Review: The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

Something new and different on the blog this week! 

The Honjin Murders is a classic Japanese murder mystery, first published in 1946 as a serialized publication.  The author, Seishi Yokomizo, created the iconic detective character Kosuke Kindaichi.  This book is a classic locked door murder case and one of the most famous Japanese murder mysteries ever written!

The narrative takes us through the wedding of Kenzou Ichiyanagi and Katsuko Kubo while surrounded by select members of their families.  It is winter, with a thick layer of snow on the ground, far removed from the city in the remote estate of the Ichiyanagi family.  After the wedding, everyone goes to bed.  In the middle of the night, a terrible noise wakes the family up and it is discovered that the bride and groom have been brutally murdered, setting up a locked door mystery.

The first-person narrator style and often fourth-wall breaking situations only lend to the driving force of the genre.  I really enjoy the “just the facts ma’am” style of the writing.  This book is full of interesting pieces of Japanese culture from the 1930s/1940s, which is a fascinating look at traditional Japanese literature.  

The Honjin Murders has been translated into English for the first time and is available August 4th!  This is the perfect book for fans of Agatha Christie, the Poiroit novels, Steig Larssen, and other detective novel writers and books!  

Watch Knives Out! and curl up with this great detective novel for a fantastic read!

I received a galley copy of this book from Edelweiss and Pushkin for an honest review!

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Review: The Margot Affair by Sanaë Lemoine

Before I begin, I’d like to recommend that you queue up your favorite French composer to play as a soundtrack behind your reading of this book.  I love Ravel, but you can pick whoever you’d like.  Also, Sanaë Lemoine’s website has recipes for the dishes talked about in the book!  Whip up some clafoutis before you crack open this read!

The Margot Affair is a beautifully constructed debut novel from Sanaë Lemoine.  Following Margot Louve, the opening chapters highlight the complicated relationship between a mother and daughter, which becomes even more nuanced with the added layer of a dark secret.  Margot is the daughter, borne from a romance between her mother, an actress, and her father, a political figure of importance who happens to also be married to someone else.

As the narrative progresses, the writing focuses on the dynamic, emotional relationship between Margot and her parents.  Her actress mother, Anouk, and largely absent father, a teacher turned politician.  These chapters are full of descriptive language that pulls you into Margot’s Paris apartment and paints a vivid picture of her delicate world.  The reader is taken on a journey through her inner monologue, weaving through her desire to be closer to her mother and to feel wanted, her conflicting thoughts about her father’s other family, and her absolute longing for a complete family unit filled with love and compassion.  The reader can feel Margot’s desperation as she describes her distant relationship with her mother, an actress who tends to stay in character, even when the play has concluded. 

Throughout the narrative, the author returns to a familiar theme of space:  how do we shape the space in which we exist and where is the center.  This recurring motif inspires the reader to think critically about their space and how they exist inside of it.  The author explores the incredibly nuanced question that many people deal with:  is it better to tell the truth, or keep a secret.

I love the style choices in this book, particularly the lack of quotation marks.  The pages blend into a seamless narrative of an extremely personal nature.  I read this novel as if it were Margot’s internal monologue.  This nicely compliments the abundance of descriptive language, but does not burden the reader with explicit exposition.  It is subtle, beautiful, and I could not put this book down.

This work does contain elements of emotional abuse, attempted suicide, and sexual content.

The Margot Affair is published by Hogarth and will be celebrating it’s book birthday on June 16, 2020!  This book NEEDS to be on your To Be Read list this summer! 

Check out The Margot Affair on goodreads and Sanaë Lemoine’s website.

I received a galley copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley and Random House.

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Review: The Secret Billionaire by Teymour Shahabi

Teymour Shahabi’s The Secret Billionaire delivers the perfect amount of suspense and excitement from the first page.  The novel’s elusive and ever-present business tycoon Lyndon Surway looms over the narrative, giving the reader the feeling that they are missing something throughout the pages.  This feeling of suspense drives the plot forward through the story of Andrew Day.  Andrew has no parents and has been passed around the system to one day wake up to find that he has been chosen for an illustrious and competitive scholarship to a school only accessible by elite, rich families. 

Shahabi explores Andrew’s relationship with his host family and the friends he makes at Saint Clement Academy.  Andrew’s interactions and his thoughts regarding his host family delves into the complicated host of feelings that children in a foster system can experience.  Andrew talks about having no family, no heritage, he comes from nothing.  Shahabi deftly maneuvers Andrew’s thoughts on the matter to something more akin to what he can become, what legacy can he leave from his time at the academy. 

“There’s no such thing as an old family or a new family. People are all people; all of humanity’s the same age on this planet. But ye get to start a heritage, and someday some lucky kid named Day will get to parade in here with a limousine and be greeted all over campus like royalty, and all over the world like a celebrity, because of something you did. Ye see, you’re the first Day!”

This quotation captures the essence of the novel and the essence of the struggle that people face in their everyday lives.  What legacy will I leave behind?  Not everyone has an elite school or academy that they attend, but many people want to leave their mark on the world as Andrew longs to do.  Andrew Day is insightful, clever, and a fantastic point of view character. 

My only complaint is that the pacing can get a little bogged down with information when Andrew is considering and synthesizing information. 

Overall, this is a solid novel with an interesting premise that left me wanting more at the end of each page.  I found that I couldn’t put the book down once I’d begun reading it.  Readers will find that this novel has everything – hints of Harry Potter, a bit of Batman Returns, and the emotional complexity and depth associated with a coming of age tale in a world that is completely new. 

Follow Andrew Day through his journey at Saint Clemens Academy.  Do you know who Lucien Baker is?

 I received an advanced copy of this book for free and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Cover photo by PageWing, Inc and Teymour Shahabi

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Review: Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten

You’ve heard of Catherine the Great of Russia,  but have you heard of Catherine the I?  Author Ellen Alpsten brings a breathtaking glimpse into the life of Peter the Great’s second wife and successor in this work of fantastic historical fiction. 

Marta, whose reign name is Catherine I, is of humble beginnings, sold as a maidservant by her family in her early years, has cheated death numerous times and ascended the throne of one of the greatest dynasties the world has ever known.  This is the story of Marta, who the author describes as “the most powerful woman history ever forgot.”*

From page one, I was absolutely hooked by the beautiful and immersive experience of the author’s writing style.  The rich descriptions of Russian court life, courtly intrigue, the brutality of life in the era, and the visceral descriptions of Catherine’s relationship with the Tsar weave a difficult and demanding tapestry of this book.  Each part building upon itself to create a breathtaking debut novel from an author that will absolutely be added to my “favorite authors” bookshelf. 

If you love Russian history and can’t get enough of historical romance, this book is for you!  It reminds me so much of Nicholas and Alexandra  by Robert K. Massie, but with a beautiful modern historical fiction twist. 

This book is out on October 13th from St. Martin’s Press!  You don’t want to miss it!

Tsarina is on goodreads and more information on the author, Ellen Alpsten can be found here!

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for a galley copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! 

*@Ealpsten_Author tweet dated April 20, 2020

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Review: The Four Symbols by Giacometti & Ravenne

Given that I am a huge history nerd, World War II and Nazi Germany are not really a field I’m super familiar with, but I wanted to give The Four Symbols a try.  I am so glad that I requested this book!  I am a sucker for political intrigue and I love a good YA fantasy novel centered around magic.  This book has intrigue by the tons and the magic is more occult-y, but I still found it really interesting reading about the ancient mythology in this book!

I threw on some Wagner (Ride of the Valkyries) and could not put this book down!  Set in the very early days of World War II (the prologue is set during Kristallnacht), the narrative navigates through several different plot lines that showcase a cast of characters from many different sides.  The reader is taken on a journey with SS officers in search of ancient artifacts.  Winston Churchill and the British make an appearance as they attempt to foil the scheming of the Nazi government.  We see French espionage, along with other characters who float in and out of the narrative as the authors masterfully weave the entire story together.  I really enjoyed the semi-vignette style of the writing.  A chapter can have more than one storyline playing out, though the jumps seem jarring, I would argue that this is intentional.  It simulates the fluidity of war and geopolitics.

This is the first book in a trilogy that promises to span the entire war, and what an opening salvo it is!  This book contains some graphic violence as it tackles literal war and figurative war via undercover operations and spy games. 

Other reviews have noted that this book reads like a Dan Brown novel, which I wholeheartedly agree that it does!  I would also recommend this book to fans of Tom Clancy, Stephen Ambrose, Dan Brown (obviously), and Robert Ludlum.  Great read for someone who enjoys war games books, international espionage, complex plots/subplots, and an overall engaging read about World War II!

You can find the book on goodreads to add to your to be read list!  Publication date is September 3rd, 2020!  A perfect pre Labor Day weekend purchase!

I received a galley copy of this novel courtesy of NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton in exchange for an honest review!

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Review: Vanishing Point by Vanessa Robertson

Kate Carpenter is part of the high-stakes art game with a dangerous past and a promising future.  With her ex-boyfriend in jail for assaulting her, Kate is on the way to Belarus in pursuit of a priceless Van Gogh. 

I absolutely loved the story and Kate’s character development.  This novella is a fantastic introduction to the world of high-stakes art!  This is a novel series I am already anticipating! 

Vanishing Point is a brand new novella from Vanessa Robertson that is sure to be a hit!  I think I found my new favorite thriller series?  As a long time fan of badass ladies as spies, enforcers, bounty hunters, detectives, and other equally as hardcore professions, this is a character I am eager to learn more about! 

Vanessa Robertson is the author of Death Will Find Me, a 1920s crime novel set in Edinburgh and featuring a former spy, Tessa Kilpatrick.  This novel sound equally as exciting and is already on my to be read list! 

Subscribe to Vanessa’s newsletter for a special gift (free copy of Vanishing Point) here:  Vanessa Robertson’s Newsletter

Pick up a copy of Death Will Find Me here:  Death Will Find Me

Don’t forget to be on the lookout for Vanessa’s next Tessa Kilpatrick novel, out in 2020!

Thank you to our friends at Love Book Tours for the opportunity to review and boost Vanishing Point!

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