The Kitchen House

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom is a historical fiction book that takes place when slavery was prevalent in the south. The story follows two narratives over more than a decade: Lavinia, a white child forced into indentured labor when her parents die on the crossing from Ireland to America; and Bell a young woman and a kitchen slave who is also the illegitimate daughter of the plantation owner.

Lavinia lives and works on the tobacco plantation and soon becomes bonded to her surrogate family; she is so bound to this family that she doesn’t realize the differences in their skin color and what that means. But all is not right with the family she serves. Ms. Martha take laudanum to get through the day, the Captain is never home and although he is good to his slaves, his caretaker, Rankin, is not, and Mr. Marshall, the young master, faces abuse that will mark his whole future.

As Lavinia ages she is soon accepted into this white world she is all but unfamiliar with and finds she must make a choice. Will Lavinia be loyal to her black family or will she adopt the views of the white world she belongs in?

This was a book chosen for my bi-monthly book club. I wasn’t really interested in it at first glance, so I decided to go with the audio book. The audio was done quite well. The narrator did an excellent job and was very believable. The book itself was a fine read and one that would definitely work for a book club.

This book is not for the feint of heart, like most slave narratives there were times when this book was brutal and it definitely didn’t pull any punches.

My biggest problem with the book is that almost all the problems could have been avoid or solved by talking to each other. Yes, this happens all the time in real life but when it happens to this extent in fiction it just bugs me. Especially since the majority of people knew what was going on except for one or two key players. It just didn’t seem realistic to me at times. There were also a few lose ends that were just forgotten about and that irked me too.

This book gets 3.5 stars from me. It was a good read that kept me interested but there were some flaws too. Maybe it’s just because this is not my go to genre but this was just not a the for me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Hopatcong Vision Quest

Hopatcong Vision Quest by Steve Lindahl is an adult fiction book that takes place on the shores of Lake Hopatcong in New Jersey. Within only days of each other, two women drown on the shores of Lake Hopatcong and both are ruled accidents. But Diane, the grown daughter of one of the women, and Ryan, the husband of the other, aren’t convinced.

So begins a journey that will lead Diane and Ryan on a hunt for the killer and back in time to a Lenape village and a history neither of them knew they shared. With the help of friend, Martha and hypnotist, Glen, Diane and Ryan will journey through their past lives and follow a trail to justice. Together they will seek answers, uncover hidden truths and learn more about themselves.

Will Diane and Ryan succeed in finding the killer? And what if their past lives reveal truths they aren’t prepared to accept?

I was given a copy of this book for an honest review.

Lake Hopatcong is a real and beautiful place only a few miles from where I grew up, which is one of the reasons I agreed to review this book even though I very rarely accept unsolicited reviews. Ultimately, I was glad I did. Although, I was hesitant at first, I became intrigued with this idea of using a past life to uncover a murder in the present. It was neat to see how lives intersect and what traits are carried forward. I also loved this idea that certain events repeat in one life to the next. A very interesting concept and I think a good setting for it as well.

The story itself was great. I enjoyed the setting of the story and really enjoyed glimpsing the life of Oota Dabun and the small tidbits of how life was lived in a Lenape village. The story flowed really well and was a quick read. I didn’t feel like there were any loose ends and I was satisfied with where the story went.

That being said, there were times, mostly in the beginning and some parts in the middle, where I felt like I was being told what to feel and see, rather then being allowed to come to these feelings and ideas myself. That old writer’s adage of show don’t tell kind of applies here.

Overall, this was a good read that I am sure many will love, especially those familiar with the area. This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Roses of May

The Roses of May by Dot Hutchinson is the second book in The Collector series. It is a sequel (of sorts) to Hutchinson’s first novel The Butterfly Garden. While the agents at the FBI and the Butterflies deal with the aftermath of their captivity, spring is coming, which means another serial killer is preparing to strike.

For years agents Eddison, Hanoverian, and Ramirez have been trying to solve a string of murders where an adolescent girl is laid out in a church with her throat cut and flowers strewn around her. Sixteen girls have died since this killer first started and the FBI has very little to go on. This case has also become personal as the agents have bonded to the sister of one of the slain.

Priya Sravasti’s sister was murdered by this killer five years ago and she has forged a strange relationship to “her” FBI agents. When Priya starts receiving flowers on her doorstep, she knows that the man who killed her sister has chosen his next target.

Can Priya and the FBI stop the killer before it is too late? Will the Butterflies ever be able to heal after their ordeal in the garden? Will evil ever stop and will justice find a way?

I should preface this by saying that I am not generally a fan of thrillers… or, at least, they are not my go to genre but these were great. I don’t know if there will be another book in this series but I am a fan of Hutchinson’s writing. These books are psychological thrillers and are easy to get caught up in.

One of the things I really love about Hutchinson’s work, is her character development. I loved Maya and Vic in the first book and I love all the characters in this one. Priya is not as “saucy” as Maya but both are strong females in their own ways.

Honestly, I felt exactly the same way about this book as I did The Butterfly Garden. It had the same elements, so I am going to steal from my earlier post…

This book is horrible in some ways but “it happens almost abstractly; you know it happens, you know it is happening but you are sort of on the outskirts of the scene. You don’t feel as present for it as you do in some of the things you read or watch.”

“It’s hard to say what exactly it was that caught me about this book. It wasn’t overly suspenseful or graphic, the format wasn’t new, […]. If I had to pick something, I’d have to say the story itself just grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.”

As much as this one pulled me in and I enjoyed it, I wasn’t as desperate to finish as I was with The Butterfly Garden. For this reason I am giving it 4 stars.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Spectacle

Spectacle by Rachel Vincent is the second book in the Menagerie series. We pick up right after book one–Metzger’s Menagerie has been taken over by the cryptids it once held captive and they are putting on quite a convincing show in the hopes of escaping persecution and injustice. But the jig is soon up and Delilah and her fellow cryptids are once again sold into slavery and this time the slavery is more than just cages.

The Savage Spectacle is home to the rich and the depraved, where even the most perverse fantasies are brought to life. Delilah, her friends and her protector, Gallagher, are separated, each expected… forced to perform. For technologically sophisticated collars round the neck of every captive and these collars can turn even their own bodies against them.

What can Delilah and her Fury do when caught in a new cage and surrounded by injustice around every corner? Will Gallagher keep his promise to protect Delilah at all costs? And what price would Delilah be willing to pay for freedom?

I enjoyed this one much more than the first one. The Savage Spectacle was just that, savage and brutal and brought another layer of the injustice the series is obviously portraying that the characters are fighting against.

I like the fight in this book. Our cryptids don’t give up and even though they may despair at times, the fight never leaves them. They got a taste of freedom and refuse to let it go. This is a book about survival and surviving the worst life has to throw at you.

God I just love Gallagher. I feel like he’s meant to be this emotionless, honor bound warrior but this book shows that there is definitely more to him than meets the eye. I’d stick it out for the third book just to see what shadows… and heart come out of his closet. He’s also brutal and devoted and I sort of love that. I can’t help it, dark and twisty is my fictional type.

With it’s many ups, there also comes a few downs. This book doesn’t shy away from the awful. The cryptids are sold into a house of horrors where literally every savage wish is granted. We don’t see any of the gory details but brutality, degradation, sexual abuse and slavery and both physical and mental torture is behind the curtain. The cryptids are violated in every way possible and just because we don’t see the details doesn’t mean that it isn’t awful. I said it before and I’ll say it again, thank god this one is adult fic because I’d have a real problem with the content if it were YA.

We also lose some characters that we became familiar with in Menagerie. Yes, our favorites are still there but we don’t really learn anything more about them in this book than we did in book one. The only characters who evolve and whose relationship evolves is Delilah’s and Gallagher’s.

Finally, this book felt very similar to it’s predecessor, except it takes place on a campus instead of in a traveling circus. The only things that really make it different, plot-wise, is the expanding relationship between Gallagher and Delilah, the more overt brutality and the fact that the ending isn’t all peaches and cream.

I originally gave this one 4 stars but on further reflection I’m leaning more toward 3.5. The audio for this one might have help contribute to pulling me in as much as it did but when I really sat down to think about it later, I could see some of the flaws.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Windwitch

Windwitch by Susan Dennard is the second book in The Witchlands series. This one picks up only a few days after book one. All of our main characters are separated and facing trials of their own.

Merrick’s ship exploded, causing his country to believe him dead; now Merrick is burned beyond recognition, hellbent on getting revenge. Vivan is trying to save her country from starvation while guarding the border and trying to claim her rightful crown.

Iseult is running from the cleaved and her nightmares while trying to track down her thread-sister and figure out what she really is. Aeduan failed to track down the person who stole his coins and when he takes on a new mission, he is surprised to find that the threads that bind work in mysterious ways.

When we left Safi, she had agreed to work for the Empress of Marstok to save the people she loves. Now she is separated from her thread-sister and at the mercy of assassins.

Who will find who? Who will survive? And how will the Witchlands survive the tumultuous political climate to come?

This book had an interesting narrative style. We basically get two and a half duel perspective narratives. Merrick and is his sister Vivan; Iseult and Aeduan; and Safi thrown in between. In each section, you are given just enough to pull you in, so you want to know what happens and then, poof, you are thrown into another narrative. This works and it doesn’t. It works because you are sucked in and want to know more and it doesn’t because with so many narratives it doesn’t feel like very much happens.

I was a bit more understand of this when I realized The Witchlands is an expected 5 book series. So Windwitch is really supposed to be a way to set the stage for what’s to come. Right now there are hints of the overarching theme/conflict/battle to come but we are still not exactly sure what that will be and what part our characters will play in it.

I said in my review of Truthwitch that the world building was a little lacking but that it didn’t really bother me because the book was so character driven. That opinion still holds for this one, except that I am really missing some of the driving details… the overarching conflict to come.

I’m giving this one 3.5 stars because I really enjoy the dynamic between Iseult and Aeduan. Their storylines are so complex and their characters are just a little dark and twisty and I like it.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Womb: A Novel in Utero

I was given a copy of this book for an honest review*Please note I very rarely review unsolicited manuscripts*

Womb: A Novel in Utero by Eric D. Goodman is an adult fiction book told from the perspective of an unborn child. Penny wasn’t ready to be a mother. Her life wasn’t where she expected it to be and the circumstances of her pregnancy were also unplanned and completely unexpected. Ignoring the life growing inside her and terrified of confessing the truth of her pregnancy to her husband Jack, Penny’s guilt and anxiety writhe inside her as does the fetus within.

Our narrator feels every bump in the road, every twist and turn. He can feel his mother’s emotions and intuit the world around her. Memories are passed between mother and son and access to the collective unconsciousness allows our narrator to ruminate about life and all it’s hurdles.

Will Jack and Penny be able to overcome their differences and embrace an unexpected future? And what can a fetus do when it’s very existence is threatened?

This is the second book I’ve read by Goodman,  Tracks: A Novel in Stories being the first. Goodman has a knack for pace and writing that is readable and relatable. His books are a breeze to get through and something about the writing just sucks you in.

When I first picked up Womb, I was a bit skeptical because where can a story go when it’s narrator is literally in a void–unable to communicate, let alone act upon the world it inhabits. But the way Goodman sets up our narrator, he can do just that. Yes, he is an outside observer but sometimes those are the best narrators. Through the baby’s eyes we get to see an everyday couple go through ups and downs.

I just happen to be pregnant while reading this book, which I think gave me a whole different perspective on it. I know how my baby is growing and what is happening, so it was interesting to see the narrator grow in these same stages throughout. It also makes you think about the bond a mother and child form, even before the baby is born.

I will say, that I was more wrapped into the story itself rather than the narrators musings about life. At times our fetus was a little too philosophical for me, which was a little hard to believe. Don’t get me wrong, some very poignant thoughts and ideas but from the perspective of a fetus is was sometimes hard to get my head around.

Overall, this was a quick read with a unique narration that kept me interested throughout. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Red Sister

Little lag in my posting. Got caught up with a few projects. Preparing for Summer Reading is really getting in the way of my reading. Anyway…

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence is the first book in a new adult fantasy series that seriously kicks butt. At eight years old Nona Grey is saved from hanging by the Abbess of the Convent of Sweet Mercy. Now young Nona, sold as child labor and accused murderer, is to become a novice at a convent even as her past chases after her.

But this is no ordinary convent. The Sisters of Sweet Mercy are trained in blade and fist, in the way of the path and yes, even as holy sisters. Nona has her sights set on becoming a Red Sister, the fiercest of warriors for:

It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent, Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.

But more than Nona’s training is at stake. An ancient prophecy has brought it’s own troubles down on the convent and war is brewing even as the sun dies and ice engulfs all but a slim corridor of land.

First, let me start off by saying that this book is so much more than just warrior nuns. I keep fumbling when explaining it to colleagues because hearing that a book is about a school for kick ass nuns… doesn’t necessarily say “read me.” But don’t let the sisters fool you, this is a fantasy world with a lot going on; it is character driven and a lot is happening behind the scenes.

The set up of the narration in this book, with a few peeks into the present, reminds me a little of Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. And just like Rothfuss, I wonder when the story-lines are going to meet and then what. Sometimes I really like knowing what is going to happen, the journey is the real sweet zone, but depending on how it is handled, it can be off-putting. We’ll have to wait for the next book to see how this one is going to go.

Holy cow did this book bring the tension. Talk about some intense action scenes! I mean, this book did have some flaws but the dramatic intensity of the writing in these scenes makes up for it. Lawrence really has a knack for filling his action scenes with suspense and drama. Really well done.

Finally, this book is all about the strong female character. It’s a book full of individual women/girls who are confident, strong both mentally and physically, and so much more. I also feel some LGBT relationships coming, on top of the few that are mentioned, which is great. By the end of the book Nona is finally getting a little more interesting… there is just something about a destructive, violent, yet ultimately good character that tugs at me.

On a gut reaction I gave this one four stars and I am going to stick with it. A good fantasy but if you don’t like serious cliffhangers, maybe wait until the next book is out.

That’s all for now!

-M-