream becomes a nightmare.

Called to a movie set, Red investigates a haunting that threatens to turn a Christmas flick into a slasher film. Allied with a soulmancer, she has to save the Hollywood A-Listers from a phantom that wants souls instead of autographs.

Busting ghosts is easier than laying her own personal demons to rest. With a paralyzed mentor, a sexy vampire playing hard to get, and petrifying anxiety about her own mysterious origins, Red is struggling to find the holiday spirit.

Everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame in Los Angeles, Red has to find out who is willing to kill for it.

…Before the poltergeist takes her out first.

Published December 20th 2019 by Pocketmaus Publishing

My Review:

Just like with its predecessor, I got some serious Buffy vibes coming from this book. Though it definitely took one a more ghostly vibe as the story progressed. In this installment of Sami Valentine’s Red Witch Chronicles, we find Red and Vic working to exorcise the Bell Witch from a Hollywood set.

But things aren’t straightforward when you’re dealing with ghosts.

And soon Red finds herself fighting for her life against dark forces hellbent on vengeance.

It was a fun read–especially if you adored Buffy or The Vampire Diaries. Exactly the kind of supernatural cozy you might be looking forward if you need a little romance, a lot of action, and spades of spooks. The characters kept true to their first installment, which I loved, and I seriously felt for the trauma they experienced in the first book. I appreciated that immensely–it wasn’t just something that was dealt with and hardly brought up again. There were lasting repercussions from the first novel that made themselves apparent in this one, giving the story more oomph in my opinion, especially in terms of world-building.

The writing felt sharper and cleaner too. Though there were some parts that felt too stylized, at the expense of clarity. It was beautiful writing, don’t get me wrong, but I found myself rereading the parts and trying to puzzle through what the flowery prose meant. That being said, it was definitely cleaner and felt generally more professional, which just goes to show how dedicated to her craft Sami Valentine is.

I loved my second jaunt through the supernatural LA of Sami Valentine’s imagination. 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Book Review: The Runaway’s Homecoming by JF Lee

Book Blurb:

Li Ming is a disgraced swordsman searching for the man who killed his family. Shu Yan is a runaway serving girl from the pleasure houses. When she hires the swordsman to take her to her hometown, she sets off a chain of events that could topple the Southern Kingdom.

My Review:

This novella promised action, epic settings, and a wuxia hero I couldn’t help but become endeared to. And…drum-roll please…it definitely delivered.

To be honest, I had no idea what wuxia meant when I first stumbled across this story. But thanks to the author’s very helpful website (check it out here!) I learned everything I needed. And, turns out, I already knew a healthy chunk about the wuxia genre–I just didn’t know the name of it. According to the author’s website, “wuxia is a genre of Chinese fiction that features itinerant warriors of extreme (almost supernatural) martial arts skill in ancient China.”

Turns out, I’m a fan of wuxia! And I didn’t even know it.

JF Lee definitely knows his niche though, as seen in his writing. You’re immediately drawn into the aesthetic, complete with sprawling, mist-covered landscapes and run-down villages populated with war-weary survivors. The characters are engaging, the conflict ends satisfyingly, and the tension amps up as the hero and villain dance around meeting. The only thing I would have preferred was more of an interaction between Li Ming (the swordsman) and Shu Yan (the runaway). Those interactions are glossed over in the story, and by the end of it, we can see the result of all that time spent together, without the effort put in. I would have enjoyed watching them getting to learn about one another, seeing them interact so as to better understand their characters and their relationship. As this is an introductory novella, I’m sincerely hoping the first full-length book will cover that more, because I did find the characters fun and interesting.

If you’re a fan of the genre, I’d definitely recommend this teaser. And yes, it’s absolutely a teaser. As a novella, it’s a short-read (I finished mine in less than an hour), so don’t go looking to be entertained for hours on end when you download your free copy of this story. However, it’s a wonderful appetizer to what I’m sure will be a phenomenal first course when Sword of Sorrow Blade of Joy is released. 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Oh, and if you want to get your free copy, click here!

Book Review: The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood #1) by Melissa Albert

Book Blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away-by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Published January 30th 2018 by Flatiron Books

My Review:

Dudes, this is one creepy book.

I mean, yes, I was prepared for the dark, twisted fairy tales (thank you book cover!), but the unsettled sensation of seeing these characters in the real world? Watching them plucked straight from the gruesome fairy tales they inhabited and plunked down in our world? Yeah, that left me wigging.

Wigging, I say.

Which segues nicely into my favorite part of this story: the fairy tales themselves and how they were presented. I absolutely loved how Melissa Albert wove the fairy tales into Alice and Finch’s story–something about having a character tell the stories orally really hooked me into them. Especially if the story-telling was interrupted and I was left waiting for the ending. The tales themselves were wonderfully creepy, if not downright unsettling, and I found that I enjoyed that immensely. I know a good chunk of fairy tales have dark endings (have you read the original Little Mermaid story? Yikes!) but so often nowadays, fairy tales generally have this light and airy connotation ascribed to them. And it felt refreshing to read a book about unique fairy tales that refused to fit into that category.

However, the book did have its pitfalls. I wasn’t a fan of the main character, Alice. Her anger never seemed rational to me, and even though it was explained later, it was too late–I’d already spent hours with her and decided I wasn’t a fan. She never achieved that emotional resonance so important for main characters to have. I felt bad about her mother, and that helped motivate me to keep reading, but I wasn’t as invested because of her unexplained anger issues and the demeaning way she interacted with other characters.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I loved the meta concept of the fairy tales invading the real world and the tales themselves. The writing flowed smoothly and the world-building of the Hinterland was phenomenal. Sadly, I just didn’t like the characters. 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: A Symphony of Echoes (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s #2) by Jodi Taylor

Book Blurb:

Book Two in the madcap time-travel series based at the St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research that seems to be everyone’s cup of tea.

In the second book in the Chronicles of St Mary’s series, Max and the team visit Victorian London in search of Jack the Ripper, witness the murder of Archbishop Thomas a Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, and discover that dodos make a grockling noise when eating cucumber sandwiches.

But they must also confront an enemy intent on destroying St Mary’s – an enemy willing, if necessary, to destroy History itself to do it.

Published August 20th 2015 by Accent Press (first published October 22nd 2013)

My Review:

Once again, Jodi Taylor knocked it out of the park with a witty, hysterical, and action-packed installment in her The Chronicles of St. Mary’s series.

Once again, Max races against Time (ironically enough) to finish the missions assigned to her by St. Mary’s.  Without dying in the process, if she can help it.  Like with the previous book, this one hops around between numerous time periods.  And again, I found that I enjoyed that immensely.  Visiting Victorian London in the same novel as taking a stroll through the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (well, kinda of)?  The snapshots of history kept me thoroughly engaged, giving me a taste without completely submerging me into the time period.  There’s something to be said about that deep immersion, but with the fast-paced, action-packed rhythm of this particular novel, the hopping around does a credit to the story-telling.

The characters were truthful to their roots, and the chaos was as charming as ever.  My only problem was a teensy-tiny one.  The Victorian London bit felt disjointed from the remainder of the novel.  Everything else seemed to tie into the over arching plot, but the quick jaunt through the swirling London fog felt disconnected from the rest.  I’m hoping it’s just groundwork being laid for subsequent novels, but I couldn’t help but feel that slight pang of dissatisfaction at reaching the conclusion with some questions left unanswered.

Still, it was a delightfully entertaining story, and I wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone looking for a quirky read.  4.5 out of 5 stars!