Book Review: Things in Jars

Things in Jars with bookmark and catThings in Jars by Jess Kidd

Bridie Devine, female detective extraordinaire, is confronted with the most baffling puzzle yet: the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick, and a peculiar child whose reputed supernatural powers have captured the unwanted attention of collectors trading curiosities in this age of discovery.

Winding her way through the labyrinthine, sooty streets of Victorian London, Bridie won’t rest until she finds the young girl, even if it means unearthing a past that she’d rather keep buried. Luckily, her search is aided by an enchanting cast of characters, including a seven-foot tall housemaid; a melancholic, tattoo-covered ghost; and an avuncular apothecary. But secrets abound in this foggy underworld where spectacle is king and nothing is quite what it seems.

Blending darkness and light, history and folklore, Things in Jars is a spellbinding Gothic mystery that collapses the boundary between fact and fairy tale to stunning effect and explores what it means to be human in inhumane times.

Review:
I really enjoyed this unique historical fantasy book. The writing is absolutely gorgeous and the author has an amazing vocabulary, often creating sentences that I stopped to re-read.
Bridie is a fantastic character. I love her no nonsense attitude. She’s smart and unconventional and the kind of character I enjoy. She does things on her own terms. I also especially liked her housemaid. The supporting characters added so much to this book.
The author also does an interesting job in weaving in myth and the paranormal into Victorian life. She has clearly done her research on early medicine, which I found it fascinating.
The pacing of the book did suffer a little in the middle, but all of the wonderful characters amply made up for that.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy.
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Book Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of JanuaryThe Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.

Review:
This is a gorgeous book — starting with the enticing cover and finishing with beautiful, luxurious writing and an engaging, imaginative story. I love it when publishers put a lot of thought into a cover and this one is stunning!
I was captured by the story, the mystique of January and her life with Mr Locke, the way the doors open into different worlds, her notebook, and the sinister overtones and mystery to what is going on.
The different story lines and points of view really drew me in and kept me wanting more, eager to find out how they all came together. I was so invested in January and her desire for self discovery, her courage, and her plight. However, one of the most memorable things for me is her dog! I keep thinking about him.
This is a wonderful portal fantasy that weaves together past, present, and even different worlds in a beautiful way. It was a book I luxuriated in and was sad when it was over.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
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Book Review: The Return of King Lillian

The Return of King Lillian by Suzie Plakson

The Return of King Lillian is a mythic journey tale – a metaphysical fantasy for dreamers and nonconformists of all ages.

So, why the manly moniker in tandem with the womanly name?

“The Firstborn Child of The Emperor-King Inherits the Ruling Crown, the Title of Emperor-King and All Powers Thereof.” (Item 37, The Royal Manual)

Enter Lillian, the firstborn child of said Emperor-King. Cast out of her Kingdom by malevolent forces, mysteriously waylaid by Destiny, the spirited, self-reliant Lillian sets off on an exuberant journey to find her way home and claim her birthright. As she travels through marvelous and mystical lands in search of her origins, Lillian encounters and befriends a kaleidoscopic cast of characters. Most of the tale is told by Lillian herself, as she chronicles her extraordinary adventures.

Review:
This is a fun story about Lillian, who doesn’t know who she is and is on a quest to find her home, and these are her adventures.
This book is told in a fairy tale like way, full of imagination, magic, talking horses, and fairies. It is reminiscent of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for its childlike stories that speak to a larger audience.
Each of the chapters is another adventure and something that Lillian must learn to become the person she needs to be at the end. Lillian herself is, for the most part, a good character, and I enjoyed Hank, the horse.
I did find the book a bit slow at times and, I hate to say it, didn’t love the ending. First there was the idea that she enjoyed being a damsel in distress and and was happy being saved by a man (even though she had been a strong, take care of herself kind of character up until this point and this wish was joltingly strange), and then there was the idealization of her father who actually had treated her quite badly.
Overall, this is a cute book and I can see why many people like it, but, ultimately, it was not for me.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy.
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Book Review: The Women’s War

The Women’s War (Women’s War #1) by Jenna Glass

In a high fantasy feminist epic, a revolutionary spell gives women the ability to control their own fertility—with consequences that rock their patriarchal society to its core.

When a nobleman’s first duty is to produce a male heir, women are treated like possessions and bargaining chips. But as the aftereffects of a world-altering spell ripple out physically and culturally, women at last have a bargaining chip of their own. And two women in particular find themselves at the crossroads of change.

Alys is the widowed mother of two teenage children, and the disinherited daughter of a king. Her existence has been carefully proscribed, but now she discovers a fierce talent not only for politics but also for magic—once deemed solely the domain of men. Meanwhile, in a neighboring kingdom, young Ellin finds herself unexpectedly on the throne after the sudden death of her grandfather the king and everyone else who stood ahead of her in the line of succession. Conventional wisdom holds that she will marry quickly, then quietly surrender the throne to her new husband…. Only, Ellin has other ideas.

The tensions building in the two kingdoms grow abruptly worse when a caravan of exiled women and their escort of disgraced soldiers stumbles upon a new source of magic in what was once uninhabitable desert. This new and revolutionary magic—which only women can wield—threatens to tear down what is left of the patriarchy. And the men who currently hold power will do anything to fight back.

Review:
I absolutely loved this book! I loved the fantasy and the magic and how it was used to explore the roles of women and men and the power between them.
When three generations of women perform a radical spell, they give women the ability to control their own fertility. The change takes place immediately and has far reaching consequences in a world where women are treated as commodities and are valued for the heirs they bear. This one change gives women new power and forces society to examine the patriarchy under which it has lived for generations.
Stories that make one change in the world and pushes to see the far reaching outcomes really appeal to me, and The Women’s War does not disappoint. Glass examines many aspects of how women have or gain power or how they lose it. Unfortunately, these situations are often terrible and violent and Glass chooses not to shy away from this, including some particularly terrible scenes (just so you are warned).
I also enjoyed the world that Glass created. It is rich, epic, detailed, and the characters are compelling. The magic and the elements it uses are wonderful and beautifully add to the story’s themes. I couldn’t wait to turn the pages to find out what the characters would do next. Alys and Ellin, two of the main characters, are each truly formidable in their own ways and I am eager to see what they do in the next book.
Thank you to Penguin Random House for a review copy of this book.
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