ARC Mini Review: 18 Tiny Deaths|| Bruce Goldfarb

18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics by Bruce Goldfarb

Non-Fiction

336 pages

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Publication Date: 4 February 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

The story of the Gilded Age Chicago heiress who revolutionized forensic death investigation. As the mother of forensic science, Frances Glessner Lee is the reason why homicide detectives are a thing. She is responsible for the popularity of forensic science in television shows and pop culture. Long overlooked in the history books, this extremely detailed and thoroughly researched biography will at long last tell the story of the life and contributions of this pioneering woman.

I received an e-ARC from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

My Thoughts: 

I think I should stop requesting ARCs for non-fiction titles, because I’m always stumped when I have to write a review. But here goes:

I enjoyed most of the book. It was well researched, and a fascinating portrait of a fierce and intelligent woman. For the rest, it was a history of the birth of modern forensics in the United States.

In many instances there was way too much detail and a bunch of extraneous information. Part of one chapter relates the events of a dinner at Frances Glessner Lee’s parents home where they entertained the Flonzaley Quartet. It goes so far as to describe who sat next to whom at the dinner table, which was completely irrelevant to the overall narrative.

In other instances, the narrative veers completely away from Frances Glessner Lee, and it takes some time for it to become apparent how these threads connect back to her.

The narrative a bit dry in places and I found myself skimming parts in the middle section, but ultimately everything is pulled together again in the last third of the book. I’m happy I read 18 Tiny Deaths, and I’d recommend it to anyone who is particularly interested in the history of forensics in the United States.

 

I received an e-ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: The Language of Cherries|| Jen Marie Hawkins

The Language and Cherries by Jen Marie Hawkins

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Magical Realism

Pages: 260

Publisher: Owl Hollow Press

Publication Date: 11 February 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis

When Evie Perez is cut off from everything she loves and forced to move to Iceland for the summer, she takes her canvas and paintbrushes into the picturesque cherry orchard behind her guesthouse. She stains her lips with stolen cherries in the midnight sun and paints a boy she’s never met.

Oskar is startled to discover Evie in his family’s orchard, and even more surprised to see himself on her canvas. Too ashamed to reveal his stutter, he remains silent as Evie returns day after day to paint, spilling confessions she wouldn’t even tell her priest.

As Evie’s life back home unravels, Oskar wants to comfort her with words, but he knows he’s waited too long, so he uses music instead. But when it all comes to the surface, he knows that if Evie can’t forgive him for lying, he may never forgive himself for surviving.

I received an e-ARC from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

My Thoughts

The Language of Cherries was a quick, easy read for me. At only 260 pages I polished it off in a few hours one afternoon.

I don’t have a lot to say about this one. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from a YA contemporary romance. What sets it apart is the inclusion of magical realism elements, which were a nice touch and helped move the story along.

Chapters alternated between third person, following Evie’s perspective; and first person diary entries from Oskar’s point of view.

I thought that The Language of Cherries was well written, and I enjoyed reading about Oskar and Evie’s relationship as it developed.

Both characters are extremely creative individuals, and both have their share of problems. Oskar has a stutter, which causes him a lot of anxiety. But he’s also dealing with grief. The two combined have caused him to isolate himself from basically everyone around him. Meanwhile, Evie is dealing with family problems, and the declining state of her grandmother’s mental acuity due to dementia. In addition, she has been physically isolated by the move to Iceland.

I liked how there was a balance between the romantic elements and the exploration of the characters’ lives in general. I thought the themes of grief and isolation were handled really well, and I appreciated that both characters are experiencing those things for very different reasons.

Overall, I’d recommend this book to fans of YA contemporary/ romances.

 

ARC Review: Lady Hotspur|| Tessa Gratton

Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton

Fantasy

592 pages

Publisher: Tor Books

7 January 2020

⭐️

DNF 32%

Synopsis

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Lady Hotspur continues the saga of Innis Lear, centuries later, as revolution, love, and a betrayal corrupt the descendants of two warring kingdoms.

Hal was once a knight, carefree and joyous, sworn to protect her future queen Banna Mora. But after a rebellion led by her own mother, Caleda, Hal is now the prince of Lionis, heir to the throne. The pressure of her crown and bloody memories of war plague her, as well as a need to shape her own destiny, no matter the cost.

Lady Hotspur, known as the Wolf of Aremoria for her temper and warcraft, never expected to be more than a weapon. She certainly never expected to fall in love with the fiery Hal or be blindsided by an angry Queen’s promise to remake the whole world in her own image—a plan Hotspur knows will lead to tragedy.

Banna Mora kept her life, but not her throne. Fleeing to Innis Lear to heal her heart and plot revenge, the stars and roots of Innis Lear will teach her that the only way to survive a burning world is to learn to breathe fire.

These three women, together or apart, are the ones who have the power to bring the once-powerful Aremoria back to life—or destroy it forever.

My Thoughts

Lady Hotspur was a mistake on my part, for many reasons. The first of which is I don’t really love Shakespeare, I know nothing about his play Henry IV, and I have only come across one retelling I actually liked. The second reason was that I requested this while still reading The Queens of Innis Lear (my second attempt). I ended up DNFing both.

So Lady Hotspur is a genderbent retelling of Henry IV, featuring queer characters, and three strong female leads. Sounds good right? I thought so too.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to love this book is because of Tessa Gratton’s writing. It is absolutely beautiful. It has a kind of lilting, lyrical quality to it that I enjoy reading.

And her worldbuilding usually has an ethereal, otherworldly feel that completely mesmerises me. Lady Hotspur had less of it than The Queens of Innis Lear, and I really missed it.

One of the big problems for me was the fact that the book is so huge, and the pacing is so slow. The start is a jumble of names and details and relationships that was hard to untangle. While I applaud using terms that have traditionally been assigned to males (such as duke and prince) for female characters, it did add somewhat to the confusion.

I also found it hard to connect to the characters, despite this being quite a character driven book. I don’t feel any emotional investment in Prince Hal, Lady Hotspur, or Banna Mora. I didn’t care enough about any of them to finish. I also didn’t think the prior relationships between the characters was established enough to be believable. It was very much a case of ‘telling, not showing.’

Sadly, this book was a bit of a miss for me. When I get the time I will definitely go back to The Queens of Innis Lear, but I probably won’t give Lady Hotspur another go.

Thanks to Netgalley and Tor for giving me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Let’s Chat!

Have you read any of Tessa Gratton’s books? Do you like slower paced books? Any other thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!

ARC Review: Havenfall Extract|| Sara Holland

Havenfall by Sara Holland

YA Fantasy

320 pages

Publication Date: 3 March 2020

Bloomsbury YA

# 1 in series

Synopsis

A safe haven between four realms. The girl sworn to protect it–at any cost.

Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds–each with their own magic–together. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.

For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic first-hand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie’s brother. It’s where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it’s where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.

But this summer, the impossible happens–a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She’ll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer Taya, who seems to know more than she’s letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie–no one can be trusted, and no one is safe . . .

My Thoughts

I only got to read an extract of the first two chapters, so my thoughts only reflect the portion I read.

That being said, those first few chapters completely drew me in. Havenfall has a lot of promise: Mystery, politics between worlds, and magic for starters.

Havenfall (the inn, not the town, or the book) exists at a magical crossroads between adjacent worlds. Only four worlds are know. To exist now and one has been magically closed due to conflict one hundred years ago, but trouble is still brewing. Haven, the only world without magic, is essentially neutral territory.

We seem to have a pretty cool heroine, Maddie, and she has an encounter with a mysterious woman on a motorcycle in the middle of the night. At the moment their relationship seems to lean heavily toward the enemy/rival side of things, so I’m interested to see where that goes in the future.

I’m also interested to explore more about her brothers death, and why her mother is on death row, and how it all ties in to Havenfall.

All in all, I’m looking forward to reading Havenfall in its entirety this coming March!

Mini Review: The Weight of a Soul || Elizabeth Tammi

The Weight of a Soul by Elizabeth Tammi

YA Fantasy

320 pages

Publication date: 3 December 2019

Standalone

Synopsis

When Lena’s younger sister Fressa is found dead, their whole Viking clan mourns—but it is Lena alone who never recovers. Fressa is the sister that should’ve lived, and Lena cannot rest until she knows exactly what killed Fressa and why—and how to bring her back. She strikes a dark deal with Hela, the Norse goddess of death, and begins a new double life to save her sister.

But as Lena gets closer to bringing Fressa back, she dredges up dangerous discoveries about her own family, and finds herself in the middle of a devastating plan to spur Ragnarök –a deadly chain of events leading to total world destruction.

Still, with her sister’s life in the balance, Lena is willing to risk it all. She’s willing to kill. How far will she go before the darkness consumes her?

My Thoughts

I’m just going to say it upfront. I really didn’t enjoy this book. I thought the synopsis sounded cool, the cover was pretty, and I’m interested in Norse mythology, so it seemed like it was going to be amazing. I was wrong.

It was easy enough to read, but I felt a real disconnect. I think this was partly due to the use of third person limited narration. Even if it was told in first person from Lena’s perspective there were other things that bothered me.

For starters, the characters were superficial. None of them had any depth. It felt a bit more like a draft than a polished novel, outlining where everyone was, and roughly what they were doing, and saying. It suffered from the whole ‘telling not showing’ the reader what was happening thing.

The internal chronology was also a bit off. Time jumped all over the place, with absolutely no indication that it had done so.

My biggest problem was Lena herself. I couldn’t understand her choices, because no sane person would make them. Everything seemed like an over-reaction, and completely out of proportion with whatever precipitated it.

And the ending? The biggest cop out ever. I understand why the author decided to go in that direction, and it seems like it is supposed to be edgy, but I think it was a bad choice.

Have you read The Weight of a Soul? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Mini Review: Whisper || Lynette Noni

Whisper by Lynette Noni

YA Science Fiction

320 pages

Pantera Press

Published: May 2018

#1 of 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Synopsis

“Lengard is a secret government facility for extraordinary people,” they told me.

I believed them. That was my mistake.

There isn’t anyone else in the world like me.

I’m different. I’m an anomaly. I’m a monster.

For two years, six months, fourteen days, eleven hours and sixteen minutes, Subject Six-Eight-Four — ‘Jane Doe’ — has been locked away and experimented on, without uttering a single word.

As Jane’s resolve begins to crack under the influence of her new — and unexpectedly kind — evaluator, she uncovers the truth about Lengard’s mysterious ‘program’, discovering that her own secret is at the heart of a sinister plot … and one wrong move, one wrong word, could change the world.

CW: PTSD, torture, medical experiments

My Thoughts

I read this book for my book club, and oh wow. Whisper is completely addictive. It was honestly hard to put down. The first half is psychological thriller, and the mystery had me completely enthralled. The second half is more action thriller. It was exciting, fast- paced, and easy to read.

Jane’s character development was believable and I was happy to follow her, as she learned more about Lengard, and the reason why she is there. I also really enjoyed the friendships between Jane and the other characters.

One of the big themes of Whisper is the power of words – their ability to harm, or to change the world.

I picked some of the twists (that’s not a criticism) and some blew me away. However, I do wish some of the big reveals had a little more foreshadowing. There was a major info dump toward the end of the book, and I wish it had unfolded a bit more slowly.

My only other big issue was related to the ‘bad guy.’ He lacks depth, and things were attributed to him that seemed utterly impossible, and that really took me out of the story.

Whisper definitely has X-Men vibes, so if you’re a fan of the comics or the movies, you may enjoy this book. It also reminded me of This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada, and Lexicon by Max Barry.

 

 

 

Fairytale Retelling Mini Reviews|| Stepsister/ Robbergirl

These were both average reads for me, and I don’t have a lot to say about them, but here goes.

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

YA Fantasy

352 Pages

Publication: 14 May 2019

Standalone

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis

Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe … which is now filling with blood.

When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.

Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.

Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.

Comments

CW: violence, gore, self-mutilation

For the most part I found the writing fairly engaging. There were three main points of view: Isabelle, our (anti) heroine; Fate, an elderly woman who, with her sisters, decides the fates of mortals (think Greek Morai); and finally Chance, a young-looking man (completely bonkers, by the way) who tries to give humans a chance at deciding their own path.

I did struggle sometimes with Fate and Chance’s perspectives, but I could see why they were included.

There were overt feminist themes happening here, and while I like feminist spins, I prefer them to be subtle. Like poison slipped into your drink, not a piano falling on your head. Another major theme was the question of nature versus circumstance in defining an individual’s direction in life, as well as their character and morality.

On the whole, I thought this was a decent read.

Robbergirl by S. T. Gibson

YA Fantasy Novella

201 Pages

Publication: 14 February 2019

Standalone

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis

SAVE THE WITCH, KILL THE SNOW QUEEN

In a Sweden wracked by war and haunted by folk stories so dark they can only be spoken of in whispers, Helvig has been raised by her brigand father to steal whatever treasure catches her eye. When her men ambush a girl on the road with hair pale as death and a raven perched on her shoulder, Helvig cannot resist bringing home a truly unique prize: a genuine witch.

Drawn irresistibly into the other woman’s web, Helvig soon learns of Gerda’s reason for walking the icy border roads alone: to find the Queen who lives at the top of the world and kill her. Anyone else would be smart enough not to believe a children’s story, but Helvig is plagued by enchantments of her own, and she struggles to guard the sins of her past while growing closer to Gerda.

As Christmastide gives way to the thin-veiled days when ghosts are at their most vengeful, the two women find themselves on a journey through forest and Samiland to a final confrontation that will either redeem them or destroy them entirely.

Comments

I don’t have much to say about Robbergirl. It was a good read, but I didn’t feel there was anything particularly outstanding about it. The best part was probably the development of the romantic relationship between Gerda and Helvig. I liked how loving someone of the same sex/gender was largely accepted without question (at least among the gang of robbers.) There was a bit of adventure near the end too, which was quite exciting (and thankfully didn’t drag on and on.) I’d recommend it if you’re a fan of The Snow Queen, fairytale retellings, and you enjoy a bit of a F/F twist to your tales.

Books I’ve Read Recently|| Micro Reviews

#murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil

YA Thriller

⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Easy read
  • Not much in the way of suspense or surprise – I picked every single major plot point in advance
  • Quite gory – a lot of gratuitous violence
  • Thought-provoking themes – the intersection of justice and social media. The idea of retributive justice being consumed via social media. Capitalising on and commodifying the suffering of others. The toxicity and normalisation of bullying on social media. Government outsourcing.
  • Cookie cutter characters, but I didn’t mind very much – I sort of loved the whole Death Row Breakfast Club thing.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Thriller

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • This was an absolute page turner. I read it in a single evening.
  • The atmosphere was creepy, and I felt the suspense the entire time
  • The ending was a little anti-climactic, but I was satisfied enough
  • This probably only really deserves 3 -3.5 stars, but it’s one of the few books this year that have really kept my interest

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

YA Fantasy

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

  • Writing was good – easy to read and paced nicely
  • Plot/Worldbuilding was inspired by a lot of different sources – it did feel a bit cobbled together to me, and my focus was more often drawn to identifying the inspiration, rather than just enjoying the story as an individual entity
  • Wished there had been a bit more focus on the sewing competition, not on the road trip to find the materials for the final dresses
  • Magic system had a lot of potential, but I found it hard to believe magical scissors could paint and bead and embroider material… but the part about magicians was interesting

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

YA Fantasy

⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Not what I was expecting at all – dark fairytales and the magic of stories
  • The pacing varied a lot – not much happened in the first half, and it really sped up near the end
  • Very easy to read, but pretty forgettable
  • My favourite parts were the dark fairytales of The Hinterland
  • Not a lot of character development
  • The world building of the Hazel Wood and the Hinterland was reminiscent of fairytales and Alice in Wonderland- kind of crazy, creepy and full of wonder

And Shall Machines Surrender by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Science Fiction

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    I love the normalisation of all sorts of gender identities
    Liked the exploration of AI and autonomy
    The plot was fast paced and exciting – a mystery surrounding the apparent suicide of AI- human constructs
    I was genuinely surprised by the twists
    The almost-sex scenes were a bit confronting and definitely something you should be aware of if you are uncomfortable with BDSM, but they are very short (a page or two at most)

Mythology Retelling Mini Reviews|| Gods of Jade and Shadow/ The Chaos of Stars/ A Spark of White Fire

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Historical Fantasy

352 Pages

Publication: 23 July 2019

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Synopsis

The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark, one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

General Comments

It started out like Cinderella and Pandora’s box, then turned into an adventure with a Mayan death god.

Gods of Jade and Shadow was written in the third person, and followed three points of view- Casiopea, Martin, and Vucub- Kame. I appreciated the insight into the minds of all three. It made the ‘villains’ less two-dimensional, and I actually understood where they came from.

The world building was very detailed. There was so much information about places, clothes, events, items etc. that I had a very clear picture of the world the characters inhabited. Sometimes it felt like I was reading a textbook though, which I found a bit off putting.

The writing style had the effect of keeping the reader somewhat removed from the characters and action as well. For some, this will make it feel somewhat like a fairytale, but I imagine for others it will be a problem.

The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

Young Adult Fantasy

Publication: September 2013

277 Pages

Standalone

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis

Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up—which comes with the territory when you’re the human daughter of the ancient Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris. Isadora is tired of living with crazy relatives who think she’s only worthy of a passing glance—so when she gets the chance to move to California with her brother, she jumps on it. But her new life comes with plenty of its own dramatic—and dangerous—complications . . . and Isadora quickly learns there’s no such thing as a clean break from family.

General Comments

I struggled with the rating for this one. It’s not a terrible book, and it doesn’t deserve a lower rating. That being said, normally a 3 star book is one I’d still recommend, but I’m not sure I’d really encourage anyone to go out of their way to read this. So let’s just move on to what I liked and disliked.

I liked the mythology aspects of the book, and how ancient Egyptian gods were brought into the modern era.

Isadora, as an MC, was at times hilarious, and others, very annoying. I appreciate that she knows what she’s interested in, and what she’s good at – interior design. I quite liked the snark and sarcasm at times. That being said, she whinges a lot, and it gets irritating and repetitive. There was also very little character development beyond Isadora, and even then, I feel it’s quite limited.

It also wasn’t hard to guess where the plot was going or who the main players were, so there were really no surprises.

A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna

Young Adult Fantasy

311 Pages

#1 of 3

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis

In a universe of capricious gods, dark moons, and kingdoms built on the backs of spaceships, a cursed queen sends her infant daughter away, a jealous uncle steals the throne of Kali from his nephew, and an exiled prince vows to take his crown back.

Raised alone and far away from her home on Kali, Esmae longs to return to her family. When the King of Wychstar offers to gift the unbeatable, sentient warship Titania to a warrior that can win his competition, she sees her way home: she’ll enter the competition, reveal her true identity to the world, and help her famous brother win back the crown of Kali.

It’s a great plan. Until it falls apart.

Inspired by the Mahabharata and other ancient Indian stories, A Spark of White Fire is a lush, sweeping space opera about family, curses, and the endless battle between jealousy and love.

General Comments

I actually cannot think of a single thing I disliked about this book. It had a bit of everything – a smart protagonist, a twisty revenge plan, political intrigue, a touch of romance, a dash of mystery, three dimensional characters, a complicated family dynamic, wonderful writing, fabulous worldbuilding, and an exciting plot.

It was completely gripping, and I had trouble taking breaks from it. I was emotionally invested in every moment. I was laughing, and crying, and anxious, and excited, and angry.

And I was absolutely wrecked by that ending. Good thing book two comes out later this month!

Marilla of Green Gables|| Sarah McCoy

Historical Fiction

288 Pages

Publication: October 2018

Standalone

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

CW: Violence, execution, slavery, death of a loved one

Synopsis

A bold, heartfelt tale of life at Green Gables . . . before Anne: A marvelously entertaining and moving historical novel, set in rural Prince Edward Island in the nineteenth century, that imagines the young life of spinster Marilla Cuthbert, and the choices that will open her life to the possibility of heartbreak—and unimaginable greatness.

Plucky and ambitious, Marilla Cuthbert is thirteen years old when her world is turned upside down. Her beloved mother has dies in childbirth, and Marilla suddenly must bear the responsibilities of a farm wife: cooking, sewing, keeping house, and overseeing the day-to-day life of Green Gables with her brother, Matthew and father, Hugh.

In Avonlea—a small, tight-knit farming town on a remote island—life holds few options for farm girls. Her one connection to the wider world is Aunt Elizabeth “Izzy” Johnson, her mother’s sister, who managed to escape from Avonlea to the bustling city of St. Catharines. An opinionated spinster, Aunt Izzy’s talent as a seamstress has allowed her to build a thriving business and make her own way in the world.

Emboldened by her aunt, Marilla dares to venture beyond the safety of Green Gables and discovers new friends and new opportunities. Joining the Ladies Aid Society, she raises funds for an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity in nearby Nova Scotia that secretly serves as a way station for runaway slaves from America. Her budding romance with John Blythe, the charming son of a neighbor, offers her a possibility of future happiness—Marilla is in no rush to trade one farm life for another. She soon finds herself caught up in the dangerous work of politics, and abolition—jeopardizing all she cherishes, including her bond with her dearest John Blythe. Now Marilla must face a reckoning between her dreams of making a difference in the wider world and the small-town reality of life at Green Gables.

Comments

I will admit it. I was hesitant going in to this book. I felt that it was entirely possible the author may somehow butcher a beloved story. I am so incredibly relieved to report that this was unequivocally NOT the case. Marilla of Green Gables is a quiet sort of book, and in a similar vein to Anne of Green Gables, but much more mature. It also has a bit more of a political bent, but I kind of like the realism.

I read this immediately after reading Anne of Green Gables, and I could see the connections the author had made. It shows very much how Marilla and Matthew (and Rachel Lynde) become the people we meet in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s series. I thought their backstory was believable, and I’m going to find it difficult not to think of this as part of LMM’s canon. I also appreciated the change in narrative voice as the novel progressed – from the childish to more mature.

The book revolves primarily around Marilla’s relationships – with her family, with Rachel, with John Blythe, and to a lesser extent, with the larger Avonlea community. There are a lot of familiar names for fans of the series.

Like AoGG, Marilla of Green Gables is written in the third person, and primarily follows the eponymous heroine. It is divided into three parts, mirroring the titles of three of the  books in Anne’s series – Marilla of Green Gables, Marilla of Avonlea, and Marilla’s House of Dreams.

The first part opens when Marilla is thirteen, and Matthew is twenty-one, focusing on family life, and the arrival of Aunt Isobel, and her new friend, Rachel White (later Lynde).  This part sets up the core relationships that endure throughout the novel, including Marilla’s blossoming relationship with John Blythe.

Part two, Marilla of Avonlea, takes place in the years after part one, with Marilla becoming a woman, taking on household responsibilities, as well as becoming more involved in the Avonlea community. This is where much of the budding romance with John Blythe takes place, against a backdrop of political upheaval in Canada, as well as Marilla’s involvement in charity, and peripherally, The Underground Railroad. This section also advances Matthew’s character development, and I kind of love it.

Part three occurs twenty years after the final events of Marilla of Avonlea. The jump between the two was a bit jarring to start with, but I think it was a smart move on the author’s part. Marilla’s House of Dreams focuses on a middle-aged Marilla – one who is very similar to the woman in Anne of Green Gables. There’s a bit of action in this section, but it quickly gives way to the more thoughtful, quiet style that permeates most of the book.

If I’m being honest, the prologue and the ending (the last two or three pages) were the weakest parts of the book from my perspective. They weren’t terrible, but they didn’t quite pack the punch I want from a prologue and an ending. The rest of the book was well-written, and had a very strong narrative voice, but the first and the last parts didn’t quite feel the same. In the grand scheme of things, these were very minor issues though.

I do feel the need to address one other issue. I’ve read other reviews which took a dim view of the inclusion of certain historical events, such as The Underground Railway. Having read Anne and Marilla back to back, I have to say I disagree. Marilla is a different kind of book than Anne, and ultimately it was not officially condoned by LMM, so McCoy is entitled to her interpretation. It isn’t meant to be part of the AoGG canon (even though I can’t help but think of it as such). I liked the exploration of political and social issues prevalent at the time, and I thought they added more substance to the story.