The Progeny | Tosca Lee

Note: This was provided by the publisher in return for a honest review.

The Progeny is expected to be published by Howard Books on May 24th 2016.

I’ve been fascinated with the story of Elizabeth Bathory for quite some time now. A Hungarian countess who tortured and murdered so many victims – and as the tale goes bathed in their blood for the power of youth. She is, as many label her, the most prolific female serial killer of all time.

So when I saw a new novel on Netgalley about the descendant of Bathory – I quickly applied for an ARC. A novel full of mystery, murder, romance and a little bit of magic.

A little excerpt from the blurb:

Emily Jacobs is the descendant of a serial killer. Now, she’s become the hunted.
She’s on a quest that will take her to the secret underground of Europe and the inner circles of three ancient orders—one determined to kill her, one devoted to keeping her alive, and one she must ultimately save.

The Progeny was a nice thriller, one I devoured in the lonely hours of the night. Although I admit, slightly slow and stale at the beginning as the protagonist starts off with no recollection of her past in the sleepy backwoods of Maine. But once the location shifts to Europe (which doesn’t take too long) – the pace and feel of the story becomes a lot more exciting (although sporadic).

The mystery, worldbuilding and the sense of not being able to trust anyone are definitely the highlights from this novel. I enjoyed learning about the different secret societies, their aims – even the highly sought macguffin (a diary?) I also liked the fact that it was hard to trust anyone in this novel – constantly I was rethinking who to side with and feeling a bit pressured and unsure like the protagonist. The magic, using the power of suggestion to beguile others was also rather interesting as well.

But it all did feel a little bit cliche. I found it hard to have an emotional connection to any of the characters – which is crucial for any tense character moments. The romance was slightly enticing but it felt like I was being smothered with it. And the plot well – felt all over the place.

This is a very mixed review – but I did enjoy the Progeny. Despite weak characters and plot I still found it easy to read and a little bit addictive. I’ll put this down to a very interesting premise and I’m still intrigued to read the next installment in this series.

I give it 3.5/5*

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Cinnamon and Gunpowder | Eli Brown

I have a habit of reading my favorite books of the year come September-December – something I cannot shake. But I’m fine with that, because Cinnamon and Gunpowder was the right novel at the right time. My heart was large after reading it, I cried literal tears – that is a feat for me! And all I want to do is pick it up again, only to linger with the characters a tad longer.

The novel is a mixture of things I love: historical fiction, food, pirates, romance, witty banter and an awesome, kickass woman.

So what is it about again? Ahem, the euphoria is thick, my friends.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder is set in 1819, about a renowned Chef called Owen Wedgwood who has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. To survive, every Sunday he must serve a spectacular meal to her.

There is a lot more I can add, but I feel that it is best to go into the deep end with only that in mind. Yet it is a novel full of complexities, of oddities, of beauty and love and it is wonderful. However I don’t think I would have loved it as much I do if not for the characters. From the grumpy protagonist, with interesting food philosophies, Mabbot and her wit and charm, Mr Apples and his aptitude for knitting to the determined Laroche, and idealist Brass Fox – it’s a myriad of interesting characters. By the end I was so connected to the characters, that I felt I was there with them feeling their pain and joy. And that is the markings of a great novel.

The writing was also slick and charming, and the voice of the protagonist stuck out clearly in my mind. The pacing worked and worked, time again. It never really had a dull moment – and I hungered each and every time for more dinner dates between Owen and Mabbot. They were wonderfully philosophical, charming, intimate moments that I wish I could replay in my mind over and over again. Every scene in the novel felt like character development for at least one of the characters, and I loved it.

And the action worked too, it was heavy and gritty but never deterred from the novel’s tone.

I feel like I could talk about this novel all night and day, but I think that is a sign for me to shush and let you wonder whether to read this novel. Hopefully I’ve done my job right as a new fan to encourage you, force you?

For me this is the best read in months, I give Cinnamon and Gunpowder 5/5*

My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time | Liz Jensen

My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time feels slightly reminiscent of a mixture between Jane Eyre and the Discworld books, except with time travel, avocado condoms and a little girl who loves spiderman. It’s witty, unapologetic and downright charming – and totally not in the same vein of other time travel novels I’ve encountered. I mean, the time traveller is a cunning Danish prostitute from the late 1800s with a lazy, sometimes unintelligible mother figure as a sidekick.

So to expand on what the novel is about, I’ll add in the blurb as my mind is still buzzing after finishing the last page. I just put the book down five minutes ago!

In Copenhagen, part-time prostitute Charlotte and her lumpen sidekick, Fru Schleswig, haven taken on jobs as cleaning ladies of dubious talent to tide them over the harsh winter of 1897. But the home of their neurotic new employer, the widow Krak, soon reveals itself to be riddled with dark secrets – including the existence of a demonic machine rumoured to swallow people alive. Rudely catapulted into twenty-first century London, the hapless duo discover a whole new world of glass, labour-saving devices and hectic, impossible romance.

Now with that out of the way, it’s time to focus my mind on summarising the hectic feelings this novel has pushed on me.

Firstly:

  • I loved the character of Charlotte, she was this awesome bull-busting person who got things done. But she was also inclined towards melodrama and exaggeration, and was unapologetic about who she was and what she did for a living. I appreciated that. The novel also relied on her narration, and oh boy was it fun and playful. I don’t think the novel would have worked as well, if not for that narration.
  •  The novel feels like a romp, a light hearted romp with adventure, action and dazzle. It was a nice step from the darkness of the last novel I read.
  • The other characters were interesting and eccentric – much to my liking!

I also enjoyed the romance, it was sweet and lovely – however the development was slightly too quick for me. It did fit the tone of the book. And although the science side (time travel) rushed over my head a bit, it wasn’t necessary to understand it to enjoy the novel.

Overall this was a nice quick read, wonderful with a cup of jasmine tea.

I give My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time 3.5/5*