REVIEW: Witches

Witches provides us two POVs of women who’s lives intersect at the investigation of a murder. Paloma was a healer who didn’t quite live up to the expectations of their father, born a boy but living as a woman, there is much turmoil in Paloma’s life. Their sister Feliciana is telling us what it is to be a curandera (healer), a woman and a proud Oaxacan within her family and community. She imparts the challenges of language and identity that she and Paloma face. Zoe’s story wasn’t as strong for me, but she similarly tells of societal expectations thrust upon her as a woman and a journalist.

I’m not sure what I just read. It was beautiful and dripping with indigenous Mexican culture and pride but I’m not sure the story really went anywhere compelling enough for me. We get a lot of detail on what it is like to not want to immerse in the colonizer’s culture, to embrace one’s own language and tradition. I liked the passages on the traditional healing and the metaphors of the treatment ingredients for people and their lives. But I’m not sure I followed the throughline of the plot as clearly as I would have wanted to. I’m not sure if this was the translation, the narrating or the writing itself. I still think it was an intoxicatingly immersive read that kept me entertained and engaged questioning my own assumptions about culture and gender.

I think if you like character driven stories, you will find this one really powerful. If you’re like me and prefer a more plot driven story, the audiobook was a great way to experience the story and keep it moving in sections where you might put down the physical book while reading for lack of action. 

Thanks to HighBridge Audio via Netgalley for access to this audiobook. All opinions above are my own.

What’s the last translated novel you’ve read?

REVIEW: Haven

When a respected priest decides to found a monastery away from the temptations of other humans he is able to draw two other monks with him. They depart down the river Shannon to the ocean to find a previously uninhabited island upon which to start their ministry. Their new Prior is quite devout and feels like the saints, they should deny earthly things and therefore bring scant supplies on which to survive. Quickly their island paradise becomes a challenging place to survive. Over and over, the Prior chooses godly works, like copying the Bible over fundamental survival tasks like finding food sources and shelter. He reminds his companions that God will provide for them, and he does, but not in a way that brings them comfort or security in survival. This quickly causes unrest.

I’m not sure this book is for everyone. It is well written but there is very little action and a lot of specific detail about the technology of the seventh century and what survival on a remote island would look like. I enjoyed those aspects but certainly found this to be a quieter, more contemplative novel. I also think you need to have some interest in early Christian religion, the Prior of this group is written to get us to debate what is true faith, what crosses the line to fundamentalism and perhaps even when one might actually be mad. Haven is definitely a story about the truths of what it is to be human, what it is to have true faith and how easily one is steered off course.

Thanks to Little, Brown and Company via Netgalley for advanced access to this novel. All opinions above are my own.

What are you reading today?

REVIEW: Ithaca

This is an Odyssey retelling as told by Hera. We get more of a focus on Penelope and the women who surround her as she waits for the return of Odysseus. 

The thing about retellings is that they should either give us new insight or be more accessible than the original. I’m not sure if this book did that. It is dense with characters and flowery writing, which to me is just like the original myths. That’s not to say that this is not well done, it’s just that others have done it better. Atwood’s The Penelopiad, Barker’s The Silence of the Girls or Haynes A Thousand Ships are better feminist retellings of these myths. The characters here are pretty narrowly portrayed and just don’t have the richness of other stories in this world.

Thanks to Redhook Books and Libro.FM for advanced access to this novel. All opinions above are my own.

If you’ve read the Odyssey, what’s your favorite trial that Odysseus faces? 

REVIEW: Into the Heartless Wood

Joanna Ruth Meyer writes the most beautiful, original fantasy. Every story I read from her has me enthralled from page one and this one was no exception. Owen lives with his baby sister and his father who is secretly and astronomer for the King. They live at the edge of an enchanted woods where the trees sing siren songs to lure men to their deaths. The trees slaughter them and steal their souls. Everyone fears these trees, especially Owen as his mother disappeared and never returned. But when he faces one of the sirens, she is not quite the monster he feared and the two fall into star-crossed love. They quickly find themselves in the middle of an epic, brutal war between the king and the mother tree for control of the land.

This one is a reverse Beauty and the Beast retelling with a dash of Romeo and Juliet and a sprinkling of several other Grimms tales. The writing is beautiful and poetic. The characters are ones you instantly love and want to root for. And yet, with all fairy tales, there is creeping, dark evil which threatens to ruin them all. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Meyer has definitely become an auto-buy author for me.

What’s your favorite kind of tree?

REVIEW: The Two Lives of Sara

This at its heart is a book about mercy, acceptance and hope. Sara is a young black woman in the 1960’s fleeing her home for a new one in Memphis. She takes up residence with Mama Sugar in a boarding house where she births her son and learns about the realities of the world for an unwed black woman in the South. She is surrounded with characters who are flawed and yet surviving. She learns about her faith, how to accept her past and how to hope for the future even in the face of some awful events.

I’ll admit, this one was a little hard for me to get into at first. It reminded me a lot of The Love Songs of WEB DuBois but I didn’t have the same investment in the characters. Sara is a very hard person to love, her pain is so raw and her reactions so polarizing. But then we learn why Sara is as challenging as she is and my thoughts for her began to turn. I began to be so invested in her, Mama Sugar and Will’s lives and was quite heartbroken as the hits kept coming for them. The arc of these characters is very powerful.

This is a super heavy read with lots of very bleak moments, while the writing is fabulous, I’m not sure it’s a book anyone can just pick up any day and get into it. I would advise making sure you’re in a good headspace before tackling this one. I’m not sure Sara ever gets to where I wanted her to be when the story ends, but that’s a lot like life isn’t it. We all just do what we can to cope and keep moving forward. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks to Park Row Books via Netgalley for access to this audiobook. All opinions above are my own. This one published yesterday, so check it out!

What’s the last audiobook you listened to?

REVIEW: The Attic Child

The Attic Child begins with the story of Dikembe, a child from the Congo who is sold by his mother to a British gentleman explorer. We hear the story from his child eyes and how he goes from thinking he was a temporary servant to realizing he was permanently in this man’s care as a companion. The gentleman keeps him as a “companion” thinking he is doing the best thing for this young “savage” child, believing he is both bringing Celestine into a world he could never reach on his own as well as educating fellow Britons that Africans are not inferior. How this proceeds is heartbreaking. Celestine pining for home and being treated awfully in his new country is achingly painful. When the gentleman dies, things only get much worse. We learn more about Dikembe’s story by Lowra, a woman living in modern times reexamining her own childhood as her family home is being sold. I don’t want to say more because experiencing the story on your own is beautiful.

I was really only invested in Celestine’s timeline for the first half of the book, spending some time wondering why we needed Lowra’s miserable views but when her connection was revealed, all made sense. I think I would have still preferred a straight storytelling of Celestine’s life but I get that the author was trying to make some social commentary by keeping the modern storyline. I was so invested in Celestine, his views on the world, his passion, his anger, his resilience were intoxicating. I love when you read a novel and wish the characters were real people, I was so inspired by his spirit and his heart. I learned so much from this story about the fate of Africans in the hands of the British. Lowra’s story shows us more traditional child abuse and the impact on mental health. The meeting of the two is a lovely picture of healing.

I did this one on audio and the narrators were fabulous. One of my favorite performances of the year.  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐

Thanks to Harper Audio via Netgalley for access to this audiobook. All opinions are my own.

Any books publishing today that you’re excited for?

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REVIEW: Mother of Strangers

Mother of Strangers tells us the story of Subhi and Shams, two young teens living in Jaffa in 1947 as Palestine is partitioned. We hear the heartbreaking tale of these two hopeful children who must cope with the changes, uncertainty and violence that is thrust into their lives. Subhi is this dreamer of a boy who is an absolute wizard at fixing mechanical things. He loves to read and is fascinated with the more affluent world. When he is able to fix an irrigation system for a rich landowner, he is paid with a gorgeous “English” style suit. He adores this suit and what it represents in his life, a chance for all of his dreams to come true, he hopes one day to marry local girl Shams while wearing that suit. We get several dreamy chapters of the impact of this suit on his life. An impact that is short lived as his town is torn apart by violence. Then no one believes that this peasant boy could possibly own this suit.

This is the experience of many Muslim Palestinains who went overnight from having homes and livelihoods to being run out of their lands forced to live as refugees with nothing or worse being killed. This story gives us a clear snapshot of what these two families faced, a story, that we learn in the end is all true, experienced by the family of the author. Very powerful read with what is a not often heard perspective here in the Western world. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks to Pantheon Books for the gifted copy. All opinions above are my own.

These three books are all great reads to understand some of the struggle it is to be Palestinain. I recommend checking them out.

REVIEW: Carrie Soto is Back

Well, with these last few novels, I feel like TJR has become the queen of unlikable characters. Like Malibu Rising, the writing is great but I was not rooting for Carrie at all. And as not a huge fan of tennis, I struggled to keep interested – if I hadn’t been listening to the audiobook, I probably would have DNF-ed this one. I stuck with it but the progression and ending were super formulaic and predictable to me.

Also, if you’re going to have two languages in a book, give us a translation guide! I had to keep stopping to look up her father’s advice to her. I’m all for diversity, but help make it accessible!

Just because this one wasn’t my favorite doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. Definitely give it a try. Especially if you like tennis! 🎾

I read this one via Libro.FM ALC program, thanks to them for gifted access to this audiobook. All opinions above are my own.

What’s the last hyped book that just wasn’t for you?

REVIEW: Poster Girl

Veronica Roth does dystopian like no other, we get these complex, character driven stories with well detailed worlds that are slowly revealed to us as the characters deal with their day to day struggles. 

Sonya is a political prisoner. As a young girl, she was a supporter of and poster girl for the now fallen government, one that rewarded people financially for behavior they deemed appropriate and punished those who were not. Using implants that are now forbidden, people were tracked, monetized and weaponized. Sonya lives in squalor in a prison camp when she is offered a chance to be freed. All she needs to do is find a girl who had been displaced by the previous regime. Saddled with an overseer who she knows from the past, she must figure out what happened to the girl and how to live in this new world.

We get a lot with this short novel. There is commentary on socialized government, a treatise on right and wrong and a story of survival, strength, forgiveness and acceptance. I loved the layers of detail in the world building and the science of the implants. Sonya is your typical YA character too plucky for her own good and bound to make some large realizations about the world that will change her forever. What I like about Roth is there is no extraneous text, every word drives the story forward and every question is answered. and not always in the way you expect. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐

Thank you to William Morrow for the gifted copy. All opinions above are my own. This one releases October 18th so add it to your TBR and get it pre-ordered now!

What’s your favorite dystopian read?

August wrap up

Summer has always been about reading for me. More time in the hammock and by the pool meant I read 30 books this month.


🎧 Wild is the Witch* ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

📕 The Hating Game ⭐️⭐💫

🎧 The Attic Child* ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐

📗 Bad City* ️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📘 What Jonah Knew* ⭐️⭐️⭐️️

📱 Emergency Contact* ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐

🎧 Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six* ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

📱 Wild Seed ⭐️⭐️⭐️

📕 The Book of Form and Emptiness ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📘 Poster Girl* ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📗 How I Survived the Irish Famine ⭐️⭐️⭐️

📕 The Drowned Woods ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

🎧 Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow* ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐

📱 Mary* ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐

🎧 Witches* ⭐️⭐️⭐

📱 Dead Sea Conspiracy* ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐

🎧 The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

📘 The Hungry Road ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📗 Dead Flip* ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

🎧 The Two Lives of Sara* ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐

📱 Lies We Sing to the Sea* ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

🎧 The Lady or the Lion* ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

📕 Stoker’s Manuscript ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐

📘 Into the Heartless Wood ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐

📱 Haven* ⭐️⭐️⭐

🎧 Carrie Soto is Back * ⭐️⭐️💫

📱 The Book of Goethel* ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐

🎧 Ithaca* ⭐️⭐️⭐

📱 Hidden in the Mists* ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

📗  Mother of Strangers* ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐

My favorites were Emergency Contact and Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. What was your favorite read of August?

* All starred books were gifted by publishers.