Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

BLOG“A cloth covers the jar that Bridie took from the bookcase in the nursery, and Ruby is thankful for this. For the contents have the ability to rearrange even a dead man’s sense of reality. As with all terrible, wondrous sights, there is a jolt of shock, then a hypnotic fascination, then the uneasy queasiness, then the whole thing starts again; the desire to look and the desire never to have looked in the first place.”

Bridie Devine is a well-known detective who takes on a case involving the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, the secret daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick. Few people were aware of her existence but it becomes clear that the girl possesses supernatural qualities, which have drawn the attention of collectors who specialize in oddities. Bridie is intent on finding the child and uncovering the truth behind her disappearance, especially as Sir Edmund himself proves to be less than forthcoming. But in order to do that she will need to reconnect with parts of her past that she had long buried. To assist her is Cora, her seven-foot tall housemaid with a sharp tongue, and Ruby, a tattoo-covered ghost. What unfolds is a story of secrets that blends light and dark along with the surreal.

‘’The woman is made of boot polish and pipe smoke, clean cloth and the north wind. And as for the dead man walking behind her, well, he means no harm.’’

Initially I was just going to read a chapter of this book to get a sense of the story because I wasn’t sure what exactly I was in the mood to read. But then I just kept reading and reading well into the night. The writing is lovely and completely drew me in. I am generally not a fan of very descriptive writing styles, but here there was this perfect balance of imagery and story progression. My absolute favourite aspect of a novel is compelling characters, and Things in Jars delivers that as well. Bridie especially is intelligent, brave, and a wonderful protagonist. What I enjoyed the most was the dialogue and banter between characters, particularly with Bridie and Ruby, the ghost. In fact that part of the story I found to be really touching. And Cora is the kind of friend you definitely want to have. There is the mystery aspect of the story, but there is also time spent going back to Bridie’s childhood and discovering how it may relate to present day events. Even though I am such a big fan of mysteries, I found myself mostly drawn to the characters and the strangeness of the things presented in this world. Some things made me chuckle and there were moments that left me feeling unsettled. As with any story that utilizes magical realism, it was strange and bizarre, but written in a way that gives that nostalgic feeling of fairy tales. I am eager to read many more books by this author.

The Hercule Poirot Reading List: Three Act Tragedy

BLOG“Events come to people, not people to events. Why do some people have exciting lives and other people dull ones? Because of their surroundings? Not at all. One man may travel to the ends of the earth and nothing will happen to him. There will be a massacre a week before he arrives, and an earthquake the day after he leaves, and the boat that he nearly took will be shipwrecked. And another man may live at Balham and travel to the City every day, and things will happen to him. He will be mixed up with blackmailing gangs and beautiful girls and motor bandits. There are people with a tendency to shipwrecks–even if they go on a boat on an ornamental lake, something will happen to it.”

A dinner party of famous actor Sir Charles Cartwright, which hosts thirteen guests, turns out to be particularly unlucky for Reverand Babbington. His death comes on suddenly after a drink from his martini glass, however any initial suspicions are disapproved after an analysis reveals no trace of poison in the glass. After all, who would ever want to harm the well liked Reverand? The event doesn’t sit well with a couple of key individuals, and another death under similar circumstances leads to an investigation that catches the interest of Poirot himself.

“But yes, exactly that. Think! With thought, all problems can be solved.”

Oof, this one was a challenge to get through. The story moves quite slowly and feels disjointed. There are three characters that are the main focus and guide us through the events and act as investigators, with Poirot becoming a key fixture much later in the book. I liked one of these characters, was indifferent about another, and could not stand the third. There are Poirot books I have read where he is absent for portions of the story and it works, but here I really missed his presence. With every page I was hoping that he would hop on the scene and take over. I usually breeze through Agatha Christie books, but I kept putting this one down and if I had not been doing a read through all Poirot books, I would have not bothered to finish it. The last quarter of the story does pick up and Poirot works his magic. I especially liked the way the story concludes with such a classic Poirot thing to say. The actual conclusion to the mystery is not really satisfying and seems fairly ridiculous in terms of motive. While there are some bright spots, this one was a miss for me and my least favourite Poirot book so far.

The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

BLOG“I’ve been waiting for you a long time, Alina” He said. “You and I are going to change the world.”

The nation of Ravka is but a shadow of its former self, torn apart by the creation of the Shadow Fold, a section of complete darkness inhabited by monsters. To destroy it is impossible, but hope rises in the form of a young girl, Alina, whose once dormant power comes to light under a vicious attack. In the blink of an eye her life is completely changed as she is whisked away to the royal court where she is to study and learn to master her newly discovered power, under the guidance of the enigmatic Darkling. But as Alina soon learns, there are many more questions that need to be answered and  an underlying darkness that threatens.

After reading the Six of Crows duology, I was eager to read more books set in that universe so I didn’t hesitate diving into the Grisha Trilogy. I got into the flow of the story right away finding it to be an enjoyable and easy read. There is a quality to Leigh Bardugo’s writing that completely works for me and it was really pleasant to be swept into this fantastical world and to keep turning those pages. Where it all fell apart for me was the main character of Alina, who I found to be uninspiring and far too whiny. With each page it became more and more of an issue, as the hope that she would grow and evolve completely diminished. For the most part she is rather bland and I completely forgot her name while reading the first novel in the series. The most frustrating is her cluelessness and lack of common sense. I wish there had been more to her, but the effort to have a fish out of water story once she is in new and extraordinary circumstances leaves her coming across as an overly weak and naive person. Too much of her revolves around her feelings for one boy or the other. There is a great moment in Shadow and Bone where she has a realization of her own power and a moment of letting go of the past, but sadly just ends up slipping back into her patterns. Because the story is told from Alina’s point of view, it does affect the whole reading experience. Continue reading “The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo”

Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset“Call it what it is: monster racing.
Forget that, and you die.”

In Becar, who you are in this life determines your fate in the next. The purest souls, known as the augurs, can read auras and see your path; who you are and who you will become. For the darkest of souls there is only one outcome: to be reborn as a kehok, a monster, and that is all you will ever be, with no hope of redemption. The only way to ever be reborn as anything other than a kehok is to win the Races. Tamra was a top rider before being sidelined by an injury and becoming a professional trainer. After a miscalculation led to tragedy on the track and damaged her reputation, she is in desperate need of funds to prevent her daughter from being taken away. In a search for a new kehok and rider, she comes across Raia, who is running away from domineering parents and a cruel fiancé. The prize money from winning the Races would mean freedom for Raia and a secure future for Tamra and her daughter. With plenty of obstacles in their path, they embark on achieving the impossible and changing their future, with a new kehok that can lead them to victory. Continue reading “Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst”

The Hercule Poirot Reading List: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

BLOG“No, my friend, I am not drunk. I have just been to the dentist, and need not return for another six months! Is it not the most beautiful thought?”

Poirot may be the world’s greatest detective, but he fears the dentist as much as many people do. So it is with great hesitation and plenty of nerves that he enters the offices of celebrated Dr. Morley. Following the examination he is relieved, never once imagining that he would be back at the dentist’s only hours later examining the body of Dr. Morley, apparently dead by suicide.

Having been in contact with the gentleman earlier in the day, Poirot cannot believe that the facts are exactly as they appear. Why would a celebrated dentist decide to kill himself that day? What may have occurred following Poirot’s exit from the office? A thorough investigation follows, as Poirot interviews the other patients and step by step starts to reconstruct the events of the day. But unexpected twists and turns lead to more questions and an even bigger mystery.

This was an interesting mystery that had my attention with every question posed and every unexplained occurrence. I wanted to know the why and the how and who, every step of the way. The piecing of a puzzle is always intriguing to me, and this book takes it up a level as it not only seeks answers to the original questions but also introduces a new mystery into the mix that is just as odd. It does feel like everything gets more and more complicated and at a point I stopped trying to figure things out and just went along with it. There are aspects to the story that walk the line between complex and convoluted, but I did not mind that so much. Overall a solid, cozy mystery.