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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Tentative Fall TBR & Upcoming Reads

Yes, I sort of have a “TBR” this fall. I know.. I know, I generally avoid sticking to lists and setting a schedule (hence the tentative), but I have a lot of titles I am very excited to explore over the next few months. So deviating a bit, I thought I would share a several of the books (not all inclusive) included in my stack which may very well carry over into winter reading.

Fall TBR

(Links to Goodreads info in titles)

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The Heretic’s Daughter
By Kathleen Kent

Synopsis:

Martha Carrier was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and willful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. Often at odds with one another, mother and daughter are forced to stand together against the escalating hysteria of the trials and the superstitious tyranny that led to the torture and imprisonment of more than 200 people accused of witchcraft. This is the story of Martha’s courageous defiance and ultimate death, as told by the daughter who survived.
Kathleen Kent is a tenth generation descendant of Martha Carrier. She paints a haunting portrait, not just of Puritan New England, but also of one family’s deep and abiding love in the face of fear and persecution.

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A Plague of Giants (Seven Kennings #1)
By Kevin Hearne

Synopsis:

In the start of an enchanting new series, the New York Times bestselling author of The Iron Druid Chronicles creates an unforgettable fantasy world . . . one that is forever changed when an army of giants invades. The kingdom’s only hope? The discovery of a form of magic that will call the world’s wondrous beasts to fight by the side of humankind.

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The Girl in the Tower (The WInternight Trilogy #2)

By Katherine Arden

Synopsis:

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingalecontinues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

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13 Minutes
By Sarah Pinborough

Synopsis:

I was dead for 13 minutes.

I don’t remember how I ended up in the icy water but I do know this – it wasn’t an accident and I wasn’t suicidal.

They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you’re a teenage girl, it’s hard to tell them apart. My friends love me, I’m sure of it. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t try to kill me. Does it?

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Little Fires EverywhereLittle Fires Everywhere
By Celeste Ng

Synopsis:

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

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The Tethered Mage (Swords and Fire #1)
By Melissa Caruso

Synopsis:

In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled — taken as children and conscripted into the Falcon Army. 
Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.

Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations.

But fate has bound the heir and the mage. And as war looms on the horizon, a single spark could turn their city into a pyre.


Have you read any of the books in my pile? I am really looking forward to exploring a few titles in various genres over the next two months. What’s in your Fall or upcoming reading stack?

Happy Reading!

Danielle ❤

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See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

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See What I Have Done
By Sarah Schmidt
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
ISBN13: 9780802126597
Pages:  328
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery

Synopsis:

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.


my-thought

Retellings and historical fiction occupy a large portion of space among my shelves. True crime and mysteries equally reside next to them. So picking up See What I Have Done was an effortless process. A historical re-imagining of the Borden murders offered promises of intrigue and suspense that were not to be ignored.

Schmidt provides a fictionalized glimpse into the days before, during and after the Borden axe murders that kicks off with Lizzie’s discovery of her father’s gruesome death. What ensues is a somewhat odd tale offered through multiple points of view. We are introduced to Lizzie, her family and those immediately involved through a series of narration that felt at times, unnecessary and missed the mark for me on a few levels.

I struggled with the alternating perspectives, as I found myself lacking interest when not directly engaged with Lizzie’s story. The addition of alternating PoV read more like a distraction that took from the overall effect as opposed to adding to it. I did enjoy being introduced to the remaining Borden family and maid Bridget, but I would have personally preferred to experience this tale solely through the eyes of our young protagonist.

I struggled with the relaxed pace and absence of urgency. I anticipated more excitement surrounding the heinous crime that was committed in the Borden household. I did come to appreciate the rich, atmospheric and slow burn style of story that was supplied with a truly unique prose, but ultimately encountered a few issues that hindered my time with the book. Unfortunately, my digital copy was riddled with formatting and grammatical errors that created a challenge, and I often found myself walking away in frustration.

While See What I Have Done failed to fully capture my interest, I feel the author’s original take on an infamous mystery will still offer a unique experience that many will find great value in. If you have ever found yourself fascinated in the story of Lizzie Borden, I urge you to explore this novel and form your own opinion.

*I would like to thank Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for providing me with this copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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