Thursday, 22 August 2019

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

I was attracted to this book because of the utterly gorgeous cover and I loved the sound of the 'doorways to other worlds' plot. 

The story starts in the early 20th century. January Scaller is the ward of the super-wealthy Mr Locke. Although his servants and friends sometimes sneer, Mr Locke is kind and courteous to her (provided she does as she is told!) and January lives a privileged life in his huge mansion filled with precious artefacts. As the years pass, January realises her life in a gilded cage, devoid of free will, isn't so great. And that Mr Locke views her in much the same way as the rest of his collection. She takes refuge in a strange old book, about a girl who discovers a doorway to another world, but what if that doorway was real? 

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a rollicking adventure story that I didn't want to put down. It's a story-within-a-story, a tale of magic realism set in the late 19th century and early 20th century. It reminded me of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series, especially The Subtle Knife, with it's strong female characters and moving between worlds. Whereas His Dark Materials dealt with the use of religion to oppress, this story discusses racism and segregation.

I fell in love with this book and its brilliant characters, and I really didn't want it to end. Thoroughly recommended. My favourite read this year!

Thank you to Alix E. Harrow and Orbit (Little, Brown Book Group UK) for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Review: Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay

I've been a fan of Linwood Barclay's right from his first book. He is the absolute master of the heart-stopping thriller and Elevator Pitch is one of his best.

The story starts when four people board an elevator in New York. One works for a movie studio and one is a wannabe screenwriter who has blagged his way into the building to hand deliver his latest script. She gives him the chance to pitch her the script before she reaches her floor - but the elevator keeps going, right to the very top - and then plummets. A random accident? Except the next day the same thing happens, and then repeats the day after that. Someone is deliberately sabotaging elevators - but why?

Linwood Barclay is an expert in creating tension and suspense. As much as I enjoyed seeing how the mystery played out, I LOVED how the tension built up each time someone got into an elevator. And Linwood plays with us too, so that every time something different happens. Brilliant!

The characters were great, thoroughly engaging - even the bad guys! And Linwood encourages us to keep changing our allegiances. There's Barbara, the news reporter who has her sights set on the Mayor - but is he as corrupt as he seems? There are also two detectives, trying to solve a murder that may or may not be linked, and a couple of would-be terrorists.

Jam-packed with thrills and literal spills, this was a fabulous five-star read for me and one of my favourite books this year. Recommended for fans of Harlan Coben and Lee Child, and for anyone who loves a cracking good thriller.

Thank you to Linwood Barclay and HQ for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Review: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is one of my favourite authors so I was thrilled to get my hands on an early copy of The Family Upstairs. I was utterly gripped right from the start - I read the second half in a day! It has everything I love in a book - an old family mystery, a big spooky house, and a thoroughly creepy atmosphere.

Libby Jones works hard selling designer kitchens to the rich and famous but still only scrapes a living. She has a long-term plan: a few more years in her job and, if she's not been promoted, she's off. Then she receives a letter. She's inherited a house in the famous Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, worth millions. The drawback? Once the home of a weird cult, it was supposedly the scene of a bizarre suicide pact twenty-five years ago -  the only survivor was baby Libby. But what really happened that night?

The story is told from three points of view. Libby, Henry (a young boy who lived in the house), and a middle-aged woman now living a hand-to-mouth existence in the South of France. How are these very different people connected?

It would be far more fun for you to read this story without knowing too much about it! So I'll just say I loved the old house, with it's 'hidden' (servants') staircase and sinister locked rooms. Henry was my favourite character, along with Miller - the slobby investigative journalist who helps Libby uncover the secrets in her past. There's a nod to a famous 90s movie about a real-life murderer, the story is jam-packed with twist after twist, the characters are thoroughly engaging, and the final line is an absolute classic. Brilliant stuff!

The Family Upstairs is my favourite read this year and I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who loves a clever, twisty mystery with a dollop of chilling gothic suspense.  

Thank you to Lisa Jewell and Cornerstone (Random House) for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Review: Dead Man's Lane (Wesley Peterson #23) by Kate Ellis

I love Kate Ellis's Wesley Peterson crime series and I've read all of them! It is the combination of a fiendishly difficult puzzle to solve running alongside a historical mystery that pulls me in every time.

No one knows how Dead Man's Lane got it's name but everyone's heard of the notorious Strangefields Farm. Twenty years ago, an artist by the name of Jackson Temples murdered four beautiful young girls before he was caught and sent to prison - protesting his innocence all the way. Now someone appears to be copying his murders - or was Jackson innocent all along?

It is hard to review this book without giving away any spoilers! Although I read it in sizeable chunks, I did find it hard to work out who-was-who at the start. There are a lot of characters, but there is a good reason for this, and murder mysteries do need a good choice of potential suspects and victims! Once I got into the book, I was completely gripped and read the last half in one go!

I particularly enjoyed the historical parts, explaining the origins of how that road got its name, and the gruesome deaths (and burials!) that happened at the farm over the centuries. And Kate's plots are always so clever I can never work out 'whodunnit'. I also enjoy catching up with the regular characters and getting a glimpse into how their lives are progressing. (Memo to Rachel: Don't do it!) 

It is not essential to have read the previous books in this series but I feel you would definitely get more out of this story if you have. It would appeal to anyone who loves the 'puzzle' kind of murder mystery or fans of authors who mix murder mysteries and archaeology, such as Elly Griffiths.

Thank you to Kate Ellis and Piatkus for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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