Book Review: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King

Name:  The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1)
Author:  
Stephen King
Number of Pages:  
340 (ebook)
Published:  
11th March 2010 by Hodder (first published 1982)
Genre: Fantasy

Goodreads

In THE GUNSLINGER, Stephen King introduces readers to one of his most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner, on a spellbinding journey into good and evil, in a desolate world which frighteningly echoes our own. In his first step towards the powerful and mysterious Dark Tower, Roland encounters an alluring woman named Alice, begins a friendship with Jake, a kid from New York, and faces an agonising choice between damnation and salvation as he pursues the Man in Black. Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, THE GUNSLINGER leaves readers eagerly awaiting the next chapter. And the Tower is closer…

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
So begins the epic tale of gunslinger Roland Deschain and his quest for the Dark Tower. I’ve decided to reread the books, see how much I remember from the first time and to see what else I discover this time.

It’s an intriguing beginning. Why is Roland so determined to follow? Who is the man in black anyway and what is he to Roland? Some of this will be revealed throughout the duration of the story.
It begins as a traditional Western type tale, as one pursues the other and they pass through the town of Tull. Although their paths never cross directly, between them they manage to wreak havoc of various kinds and leave destruction in their wake, and still the pursuit relentlessly continues.

The story draws you in, as Roland travels across the desolate and barren desert and up into the mountains, often reflecting on his past – hints of a completely different life lived in castles and a walled city, of courtly intrigue, schemes and plots, of friends and loves lost along the way. Of a young boy on the path to becoming a gunslinger but forced to challenge his teacher in order to become a man as various threats to his family and home become apparent. I loved these glimpses into the life that Roland left behind.

The Gunslinger introduces this strange world, a mix of the Old West but with hints of our own world and a time that has possibly been and gone. As Roland often reflects, ‘the world has moved on’. It’s similar to our world, with some familiar features, such as songs, ‘Hey Jude’ is mentioned more than once, but it’s also quite different, a world of magic and mutants, and a place that I’m looking forward to spending more reading time in (again).

On his travels Roland meets a young boy, Jake.  Jake is not from Roland’s world, and doesn’t quite remember how he came to be at the abandoned way station where he encounters the gunslinger. It becomes clear as the two journey on together that Jake may be important in Roland’s relentlessly determined quest to find the man in black. This eventually throws up an interesting dilemma for Roland, What will he do, if a choice has to be made between a newfound friend and a long-time adversary?

The Gunslinger packs a lot into quite a short novel, and serves as a good introduction to Roland and his quest for the Dark Tower. To end, another quote, ‘go then, there are other worlds than these’, something that Roland is about to find out as his epic quest continues.

 

Book Review: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Name: NOS4A2
Author:
Joe Hill
Number of Pages:
995 (ebook)
Published:
First published April 30th 2013 by William Morrow
Genre:  Horror, Thriller

Goodreads

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.
Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”
Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

NOS4A2 is a tale of two people, massively different in every possible way, yet destined for a collision course due to their unique abilities.
There are different worlds, the regular world, and the world of inscapes, the world of the imagination. Not everyone can access these worlds, and they’re different for everyone.
For Vic McQueen, she has the unique ability to find lost things via a covered bridge that appears only for her, so she can go where she needs to.
For Charlie Manx, he has Christmasland, more on that soon.
There are apparently others with talents too, and they’re all harnessed through different things.
Vic‘s ability first comes to light when, as a young child out riding her bike and thinking about her mother’s lost bracelet, she rides across the Shorter Way bridge and emerges in a completely different location. Later on, her childhood bicycle is replaced by a motorbike.
Manx owns a classic Rolls-Royce Wraith, which not only allows him to access Christmasland, but drains all the goodness out of its passengers as fuel for the journey. Manx long ago left anything good in himself behind, and so he needs passengers. As they are drained, Manx seems to take on some of their vitality, becoming younger as time goes on.

NOS4A2 starts out with a spooky, eerie air, but also adventure as the young Vic discovers her power for finding lost things, and the story picks up pace as years go by and Manx threatens Vic’s family, deciding that a fair exchange for her telling tales about him and getting him incarcerated, robbing him of his family (his own daughters are in Christmasland, and they’re happy to see him when he returns), is to repay her in similar fashion by taking Vic’s son from her and introducing Wayne to the Christmasland kids.

It’s immersive and detailed with great world building, particularly with Vic’s magical covered bridge, right down to the bats that reside in the roof space and the way the bridge degrades over time. There’s also the playground of Charlie Manx, Christmasland, with it’s reindeer-go-round, enormous Christmas tree festooned with unique decorations and the Sleighcoaster. Christmasland where every day is Christmas and party games include Scissors for the Drifter and Bite the Smallest. Warm and cosy it is not, but the residents seem to enjoy the place.

On to the characters surrounding our two leads. First, the good…

Lou Carmody is wonderful. When Vic stumbles into him whilst fleeing for her life he accepts it without question, hauling her onto his motorbike and riding away from danger. He’s heroic but in a quiet way. Lou is steady, dependable, trying his best to be a good father to Wayne, and to support Vic through her trials, and they are many. His faith in her, even when what she’s saying seems impossible or incredible, is unwavering.

Maggie Leigh, friend and fellow person with unique skills (courtesy of a unique set of Scrabble tiles) is the Here, Iowa librarian who Vic meets in her earliest travels across the bridge and who returns when it’s apparent that Manx may not be gone after all. She’s a tragic character who seems to have a lot of hardship and hurt in the years between her first and second encounters with Vic, and I would have enjoyed more glimpses into the years that separated their encounters.

And now for the bad…

Bing Partridge is a disturbed individual long before he becomes enthralled with Charlie Manx and Christmasland, and this only gets worse with the promise of Christmasland dangled before him by Manx. If he just does the things that Manx asks, then he’ll be able to visit this land of magic and wonder, so he thinks. He is truly monstrous with his basement of horrors, and has no redeeming features at all. For all that Manx is a bad ‘un, and he really is, Bing is skin-crawling.

As a reader of Stephen King I enjoyed the nods to other works including the Dark Tower series and IT. As if Manx wasn’t scary enough, the idea that he possibly knows of Pennywise or The True Knot from Doctor Sleep… I’ll leave that thought there.

I’ve enjoyed a number of books by Joe Hill now and NOS4A2 is another one to add to the list. It’s a book that languished on my TBR list for far too long.  I wish I hadn’t waited because what a book it is. For a pretty long book it never felt too drawn out.   Time spent with these characters made me root for Vic, for her desperate attempt to save the life of her son, and to hope that she triumphed over the threats against her family.  I can’t say more about whether she does win through in the end, you’ll just have to pick up the book to find out.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Colours of Mardi Gras

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This week’s theme is:  Purple, Yellow, and Green Book Covers (Mardi Gras!)


Top Ten Tuesday this week is an opportunity to gaze at some lovely colours themed around the colours purple, yellow, and green. I always enjoy a cover edition so as usual I may have gone a little (or a lot) beyond ten books. I’ve linked each of the covers to their reviews in case anything catches your attention. On to the books…

 

      


What did you write about this week?
See you again next time for another Top Ten Tuesday.

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

Name: The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Author:
Alix E. Harrow
Number of Pages:
385 (ebook)
Published:
September 10th 2019 by Redhook
Genre:  Fantasy

Goodreads

In the early 1900s, a young woman searches for her place in the world 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.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

From the earliest moments of this book, as January narrates her initial discovery of Doors and the worlds beyond them, and her love of books and stories, I had a feeling I was on to something special.
I was pulled in right away. When the mystery developed further as January’s father disappeared and it became apparent that someone or something was also interested in Doors, and more specifically closing them, cutting off access to all these magical places, I could hardly tear myself away and had to read on.

As January herself notes, it starts with a Door, but it also starts with a book, the mysterious Ten Thousand Doors, a volume that almost magically appears in January’s life from some unknown source and paints a vivid, consuming tale of other worlds, mysterious Doors, and two people who literally crossed worlds for true love. It’s a real slow burning tale for the spirited Adelaide Lee Larson and scholarly Yule Ian, and January takes every opportunity to escape into their tale when her own real life situation becomes increasingly difficult, little realising at first just how important their story will be.

The writing is something to savour. I found myself going back to reread passages at times, just for the way something was expressed with such imagination, or for the imagery created. It gave me slight Starless Sea vibes at times, another book I really enjoyed. From the stifling atmosphere of the vast museum-like Locke House on the shores of the lake to the confines of Brattleboro and out into the vivid and varied worlds that can be found beyond the Doors, including the world of the Written, the home of Yule Ian, all these places were so vivid and provided some great settings.

Now to talk of the characters. January is the heart of the story of course, and she’s an interesting character, setting out to find her family and somewhere to belong having had such a unique upbringing with Mr. Locke as her guardian and fleeting visits from her own father, whom she always hoped would return one day to announce that she could go travelling with him.
The characters surrounding January all add something to this tale, be it for better or worse.
One of my favourites was Jane, a woman who initially arrives in January’s life when she is employed by January’s father to act as a companion, but there’s far more to Jane, and her history and personal interest in the Doors was one of the highlights of this story. I wish Jane had her own book of stories.
And there’s a dog called Bad, who is far from that. As animal companions go, Bad is very good.
The villains of the piece are provided for the most part by various members of the mysterious Society. Havemeyer starts out as a vaguely creepy gentleman before becoming something altogether more nightmarish, and there are others of his ilk who are interested in the Doors and the worlds to which they lead.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a tale of magic and imagination, stories and books and the power of words. It’s all about friendship, family, finding somewhere to belong, and the lengths people will go to find each other when the odds are stacked against them. I loved the time I spent reading this, and am already looking forward to reading The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow. I can’t wait to see if it’s as good as Ten Thousand Doors. What a start to a new year of reading!

Top Ten Tuesday: The New-to-Me Authors of 2020

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This week’s theme is:  New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2020


This week Top Ten Tuesday is all about the new-to-me authors of 2020. Alongside the latest read from a favourite author I do enjoy discovering new writers. This is a selection of my discoveries from 2020, along with a snippet of my review for each book. As always, titles are linked to full reviews in case anything catches your eye…

Stoker’s Wilde by Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi – “…blends horror, humour and wit, with two wonderfully engaging protagonists and reluctant allies and a wide supporting cast of heroes and villains which make this a great read.”

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – “The story is a really involved slow burn for the first two thirds, the tension gradually ratcheting up until the awful truth is revealed and from there the descent into horror is rapid and vivid. It’s almost as stomach churning as the moment a rollercoaster reaches the peak and drops suddenly. You know something is about to happen because there are so many things wrong at High Place, so many dark secrets, and it’s tense reading discovering whether Noemí will be able to save her cousin, and even by the end, herself.”

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James – “The story combines an old murder mystery with some wonderfully creepy scenes at the motel. The dead of night, the isolation, the threat from something apparently real but not real, I definitely had a moment or two when I was glad I’m come across certain scenes during daylight hours, or I may have had to put the story aside for a while.”

Wayward Pines trilogy by Blake Crouch – “One sign of a good book is that you can’t wait to get back to reading, and that definitely happened for me with Pines. I always wanted to read just one more chapter, and found myself trying to find more reading time in my day because with each surprise and revelation things just became more strange and inexplicable.”

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – “Through hailstorms, dust clouds, a plague of grasshoppers, encounters with grizzly bears, searing heat and endless wilderness, desolate places and many extremes, I journeyed with these characters and shared their joys and despairs.”

The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1) by Genevieve Cogman – “The Invisible Library is a good beginning to a series that I’m looking forward to discovering. Anything themed around books and libraries and alternate fantasy worlds is going to get my reading attention, and as Irene was dispatched with new orders at the end of this novel, I was almost as pleased as she was that there is more to look forward to in this world of magic and adventure and books.”

A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill – “A Cosmology of Monsters is an intriguing blend of family life mingled with horrors both everyday and otherworldly, and I would give it a try if you’re looking for something a little different, a little strange, a little scary and a little mysterious.”

Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang – “The storyline kept me guessing until the end as to who or what was responsible for Lucy’s murder. I also liked the inclusion of quotes from Dracula at the beginning of each chapter, it’s made me want to read that book again as well. Tillie is a likable character who grew in confidence as the tale progressed and her discovering the truth made for an eventful tale.”

The Other People by C. J. Tudor – “The opening hints at something strange straight away, an unknown girl, alone, sleeping, surrounded by medical equipment. There’s something eerie about it. Who is she and what has happened to her? I enjoyed the way this narrative ran throughout, suggesting something slightly out of the ordinary alongside the thriller unfolding.”

The Sleep Tight Motel by Lisa Unger – “Mysterious, eerie, great atmosphere, and a need to know exactly what is going on in the room next door, from which Eve hears screams and dragging sounds on more than one occasion despite there being no other guests staying at the motel kept me glued to this for the duration.”


So, what did you write about this week?
See you again next time for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Meant to Read In 2020 but Didn’t Get To

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This week’s theme is:  Books I Meant to Read In 2020 but Didn’t Get To


Ah, all the books I meant to read, hoped to read, but somehow passed me by. This list could be endless, there are so many books and my TBR never seems to get any shorter. I will however do my best to stick to just ten books which I’ll select based on my really wanting to get around to at least some of them very soon. In fact, I’ll begin with the book I’ve chosen as my first read of this year…

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

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 artefacts 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.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

A murder on the high seas. A detective duo. A demon who may or may not exist.
It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent.
But no sooner are they out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A twice-dead leper stalks the decks. Strange symbols appear on the sails. Livestock is slaughtered.
And then three passengers are marked for death, including Samuel.
Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes?
With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent can solve a mystery that connects every passenger onboard. A mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil.

Stoker’s Wilde West by Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi

Thinking they have put their monster-hunting days behind them, Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker return to their normal lives. But when their old ally Robert Roosevelt and his nephew Teddy find a new nest of vampires, they are once again pulled into the world of the supernatural, this time in the American West. A train robbery by a band of vampire gunslingers sets off a series of events that puts Bram on the run, Oscar leading a rescue party and our heroes being pursued by an unstoppable vampire bounty hunter who rides a dead, reanimated horse.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for…

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced. . . .

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.


So, what did you write about this week?
See you again next time for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Book Review: Midwinter Murder: Fireside Mysteries from the Queen of Crime by Agatha Christie

Name: Midwinter Murder: Fireside Mysteries from the Queen of Crime
Author:
Agatha Christie
Number of Pages:
 320 (ebook)
Published:
October 1st 2020
Genre:  Crime, Mystery, Short Stories

Goodreads

There’s a chill in the air and the days are growing shorter . . . It’s the perfect time to curl up in front of a crackling fireplace with this winter-themed collection from legendary mystery writer Agatha Christie. But beware of deadly snowdrifts and dangerous gifts, poisoned meals and mysterious guests. This compendium of short stories, some featuring beloved detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, is an essential omnibus for Christie fans and the perfect holiday gift for mystery lovers.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Midwinter Murder offers up a collection of twelve short stories of mystery involving an array of Christie’s well-known characters including Poirot and Miss Marple.

The collection begins with Poirot and Hastings sitting beside a fire as Poirot tells of a time when he considers that he did in fact, shockingly, fail to solve a case.
From there we’re introduced to Miss Marple, Tommy and Tuppence, Mr. Parker Pyne and Mr Quin.
This latter is a character I’ve never come across before and I was quite taken with the stories involving him. He’s very mysterious, just apparently appearing on the scene, involving himself and having some part to play in events before disappearing again, almost like some kind of ghost. There’s definitely a slight touch of the eerie or supernatural about his presence, especially in the second story in which he features in this collection. I’ve since discovered that Mr. Quin appears in his own story collection, so I do think I’ll probably end up seeking them out at some point.
As for the rest, I think I prefer the full-length Poirot tales to short stories, but then that‘s true generally. I seem to go for longer novels most of the time.
So far I’ve yet to read any Miss Marple and I’m not sure whether I’d find the same enjoyment in them as I do in Poirot, but I wouldn’t rule out trying at least one just to find out.

Midwinter Murder is an enjoyable read to dip into for a story to fill a short space of time. I picked it up as I wanted a festive Christie read, and it offers a nice glimpse into Christie’s characters for anyone wondering whether to try a Poirot novel, or a Tommy and Tuppence tale. For now I think I’ll be sticking to the Poirot novels, but Mr Quin is mysterious and intriguing enough to read more about too.

Book Review: The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1) by Genevieve Cogman

Name: The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1)
Author:
Genevieve Cogman
Number of Pages:
 337 (ebook)
Published:
December 15th 2014 by Pan
Genre:  Fantasy

Goodreads

Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently . . .
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.
Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.
Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

The story begins with a library, but not one of the usual variety. The Invisible Library is a place of magic and mystery, and as the name suggests, it contains many, many books. It also has links to a great variety of alternate worlds in which some of these books resided prior to their residence in the Library.
Irene is a junior agent of the Library and tasked with novice Kai to venture to an alternate London to retrieve a manuscript, a certain edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It’s like a Victorian steampunk version of London, so I loved the feel of the place. Not only that, it’s a world with a chaos infestation, so all you think you know may not apply. Retrieving the book should be simple, but it turns out that actually it’s already been stolen so Irene and Kai set out to find it before they return to the Library.

The Library is a great place, and I hope more time is spent there as the series continues. The whole endless supply of books, both magical and mundane, drawn from all these alternate worlds is fascinating. Initiates of the library have agelessness conveyed upon them while they’re within the walls. They do age gradually as they go out into alternate worlds but could in theory have some degree of immorality if at some point they decide to stay within the library.

There’s a lot going on in this novel – a murder mystery (a vampire murder actually), the theft of the manuscript, and the presence of the dangerous but alluring Fae, creatures of chaos. A famous detective is on the same trail as our leads and a legendary former Library agent gone rogue may be in the vicinity. To complicate things further a colleague/rival of Irene’s who may be more involved than she’s letting on appears in this alternate world. And then of course there are the werewolves and mechanical centipedes and zeppelins flying around the place.

There characters are a great mix, from Irene and Kai, who is also more than he first appears, to the Great Detective Peregrine Vale and Irene’s friend/colleague/rival/former mentor Bradamant. The latter was interesting, their initial dislike based on a shared past turning to reluctantly needing to work together to retrieve the book. I hope these characters cross paths again as the series continues, and that more of their history is revealed.

The Invisible Library is a good beginning to a series that I’m looking forward to discovering. Anything themed around books and libraries and alternate fantasy worlds is going to get my reading attention, and as Irene was dispatched with new orders at the end of this novel, I was almost as pleased as she was that there is more to look forward to in this world of magic and adventure and books.

2020: The Year-End Book Survey

This Year End Survey is hosted by Jamie over at The Perpetual Page Turner.

I love this opportunity to look back over the year of reading. I enjoy recalling new favourites, exciting characters and, of course, listing some of the (many) books I didn’t manage to read.
Here’s my 2020 Year End Survey.

2020 READING STATS

Number of books you read: 30

Re-Reads: 0

Most Popular Genre: I’ve read a variety this year.

BEST IN BOOKS

1. Best Book You Read In 2020?
(If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2020 release vs. backlist)

           

          

Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker
Stoker’s Wilde by Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi
Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Endless Night by Agatha Christie. This was a case of going into the story expecting something totally different than it was. I didn’t dislike it, but I’d hoped for a different sort of a tale. I wrote more about this when I reviewed the book here.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?

           

The Wayward Pines trilogy by Blake Crouch. I was surprised just how quickly I managed to read the whole trilogy. I couldn’t put them down.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I don’t think it’s happened.

5. Best series you started in 2020? Best Sequel of 2020? Best Series Ender of 2020?

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal is the first book in the Glamourist Histories series and it was a delightful read and I was really glad it was the first of a series and there are more stories featuring these characters.

Best sequel I think is Wayward, book 2 of the Wayward Pines trilogy by Blake Crouch. Fast paced with plenty going on, it develops the story set out in the first book and ends in such a way that I had to go straight on to the final book to see what would happen.

The Poison Song has to feature here as the best ending to a series that I’ve read this year. It’s the final book in the Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams. I didn’t want to let those characters go, having shared their amazing adventures for three books.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2020?

I’m going for new-to-me choices for this one….

Simone St. James – I read The Sun Down Motel in October and it was the perfect spooky read for that time of year. I was engrossed in the story of a haunted motel during two timelines. Great read.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia – I enjoyed Mexican Gothic and the writing was so good that I’m really looking forward to checking out Gods of Jade and Shadow, which was already on my TBR list.

Mary Robinette Kowal – The first book in the Glamourist Histories series, Shades of Milk and Honey left me enchanted and eager to check out more books by this author.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

This is a tough one as I don’t think I’ve ventured that far out of my reading comfort zone. I think probably Darkness There: Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe is worth a mention here. I don’t read many short story collections and I don’t think I’ve read any Poe before either.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

           

The Wayward Pines trilogy by Blake Crouch deserves a mention for being unputdownable. I don’t think I’ve ever read three books so quickly as I did with those. I had to know what was going to happen and how it would all turn out in the end.

9. Book You Read In 2020 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

There are many books, both new and backlist titles that I still want to read and my TBR pile is endless so I don’t tend to re-read books very often. I do keep thinking I might like to re-read The Dark Tower by Stephen King, but that’s a series I read a while ago, not during this last year.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2020?

           

             

               

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Mexican Gothic by Silvia-Moreno Garcia
Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang
A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill
The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg
Hallowe’en Party (Poirot #39) by Agatha Christie
Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver

11. Most memorable character of 2020?

           

Augustus McCrae from Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.
Vintage from the Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams.
The double act that is Bram and Oscar from Stoker’s Wilde by Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2020?

     

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

13. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2020 to finally read?

Darkness There: Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe. I can’t believe I’d never read any Poe until earlier this year.

14.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2020?

     

The Sleep Tight Motel by Lisa Unger at only 48 pages is the shortest book I read this year.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry clocks in at a massive 964 pages, making it the longest book I read this year which comes as no surprise at all.

15. Book That Shocked You The Most?

I think the final third of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia delivered on the shock factor. I knew there was some awful secret to what was going on at High Place but I didn’t expect that.

16. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)?

Jane and Vincent from Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal are the first who came to mind. I love the way their initial misunderstandings turn to affection and later love, and the way it’s revealed is possibly the sweetest thing I’ve read this year.

17. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year?

           

Bram and Oscar from Stoker’s Wilde by Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi.
Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call from Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.
Vintage’s friendship with Tor and Noon from the Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams.

18. Favorite Book You Read in 2020 From An Author You’ve Read Previously?

     

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver and The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern.

19. Best Book You Read In 2020 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure?

I’m not sure it’s happened this year.

20. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2020?

Um, okay, this is awkward. I have no idea…

21. Best 2020 debut you read?

A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill was a very unusual tale.

22. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

     

High Place in Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern also had a vivid setting.

23. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

     

I’ve read a couple of the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett this year, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, and both of those had some comical moments.

24. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

     

Stoker’s Wilde by Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi.
The Sleep Tight Motel by Lisa Unger.

25. Most Unique Book You Read In 2020?

A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill was very unusual at times.

YOUR BLOGGING/BOOKISH LIFE

1. New favorite book blog/Bookstagram/Youtube channel you discovered in 2020?

I’ve followed quite a few new blogs this year and enjoy discovering what people are reading.

2. Favorite reviews that you wrote in 2020?

           

           

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal
Stoker’s Wilde by Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi
Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

Aside from book reviews and book tags I enjoy Top Ten Tuesday posts as they give the opportunity to think back to books I’ve enjoyed, and make lists featuring potential future reads. Here are some of my recent favourite Top Ten Tuesday posts…

Super Long Book Titles
Holiday/Festive Covers
Books I Want To Read Again
Colours of Autumn Book Covers
Books That Should Be Adapted Into Shows/Movies
Books I’ve Added to my TBR List

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

Readers Imbibing Peril is the perfect way to welcome autumn, and I like the focus on the genres involved.
I would love to find out about readathons before they start so I have time to plan and participate. They’re great fun.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2020?

Taking part in Readers Imbibing Peril. I read more this year for that event than I ever have before.

6. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

In review posts The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James and Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and in Top Ten Tuesday posts my Holiday/Festive Covers post and Super Long Book Titles.

7. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Review posts in general. I’ve mentioned a few of my favourite reads of the year throughout this post already, so here are a few of the other books I discovered this year…

           

           

Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang
A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (Poirot #20) by Agatha Christie
The Sleep Tight Motel by Lisa Unger
The Other People by C. J. Tudor
The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

8. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

That I actually quite like using my e-reader.

9. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I completed my Goodreads challenge, but I set a fairly low target.
I participated in Beat the Backlist and this year I did much better than I expected and read 24 books. I also had a go at the Beat the Backlist Bingo which became more difficult as the categories were filled.

LOOKING AHEAD

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2020 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2021?

This list could be endless. I’ll try to limit it to just a few…

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
The Bone Ships by R. J. Barker
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2021 (non-debut)?

Stephen King has a new book coming out called Later.

3. 2021 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Feel free to send ideas my way as I’m always looking for new reads.

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2021?

It’s a book that’s already out but I haven’t read it yet – Stoker’s Wilde West by Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2020?

I think last year’s answer still applies. I would like to read more of my own books. I did quite well with that this year so I’d like to keep it up. The Beat the Backlist challenge is happening again and there are some really good categories on the Bingo and Prompts lists, so I think I may sign up. It’s a good incentive to read my own books.


So concludes this year-end survey. Congratulations if you made it all the way through to the end! What have you been reading this year? And what are you looking forward to reading next?

Top Ten Tuesday: Holiday/Seasonal Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This weeks theme is:  Holiday/Seasonal Freebie


For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday Seasonal Freebie I’ve gone for a bit of variety with a selection of book covers.  Some of these are books with a festive theme, some simply have colours or themes that seem wintry. There’s at least one sequel amongst the list (Shiang, the first book is Darien, just in case you’re wondering), and at least one series beginning with The Bear and the Nightingale.  I’ve linked the covers to my reviews where possible in case anything catches your eye. On to the books…

             

                  

                


So, have you read any of the books that made my list this week?  If so, what did you think of them? See you again next time for another Top Ten Tuesday.