Mini Reviews: Under the Whispering Door & The Mad Women’s Ball

I am on a roll recently with the amount of books I’ve been reading. So, here is another double review post.

Under the Whispering Door Review

  • Author: TJ Klune
  • Series: Standalone
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • No. of pages: 373
  • Dates read: 11.03.2022 – 15.03.2022
  • Star Rating: 5 stars

Plot: When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead. Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over. But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life. When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

What a book! I had heard so many great things about this book. I wanted to see what all the hype was about. Well, this book met the hype and then some!

The stand out elements to me of this book was the discussion of what happens after we die, our relationship of death and the character development that happens in this book.

Death is a tough topic. Some people had no issue talking about it, others (like myself) don’t really want to think about it. I love the way it was discussed in this book. While the author does give an idea of what happens after we die, that’s literally what the book is about, he still leaves a lot unsaid and up for interpretation. The book only covers the waypoint between life and death not actually what happens once we move on. I really enjoyed this take. I felt that the whole topic of death, in general, was handled so well.

We hear and meet so many stories and characters in this book that tackle different types of death. The book explores how that can affect the person and the people around them. I felt I was in my own personal therapy session with some of the beautiful words of wisdom Hugo shares on these pages. This whole book took a scary concept that all of us never truly understand and make it less scary and intimidating.

I also loved the development we see some of the characters take. Specifically, the main character, Wallace, starts the book a bit like Mr Scrooge from A Christmas Carol. It was super lovely to watch him learn more about himself and other people. I felt it was paced really well and wasn’t rushed. The friendships in this book in general were some of the best I have ever read.

Overall, this book covers a tough topic with grace and love. The characters are great and I really felt I grew a lot as a person reading it.

The Mad Women’s Ball

  • Author: Victoria Mas
  • Translator: Frank Wynne
  • Series: Standalone
  • Genre: Historical Fantasy
  • No. of pages: 224
  • Dates read: 17.03.2022 – 20.03.2022
  • Star Rating: 2.5 stars

Plot: The Salpetriere Asylum: Paris, 1885. Dr. Charcot holds all of Paris in thrall with his displays of hypnotism on women who have been deemed mad and cast out from society. But the truth is much more complicated—these women are often simply inconvenient, unwanted wives, those who have lost something precious, wayward daughters, or girls born from adulterous relationships. For Parisian society, the highlight of the year is the Lenten ball—the Madwomen’s Ball—when the great and good come to gawk at the patients of the Salpetriere dressed up in their finery for one night only. For the women themselves, it is a rare moment of hope. Genevieve is a senior nurse. After the childhood death of her sister Blandine, she shunned religion and placed her faith in both the celebrated psychiatrist Dr. Charcot and science. But everything begins to change when she meets Eugenie—the 19-year-old daughter of a bourgeois family that has locked her away in the asylum. Because Eugenie has a secret: she sees spirits. Inspired by the scandalous, banned work that all of Paris is talking about, The Book of Spirits,Eugenie is determined to escape from the asylum—and the bonds of her gender—and seek out those who will believe in her. And for that she will need Genevieve’s help . . 

This book I didn’t like as much. I was super excited to jump into this book exploring power dynamics for women in 1800s France with a slight supernatural edge.

The start of the novel was done really well as we meet the 3 women who will push the narrative forward. Unfortunately, after the halfway mark I started to lose interest. I just got bored. It was interesting to learn about the character’s backstories and how they ended up at the Salpetriere Asylum. But once that was discussed it didn’t really go anywhere else. Genevieve was probably the most interesting character as she showed the most depth and we watched her character grow and change throughout the story. But I cannot say the same thing about the other characters.

The story itself was very predictable. When I got to the end I just felt underwhelmed. Like, “Is that it?”. I felt that the whole story just didn’t get enough development. It was missing a level of depth and detail that I craved. Everything felt slightly surface level.

Overall, a book with a great premise but just lacked in execution.

2 thoughts on “Mini Reviews: Under the Whispering Door & The Mad Women’s Ball

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