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Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown: A Review



After the death of her husband, Alice is summoned home by her brother, Matthew, with news that her mother has also recently passed away.  When Alice arrives to her hometown, she learns that Matthew has a new job, one that finds him investigating suspected witches.  Alice tries to dissuade Matthew from his actions but soon finds herself too close to the women who Matthew accuses.

I appreciated how the author touched on how those that accused others of witchcraft did, at times, have ulterior motives.  Witchcraft, just like some accusations made today that are hard to prove or disprove, was one of those claims that could be made and your problems could vanish while you appear to be the pious one for coming forward with the claim.  I think this book provides an important lesson that these kinds of accusations can be quite damaging and are often unfair and untrue. 

Alice was an interesting character.  She doesn't really believe in all of the witchcraft accusations that are being made but she also does not fully doubt the existence of fantastical beings that bring evil to earth.  She is more apt to believe that a spirit has caused changes in the garden than in some other scientific reason.  She is more in line with the beliefs of the people of her time but claims to be more progressive than she really is. 

The writing made this a bit slower of a read for me but it did not detract from the story, which I really enjoyed.  I have read a lot of books, especially historical fiction, on the witch trials but most often they take place in Salem, Massachusetts, whereas this one takes place in England.  Most novels will have the protagonist as a member of the community or as an accused witch but The Witchfinder's Sister is told from the perspective of someone close to the community leaders who investigate the accused witches.  If you have read a lot of historical fiction about the witch trials, I encourage you to give this one a try because it is so different from others that are out there. 

I really enjoyed this book and I think it would be a great book for someone who likes historical fiction, especially historical fiction with a bit of a mystery or thrill to it.

My rating:
★★★★☆

Beth Underdown discusses her book in this video:



Reviews of books like this one:
The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams
You Were Here by Gian Sardar
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

More information about witch trials:
The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem by Stacy Schiff- This book gives some really interesting reasons for the accusations made during the Salem witch trials and is a really interesting book to read on the cases.

This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in order to review it but that did not have an effect on my review of the book.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind.

You Were Here by Gian Sardar: A Review

Abby is plagued with nightmares that seem to be a revelation of her grandmother's past.  She returns home to attend her high school reunion and to investigate the connections.  She reunites with a high school crush, Aiden, who is a detective investigating a string of brutal sexual assaults on young women in the area.  While Abby and her neighbors are understandably frightened by the threat of a serial rapist in their midst, she and Aiden seem to uncover a love triangle involving a neighbor of Abby's grandmother.  Could a crime involving the couple living next door to her grandmother decades ago be the reason why Abby is having nightmares?

You Were Here started out a bit slow but became more interesting as the story progressed.  Towards the middle of the book, the suspense still built slowly but the story became much more exciting and a little bit horrifying.  The end did have some twists that I didn't see coming.  The characters are fascinating.  Eva needs William so much but turns out to be much less mature than she believes herself to be.  Claire is more emotional than she is given credit for, at first.  The writing wasn't bad but it won't pull the reader along in a way that makes the reading faster and easier, either.  I really enjoyed this book and I hope that Sardar continues to write thriller fiction as I would love to read more from her in the future.  This book would be great for any reader who enjoys mysteries and thrillers.  This book would also be good for readers of women's fiction or historical fiction that want to add a bit of a mystery or thriller dynamic to the story.    

My rating:
★★★★☆

Reviews of books like this one:
Edgar and Lucy by Victor Lodato
Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

This book will be available on May 16, 2017 and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Penguin's First to Read program.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 


I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson: A Review


If you have ever wondered what it would be like to raise children in a communal setting, given every opportunity to further your child's education while pursuing your own passions and being surrounded by a support network so strong that you call them family, you need to read Perfect Little World.  Izzy feels lonely and isolated as she lives with her distant father after the death of her mother.  She begins an affair with her art teacher which results in an unwanted pregnancy.  Izzy doesn't know how she will manage to raise the child after the father commits suicide but knows that she wants to keep her baby.  This leads her to an interest in a study conducted by Dr. Grind, a child psychologist who is suffering from the ill effects from his own psychologist parents' experiments on him.  The study aims to determine whether or not a child will turn out better if raised communally by many parents and professionals.  The study is generously funded by a rich eccentric and promises to offer the children and their parents the best opportunities that money can buy.  Not all goes according to Dr. Grind's careful planning, though. 

Perfect Little World was one book that I had trouble putting down from the very first chapter.  The writing was superb and the story was incredible.  It was the perfect example of how plans for a utopia can quickly spiral out of control.  I really enjoyed the different characters.  Izzy is very mature for her age but also struggles with the responsibilities that she is now facing being a new, young mom.  She finds comfort and guidance in Dr. Grind and some of the other parents.  Her life proves that family can be made up of the people you want it to be; it doesn't always have to be made up of the people one was born with.  The story moved very quickly and there were enough unexpected parts to keep me reading much longer during each sitting than I has anticipated.  I really loved this book and I think it would be great for anyone looking for a great book of any kind, but especially those who enjoy novels with utopian themes or fiction centering around young moms. 

Kevin Wilson discusses the book in the video below:



Perfect Little World was a February Book of the Month Club selection.  Subscribe to the Book of the Month Club by following this link.

Reviews of books like this one:
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck 
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
What To Do About the Solomons by Bethany Ball


This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 


I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Trail of Miracles by Smadar Herzfeld: A Review

Gittel, the daughter of a torah scholar, is only twelve when she is sought out as a wife for a much older rabbi.  She doesn't like her husband's cold and unfeeling ways of dealing with her but finds comfort in her father-in-law, a man who is renowned among the Hasidim in her community.  She also finds great joy in her two sons.  When both her father-in-law and husband die in quick succession, Gittel is encouraged by her community to seek a new husband.  Her husband visits her in dreams to demand that she not remarry and Gittel is more than happy to oblige, remembering the loneliness she felt in her marriage.  She instead decides to embark on a journey to Jerusalem as she once did as a child with her brother.

This book was very short and an interesting story but it was a bit slow for me.  I felt that the story had a lot more potential than was presented.  There were simply not enough words for good characters to be built but they were likeable.  I liked Gittel and her story.  One thing that I liked about this book was that the author did not take a judgmental viewpoint about the cultures that she was writing about.  All religions and cultures in the book were treated with respect.  I have read a lot of books about the Hasidim and that is not always the case.  While there are many practices of their culture that modern Westerns may not understand, such as Gittel's young marriage, one must understand that this was not so uncommon in the community at that time.  While the book was much slower than I wished it would have been and was not as developed as I would have liked, I still enjoyed the book.  I think it would be a good book for those looking for a cultural read or historical fiction, especially for those interested in Eastern European Jewish culture.

You can read this book for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.  Follow this link for a 30-day Free Trial to read this book and many more.

Reviews of books like this one:
What To Do About the Solomons by Bethany Ball
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in order to review it but that did not have an effect on my review of the book.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Swing Time by Zadie Smith: A Review

A young woman takes a look back on her childhood and compares her experience with that of her friends to understand why the two have grown up to be such different women.  Both young women are the product of one British parent and one Jamaican parent but Tracey grows up with her father in and out of her life and exhibiting criminal behavior which causes her to act out frequently.  The other girl grows up with a caring father and a mother who loves her deeply but is determined to change the world, heavily criticizing the treatment of people of color in England.  Both young girls are heavily involved in their dance classes but Tracey seems to have much more promise than her friend.  The young woman goes to college and finds a career as an assistant to a star, Aimee, while Tracey dances in productions but has wild delusions of the Illuminati in her personal life.  The young woman envies Tracey's easy command of dance but is her own mother's vehement belief that a traditional education really a hindrance or is it a help?

Smith is a magician with words.  I felt myself highlighting her words of wisdom many times in order to read them later.  I felt that Swing Time is a very important book.  The book addresses many issues that are important to today's society, such as how single parenthood effects children and how people from a multicultural background interpret and react to the world.  There are also important lessons in appropriation and cultural misunderstanding as Aimee insists on tackling the problem of poverty in Africa while ignoring the fact that she may be hurting more than helping the situation.  In the end I saw bits of Aimee in the young woman, though, as they both felt that they knew better than the people actually effected by the circumstances they are in.  The book did move a bit slowly for my taste but I still enjoyed it.  The characters are what really stood out for me.  I felt for Tracey and empathized with the young woman.  I felt frustrated at the young woman's mother for her selfishness while she attempted to save the world at the expense of her daughter but understood the mother's need to do so because of where she was born.  This book is a great work of literary fiction and would be a great book for those readers who enjoy books with a multicultural heritage.  

Watch a video of Zadie Smith discuss Swing Time at the 92nd St Y:



Reviews of books like this one:
Marlena by Julie Buntin
City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson
The Mothers by Brit Bennett 


This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 


I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Elle by Philippe Djian: A Review

Michele was traumatized after her father kills a large group of children at a camp.  While her father sits in prison, Michele and her mother suffer physical and verbal assaults, but now Michele's mother, Irene, wants her to visit her father.  In the meantime, Michele and her ex-husband, Richard, disagree with how to handle their young adult son, Vincent, when Vincent decides to enter a relationship with a pregnant woman and put his name on the birth certificate, despite having debts and having just started a low-level job at McDonald's.  Irene thinks herself a spring chicken and satisfies her desires with younger men but collapses at a party and falls into a coma.  Needless to say, Michele doesn't need the additional stress and anguish she experiences after being sexually assaulted.  Now, she knows she is being watched, her home broken into and her things rifled with.  Any man could be the man who raped her.

This book was billed as a psychological thriller but there is so much family drama that it reads more like a work of women's fiction for most of the book.  Michele's reaction to her assault was both shocking and disturbing.  Many may call what she did liberating but I felt deeply uncomfortable with it.  This book was translated very well and reads very quickly but I can't say that I enjoyed the story.  I think this book would be very triggering for a lot of people and one that will make many people angry.  While the story about Michele's family was interesting, the story of her reaction to her assault was too disturbing for me to enjoy this book. 

This book was adapted into a movie.  Watch the trailer here:


Reviews of books like this one:
I See You by Clare Mackintosh
Who You Think I Am by Camille Laurens
The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Lisa Perabo

This book is available on March 14th and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in order to review it but that did not have an effect on my review of the book.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck: A Review

At a party at Burg Lingenfels, a castle frequented by the elite of German society, Marianne becomes aware of how horrible Hitler and the Nazi regime really are and a plot to halt the movement.  She makes a promise to her husband and best friend, Connie, that she will look after the wives and the children on the men who are planning the attack, if anything should happen to them.  Marianne is a very principled woman and, when the plot to assassinate Hitler goes awry and the men are executed, she works tirelessly to find all of the wives and children of the heroes of the resistance.  She invites Benita and Ania, wives of two of the resistance fighters, and their children to live with her in the castle.

This story was a very interesting and hopeful one but the characters were not the most complex.  Marianne is rigid and judgmental.  She believes that her kindness towards the women entitles her to meddle in their personal affairs.  I found that this book is not only about the war and the resistance but also offers lessons in forgiveness, both towards others and ourselves, and in allowing others to be who they want to be, regardless of what we feel is best for them.  The most complex and evolving character was Ania who is a bit of a mystery to the other women in the castle.  I am not suggesting that I didn't like the characters but I did feel that they were sometimes bland and stereotypical.

The story shows a much more dynamic account of the Holocaust and World War II than is usually presented.  Many of the German characters who were thought to be villains were really coerced or tricked into participating in awful acts and there were many dissenters who did not go along with the plot.  There were many more who quietly disagreed with the plans but neither participated nor dissented.  We have come to think about World War II and the Holocaust a lot like Marianne thinks about everything; all things are right or wrong and there is no in between.  If this book provides any lesson it is that better perspective in hindsight should not enable us to look down our noses at those that were not gifted with the foresight that we have.  The fact of the matter is, we don't know what we would have done in a situation like that.  One would hope that we would have behaved in a way that we could have been proud of today but we can't guarantee that we would not be a victim to the same propaganda and manipulation that many were at the time.  

The writing does not read as fast as I would have liked it to but the story really kept me moving along.  It was such an interesting and important story and I really enjoyed it, despite the horrific subject matter.  Readers of historical fiction, especially those interested in stories of World War II, would enjoy this book.

Watch a video of Jessica Shattuck discussing The Women in the Castle:
 

Reviews of books like this one:
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
The Patriots by Sana Krasikov
The Refugees bu Viet Thanh Nguyen

This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 


I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica: A Review

Quinn may not be the best roommate to pious Esther but Quinn thought their relationship was great until Esther disappears one day and Quinn finds information that makes her believe that Esther is not the person she thought she was.  Through a bit of sleuthing with a friend from work, Ben, Quinn discovers that there are strange letters in Esther's room, that she plans on changing her name and that she is in the market for a new roommate.  It starts to get really scary when Quinn and Ben find out that Esther's last roommate died of an apparent accident and the family is asking questions.  Meanwhile, there is a new squatter in the house across from the one that Alex and his dad live in.  Lights turn off and on and some of the community believe that it is the working of a ghost.  When Alex investigates, he finds a young woman who acts very strangely.  What happened to Esther and who is the strange woman who lives in the haunted house across the street?

Mary Kubica is a gifted writer and storyteller.  I have read The Good Girl and Pretty Baby and have enjoyed both of them so I knew that I would likely enjoy Don't You Cry.  I am so glad that I read it because it is very reminiscent of the other books I have read by Kubica without being a rehashing of her other book or of any other story that I have read.  Don't You Cry came with plenty of twists and turns but it was a bit slower than what I have come to expect from Kubica.  Still, the writing was superb and the story was exciting.  I thought I had guessed at the ending but I was dead wrong!  It was so unexpected and a wonderful twist.  There is a very strong element of family drama in this novel.  From mothers who abandon their children to substance abusing fathers, the reader can expect their heartstrings to be pulled while also being excited by the story.  I loved the characters.  Alex is such a sweetheart and the strange young woman, of whom he names "Pearl" because of an ill-fitting pearl bracelet, is such a chameleon.  While I didn't like this book as much as I did The Good Girl or Pretty Baby, I still really enjoyed it.  For those who have already read other books by Kubica, know that the suspense builds a bit slower than in her other books.  I think anyone who likes psychological thrillers or mysteries will love this book and should definitely pick it up!

Mary Kubica's new novel, Every Last Lie, is expected to be available on June 27, 2017 and can be pre-ordered from Amazon.
 

Watch an interview with Kubica about Don't You Cry:


Reviews of books like this one:
One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline
I See You by Clare Mackintosh
My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry

This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 


I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.