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Category: Page-turner

New Release Tuesday: The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick

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When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel . That’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool.

Seeking the truth, Irene finds herself drawn to the mysterous Oliver Ward. Formerly a world-famous magician and now the owner of the Burning Cove Hotel, Oliver can’t let scandal threaten his livelihood, even if it means trusting Irene.

With Oliver’s help, Irene soon learns that the glamorous paradise of Burning Cove hides dark and dangerous secrets. And that the past—always just out of sight—could drag them both under…

Overall, I found this a fun, fast read and a satisfying mystery/romance novel. It wasn’t perfect, but it was very enjoyable, with some gasp-worthy moments and a hero that I fell for. Oliver is handsome, in control, and has a very interesting backstory. He also has a disabled leg, and I’m always here for a non-cookie-cutter romantic hero. Most importantly, he’s a gentleman, not an alpha male.

The mystery—I should say, mysteries—were intriguing and kept me turning the pages. The Girl Who Knew Too Much has a lot of deaths in it, but Quick’s storytelling never gets too dark. I give the romance a moderate heat rating of 3/5 stars, with just one heated scene containing an explicit reference that soon fades to black.

I read this in two sittings and was completely content. Readers who are willing to go along for the ride will love it! Having read and liked ‘Til Death Do Us Part, I got exactly what I was expecting.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

YA Fantasy: Three Dark Crowns and The Lie Tree

Hello, world!

What with the new year, new commitments, and, as it happens, my birthday (which was lovely), this month has been kind of a whirlwind. I haven’t read as much as usual. Still, I’ve always got something going. Here are my thoughts on the YA fantasy I read this month:

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Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

I was completely enthralled by this story! In this fantasy world, a set of triplets is born to the royal family every generation. These three sisters become three queens, who are separated at a young age and brought up to one day fight each other to the death. One is a poisoner, one is a an “elemental,” and one is a “naturalist.” (AKA, they are all magical.) I really enjoyed the way this book progressed. I thought it was well written and liked how the narrative changed POV with each chapter, alternating between the three sisters. The character development was excellent, and I couldn’t decide which queen I was rooting for until the very end. It has some twists and turns that will take you by surprise. This book is the beginning of a series, so the end is just the starting point of the, for lack of a better word, festivities. They each have one year to kill the other two. The last one standing reigns supreme. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

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The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

This is a beautifully-written, tangled-twisty mess of feminism, deception, and shame. WOW. The Lie Tree is starkly true in so many moments. There are some wonderfully insightful quotes within. I was riveted by how this book portrayed the way lies take on a life of their own and the power that even the smallest fib can wield over our lives and the lives of those around us. The main character Faith, who is fascinated by the science her father practices, is constantly surrounded by temptations in a world that denies her own intelligence and right to have a voice. To listen at the door. To read her father’s books. To say what she thinks. So when she learns of the lie tree, Faith takes that voice and uses it with unforeseen and dangerous consequences. Her intentions weren’t necessarily bad to begin with. She tells herself that she is only doing it to learn the truth about her father–but is that really all there is to it? She becomes entranced by the lie tree. It makes her feel powerful.

The 1860s is the perfect setting for this book–religion and science were seemingly at odds and at the forefront of the public’s mind in the aftermath of Darwin’s On the Origins of Species. There’s a lot to unpack here in terms of the book’s obvious religious parallels, but I’ll keep it brief. At times I could feel my stomach roiling at what was happening in the story, and I even recognized examples of false logic that I have thought to myself within my inner dialog. It was surprisingly revelatory. The parallel between Hardinge’s lie tree and the Scriptural Tree of Knowledge is obvious but not preachy, blatant without being doctrinal. I highly recommend this excellent book.

“Death and life [are] in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Proverbs 18:21

That’s all for now. Ta ta!

 

You MUST Read: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Wow. Poignant, vivid, and gut wrenching, this is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. In fact, it’s so good that Oprah (who has ALL THE POWER) picked it for her book club and worked her magic. As a result: The Underground Railroad dropped into bookstores like a surprise Beyoncé album five weeks ahead of schedule, and it’s clear the literary community agrees with me and Oprah: this is a must-read for all Americans.

The publisher’s summary (shortened):

From prize-winning, bWhit_9780385537032_jkt_all_r2.inddestselling author Colson Whitehead, a magnificent, wrenching, thrilling tour de force chronicling a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South.


Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves, but Cora is an outcast even among her fellow Africans, and she is coming into womanhood; even greater pain awaits. Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, and they plot their escape. Matters do not go as planned, but they manage to find a station and head north. . . .

The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage, and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

Reimagining U.S. history, master craftsman Colson Whitehead transforms the metaphoric Underground Railroad into a real train and “a secret network of tracks and tunnels built beneath Southern soil” (from the full publisher’s summary). This slight departure from reality was brilliantly portrayed, enhancing and in no way detracting from the gravitas of this book and its subject matter. I read this in a single sitting and was so immersed that, for the most part, I forgot about this unhistorical addition entirely. It just seemed a natural part of the route. This tweaking of history was what initially drew me to the book and created increased interest and intensity in some pivotal scenes—not that The Underground Railroad suffered from a lack of either of those things.

“Here was the true Great Spirit, the divine thread connecting all human endeavors—if you can keep it, it is yours. Your property, slave or continent. The American imperative.”

The writing in this book is, in short, incredible. Perhaps the most affecting aspect of The Underground Railroad for me was the matter-of-fact way Whitehead relates the horrendous violence of Cora’s life as a slave. Whitehead’s depiction renders the terrible injustice of her life as almost normal—and, tragically, it is to Cora and to the white masters who think nothing of whippings and “taking her behind the shed” (where she is obviously but not graphically raped). I cried within the first twenty pages and again and again throughout this novel. Whitehead pulls no punches. And I’m glad. This is an ugly, tragic part of our history that deserves a clear portrayal of the horrors it entailed.

“To see chains on another person and be glad they are not your own—such was the good fortune permitted colored people, defined by how much worse it could be any moment.”

The main character, Cora, gives a name to the countless individuals whose lives and liberty were ripped from their grasp during the years in which America perpetrated this institution. Whitehead portrays everything from the extreme violence slaves endured to the smaller indignities, like being robbed of the one thing Cora had that was hers (a garden plot) and evicted into the cabin of outcasts when her mother abandoned her to run away. Her trials continue beyond the plantation, unfortunately, where she and Caesar find that the freedom they so desperately long for is always just out of reach.

“[Cora] trusted the slave’s choice to guide her—anywhere, anywhere but where you are escaping from.”

Amid all the devastating twists and turns in this novel, the most horrifying thing about this work of fiction is the inescapable truth that lies beneath. And this history plagues our country to this day. While slavery is abolished, we are still a divided nation in a devastating state. Racial violence. Police discrimination. #BlackLivesMatter has become a well-known movement. How tragic that 150 years after slavery was abolished, this statement is even necessary.

Is there hope for racial reconciliation in America? I don’t know. But I hope and pray that there is. That we can look within and realize that the same blood flows within all human beings. That compassion will triumph over perceived differences. That we can truly become, perhaps for the first time, “one nation, under God.”

I leave you with this sobering quote:

“And America, too, is a delusion, the grandest one of all. The white race believes—believes with all its heart—that it is their right to take the land. To kill Indians. Make war. Enslave their brothers. This nation shouldn’t exist, if there is any justice in the world, for its foundations are murder, theft, and cruelty. Yet here we are.”

Here we are.

***I received an advance copy of this novel via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.***

 

**********This last bit contains a SPOILER!!!! **********

 

 

I loved the ending of this book. It is fitting that we are left without knowing Cora’s fate. We simply leave her at the start of another leg in her long, terrible journey. We can hope that she survives, but we’ll never know. Like so many black men and women before her, she vanishes from the written record. But we need to remember her. To remember them all—now more than ever.