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 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!

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.

If Only I Could Tell You…. How disappointed I am.

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman

My Rating: #/5

Goodreads Rating: 3.96/5 

Published February 21st, 2019 by Orion

Trigger Warning(s):

  • Life-threatening illness
  • Miscarriage
  • Suicide

Synopsis:

Audrey is fighting an incurable illness, but her greatest fear is not dying. Her greatest fear is dying while her daughters are still estranged, and her granddaughters have never been allowed to meet. Audrey’s family is torn apart by secrets and she is determined to set everything right.

Writing:

Audrey, Lilly and Jess’s stories are told from the third person limited point of view. The TOC gives a clear outline of how sections and chapters are broken down into the past and the present and how Audrey’s last year of her life progresses. And this is where the clarity stopped for me. Yes, at the table of contents.

I don’t enjoy overindulgent writing and If Only I Could Tell You is written with a lot of excessively emotional and repetitive explanations for the same thing, whereby when it comes to the personal circumstances of each character, you are told very little. This made it hard for me to relate to any of the characters, as I’ve only been given a basic overview of their lives. 

The Story:

The chapters are short, which at first, I thought would make it a quick and easy read, but each chapter ends abruptly and the next one starts at a random point in time. The end of each chapter left me feeling unsatisfied and takes away from the flow of the story. This book gave me the impression it was written by three different writers and then the chapters were pieced together haphazardly after the fact. I didn’t enjoy some chapters being repeated verbatim after the “big secret” was revealed; I believe this was done as a reminder to the reader of past events, but this added to the random flow of the chapters and unfortunately added to my frustration with the story.

The “big secret” is only revealed right at the end, and by this point, I wanted to shout: “just tell us already!!!!”. There is also an unexpected plot reveal about halfway and even this felt disjointed and did not tie into the story told in the first half of the book. By this point, I got the impression that the writer changed her mind about what the “big secret” should be, added another element to the story and then changed the whole plot for the second half of the book. 

My final thoughts:

I picked up this book because it was described as an emotional, deeply moving read. It fell flat in several departments and I wish it had more substance to it. The concept of the story is such a great idea, but the execution didn’t live up to the hype. I am surprised I finished it, as I usually DNF books very quickly if they don’t grab my interest and attention right from the start. I kept thinking: “There is a lot of hype around this book, it’s going to get better and it’s going to be epic…” It didn’t get better…. And it was not epic. 

This book might be the perfect light and fluffy beach read, if you are looking for something superficial or a palate cleanser, where you do not need to live yourself into the story too much or if you only are able to read a couple of pages a day and can fill in the substance by using your imagination.

A Court of Thorns and Roses

By Sarah J. Maas

My Rating: ####/5

Goodreads Rating: 4.26/5

Published May 5th 2015 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

SHE STOLE A LIFE. NOW SHE MUST PAY WITH HER HEART.

Way back when I read a review on GoodReads where the reviewer described A Court of Thorns and Roses as “more or less softcore erotica”. As you can imagine, I put it down even before you can say “New Adult Fantasy”. I just don’t have the time, nor the stomach for that.

So years have gone by, more books in the series have been published and it has never lost momentum. Along with a large fanbase, loyal ACOTAR-ians (see what I did there) and more YouTUBE videos than you can count, people are still pushing it on me. So I decided to try again. It took another two attempts, to be honest as it still was not love at first sight for me.

But I do like it and I will be continuing with the series. I have already purchased the second book and fans are telling me how the second book is their absolute favorite.

The title nods to a Beauty and the Beast retelling and the cover is supremely inviting. My first impression was that the book was going to be disjointed and disorganized as there’s no Table of Contents, so I didn’t know what to expect from a chronological point of view. It is important to note that ACOTAR is not a Young Adult Fantasy novel as most believe, but New Adult Fantasy. I appreciate that the back cover clearly states that this book contains mature content. But it’s not smut at all and it’s not Fifty Shades of Awful erotica. There are mature, intimate love scenes that add to the weight and emotions this novel portrays. But the story flows beautifully and with ease. I didn’t once feel embarrassed or that the storyline didn’t follow events or character development.
The story is about Feyre who has been taken captive by a High Fae Lord in the Faerie Realm because she slaughtered a faerie. But there is a lot Feyre doesn’t know about her captor, her new home and the enchanted forests around her.
I found Feyre’s character to be refreshing. She is strong-minded and self-aware. Albeit a little predictable, Tamlin is handsome and gentlemanly. Lucien, Tamlin’s emissary, adds a bit of dark humor to the trio.
I cannot tell you my favorite, nor least favorite parts of the books without revealing spoilers. I can tell you though that as the story progresses, it gets better and better with twists and turns and plot reveals. The ending had my heart pounding in anticipation, and I couldn’t scan-read those pages fast enough.

Fans of The Bear and the Nightingale, Shadow and Bone and A Curse So Dark and Lonely will appreciate the complex storytelling, world-building and internal struggles of the characters in A Court of Thorns and Roses.