The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1) by Alison Goodman

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The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1)
By Alison Goodman
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
ISBN13: 9780670785476
Pages: 482
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Paranormal

Synopsis:

London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

(New) Thoughts

The Dark Days Club was an accidental find that landed on my shelves after browsing Book Outlet. The promise of a  story involving the paranormal and Regency London begged to be read. And this first book delivered a solid and satisfying introduction to Lady Helen.

Set in 1812 London, we are introduced to 18-year-old Lady Helen on the night before her presentation in court as a young, eligible woman. Feelings are apprehensive as she struggles to deal with the weight of her deceased mother’s questionable past and the pressure to keep appearances. When a housemaid has suddenly vanished without explanation, Lady Helen finds herself thrown into a mystery that will take her deep into the underbelly of London among supernatural creatures and many lurking dangers.  But it is quite possible that hidden within, she may uncover the truth to her own elusive past.

Some books are just fun! With an incredible ensemble of characters and its elaborate setting, The Dark Days Club falls effortlessly into this category. Lady Helen is strong-headed and intelligent. She also plays a mean political game as she understands exactly what is expected of her and the consequences of not meeting those expectations. I found her wit and curiosity to be well-balanced with her charm, strengths and occasional weaknesses. She is the sort of individual you find yourself drawn to and wanting to befriend. I simply adored her in terms of female protagonist. Lord Carlston and the many supporting characters supplied a nice air of mystery the accompanied our lead well and brought great depth and variety to the story.

The world building is lavish and inviting. Clever use of details easily paint a clear setting that expands on the story-line and fully immerses the reader into Regency London.  I cannot recall reading a Regency setting that felt so picturesque and atmospheric before now. I thoroughly enjoyed every scene and found myself lost within the pages.

Goodman’s writing is clever and well-timed, creating a steady paced read that carries the reader through nearly 500 pages with incredible ease. Character development unfolds at a rewarding pace and allows for future growth. Elements of London and the paranormal come together beautifully, offering a very distinct experience that is not without action. And hidden underneath all of the wonder still lies a story of loyalty, friendship and honor.

I think I am taking the plunge and 5 starring this one on Goodreads. Anyone who enjoys rich historical fiction and the paranormal will find entertainment and value in The Dark Days Club. I will be continuing with this series.

Untitled designEnjoyed with a cup of vanilla chai, a splash of milk and a dash of cinnamon.

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Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

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Mask of Shadows 
By Linsey Miller
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN13: 9781492647492
Pages: 352
Genre: YA Fantasy

Synopsis:

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class—and the nobles who destroyed their home. 

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand—the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears—Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge. 

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

(New) Thoughts

Mask of Shadows presented with great aspirations and blurb that promised a dynamic plot. Unfortunately, I failed to establish any form of real connection with the writing or characters. I am honestly at a loss on how to discuss my experience as I believe that while I may not have been the proper audience, it is sure to find one. I will keep this review on the lighter side, omitting the normal recap and simply highlight a few Pros and Cons.

Pros

  • An ambitious plot-line featuring my first encounter with a gender fluid protagonist. There can never be enough diversity in reading! Ever! The simple fact that the author made a point of tackling Sal’s preferences on how they were acknowledged by others warrants appreciation. Sal offered some moments of insight and wit that I admired.
  • An element of romance that avoided the normal clichés and was delivered at a welcomed, steady pace. I tire of instalove in YA fantasy. It feels like an all too common theme of late.
  • Maud! Sal’s attendant during their audition is spectacular. I simply adored her and all that she contributed to the story.

Cons

  • For all of Sal’s greatness, there was a feeling of missed potential. They deserved further exploration and development that the story never managed.
  • The setting while held in high court, felt very isolated and vague at times. There was no true sense of world building or the surrounding environment. I feel that this could have enhanced the reading experience tremendously. I struggle with any fantasy that fails to construct rich and vivid settings.
  • Given the concept, this felt like a title that should have pack a very heavy political and magic system, but the brevity of the back story left a lot to be desired and much unexplored.
  • The story became redundant. Too much time was focused on Sal’s audition and inessential details. While I understand the auditions were of significance, there was a lot of untapped potential.
  • Predictability and slow pacing.

In the end, it felt like Miller was onto something great that fell victim to ill-timed execution and a somewhat uneventful narration. There are a lot of interesting factors presented that could possibly receive a noteworthy redemption in a sequel if they are properly evolved and expanded. While Mask of Shadows fell short for myself, I would hesitate to sway others away. I feel this is a title to explore on your own accord as it will most likely be a love or hate relationship.

*I would like to thank Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with this title. The above review is of me own, honest opinion.

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Learn more about the author at linseymiller.com.

Purchase Links:

Amazon US  Amazon UK  Book Depository

Happy Reading!

Danielle ❤

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Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1)

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Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1)
By Rachel Caine
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
ISBN13: 9780451473134
Pages: 374
Genre: YA Fantasy

Synopsis:

In an exhilarating new series, “New York Times” bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time. 

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden. 

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service. 

When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe knowledge is more valuable than any human life and soon both heretics and books will burn.

(New) Thoughts

I am utterly, completely hooked! This was my first encounter with Rachel Caine’s work and she has sunk her writing claws deep into my reading heart. I was up past the midnight hour finishing this book because I simply could not reach a point where I was ready to put it down.

The Great Library regulates the public’s access to knowledge through the use of alchemy and blanks (imagine e readers under the Library’s control).  To own an original work is strictly prohibited and comes with great risks. Jess Brightwell is a runner (deliverer of black market titles). Hi family supplies books to those who are willing to brave the potential threats if caught. When he is sent to the Great Library to train as part of his father’s efforts to place eyes and ears on the “inside”, he discovers his obedience and loyalty to his family will be put to the ultimate test. Jess thrives on knowledge and all that the Library aims to preserve. But when he uncovers just how far they will go and what they will sacrifice to protect this knowledge and their foothold, he will face the ultimate challenge.

Caine delivers a unique cast that is enduring and offers constant variety. There is a welcomed amount of diversity the works beautifully in engaging and connecting the reader. Jess Brightwell is intelligent and well-rounded but not without his own trials. His love for the written word and continuous struggle with family loyalty versus his morals and the Library provide a nice balance of tension and admiration that establishes him as credible, allowing a more personal link with the reader. The supporting characters are not without their own merit as they each contribute equally to the story.

While many of us are no stranger to dystopian worlds where books and reading are the center of conflict, Ink and Bone takes this familiar story and ups the ante to extreme heights. With an ever evolving plot that continues to thicken by the page, elements of a dynamic magic system and alchemy supply new facets that feed into what quickly becomes a truly original and compelling plot. Incorporating cultural factors and aspects of steampunk beautifully intermingled with libraries, black market books and even a war-zone in a constantly changing setting guarantee excitement.

I am including a note on the unabridged audio edition as I ended receiving this on audible as well, so I am reviewing both. Published by Recorded Books and narrated by Julian Elfer, it is approximately 10 hrs and 26 minutes in length. Elfer’s narration is outstanding and proved to add a deserved air and life to the story that only serves to enhance it. Accurately paced delivery and clear and concise dialog performance make this an ideal audiobook for fans.

Caine’s writing is clever and crisp. She sets a fluid and fast paced tone that fuels the adventure and creates an effortless experience. Events segue beautifully and her eye for detail leaves nothing for want other than the sequel! Ink and Bone is a fully immersive experience that promotes thought. It tackles and challenges the effects on society when governing systems attempt to manipulate or control knowledge. A must read for fans of dystopian fantasies who enjoy divergent stories!

*I would like to thank Blogging for Books and Crown Publishing Company for this book and opportunity. The above review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

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Learn more about the author at rachelcaine.com.

Purchase Links:

Amazon US  Amazon UK  Book Depository

Happy Reading!

Danielle ❤

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