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Posts made in March, 2017

Book Reviews: General Fiction

Posted by on Mar 2, 2017 |

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

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General Fiction > Women’s Fiction > Mystery

Lane originally went to live with her grandparents on Roanoke farm in Kansas when she was fifteen years old after her mother’s suicide. There she met her cousin, Allegra. The two looked like sisters, not cousins. After a tumultuous summer, Lane took off for California.

Now, almost eleven years later, she’s called back to the farm when Allegra goes missing.

The novel alternates between past and present and, while told from Lane’s point of view, we read brief detours into the short lives of all the Roanoke girls and women.

The subject matter is serious, and yet dealt with in a such a casual, matter-of-fact way that it’s disarming.

There are two mysteries going on simultaneously—the mystery of what happened to Allegra and the mystery of the exact details of the Roanoke women—of which Allegra and Lane are now the last.

Lane is a likeable enough screw-up considering her messed-up childhood with a mother incapable of loving her—or herself. There were a few points in the book where I asked myself “Am I really reading what I think I’m reading?” The answer was yes. This is a unique story that might not be for everyone.


Where the Sweet Bird Sings by Ella Joy Olsen

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General Fiction > Women’s Fiction

Emma is reeling from the death of her son a year earlier and the death of her beloved grandfather at the beginning of this story.

Grieving a child would obviously devastate anyone, but it’s worse for Emma because she and her husband carry a gene that means they’d have a one in four chance of having another child with the same mind-and-body crippling disease Joey had. To move forward, Emma looks back, trying to figure out her family’s history. As she does so, she unravels numerous family secrets in her efforts to figure out who she is today.

In her search, the questions remain: Should she let her husband go so he can be with a woman who can assure him biological children? Can she forgive him? Herself? Her own flawed biological relatives?

This is a beautifully told story of loss and digging deep within to find a way forward.

Thanks to NetGalley for an opportunity to review an advance copy of this book.


The Assistants by Camille Perri

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General Fiction > Women’s Fiction > Humor

“This was not a lifestyle that suited me. I am in no way an adrenaline-seeker. I’m much more of an irritable bowel syndrome kind of gal, really.”

In The Assistants, Tina Fontana works for the CEO of a mega media conglomerate—nine satellite TV networks, 175 cable channels, forty book imprints, forty TV stations, and a movie studio. Her boss, billionaire Robert, expenses everything and pays for nothing, while 30-year-old Tina is drowning in a student loan debt. When she pays with her own credit card to buy out the entire first class of an airplane for Robert, who has to deign to fly commercial instead of his normal mode of flying on a private jet, the expense is comped but she gets a check for the total—almost the exact amount she owes on her student debt. When she decides to cash the check and gets away with it, but is later found out by Emily in accounts, another assistant swamped in student loans, she’s blackmailed into helping Emily to cover her own butt. This spirals out of control, to hilarious effect.

Author Camille Perri could have made Robert a one-sided villain and Tina a snarky and embittered underpaid worker, but she didn’t. It’s a statement about the haves and have nots—the wealthy pay nothing—including taxes—while the poor are dinged for every penny. All the main characters are well-rounded—flawed but likeable.

The novel is funny and fast-paced and fun.

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Book Review: Historical Fiction

Posted by on Mar 1, 2017 |

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

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Historical Fiction

I’ve been fascinated with “witches” being burned or hanged as a way to control women for whatever reason for a long time, so I was excited to read this historical novel by Beth Underdown. It’s told from the point of view of the sister of the embittered Mathew Hopkins, who found a legal way to murder women.

Hopkins was a real man, but much else of the story was conjecture or fabrication on the part of Underdown because there was so little documentation to go on. Still, it makes for a fascinating story of the horrors of the way this claim of “witch” was to get rid of “drunken women, women who had inconvenient babies or bawled insults in the streets.”

Set in 1645, sister Alice Hopkins comes home widowed and pregnant and doesn’t want to believe her brother is spearheading this effort, but when he drags her along to find proof of these witches, she tries her best to thwart his efforts, but she has no power.

When a woman miscarried, a woman that she or her husband might have had a resentment toward might be accused of being a witch. To prove this, the women would be tortured for hours by being put in uncomfortable positions without sleep until they “confessed.” Similarly, bad crop yields could be blamed on someone the farmer didn’t like.

I found this an intriguing glimpse into the horrors of this time in our history.

Thanks to NetGalley for an opportunity to review this novel.

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