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House Of Shadows

A book with two intertwining stories and also for once managing to connect all the dots together nicely.

This story has three periods where it is set in. Firstly, the 17th century for Elizabeth’s story. The the early 19th century for Lavinia’s and present time for Holly’s. One important thing to note, this story connects everything and also everything about a curse very nicely and managing to tell a full story, one that comes full circle and goes through so much torment and tragedy. Centered around a pearl and a mirror, everything is set into motion from the moment Elizabeth was born and the jewel bequeathed to her.

I find Holly rather okay, her character easy to read through. Although I was much more intrigued by the mystery than the love romances, and I greatly enjoyed the ones that ended in tragedy. But not between Holly and Mark, just didn’t feel like it. I guess I’m a little weird for liking romances that didn’t end well, but it was just so much more exciting. Elizabeth choosing to marry someone when she wanted to, and Lavinia falling in love with the one decent guy there was.

They to me, were the strong women of this. Holly just lacked something to make me really like her.

Especially when Elizabeth towards the end, found out about what her husband did. And also, what Lavinia did and eventually do when she left Ashdown Park. I like them for their strength and the fact that they are sensible enough to keep things secret yet at the same time when things change, aren’t afraid to pursue their hearts desire.

But the author did a fantastic job intertwining these three stories to tell a tale, about a curse and love. And well, managing to make me become incredibly invested in it too was difficult. Especially when Holly was reading about the past and Lavinia, I never liked another character more in this book.

Overall, I really like this book for what its tale and stories which all comes full circle and delivering a satisfying mystery if you ask me. Check it out if you want a good mystery, with quite a bit of poignant endings for the historical figures.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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A Madness So Discreet

Initially, I thought that this would be purely about being in an asylum. But it went so much more than that, to bring about criminal psychology and mystery. Which to me, was a fine deal as it was.

I really liked Grace, since the beginning opens up by her having a child. A child which her own father puts into her, that is even more terrifying. Since it wasn’t her fault that she ended up carrying his child, and going into labour in a mental asylum. Thankfully, she manages to survive. And above all, she is a survivor. She never gives up, and neither does she ever forget what her father did to her. She seeks revenge, and that at times didn’t end up well for her. However, what she did in the ending, those words to her own father was perfect.

Thornhollow, was interesting. He and Grace have a working relationship, which isn’t romantic. But he cares for her and even does things for her, he protects her. And one time, he serves as her moral compass. I fully agree, since certain actions Grace undertakes isn’t the kindest, however Thornhollow disagreed and I think this is where they balance each other out.

He knows why she became like that, especially towards her own father. He raped her and when she got pregnant put her in an asylum. Even worse, was her own mother didn’t even protect her from this. And I could see why some had pity, but Grace is a lot more than that. She would survive no matter what she is put into.

Despite the lack of any romance, there is a very good set of friendships whcih Grace has. With Lizzy, with Nell and of course with Thornhollow. There isn’t a need for her to have someone save her soul, nor heal her heart. It is she who finds that kind of strength in the first place, and she who moves on. Even at times where Grace loses herself, her friends do help, her friends do understand and sometimes even covers for her.

Although this went from madness to being about.Murders and criminal psychology. I was always interested, always fascinated. And this was one which a lot about the mind, and one where a person’s background likely affected their actions and even forced them to do certain things.

Although this wasn’t so much about the madness, but a lot more on murders instead. And also, Grace getting justice done for herself, for all the other women who suffered under him. And this is a story about Grace, and eventually surviving her ordeal and moving on with her life.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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The Appearance Of Anne Van Sinderen

Well, with it being a ghost story, and some phenomenons about why Annie can time travel. All the while I found this to be easy, and quite a ride. Both in the present and in the past. As for the ending, that was the perfection I wanted. Middle ground, an open ending for Wes, and the one that Annie would have regardless of whatever happened.

All the while revealing America in its early days for being one of using slave labour, and many had been African Americans. Also dealing with the death of a family that dealt in slave trading, one which Annie only became aware of after a while. When her father revealed to her, I really died a little inside.

History can be cruel, and it can be disheartening to know that such things existed. Slavery existed just for a man who had a different skin colour so that white men could earn good wages, and to me the way Anne reacted was just right. She was reacting in a way that someone who was raised with kindness would do, and I admit her family had it coming for them. Just a bit sad that Annie couldn’t escape her fate.

Despite the entire story dealing around a cameo, and how Annie is searching for it. I prefer it as it is a mystery of why Annie wanted it, her family’s death and eventual survival.

Maddie did reveal herself to be someone different, as was Tyler. In the beginning it was mysterious, and Wes was merely doing a school project and finding that Annie often interfered. Slowly it became more, and I enjoyed their interactions.

Clearly Annie left an impression on Wes, and Annie would never forget him. Even if the way they meet still remains unexplained, and possible have some weird form of magic is involved. But their meeting had changed them, I saw it after.

So, this book as a case of me stepping out from my usual zone. And finding myself having some enjoyment, even though the book is far from perfect. Do I think you should check it out? You could, since this proved to be a nice surprise. Once more about social issues and history. All the while about slavery, and revenge to a family who was involved in it.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Clockwork Dynasty

Originally, the work came as quite difficult to really ease myself into. And it didn’t really change throughout the novel despite the excellent writing, I just didn’t feel that spark with the characters at all. Not a single one really clicked with me.

But the worldbuilding is intriguing with a lot of nods to mythological figures being altered, but I’m fine. We know so little about these figures so I’m generally a little more tolerating regarding them. Who’s to say it was different, not when they may or may not exist.

One thing I particularly liked about the novel was the way that it handled the steampunk, although it did feel a little dry at first.

Also, the plot was really intriguing and fascinating. Bringing both characters all around the world, ranging from China(however the exact city and province would have helped a little more, but since we don’t even know where Huangdi and Leizu lived, so that’s not really necessary), Seattle and Russia. In different time period as well, which was really what piqued my interest apart from the writing and worldbuilding.

The one thing I feel is lackluster is that I couldn’t really connect to the characters, especially initially when it was narrated by two characters using first person. There wasn’t much of any difference and the lack of voice to distinguish them made it really difficult to relate to them, hence making me unable to really relate and well, the characters were all more of a miss to me than a hit.

So, I guess that the characters were the point which I really found it a little hard. Although the writing, worldbuilding and plot is intriguing with enough twists and mysteries to keep you going. But, the characters just didn’t sit well with me, and that is my sole reason why I have to lower it. However, pick up this book and give it a shot, it might work better for you than it did for me.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for giving me an e-ARC copy.

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Court Of Twilight

This book was rather slow in the front, and didn’t really keep my interest much at all. But the ending when it revealed one twist after another, that had me completely hooked.

In this world there is what we call the Trows, and they are always having a king. Except that this king would only rule for a year before dying under the hand of someone else. There is no way to avoid it, and when it does, another king would be killed or their consort. Basically, quite a dangerous position and one of certain death.

Ivy, was the best person to have started this story. She is realistic, and she is a human. Yet, she never seems to lose faith and does something for someone close to her. And when things really get tough, she is always in it for Demi. Also, she is sensible enough not to have needlessly put herself in danger.

Like almost any other book, the truth is that parents don’t always play a great part in the story. And here, they appear when it is important and there are some very well hidden twists regarding them, and making Ivy seem a little less strange. As to why she could see Demi and why she would eventually bunk in with her.

The most important thing is how the author manages to make Ivy find Demi, it isn’t about exploration of this world. It is so much more about finding a way out for her. The ending does have a very good price that they need to pay. And Demi does something for once.

The ending leaves it as that, with very little known on who wanted the Year Kings dead. Which is something that is also a downside since I’m no closer to it, but everything closed up nearly and nicely. However, it still makes me curious and should this have a sequel, I really hoped that it would be addressed.

Overall, I enjoy this book towards the end apart from the slow start. However, if you don’t really want something that’s a little slow, then this isn’t the book for you.

I received an e-ARC of this book from Netgalley.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Caraval 

If you read this, you will expect to see a lot of mind games. And more importantly, people who aren’t what they seem. It occurs so often in this entire book, where the twists aren’t what we see and expect. It was unpredictable on some level, and yet at the same time, I knew that the ending was going to be that.

Scarlett, to me is okay. I knew that her character would be more relatable and she wouldn’t be someone who constantly knew what to do. She was insecure about her choices of whether she wanted to escape, whether she wanted to enter Caraval. How she even gets in there is a whole other plot twist of its own. But I still like her, since she does think of her sister first. Most importantly, towards the end I liked how she settled things with her father. Now that was how you should handle the abuse she suffered.

Donatella, she surprisingly wasn’t what I imagined. Originally, she was reckless but towards the end with new relevations, I began to like her. I began to realise that she is an important character here.

As for the relationships, it doesn’t really strike a chord with me really well. Donatella and Scarlett’s relationship weren’t explored that well, since they get separated earlier on. And she falling for Julian, although I could buy it but I just couldn’t feel them together. And towards the end, it feels as though I would need to get to know Julian all over again.

Also, the setting is incredibly unclear. Not just that, also at the same time it is set in a place filled with isles, and that’s just about it. Although I love the author’s writing, there is a lot of mystery in the setting. Although Caraval is well explored, but her home doesn’t feel well explored and I do think that it is more of a weakness of the limitations of the setting itself.

As for the theme, this is all a game, most importantly, it is never what they seem. Never what they knew. It is important to know that here, you better be looking at a story where it will be confusing you. Scarlett spends most of it searching for clues, searching for her sister, or being absolutely clueless or put out of action.

As for the graphic abuse here, it does make it possible for me to see why they would want to seek Caraval. And at the same time, become hesitant to leave. Especially Scarlett, she simply was the more sensible kind, the one who was more careful. And the one who blamed herself for everything.

As for all the characters that appear here, just think of the entire book as this. Nobody is what they seem, there is always a lot more to what lies behind them. Applies to all characters except Scarlett, and I find Donatella to be one really awesome mastermind.

So, I liked this book. Didn’t love it, and the romance and relationship fell flat to me. It really did. But I still liked how the story portrayed Scarlett, the whole reason why she played was for her sister. And she doesn’t really become too enamoured with the main guy, it takes a short while, but they went through enough mind games for me to buy into their relationship. And I recommend this book to those who enjoys a little bit of mind games and a lot more about the relationships, and seeing Scarlett become the heroine she should be. She is a scared little girl at the beginning of the book who refused to leave it, because she knows that she might get smacked in the face or suffer for making the wrong choice. The reckless choice.

As for the next book, I am excited to read it. Perhaps it might be in the viewpoint of Donatella, since she owes a certain someone something. I do think that Scarlett’s story is done, and the next book can take place in the same universe but around a different character or follow Donatella. Since I do feel that there is no reason why Scarlett would return to Caraval, and her development had ended.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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These Shallow Graves 

Now this is how you do a historical fiction with mystery, and a lot about feminism. And Jo, was the perfect character to start with. 

She is a naive girl, but who isn’t. Almost every girl in those times were raised to believe they would either marry, or end up working in dead end jobs. There were no in betweens. And I loved it, the realistic way Jo was created. She felt real for the period she lived in, taking and challenging it in every aspect. And it isn’t just in word, but also on actions. And that is a true feminist. 

Right by her side, to help her with this is the reporter who has a reason to go after this story. And slowly, you could say romance happened. Even in the end, it is still more of an open ending rather than a happy one. But to me, it’s the best of both worlds. Jo gets her dream, and I do think that their romance still needs more time to grow. More time to develop. 

The entire mystery, although was predicable, I figured out the murderer before I was even halfway through. Yet, when she suspected other people, it was because she didn’t want to suspect someone so close to her. So close to her. And she believed in his moral character. If she did, she wasn’t intelligent, she’s heartless. And the way she let it go, was entirely like her. Since she loved him so much. 

It becomes clear that here, she flaws are also relevant. Yet, they also complement her. She is someone that knows the rules of society and tries her best to defy but not get into trouble. That takes intelligence either way. And to me, is much more better than just stating her opinion. It is so much better to do that, as it makes her sensible and willing to preserve herself. Something I prefer over outright defiance which gets her into trouble. 

And to me, she was perfect. Not flawless, but real and true to her time. That was her charm, the fact that for her family she threw everything out the window. For her father, she broke all of societal norms. She believed that it is worth it, and that is what I love about her. 

Even so, behind in the background are awesome girls. Fay really comes to mind, since she is an awesome pickpocket and helps out Jo so many times. And so many times, saved her. And above all, they were friends. They felt like friends. And I love female friendships, they are a lot more awesome than that. And she had a lot of relevance to the plot too, which is another bonus. 

Although the villain was obvious, but the execution had me on my toes all the time. All the time I was guessing what became relevant. All the time thinking about what really happened. It was a really wild ride to guess it all out, and then revealing that not all people were good. Not all were bad. Some did it to survive, others did it for greed. Some sink deeper into this, and I loved every bit of it. The truth hurts, it is ugly. And this is where Jo shines, in the fact that she would rather see the truth published than lie and have a comfortable life. 

And this is why I loved it, because of the way it handled all the themes here in a way of its own. And I enjoyed it because of the way it handled Jo, it handled the mystery. And this is why I loved this story. 

Rating: 4 out of 5