Review: The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea

The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea

Published: September 3, 2019 by Harper

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Synopsis: Rósa has always dreamed of living a simple life alongside her Mamma in their remote village in Iceland, where she prays to the Christian God aloud during the day, whispering enchantments to the old gods alone at night. But after her father dies abruptly and her Mamma becomes ill, Rósa marries herself off to a visiting trader in exchange for a dowry, despite rumors of mysterious circumstances surrounding his first wife’s death.

Rósa follows her new husband, Jón, across the treacherous countryside to his remote home near the sea. There Jón works the field during the day, expecting Rósa to maintain their house in his absence with the deference of a good Christian wife. What Rósa did not anticipate was the fierce loneliness she would feel in her new home, where Jón forbids her from interacting with the locals in the nearby settlement and barely speaks to her himself.

Seclusion from the outside world isn’t the only troubling aspect of her new life — Rósa is also forbidden from going into Jón’s. When Rósa begins to hear strange noises from upstairs, she turns to the local woman in an attempt to find solace. But the villager’s words are even more troubling—confirming many of the rumors about Jón’s first wife, Anna, including that he buried her body alone in the middle of the night.

Rósa’s isolation begins to play tricks on her mind: What — or who — is in the attic? What happened to Anna? Was she mad, a witch, or just a victim of Jón’s ruthless nature? And when Jón is brutally maimed in an accident a series of events are set in motion that will force Rósa to choose between obedience and defiance — with her own survival and the safety of the ones she loves hanging in the balance.

Review: I picked up this book on a whim. I found the cover spectacular and the synopsis piqued my interest. In all my years I don’t believe that I have read too many books set in Iceland. 1600’s, newly Christianized, Iceland to boot. This caught my attention and made me want to read it.

I loved the premise of this story. Iceland as a whole is caught in this transitional period of being newly Christianized but a lot of the community are finding it difficult to give up the old pagan ways. So while they know that their local pastor will accuse them of witchcraft for it, they can’t seem to let it to entirely. That makes for a very interesting scenario. Rosa is one of those people. She has embraced the new Christian faith but still finds a lot of comfort in the runes and sagas from her youth. Her father has passed away and in an effort to ensure that her mother doesn’t follow him to the grave she makes an advantageous marriage to Jon.

Jon was an all around interesting character. He doesn’t say much but toward the end of the book we get a few snippets of his narration of the story. He was also caught. He grew up poor. He scraped and scrabbled his way to being the leader of his village. Unfortunately that means he is that the heart of every rumor and his name is on the lips of every troublemaker. And the local pastor doesn’t like him too much and so is very eager to find something he can pin on him.

These two were not my favorite however, that honor is reserved for Petur. He is Jon’s right hand man. No one is quite clear on why he’s so committed to protecting Jon but he is an unstoppable force. Rumors have abounded about him since he first stumbled out of the frozen woods as a child. Everyone seems to want to hate him. He was so funny and witty. And tough as nails. I loved him endlessly.

The actual plot was a good one. A young woman suddenly finds herself living with her new husband, whom she doesn’t really know, and quickly finds herself often alone. Jon is often traveling or out in the fields, leaving her alone in the house for extended periods. She thinks she hears noises. Scrabbling, scraping, sometimes whispering from the attic. But she can’t investigate because Jon keeps it locked and has forbidden her to go up there. It quickly sparks her paranoia about the rumors regarding the fate of Jon’s first wife. Could it be her in the attic? Her ghost perhaps? Some spectre coming to haunt Rosa for stupidly agreeing to this marriage? It was wonderful.

My biggest complaint was Rosa’s character. While I understood her fear initially, eventually it started to wear on me. She kept flinching away from Jon like a beaten animal and didn’t dare speak in his presence. She took every single thing that he said in a threatening manner, even when it wasn’t clear that there was any threatening intent. And he had never even been physically intimidating to her and never actually hurt her in any way. So initially the fear of an unknown husband with a ferocious reputation made sense. But as time went on I couldn’t felt thinking “Wtf are you flinching from woman? He has never done a thing to you. Grow some ovaries, gods.”

The other thing that brings this book down for me was the author’s note at the end. I was curious to read it because I wondered where the author got her inspiration from for this story. It was so wonderfully rich and unique. I know there are some who will find it unfair for me to add a judgment of the book on the author’s note but it aggravated me too much to overlook. The author signs off on her author’s note saying that she identifies with Rosa….and experiences similar struggles. That she has had the experience of quaking in fear because of the presence of a man, felt powerless to his authority. She hoped that her sons wouldn’t grow up to feel entitled to the world because they are men. And hopes for a day when her nieces don’t have to “put on their armor just to leave the house.” What the actual fuck is this woman talking about? Is she legitimately comparing the power dynamics in gender between the United States in 2020 and 1686 Iceland? She feels it’s an apt comparison between her irrational fear of a man’s very presence and a society where the mark of a good husband is that he doesn’t beat you? I have never had to put on armor to leave the house, not once in all my life. And hopefully she’s not raising her sons to be jerks, or else they’ll inevitably end up as jerks. I found it so tiresome. It detracted from the book and left a bad taste in my mouth.

Review: The Swap by Robyn Harding

The Swap by Robyn Harding

Published: June 23, 2020 by Gallery

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Rating:

Synopsis: Low Morrison is not your average teen. You could blame her hippie parents or her looming height or her dreary, isolated hometown on an island in the Pacific Northwest. But whatever the reason, Low just doesn’t fit in—and neither does Freya, an ethereal beauty and once-famous social media influencer who now owns the local pottery studio.

After signing up for a class, Low quickly falls under Freya’s spell. And Freya, buoyed by Low’s adoration, is compelled to share her darkest secrets and deepest desires. Finally, both feel a sense of belonging…that is, until Jamie walks through the studio door. Desperate for a baby, she and her husband have moved to the island hoping that the healthy environment will result in a pregnancy. Freya and Jamie become fast friends, as do their husbands, leaving Low alone once again.

Then one night, after a boozy dinner party, Freya suggests swapping partners. It should have been a harmless fling between consenting adults, one night of debauchery that they would put behind them, but instead, it upends their lives. And provides Low the perfect opportunity to unleash her growing resentment.

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Gallery Books!***

This was the first book I have read by Robyn Harding but it will not be the last. This book was such a deliciously dark guilty pleasure. If you need to have a likeable character in your books then this one might not be the one for you. A LOT of people really hated everyone. I kind of liked Low but I think it was because I empathized with her from my own experiences at that age.

Low is a girl who is searching for something to call her own. She has a polyamorous family, both of her parents have other partners on a regular basis and occasionally on a short term basis. She doesn’t have many friends in school because the other kids look down on her because of her weird family and because she is rather strange herself. She goes by Low because her hippy dippy parents named her Swallow (after the bird) because….well they are idiots. They prove how idiotic they are over and over again. Low finds herself attracted to Freya and she struggles to try and figure out why. Is it a friend thing? A romantic thing? A sex thing? She isn’t sure and wants desperately to just have a friend that is all hers so she can figure that out. I empathized with that coming of age struggle. As a result, she got a lot of leeway from me for some of the terrible thing she did. Yes, she did those things. Yes they were wrong. But she is a dumb kid that got taken advantage of and betrayed by the adults around her.

Freya was just delightfully devious. I could never really get a read on her. Was she evil? Or just rather self absorbed and selfish? It was hard to tell and her character made me feel constantly off balance. She utilizes both Jamie and Low as weapons against each other, ruthlessly pitting them against each other in a competition for her affection.

Jamie took me by surprise. Her character was largely boring. Then suddenly when her friendship with Freya was threatened she exploded into action and it was wonderful! Her husband though was as boring as watching paint dry.

The twists and turns kept me wondering what was going to happen the entire book. But looking back none of the things that happened come out of nowhere. They were the logical journey of the story but I didn’t see it. I could not put this book down. It was delicious.

Review: God is Dead, Long Live the Gods by Gus diZerega

God is Dead, Long Live the Gods by Gus diZerega

Published: June 8, 2020 by Llewellyn Publications

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Rating:

Synopsis: God is Dead, Long Live the Gods shows how polytheism–unlike monotheism–fits with the revolutionary ideas found in quantum physics, biology, and ecology. Beginning with the Enlightenment and the roots of what we now know as science, Western thought has generally turned away from religious belief. But what if the incompatibility of science and religion only applies to monotheism?

Gus diZerega explores contemporary science to show why consciousness is a fundamental aspect of reality, why the universe is alive at all levels, and why polytheistic experiences are as varied as the enormous array of life forms that enrich our world. This fascinating work develops a bold new vision for polytheism’s evolving role in our society and in our individual and collective spiritual experiences.

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Llewellyn Publications!***

I found this book utterly fascinating. I was not quite sure what to expect when I picked it up, but as a long time practicing polytheist I was interested in what the author had to say. The message was insightful, logical and very respectful. Sometimes books like this can come across as demonizing or ridiculing faiths that are traditionally considered monotheistic. But I didn’t get that vibe from this one at all.

The research that the author did on this was immense. Literally every paragraph has some quotation from a scholarly source. He looks at the vicious debates that Christianity has had with itself over its 2,000 year history as well as similar vicious theology debates that have happened in Islam and Judaism also. But rather than come to the conclusion that this means the faith is inherently flawed (as other authors have) diZerega instead focused on the why those theological debates are happening. They happen because of a logical fallacy in the theology, so in an effort to “close the gap” a new branch of the religion is formed on a similar but often very different theology. Leading to an entirely different idea of God.

At the end of the day, diZerega came away with a conclusion similar to the one that led me to polytheism all those years ago….religion is inherently polytheistic, even if it doesn’t recognize that fact itself. That no religion is inherently right or wrong, good or evil. He comes away with a vicious respect for the right to religious freedom and details a long history of religious totalitarianism from all branches of religion over human history. Acknowledging that when that control over faith is removed all of these theology debates crop up, which turns out to be a beautiful thing.

Ultimately all humans are looking for answers to how the universe works and the path that we take to get those answers is different for everyone. But ultimately we all might be a little happier if we recognize that following the logic is easier than living with the cognitive dissonance required by monotheism. I think this one will be making a space in my permanent library.

Review: Hunted by Darcy Coates

Hunted by Darcy Coates

Published: May 1, 2020 by Poisoned Pen Press

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Rating:

Synopsis: She only went off the trail for a moment…

22-year-old Eileen goes missing while hiking in the remote Ashlough Forest. Five days later, her camera is discovered washed downriver, containing bizarre photos taken after her disappearance.

Chris wants to believe Eileen is still alive. When the police search is abandoned, he and four of his friends create their own search party to scour the mountain range. As they stray further from the hiking trails and the unsettling discoveries mount, they begin to believe they’re not alone in the forest… and that Eileen’s disappearance wasn’t an accident.

By that point, it’s too late to escape. 

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press!!

This book scared the daylights out of me at a few points. I really need to stop reading at night with only a bedside light on and when everyone else in my house is asleep. I wasn’t expecting this book to get to me but it did. The author had a really interesting way of making you feel as alone and isolated as the lost characters. So it wasn’t really a horror book but it was certainly frightening.

I went back and forth in my head through the entire book, is it a monstrous creature or a person? Serial killer or Bigfoot? Demon or cult? I found evidence for any of these possibilities all along the way. It was such a thrilling ride. And frankly, I think I would have been happy with any outcome. To me, this tells me it is a very well put together story.

My only complaint is that I felt the characters were a bit one dimensional at first. Though they did create some depth and layers to them as the story went on, so this didn’t actually impact the story too much. Chris was wonderful and ultimately I found him to be the most complex and compelling character out of the whole book.

I also appreciate an author who can make me honestly believe that they might kill off any of their characters at any moment. Lots of author can’t do that and I always seem to be able to point out “well, this guy can’t die or the whole book is over.” This book was not like that at all. At any point anyone could have been killed and the story would have carried on without them. In the end not all of them make it. I recommend this book highly. I’ve been disappointed by thrillers lately but this was a fun ride.

Review: The Law of Lines by Hye-Young Pyun

The Law of Lines by Hye-Young Pyun

Published: April 7, 2020 by Arcade

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Rating:

Synopsis: From the Prize-Winning Author of The Hole, a Slow-Burning Thriller about Unseen Forces that Shape Us and Debts We Accumulate, in Life, in Death.

Winner of several of Korea’s top literary awards, The Law of Lines follows the parallel stories of two young women whose lives are upended by sudden loss. When Se-oh, a recluse still living with her father, returns from an errand to find their house in flames, wrecked by a gas explosion, she is forced back into the world she had tried to escape. The detective investigating the incident tells her that her father caused the explosion to kill himself because of overwhelming debt she knew nothing about, but Se-oh suspects foul play by an aggressive debt collector and sets out on her own investigation, seeking vengeance.

Ki-jeong, a beleaguered high school teacher, receives a phone call that the body of her younger half-sister has just been found. Her sister was a college student she had grown distant from. Though her death, by drowning, is considered a suicide by the police, that doesn’t satisfy Ki-jeong, and she goes to her sister’s university to find out what happened. Her sister’s cell phone reveals a thicket of lies and links to a company that lures students into a virtual pyramid scheme, preying on them and their relationships. One of the contacts in the call log is Se-oh.

Like Hye-young Pyun’s Shirley Jackson Award–winning novel The Hole, an immersive thriller that explores the edges of criminality, the unseen forces in our most intimate lives, and grief and debt. 

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Arcade!***

This book took a little while for me to buy in. The synopsis says this is a slow burn and that is entirely accurate. This is the kind of story that is all about the characters. If the author cannot make you care about their characters then the story is lost. I cared.

This is a story about grief. Both Se-oh and Ki-jeong have been struck with grief. For Soe-oh it is the death of her father. Her grief is enhanced by events from her past that may have contributed to her father’s death in ways she never anticipated. For Ki-jeong it is the death of her estranged sister. She isn’t willing to accept that her sister died and she ultimately knew nothing about her, or her life. This sets the two of them on a quest.

But this book is also about more than that. It’s about poverty and the cycle of poverty that is seen all around the world. Along with the devastation and desperation that comes with it. It affected everyone in this story but all of the characters were too far into their own cycles of grief and poverty to see it, let alone offer any compassion or empathy to anyone else.

I enjoyed this story very much. It was highly literary and an excellent character piece. I do think it is being marketing poorly as a mystery or a thriller. It is neither of those things. It’s a story about two women and the unpredictable ways that their lives intersect while searching for their respective answers.

Review: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Published: March 3, 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books

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Rating:

Synopsis:

The world is not tame.

Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof. So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine. Morning brings the realization that she’s alone – and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive despite the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.

Review:

I have never read a Mindy McGinnis book before this one but from reading reviews she seems to be a love it or hate it author, often from the same reader. A huge fan might love one of her books and hate the next. I looked forward to reading it based on the synopsis but I didn’t know quite what to expect.

Most of this book is narrated in Ashley’s head, because she’s alone in the woods for most of it. I worried that this might be a bit overplayed and turn out boring. Girl alone in the woods, we’ve all read it and seen it plenty of times. But I liked Ashley. We had some tropey “I’m not like all the other girls” going on. She doesn’t care about makeup or her hair, she hunts, she lives in a trailer, she drinks beer. But apart from the tropes, I liked her. She was funny and very frank, even in her own head. There was no sugarcoating going on from herself or anyone else. That was great, it make the novel feel very gritty. Although I do have to note that Ashley made some pretty rookie mistakes. Anyone who has gone camping knows that if you get lost the first thing you do is stay still, because people coming to look for you are going to start at the last place you were seen. And Ashley is a very experienced woodsman. But no, Ashley chooses to wander off, thinking she’ll find her own way. Rookie mistake. But without that mistake, we wouldn’t have had a book so I can forgive that.

The pacing of the book was just right for me. We had a lot of flashbacks and Ashley going over her life in her head, and I liked that. It took me away from the gritty grossness long enough to see another side of her and then get plunged back into the grossness. I can also honestly say that the author left me wondering if Ashley would make it out of this alive. Most of the time you can intuit that the single narrating character must live to the end because without that character then the narrative is over. But the way it was written, I could imagine Ashley giving us a posthumous play by play of her final days. That left me not knowing what to expect for the end of her journey.

This was a good book, I enjoyed it. And I will likely pick up the author again in the future. My only complaints is the minor tropes and some rookie mistakes that didn’t make sense from the character.

Review: The Making of a Marquess by Lynne Connolly

The Making of a Marquess by Lynne Connolly

Published: March 31, 2020 by Kensington Books

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Rating:

Synopsis:

The Society for Single Ladies is a crime-solving club founded by the wealthiest woman in London. Yet even Miss Angela Childers’ charming detectives are not immune to the forces of love…

Dorothea Rowland attends a country house party to investigate a long-lost heir—not to find a husband. But when the dashing American claimant discovers her prowling for clues, she is startled—and then seduced—by his provocative kiss. It’s all Dorothea can do to remember her mission. Especially when a series of accidents adds up to something far more dangerous…

Benedict only meant to silence lovely Dorothea—not find himself enamored. What’s a gentleman to do but join forces—and propose to the clever beauty? Yet as Ben and Dorothea pursue the truth about his inheritance, their faux betrothal threatens to become the real thing. Soon, Ben’s plan to return to his life in America is upended—not only by his deepening bond with his bride, but by someone who wants his fortune badly enough to jeopardize his future—even end it. And Dorothea can’t let that happen. Not for the title, but for Ben…

Review:

***Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Kensington Books!***

This book was a fun ride and Dorothea was a delightful leading lady. Ben was an interesting bloke too but he was often times too serious and seemed to be blind to obvious things. Dorothea was sharp and didn’t miss a beat in contrast. I liked the fact that Dorothea being present when her former betrothed comes home is incidental. She was there on behalf of his cousin’s banker who wanted her to find out if he was good for the loans that had been given to him or not. The fact that Ben showed up was entirely unexpected and naturally throws her emotions through a loop.

I enjoyed the mystery that surrounded the pair, but honestly it felt like it took a long time to get going. I enjoyed all the slow burning romance that we had in the meantime, because Dorothea and Ben are fabulous together, but it seemed like we went from one incident that could have been an accident to murder all of a sudden. And there was not too much that happened in between. I did fall for the red herring though. I admit it, I did not suss out who was the real culprit.

The only drawback to the book was that I have no idea what the connection was to the Society for Single Ladies. I mean, that sounds fantastic. A group of society women who use their status as single women to investigate mysteries. And Dorothea was on assignment for the SSL. But all of that got sidetracked by an attack and romance. So, in the end, it didn’t seem to have much connection at all. I was rather looking forward to that part and it was more of an afterthought by the end. I might pick up the first book though and see if that quenches my desire for single society ladies solving crimes.

Overall this was a great romance and a decent mystery, but I wished for a bit more.

Review: The Return by Rachel Harrison

49878129._SX318_SY475_The Return by Rachel Harrison

Published: March 24, 2020 by Berkley

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Synopsis: An edgy and haunting debut novel about a group of friends who reunite after one of them has returned from a mysterious two-year disappearance.

Julie is missing, and the missing don’t often return. But Elise knows Julie better than anyone, and she feels in her bones that her best friend is out there, and that one day she’ll come back. She’s right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she’s been or what happened to her.

Rating: 4 star

Review: The synopsis of this book was just intriguing enough to make me pick up this book without actually giving me any idea what it would entail. I liked the idea of a girls trip that uncovers something sinister about what happened to their friend. I did not realize before I was reading it that there would be some horror aspects in this one. I figured that out while I was reading in bed at midnight, everyone else in the house sleeping soundly. Needless to say I did not sleep much and devoured this book in about 48 hours.

This book focuses on the friendship between four women; Mae, Molly, Elise and Julie. Two years ago, Julie went hiking and vanished. Mae and Molly presumed that Julie was dead when she had not surfaced after a year, but Elise never let go of the feeling that their friend was alive. On the second anniversary of when Julie disappeared, she is found by her husband sitting on their porch with no recollection of the last two years. Her friends all go out for a weekend getaway to reconnect. Everything is going fine, Julie is back and she’s acting just like herself. Except when she isn’t acting like herself. Elise is uneasy about her friend but also about the hotel itself, everything is setting her on edge. But it’s just her imagination right? Julie is still Julie, isn’t she?

Elise was the perfect narrating character. She was the closest to Julie and has felt left behind by her friends. She views herself as the hanger-on of the group. Her friends are all successful while she works a pathetic job and still lives in a studio apartment. She is sure they do not approve of her choices and probably talk about it amongst themselves when she leaves the room. She was so relieved when Julie was found because now the dynamic between the friends would be restored. I empathized with her and identified with a lot of her feelings of unworthiness and anxiety.

The plot was super creepy. It was set in a mismatched hotel that sets Elise on edge, and set me on edge too. The author did a very good job at playing on the fears and anxieties that plague all of us. How many times have we sworn that we saw a shadow moving in our peripheral vision? But then we look and nothing is there and we chide ourselves for being scared, we’re adults after all! Or how many times have we averted our eyes at the gap in the curtains, convinced that if we look someone will be standing there? No one ever is, but we all feel the thrill of fear in our gut just the same. That is the type of horror at play in this novel. I recommend reading it in daylight only.

 

Review: Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

49223060._SY475_Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

Published: March 17, 2020 by Berkley

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Synopsis: Sharp Objects meets My Lovely Wife in this tightly drawn debut that peels back the layers of the most complicated of mother-daughter relationships…

For the first eighteen years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She was allergic to everything, used a wheelchair and practically lived at the hospital. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold.

Turns out her mom, Patty Watts, was just a really good liar.

After serving five years in prison, Patty gets out with nowhere to go and begs her daughter to take her in. The entire community is shocked when Rose Gold says yes.

Patty insists all she wants is to reconcile their differences. She says she’s forgiven Rose Gold for turning her in and testifying against her. But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty Watts always settles a score.

Unfortunately for Patty, Rose Gold is no longer her weak little darling…

And she’s waited such a long time for her mother to come home.

Rating: 4 star

Review: Now this is the kind of debut novel I have been wanting to read lately! It seems that a lot of the books I’ve read have been hit or miss. Either very good or very bad. But this was absolutely wonderful! It made me deeply uncomfortable, which was the point. I compare it to watching a slow motion car crash, you know that only bad things are coming but you can’t bear to look away either.

I truly love a book that has a flawed narrator, not being able to fully trust the story they are telling you adds an interesting element to the story. But what happens when you can’t trust any of the narrators? That makes for a fascinating story.

Reading Patty’s narration was sort of like rolling around in mud. It sticks to you and makes you feel gross. Even though you tried to shower it all away, there’s still the odd smudge of grossness here or there that makes you feel disgusting all over again when you discover it. You know that she isn’t telling the truth. You know in your heart that she did all the horrible things that Rose Gold says she did. Part of you really wants to see her punished for it. As a mother, I was thoroughly rooting for her demise.

Then we have Rose Gold. Her anger and need for revenge is entirely justified. She found out that her mother permanently ruined her life. Her teeth are rotting out of her head, everyone knows too many details about her childhood, and she will forever be the girl that her mother created. I really rooted for her, but as the book went on I found it harder and harder to do that. More and more she was reminding me of her mother instead of her mother’s victim.

I did not see the ending coming. Parts of it yes, but the thorough depravity of it surprised me. And it was wonderful to see how all the pieces played out. But this is also where the book lost a star for her. I found it hard to believe that the police would buy that Patty had forced Rose Gold to take a specific action a full month before she got released from prison. Surely they would have been ever slightly suspicious of the timing on that right? But apart from that, it was a wonderful book. I will be keeping an eye out for this author in the future.

Review: Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

50157754Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Published: April 14, 2020 by Amulet Books

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Synopsis: The gods are dead. Decades ago, they turned on one another and tore each other apart. Nobody knows why. But are they really gone forever? When 15-year-old Hark finds the still-beating heart of a terrifying deity, he risks everything to keep it out of the hands of smugglers, military scientists, and a secret fanatical cult so that he can use it to save the life of his best friend, Jelt. But with the heart, Jelt gradually and eerily transforms. How long should Hark stay loyal to his friend when he’s becoming a monster—and what is Hark willing to sacrifice to save him?

Rating: 4 star

Review: This book drew me in with its cover, as is often the case. I was intrigued by the synopsis. And several reviews of it called it a merging of Frakenstein, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde, and that left me even more interested. Normally with that much hype surrounding a book it is bound to disappoint, at least a little bit, but this book was fantastic.

Hark was a fabulous character. He was uncertain and timid but trying to find a foothold in the world. He could see that his friendship with Jelt was changing but admitting it to himself meant that nothing would be the same. He broke my heart and left me cheering him on. He had a great story arc. Through the course of the story he was forced from being a little boy running a small time con to a man who takes responsibility for his own story.

I had a hard time feeling too much sympathy for Jelt because he was pretty mean to Hark from the moment we met him. But, despite that, I felt tremendous sympathy for how Hark dealt with the changes in his friend.

The gods were presented as monsters first, deities almost by accident, and I liked that approach. The idea of monster gods is appealing to me and this was the perfect blend of monster and majesty to suit me. The world this book was set in was also beautifully detailed. I could feel the undulating waves of the Undersea. The permeating fear of it that fed the gods for thousands of years. It was a beautifully written story. My only complaint was that the ending when Hark is going after the heart dragged on for a bit too long. After about 50 pages my mind started to wander and I wished we could stop describing everything so thoroughly and move on with the action a bit quicker. But the ending was compelling, as was the epilogue. I read the last thirty pages or so with tears streaming down my face, my heart breaking and cheering for Hark all at the same time. In the end this was a story about the power of stories, and it had a profound power all its own.