I have read so many books in the last 22 years, but I wonder how many will stand the test of time, will be become classics or still be read in fifty years’ time. So, in no particular order, here are my favourites.
The March of the sequels hosted by Sue’s Musing continues with The Master of The Ravels by Nicole Galland featuring official and rogue time travel agencies, good and bad witches and a whole lot of Shakespeare.
Genre: Time Travel,science fiction
Series: Sequel to the Rise and Fall of DODO
Source: My own
This sequel picks up where the original left off, as Tristan Lyons, Mel Stokes, and their fellow outcasts from the Department of Diachronic Operations (D.O.D.O.) fight to stop the powerful witch Gráinne from using time travel to reverse the evolution of all modern technology.
Chief amongst Gráinne’s plots: to encrypt cataclysmic spells into Shakespeare’s “cursed” play, Macbeth. When her fellow rogue agents fall victim to Gráinne’s schemes, Melisande Stokes is forced to send Tristan’s sister Robin back in time to 1606.While Robin poses as an apprentice in Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Mel travels to the ancient Roman Empire and, with the help of double-agent Chira in Renaissance Florence, untangles the knotted threads of history while the diabolical Gráinne jumps from timeline to timeline, always staying frustratingly one stop ahead—or is it behind?
I loved The Rise and Fall of DODO and was so excited to come across the sequel in my local bookshop. The book continues to be told via a mix of memos. journal entries, letters etc that continue to work well. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t read the first book, there is a handy summary at the start, in fact not reading the book first might not be such a bad thing but more on that later.
I’m so pleased to be part of the blog tour for The Book of Perilous Dishes by Doina Rusti historical fiction set in Bucharest featuring a book of magical recipes.
Genre: Historical Fiction/Literature In translation
Source: Random Things Tours
Translator: from Romanian by James Christian Brown
Bucharest, 1798. A slave-cook lives in Bucharest, sought after by everyone. His sublime cooking satisfies even the sophisticated tastes of the Prince, who lays claim to him, whisking him away to the Palace. However, no one knows that the cook has in his possession a witch’s recipe book, the Book of Perilous Dishes. His food can bring about damaging sincerity, forgetfulness, the gift of prediction, or hysterical laughter. And the rightful owner of this book is fourteen-year-old Pâtca, an adolescent initiated in the occult arts. Pâtca comes to Bucharest, to her uncle, Cuviosu Zaval, to recover this book, but she finds him dead, murdered, and the Book of Perilous Dishes has disappeared without a trace. All that Zaval has left her is a strange map…
The Book of Perilous Dishes follows the story of Pâtca, who uses her powers to avenge the death of her uncle and retrieve a magical recipe book left in his keeping which has been stolen by Silica the cook. Travelling from Romania to France and on to Germany to do so, Pâtca’s family’s true past and powers are revealed, as is her connection to Silica the cook…
Take a plucky fourteen-year-old orphan add a generous dose of world-building and atmosphere, mix in a coveted recipe book with a touch of peril and let the magical story unfold.
I don’t normally read literary fiction but after reading the Book of Perilous Dishes, I think I may be reading a lot more. The author ( and translator) builds a wonderful picture of Bucharest in 1798 with lush descriptions of the people, places and food.
The book manages to pack a lot in its 255 pages and describes life in 1798 Bucharest including witch hunts, slavery, murder mystery and the political turmoil of the time.
The fantasy elements are light but beautifully woven into the story. I was tickled by the idea of recipes that can cause interesting effects such as hysterical laughter, forgetfulness, prediction and my favourite damaging sincerity. The recipes in the book are beautifully described and well-researched by the author
Patca is the main point of view character, and we follow her story over two time periods, one in 1798 and then thirty years later. Patca relationships with the people she meets are touching and her story drives the book leading to an ending that is deeply satisfying and heart-warming and left an impression long after I finished the book.
Don’t forget to read the translator’s note at the start of the book which is fascinating in its own right!
I received a copy of this book for a free and unbiased opinion.
Doina Rusti is among the most important contemporary Romanian writers and is widely appreciated for the epic force, originality, and erudition of her novels. Award winning and translated into many languages, she has written ten novels, including The Phantom in the Mill (2008), The Phanariot Manuscript (2015), and The Book of Perilous Dishes (2017). Doina lives in Bucharest and is a university professor and screenwriter.
I’ve rediscovered my love of vampires with May Day by Josie Jeffrey, the Book Bloggers Book of the Year 2021.
Genre: Urban fantasy, Vampires
Source: I won this book in a giveaway by Beccy’s Books at crooksbooks.blog
Series: Book 1 Seekers
It’s not that Jack Valentine is bad at her job. The youngest member of Oxford’s Seekers has an impressive track record, but she also has an impressive grudge against the local baron, Killian Drake. When a human turns up dead on May Morning, she’s determined to pin the murder on Drake. The problem is that none of the evidence points to him. Instead, it leads Jack into a web of conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the country, people to whom Jack has no access. But she knows someone who does. To get to the truth, Jack will have to partner up with her worst enemy. As long as she can keep her cool, Drake will point her to the ringleaders, she’ll find the murderer and no one else will have to die.
I used to devour anything vampire-related when I was younger- from Buffy to Anne Rice to Stackie Stookhouse to the Vampire Diaries (TV series) to Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter ( review here). But somewhere along the way, I fell out of love with the whole genre.
If the murderer you’re tracking is a vampire, then you want a vampire detective. Just maybe not this one.
But there was something about the blurb for May Day and that tagline that left me intrigued and willing to try again. I’m so glad I did, May Day is a fresh, new take on Vampires with a modern and relatable heroine at its heart.
The Vampires in May Day are known as Silver ( due to the sliver in their eyes) have the usual vampire traits but can walk in daylight, have jobs and a realistic hierarchy and organisation. But most of all they are not angsty, broody or mysterious. Jack is a Seeker, vampires who are tasked with making sure humans don’t find out about them by tracking errant vampires.
I’m catching up with my sequels as part of the March of Sequels hosted by Sue’s Musing and the sequel to A Memory called Empire was on my list.Here is my review of A Desolation called Peace by Arkady Martine.
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Texicalaan Duology
Source: My own
An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options.
In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity.
Whether they succeed or fail could change the fate of Teixcalaan forever. Review
It has been a while since I read A Memory called Empire, so I have to admit – it took a while to get back into the complicated world created by Arkady Martine.
The book gets off to a slow start picking up not long after the events in the first book but not just in The City. This time the story and action take place in space on the station world of Lsel and on the spaceship tasked with stopping the alien invasion.
A heart-warming, coming-of-age story in post-war Britain set in the North of England was just what I needed during these long, dark nights I’m so glad I won this in a twitter giveaway. Read my review of The Offing by Benjamin Myers.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Prize in twitter giveaway
After all, there are only a few things truly worth fighting for: freedom, of course, and all that it brings with it. Poetry, perhaps, and a good glass of wine. A nice meal. Nature. Love, if you’re lucky.
One summer following the Second World War, Robert Appleyard sets out on foot from his Durham village. Sixteen and the son of a coal miner, he makes his way across the northern countryside until he reaches the former smuggling village of Robin Hood’s Bay. There he meets Dulcie, an eccentric, worldly, older woman who lives in a ramshackle cottage facing out to sea.
Staying with Dulcie, Robert’s life opens into one of rich food, sea-swimming, sunburn and poetry. The two come from different worlds, yet as the summer months pass, they form an unlikely friendship that will profoundly alter their futures.
I won the US print version of The Offing in a twitter giveaway by the author, and I have to say the differences between the covers of the two versions are striking. I have copied a version of a blurb (I suspect, the UK one) instead of the one of the back of my version as it is so much more interesting and highlights the inherent joy in this book unlike the US version.
This a warm, optimistic coming of age story set-in post-war Britain with heart-warming friendship between sixteen-year-old, Robert, and a much older woman, Dulcie.
I love the hapless Fetch who is trying to make amends in a world where he destroyed magic. In the third book in the series (review here), Fetch has to solve the mystery of the man who fell out of the sky.
My review of this fantasy retelling of Romeo and Juliette set in 1926 Shanghai. Here is my review of These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Book 1 of a duology
Source: My own
A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.
But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.
I was so excited to read this- I have seen this book everywhere on Instagram and I loved the cover. The idea of a fantasy set in Shanghai in 1926 with monsters also sounded very appealing too. But unfortunately, I didn’t love this as much as I thought would.
So, I will start with what I liked about the book.
The world-building in this book is fresh and new 1926 Shanghai is not a location or time that I have come across in Fantasy. I could feel the atmosphere and tension through the author’s writing. The author’s afterword about the complex political and societal tension at the time makes it interesting reading and worthy of its own book.
As usual, I found the secondary characters so much more interesting, and I wanted to read more about their stories and follow their subplots. Benedikt, Marshall, Kathleen and Lady Cai had so many layers I wanted to read about. The burgeoning relationship between Benedikt and Marshall was one of the highlights of the story.
The sudden madness that has taken over Shanghai and the reasons and the mystery surrounding this was satisfying in own right too.
The book ends on one of the best cliffhangers I have come across AND I have to read the next book to find out what happens next!
Now the parts that didn’t work for me.
There was just a bit too much going on. I just found all the plots and subplots a bit overwhelming – this story is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet retelling, a monster story, a gangster story, a revenge tale, as well as a tale about the societal and political upheavals in 1926 Shanghai! So this is perfect if you love books with many subplots.
I personally think the book would have worked without the Romeo and Juliet elements- sometimes this felt shoehorned in. Roma and Juliette didn’t feel like a passionate relationship that is doomed to fail unlike the relationship between Marshall and Benedikt. To me, Marshall and Benedikt are the real star-crossed lovers. I couldn’t warm to Juliette and Roma as characters which don’t help when they are the lead romantic couple. The focus on the romantic tension took away from the more fascinating descriptions of the creeping colonisation of China.
I was a thrown by the sudden insertion of sentences in French and other languages without translation especially since my high school French is a tiny bit rusty.