ARC review: The Key in the Lock by Beth Underdown

the cover of The Key in the Lock by Beth Underdown (title in the middle with a picture of a key, surrounded by a layout of a house)

The Key in the Lock by Beth Underdown

I received an advance reader copy for free in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author! Receiving a free copy has in no way influenced my opinions on the book.

Expected publication date: January 13th 2022

Historical fiction, mystery

304 pages

Goodreads page

Buddy read with the amazing Stephen from Stephen Writes

I still dream, every night, of Polneath on fire. Smoke unfurling out of an upper window and a hectic orange light cascading across the terrace.

By day, Ivy Boscawen mourns the loss of her son Tim in the Great War. But by night she mourns another boy – one whose death decades ago haunts her still.

For Ivy is sure that there is more to what happened all those years ago: the fire at the Great House, and the terrible events that came after. A truth she must uncover, if she is ever to be free.

I requested The Key in the Lock in no time after I saw it being advertised for fans of The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal and The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. I adored both of these books, and so I expected The Key in the Lock to provide a rich atmospheric tale with eerie twists. Although my hopes were pretty high to begin with, The Key in the Lock also seems to intentionally build up the readers’ expectations at the beginning of the book. The characters tip toe around a great mystery and something monstrous that happened in the past. Unfortunately, I felt that the Key in the Lock suffered badly from both the comparison to books by Elizabeth Macneal and Jessie Burton, and from the hype in the beginning of the book. In the end, the revelations don’t live up to the hype, and I couldn’t sense why anyone would compare The Key in the Lock to the Doll Factory or the Miniaturist.

The tale seemed very interesting to begin with, partly because the characters felt odd in a very curious way. I was certain that a lot of red herrings and Easter eggs were hidden in the narrative, and I couldn’t wait to find out why the characters behaved in certain ways. Sadly, the hints and tips and twists never appeared. The characters felt odd and distant, which made it difficult to root for them. I also couldn’t understand their reasoning at times, the main character, Ivy, being the greatest mystery of all.

The story is told in dual timelines that touch on both the mysterious events in 1888 and the first world war in 1918. I usually like time jumps such as this, but here it felt like the separate timelines took away from the story. The narrative jumps around, and the earlier timeline felt much more engaging throughout the book. I sometimes audibly groaned when a new chapter begun in 1918 rather than 1888. The timelines also discount some of the tragic events, making them seem less important and inconsequential for the story.

In addition to the separate timelines, I was confused by occasional changes in the writing style. While most of the narrative was typical of a novel, one of the chapters made it seem like Ivy was actually writing the story in a diary or letter format. This didn’t make any sense in the context of the previous narrative, and I feel that it was an odd choice from the author.

Regardless of my issues with The Key in the Lock, I must say that it was a delightfully quick book to read. The chapters were short and engaging which made the book whizz by. Also – I had a particularly great experience reading this (although the book was far from a favourite) because I buddy read it with Stephen @ Stephen Writes 😊 I loved our discussions of the sections and we came up with some crazy twists (that sadly didn’t come to fruition haha)

I also enjoyed the setting and timing of the events. The book is mostly set around Christmas in both timelines, which made it a great read in December. Not exactly a festive book – but nice to pick up around winter!

Overall, I think The Key in the Lock would make a great quick-read when you are looking for an intriguing mystery. Although the book doesn’t provide the depth that I wish it had, it is a good one to pick up and read in one or two sittings – just don’t go in with too high hopes!

picture of my rating: 2.5/5 stars
2.5/5 stars

Are you planning to read The Key in the Lock? Although it wasn’t for me, I’m sure that many readers will fall in love with it. Most of all, it would make a really good rainy day read (or even better, a snowy day read!).

Thank you so much for reading!

- Pauliina

ARC Review: The Galaxy, And The Ground Within by Becky Chambers

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The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers

Expected publication: February 16th 2021

Scifi

Part of the Wayfarers series (#4)

I received an arc in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the publisher, the author and Netgalley! Receiving a free copy has not influenced my opinions (or the way I present them) in any way.

This review includes quotes from the Galaxy, and the Ground Within. Note that these quotes are from an uncorrected, advance proof and so any text may have been changed in the final copy.

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Rep on living childfree?! – ARC Review: Olive by Emma Gannon

Olive by Emma Gannon

Published on July 23rd 2020

Contemporary fiction

I received a free advance reader copy of Olive in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the publisher, author and Netgalley! Receiving a e-copy has in no way influenced my opinions on the book.

Content warnings: Breakup, swearing, talk of sex, bullying, abortion, IVF process, sexism

The synopsis

Independent.
Adrift.
Anxious.
Loyal.
Kind.
Knows her own mind.

OLIVE is many things, and it’s ok that she’s still figuring it all out, navigating her world without a compass. But life comes with expectations, there are choices to be made, boxes to tick and – sometimes – stereotypes to fulfil. And when her best friends’ lives start to branch away towards marriage and motherhood, leaving the path they’ve always followed together, Olive starts to question her choices – because life according to Olive looks a little bit different.

Moving, memorable and a mirror for every woman at a crossroads, OLIVE has a little bit of all of us. Told with great warmth and nostalgia, this is a modern tale about the obstacle course of adulthood, milestone decisions and the ‘taboo’ about choosing not to have children.

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Mini-reviews: Chronicles of the Infected, Swallowtail, and the Life Changing Manga of Tidying Up

Hello my fellow bookaholics ✨

Sorry about my abrupt December hiatus – I had a busy beginning of the month which turned into a travel-full holiday season. But I’m back at it and I can’t wait to write a whole bunch of fun end of year posts!

Today I have some mini-reviews of books that I have been extremely lucky to get from publishers and/or authors. These recent reads include dark dystopian, heart-wrenching poetry and mood-lifting manga 😊

I received a free copy of all of these books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, the publisher and Netgalley! Receiving a free review copy has in no way influenced my opinions.

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ARC Review: Fate of the Fallen by Kel Kade

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Fate of the Fallen by Kel Kade

Adult Fantasy

352 pages

Published on the 5th of November

Goodreads link

I received an e-arc in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much for the publisher, the author and Netgalley! Receiving a free copy has in no way affected my opinions.

Trigger warnings: discussions of suicide, gore, violence, war, death, discussions of mental illness

Mathias is loved by everyone, he is handsome, strong and good at everything. Naturally, he is also the one and only who can save the world. When he finds out that he is the chosen one, he sets off on the journey of his life, his reliable side-kick, Aaslo, right behind him. However, saving the world isn’t as easy, or exciting, as it sounds in the stories. And absolutely everything goes wrong.

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ARC Review: The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

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The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Published on the 19th of November

272 pages

YA, Fantasy

Goodreads page

I received an e-arc in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the publisher, author and Netgalley! Receiving a free copy has in no way affected my opinions.

Gothic, intoxicating, feminist, darkly provoking and deeply romantic – this is the breathtakingly imagined untold story of the brides of Dracula, by bestselling author Kiran Millwood Hargrave in her much-anticipated YA debut.

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…

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ARC Review: Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker & Wendy Xu

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Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker

Graphic Novel

Goodreads page

Publication date: the 15th of October

I received an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the authors, publishers and Netgalley! Receiving a free copy has in no way influenced my opinions.

A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.

Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.

One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.

Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.

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ARC Review: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

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To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Sci-fi, novella

Goodreads page

176 pages

I was given a free e-arc in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the publisher, the author and Netgalley! Receiving a free copy has in no way influenced my opinions.

Please note that all quotes in this review are from an advance reader copy and they might have been changed in the final book.

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ARC Review: Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

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Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Published on the 14th of May 2019

YA Fantasy, Retelling

Goodreads page

I received a free e-copy in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Netgalley, the author and the publisher! Receiving a free copy has in no way affected my opinions.

Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe… which is now filling with blood.

When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.

Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.

Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.

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ARC Review: A Pack of Blood and Lies by Olivia Wildenstein

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A Pack of Blood and Lies by Olivia Wildenstein

Published on the 18th of April 2019

362 pages, YA Fantasy/Action/Romance

Goodreads page

I received a free e-copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much to Netgalley, the author and the publisher. Receiving a free copy has in no way affected my opinion of the book. Also, my apologies for the late review!

Three months shy of her eighteenth birthday, Ness is forced to return to Colorado. Even though it’s been six years, and the wolves of her all-male pack don’t recognize her, she recognizes them. People who shun others because of their gender are hard to forget.

Especially Liam Kolane—son of Heath, the crudest and cruelest Alpha to have ruled the Boulder Pack. Liam is as handsome as he is infuriating, as kind as he is punishing, and he makes Ness’s traitorous heart race, which isn’t good. After all, he’s a Kolane. Like father like son, right?

When Heath dies, Liam vies to become the new Alpha and no one dares challenge him.

Except Ness.

Thus begins a treacherous game.

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