{Book Review}: The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

First off, I have never heard of these witch trials or storms… I was so intrigued. In ways, this quarantine makes you feel cut off from the world just like women on this island left to fend for themselves, devastated by the loss of their men.

Tiny Synopsis: Inspired by true events of the 1617 Vardø storm and cruel 1620 witch trials, this tells the story of the island where 40 men drowned leaving their women and children behind on the island. They are to fend for themselves including fishing, hunting, and maintaining their society with each other. A Scottish Commissioner, Absalom,  is appointed to come to the island with his wife, a Norwegian young woman named Ursa to suss out those suspected of being “witches” including those who use runes that have been drawn for generations. Maren and Ursa develop a strong relationship that is needed in such times of turmoil.

My Review:⭐️⭐⭐/ 5 stars

The atmospheric writing really puts your mind into this time in history – it takes a bit to get used to at first. After so many great reviews, I was excited to delve right in. The historical events that took place in 1617-1620 were horrific and I was so interested to read more about the actual events that took place. However, as angry as I was reading about burning anyone at the stake or the thought of torturing women for the sake of “religion” irks me to the core – the relationship that was developing between the 2 main characters were a bit forced. Also the pace was a bit slow for being a book that is not very long. I enjoyed reading about this era and bits of Finnmark history, but that was about it. I did not love it!

{Book Review}: A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe

I am always fascinated by the era of french colonialism in Vietnam (where my family is from) and how the lingering French influence had changed so much of the country. I thought I would be a bit biased reading this as my family felt so strongly about one side but the dual storyline really helped me to empathize with the cause of the ones working at the rubber plantations and being treated poorly. 

Tiny Synopsis: This is a historical fiction taking place in Indochine specifically in Hanoi. It is 1933 and Jessie Lesage, an American woman,  has just arrived from Paris with her husband Victor and daughter Lucie. Her husband is a wealthy Michelin heir and trying to make a name for himself in the family business and Jessie seems to have a secret of her own. The story parallels that of Marcelle, a French woman from humble beginnings that came to Indochine with her wealthy French husband. However these women could not be any more different as they both strike up a quick friendship and their secrets start to unravel. 

Thank you so much to @stmartinspress and #netgalley for the advanced copy for my honest review! 

My Review:⭐️⭐⭐⭐/ 5 stars

I have not heard too much of this book but I just loved the premise so much(maybe more so for personal reasons). There were parts of the book I was so offended by – the derogatory language towards the Vietnamese throughout – but I had to keep reminding myself that it was a different time. I loved the character of Jessie as she was so mysterious – and it had a bit of psychological twist in there I was not expecting. The female characters are so strong. I couldn’t tell if I loved Marcelle or just loathed her. Jessie was naive but I rooted for her all the same. I don’t see too many books of this era in colonial Vietnam – if you have any recommendations, I would love it!  Highly recommend it if you are looking for a good historical fiction! 

{Book Review}: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

I was so excited to read this – and I cannot believe it has taken me this long to read it. For some reason during this quarantine/social distancing, my reading has actually slowed down! A lot of anxiety and trying to spend as much time with my family instead and learning to transition from being at the office to working in the home. Anyone going through the same thing?
Tiny Synopsis: From @goodreads- Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them. Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.

My Review:⭐️⭐⭐.5/ 5 stars

Wow. Every chapter reads like a different short story and as I read, I was wondering how all of this will connect and make any sense. Morgenstern writes so beautifully that you just trust the direction she takes you no matter how nonsensical it is. An extensive secret library hidden deep under the earth’s surface with all these different characters that are metaphors for other characters in the story. I loved reading about this but many times I felt it was hard to get through because I really couldn’t follow the story or couldn’t make sense of what I was reading. I would have to reread some parts – thankfully the chapters are short, but as much as I enjoyed the process of reading Morgenstern’s beautiful words and her style of storytelling is so unique – I did not love this book as much as I wanted to.

{Book Review}: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

This book is controversial and I really wanted to read it first before even reading the different polarizing views on this story.
Tiny Synopsis: Lydia owns a bookstore in Acapulco, Mexico and befriends an older man who also shares a profound love of literature. She is shocked to find out from her journalist husband (who is writing an article of the new jefe of the new dominant cartel in town) – that her new friend Javier is the actual jefe. This article in turns causes havoc on her family – leading to gruesome murders and Lydia fleeing as migrants with her son Luca. All Lydia knows is she needs to find safety for her remaining family in El Norte no matter the dangers that stand in their way.

My Review:⭐️⭐️⭐.5 / 5 stars

First off, I’ve read plenty of horror and crime fiction but this journey this family goes through is even more terrorizing than everything I’ve read because it is happening now in real life to many people. The random Spanish words/phrases in the dialogue I admit is very distracting. It’s very clear they are conversing in Mexican Spanish – but the mix of both were not needed. Soledad’s story broke my heart – maybe more so than Lydia and Luca’s… the story seems to dramatize many different aspects of this journey for the shocking reaction of the average reader. This book was a slow read, just like their long tedious journey through the desert. Cummins did a wonderful job telling the story in the way she could – it is a work of fiction. This book really opened my eyes to a few of the different things women and families were running from and how dangerous this journey is.

{Book Review}: Long Bright River by Liz Moore

I thought this was going to be more of a crime thriller due to my very brief skimming of the goodreads description – but its a much deeper story into the actual horror of the opioid epidemic and how much it affects their families.

 

Tiny Synopsis: The two Fitzpatrick sisters were inseparable as children growing up living with their stern grandmother, Gee. As adults, Mickey is now a cop and her sister Kacey struggles with working on the streets, hooked on opioids. Mickey is always looking out for Kacey – until she disappears amidst all the disappearing /murdered women in Philadelphia. Mickey does whatever she can to find her missing sister, uncovering other secrets along the way

 

My Review:⭐️⭐️⭐️ .5/ 5 stars

This was a slow read – steady and slow. I had to get used to the writing style -Mickey is an interesting character, in only that she is not that interesting herself. Her career as a cop – does not necessarily mean she is great at investigating or putting herself in danger. You’re rooting for her but deep down shaking your head at her lack of self preservation. Along the way you uncover some deep family secrets and I admit I was a bit shocked by it – and even suspecting Mickey of delusions. The one character I think I feel most empathetic to is surprisingly their grandmother, Gee. She is just witnessing cycles of drug addiction through her family and it must be extremely painful to watch and endure. I liked it – but I didn’t love it.

{Book Review}: The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz

Happy pub day to this new book, The Grace Kelly Dress.
Tiny Synopsis: A replica of the Grace Kelly dress connects 3 generations of women who all are associated with wearing this same dress for their own wedding. You start off at the atelier where Rose the seamstress works on the dress then to Rocky, a tech CEO (insert millennial stereotype) who would rather not wear the dress at all for her nuptials. Her mother, Joan’s story is revealed eventually why it is so important for her daughter to wear it.

Thanks to #netgalley and #graydonhouse for the advanced copy for my honest review. The book is out today, March 3!

My Review:⭐️⭐️⭐ / 5 stars

First off, I have always loved this dress so I was excited to read about it. The story breaks down in 3 different timelines – modern times, the 1950s, and the 1980s. The origin story starts with Rose at the Madame Michel Atelier in Paris and I loved reading about her and her rise from being a seamstress. Then that’s where the interest waned off. Rocky was annoying and selfish – just like how millennials are usually portrayed. Her mother Joan’s story was mildly more interesting but I wanted to breeze over it and read more about Rose.

{Book Review}: This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

Another one on my list that I did NOT pick for my #Bookofthemonth but giving a chance after great reviews and sure glad I did.

Tiny Synopsis: It’s 1932 during the Great Depression and 4 orphans in Minnesota escape a prison-like  Native American school including Odie & his brother Albert, Mose, and Emmy after a horrific crime. While on the run on a canoe as fugitives, they encounter many different people along the way that teach them all life lessons – good and bad.

My Review:⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️/ 5 stars

For the fans of  Where the Crawdads Sing  book last year, this  is similar in tone. I absolutely loved that book last year and could not quite find something as similar that I liked just as much. This comes as a close second. These children are resilient and rely upon each other as family despite being abandoned by their own parents. They make mistakes, like we all do growing up, and it’s heartbreaking to think of actual children going through this all alone. About ¾ into the book, I found it a bit slower to get through. I actually don’t know how I feel about the end – it was a surprise that I was not expecting, but somehow relieved there was an ending where you find out what happened to most of the main characters. A solid, good read.

{Book Review}: Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin

Happy #pubday to Alexis Schaitkin’s Saint X! This cover is great – immediately think it’s going to be a cool, island thriller with the bright colors and palm trees — it definitely was not that at all.

 

Thank you to Celadon books and #netgalley for the advanced copy for my honest review!

 

Tiny Synopsis: Claire was only 7 when her older sister Alison disappeared during their family vacation on the island of Saint X. Her body found only days later and the two men working at the resort were arrested in relation to her murder only to be released after insufficient evidence. Many years have passed and Claire finds herself living in New York and by coincidence is in one of the suspected men’s (Clive)’s taxi cab. She is unable to find closure from her sister’s murder and ends up following him, hoping to find answers.

 

My Review:⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5 stars

 

As you continue to read about Claire and her sister Alison, especially how her sister thought of her parents and life, you just have to roll your eyes. This is one judgmental, entitled little brat. And you feel bad for disliking her character because she is murdered, but its hard to care about her when she is just so unlikeable. Claire is no different – she is obviously more shy and really blossoms into her own character but as soon as she stalks one of her sister’s alleged killer – she becomes obsessed. And that’s when I wanted tp really tune out of the story. I actually really enjoyed Clive’s and Edwin’s story more than the sisters, their dialogue, their background as friends, and island energy kept me going.  I kind of was expecting more of a mystery and thriller type, but it was a bit different than that. A solid read, but not one of my favorites this month.

{book review}: The Queens Fortune by Allison Pataki

I’m really on a roll with historical fiction these last few weeks. Most of the ones I read are the Victorian era or WWII – so this was refreshing  to explore more about the French Revolution and the rise/fall of Napoleon; and the rise of the Swedish royal family. 

Thank you to #netgalley and #ballentinebooks for the advanced copy for my honest review! 

Tiny Synopsis: Desiree Clary is betrothed to Napoleon Bonaparte, but when she is left heartbroken after he leaves her for Josephine, she has to pick up the pieces of her heart until he becomes her brother in law. Then she finds herself and her family intertwined in his life during his rise and fall. Her life is told in detailed accounts including how she created a dynasty with her husband and changed history forever. 

My Review:⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 / 5 stars

This story starts way in the beginning of Desiree Clary’s life during the French Revolution  and I loved much information Pataki included. It felt like you were reading a history book but also a gossip magazine at the same time. The pace was slow at times – I thought it was never going to end at certain points. However, Desiree’s life is so interesting. She meets so many people… and although in her life might have felt insignificant, she made history. Her offspring made history and she was apart of such historical times. There was so much information – but I felt the pace made this seem so much longer than it was. I loved learning about Desiree and her life – whom I never even heard of and glad to have read it. This book also enlightened me on how far women have come in society – how they were so accepting of their husbands having mistresses and choosing them for marriage – deciding everything in their lives – to Now. We have come such a long way but still quite a ways to go. 

{Book Review}: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

I have heard of this book for years and it has been on the back burner. I was afraid I was probably not going to like it or that it would not live up to its expectations.

Tiny Synopsis: This is a historical fiction about two sisters: Vianne and Isabelle right before WWII and their struggles throughout the war. Vianne’s husband Antoine leaves for the war and she soon has to have a Nazi billet at her home with her daughter Sophie. Isabelle on the other hand wants to become more involved with the resistance and does anything she can to help with the effort.

Review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars

This is a heartbreaking story but it is also one that shows how much women had to be so strong when their men went off to war… how much is sacrificed and forsaken.  People do not come back from wars “normal” again – it stains and haunts you. I really enjoyed it even though it was a bit slow at times.  Then it got quite depressing. I really felt for all the characters – and some parts got very dark, but it was what happens  in war. It made me feel very somber that this is what happened to many. At times, some parts veered into a romanticized version especially when a foreign Nazi soldier was forcibly stationed at Vianne’s home – but I was thankful after for the lighter moods of the book when I got to the end. I’m glad I read it – but this is not a book I would re-read (too sad!).

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