Book Review: The Vine Witch

Goodreads Summary:

For centuries, the vineyards at Château Renard have depended on the talent of their vine witches, whose spells help create the world-renowned wine of the Chanceaux Valley. Then the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when sorcière Elena Boureanu was blindsided by a curse. Now, after breaking the spell that confined her to the shallows of a marshland and weakened her magic, Elena is struggling to return to her former life. And the vineyard she was destined to inherit is now in the possession of a handsome stranger.

Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel naively favors science over superstition, and he certainly doesn’t endorse the locals’ belief in witches. But Elena knows a hex when she sees one, and the vineyard is covered in them. To stay on and help the vines recover, she’ll have to hide her true identity, along with her plans for revenge against whoever stole seven winters of her life. And she won’t rest until she can defy the evil powers that are still a threat to herself, Jean-Paul, and the ancient vine-witch legacy in the rolling hills of the Chanceaux Valley. 

My Thoughts:

Oh man did I love this book! I got it from the Amazon First Reads program and I immediately started reading it. And that cover is a thing of beauty!

I love this world that Smith has created – a place of magical realism with witches that help tend the vines that supply the wine, nurture the land with their own brand of magic, watch over the vineyard for curses and spells and add their own magical flavor to the terroir. In this world, bierehexe also exist, doing the same for the beers in the Alps, bakers that create treats that you crave only when you are in love, and other various supernatural elements.

Elena was on her way to being the best, her powers creating amazing wines and flavors for her vineyard, Château Renard, when she is cursed to the swamps for seven long years. This book picks up as the curse is ending, and we join her as she returns to her home and lifes calling. She finds the vineyard changed though, now under new ownership, an owner who is not a believer in magic or vine witches. Jean-Paul believes in science and fact and logic and straight farming, although in this world, that puts him at a disadvantage. He needs a vine witch, his vine witch tied to his land, to help him find the glory he craves as a winemaker. Elena is more than happy to pick up her mantle again, but first she has to convince Jean-Paul. And of course, there is the pesky detail of finding out who exactly cursed her, and how she will get her revenge. Not to mention as well, that there is some sort of criminal running around draining animals of their blood, giving a bad name to the vine witches.

Inevitably, Jean-Paul and Elena fall in love – although this is sort of slow to start and honestly, could have used more development altogether. They have to fight a few battles together, against a few different evils and battles and hurdles. I felt like here is where the book could have used a bit more something. Regardless, I completely loved this book and am looking forward to the Smith’s next one, The Glamourist.

If you like witches, or wine, or both, then you will love this book! I recommend reading paired with a hearty Cabernet, if you are a wine drinker.

Book Review: The Spook in the Stacks

Goodreads Summary:

Halloween in North Carolina’s Outer Banks becomes seriously tricky when librarian Lucy Richardson stumbles across something extra unusual in the rare books section: a dead body.

Wealthy businessman Jay Ruddle is considering donating his extensive collection of North Carolina historical documents to the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library, but the competition for the collection is fierce. Unfortunately, while the library is hosting a lecture on ghostly legends, Jay becomes one of the dearly departed in the rare books section. Now, it’s up to Lucy Richardson and her fellow librarians to bone up on their detective skills and discover who is responsible for this wicked Halloween homicide.

Meanwhile, very strange things are happening at the library—haunted horses are materializing in the marsh, the lights seem to have an eerie life of their own, and the tiny crew of a model ship appears to move around when no one is watching. Is Lucy at her wit’s end? Or can it be that the Bodie Island Lighthouse really is haunted?

With The Legend of Sleepy Hollow on everyone’s minds and ghoulish gossip on everyone’s lips, Lucy will need to separate the clues from the boos if she wants to crack this case without losing her head in The Spook in the Stacks, the delightful fourth in national bestseller Eva Gates’ Lighthouse Library mysteries.

My Thoughts:

I saw this on display at my library and it looked so cute I had to check it out – how could I pass up a cat reading Sleepy Hollow? This was my first introduction to both Eva Gates and the Lighthouse Library Mystery series, and I will definitely being going back for more. It is the fourth book in the series, yet it was not hard to figure out anything I had missed in the previous books.

The Spook in the Stacks was the perfect little cozy mystery for this time of year, with its slightly spooky vibe set at Halloween. The characters were just quirky enough without being annoying, and the main character Lucy is a great mixture of headstrong and practical; she is a woman who seems very confident and sure of herself, and I really liked that. I also loved all the literary references that of course accompanied this book.

The mystery itself kept me guessing, which is always a good sign for a book. It is a bummer when you pick up a mystery and guess who it is right off, and I did not do that with this book. I also enjoyed the parallel of the love triangle within this book compared to the one in Sleepy Hollow (one of my favorite stories!)

Also, seriously how cool would it be to live above a library, much less one in a lighthouse? I have always thought living in a lighthouse would be so cool, and contemplated for a second applying to live at the Mission Point Lighthouse in Michigan for a week. I still would love to do it but right now it is just not practical. And another thing I loved was Charles, the library cat, who kept me entertained with his antics. I have my own opinionated Himalayan here at home, so I know just how well this breed can judge the company around them. Lol.

Overall, I really enjoyed this quick, cozy mystery – curl up with it, get cozy as the genre suggests and enjoy!

Book Review: The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs

Goodreads Summary:

Connie Goodwin is an expert on America’s fractured past with witchcraft. A young, tenure-track professor in Boston, she’s earned career success by studying the history of magic in colonial America—especially women’s home recipes and medicines—and by exposing society’s threats against women fluent in those skills. But beyond her studies, Connie harbors a secret: She is the direct descendant of a woman tried as a witch in Salem, an ancestor whose abilities were far more magical than the historical record shows.

When a hint from her mother and clues from her research lead Connie to the shocking realization that her partner’s life is in danger, she must race to solve the mystery behind a hundreds’-years-long deadly curse.

Flashing back through American history to the lives of certain supernaturally gifted women, The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs affectingly reveals not only the special bond that unites one particular matriarchal line, but also explores the many challenges to women’s survival across the decades—and the risks some women are forced to take to protect what they love most. 

My Thoughts:

I loved The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, and I was so excited when I saw that Katherine Howe had written a new book as a sequel to Constance’s story. I read this one eagerly and quickly, and really loved it.

The story picks up ten years after the first, and Constance is a professor working on tenure. She is still with Sam and while they are having some ups and downs in their relationship, they are still solid. However, her family has a secret, one that she must find the cure for before time is up.

I loved how this book flashed back through the decades to Constance’s ancestry, all the way back to Deliverance herself. We see glimpses of what the women of her bloodline have lived through, and how their family history has affected them. I loved seeing these small hints of the past, and it reminded me somewhat of Anne Rice’s Witching Hour, and reading the Talmasca history of the Mayfair Witches. (one of my favorite books ever, btw)

In between these introductions to Connie’s past, we are caught up with Connie and her race to find the answers she needs. Zazi, the student that she mentors, is a great addition to this story and I loved her presence and interests. Her character widens the range from the New England Puritan witchcraze to the south and voodoo and other forms and studies of witchcraft. I really hope that we get a book about her!

My only complaint really about this book is that it lacked a certain sense of urgency. I know we were supposed to feel that the situation was urgent and dire, but it didn’t really feel that way, until all of a sudden it was, if that makes sense. I could have used a little more build up besides the exposition of being told that it was urgent. Otherwise, I loved this book. I love books about academia and witches so this one was right up my alley, and well done. A great book to start the spooky season, as it was not really spooky but definitely supernatural!

A Few Mini-Reviews

It’s been a minute since I have posted any mini-reviews and I have been reading so many good mini reviews lately that I have decided to do a few of my own!

Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered: I love this podcast and I was so excited to read this book, that I never even bothered to read what this book was about! I figured it was going to be more true crime, but it was more self-help than anything. I still really enjoyed it, and while I find Karen and Georgia fun on their podcast, it was nice to hear their voices describe their own lives and past mistakes and how they have moved on, without all the banter. Some good truths in this book! I found it so relatable, but maybe because I was a less than perfect teen and twenty year old, who made some crazy mistakes too. (If I’m being honest, I still do!)

Brazen: Rebel Ladies who Rocked the World: This book blew me away, honestly. I learned about women I had never heard of before, I read about women I had heard about, and it was all presented in graphic novel form. I picked it up on a whim, and loved the illustrations, the message, the facts. I even found some new role models! Amazing read, loved it and read it all in one afternoon! I plan on seeking out more of Bagieu’s work soon.

Leaving Time: Another one that really was amazing. This is my first Jodi Picoult book and if all of her writing is like this, no one wonder she is so loved. This was our book club pick for my neighborhood book club, and the woman who chose it told me she thought I would like it. And I did! Half of the book was about elephants, and if you are familiar with my blog, you will know that I love animals and learning about animals. And these elephants will break your heart; you will never look at an elephant the same way again. At it’s core this book is about loss and grief and mothers and healing, and is so beautifully written. And then the end, I just didn’t see it coming. Excellent book.

Book Review: Forgotten Bones

Goodreads Summary:

When small-town police officers discover the grave of a young boy, they’re quick to pin the crime on a convicted felon who lives nearby. But when it comes to murder, Officer Susan Marlan never trusts a simple explanation, so she’s just getting started.

Meanwhile, college professor Eric Evans hallucinates a young boy in overalls: a symptom of his schizophrenia—or so he thinks. But when more bodies turn up, Eric has more visions, and they mirror details of the murder case. As the investigation continues, the police stick with their original conclusion, but Susan’s instincts tell her something is off. The higher-ups keep stonewalling her, and the FBI’s closing in.

Desperate for answers, Susan goes rogue and turns to Eric for help. Together they take an unorthodox approach to the case as the evidence keeps getting stranger. With Eric’s hallucinations intensifying and the body count rising, can the pair separate truth from illusion long enough to catch a monster?

My Thoughts:

This book was really good!! When the bones of a young boy are unearthed, the police feel like they already know exactly who committed the murder – which is not super great police work, but in their defense, the body was found near the land of a convicted felon, who had been in jail for his crimes against children. So they thought, slam dunk. Officer Susan Harlan though couldn’t let it rest, just like those bones couldn’t rest.

Eric is new in town, new to that side of the country even, having relocated after a nasty divorce. Eric also has schizophrenia, a usually well-controlled schizophrenia, but knows that the move and the stress of everything may cause triggers. So when he starts to have wild, vivid hallucinations, he chalks it up to that – although, as things begin to change in the investigation, so do his hallucinations. There was one particularly terrifying one that made me wonder if I was going to be able to sleep that night!

Vivian Barz has a note at the end of her book about how she has a friend who has schizophrenia, who had once stated that she wanted to read a book that had a schizophrenic who was not the bad guy. So Barz wrote that book for her (I don’t consider this to be ruining anything, you know right off the bat it can’t be Eric who is the bad guy as he was never even in that state). I really loved this perspective! How many times have we seen schizophrenia be the reason in a book that someone commits a crime? Compare that to the amount of times we have seen someone who has schizophrenia not be the criminal and that is a very very wide gap. I thought this was such a great new portrayal of that particular mental illness, to show another side that we don’t see in media, one where a person has their schizophrenia managed and can hold a job, have a life, etc.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The mystery was intriguing, scary and pulled me along to the end very willingly. If you are looking for a thriller, try this one!

Thank you to NetGalley for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

What Wyatt’s Reading – August

We have been reading like crazy over here! I usually do this post at the end of the month or I try to, but we have been reading so much that I posted early. These are our favorites so far this month… some his, some mine lol.

I am Not a Skunk is a super adorable book about a cat that was mistaken for a skunk – when the family realized it really was a cat, they gave him a home! We were graciously gifted this book by author Ellen Pilch, and Wyatt loves it! The cat in the book looks so much like our Maggie cat!

We read two Mermaid books too – Wyatt loved the story of Pearl, a mermaid whose job it was to raise the moon, and I loved Tallulah, and her petoskey stone. (plus, we are Michiganders!)

I have read Over in a River over and over and over…this was a favorite of Wyatt’s. It had a great map of some of the rivers of the United States and the animals that call those rivers home. Really cool.

Leo Lionni, Kevin Henkes, and Eric Carle are perennial favorites, am I right? I totally love Henkes books and was so excited to share them with Wyatt when he was born. He loves them too, and he is also a fan of Lionni, an author I never really was super drawn to but now see the appeal, thanks to the kiddo. And Eric Carle is just so talented! I do have to say the illustration in this book of the grouchy ladybug saying “Go away” kind of makes me giggle, which is wrong, I know. Something about it though…lol.

Finally our pal Crinkleroot! I love these books to teach Wyatt about nature. This one is a little advanced for him but was a good place to start. And I learned from it too!

Have you read any of these?

Book Review: Relative Fortunes by Marlowe Benn

Publisher Summary:

In 1920s New York, the price of a woman’s independence can be exorbitant—even fatal.

In 1924 Manhattan, women’s suffrage is old news. For sophisticated booklover Julia Kydd, life’s too short for politics. With her cropped hair and penchant for independent living, Julia wants only to launch her own new private press. But as a woman, Julia must fight for what’s hers—including the inheritance her estranged half brother, Philip, has challenged, putting her aspirations in jeopardy.

When her friend’s sister, Naomi Rankin, dies suddenly of an apparent suicide, Julia is shocked at the wealthy family’s indifference toward the ardent suffragist’s death. Naomi chose poverty and hardship over a submissive marriage and a husband’s control of her money. Now, her death suggests the struggle was more than she could bear.

Julia, however, is skeptical. Doubtful of her suspicions, Philip proposes a glib wager: if Julia can prove Naomi was in fact murdered, he’ll drop his claims to her wealth. Julia soon discovers Naomi’s life was as turbulent and enigmatic as her death. And as she gets closer to the truth, Julia sees there’s much more at stake than her inheritance…

My Thoughts:

This book was the bee’s knees!! It checked a lot of boxes for me, and so much more. I love mysteries, and the 20s, but this book took those ideas to the next level. At first, it seems like a simple murder mystery, where a high society woman who happens to also be clever mixes in attempting to solve it. Julia however is much more than just a clever rich lady looking for a distraction. She is self-possessed, has a lover, independent, intelligent – and currently waiting for her 25th birthday when she can take control of her own inheritance and not depend on her older brother to dole an allowance out to her.

Julia becomes embroiled in the mystery of Naomi Rankin’s death through the admission of her friend Glennis, who is shocked by her sister Naomi’s sudden death, which appears as a suicide. Yet neither woman is buying that. Julia is pulled further into the mystery when Glennis invites her to a private family meeting about Naomi’s passing, and is shocked by how the family is more anxious to sweep it all under the rug without a second look. That family is a piece of work, and negotiating their family politics and relationships was a bit confusing – there were so many! All of them with different motives and personal agendas too, it seems…

As she and her friend dig deeper into what really happened that night to Naomi, Julia is also facing a few challenges herself, most importantly the fact that her brother Phillip has challenged the will, stating that he is entitled to the family fortune, which would leave Julia with nothing. She imagines her own dreams going up in smoke, of being an independent woman, and of continuing on with her own private press of books, Capriole. When Phillip proposes a wager regarding the cause of Naomi’s death, Julia doesn’t hesitate to accept.

Julia is led up and down and all around trying to solve this mystery, and her discoveries shed light on what life really was like for a woman in the 20s, where their financial freedom and sexual freedoms were not necessarily their own, as Julia herself comes to realize. We think of the Roaring Twenties as good times, jazz, dancing until dawn, and drinking, but we forget about the women fighting in the trenches for women’s rights. Sadly, even now, not every state has ratified the Equal Rights Amendment which is a proposed amendment that will guarantee equal rights to every citizen regardless of gender, in regards to divorce, property, employment, and other matters. Still to the day. Almost a hundred years later and the fight still continues. Benn’s novel does a wonderful job of marrying the mystery to the early days of the women’s right movement, and it fit the story perfectly.

I loved this book! I love even more that this book is listed as number one in the Julia Kydd series, meaning there will be more! I can’t wait to read more about Julia and where her journey will take her.

 

Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.