Books, Diversity, Reviews

Dogears: A Separation from a Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of WitchesWritten By: Deborah Harkness. Narrated By: Jennifer Ikeda. Publisher: Penguin. AudioDate: February 2011. Unabridged Audiobook.

Deborah Harkness
Narrated by Jennifer Ikeda
Penguin Books
February 2011

As a teenager, I had wanted to like the Twilight series. Everyone around me seemed to be riding that train, and I always wanted to like fun; I never have. I read Stephenie Meyer’s series with increasing disdain and eventually eviscerating the books in my high school newspaper. (I received a few hate letters the following month, but it was nice to know my peers actually picked up the paper.)

I had wanted to be swept up in the bloodthirsty romance of vampire and human, but had been left feeling unsatisfied by their lukewarm romance and Meyer’s tendency to talk down to the reader. I like an author who treats me like a peer or even expects me to be smarter than I am. For a while, I was burned out on the vampire genre, which is why I missed A Discovery of Witches when it came out in 2011.

This book is most of what I’d wanted in the younger book, including academia, lust, and magic. Supernatural romance should feel supernatural! In Harkness’s tale, Diana Bishop is a witch who struggles with accepting her own powers and who finds herself falling for a very old, very sexy vampire, Matthew Clairmont. It’s not quite as romantic (read: sexual) as I’d like, but the dozens of references to philosophers and medieval scientists I studied in undergrad make up for it.

This is also my latest audiobook purchase, and Jennifer Ikeda is incredible! Not only does she handle dozens of different accents like a champ, her voice is also so smooth and sensual. I’m starting the second book in the trilogy as soon as I’m done typing this review, so bye!

—Al Rosenberg

The Mothers The Mothers Brit Bennett Riverhead Books October 11, 2016

Brit Bennett
Riverhead Books
October 2016

This deeply moving story takes on the hard stuff, developing a rich cast of characters without getting too complicated or bogged down in details. It is not to be missed.

The Mothers are a group of ladies who dedicate their time to helping others through their town’s church. They pray for everyone, visit the sick, teach Sunday school, the works. Naturally, they know what’s going on around town, or at least have a good idea, and word gets around, for better or for worse.

This book is about a few different people who are in pain, who mess up, who try and seek solace in each other’s company, only to rip their wounds open again years later when new situations arise. The story is told in multiple perspectives, and it’s a powerful read about female friendship and dealing with hardship, but trucking on anyway. It takes place over the course of several years, starting around when the main characters are teenagers and into their adulthood when their past (covert relationships, pregnancy, abortion, and betrayal) bubbles back to the surface. It’s a quick read, and you won’t want to put it down.

The themes that shine throughout this story are fierce hope and determination. A determination to live, a hope for a better future, and Bennett does this rare thing where you aren’t really left wondering what the characters are up to after the last page because you know that they’re going to keep trying to move forward. Even after betrayal. Even after ruin.

—Kristina Pino

Editor’s Note: You can also check out another review of Brit Bennett’s The Mothers on WWAC.

 The Separation The Separation Katie Kitamura Riverhead Books February 7, 2017

Katie Kitamura
Riverhead Books
February 7, 2017

Isabella and her husband Christopher have decided to separate. For the first six months they decide to keep it to themselves, but then Christopher goes missing during a trip to Greece. It would seem strange to their friends and family if Isabella didn’t go looking for him, so next thing she knows she’s in Greece, checking into the same hotel. He isn’t there, but the hotel staff remember him and still have his things, so she decides to wait for his return. While she waits she learns some new things about him and what he was doing there and has time to reflect back on their relationship, his cheating, and everything they once meant to one another.

I have to admit that I was disappointed to find that this wasn’t more of a mystery. When I first heard about this book, it was described as a kind of psychological thriller. But in fact, there is very little mystery at all. You find quite early on what happened to Christopher, and more of the story is devoted to Isabella and her internal monologue. She’s an interesting character, but I found the story dragged quite a bit and was left fairly unsatisfied at the end. If you like books that are a kind of deep dive into the psychology of a marriage and/or the end of a marriage, this may be of more interest to you, but it wasn’t what I was looking for.

—Christa

FrostbloodFrostblood Elly Blake Little Brown Books for Young Readers January 10, 2017

Elly Blake
Little Brown Books for Young Readers
January 10, 2017

In the first book of the Frostblood Saga, Elly Blake introduces readers to a world with two types of magical folks. The Firebloods, whose powers are controlled by heat and flame, and the Frostbloods, whose powers are controlled by cold and ice. Once upon a time, the two groups lived together, but over the years the Frostbloods became the ruling class, and the Firebloods were either killed or driven into hiding. Seventeen-year-old Ruby, if one of those hidden Firebloods. She’s lived her whole life in a tiny village, trying to avoid detection, but one day the king’s men come looking, and her mother is killed while trying to protect her. She manages to escape and swears that one day she will get her revenge.

Along the way, she meets a group of Frostblood monks who are sympathetic to her cause. They don’t believe all Firebloods are evil, and they think their King has gone mad with power and needs to be stopped. They believe Ruby may be the one who can defeat him and they offer her shelter and training in exchange for her help.

The beginning of this story starts off a little slow, but once the world is established, and you get to know Ruby, it really picks up. At first, Ruby is nervous and scared, and why shouldn’t she be? She’s been hiding her whole life and they’ve taken everyone and everything from her. But she really comes into her own as the story continues. And then there’s the romance. It’s a bit of a slow burn. When you first meet Arcus he doesn’t seem like a love interest. He’s quiet, grumpy and repeatedly makes it known that he doesn’t like having Ruby there. And in the beginning, Ruby feels the same way. But as they train together, they slowly begin to learn more about one another and their feelings begin to change. The development of their relationship was well done and a refreshing change from the instant romance often found in Young Adult fantasy.

That being said, there’s not a lot else in Frostblood that distinguishes from other fantasy novels out there. The elemental magic, the two warring factions, the one character with the ability to save them all, are all things we’ve seen before. But Blake’s writing is fast paced and a lot of fun, so it’s easy to get swept up in the action, adventure, and romance. I thankful that we only have to wait until September to find out what happens next.

—Christa