New Releases Wednesday

Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall

Published: August 4, 2020 (ebook and audiobook)

Goodreads

Synopsis: When Nancy Hennessy is murdered, she leaves behind two best friends, an adoring husband and daughter, and a secret lover whose identity she took to the grave. Nancy was gorgeous, wealthy, and cherished by those who knew her—from the outside, her life was perfect. But as the investigation into her death flounders and her friends Eleanor and Mary wrestle with their grief, dark details surface that reveal how little they knew their friend, each other, and maybe even themselves.

A gripping, immersive novel about impossible expectations and secrets that fester and become lethal, Imperfect Women unfolds through the perspectives of three fascinating women. Their enduring, complex friendship is the knot the reader must untangle to answer the question Who killed Nancy?

Imperfect Women explores guilt and retribution, love and betrayal, and the compromises we make that alter our lives irrevocably. With the wickedly sharp insights and finely tuned suspense that has drawn comparisons to Patricia Highsmith and Paula Hawkins, Araminta Hall returns with another page-turning, thought-provoking tour de force.

My Thoughts: This sounds like a wonderful story about a group of women who are entwined in a story of the past and grief. What happens when the friend you thought you knew turns out to be much more mysterious?

Bronte’s Mistress by Finola Austin

Published: August 4, 2020 by Atria Books

Goodreads

Synopsis: Yorkshire, 1843: Lydia Robinson—mistress of Thorp Green Hall—has lost her precious young daughter and her mother within the same year. She returns to her bleak home, grief-stricken and unmoored. With her teenage daughters rebelling, her testy mother-in-law scrutinizing her every move, and her marriage grown cold, Lydia is restless and yearning for something more.

All of that changes with the arrival of her son’s tutor, Branwell Brontë, brother of her daughters’ governess, Miss Anne Brontë and those other writerly sisters, Charlotte and Emily. Branwell has his own demons to contend with—including living up to the ideals of his intelligent family—but his presence is a breath of fresh air for Lydia. Handsome, passionate, and uninhibited by social conventions, he’s also twenty-five to her forty-three. A love of poetry, music, and theatre bring mistress and tutor together, and Branwell’s colorful tales of his sisters’ elaborate play-acting and made-up worlds form the backdrop for seduction.

But Lydia’s new taste of passion comes with consequences. As Branwell’s inner turmoil rises to the surface, his behavior grows erratic and dangerous, and whispers of their passionate relationship spout from her servants’ lips, reaching all three protective Brontë sisters. Soon, it falls on Lydia to save not just her reputation, but her way of life, before those clever girls reveal all her secrets in their novels. Unfortunately, she might be too late.

Meticulously researched and deliciously told, Brontë’s Mistress is a captivating reimagining of the scandalous affair that has divided Brontë enthusiasts for generations and an illuminating portrait of a courageous, sharp-witted woman who fights to emerge with her dignity intact.

My Thoughts: I really adore historical fiction. This sounds romantic and scandalous all at the same time. I would love to see the Bronte sisters handle a family scandal.

Take My Money! Sunday

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Expected publication: January 2021 by One World

Goodreads

Synopsis: A whipsmart debut about three women–transgender and cisgender–whose lives collide after an unexpected pregnancy forces them to confront their deepest desires around gender, motherhood, and sex.

Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese–and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby–and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it–Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family–and raise the baby together?

This provocative debut is about what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can’t reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel.

Why I’m Excited: It’s not often that I come across a book that sounds so utterly unique. This is that book and it made me HAVE to read it. It sounds emotionally riveting and one of a kind.

Where Madness Lies by Silvia True

Expected publication: January 29, 2021 by John Hunt Publishing

Goodreads

Synopsis: Germany, 1934. Rigmor, a young Jewish woman is a patient at Sonnenstein, a premier psychiatric institution known for their curative treatments. But with the tide of eugenics and the Nazis’ rise to power, Rigmor is swept up in a campaign to rid Germany of the mentally ill.

USA, 1984. Sabine, battling crippling panic and depression commits herself to McLean Hospital, but in doing so she has unwittingly agreed to give up her baby.

Linking these two generations of women is Inga, who did everything in her power to help her sister, Rigmor. Now with her granddaughter, Sabine, Inga is given a second chance to free someone she loves from oppressive forces, both within and without.

This is a story about hope and redemption, about what we pass on, both genetically and culturally. It is about the high price of repression, and how one woman, who lost nearly everything, must be willing to reveal the failures of the past in order to save future generations.

With chilling echoes of our time, Where Madness Lies is based on a true story of the author’s own family.

Why I’m Excited: World War II historical fiction is having a moment, much of coming across almost exactly the same storylines in the process. But this one sounds different. This is examining two women, separated by time but not by circumstance. I am further intrigued that this is based on a story from the author’s family history. I am sure that will make it an emotional story.

Take My Money! Sunday

It’s been a busy few days. Started a new position at the day job, so was trying to train while working from home (not easy). Plus the husband had to work, so I had the child at home by myself while trying to train at my new job. See definition of “Impossible” to describe this task! But I did have a few books come across my radar that make me want time to move faster, so I bring them to you.

Gaijin by Sarah Z. Sleeper

Expected publication: August 1, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: The Japanese word gaijin means “unwelcome foreigner.” It’s not profanity, but is sometimes a slur directed at non-Japanese people in Japan. My novel is called Gaijin…

Lucy is a budding journalist at Northwestern University and she’s obsessed with an exotic new student, Owen Ota, who becomes her lover and her sensei. When he disappears without explanation, she’s devastated and sets out to find him. On her three-month quest across Japan she finds only snippets of the elegant culture Owen had described. Instead she faces anti-U.S. protests, menacing street thugs and sexist treatment, and she winds up at the base of Mt. Fuji, in the terrifying Suicide Forest. Will she ever find Owen? Will she be driven back to the U.S.? Gaijin is a coming-of-age story about a woman who solves a heartbreaking mystery that alters the trajectory of her life.

Why I’m Excited: This books sounds absolutely haunting. It is a story of not fitting in and trying to find the silver lining. And sometimes, even along a hard journey, there is beauty to be found. This synopsis roped me in and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Brides of Rome by Debra May MacLeod

Expected Publication: October 27, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: It is a world of power and privilege, secrets and sacred duty. It is the world of ancient Rome. And it is the esteemed Vestal Virgins-priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the home and hearth-who protect the Eternal Flame that protects the Eternal City.

Dedicated to a thirty-year vow of chaste service, Priestess Pomponia finds herself swept up in the intrigue, violence, wars, and bedroom politics of Rome’s elite-Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Octavian and his maneuvering wife, Livia-all the while guarding the secret affection she has in her heart.

But when a charge of incestum-a broken vow of chastity-is made against the Vestal order, the ultimate punishment looms: death by being buried alive in the “Evil Field.”

In Brides of Rome, Book One in the Vesta Shadows series, Debra May Macleod skillfully recreates the world of ancient Rome with all its brutality and brilliance, all its rich history and even richer legend. A true page-turner that is as smart as it is compelling, this must-read novel brings the Vestal order to life like never before.

Why I’m Excited: I have a fascination with the worlds of ancient Rome and Greece. Their priestesses and temples were among the first pagan religions, and traces of that are carried into paganism today. So stories like this always draw me to them. And this story sounds excited too.

New Releases Wednesday

The Prisoner’s Wife by Maggie Brookes

Published: May 26, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: Inspired by the true story of a daring deception that plunges a courageous young woman deep into the horrors of a Nazi POW camp to be with the man she loves.

In the dead of night, a Czech farm girl and a British soldier travel through the countryside. Izabela and prisoner of war Bill have secretly married and are on the run, with Izzy dressed as a man. The young husband and wife evade capture for as long as possible–until they are cornered by Nazi soldiers with tracking dogs.

Izzy’s disguise works. The couple are assumed to be escaped British soldiers and transported to a POW camp. However, their ordeal has just begun, as they face appalling living conditions and the constant fear of Izzy’s exposure. But in the midst of danger and deprivation comes hope, for the young couple are befriended by a small group of fellow prisoners. These men become their new family, willing to jeopardize their lives to save Izzy from being discovered and shot.

The Prisoner’s Wife tells of an incredible risk, and of how our deepest bonds are tested in desperate times. Bill and Izzy’s story is one of love and survival against the darkest odds.

My Thoughts: This sounds like a thrilling journey spurred by love and surrounded in tragedy. World War II historical fiction seems to be having a moment right now and I am very excited to see what it brings.

The Lady Alchemist by Samantha Vitale

Published: May 26, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: In a land torn between magic and alchemy, Sepha is an exceptional alchemist, able to bend the rules in ways no one else can. But when a slip of the tongue lands her in prison with a mountain of straw, even she has to admit that she can’t transmute straw into gold.

With the threat of a death sentence hanging over her, she’s forced to make a deal with a conniving magician. Sepha escapes with her life – but at a cost: she has one year to alchemically create a body for the magician, or else her firstborn child will be his.

As Sepha’s deadline approaches, she uncovers a deadly secret. How can she save her country when the body she owes the magician will be used to destroy it?

My Thoughts: Fairytale retellings are quite possibly my biggest guilty pleasure. I love the new take on a familiar story. Not to mention this cover is absolutely spectacular. I really want to read this.

New Releases Wednesday

This week I am excited to tell you about several books that were just released. All of them are on my TBR list and I can’t wait to get to them.

 

27774751Dark Mirror by Barton Gellman

Goodreads

Synopsis: From the three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the New York Times bestseller Angler, who unearthed the deepest secrets of Edward Snowden’s NSA archive, the first master narrative of the surveillance state that emerged after 9/11 and why it matters, based on scores of hours of conversation with Snowden and groundbreaking reportage in Washington, London, Moscow and Silicon Valley

Edward Snowden chose three journalists to tell the stories in his Top Secret trove of NSA documents: Barton Gellman of The Washington Post, Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian and filmmaker Laura Poitras, all of whom would share the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Poitras went on to direct the Oscar-winning Citizen Four. Greenwald wrote an instant memoir and cast himself as a pugilist on Snowden’s behalf.

Barton Gellman took his own path. Snowden and his documents were the beginning, not the end, of a story he had prepared his whole life to tell. More than 20 years as a top investigative journalist armed him with deep sources in national security and high technology. New sources reached out from government and industry, making contact on the same kinds of secret, anonymous channels that Snowden used. Gellman’s old reporting notes unlocked new puzzles in the NSA archive. Long days and evenings with Snowden in Moscow revealed a complex character who fit none of the stock images imposed on him by others.

Gellman now brings his unique access and storytelling gifts to a true-life spy tale that touches us all. Snowden captured the public imagination but left millions of people unsure what to think. Who is the man, really? How did he beat the world’s most advanced surveillance agency at its own game? Is government and corporate spying as bad as he says?

Dark Mirror is the master narrative we have waited for, told with authority and an inside view of extraordinary events. Within it is a personal account of the obstacles facing the author, beginning with Gellman’s discovery of his own name in the NSA document trove. Google notifies him that a foreign government is trying to compromise his account. A trusted technical adviser finds anomalies on his laptop. Sophisticated impostors approach Gellman with counterfeit documents, attempting to divert or discredit his work. Throughout Dark Mirror, the author describes an escalating battle against unknown digital adversaries, forcing him to mimic their tradecraft in self-defense.

Written in the vivid scenes and insights that marked Gellman’s bestselling AnglerDark Mirror is an inside account of the surveillance-industrial revolution and its discontents, fighting back against state and corporate intrusions into our most private spheres. Along the way it tells the story of a government leak unrivaled in drama since All the President’s Men.

My thoughts: Like most people, I have had a variety of opinions on Edward Snowden as a person. Is he a hero? Is he a traitor? Was he first one and then the other? Is he both? But what often gets lost in the assessments of him as a person is the web of government deception that he uncovered. This seems to tackle this head on, and I am really interested.

 

52028849The Queen’s Secret by Karen Harper

Goodreads

Synopsis: 1939. As the wife of the King George VI and the mother of the future queen, Elizabeth—“the queen mother”—shows a warm, smiling face to the world. But it’s no surprise that Hitler himself calls her the “Most Dangerous Woman in Europe.” For behind that soft voice and kindly demeanor is a will of steel.

Two years earlier, George was thrust onto the throne when his brother Edward abdicated, determined to marry his divorced, American mistress Mrs. Simpson. Vowing to do whatever it takes to make her husband’s reign a success, Elizabeth endears herself to the British people, and prevents the former king and his brazen bride from ever again setting foot in Buckingham Palace.

Elizabeth holds many powerful cards, she’s also hiding damaging secrets about her past and her provenance that could prove to be her undoing.

In this riveting novel of royal secrets and intrigue, Karen Harper lifts the veil on one of the world’s most fascinating families, and how its “secret weapon” of a matriarch maneuvered her way through one of the most dangerous chapters of the century.

My thoughts: I love historical fiction! And I have a bit of a fascination with the British royal family. So, naturally, this makes me want to find out what the secret is?

 

52219451The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine

Goodreads

Synopsis: Breezing into the tony seaside paradise of Westport, Connecticut, gorgeous thirty-something Piper Reynard sets down roots, opening a rehab and wellness space and joining a local yacht club. When she meets Leo Drakos, a handsome, successful lawyer, the wedding ring on his finger is the only thing she doesn’t like about him. Yet as Piper well knows, no marriage is permanent.

Meanwhile, Joanna has been waiting patiently for Leo, the charismatic man she fell in love with all those years ago, to re-emerge from the severe depression that has engulfed him. Though she’s thankful when Leo returns to his charming, energetic self, paying attention again to Evie and Stelli, the children they both love beyond measure, Joanna is shocked to discover that it’s not her loving support that’s sparked his renewed happiness—it’s something else.

Piper. Leo has fallen head over heels for the flaky, New Age-y newcomer, and unrepentant and resolute, he’s more than willing to leave Joanna behind, along with everything they’ve built. Of course, he assures her, she can still see the children.

Joanna is devastated—and determined to find something, anything, to use against this woman who has stolen her life and her true love. As she digs deeper into Piper’s past, Joanna begins to unearth disturbing secrets . . . but when she confides to her therapist that she fears for the lives of her ex-husband and children, her concerns are dismissed as paranoia. Can she find the proof she needs in time to save them

My thoughts: This sounds much like your typical cheating husband thriller. But, as you near the end of the synopsis it starts to sound different. I am intrigued. I want to know why Leo’s soon-to-be ex-wife is so worried about his new paramour. Is she dangerous? Or is the ex just upset that he cheated? I know that I want to find out.

Review: Apeirogon by Colum McCann

50185600._SX318_SY475_ (1)Apeirogon by Colum McCann

Published: February 25, 2020 by Random House

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Colum McCann’s most ambitious work to date, Apeirogon–named for a shape with a countably infinite number of sides–is a tour de force concerning friendship, love, loss, and belonging.

Bassam Aramin is Palestinian. Rami Elhanan is Israeli. They inhabit a world of conflict that colors every aspect of their daily lives, from the roads they are allowed to drive on, to the schools their daughters, Abir and Smadar, each attend, to the checkpoints, both physical and emotional, they must negotiate.

Their worlds shift irreparably after ten-year-old Abir is killed by a rubber bullet and thirteen-year-old Smadar becomes the victim of suicide bombers. When Bassam and Rami learn of each other’s stories, they recognize the loss that connects them and they attempt to use their grief as a weapon for peace.

McCann crafts Apeirogon out of a universe of fictional and nonfictional material. He crosses centuries and continents, stitching together time, art, history, nature, and politics in a tale both heartbreaking and hopeful. Musical, cinematic, muscular, delicate, and soaring, Apeirogon is a novel for our time.

Rating: 2 star

Review: I really wanted to love this book because I was so entranced by the first half of it. In the end though, this book made my brain hurt. It was physically exhausting to read. This is due solely to the style that it was written in. It seems like stream of consciousness more than anything else and when it was done I felt like I needed a very long nap.

The author has written this book as 1001 micro-chapters. Most of them are no longer than a paragraph. The author is referencing The Arabian Nights clearly because he frequently talks about this throughout the book. The idea is that you get little snippets of many different stories and through reading the whole stories of Bassam and Rami are slowly revealed. I liked this as it is a physical manifestation of the title. An apeirogon is a polygon with countably infinite sides (I googled that). Thus we have a book with numbered infinite chapters. I like that play on language and could picture in my head when we following on side of the story and then branched off into another, like creating a shape.

This book is also beautifully written. The prose is almost like a poem. Early on I was a bit confused at the sudden, jarring shift in narrative every few paragraphs but I learned to let it wash over me like a wave. And as we progressed further into the book the stories of the two men became more apparent. The stories were heartbreaking. I cried for Bassam and Rami. I agonized with them over their feelings about “the enemy” and their slow transformation into not seeing one another as “other” but as “friend and fellow father”. I loved it and was immersed in the beauty.

Unfortunately this book was just so long. While I was immersed in the story, I had to make a conscious effort to pull out the bits of the story about Bassam and Rami amongst the other detritus. In between relevant bits of narrative we talked about bird migration, history, ecology, biology, architecture, religion, politics, war, fiction, geography, Biblical studies, scripture, ancient weaving techniques, symbology in women’s clothing over time….honestly I could go on with this list for several weeks without running out of things to list. This audiobook was 15 hours, 20 minutes long. It was physically and mentally exhausting to continue to follow the actual bits of plot and after awhile it just became white noise. I was too exhausted to continue paying any attention at all.

I am saddened that I didn’t like this book more because it’s a wonderful story that is written in a creative, beautiful way.

Review: The Echo of a Footfall by Patricia Scampion

50247492._SY475_The Echo of a Footfall by Patricia Scampion

Published: December 7, 2019 by Troubador Publishing

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: In 1926, having cared for her sick mother on her own for some years, 16 year old Mary gives birth to a baby boy in the Workhouse. Abandoned by her mother, unsupported by the child’s father, and behaving in ways the Workhouse finds difficult to manage, her baby is taken from her and she is sent to the local mental hospital (previously the lunatic asylum). Here, with the help of other inmates, and encouraged by an ambitious young woman seeking her vocation as a nurse, she begins a long process of discovery and development, learning to read and write, and then to cook and cater for the staff and patients in the institution that becomes her home.

Set against a backdrop of changes in attitude to, and treatments for, mental illness, and reflecting developments in post war societal structures, particularly those involving immigration from the Empire, Mary’s story spans over 50 years, as, discharged from the hospital, she continues to strive to find her identity, to understand where she belongs, and ultimately to find her baby. While the influence of the Great War on the lives of those who survived it echoes over the lives of the generations that follow, Mary yearns for a caring and tolerant community to support the family she finally creates for herself.

Rating: 3 star

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

This book took me on quite a ride, some of it good and some of it not so good. The premise is one that I found interesting. At the turn of the 20th century, the world was undergoing a big transformation with regard to mental health. There was still a lot of the old methods of locking people away because they didn’t fit into the societal mold. But the world was also beginning  to wonder if that was the best way to deal with “deviant” people, or perhaps they should focus on the truly mentally ill with more compassion. This is where Mary comes in. She has a baby out of wedlock right in the middle of this period. Her baby is taken and she is sent to the asylum where she spends most of her life. This was the story of Mary finding her own family and creating her own community.

This book was a slow burn. I mean, really slow. Most of this book is just people having conversations. Sometimes that made things a bit boring and I started to skim because nothing was happening. The first part of the book that takes place in the asylum was the most boring. Not only was the majority of the story taking place in conversations but the limited actions outside of those conversations were also extremely repetitive. Wake up, go to breakfast, go to the yard for exercise, go to the day room, go to bed. For about 140 pages. It was dull and I found that I didn’t care much about what happened.

Once Mary is transitioned out of the asylum the story started to take off. Now it was getting interesting. She is a middle aged woman who suddenly has to figure out how to make money, make friends, buy clothes, all the normal adult things that one does. She doesn’t even know how a person is supposed to buy underwear because she’s been in an asylum since she was 16. That transition was hard for her as she both yearned for her freedom and was scared to relinquish the safety and security of asylum life. It was a compelling story and I enjoyed watching her make friends and create a community around her.

My biggest problem with the book was that the author seemed to want to connect everyone to Mary personally. By the end of the book pretty much every single person that Mary was close to had kept some secret from her about how they were related to her former life or her child’s life. And then in the epilogue the author told us who Mary’s child was. I was frustrated because it felt contrived. I already had emotions towards these people and their relationship with Mary, why did we have to have this extra layer that added no substance? The whole point of the book was that even though Mary never found her long lost son she created a family for herself, filled with love and trust. It should have been left there and I should have never known who her son was.

Overall, a compelling story about a tragic young woman who transform into a formidable grown woman. A story about a woman creating her own way, even when the world didn’t think she could. And that was a great book.

Review: Three Hours in Paris by Cara Black

50921705._SX318_SY475_Three Hours in Paris by Cara Black

Published: April 7, 2020 by SoHo Crime

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: In June of 1940, when Paris fell to the Nazis, Hitler spent a total of three hours in the City of Light—abruptly leaving, never to return. To this day, no one knows why.

The New York Times bestselling author of the Aimée Leduc investigations reimagines history in her masterful, pulse-pounding spy thriller, Three Hours in Paris.

Kate Rees, a young American markswoman, has been recruited by British intelligence to drop into Paris with a dangerous assignment: assassinate the Führer. Wrecked by grief after a Luftwaffe bombing killed her husband and infant daughter, she is armed with a rifle, a vendetta, and a fierce resolve. But other than rushed and rudimentary instruction, she has no formal spy training. Thrust into the red-hot center of the war, a country girl from rural Oregon finds herself holding the fate of the world in her hands. When Kate misses her mark and the plan unravels, Kate is on the run for her life—all the time wrestling with the suspicion that the whole operation was a set-up.

Cara Black, doyenne of the Parisian crime novel, is at her best as she brings Occupation-era France to vivid life in this gripping story about one young woman with the temerity—and drive—to take on Hitler himself.

Rating: 2 star

Review: The premise of this story was good, and I tend to like historical fiction, but this book just didn’t grab me. Full disclosure, I stopped reading about halfway through. It wasn’t interesting enough to make me keep reading.

SPOILER ALERT: Though this review will be brief, the reasons I stopped reading do contain spoilers.

Kate wasn’t a very interesting character. All I knew about her in the first half of the book was that she lost her husband and daughter and could shoot really well. Apart from that she displayed no other personality at all. The German detective who is hunting her down after her failed mission was the same. I have no idea who he is and he showed not a single glimmer of a personality.

The story also told me all the good parts by about page 70, when we have a chapter between Kate’s handler and some of the other spies when he basically just says that they expected her to fail and it was her mission to fail. The Fuhrer will be too busy trying to catch her after the botched assassination attempt to not see the real assassination attempt happening. Yawn. So I am supposed to sit though 230 more pages of Kate trying not to get caught when the only reason she was sent there is to get caught? Wait, I think I know how this ends…she uncovers the nefarious plot to throw her under the Gestapo bus and miraculously escapes.

Speaking of getting caught, in the portion that I read, Kate should have gotten caught at least three times. She gets stopped by German soldiers on three separate occasions (when they know they are looking for someone in the vicinity who shot at their leader) but no one searches her bag? They search her. They look under the bag. One of them even remarks on the heaviness of the bag….which contains the rifle she used to attempt the assassination. But no one actually looks IN THE BAG. No wonder the Third Reich was defeated, they had a bunch of morons working for them.

Also, why does Kate keep the rifle? Her handler was specific that she needed to keep it (you know, to properly frame her). But she realizes that it’s incredibly stupid to not ditch it. And yet, she still doesn’t ditch it. Why? Is she as stupid as the soldiers who should have searched her? She even says that she might have been abandoned by her handlers and still doesn’t ditch it.

I just couldn’t get into the story. It annoyed me more than it interested me. I had no desire to keep reading and so, I didn’t.

Review: The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan

51024058The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan

Published: April 7, 2020 by Orbit Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Harriet Bishop, descended from a long line of witches, uses magic to help women in need — not only ordinary women, but also those with powers of their own. She must intervene when a distant cousin wields dangerous magic to change the lives of two unsuspecting young people… one of whom might just be a witch herself.

Frances Allington has used her wiles and witchcraft to claw her way out of poverty and into a spectacular marriage with one of New York’s wealthiest new tycoons. She is determined to secure the Allingtons’ position amongst the city’s elite Four Hundred families by any means necessary — including a scheme to make a glorious aristocratic match for her headstrong and reluctant step-daughter, Annis, using the same strange power with which she ensnared Annis’s father.


To save Annis from this dark magic, Harriet reveals to her Frances’ misuse of their shared birthright and kindles in Annis her own nascent powers. Together, Harriet and Annis must resist her stepmother’s agenda, lest she — and the dashing young lord she suspects she could come to love — lose their freedom, and possibly their lives.

Rating: 3 star

Review: This book started as a 4-star book, then dropped to a 2-star book and finally by the end is an “it was fine” 3-star. The writing of this book was lovely. I found myself entranced by the prose and would look up to find that several hours had passed. Just last night I was so enthralled with the plot and the writing that I stayed awake reading until 2 a.m. It’s not surprising that the book only took me 3 days to finish.

I love books about witches, probably because I am one. I love books that explore the role of witchcraft in history and how women have historically used this knowledge to empower themselves. The characters were rich and I enjoyed them all. The basic premise is that Harriet and Francis are descended from a witch named Bridget Bishop. Bridget was executed in the 1600’s for witchcraft. Harriet’s side of the family tree has adopted the gentler side of the craft, using it mainly for herbalism and assisting locals with their various ailments and ills. Francis’ side of the family tree had adopted the “bad” side of the craft, manipulating and magically forcing others to do their bidding in order to gain power for themselves. Annis is a young girl from the family tree who is just coming into her powers and for whom Francis has nefarious plans. Harriet endeavors to stop this plot and it culminates in a clash between the two witches with Annis as the prize.

This book was a slow burn with not a lot of action to it, and I was fine with that. The information being presented was largely interesting and once we did get the showdown between Harriet and Francis it was really refreshing and exciting. That portion is what kept me up most of the night.

***Spoiler alert:*** From this point on there will be spoilers.

The biggest problems I had with the book are the ending and that this book didn’t know what it wanted to be.

Is it the story of Annis? A girl ahead of her time, bucking the norm, and determined to make her own way with her newfound powers. Is it the story of a 200 year old battle between two sides of a family to ultimately decide if they are bad witches or good witches? Is it a story of the temptations of good and evil and the blurry gray area in between? Unfortunately it could have been all of these things, but ended up being none of them. None of these things are explored in any depth and I was really disappointed by that.

The ending was very plain. James and Annis decide that they didn’t just have feelings for each other because of magic, they actually do love each other and want to get married. How boring. How predictable. And then we are subjected to a very long lecture about how James might seem like a good man, but we should keep his manikin around just in case he decides to start behaving like an ass later. Because he’s a man after all, so you just never know and a woman can’t be too careful. Why can a novel not show us strong women without equaling telling us about how all men are asses? Even ones who aren’t asses but they might decide to be later because….well they’re a man. I am weary of it. It is possible to tell a story about strong, empowered women without demeaning men. I promise it is.

There was also an unintended moral problem in the story. We are told early on that good witches use their powers to help, bad witches use their powers to compel. Bad witches will always succumb to darkness and be lost to a lust for power. But on at least 3 occasions the “good” witches use their magic to persuade people to give them things. A horse, money, and then more money. All for their own benefit. So while those people may not have been harmed, the man was reimbursed for the horse and the money was plentiful and wouldn’t be missed, does that make it okay? What is the difference between magically persuading someone to give you something and just outright forcing them to give you something? Unfortunately, I don’t think the author intended for this issue to be presented and so we never get the answer to that question. In the end, even evil magic can be tucked away in a corner for safekeeping…just in case, and one will still be a good witch.

Review: The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki

the traitors wifeThe Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki

Published February 11th 2014 by Howard Books

Buy this book at: Amazon / B&N / Book Depository / Books a Million

Synopsis:

A riveting historical novel about Peggy Shippen Arnold, the cunning wife of Benedict Arnold and mastermind behind America’s most infamous act of treason . . .

Everyone knows Benedict Arnold—the Revolutionary War general who betrayed America and fled to the British—as history’s most notorious turncoat. Many know Arnold’s co-conspirator, Major John André, who was apprehended with Arnold’s documents in his boots and hanged at the orders of General George Washington. But few know of the integral third character in the plot: a charming young woman who not only contributed to the betrayal but orchestrated it.

Socialite Peggy Shippen is half Benedict Arnold’s age when she seduces the war hero during his stint as military commander of Philadelphia. Blinded by his young bride’s beauty and wit, Arnold does not realize that she harbors a secret: loyalty to the British. Nor does he know that she hides a past romance with the handsome British spy John André. Peggy watches as her husband, crippled from battle wounds and in debt from years of service to the colonies, grows ever more disillusioned with his hero, Washington, and the American cause. Together with her former love and her disaffected husband, Peggy hatches the plot to deliver West Point to the British and, in exchange, win fame and fortune for herself and Arnold.

Told from the perspective of Peggy’s maid, whose faith in the new nation inspires her to intervene in her mistress’s affairs even when it could cost her everything, The Traitor’s Wife brings these infamous figures to life, illuminating the sordid details and the love triangle that nearly destroyed the American fight for freedom.

Rating: 2 star

 

Review:

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, no compensation nor promise of a good review was made. Thank you Howard Books!

Summary:

As much as I wanted to like this book, I just couldn’t get there. It should have been so good. Some parts of it were good but unfortunately the bad outweighed the good much of the time. Everyone knows the story of Benedict Arnold, even if it’s just the basics. It has been speculated that his wife Peggy was a much bigger part of that plot to betray the U.S. than history gave her credit for. So I was very excited to read a story about her part in things and how she orchestrated the entire plot. Spying, betrayal, secrets, and traitors is what I expected. That’s not what I got though.

Plot:

This part of the book was actually very good. The book begins by introducing us to Peggy Shippen, the future Mrs. Peggy Arnold. She is a society girl in Philadelphia whose entire existence revolves around the next big party and whether she’s been invited or not. She has been having a love affiar with a British office, Major John Andre. When the colonialists take over Philadelphia Major Andre is ordered to leave the city. With her main romantic match gone she fakes sympathies with the colonial cause in order to win the affection of the new big dog in town, Major General Benedict Arnold.

Eventually they marry but Peggy is not happy with this new lot in life. Her husband is accused of several crimes, most of which he is guilty of, but he manages to beat the charges with little more than a reprimand. They do not make enough money to occupy the vast estate that Arnold bought for his new bride and are forced to live on her parents’ property. Peggy mentions that she is a personal friend of John Andre, who is looking for colonial spies….and thus our treachery begins.

I liked seeing this side of a story, it was interesting and told from an objective POV, Peggy’s maid Clara.

Characters:

Peggy – I hated Peggy Shippen so much. She is vapid, shallow, selfish, narcissistic, manipulative, and mean spirited. Yet she had men falling all over her all the time, it was maddening. The only thought ever in her head was “How will that benefit me…and do I look pretty enough to do it?” It would have been different if she was subtle in her manipulations, then I could have liked her. But she wasn’t. She actually looked at her suitor one time and says, “if you love me then you’ll learn to walk for me. I don’t want to be married to a cripple.” Yeah, Peggy is about as subtle as a brick to the side of your head.

Clara Bell – Seriously, that’s her name. And EVERYONE insists on calling her by her full name too. I felt like I was watching an episode of Hee Haw. But the character was great. I found her to be observant, delightful, funny, and a great narrator.

Benedict Arnold – I don’t know what to say about this guy. What a pushover! I think Peggy took his cajones away and kept them in her jewelry box. He puts up with outright emotional and verbal abuse and calls it love. She insults him constantly, stokes the fire with his complaints about the colonial army, outright lies, and then puts him in correspondance with her former lover! This guy is a doormat with a capital D.

I have no real thoughts on any of the other main characters since they all seemed very secondary and I didn’t feel any particular emotion about them.

Writing:

This was the biggest problem with this book, the execution. Approximately 40 pages of this is told in flash forwards. We get a brief scene about what will happen on that fateful day that Benedict’s treachery is revealed, and then back to the main story. That’s fine on its own but the problem came at the end of the book when that same 40 pages is repeated again when the store caught up with itself. Either don’t do the flash forwards or don’t repeat it again later, that was massively annoying.

There were also some continuity problems with Peggy’s character. Yes she was petty and selfish and treated people poorly, but as far as the reader was aware she was never physically abusive. Then all of a sudden out of the blue Peggy hits Clara. And Clara goes on and on about how this is typical of her mistress and she’s been fed up with her abuse for years. But, wait, that’s the first time anything like that has happened. And it never happened again. So either it’s a pattern or a one time incident, it can’t be both.

I also felt the story took far too long to get going. I didn’t care about Peggy’s tantrums, I didn’t care about the next party she went to. If the author got rid of the extraneous details this book would have been half the length it is, and would have been a better story for it.

Overall:

This book was decent. I liked parts of it and I disliked parts of it. But ultimately it was my dislike of Peggy’s character that drove the rating down. The ending though was brilliant with Clara taking Peggy to task, I liked that scene a lot.