The Ten Thousand Doors of January – A Goodreads Choice 2019 Nominee

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

My Rating: ####/5

Goodreads Rating: 4.16/5

Published September 10th, 2019

“When I was seven, I found a door. I suspect I should capitalize that word, so you understand I’m not talking about your garden- or common-variety door that leads reliably to a white-tiled kitchen or a bedroom closet.
When I was seven, I found a Door. There – look how tall and proud the word stands on the page now, the belly of that D like a black archway leading into white nothing. When you see that word, I imagine a little prickle of familiarity makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. You don’t know a thing about me; you can’t see me sitting at this yellow-wood desk, the salt-sweet breeze riffling these pages like a reader looking for her bookmark. You can’t see the scars that twist and knot across my skin. You don’t even know my name…”
– The Blue Door, The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

I was gifted a copy of The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Must Read Books YA SA and Jonathan Ball Publishers. This is an unpaid review.

One of my favorite books from 2018 was The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. When I read the synopsis for The Ten Thousand Doors of January I felt the sentimental longing to go back to Anthony Peardew’s mansion, meet Laura for the first time and discover the story of The Keeper of Lost Things all over again. I had to know if TTTDoJ was going to leave the same wistful affection in my heart.

“But you still know about Doors, don’t you? Because there are ten thousand stories about ten thousand Doors, and we know them as well as we know our names.”

January Scaller is an orphan of sorts. She doesn’t belong anywhere; she doesn’t come from anywhere and she doesn’t know what the future holds. She feels ignored and alone and out of place. When January discovers a strange book that talks about Doors (with a capital D), other worlds, love, and adventure, how can she not read it? With each turn of the page, January’s whole life changes and she discovers there is one door that she will never be able to enter – the door before The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

“But I was done with the fanciful nonsense. No more doors or Doors, no more dreams of silver seas and whitewashed cities. No more stories. I imagined this was just one those lessons implicit in the process of growing up, which everyone learns eventually.”

I get a lump in my throat just telling you about January’s story and this book. It’s not like anything I’ve read before. Alix E. Harrow transports you into a world so magical and so full of adventure, you feel a little like the son or daughter of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, meets The Keeper of Lost Things.

Alix E. Harrow delivers the twists and turns of this magical, fantastical plot with elegance and confidence. Narration in sections of TTTDoJ nods to the narration at the start and end of The Age of Adeline (2015) and these were truly my favorite part(s) of the book. The narrator imprints on you that time weighs heavily on all the characters and for good reason.

“She became something else entirely, something so radiant and wild and fierce that a single world could not contain her, and she was obligated to find others.”

Every chapter is named for the Door discovered in the chapter and gives insight on what to expect throughout the chapter. Will it be a wonderfully lovely Door or a worrisome Door to be wary of? There is the Unlocked Door, the Door to Anywhere, the Door of Blood and Silver, the Burning Door and the Door in the Mist.

January’s Doors is going to stay with me for a long while still…

“…not every story is made for telling. Sometimes just by telling a story you’re stealing it, stealing a little of the mystery away from it.”

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BOOK DEPOSITORY | LOOT | READERS WAREHOUSE

The Finalists Have Been Announced – Goodreads Choice Awards Final Round

The final round for the 11th Annual Goodreads Choice Awards dates are from 19th of November to the 2nd of December, followed by the Winners announcement on the 10th of December.

Herewith the top contenders and my predictions. Let me know if you’ve read any of them and if you think they deserve to be in the final round?

Best Fiction:

Normal People or The Testaments

Did you know that Normal People by Sally Rooney has over 123,000 ratings on GoodReads?

It has also been nominated for the Booker Prize for Longlist (2018), the Costa Book Award for Novel (2018), the Dylan Thomas Prize for Longlist (2019), and the Women’s Prize for Fiction for Longlist (2019).

Best Mystery & Thriller:

The Silent Patient or An Anonymous Girl

Did you know The Silent Patient is Alex Michaelides’s first novel, but that he wrote the film The Devil You Know (2013) starring Rosamund Pike.

Best Historical Fiction:

Daisy Jones & The Six or City of Girls

Best Fantasy:

Fire & Blood or The Winter of The Witch

Uhm, Mr Martin, when will you be finished with book 8 of A Song of Ice and Fire….mmmm????

Best Humor:

Life Will Be The Death Of Me:…And You Too! or Dear Girls

I listened to Dear Girls on Audible, and it was fantastic!

Best History and Biography:

Midnight in Chernobyl and Say Nothing

Say Nothing has also been nominated for the National Book Award for Nonfiction (2019), the Kirkus Prize Nominee for Nonfiction (2019) and The Orwell Prize for Political Writing (2019).

Best Graphic Novels:

Pumpkin Heads or Heartstopper VOL. 2

There is a lovely blog-post at Ruby Rae Reads on all the Graphic Novels she’s read this year – it features Heartstopper Vol. 1 and Pumpkin Heads.

Best Debut Novel:

The Silent Patient or My Sister The Serial Killer

My Sister the Serial Killer has also been nominated for the Booker Prize for Longlist (2019), the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller (2018), and the Women’s Prize for Fiction (2019).

Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction:

The Wicked King or Queen Of Air And Darkness

It’s Queen of Nothing release day – have you ordered your copy yet?
Amazon | Book Depository | Loot

Best Middle Grade & Children’s:

Diary Of An Awesome Friendly Kid or New Kid

New Kid has also been nominated for the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature (2019).


Are you ready to cast your final vote?

The Guardian of Lies – A perfect read for the upcoming holidays.

The Guardian of Lies by Kate Furnivall

My Rating: ###/5

GoodReads Rating: 3.85/5

Published August 22nd, 2019

Fans of Tom Clancy and Kate Quinn – this one is for you.

“Eloïse Caussade is a courageous young Frenchwoman, raised on a bull farm near Arles in the Camargue. She idolizes her older brother, André, and when he leaves to become an Intelligence Officer working for the CIA in Paris to help protect France, she soon follows him. Having exchanged the strict confines of her father’s farm for a life of freedom in Paris, her world comes alive. 

But everything changes when André is injured – a direct result of Eloise’s actions. Unable to work, André returns to his father’s farm, but Eloïse’s sense of guilt and responsibility for his injuries sets her on the trail of the person who attempted to kill him.” – Goodreads 

I was gifted a copy of The Guardian of Lies by Must Read Books SA and Jonathan Ball Publishers. This is an unpaid review.

What an enjoyable story. This story has all the right ingredients for an intensely satisfying and captivating spy meets historical fiction tale. The writing is fast-paced, the dynamics between the characters are intense and interesting and just the right amount of romance is present so that everyone will enjoy it. I often found myself trying to predict the outcome, but just when I thought I knew who “the bad guys” were, Furnivall introduced a new twist and kept me on the edge of my seat. 

Most Historical Fiction novels are based in WWII (which I absolutely love), so it was refreshing to read a story set in post-war France where new history was being made. In this story, we are introduced to the start of the Cold War, Joseph Stalin, the creation of nuclear weapons and The Space Race. 

My absolute favorite thing about this book is the Southern France setting. The region of Camargue is some of the most natural and most protected regions in all of Europe, so I can just imagine how beautiful it was 65 years ago with The Mediterranean Sea on one side and full, luscious marsh plains in-land. 

Murder, lies, spies and secret agents, loyalty, betrayal, more secrets, more lies, fear, guilt, courage, and French wine – this book has it all!

Vote for the Best Books of the Year! – Goodreads Choice Awards Opening Round

I am an absolute Goodreads Choice Awards junkie.  I love going through the list of nominees and winners to see which books I’ve read and which books I need to add to my #tbr ASAP… because #fomo.

The opening round for the 11th Annual Goodreads Choice Awards dates are from 5th to November 10th, followed by the Semifinal round, the Final round and Winners announcement on the 10th of December.

There are 20 categories, with 15 books per category.  You are can submit a “write-in vote” if there is a book not nominated, that you feel deserves to be there.  Rules and eligibility for “write-in votes” here.

Categories are:

  1. Best Fiction
  2. Mystery & Thriller
  3. Historical Fiction (my favorite)
  4. Fantasy
  5. Romance
  6. Science Fiction
  7. Horror
  8. Humor
  9. Nonfiction
  10. Memoir & Autobiography
  11. History & Biography
  12. Science & Technology
  13. Food & Cookbooks
  14. Graphic Novels & Comics
  15. Poetry
  16. Debut Novel
  17. Young Adult Fiction
  18. Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction
  19. Middle Grade & Children’s
  20. Picture Books

Some of the 2019 well known book nominees include The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, Lock Every Door by Riley Sager, The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and Pumpkin Heads by Rainbow Rowell & Faith Erin Hicks.

So far I have voted for Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden, Dear Girls by Ali Wong, A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer and Dead Voices by Katherine Arden.  AND I have added about 20 new books to my ever-chaotic #tbr-pile *facepalm.

Don’t delay!  Go cast your votes book-peeps!!

The Deathless Girls – a Halloween Treat!

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

My Rating: ####/5

GoodReads Rating: 3.76/5

Published September 19th, 2019

Trigger warnings:

  • Threat of sexual assault
  • Animal cruelty and death
  • Slavery and abuse

I was gifted an unproofed copy of The Deathless Girls by Pan Macmillan South Africa for an honest review. This is an unpaid review. I did a buddy read with Tams @bookwolftams.

Ok, first things first, I loved this book and please, please, PLEASE can I have more Kiran Millwood Hargrave to put in my pocket and keep for rainy days.

So when you (see, I said when, not if, because you will want to) pick up this book, you need to put aside the misconception that this is a retelling of Brides of Dracula by Bram Stoker. It is not a retelling; I would classify it as the prequel to Brides of Dracula.

On the eve of their divining day, twin sisters, Lil and Kizzy are enslaved by a cruel lord and brutally taken away from their traveler-family. They are forced to work in a castle, along with Mira, a fellow slave girl. Lil feels drawn to Mira in a way she is not sure she understands. But is Mira, Lil’s happy ever after? Or does fate have something else in mind?

In this book, sacrifices are made, journeys are traveled, and loyalties are tested between sisters, friends, and alliances to understand how the Brides of Dracula became the “weird sisters”. It’s dark, gothic and twisty.

As an only child, I do not have first-hand experience with the bond that exists between sisters, but this book is so beautifully written, I had no problem relating to the unconditional love and the fierce protective instincts sisters have for each other.

The thought-provoking and dark feminist theme is captivating, I could have easily finished it one sitting. Tams and I did a buddy-read and to give ourselves time to read other books and of course; “adult”, we read it over a period of 7 days. At no point, was there any frustration or any “what just happened?”, “what is going on?”, “when does the story start?”. No, both Tams and I just agreed right from the first chapter: “Oh my gosh, I love this book so much!”.

A clear message throughout the book that resonated with me is that home is not a place, but that home is where your person or your people are. Home is wherever you choose it to be and you can change your fate and you are in control of your future.

How far would you go to be free again?

We Hunt the Flame – a Snapshot Review

We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya #1) by Hafsah Faizal

My Rating: #/5

GoodReads Rating: 3.82/5

Published May 14th, 2019

This is not a full and comprehensive review, but merely a summary of my thoughts on the book.

PLOT:
####/5 – The plot is interesting, well-thought-out and unique.

STRUCTURE:
#/5 – There is no structure to the story. Plot twists and plot reveals felt disjointed. It was hard for me to get into the flow of the story.

WORLD-BUILDING:
###/5 – The world-building is creative and there is a history to the land and its people. The world-building fits well with the plot of the book. I was excited when I saw the map in the book, but the map fell short in information and didn’t assist me in understanding everything. Important areas in the map are not labeled or labeled with a different terminology than what is described in the book.

THEME:
##/5 – The theme is clear from the start of the book but gets muddled in amongst the over-detailed storytelling as the story progresses.

CHARACTERS:
####/5 – The characters are why I wanted to finish the book. I fell in love with the characters in We Hunt the Flame immediately and rooted for each one of them all the way. There are several strong and complex personalities, struggling with their grief and trying to come to terms with whom they have become. They all have one mission in mind – discover the lost artifact and restore magic to the land.

DIALOGUE:
#/5 – The dialogue is almost non-existent, flat and unstructured. This made it hard for me to imagine any sort of friendship, relationship or kinship between the characters as they barley uttered more than a couple of words to each other.

Small Spaces

Small Spaces (Small Spaces #1) by Katherine Arden

My Rating: ####/5

GoodReads Rating: 4.03/5

Published September 25th 2018

“After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.” – GoodReads

Small Spaces is just such a fun read – perfect for October.  This is Arden’s debut middle grade novel and it is insanely creepy and scary.  Seriously, it’s a children’s book that I couldn’t read at night but could not wait to get back into the following morning. 

Characters:

The characters are diverse in age, gender and ethnicity which makes it a modern and relatable read for younger readers.  Olivia (Ollie) has a strong, well-rounded personality, but is struggling to move on after her tragic loss.

World-building:

The subtle fantasy and parallel worlds are sewn together in a sensible and logic manner and makes the story flow smoothly and is easy to follow.  The setting is perfectly normal during the day, and downright terrifying at night.

Themes:

Themes for younger readers in Small Spaces include:

  • Literary works such as Alice in Wonderland and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  • Bravery
  • Teamwork
  • Grief and overcoming loss
  • Anxiety

Plot:

Small Spaces is told from Ollie’s point of view.  Ollie is trying to come to terms with her grief and is thrown into a mysterious world of creepy scarecrows, the smiling man and a very peculiar farm with two unlikely friends when she discovers a weird looking book.  The dialogue is fast-paced and jam-packed with quippy remarks and recognizable “tween-chatter”.  The mystery of the smiling man is unpredictable and is complimented with several supporting characters and plot twists.

In my completely biased opinion, Katherine Arden can write a paragraph as follow: “blah blah blah, write, write, write, nonsense, a bunch of squiggles and some punctuation, blah blah blah” and I would call it a literary masterpiece!

My favorite quotes from Small Spaces (contains spoilers):

“Even bad things can lead to good. Maybe in sad times, it helps to think of that.”

“Alice in Wonderland,” said Brian. “Remember? ‘How do you know I’m mad?’ asked Alice.” “‘You must be,’” Ollie said, finishing the quotation slowly, “‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’” Brian buried his face in his hands.

Coco didn’t cry because she was weak. Coco cried because she felt things. Ollie never cried because she didn’t feel things. Not anymore. Not really. She tried not to feel things.