Published by Harper Voyager on February 10, 2015
Genres: Steampunk, Suspense, Paranormal
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Forensic science, magic, mystery, and romance mix in this edgy steampunk fantasy—a retelling of the horror classic, in which Dr. Eliza Jekyll, daughter of the infamous Dr. Henry Jekyll—pursues a dangerous murderer in an alternate Victorian London.
In an electrified Victorian London, Dr. Eliza Jekyll is a crime scene investigator, hunting killers with newfangled technological gadgets. She will need every advantage available to catch a terrifying new psychopath splattering London with blood. Hidden in the grimy shadows, the fiendish murderer preys on beautiful women, drugging them before slicing off their limbs. Finding the “Slicer” can make Eliza’s career . . . or unmask her darkest secret. Like her father, she has a hidden second self that emerges when she drinks his forbidden magical elixir. Just a few sips, and a seductive and impulsive Lizzie Hyde is unleashed.
The members of the Royal Society do not trust Eliza, and they send their enforcer, the mercurial Captain Lafayette, to prove she’s a dangerous sorceress. The careful doctor knows that one wrong step can make her prey to the clever Lafayette, a man who harbors an evil curse of his own. No matter how much she craves the elixir, she must resist.
But as the Slicer case draws her into London’s luminous magical underworld, Eliza will need the potion’s power to help her . . . even if it might attract the attentions of Lafayette. .
Even if it means setting the wild Lizzie free. . . .
Steampunk isn’t my usual genre, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Diabolical Miss Hyde. While it isn’t particularly heavy on the steampunk elements, the gender swapped Jekyll/Hyde story in a fey-ridden Victorian London gave the story an interesting twist.
I’ve read the original Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and I’m pleased to say that in this book, the author takes the split personality concept and makes it her own. I loved the contrast between Dr Eliza Jekyll’s uptight, analytical personality, and her more voracious, impulsive alter ego, Lizzie. They both presented an interesting dynamic in a society that’s restrained and heavily slanted towards repressed women.
Dr Jekyll for instance, as a crime scene investigator, presents a paradox in herself. In Victorian London, women weren’t any better than staying at home and sewing, while leaving the real jobs to the men. But Eliza has chosen to educate herself and step out on her own, not shying away from murder scenes with her keen sense of logic. While many men continue to make sexist remarks and passes at her, she always makes quick work of them while solving crimes.
Lizzie on the other hand, is a seductress, representing the darker parts of Eliza. While Eliza sticks to the more respectable parts of London, investigating crimes, getting antidotes at the apocathery and and skirting around the handsome Captain Remy Lafayette, Lizzie spends her time in London’s underground, drinking, sleeping with others, and causing mischief. She’s fiesty, rash and confident, whose courage and boldness is needed at times.
Miss Hyde is narrated from Lizzie’s point of view, instead of dual perspectives. Although Lizzie and Eliza have a completely different way of viewing things, I enjoyed her perspective on Eliza’s journey throughout the story. It was interesting that they were both cognizant of each other, with each other’s memories and even talking to each other in their head at times. The way they were the best and worst parts of each other was interesting and used to their advantage during the story.
The plot centres around a murder mystery, where a killer is on the loose removing parts of women in their death. Every time Eliza gets close to solving the mystery and figuring out who the murderer is, the author would throw a curve ball in the way, veering the suspect off into a different direction. You’ll suspect absolutely everyone here, with the final killer as someone who I didn’t suspect. No one is as they seem here, and it really shows that people only show the faces that they want you to see.
Romance isn’t necessary in a story for me to enjoy it, but I particularly loved the romance here with Lafayette. It was interesting how different parts of him appealed to both Lizzie and Eliza and the chemistry between the both of them was absolutely hot! I loved how the romance presented yet another interesting side to the split personality – if he has a relationship with the both of them, is he technically cheating or being faithful? Definitely an interesting question to ponder!
While The Diabolical Miss Hyde isn’t normally something I would have picked up – it just goes to show reading outside your comfort zone can sometimes yield the best reward. I ended up absolutely loving every minute of it, from the interesting split personalities, to the fey underworld, to the saucy romance and the haunting murder mystery. I can see this appealing to anyone who loves a paranormal romance, those who love steampunk or murder mysteries and Sherlock. As for me, I’ll be putting the sequel onto my TBR!
Rating: 4 out of 5
Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard
Published by Allen & Unwin on February 1st 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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A powerful, captivating story about Alice, who is reaching out to express herself through her beautiful-broken words, and Manny who is running to escape his past. When they meet they find the tender beginnings of love and healing.
Alice is fifteen, with hair as red as fire and skin as pale as bone, but something inside her is broken. She has acquired brain injury, the result of an assault, and her words come out slow and slurred. But when she writes, heartwords fly from her pen. She writes poems to express the words she can't say and leaves them in unexpected places around the town.
Manny was once a child soldier. He is sixteen and has lost all his family. He appears to be adapting to his new life in this country, where there is comfort and safety, but at night he runs, barefoot, to escape the memory of his past. When he first sees Alice, she is sitting on the rusty roof of her river-house, looking like a carving on an old-fashioned ship sailing through the stars.
I say this time and time again: sad books just aren’t my thing. It takes me years – sometimes months to work up to reading sad books, because they take me ages to get over.
And that’s what Stars at Oktober Bend did – it ripped out my heart and threw it on the floor.
The book is about Alice, a girl who has trouble with speech due to brain damage. But it’s clear that she’s smart and intelligent, as she writes beautiful words of poetry. Yes, she may be a little slow at times, but it’s much easier for her to put words on paper than to verbally construct a sentence. The way her voice is depicted, with no capital letters, short sentences and bouts of poetry is a beautiful way of capturing what speech is like for Alice.
This is interchanged with Manny’s perspective, a young black orphan who discovers her poetry and doesn’t judge her by her disability. I found Manny’s voice to be young, fresh and absolutely endearing. While it definitely did feel like insta-love, the way they so quickly started getting attached to each other, I didn’t hold it against them – because they needed each other to hold on to.
The diversity in the book was marvellously done, and I liked how they weren’t stereotypical characters. They both broke the bonds of their stigmas – with Alice looking after her elderly grandmother, and Manny as someone who could survive through PTSD and the horrific circumstances of war. But despite being disabled, despite being a boy soldier, the two find a certain solace in each other. Alice has found someone who she can share her “voice” with, and Manny with someone he can protect and trust.
If reading about a brain damaged girl and a young survivor of war sounds heart breaking enough, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Stars at Oktober Bend is filled with horrifically ignorant people who bully both of the characters. Their ignorance, their territorial behaviour and their abusive words and actions just really made my blood boil. Not only that, but the book continually punches you in the gut, over and over again as the true horror of the story slowly unfolds. It reveals Alice’s past for why she’s like that, and shares Manny’s horrific past experiences. But it doesn’t stop there – it continually descends into more horrific circumstances that don’t just surround Alice and Manny, but their families, friends and enemies, and my heart just couldn’t take it anymore.
The book does not have a strong plot, as Alice and Manny get to know each other over the course of the story. A random flood comes out of nowhere towards the end of the story and Alice stays in the house which I found hard to believe – particularly given her condition.
The sibling relationship here is also done beautifully, with Joey showing Alice love and humility, where the rest of the world does not. He’s such a wonderfully caring brother, and truly showed what unconditional sibling love is about.
I kind of feel like having one or two sad themes would have been enough for me, but in more ways than one, Stars at Oktober Bend was a traumatising experience. While it’s incredibly beautiful in the writing, the theme and the characters, I just feel completely depressed and miserable after I read it. While I could totally appreciate what Stars had to offer, I simply don’t enjoy feeling that way after a book. Jenna absolutely loved it though, and you can read her review here.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thank you Allen & Unwin for sending me this book for review!
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I talked about this book live on radio below!