Things in Jars by Jess Kidd (Review)

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

Blurb

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

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

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

Review

I love a gothic mystery so I was very excited to start reading this book and I will be honest it was rather a surprise once I got into the story. 

My first impression of this book was too much description and it took me a while to get used to this. Kidd is an excellent writer but sometimes her descriptions can go on too long. For example she describes at one point all the different dreams people are having and to be honest I just lost interest as they were characters that were not important. However, that is my only problem with this story; the rest I loved.

Bridie is fantastic and the more I got to know her the more I loved her character. Bridie is clever and has the ability and intellect to be an amazing doctor but sadly she is woman and women are not allowed to be doctors. This doesn’t stop Bridie though who helps Inspector Rose with unusual cases by examining the bodies and the scene of the crime. She also solves crimes for private clients as well. Bridie is eccentric, she smokes a pipe and speaks her mind and is a force to be reckoned with and she does all of this in a dress and many petticoats, most of the time.

I will be honest Bridie is basically a female Sherlock Holmes and it is very clear that that is who Kidd based the character on. Bridie also has a house maid called Cora who is fascinating. Cora is seven foot tall and a very scary woman who the local children find very interesting. She is also a fantastic bodyguard for Bridie who will see no harm come to her.

This story combines folklore and history together perfectly and makes for a fascinating read. I will be honest at times I found it a little disturbing but it was still a fabulous read that I highly enjoyed. I give this story 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Jess Kidd was brought up in London as part of a large family from county Mayo and has been praised for her unique fictional voice. Her debut, Himself, was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards in 2016. She won the Costa Short Story Award the same year. Her second novel, The Hoarder, published as Mr. Flood’s Last Resort in the U.S. and Canada was shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2019. Both books were BBC Radio 2 Book Club Picks. Her latest book, the Victorian detective tale Things in Jars, has been released to critical acclaim. Jess’s work has been described as ‘Gabriel García Márquez meets The Pogues.’ 

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell (Review)

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell

Blurb

It is the winter of 1893, and in London the snow is falling.

It is falling as Gideon Bliss seeks shelter in a Soho church, where he finds Angie Tatton lying before the altar. His one-time love is at death’s door, murmuring about brightness and black air, and about those she calls the Spiriters. In the morning she is gone.

The snow is falling as a seamstress climbs onto a ledge above Mayfair, a mysterious message stitched into her own skin. It is falling as she steadies herself and closes her eyes.

It is falling, too, as her employer, Lord Strythe, vanishes into the night, watched by Octavia Hillingdon, a restless society columnist who longs to uncover a story of real importance.

She and Gideon will soon be drawn into the same mystery, each desperate to save Angie and find out the truth about Lord Strythe. Their paths will cross as the darkness gathers, and will lead them at last to what lies hidden at the house on Vesper Sands. 

Review

This is a new author for me and I must admit I was really excited to read the book. When I started the book I really struggled to initially get into it and to start with I did not get on with the character of Octavia, I found her very annoying. Thankfully I kept reading and eventually started to get into the story.

The thing which annoyed me the most was the lack of detail in the book. Octavia and her brother clearly had a back story but we never got to hear what it was. We knew that Inspector Cutter had a story but we never got to hear it fully and there were massive holes in the story that were not fully explained. I really wanted to know more and to be honest that is why I kept reading but I never got those answers.

My favourite character was Inspector Cutter, he was obviously a man who had seen a lot of life and a lot of crime and he knew how to get the answers and results he needed. He had some fantastic lines and I must admit I did laugh quite a lot when reading his interactions with Gideon.

Gideon was an interesting character and I enjoyed seeing how his character developed through the book. He started off very naive but as he worked with Cutter he got to know more of how the real world worked and also realised that his constant talking was not the best thing to be doing.

I enjoyed the book overall but I will be honest I would not read it again. It really had the potential of being an excellent story but it was just lacking. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Paraic O’Donnell’s first novel, The Maker of Swans, was named the Amazon Rising Stars Debut of the Month for February 2016, and was shortlisted for the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards in the Newcomer of the Year category.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Review)

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

About the author

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Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of several novels, including Gods of Jade and Shadow. She has also edited a number of anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination.

Blurb

After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find – her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

Review

I have seen so many reviews of this book and it has featured on my instagram account a great deal so I thought it was high time I gave it a read. Thankfully I was not disappointed.

The first few chapters of the book I will be honest had me slightly worried as it seemed to be heading down a predictable route and to a certain extent it was what I was predicting but with a twist and I’m so pleased I read it till the end.

Neomi is a true socialite who is used to getting her own way in the world. She has her father wrapped around her little finger and she knows how to get a man to do anything for her. She is beautiful and stylish but no simpleton, she is highly educated and I love the fact she has so many opportunities to show her knowledge.

Francis is such a sweetie all he wants to do is help Neomi but he is constrained by his family. He’s so shy and has clearly led a very sheltered life, he has never met a woman like Neomi before in his life and it is clear he finds her fascinating. I really loved Francis’ character and loved getting to know his character.

High Place is a mystery and a mouldy one at that, it really sounds like a nightmare to live in but the people who call it home do not seem to mind the state of place but Neomi notices it. The mould on the walls, the lack of reliable electricity and hot water and the fact that the curtains remain closed can not help the situation. It really must be a dismal place to live and seems like something from a gothic novel to Neomi.

The character I did not like was Virgil as he was clearly a bully and a very slimy character. He is described as handsome but his character does not reflect that. Florence, Francis’ mother, is also a nasty lady but at the same time I felt sorry for her. Florence clearly tried to change her future and clearly had a happier past but now she is a different woman left with broken dreams. You see snippets of this through the book.

I really enjoyed reading this book, oh and I love the cover of the book. I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but the cover really is eye catching. The storyline for this book is brilliantly written and cleverly thought out. I will definitely be reading Moreno-Garcia’s other books. I give this book 4 out 5 Dragons.

Purchase Links

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The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde (Review)

The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

9781911547709

About the author

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Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. He was a playwright, poet, novelist and short story writer.

Blurb

Everybody in the county knows that the great manor of Canterville Chase has been haunted for 300 years. But when the American minister Mr Otis moves in with his wife and  family, they refuse to be frightened by something as Old World as a ghost.

The Canterville Ghost vows to have his revenge and terrify them all to death with his most despicable deeds. But after the minister offers practical solutions such as Pinkerton’s Champion Stain Remover for the bloodstain in the sitting room, and the twin boys torture him by pelleting him with their peashooters, it’s the poor ghost who is left severely spooked.

Can he possibly rescue his reputation, or will the family offer him a chance to finally lay his – detachable – head down forever?

Review

I was very excited to find this book whilst looking for Christmas presents at Waterstones. I love the film of this story where the ghost is played by Patrick Stewart.

This is a super little short story where you can not help but feel sorry for the poor ghost. He has spent all his ghostly life haunting and terrifying the residents of the manor and now all of a sudden he has a family he can not scare and who delight in scaring him instead. He tries all his tricks but to no avail and slowly it starts to affect his health. That’s if ghosts actually do have ill health?

The Otis family are stereotypically American and a real good laugh. They take everything in their stride and are not fazed by anything. Thankfully one member of this family can also be the ghost’s biggest aid.

I love this little story, I find it sweet and funny and just generally a fun read. I highly recommend this book to everyone and give it a massive 5 out of 5 Dragons.

Purchase Links

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The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (Review)

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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About the author

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Henry James, born 15th April 1843, was an American-British author. He is best known for his novels dealing with social and marital interplay, in his later years his novels became more experimental. He passed away in February 1916.

Blurb

A very young woman’s first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate…An estate haunted by a beckoning evil.

Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls…

But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil.

For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.

Review

This was the last book I completed on holiday and to be honest it was a massive disappointment. I just could not get on with James’ writing style and found the whole story to be extremely boring.

The story centres around a young woman who is hired to be the governess of two young orphans. The uncle of these children does not want to know anything of their upbringing or of any problems, he wants to live his life to the full unhindered by these children. The governess goes off to a large country estate to look after these children and she immediately starts to hear and see strange things.

Now my first reaction was that this governess is very young for such responsibility and inexperienced. Her imagination could easily be running wild, and turning the sounds of an old house into something more. The housekeeper does not help instead of giving the girl a good shake she just blindly accepts what the governess is saying.

Then the two ghosts start to appear that only the governess has seen but she is convinced the children have seen them too but the children are not afraid of the ghosts.

At times I did wonder and still do whether all of this was in the governess’ head because it just was not a very convincing gothic horror story. It just felt forced and sloppily written, and there were certain things that got on my nerves, for instance why did she just ignore that the boy was expelled from boarding school, why did she not found out why he was expelled or find him another school? The only good point was the description and setting the scene of the gothic style manor house.

The final straw was the ending which just annoyed me no end and just confirmed to me that the book had been a massive waste of my time, I was just thankful it was rather short. I gave this book 1 out 5 Dragons.

Purchase Links

Waterstones

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Details of book I read

Page count: 124

Format: Kindle

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Fireside Gothic by Andrew Taylor (Review)

Fireside Gothic by Andrew Taylor

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About the author

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Andrew Taylor was born in 1951 and is a British author best known for his crime novels. He has won the Diamond Dagger which is Britain’s top crime-writing award.

Blurb

BROKEN VOICES

It’s Christmas before the Great War and two lonely schoolboys have been forced into companionship. Left in the care of an elderly teacher, there is little to do but listen to his eerie tales about the nearby Cathedral. The boys concoct a plan to discover if the stories are true. But the Cathedral is filled with hidden dangers, and curiosity can prove fatal.

THE LEPER HOUSE

One stormy night in Suffolk, a man’s car breaks down following his sister’s funeral. The only source of light comes from a remote cottage by the sea. The mysterious woman who lives there begs him to leave, yet he can’t shake the sense that she somehow needs him. He attempts to return the next day but she is nowhere to be seen. And neither is the cottage.

THE SCRATCH

Clare and Gerald live a perfect life in the Forest of Dean with their cat, Cannop. Then Gerald’s young nephew comes to stay. Jack is from another world – active service in Afghanistan. The experience has left him outwardly untouched, but for a scratch that won’t heal. Jack and Cannop don’t like each other. Clare and Jack like each other too much. The scratch begins to fester.

Review

This book is not on my summer reading challenge and to be honest I read it by accident. I did not want to take my Kindle to the beach so I borrowed one of the books my husband had brought on holiday with him. My husband has read a lot of Andrew Taylor’s books but this one is a first for me and will not be the last.

This book has three stories is in it, so I will review them separately.

Broken Voices

Out of the three, this is my favourite story and feels the most Gothic to me. The story is based around two schoolboys who cannot go home for Christmas so must spend the season with an elderly teacher. They hear an old legend about the Cathedral and so decide to see for themselves whether it is true and they attempt this in the middle of night, adding to the mystery and drama. I must admit the two boys are braver than I, as I could never go in to a Cathedral in the middle of the night, too many ghosts for my liking.

Taylor sets the scene perfectly, it is just like a gothic novel from the Victorian period. He describes how the building looks different in the night, how the shadows flicker in the candlelight and how they might not be alone. At the end of the tale I was not entirely sure if it was all real it felt like a dream that one of the boys had when they were young. The story left me pondering somewhat.

The Leper House

This story was my least favourite and to be honest rather forgettable, I had to remind myself what happened in it before writing the review. I enjoyed the story but wouldn’t read it again as it did not really have anything special about it.

The story is about a man who meets a mysterious woman in a cottage which has no power and no comforts. This woman is a complete mystery to the man and he has to see her again, even when she tries to push him away. However, the next day he goes to find the cottage again and nothing is there, just some ruins.

This story was rather a confusing read and just felt more complicated than it needed to be. The characters were also rather unremarkable and nothing really stood out for me. The one thing I was really happy with at the end was that in my opinion he made the right choice.

The Scratch

This was a creepy read, especially for a cat owner and one of those cats is black. I was not entirely sure what to make of this story but really enjoyed reading it. There were a lot of What Ifs in the story and it left me pondering again.

I also enjoyed how Taylor included one of the main characters as a PTSD sufferer who has come back from being in the army and is struggling with getting back into the world again. I must admit I have not read many books tackling this issue and it was good to see Taylor including it in this story.

I did not really like Clare, I’m not sure why but she just got on my nerves. Gerald is obviously a hard working man who has always worked hard for his family and is a caring man who is happy to try and help his nephew where he can.

The story was really good and kept me hooked and I liked the ending and especially Cannop the cat, although I felt sorry for him for his name. I would have liked a bit more Gothic though.

Overall, I enjoyed the three stories and it has lit the spark for me wanting to read more of Taylor’s books. The only reason the book did not get the full 5 Dragons and only got 4 was because I wanted more Gothic from the last two stories. A very good beach read.

Purchase Links

Waterstones

Book Depository

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The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy by Tim Burton (Review)

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories by Tim Burton

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About the author

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Tim Burton was born in August 1958 and is an American filmmaker, artist, writer and animator. He is famous for his dark, gothic and eccentric horror and fantasy films. He often works with Johnny Depp and Danny Elfman.

Blurb

Twenty-three illustrated gothic tales from the dark corridors of the imagination of Tim Burton. Burton – the creative genius behind Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and Nightmare Before Christmas, among others – now gives birth to a cast of gruesomely sympathetic children: misunderstood outcasts who struggle to find love and belonging in their cruel, cruel worlds. His lovingly lurid illustrations evoke both the sweetness and tragedy of these hopeful, yet hapless beings.

Review

When I saw this book in the bookshop a few days ago I grabbed it and immediately had to buy it. I love all the work of Tim Burton but I did not know he had done a book. I was so happy to find this book and very excited to read it. Yesterday I finally had time to sit down with a mug of tea and read it.

This book is a collection of short tales illustrated by Tim Burton himself, what is not to like? All the tales feel like children’s stories with the short little paragraphs and illustrations, however this is far too gothic and gruesome in places for children so Young Adults and upwards is a must.

The book is depressing, gruesome, gothic but most of all hilarious but naughty hilarious because you feel like you should not be laughing at these tales. I found The Melancholy Death of the Oyster Boy to be very depressing, I felt very sad about the fate of the Oyster Boy and I was rather shocked about how he died.

Another element that surprised me was how many tales contained parents who hate their children. It made me wonder what Burton feels about his own children to be honest. I am not complaining though as it made for good reading.

Nearly all the tales are my favourites but a few are my absolute favourites. Stain Boy is one because this reminds me of some of my nephews who no matter what get dirt everywhere and clean clothes do not stay clean for long. Sue was another favourite, the idea of someone walking around with a tissue attached to their face made me giggle.

I loved everything about this book, the illustrations, the stories everything is just brilliant. The book took less than half an hour to read, I found I wanted it to last longer. I definitely plan on re-reading this on halloween. This book has a massive 5 out 5 Dragons.

Purchase this book from Waterstones

 

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