The Bookbinder’s Daughter

By Jessica Thorne

When Sophie is offered a job at the Ayredale Library – the finest collection of rare books in the world, and the last place her bookbinder mother was seen when Sophie was just a teenager – she leaps at the chance. 

Taking in the endless shelves of antique books, the soaring stained-glass windows, and the grand sweeping staircase, usually shy Sophie feels strangely at home, and is welcomed by her eccentric fellow binders. But why is the Keeper of the Library so reluctant to speak about Sophie’s mother? And why is Sophie the only person who can read the strange spells in the oldest books on display, written in a forgotten language nobody else understands?

The mysteries of the library only deepen when Sophie stumbles upon an elaborately carved door. The pattern exactly matches the pendant her mother left behind years ago, engraved with a delicate leaf. As the door swings open at her touch, Sophie gasps at the incredible sight: an enormous tree, impossibly growing higher than the library itself, its gently falling golden leaves somehow resembling the pages of a book. Amidst their rustling, Sophie hears a familiar whisper…

‘There you are, my Sophie. I knew you’d come back for me.’

There are several things to love about this book. 

First, the language used is intricate, delicate and beautiful. Jessica Thorne has a such a mastery over vocabulary which she uses skillfully and without alienating her reader with a lot of “high-falooty mambo jumbo”. It’s simply exquisite. She uses words like a carver would use their tools to carefully craft a world-behind-the-world creating such detail and a stunning backdrop for this story. I fell in love with the library as though it was a living, breathing entity. Due to this, it can take a while for the actual story to unfold however, if you just stay with it, it’ll be worth it!

Next, the story itself. The idea of books and magic housed under the roof of a library isn’t one unfamilier to us readers. Books are magic, transporting, creating, and allowing escape from our everyday lives – even if we’re escaping to live the everyday life of a book character. We meet it, crave it and thrill to it as we let the magic of a good book envelope us and take us where the author wants us to go. Outside of God and all I feel and know through my faith, books are literally the next best ‘high’ one can get. 

I always love when an inanimate object suddenly becomes a character. There are two of those in this book; one is the library and one is the tree. They both have words, feelings, personalities and ebb and flow with the heroine flawlessly as she seeks out their secrets and unravels their mysteries. The library moans and groans under threat of evil. The tree dispels its leaves which, in turn, become pages for the bookbinder to create into a book. 

There’s a nice symbiotic relationship here as the library cannot survive without the tree, which gives of itself to the library yet the tree cannot exist without the library; the library is its home. 

The main character of Sophie is lost, alone and confused and all for the right reasons, having survived an emotionally abusive relationship and much loss. She flees to be with an estranged uncle as she takes on a job as the bookbinder at Ayredale’s library. She meets up with friends, old and new. There is a love interest in the form of Will and we struggle along with her to find out his connection to the library. 

There is an evil presence and I often found myself wondering who were the good guys and who were the bag guys with the exception of Sophie, our heroine. There is a nice character development as we watch Sophie’s internal struggle to find out what happened to her mom but also to free herself from the bondage of her abusive relationship. 

Lastly, I love that this story is almost told like a bit of folklore. It’s like a story you’d tell your kids at night, around a fire while sipping hot chocolate. It’s simply lovely! 

My rating ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Girl On Legare Street

by Karen White

Melanie Middleton, top real estate agent in Charleston, SC has another mystery to solve. Ghosts have been residing for quite a while at her grandmother’s home on Legare Street and this time, it will take Melanie pairing up with someone she’d rather never see again – her mother – in order to help bring peace to the old, historic home. Jack Trenholm, her partner-in-crime from the last book joins her in this adventure and stands at the go-between between Melanie and her mother as ghosts wreak havoc once again in Melanie’s otherwise organized life. 

I have to say, I was pretty excited to read this one. There was a bit of a build up in the previous book, The House on Tradd Street, alluding to the fact that Melanie and her family had unfinished business at her grandmother’s house. Melanie’s mother comes back into her life bringing not only reinforcements on the psychic front but also some answers for Melanie as to why she left in the first place. 

What I loved about this book was, of course, the ghost story! Once again, there is a masterfully written history behind the ghost stories and there’s a couple of them to follow in this book. Karen White starts us off with strings that seem disconnected one from another and yet somehow, manages to pull them all into a beautiful macrame of a conclusion where everyone finds peace. I totally fell in love with Wilhelm and how much his character protected all the Prioleau women – literally for decades! His heartbreaking story of losing his love, Catherine, and how he came to haunt and protect the Legare house had tears running down my face. 

A new character and family member, Rebecca, was introduced as a cousin who also shared a gift of sorts, although her gift comes in dreams. I had a hard time deciding if I liked her or not. I couldn’t tell if she was working for or against Melanie. In the end, I concluded that she’s that one family member that every family has and wishes they hadn’t. 

I was disappointed in the non-growth of the main character, Melanie. By the end of book two, she is still a whiny, self-absorbed, over-reactive Melanie who hates a house she’s been given. While you can see a little more healing between her and her father, she seems to completely discount her mother’s explanation as to why she had to leave her – which was to save Melanie’s life. There’s not even a little give there and that bothered me. For someone approaching 40 years old, I would expect a little more maturity and reasoning and sense and honestly, I didn’t get any of that by the end of the book. 

And her treatment of Jack, who’s done nothing but try to help her and be there for her baffles me. 

Yet still, the ghost story was wonderfully done. The imagery was fabulous. The characters, outside of Melanie, are rich and beautiful and leap off the page. Karen White makes me want to go to Charleston, South Carolina, get a couple of donuts and a coffee at Ruby’s and have a good ol’ gab with these folks.

My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐