BOOK REVIEW: The Wages of Sin, by Kaite Welsh

BOOK REVIEW: The Wages of Sin, by Kaite WelshTitle: The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh
Series: Sarah Gilchrist #1
Published by Pegasus Books
Published: March 7th 2017
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley

 I knew how the world worked; I knew it could be cruel, and I was not content to let it remain so.

Give me all of the historical fiction about flawed women doing things that society says they shouldn’t do!!! Kaite Welsh’s The Wages of Sin is about a woman named Sarah Gilchrist who “ruined” herself with the involvement with a man who took advantage of her. She moves in with her aunt and uncle to start anew, and she enrolls at the University of Edinburgh in the first year it allows female students. The plot goes back and forth between her past and her present and it’s a little slow moving, but I enjoyed that. I felt like Welsh easily incorporated the day-to-day life of this first class of female medical students to show the reader the kind of resistance those students felt in their everyday experiences. It also explores the victim-blaming and -shaming rhetoric that women still face regarding their sexuality and their choices and how it can be damning to assume anything about anyone without knowing the other person’s full story.

While reading this, I felt like this story also highlights the injustices and prejudices women face today in all sorts of sciences and male-dominated fields across the board. Sometimes it was troubling to read because I’ve even experienced similar things. However, that’s what I like most about good historical fiction. It illuminates the problems of the past and present. I like reading historical fiction for an escape from the present like so many others, but I also like reading historical fiction because of the explorations and struggles people have faced throughout history. It’s reflective and contemplative, and it’s always a joy to have a relatable heroine telling us her story.

I’m going to be thinking about The Wages of Sin for a while, and I’m pleased to know that there will be more of Sarah’s story, because most of this novel felt like a set up for so much more. I think I’d be disappointed to know that was the end, because it ended with so much hope and promise. I can’t wait for the next one! If you’re a fan of Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell series or enjoy reading feminist historical fiction, I think you’ll like Sarah Gilchrist and her adventures.

Thank you to Pegasus Books and Netgalley for a review copy!

BOOK REVIEW: Caraval, by Stephanie Garber

BOOK REVIEW: Caraval, by Stephanie GarberTitle: Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval #1
Published by Flatiron Books
Published: January 31st 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 407
Format: Trade Paper
Source: Work

 Hope is a powerful thing. Some say it’s a different breed of magic altogether.

The buzz for Stephanie Garber’s Caraval said it’s perfect for those who like Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Neil Gaiman in general, but you know, for teen audiences. While it lacks the complexities found in Morgenstern’s and Gaiman’s works, I can see why other people made the connection. It’s magical, and it’s that kind of YA fantasy that’s like candy, all sweet, a little sour, not much by way of depth, so if you’re expecting the kind of depth and complexity that The Night Circus offered, you’ll be disappointed. This is the kind of book I can see myself reading again while at the beach or outside in the summer with a cold drink. I really enjoyed reading this. I struggled for the first fifty or so pages because I think I was expecting a similar kind of world-building that came with The Night Circus or the ominous, lingering darkness found in Gaiman’s works, but once the story really started picking up speed, I couldn’t put this down.

Caraval follows two sisters, Scarlett and Tella, who live with their overbearing, abusive father. They’ve never left their homeland, and Scarlett has especially dreamed of visiting the mythical, traveling Caraval. The invitations are exclusive, but Tella and a mysterious sailor whisk Scarlett away to the oft-dreamed about place. Once there, Scarlett realizes that there is so much more to Caraval that she could imagine and danger is always within reach, that all sorts of risks are involved with games.

The romance and everything seemed to be a whirlwind ride and almost a little too fast-paced, but then I remembered what it was like to have a crush on someone when I was younger, and the rise and fall of that crush seemed to only take a week with a burst of intense emotion between the beginning and the end. In that sense, it almost seems like a warning to the younger crowd – be mindful of your heart, your desires, and your hope, because it might be destructive if you don’t think it through.

I received an advance copy of this book through my work. All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Swimming Lessons, by Claire Fuller

BOOK REVIEW: Swimming Lessons, by Claire FullerTitle: Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
Published by Tin House Books
Published: February 7th 2017
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 350
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley

Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.
Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Scandalous and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage. 

 Writing does not exist unless there is someone to read it, and each reader will take something different from a novel, from a chapter, from a line.

After finishing Swimming Lessons, I’m a little sad I don’t have any more novels to read by Claire Fuller. I read Our Endless Numbered Days earlier this year and loved the fairy tale-like quality to the story, and Swimming Lessons evokes a similar response from me. Swimming Lessons is about a woman named Ingrid who writes letters to her husband Gil. Instead of delivering the letters to him directly, Ingrid leaves the letters in topically relevant books that Gil has scattered all over his house. After leaving her final letter, Ingrid leaves and disappears from a beach in Dorset, leaving behind her husband and two daughters with unanswered questions. Twelve years after her disappearance, Gil – older and suffering from the effects of age – thinks he sees Ingrid in a bookshop and falls, hurting himself. Flora, his daughter, returns home to care for her father. Flora doesn’t believe that her mother died, only disappeared. While caring for her father, Flora begins to discover the answers to her questions about her mother’s life and disappearance in the books quite literally stacked all through her father’s home.

I was hesitant to start this one because I wanted to read Our Endless Numbered Days first. I’m weird and sometimes like to read an author’s work in publication order. After completely devouring Fuller’s first novel in just a few days, I started reading this one almost immediately after. Fuller has a gift in transforming family tragedies and terrors into a story of mythical allure. I also have a soft spot for epistolary novels or books that incorporate letters and other forms of text communication, and Swimming Lessons does just that. I loved reading Ingrid’s thoughts throughout the years of her marriage, of her family, of herself, and seeing how the present day family reacts and responds to Ingrid’s letters.

I’ve already talked about this book a lot to some of my customers at work and a few of my acquaintances, and I tell them, if you enjoy books about books and reading and letter writing with a family mystery tied into it all, you’ll really like this one. My favorite bits had to be the letters because Ingrid’s voice just felt so immediate and emotional. However, if you don’t like ambiguous endings, beware. You don’t get all of the questions answered, and you’ll be left thinking about the possibilities of hope and the reminders of grief once you’re through. I read it during some warm February days, and it’s the perfect kind of novel to read with the soft warmth of the day wafting through the windows.

Thank you to Netgalley and Tin House Books for a review copy!


… says she three months into the year.

So, about a month ago, I started realizing that I am not motivated to update my blog because of the theme/design of it and at the time didn’t have the energy and motivation (ha) to look for ways to update it. A week or so ago, I started looking into WP themes, and after feeling a little meh about the free ones I found and frustrated at the pretty ones I liked that ran for more than thirty bucks (I don’t have that kind of money to spend), I found one I liked on sale from HipsterTheme on etsy for six dollars! It’s a minimalist theme by itself, so I started looking up clip art on etsy (because I had no idea how many blogging resources were there), and I found this blush pink floral clip art set from ShhMakerDesign that I absolutely loved, and everything seemed to come together from there!

I updated the navigation so it was easier to find things (as much as I loved my who/what/where/when/why set up from before, it’s not transparent to anyone who isn’t me), updated a little bit of my info, and added a few more widgets on the sidebar. Subscribe! Follow me on social media! I still need to figure out Bloglovin’ and figure out if I need to make myself a set posting schedule or just aim for 3-4 posts a week.

Thank you for visiting!

BOOK REVIEW: The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden

BOOK REVIEW: The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine ArdenTitle: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Published by Del Rey
Published: January 10th 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 322
Source: Netgalley

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale is a superbly magical fairy tale inspired by Russian folklore. The story is lyrical and engaging, and even though I’m not a reader who is familiar with Russian fairy tales and folklore, so much of it seems both familiar and strange that I felt like this story has both been part of that fairy tale lexicon of sorts and wholly new all at the same time. I love it when a writer weaves together the old and the new to make a new effortless-feeling tale that lingers in the mind long after the book ends.

Vasya, the main character, is lively and complicated, as fairy tale heroines often tend to be. Arden’s villains are nuanced and complex, making you think that perhaps villainy is only a construct of our perspectives rather than a factual thing. The atmosphere feels like a chilly Russian wilderness, and its distant enough in time and distance to be all the more enchanting.

And, like many traditional, “original,” fairy tales, The Bear and the Nightingale is beautiful and terrifying in a very Neil Gaiman-esque sort of way, and I love the sort of terror that sneaks up on you and faces you full-on, making you come to terms with the terror of your own reality in contrast to this fairy tale one.

If you are a fan of Erin Morgenstern and Neil Gaiman and enjoy reading terrifically beautiful fairy tales, this is one you need to add to your TBRs immediately!

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House/Ballantine for a review copy!