The Story Collector: A New York Public Library Book

The Story Collector: A New York Public Library Book was written by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb and first published in 2018. It is a middle-grade mystery novel that tell the story of Viviani Fedeler, a young girl who really did live in the New York Public Library in the 1920s. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Viviani knows that she is really lucky. She and her older brothers, John Jr and Edouard, know the New York Public Library better than anyone else. As her father is the building’s superintendent, the whole family lives on the premises. Viviani loves the library more than anything, sharing all of her secrets with its magnificent lion statues and spending her free time playing baseball in the Periodical Reading Room (much to the horror of the head librarian).

Viviani also loves collecting stories and is known for wowing her classmates with her tall tales. However, things become tough for her at school when a new girl starts. Merit has immigrated from Egypt and has fascinating stories of her own. Unfortunately, Merit is only interested in hard facts and is quick to dismiss Viviani as being a liar, humiliating her in front of her friends.

It is clear to Viviani that Merit needs to be taught the value of stories and plans an elaborate prank to teach her a lesson. However, things quickly take a bad turn. When a valuable stamp collection is targeted by a thief, Viviani soon finds herself with more problems than she can handle. Is there a way that she can forge a friendship with Merit and capture the culprit at the same time?

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Diamonds and Deceit

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Secrets and Sapphires. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Diamonds and Deceit was written by Leila Rasheed and first published in 2014. It is a historical romance set in the early 20th Century that focuses on the lives of the people who live and work on the wealthy Somerton Estate. The novel forms the second part of the At Somerton series – following Secrets and Sapphires (2013) and preceding Emeralds and Ashes (2015). Because of this, I would strongly recommend reading the novels in sequence to fully appreciate them.

A few months have passed since Lady Rose was formally adopted as one of Lord Westlake’s daughters and she is struggling to fit in. The other young Ladies refuse to accept her as one of them, disgusted by her poor upbringing. However, the serving staff behave strangely around her too, projecting a sense that they believe it improper for one of their station to ever believe that they belong in high society. As her season begins and she becomes attracted to a known ladies man, the Duke of Huntleigh, she knows that her feelings will never be reciprocated. What will Huntleigh think when he learns who she truly is?

Her sister, Ada, is also having a miserable time of things. There is a lot of pressure for her to accept Lord Fintan’s offer of engagement in order to save her family from poverty, however how can she do so in good conscience? Even though Ravi has returned to India, she still loves him dearly. It seems unfair to both of them to enter a loveless marriage. However, her choice may soon be taken from her. Charlotte is determined to have her revenge against her stepsister and has more than enough information at her fingertips to publicly shame both Ada and Lord Fintan.

Yet these are not the only dramas unfolding at the Somerton Estate. Sebastian is determined to prove that his love – Oliver – is innocent of murder. Michael must choose between going to Eton and finding a way to start a life with Priya, the Indian nursemaid. Georgina must find a way to stop the staff from leaving in protest of the authoritarian new housekeeper. If any of these scandals are discovered, they could spell the end of the Westlake family. Is there any way that they can hope to keep things together until Ada’s wedding can save the estate?

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Secrets and Sapphires

Secrets and Sapphires (also known as Cinders and Sapphires in America) was written by Leila Rasheed and first published in 2013. It is a historical romance set in 1912 that focuses on the lives of the people who live on a wealthy English estate. The novel forms the first part of the At Somerton series and is followed by Diamonds and Deceit (2014) and Emeralds and Ashes (2015).

For the first time in years, Lord Westlake and his family have returned from India to their ancestral home of Somerton. However, he has brought with him a surprise. The Lord is to be wed to the affluent Fiona Templeton, and Lord Westlake’s two daughters – Ada and Georgiana – now must grow accustomed to sharing their father with Fiona’s three children.

Life on the estate seems simple and glamorous for the young ladies who live there however, as Ada prepares for her coming out, she increasingly realises that life is more complex than she first imagined. She has two ambitions in life – to study at Oxford University and to marry her true love, Ravi, yet neither can be. As the heir to Somerton she is expected to marry someone wealthy and maintain the family name. Ravi is a penniless Indian scholar and her reputation would be ruined if anyone found out.

However, Ada is not the only person with a secret. Beneath the glamour and civility of Somerton, almost everyone is hiding something. Ambition, forbidden love and dangerous secrets are rampant and, if they were to be discovered, would spell destruction a dozen times over for the name of Westlake. However, there are always those who are desperate to profit from a good scandal… More

Lair of Dreams

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for The Diviners. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Lair of Dreams was written by Libba Bray and first published in 2015. It is a fantasy story, set in New York during the 1920s, as a mysterious and possibly supernatural plague causes fear to spread throughout the city. The story does not really stand alone as it picks up shortly after its prequel, The Diviners (2012) left off. A third instalment of the series, titled Before the Devil Breaks You, is due for release next month.

Now that Evie has revealed her power to the world, she has found herself an overnight sensation. Labelled as the Sweetheart Seer, she soon gains a weekly radio show and her life becomes an endless cycle of mysticism and revelry. However, her glamorous new lifestyle has caused her to push her old friends away. Evie’s friends think that she’s changed but they do not understand why it is that she drinks. It’s to blot out her memories of her terrible battle against the spirit of Naughty John.

Meanwhile, a new threat has struck the city. People in Chinatown have begun to be stricken by a deadly disease that causes them to fall in a deep – and eventually fatal – sleep. As the sickness begins to spread, people fear that the Chinese may be the cause and violence against the immigrants starts to rise. In her nocturnal journeys, a young dream-walker named Ling encounters Henry and reluctantly helps him in his search for his lost love. The two of them do not realise that their quest will bring them face to face with the terrible cause of the affliction.

However, the sickness isn’t the only strange thing to strike close to Evie’s home. Sam has found a new lead regarding Project Buffalo and discovered that his mother’s research may have had something to do with a nationwide hunt for Diviners. Yet what could the Shadow Men want with people with powers like his own, and how does it all connect back to the increasing sightings of a man in a stovepipe hat?

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Flame in the Mist

Flame in the Mist was written by Renée Ahdieh and first published in 2017. It is a historical fantasy story set in Feudal Japan, focusing on a teenage girl out for revenge on the shinobi clan who want her dead. The book forms the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Hattori Mariko has never been a perfect daughter. Blessed with a keen intellect, she has always sought to learn as much as possible. Yet it is finally time for her to serve her father. The Emperor’s son, Raiden, has requested her hand and Mariko has no choice but to accept. While she has never met Raiden, the marriage will secure more power for her father and ensure that he can move up through the political strata of Inako.

Everything goes wrong while Mariko is on her way to their first meeting. Her convoy is attacked as it passes through the woods and all of her servants are killed. As Mariko flees into the night, she realises that the infamous Black Clan – a group of mercenaries and assassins – are responsible. Vowing that she will have her revenge, Mariko cuts off her hair and disguises herself as a boy. If she can only be accepted into their ranks, she knows that she can destroy them from within.

Yet the Black Clan’s trust is not easily won. Mariko finds herself under the scrutiny of their leader, Ranmaru, and his sullen second-in-command, Ōkami. They make quite clear that if Mariko slips up, she will find herself facing a gruesome death. To make matters worse, Mariko’s brother Kenshin is searching for her. As a well-regarded samurai, it’s not long before he has enlisted the help of the Emperor’s sons. Kenshin suspects that the Black Clan has its hand in Mariko’s disappearance, and is willing to kill every last one of them to get her back.

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Gaslight

Gaslight was written by Eloise Williams and first published in 2017. It is historical fiction, set in 19th Century Cardiff, which focuses on a fourteen-year-old girl in search of her lost mother. The story stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Nansi remembers that her mother was beautiful and kind and on the run from someone. Unfortunately, she doesn’t remember anything more than that. She can’t remember how she came to be floating in the River Ely. It was lucky that Sid found her when he did. If he hadn’t been there to rescue her and give her somewhere safe to live, who knows what would have happened to her.

She knows that she should be grateful to Sid, yet sometimes it’s difficult. People call him Pernicious Sid with good reason, as he forces her to steal things to help pay his substantial debts and punishes her brutally if she fails. Still, at least he has given Nansi her own room beneath his theatre and promises that he will save money for her until she can afford a private detective to help search for her mother.

Yet everything changes on the day that Constance and Violet join the theatre. The fact that Sid overlooks Violet’s cruelty causes Nansi to finally see how he really is, and Constance brings a vital clue concerning her mother’s whereabouts. Soon, Nansi finds herself on the run from Sid and his men. Her only hope is to find her mother before he can catch her. If she doesn’t, who knows what fate Sid will have in store for her…

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The Dark Days Pact

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for The Dark Days Club. You can read my review of this novel [here].

The Dark Days Pact was written by Alison Goodman and first published in 2017. It is a dark fantasy story set in 19th Century England, which focuses on a young woman’s continuing association with a demon-hunting secret society. The novel forms the second part of the Lady Helen series and is preceded by The Dark Days Club (2015).

Following her public disgrace at her Presentation Ball, Lady Helen travels to Brighton to spend the summer with Lady Margaret and her brother, Mr Hammond. While it appears to her friends that she has merely retired to the coast for health reasons, it is really the perfect opportunity to hone her Reclaimer skills. Under the watchful eye of Lord Carlston, her combat training intensifies and she learns how to disguise herself as a man.

However, Lady Helen can’t help but notice that Lord Carlston’s sickness is growing worse. Following their illicit contact at the Presentation Ball, there seems to be a strange sort of energy between them. While Lord Carlston claims he is fine, Lady Helen suspects that his Reclaimer madness is fast approaching the point of no return. If he does not retire soon, he will be lost in the same mania that claimed Mr Benchley.

Lady Helen is not the only one to have noticed this. It is not long before she and Mr Hammond are approached by Mr Pike with word from the Home Office. As Lord Carlston can no longer be trusted, the two of them are ordered to undertake a top-secret mission to retrieve Mr Benchley’s journal. Although the two are suspicious as to what Mr Pike’s true intentions are, they have no choice but to do as he asks. Mr Pike’s position is authorised by the Prince Regent and so to disobey him would mean committing the crime of high treason…

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Revolution

Revolution was written by Jennifer Donnelly and first published in 2010. It is a very ambitious novel that blends elements of contemporary, historical and science fiction, presenting the dual stories of an American teenager suffering from the death of her brother, and a French teenager trying to survive the Great Terror. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of Donnelly’s other books to fully appreciate it.

Andi Alpers is falling apart. Her little brother – Truman – has been dead for two years, her mother is lost in grief and her father has left them to start a family with a younger woman. Andi knows that she is entirely to blame for all of this and is growing increasingly numb to everything. She is flunking school but doesn’t care. She knows that everyone would be happier if she just wasn’t around.

However, her father’s sudden return derails her morbid plans. To Andi’s horror, he immediately has her mother sent away to a psychiatric institution and insists that Andi accompanies him to Paris over the school break. He hopes that the change will do her good and give her ample time to work on her thesis – a complex work linking an 19th Century French musician to present day acts. Over this time, they will be staying with an eccentric family friend – a Historian known as G who is desperate to prove that a mummified heart belongs to the last Prince of France.

Although Andi is desperate to finish her research and return to her mother, she grows increasingly distracted as she discovers a lost diary belonging to a servant working in the Court of King Louis XVI. The girl – Alex – initially agreed to be a companion for the young prince to move up in society, but gradually grew to view him as a younger brother. Andi keeps reading these increasingly grim accounts of the French Revolution, hoping for the best. However, as G’s research continues, she becomes increasingly fearful as to what Alex’s fate will be…

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Boudica’s Daughters

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Boudica’s Daughters was written by Sheridan Winn and first published in 2016. It’s a fantasy story with historical elements, focusing on a family who are drawn closer together by both personal tragedy and an archaeological find. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Lilla has always seen ghosts, though she often finds that people don’t believe her. Therefore, it’s not really surprising that when her family moves out into the Norfolk countryside, she starts to see spirits of ancient warriors. Two thousand years before, the Iceni tribe was known to live in the area and when Lilla uncovers an ornamental hare in the woods behind her house, she quickly learns that it belonged to the daughter of Queen Boudica.

However, her investigation into the ghosts is put on hold when her sister returns home from University. While Lilla has always been a bit weird, her sister Janey was the life and soul of the party. Yet Janey’s not the same as she was. In the past year, she’s gone increasingly off the rails and fallen in with a bad crowd. It’s not long the family discover why, and the tragic revelation shocks all of them to the core.

In an attempt draw her sister out of her depression, Lilla enlists her to help scour the woods for Iceni treasure. As they discover more than they ever could have imagined, the sisters slowly begin to grow closer as they search for a way to both help Janey and the restless spirits find peace.

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The Dark Days Club

the-dark-days-club

The Dark Days Club was written by Alison Goodman and first published in 2015. It’s a dark fantasy story set in England’s Regency Era, focusing on a young lady finding out about the existence of a demon-hunting secret society. The novel forms the first part of the Lady Helen series and is followed by The Dark Days Pact (2017). The final instalment of the trilogy has yet to be announced.

Lady Helen Wrexhall has just reached eighteen years of age and is finally old enough to make her debut in society, attending balls and soirées to make a good impression on any potential husbands. Although she carries the stain of her family name, her uncle is convinced that the inheritance left to her by her disgraced mother will be enough to attract a suitable match.

However, the first man that seems to be interested in Helen is the infamous Lord Carlston – a man suspected of murdering his previous wife. Helen’s uncle is not impressed that Carlson – a distant relation of his – is trying to use their name to catapult himself back into high society. However, Helen soon learns that Carlston is not interested in her as a match. He is a Reclaimer – a member of a secret society called the Dark Days Club – and he believes that Helen is one as well.

Through secret meetings with Carlston, Helen learns all about his organisation, the horrible monsters that they fight and their sacred duty to protect humanity. However, the more that Helen sees of their world, the more certain she is that she doesn’t want anything to do with them. Yet Carlston is certain that a powerful creature known as a Grand Deceiver is on the rise. How could Helen be able to deny her calling when she could be the only one capable of stopping it?

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