The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

ten thousandI love this story. It is what every child holds deep in their imagination. What every inner child sat inside an adult screams for. Imagine doors, just random doors in the middle of nowhere, somewhere and even here. Doors that lead to other places, countries and people. Doors driven by the invisible magic in the world, but only visible to a few.

There’s a moment in the story when Harrow balances the readers on the precipice of whether what January is experiencing is real or fiction. A fictional narrative drummed up by the trauma of grief and the pain of neglect. A young girl who has had episodes of delusions over the years or is that what Locke would have us believe.

It all seems too far-fetched to be true. Doors in the middle of fields that lead to other places.  A book that tells the story of a young girl who happens upon the opening of a door at the right time and then spends years trying to reestablish a connection made within moments. Moments that haunt her and set her on an incredible path to discover the truth.

This book has incredible depth and beauty. It’s the kind of story that inspires both the young and old, and creates readers. It allows readers to step further than they believed – one page at a time. Magic of old and blood magic of new.

It’s YA fantasy, but I would recommend it for younger readers too. Fantasy melded with historical fiction with an essence of literary fiction.

Buy The Ten Thousand Doors of January at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Orbit; pub date ecopy 10 Sept. 2019, Hardcover pub date 12 Sept. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Follow @AlixEHarrow on Twitter, on Goodreads, Visit alixeharrow.wixsite.com/author

How the Dead Speak by Val McDermid

This is book 11 in the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series, and after reading this one I absolutely will have to go back and re-read previous one. Tony is sat in jail for killing someone and Carol has retired from the police force. What the heck happened?

Breathing fresh air and new ideas into a long-term series isn’t easy when you have a huge solid fan-base. Readers don’t always like drastic changes. Kudos to McDermid for giving readers what they need without them being aware that they need it.

Putting Tony back to square one by destroying his reputation, his career and severing his important relationships is a gutsy move. It’s also one that allows the series to develop in multiple directions. Perhaps not in the way readers expect, but hey that is what makes McDermid such a popular writer.

As Tony resigns himself to life behind bars he also tries to spend it wisely and in a way that supports his fellow prisoners. Unfortunately his very academic and privileged way of thinking can come across as pompous, despite his good intentions.

Meanwhile on the outside members of the old team get a chance to prove themselves whilst out from under the large shadow of Hill and Jordan. Adjusting to a new boss and team isn’t as easy as it sounds. Jordan also has to try and come to terms with the repercussions of multiple traumatic events in order to move forward.

This time the author brings a more reflective read, as opposed to a crime and violence heavy read to the table. In a way McDermid is giving Hill and Jordan a moment to breathe in the chaos. A chance to re-evaluate their relationship and friendship. It will be interesting to see where the author takes the series and characters going forward.

Buy How the Dead Speak at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publication date in UK: 22 August 2019. Publisher: Little, Brown. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Little Brown.

Follow @valmcdermid on Twitter, on Goodreads, on Amazon, Visit valmcdermid.com

Read my reviews of Out of Bounds and Insidious Intent by Val McDermid.

The Seer’s Curse by J.J. Faulks

seers curseThe Seer has his own agenda, which is kind of ironic really when you think of how so-called mediums can convince their clients to lean towards certain decisions. Self-fulfilling prophecies used on an entire village, it’s quite a clever ruse. Unfortunately his plan includes having an innocent child isolated from her friends, family and village.

With a mass or herd mentality the rumour of a supposed curse gains a lot of speed and the Chinese whisper communication method helps to flame the fires of paranoia. Soon every death, every illness and the diminishing food supply is blamed upon the child born under a dark cloud of sorrow and death.

The story of Orleigh is interspersed with short tales of mythology, not of the Greek variety, but rather an entire world of mythology built by Faulks for this story. I liked the idea of the myths being told to teach morals or show an example of good behaviour. The stories within a story. However there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. The author uses the feature too often, which detracts from the characters and the rest of the story.

Aside from that this is a very strong debut. The author and the plot both have a lot of potential. The characters are memorable and I am looking forward to seeing where the author takes Orleigh and Piprin. Faulks is a natural storyteller, who isn’t afraid to be innovative and follow through with bold ideas.

Buy The Seer’s Curse at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @jj_faulks @matadorbooks

Visit jjfaulks.com

29 Seconds by T.M. Logan

29 secondsWhat I enjoyed most about 29 Seconds is the way the author changed the playbook.

As a reader you think you know exactly what kind of read you’re in for after the introduction to Sarah and the predator at her heels, then suddenly the focus changes entirely.

The topic of sexual harassment is on the tip of everyone’s tongue at the moment, due to the revelations about Weinstein and quite a few other Hollywood bigwigs. The #MeToo movement has resulted in a landslide of women and men coming forward to talk about their experiences at the hands of abusers.

Sarah finds herself, like many other women, in a daily struggle to avoid the advances of the man in charge of all of her possible career advancements. Technically it doesn’t mean she can’t get a promotion or be acknowledged for her academic achievements if she is willing to do what he wants and when he wants it. Imagine being blackmailed for sexual favours every single day and trying to fight the systemic abuse our society ignores on a major scale.

How many times are the victims demeaned, destroyed and ridiculed when they try to expose the abusers. To Invalidate and blame the victim is the name of the game. Not really surprising that victims don’t speak out against their abusers.

For me the most intriguing part of the premise was the question. I’ll admit I pondered what my response would be, would have been fifteen years ago and which person I would pick. So the answer for me is a yes, and I wouldn’t worry about it like Sarah or suffer from a guilty conscience either. By the way don’t tell the police I said that.

Logan writes a captivating story, which is driven by the protagonists desperation and fear. It’s a premise, which will make readers think and definitely talk about the book. Both the sexual harassment and the possibility of a crime without repercussions are excellent standalone topics for a story, but together they make an exceptional read.

Logan knows how to capture the heartbeat of public opinion and describe exactly what we wish for in the dark recesses of our minds. The only thing I want to know is, where is my Russian?

Buy 29 Seconds at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @TMLoganAuthor @BonnierZaffre

Watching Edie by Camilla Way

watching edieOne of the most interesting elements of this story is the fact the author hasn’t created a black or white situation.

There are many shades of grey, and in this case those shades relate directly to whether the characters are good guys or bad guys. The truth is, there is no clear answer to that question.

The reader feels sympathy with Edie, because of the hard situation she finds herself in. She is a single woman, who is about to become a single mother. When the baby does eventually arrive she is overwhelmed and clearly needs a friend.

Heather seems like the great alternative to a support system, despite the troubled past she and Edie share. Seems like the perfect solution. Edie needs help and Heather wants to help. Does she really want to help though?

Heather has a tendency to stalk, get violent and blackout. She is creepy and clearly unstable. Would you want her to take care of your newborn baby?

Throughout the book Edie has flashbacks to a time when she and Heather were friends and also to some terrible event that ended said friendship.

What it comes down to is who you think is guilty of the greater crime or wrong-doing. There are things that are unforgivable or so inhumane that they leave a deep dark stain on anyone involved in them. Some wrongs can never be righted.

Watching Edie will make you question everything and everyone. It is a nicely paced and well-developed psychological thriller, and despite the fact the reader can probably guess the traumatic secret the two of them are hiding, it is still a compelling read.

Buy Watching Edie at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

insurgentAs I have mentioned before I am a little late to the series, despite having the books in the house for ages. I must say I have enjoyed the read then again I am a sucker for dystopian settings.

This is the second part in the Divergent series. You can definitely see the influence this series has had on other books and vice versa. Also the obvious parallels to the Hunger Games (HG was released first). It’s an eclectic mixture of dystopian and sci-fi.

I believe the two series have given YA dystopian literature a huge platform, whilst inspiring many other authors to bend the boundaries of this particular genre.

The Tris in this book is a bit of an emotional wreck. A wet blanket who acts without thinking and spends a lot of time doubting her choices. Gone is the strong sense of survival from the first book.

In my review of the first part I mentioned how I felt the compulsory love match took away from the interesting dystopian plot. In this book their relationship is a wee bit on the rocky side.In fact Four does not seem to understand her at all.Their attitudes and decisions are incompatible, although one could argue that Four has just been really good at hiding his real intentions.

It is a typical in between book. A lot of information to fill in the blanks and set up the last book. The first sets up the story, the second gives us an overall view on the situation and the last one is the culmination of the revolution.

Definitely a series both younger and older readers will enjoy

Buy Insurgent at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Divergent, the first in the Divergent Trilogy series by Veronica Roth.

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

undergroundThe most worrying element of this story is the plausibility of this scenario. What could have been and what could still be.

The topic of racism is at the forefront of society, as we watch the civil unrest in the US rise and the topic of refugees cause conflict in Europe.

The truth is racism has always been an underlying issue in the US. The civil movement, segregation and slavery isn’t really that long ago. So this story is en-vogue in a sense, and the premise is a red flag with absolutely realistic scenarios.

In this book slavery was never abolished. in fact it has become a well oiled industry. It is also supposedly a humane industry, but hey it’s slavery and greedy men will always exploit the vulnerable.

Instead of humane treatment, the slaves, known as PBL’s ‘person bound by labour’ suffer pain and humiliation at the hands of their captors. Some of them are even killed, despite it being illegal to do so.

Victor was once a PBL who escaped the injustice of his situation only to be forced into a new kind of slavery. He is what the Kapos were to the concentration camp inmates. He is a betrayer to his own people. It’s his job to hunt down the ones who are lucky enough to escape.

I like the fact Winters has had the gumption to take the idea back to the beginning of the end and change the historical narrative. This is what half of the country wanted and what it could possibly have evolved into under a different set of circumstances.

To be completely frank the Pigmentation Taxonomies really struck a chord with me. It or the descriptions bring the inhumanity of it all to the forefront: moderate charcoal, brass highlights #41, moderate chestnut, sunflower highlights #142 or twilight, purple tone #122.  It objectifies all of them in a way I can’t even begin to fathom and could never relate to.

Underground Airlines serves as a stark reminder of the race issues that simmer under the surface and how much damage the social philosophy of eugenics has caused and continues to cause. We are one race, the human race.

As I said, it’s a powerful thought-provoking premise and read.

Buy Underground Airlines at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.