Shelf Control #342: Jane in Love by Rachel Givney

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Jane in Love
Author: Rachel Givney
Published: 2020
Length: 434 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

If Jane Austen had the choice between the heart and the pen, what do you think she would do?

At age twenty-eight, Jane Austen should be seeking a suitable husband, but all she wants to do is write. She is forced to take extreme measures in her quest to find true love – which lands her in the most extraordinary of circumstances.

Magically, she finds herself in modern-day England, where horseless steel carriages line the streets and people wear very little clothing. She forms a new best friend in fading film star Sofia Wentworth, and a genuine love interest in Sofia’s brother Fred, who has the audacity to be handsome, clever and kind-hearted.

She is also delighted to discover that she is now a famous writer, a published author of six novels and beloved around the globe. But as Jane’s romance with Fred blossoms, her presence in the literary world starts to waver. She must find a way to stop herself disappearing from history before it’s too late.

A modern-day reimagining of the life of one of the world’s most celebrated writers, this wonderfully witty romantic comedy offers a new side to Jane’s story, which sees her having to choose between true love in the present and her career as a writer in the past.

How and when I got it:

I bought a paperback copy on a whim when I saw it on sale, probably a little over a year ago.

Why I want to read it:

Oh dear. Now that I’m reading the synopsis, I have to say… it doesn’t sound good! I’m always up for giving an Austen-inspired book a try, but finding herself “magically” in modern-day England? And being at risk of disappearing from history? Sounds a little too Back To the Future, perhaps. I’m already cringing, and I haven’t even picked up the book!

On the other hand, I do own a physical copy, and should probably at least give it a fair try before casting it into the discard pile.

Right?

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
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Book Review: A Rip Through Time by Kelley Armstrong

Title: A Rip Through Time
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication date: May 31, 2022
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Historical fiction/mystery
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via Netgalley
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

In this series debut from New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong, a modern-day homicide detective finds herself in Victorian Scotland—in an unfamiliar body—with a killer on the loose.

May 20, 2019: Homicide detective Mallory is in Edinburgh to be with her dying grandmother. While out on a jog one evening, Mallory hears a woman in distress. She’s drawn to an alley, where she is attacked and loses consciousness.

May 20, 1869: Housemaid Catriona Mitchell had been enjoying a half-day off, only to be discovered that night in a lane, where she’d been strangled and left for dead . . . exactly one-hundred-and-fifty years before Mallory was strangled in the same spot.

When Mallory wakes up in Catriona’s body in 1869, she must put aside her shock and adjust quickly to the reality: life as a housemaid to an undertaker in Victorian Scotland. She soon discovers that her boss, Dr. Gray, also moonlights as a medical examiner and has just taken on an intriguing case, the strangulation of a young man, similar to the attack on herself. Her only hope is that catching the murderer can lead her back to her modern life . . . before it’s too late.

Outlander meets The Alienist in Kelley Armstrong’s A Rip Through Time, the first book in this utterly compelling series, mixing romance, mystery, and fantasy with thrilling results. 

In this engrossing start to a new series, Canadian detective Mallory is visiting her dying grandmother in Edinburgh when she stops to investigate a woman’s cries down a dark alley. As Mallory is attacked, she sees a strange optical illusion, but quickly passes out as the unknown assailant strangles her.

When she wakes up, she’s in a strange house, in strange clothing, including — of all things — a corset. Weirdly true despite being hard to believe, it would appear that Mallory has been transported into the body of a housemaid named Catriona, who was attacked and strangled in the same alley as Mallory — but 150 years earlier.

Quick-thinking Mallory figures out the truth of her situation fairly quickly, and uses her head injury as an explanation for her severe memory loss and marked change in personality. The housemaid who’d claimed illiteracy previously can suddenly read and write, and what’s more, takes an interest in her master’s forensic work that’s decidedly new and different.

As Mallory spends more time as Catriona, she realizes that while she doesn’t have an obvious way back to her own life, she can make a contribution where she is by applying her knowledge of 21st century police procedures to help solve the case of a potential serial killer haunting Edinburgh. Unfortunately for Mallory, she also discovers that Catriona was not a sweet, innocent 19-year-old, but a young woman with a gift for thievery, deceit, and no moral compass. As Mallory struggles to make sense of her new life, she also is confronted by the mistrust and dislike earned by the person who’s body she inhabits.

Can’t say I’ve ever read a plot like this one before!

A Rip Through Time is fascinating and utterly immersive, exploring a fish-out-of-water situation through the eyes of a strong, accomplished woman forced into a life where she has none of the “womanly” qualities deemed necessary to fit in. Mallory is a terrific character, confronting her bizarre circumstances with intelligence and determination, applying her years of experience as a detective to both help her employer solve the mysteries he sees in his line of work as well as to solve the huge unknowns about her own case.

Not only is Mallory in the wrong century in the wrong body, but she’s been targeted at least once by a killer, and as her time in Edinburgh of the 1860s continues, she learns that she/Catriona is still in danger. There’s a mystery to solve and a killer to catch, and the action is fast-paced and totally fun to unpack and follow along.

This may all sound like an unbelievable set-up for a story, and I suppose in a less-skilled writer’s hands, that might make it unreadable — but here, Kelley Armstrong confidently weaves a story about crime, women’s roles, time travel, connections, independence, and family, and makes it all work.

It’s really fun to see Mallory’s takes on her life in this new time and place:

If I had to cast him in a period drama, it’d be somewhere between “mad scientist” and “brooding lord with his wife locked in the attic”.

I love how she compares everything she encounters to the way the era is portrayed in film and fiction:

I’m trying to pass back through time by returning to the place where I crossed over. My brain says that makes logical sense, but I am well aware that it only makes sense because I’ve seen it in movies and read it in books. […] I am basing my entire theory on the imagination of fiction writers. Not scientists, because there is no science. People can’t travel through time. Therefore, writers don’t need to worry about “getting it right.” They make up whatever they want.

{…]

If so many writers used that particular trope, maybe there was a kernel of truth to it. It’s like meeting a vampire while holding a vial of holy water and not throwing it at him.”

The writing throughout is fresh and fun, and while there is plenty of danger and some more serious moments, Mallory’s 21st-century voice keeps the story from feeling like a stodgy historical piece.

I was a little bit hesitant at first when I learned that A Rip Through Time is the first in a series, rather than a stand-alone. However, now that I’ve finished, I’m delighted that there will be more! I can’t say much about the ending or what I might expect from book #2 without entering spoiler territory… but let’s just say that I found the ending of this book very satisfying, and yet with plenty more to explore in future books. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Shelf Control #319: The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: The House on the Strand
Author: Daphne du Maurier
Published: 1969
Length: 352 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Dick Young is lent a house in Cornwall by his friend Professor Magnus Lane. During his stay he agrees to serve as a guinea pig for a new drug that Magnus has discovered in his scientific research.

When Dick samples Magnus’s potion, he finds himself doing the impossible: traveling through time while staying in place, thrown all the way back into Medieval Cornwall. The concoction wear off after several hours, but its effects are intoxicating and Dick cannot resist his newfound powers. As his journeys increase, Dick begins to resent the days he must spend in the modern world, longing ever more fervently to get back into his world of centuries before, and the home of the beautiful Lady Isolda…

How and when I got it:

I bought the e-book edition several years ago.

Why I want to read it:

I’ve been seeing several bloggers sharing posts for Daphne du Maurier Reading Week (hosted by Heavenali) — and while I wasn’t thinking about this in time to participate, seeing the posts reminded me that I have a bunch of Daphne du Maurier books that I need to read! In fact, the only boos of her that I’ve read is the one that pretty much everyone has read, Rebecca. But I know there’s so much more to explore, and I do want to make a point of reading more of her books.

The House on the Strand caught my attention as soon as I first came across it. I mean… hello? Time travel fan here!

I’d guess time travel was a much less written-about fiction device at the time when this book was published. It was one of the author’s later books (published 30 years after Rebecca) — I’m so curious about how she portrayed the time travel elements, as well as what the overall reaction to the book was at the time of publication. (I know I could look up this piece, but would rather wait until after I’ve actually read the book).

I believe I have 4 or 5 of the author’s books sitting unread on my physical or virtual bookshelves. The House on the Strand seems like a great place for me to start.

What do you think? Have you read this book? Do you have a favorite Daphne du Maurier book to recommend?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
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Have fun!

Shelf Control #302: Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Here and Now and Then
Author: Mike Chen
Published: 2019
Length: 336 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

To save his daughter, he’ll go anywhere—and any-when…

Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in IT, trying to keep the spark in his marriage, struggling to connect with his teenage daughter, Miranda. But his current life is a far cry from his previous career…as a time-traveling secret agent from 2142.

Stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late.

Their mission: return Kin to 2142, where he’s only been gone weeks, not years, and where another family is waiting for him. A family he can’t remember.

Torn between two lives, Kin is desperate for a way to stay connected to both. But when his best efforts threaten to destroy the agency and even history itself, his daughter’s very existence is at risk. It’ll take one final trip across time to save Miranda—even if it means breaking all the rules of time travel in the process.

A uniquely emotional genre-bending debut, Here and Now and Then captures the perfect balance of heart, playfulness, and imagination, offering an intimate glimpse into the crevices of a father’s heart and its capacity to stretch across both space and time to protect the people that mean the most.

How and when I got it:

This is yet another book that’s sitting in my Kindle library — I must have added it a couple of years ago.

Why I want to read it:

I actually have three books by this author on my Kindle!! So, apparently I really like the sound of his stories… but just haven’t gotten around to reading them yet.

In terms of Here and Now and Then… well, guess how I feel about time travel fiction?

I love the plot idea of a time traveler getting stuck in the wrong time — and the fact that this happens in 1990s San Francisco is a big plus for me! I’m intrigued by the main character’s dilemma, having to balance the needs of two different families in two different time periods. Reading the synopsis after some time has passed since I first came across this book, I’m hooked all over again! Clearly, this needs to be a priority book for me in 2022.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Shelf Control #297: The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: The Jane Austen Project
Author: Kathleen A. Flynn
Published: 2017
Length: 384 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Perfect for fans of Jane Austen, this engrossing debut novel offers an unusual twist on the legacy of one of the world’s most celebrated and beloved authors: Two researchers from the future are sent back in time to meet Jane and recover a suspected unpublished novel.

London England, 1815: Two travelers—Rachel Katzman and Liam Finucane—arrive in a field, disheveled and weighed down with hidden money. They are not what they seem, but colleagues from a technologically advanced future, posing as a doctor and his spinster sister. While Rachel and Liam aren’t the first team of time travelers, their mission is the most audacious yet: meet, befriend, and steal from Jane Austen.

Carefully selected and rigorously trained by The Royal Institute for Special Topics in Physics, disaster-relief doctor Rachel and actor-turned-scholar Liam have little in common excerpt their extraordinary circumstances. Circumstances that call for Rachel to stifle her independent nature and let Liam take the lead as they infiltrate Austen’s circle via her favorite brother, Henry.

But diagnosing Jane’s fatal illness and obtaining an unpublished novel hinted at in her letters pose enough of a challenge without the convolutions of living a lie. While her friendship with Jane deepens and her relationship with Liam grows complicated, Rachel fights to reconcile her true self with the constrictions of 19th century society. As their portal to the future prepares to close, Rachel and Liam struggle with their directive to leave history as they found it…however heartbreaking that proves.

How and when I got it:

I picked up the Kindle edition in early 2019.

Why I want to read it:

Time travel and Jane Austen??? How could I NOT want to read this book?

We’re flooded with time travel stories these days, and obviously, some are better than others. I don’t know much about this one, but I do love the idea of traveling back to interact with Jane Austen and find an unpublished work.

Given the length of the book, it seems like the plot is probably full of twists and turns, and I do really want to check it out.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!

Literary Potpourri
Wicked Witch’s Blog
<a href="http://<i>Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley. Full review at <a href="https://bookshelffantasies.com/2021/12/10/book-review-a-history-of-wild-places-by-shea-ernshaw/">Bookshelf Fantasies</a>.Reviews Feed


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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books for Outlander fans

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books to Read If You Love/Loved X (X can be a genre, specific book, author, movie/TV show, etc.). I’m in the midst of an Outlander obsession at the moment, with the long-awaited book #9 coming out NEXT WEEK… so you’ll excuse me if this series is pretty much all that’s on my mind right now.

Here are 10 books I think Outlander fans should check out:

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

What’s the connection?

Set in Scotland, historical fiction, Jacobite uprising, time-slip romance (and really, can’t go wrong with any of this author’s books!)


Clanlands by Sam Heughan & Graham McTavish

What’s the connection?

Outlander stars (!!), fun facts about Scotland, lots of references to the creation and filming of the Outlander TV series


A Stitch in Time by Kelley Armstrong

What’s the connection?

A romance across time, time travel, lovers from different eras


A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

What’s the connection:

Strong female lead character, male lead who seems too good to be true, time travel (in book #2), epic romance


Finding Fraser by KC Dyer

What’s the connection?

You literally could not be more connected to Outlander! A romantic adventure in which the main character heads to Scotland to find her very own Jamie Fraser.


Poldark series by Winston Graham

What’s the connection?

Historical fiction, time period overlaps somewhat with Outlander, gorgeous settings, heroic male lead, epic romance


The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

What’s the connection?

Set in the Scottish Highlands (and just a really enjoyable read)


On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon by Kaye Gibbons

What’s the connection?

Historical fiction, wartime medicine, women in medicine


Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow

What’s the connection:

Ongoing series with a remarkable, memorable woman as the lead character. Also, recommended by Diana Gabaldon via her Methadone List.


In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl

What’s the connection?

Women in medicine, wartime medicine, World War (although this is WWI, not Claire’s WWII)


Have you read any of these? Are there other books you’d recommend for people who love Outlander?

If you wrote a TTT this week, please share your links!

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Novella review: One Day All This Will Be Yours by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Apparently, it’s Novella November! Who knew? Not me!

In any case, Novella November is a thing, and that means my timing is spot on, as I’ve been enjoying a few novellas this week.

Here’s a quick look at the first one I finished:

 

Title: One Day All This Will Be Yours
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Publisher: Solaris
Publication date: March 2, 2021
Length: 144 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Library
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The bold new work from award-winning author Adrian Tchaikovsky  – a smart, funny tale of time-travel and paradox

Welcome to the end of time. It’s a perfect day.

Nobody remembers how the Causality War started. Really, there’s no-one to remember, and nothing for them to remember if there were; that’s sort of the point. We were time warriors, and we broke time.

I was the one who ended it. Ended the fighting, tidied up the damage as much as I could.

Then I came here, to the end of it all, and gave myself a mission: to never let it happen again.

A totally trippy take on time travel and the end of the world. Our unnamed narrator is the sole survivor of the Causality War, in which too many competing factions realized that the ultimate weapon isn’t a nuke — it’s a time machine.

And then they used them, because that’s what you always do with the ultimate weapons that you swear you’ll never, ever use. You get your retaliation in first. Sooner or later, you preemptively deploy your deterrent just in case the other side aren’t deterred by it.

Don’t trust your adversaries? Go back in time and wipe out the pieces of their history that made them a threat in the first place. And once one set of people with a time machine realize its potential and actually use it, so does everyone else. It’s all very circular and paradoxical and made my head spin round quite a bit, but this book is oh-so-much fun to read.

I don’t want to give away any of the delightful little surprises, but trust me — you’ll want to experience the main character’s pillaging of the past for entertainment and farming supplies, his ruthless yet “nothing personal” approach to dealing with unwanted visitors, and his training of trusty sidekick Miffly.

The story is mind-bending and funny and plausible in the weirdest of ways, and the writing absolutely cracked me up.

My main complaint? The hardcover version of this book was a limited release, now sold out, and copies are available on EBay and elsewhere for $80 and up. And yes, I could buy the Kindle edition, but I really, really would love to have a physical copy on my shelves. Ah well. A reader can dream, right?

Meanwhile… this is the first book I’ve read by Adrian Tchaikovsky. I have no idea if it’s at all typical of his works, but I’d love to explore further. If you’ve read any books by this author that you’d particularly recommend, please let me know!

Book Review: She Wouldn’t Change a Thing by Sarah Adlakha

Title: She Wouldn’t Change a Thing
Author: Sarah Adlakha
Publisher: Forge Books
Publication date: August 10, 2021
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction/time travel
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Sliding Doors meets Life After Life in Sarah Adlakha’s story about a wife and mother who is given the chance to start over at the risk of losing everything she loves.

A second chance is the last thing she wants.

When thirty-nine year old Maria Forssmann wakes up in her seventeen-year-old body, she doesn’t know how she got there. All she does know is she has to get back: to her home in Bienville, Mississippi, to her job as a successful psychiatrist and, most importantly, to her husband, daughters, and unborn son.

But she also knows that, in only a few weeks, a devastating tragedy will strike her husband, a tragedy that will lead to their meeting each other.

Can she change time and still keep what it’s given her?

Exploring the responsibilities love lays on us, the complicated burdens of motherhood, and the rippling impact of our choices, She Wouldn’t Change a Thing is a dazzling debut from a bright new voice.

In She Wouldn’t Change a Thing, time travel is less a fantasy element and more of a nightmarish trap that sends a person back into their own earlier life.

Maria is close to her due date for her third child, married mostly happily but also incredibly frazzled, mother to two adorable daughters, and a successful psychiatrist, when a strange new patient shows up in her office. Sylvia comes with disjointed warnings and rambles on about having a purpose. She gives Maria a warning about her own life, and tries to gain Maria’s understanding — but Maria naturally sees Sylvia as delusional and offers medication and follow-up visits.

Later, Maria learns that Sylvia has killed herself, and has left a note for Maria. She can’t shake Sylvia’s words, and despite knowing she should ignore the warning, follows up. I won’t go into details on what happens next, but after a terrible encounter, Maria wakes to find that she’s back in her childhood home, in her 17-year-old body.

Completely frantic, Maria’s parents believe she’s having a breakdown, and Maria soon finds herself confined to a psych ward. Maria knows that she’s not schizophrenic, but who would believe a teen girl who claims to be a pregnant 39-year-old needing to return to her husband and children?

Time travel in this book, as we learn, is typically triggered by a death or a violent event which propels the person back to an earlier point in their lives — with a purpose. There’s something they have to accomplish, and it’s typically at great cost. For Maria, once she realizes her purpose, there’s an understanding that accomplishing her purpose will change events so completely that she and her husband will never meet. And while she thinks she may have a way to get back to her own life, it would mean ignoring this purpose, and ignoring the chance to save an innocent life. She has to decide — does she give up her “real” life to do the right thing, or put her need to be back with her family above everything else?

I’m a fan of well-conceived time travel plots, and can even accept far-fetched scenarios — but something about this concept of being sent back with a purpose really set my nerves on edge. I suppose if you believe in higher beings and deities and predestination, maybe this might be more appealing, but for me, it just smacks of quasi-religious mumbo jumbo.

There’s no good “why” to all of this. Okay, fine, there’s a purpose… but why these people and not others? Why doesn’t every unfair death get deleted and reversed? Why isn’t the world overrun with people from the future?

In Maria’s story, there are overlaps and revisions in her life, and we see characters from her own time transformed and changed by the actions she takes once she goes back. Some of the convergences are interesting, but for the most part, most of this plot felt forced and illogical to me.

As I said, I love a good time travel story. Sure, I can buy the idea of a woman wandering into a stone circle and being transported 200 years back in time (as happens in a certain favorite series…), but in She Wouldn’t Change a Thing, the mechanics and reasons and the higher purpose elements of the story just didn’t work for me at all.

Beyond the plot falling flat for me, the writing style is often awkward and clunky, and certain lines and stylistic choices took me right out of the plot. Overall, not a great reading experience for me… your mileage may vary.

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Book Review: A Stitch in Time by Kelley Armstrong

Title: A Stitch in Time
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Publication date: October 31, 2020
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Time slip/ghost story
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thorne Manor has always been haunted…and it has always haunted Bronwyn Dale. As a young girl, Bronwyn could pass through a time slip in her great-aunt’s house, where she visited William Thorne, a boy her own age, born two centuries earlier. After a family tragedy, the house was shuttered and Bronwyn was convinced that William existed only in her imagination.

Now, twenty years later Bronwyn inherits Thorne Manor. And when she returns, William is waiting.

William Thorne is no longer the boy she remembers. He’s a difficult and tempestuous man, his own life marred by tragedy and a scandal that had him retreating to self-imposed exile in his beloved moors. He’s also none too pleased with Bronwyn for abandoning him all those years ago.

As their friendship rekindles and sparks into something more, Bronwyn must also deal with ghosts in the present version of the house. Soon she realizes they are linked to William and the secret scandal that drove him back to Thorne Manor. To build a future, Bronwyn must confront the past. 

Who doesn’t love a good time-slip/haunted house/ghost story romance? I was ready to love this book from page 1.

At age 38, Bronwyn is an established history professor, a widow of eight years, and the new owner of Thorne Manor, the Yorkshire estate she’s just inherited from her great-aunt. Some of her happiest memories are from her summers at Thorne Manor, but also, some of her worst.

As a small child, Bronwyn finds a time slip, allowing her to travel back in time 200 years to play with William, a boy her age who lives in the house. At age five, her family chalks up her William experiences to having an imaginary friend. After an absence of ten years due to her parents’ divorce, Bronwyn returns at age 15, and once again slips back and forth in time. This time around, William is also 15, and their friendship begins to blossom into love. But a family tragedy occurs in Bronwyn’s time, and she leaves Thorne Manor, seemingly for good.

As the story opens, adult Bronwyn arrives back at the manor once more. She’s convinced herself that her time with William wasn’t real, so she’s startled by a vivid dream where she wakes up in his bed. Soon, she realizes that the time slips are real after all, and she is able to reconnect with William, who is now an adult as well.

William at first is angry and tries to send her away, believing she abandoned him all those years ago. As they spend time together, he’s able to understand why she disappeared from his life, and their reunion quickly becomes passionate as they fall back into the love that started so many years earlier.

There are complications. Bronwyn, in her own time, sees ghosts. She encounters three very distinct ghosts, and all seem to have messages for her. Are they trying to warn her or scare her away?

In William’s time, she learns that he’s retreated to his country home in part because of scandal and rumors. His younger sister has disappeared, his best friend’s wife has disappeared and is presumed dead, and his former fiancée is missing as well. Gossip depicts William as a murderous mad lord, luring victims to their death on the moors. Can any of this be true? Bronwyn doesn’t believe William is capable of murder, but clearly, someone killed the people who haunt her own time, and she’s determined to learn the truth and free the spirits of the dead.

Ah, what a fun, captivating read! Yes, a big suspension of disbelief is required, but that’s to be expected in a novel where the main plot hinges on slipping through time.

I loved that Bronwyn is a mature, professional woman with a clear head on her shoulders. She’s smart and reasonable, and has also suffered in her life. She understands love and loss, and while William was her first love, he wasn’t her only love. It’s also pretty cool to see her enjoy her time in William’s world not just as a romantic interlude, but as an amazing experience as an historian, learning all she can about daily life in that era from first-hand experience.

The mystery is really well constructed and kept me guessing. The author does such a skillful job of sprinkling clues and red herrings that my suspicions really were all over the place, and I definitely went down the wrong path in my mind. I was pleased with the resolution and how well the answers fit together with what we’d learned about the various characters.

William and Bronwyn have great chemistry and mutual respect. I love that even when they’re trying to figure out what a future together might look like, Bronwyn never considers giving up her own world to live in his. She values her career, her independence, and her friends and family — she’ll spend as much time with William as she can, but she won’t make him her entire world. And to his credit, he doesn’t ask that of her.

I did find the time-slipping a little too easy. Bronwyn can basically slip back and forth at will, so that it starts to feel practically ordinary. If William has a busy day ahead, she’ll plan to pop back home to take care of her kitten and return for dinner. It starts to sound as if she’s just going down the road, rather than jumping back and forth across centuries.

Also, I had to laugh that Bronwyn has her smartphone with her when she time-slips, and that William just accepts that she can take photos and play music with her bizarre little device. And, the fact that William has apparently added to his fortune by investing based on what he learned about the future from 15-year-old Bronwyn… ummm, okay.

Still, I will freely admit that my secretly-a-sucker-for-a-good-romance heart really enjoyed the love story, and I got very caught up in the ghosts and murder mystery too.

A Stitch in Time is, plain and simple, a sweep-you-up kind of romantic tale, with great gothic elements to make it so much more.

I’ve never read any books by this author before now, but I understand that she’s a prolific urban fantasy writer and that A Stitch in Time was a big departure for her. Well done! Goodreads lists this book as the first of two, which confuses me a little because the story has a very satisfactory ending.

Still, if the story of Thorne Manor, William and Bronwyn, and time slips continues? I’ll be there for it.

Book Review: The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

Title: The Vanished Birds
Author: Simon Jimenez
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Publication date: January 14, 2020
Length: 400 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A mysterious child lands in the care of a solitary woman, changing both of their lives forever in this captivating debut of connection across space and time.

“This is when your life begins.”

Nia Imani is a woman out of place and outside of time. Decades of travel through the stars are condensed into mere months for her, though the years continue to march steadily onward for everyone she has ever known. Her friends and lovers have aged past her; all she has left is work. Alone and adrift, she lives only for the next paycheck, until the day she meets a mysterious boy, fallen from the sky.

A boy, broken by his past.

The scarred child does not speak, his only form of communication the beautiful and haunting music he plays on an old wooden flute. Captured by his songs and their strange, immediate connection, Nia decides to take the boy in. And over years of starlit travel, these two outsiders discover in each other the things they lack. For him, a home, a place of love and safety. For her, an anchor to the world outside of herself.

For both of them, a family.

But Nia is not the only one who wants the boy. The past hungers for him, and when it catches up, it threatens to tear this makeshift family apart. 

The Vanished Birds is both lovely and perplexing, a science fiction story about space travel and corporate domination that’s also a deeply personal story about love, identity, and home.

The book opens on what we come to learn is a Resource World owned by the ubiquitous Umbai corporation. At first glance, we’ve arrived in a rural, agricultural community that seems quaint and unsophisticated. The people of the village work in the dhuba fields; their crop is collected once every 15 years by the space travelling ships that carry out trade across the galaxy.

A boy in the village, Kaeda, is seven years old when he sees the ships arrive for the first time, and he’s immediately captivated by their beauty as well as by the mysterious allure of Nia Imani, the ship’s captain.

The trick here, though, is that ships travel through Pocket Space, secret folds through time that allow them to travel faster than the time passing on the planets. The fifteen years in between visits to Kaeda’s world take only eight months on Nia’s ship. The beautiful first chapter of The Vanished Birds traces the strange relationship between Kaeda and Nia, as each of her visits reintroduces her to Kaeda at a different point in his life, from boyhood to youth to adult to elder.

Later, a strange boy arrives in Kaeda’s world, seemingly out of nowhere. Mute, naked, and scarred, he’s taken in by Kaeda, but because it’s clear that he’s from elsewhere, he’s then given into Nia’s care.

The story shifts to Nia and her crew as they travel with the boy, trying to unravel his secrets and keep him safe. From here, the plot expands outward. We meet Fumiko Nakajima, the brilliant scientist who leaves behind her strange upbringing on a dying Earth to become the creator of the interplanetary systems of travel that fuel the next thousand years. And we learn more about the end of Earth, the expansion of Umbai and their tight control, and the different concepts of space travel.

But what really is essential here is the language and the people. The writing in The Vanished Birds is almost poetic at times, filled with unusual imagery and looping writing. The characters are complex, as are their relationships with time and memory.

While we see the unspeakable cruelty of Umbai and the degradation of the lives considered lesser, the exploitation of the Resource Worlds, and the easy dismissal of the value of life, most of science fiction elements are in soft focus. We learn about the methods of travel, the research institutes and their obscene experimentation, but very little of it is explained in great detail. This book is less hard science fiction and much more a meditation on the meaning of it all.

While beautifully written, at times The Vanished Birds frustrated me, as I do tend to gravitate toward a more literal science fiction approach, and occasionally wanted more straight-forward answers and explanations.

Still, this book overall is an unusual and emotionally powerful read. I think it’ll be on my mind for quite some time, from the almost folkloric beginning to the tragic but inevitable end.

Highly recommended.

For more on The Vanished Birds, check out:

Review – The Captain’s Quarters
The Big Idea – from John Scalzi’s Whatever blog
Review – AV Club
Review – Locus Magazine
Review – Tor.com