In the Grip of It by Sheena Kamal

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In the Grip Of It by Sheena Kamal

On a surveillance assignment for a child custody case, PI-in-training Nora Watts finds herself ensconced in a small farming community on a beautiful hippie island in the Pacific Northwest, a place with a reputation for being welcoming to outsiders. But when she arrives there, she discovers her welcome quickly wears thin. Perhaps too quickly.

Salt Spring Island, with a history as a refuge for African Americans fleeing the bonds of slavery, is not a place of refuge for her—and, she suspects, may not be for the people who live there, either.

As she investigates, nothing about this remote community seems to add up. It gets personal as Nora confronts her own complicated feelings toward her estranged daughter and becomes increasingly concerned about the child she’s been tasked to surveil. She discovers that small, idyllic communities can hide very big secrets.

More of a novella than a full-length novel, In the Grip of It touches on a number of interesting and tension-bearing plot devices. There’s the custody angle, where one parent has made choices that affect the other parent’s ability to see his child; this one is blended with the cult angle, where the custodial parent has joined a “community” that is causing the visitation issues. Kamal also touches on integrated “haven” communities, alternative drug therapy, and even veganism. Everything, however, comes back to relationships, and Kamal does a good job of introducing a number of those throughout the mere 90 pages of this story.  The primary characters here, Nora and Leo, are smart and likable, but the story isn’t long enough to really get to know them. While I enjoyed In the Grip of It, I was left wanting more and really hoping the author will produce a full-length novel featuring Nora Watts.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller

Published by: Witness Impulse

Publication Date: May 15th 2018

Number of Pages: 96

ISBN: 0062879324 (ISBN13: 9780062879325)

Series: Nora Watts #1.5

Grab Your Copy of In the Grip Of It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Last week a man came into our PI office, looked around the shabby interior, frowned, and said, “I must have gotten the address wrong.”

“Depends,” I replied. “What are you looking for?”

“An investigator.”

“Nope, you’re in the right place,” I said, looking at his nice suit, shiny shoes, and expensive watch.

“Are you sure? Maybe I should come back later.”

He was clearly trying to make a graceful exit. Before the man could leave, I got up from behind my desk and opened the door to Leo Krushnik’s office. “Leo, there’s someone here to see you.”

“Well,” said the man, who was hesitating behind me, “I’m not really sure that this is the right fit for me.” He was trying to be diplomatic about the condition of our office and what it might say about his own level of desperation that he was here, but we weren’t about to let a potential client go without a fight. His level of desperation was no match for ours.

Leo Krushnik, the head of our little operation, walked around his desk and beamed at the man. “We’re the right fit for anybody,” he said, grasping the man’s hand and giving it a firm shake. “We prefer to keep our overhead low so that we can offer competitive rates to people who need our services, regardless of their personal incomes. Please, have a seat.”

The man sat, a little overwhelmed by Leo’s charm, which is considerable. That day Leo was dressed in linen pants and a simple cotton shirt, as a nod to the heat wave the city was experiencing. He could pull off this look as easily as he pulled off the lie about our rates. We keep our overhead low because this dump on Hastings Street, in the derelict Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, is all we can afford, but clients didn’t need to know that. And even I could admit that the “competitive rates” line sounded good—even true—coming from Leo.

“How can I help you?” Leo asked.

“My name is Ken Barnes, and I’m concerned about my son, Trevor. My ex-wife Cheyenne moved to Salt Spring last year with Trevor and I think she’s gotten into some kind of trouble there. She won’t bring him back to Vancouver and visitation has been difficult.”

Leo frowned. “Because they’re on an island?” Salt Spring wouldn’t be easy to ferry to and from on a regular basis.

“Yes, but that’s not the only reason. She keeps putting off my visits and it’s been difficult to arrange for Trevor to come into Vancouver. I think . . . I think she’s in some kind of cult, to be honest. They call it a commune, but you know those stories about Bountiful?”

“Yes,” said Leo. Everyone knew the stories about Bountiful, British Columbia, where fundamentalist polygamous communities live and proliferate seemingly freely.

“Well, I think it’s something like that. Cheyenne wants to be in some kind of crazy sex cult, sure. She’s not my wife anymore and I really don’t care what she does. But I’m fighting for custody of Trevor. I want him out of there.”

“And you need some ammo.” Leo looks up from his pad, where he’s been taking notes. “You’ve come to the right place, Ken. We’ve done surveillance work for many child-custody cases.” Another lie, but Ken didn’t notice. We’d only done a handful of those, but “many” is relative. “You understand that this won’t be cheap? We’ll have to get out to the island and spend some time gathering information.”

“That’s fine. There’s nothing I won’t pay to get my son out of there. Cheyenne, she . . . well, she struggled with depression and anxiety for years and she let a lot of toxic people into her life who fed on her struggles. It was like a sick downward spiral. When she started doing yoga and got certified as a teacher, I thought she’d changed. But I’m not sure anymore. I know this sounds terrible—I know it does—but I don’t trust her judgment about the people she lets into her life. Especially men.”

“She married you,” Leo said.

“I know, but this is the thing: it’s not about me and her anymore. We’re done. This is about Trevor—and me doing my part as a father, making sure he’s safe. That he has a good life. I just want results.”

“We can’t guarantee results.” This is the first time I’d spoken since the initial exchange. Ken Barnes’s startled gaze meets mine. He’d clearly forgotten I was there, which was not unusual. “Maybe it is a sex cult, maybe it isn’t. All we can do is take a look and document what we find.”

“I know that nothing is certain, but I know my son deserves a healthy, normal life. Whatever they’re doing on that island is not normal. It just isn’t. It’s one step away from homeschooling, and who’s to say they’re not making him do hard labor?”

What is normal, anyway? I didn’t ask Barnes for clarification. I just kept silent as Leo agreed to take his money in exchange for the work. Before he let Barnes go, he pulled him aside. “Nora’s right, Ken, about any sort of guarantee. But what I can say is that if there’s something to find, chances are we will get a sense of it.”

In the next few days, I started the file on Cheyenne Barnes and looked through the information Ken had provided us. “Cheyenne scrubbed her social-media profiles last year,” he explained to me, over the phone. “I thought she was punishing me by erasing the memories and keeping me away from what’s happening with my son, but now that I think about it, there’s something fishy about this whole thing.” So he kept saying.

Cheyenne is smiling in all the photos, and in every single one there is something wistful about her, a faraway look in her eyes. Something that suggests a romantic nature. She’s an instructor for hot yoga, which I thought was stretching for attractive people but later discovered is actually sweaty stretching. Who knew. She’d gone to Salt Spring Island two years ago to work at a yoga retreat and, according to Ken, never came back. She met a man there, a fellow yoga enthusiast, and rebuffed all of Ken’s attempts at reconciliation.
There is very little to be found on Cheyenne Barnes’s new man. He has no social-media profiles of his own, but I did find a picture of him on the Spring Love website. Some people are so attractive it’s almost surreal, and Vikram Sharma is one of them.

***

Excerpt from In the Grip Of It by Sheena Kamal. Copyright © 2018 by Sheena Kamal. Reproduced with permission from Witness Impulse. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Sheena Kamal

SHEENA KAMAL holds an HBA in Political Science from the University of Toronto, and was awarded a TD Canada Trust scholarship for community leadership and activism around the issue of homelessness. Her debut novel, The Lost Ones was inspired by this and by Kamal’s most recent work as a researcher into crime and investigative journalism for the film and television industry.

Catch Up With Our Author On:
sheenakamal.com, Goodreads, & Facebook!

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews and features!

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Sheena Kamal and WitnessImpulse. There will be 10 winners of one (1) print copy of Sheena Kamal’s THE LOST ONES. The giveaway begins on June 1, 2018 and runs through July 1, 2018. Open to U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.

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Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty


WillaBeatty’s debut, Serafina & the Black Cloak, was at the top of my “Best Of” list for 2015 and I have devoured the two sequels, so picking up Willa of the Wood was a no-brainer for me. I have come to expect lush description, clever plotting, and memorable characters from Beatty, but I was unprepared for the flat-out gorgeousness of Willa of the Wood.

Willa is a wholly original character, a member of a Faeran clan living in the Great Smoky Mountains. She is a girl who thinks for herself despite living in a brutal patriarchy, clinging to and preserving the old ways of wood magic taught to her by her Mamaw. She is curious about the “day-folk” and begins to question the hardline social structure of her clan, led by the god-like padaran. This, of course, leads to a break with the clan and a new beginning for Willa but not without some death and destruction.

To be sure, there is far more violence in this book than in the Serafina series, although there is a lovely nod to Serafina in the form of a gorgeous panther. There is also supreme gentleness and caring for nature and fellow beings – Faeran, human, and animal. One of the most interesting things here is the way in which Willa relates to and communicates with trees. To her, trees are living beings and the day-folk who slaughter them with their axes live in “lairs” made from their carcasses. Willa is saved more than once by calling on the power of trees and plants.

Willa is a complex character who moves between the world of the Faeran and that of humans. She is a bridge between two distinct cultures who inherently mistrust each other. I look forward to more stories about Willa and her clan.

Highly recommended for upper grade readers.

Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Publisher: Disney/Hyperion
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

June Micro-Reviews


8B37192E-A543-4504-B64D-0471320DBA07Dark Tide Rising by Anne Perry – Anne Perry has delivered yet another well-plotted mystery featuring Inspector Monk and his band of Thames River Police. If you are a fan of the Monk series, this will not disappoint. If you haven’t read Monk, the nice thing about Perry’s series is that you can pick it up in the middle and stillunderstand what’s happening. Then, you will go back and read them all. Recommended.

Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

 

 

9BEAF73C-CF38-4127-BDB2-B31BFAF6986CFlorida by Lauren Groff – Lauren Groff has delivered a collection of absolutely gorgeous prose in the form of short stories all tied to Florida. Strung through with common threads of family, women, and children, each story is an exquisite vignette showcasing the often ugly underbelly of life in the Sunshine State. From children abandoned on a deserted island, to a temporarily failed scholar-turned-homeless, to a common character who seems to be Groff herself, these stories resonate and amplify the real possibility that your life, no matter how idyllic, can be fucked up at any time by circumstance and chance.

I met Groff at a literary event shortly after Trump was elected, and boy was she pissed. I sense much of that anger in these stories and have to assume writing these was somewhat of a catharsis for her. We often produce our best work while under stress, and I think that’s happened here. This one should appear on all the “Best of 2018” lists because it’s that good. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Publisher: Penguin
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

7005C9A4-1EA8-4651-AF3F-0E5FF3F73EC0The Deepest Grave by Jeri Westerson – Ellis Peters set the standard for medieval mysteries with the Cadfael series, but Jeri Westerson’s Crispin Guest more than matches up with the intrepid monk. Westerson has delivered a tightly plotted mystery with just enough human drama and a didn’t-see-it-coming plot twist at the end that had me sitting up and taking notice that this is an author to watch. The protagonist, Crispin Guest, a disgraced knight now turned “Tracker” (the medieval version of a PI), is a flawed but dignified, smart, and decent man who uses his deductive powers to solve crimes for money. His relationships are complicated to be sure, but Westerson writes Guest as the Good Guy who will always put the greater good above his own needs and desires. I look forward to more of Crispin Guest. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: August 1, 2018
Publisher: Severn House
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

 

Blue Moon Narthex by N.J. Donner


 

It’s 1919 and thirteen-year-old Cole McCarthy just wants more time with his father, who is a busy railroad executive. But a horrific train accident leaves Cole’s stepmother as his only family. Alone and lost, Cole wanders his family’s estate and runs into an old family friend who gives him a special object that belonged to his father.

Cole just wants to be a kid, not the owner of the most powerful object in the world. The Blue Moon Narthex is made from tangible bits of Karma and gives Cole the power to transport himself and control Karma.

Now, Alsin Gideon, traitor of the Legion of Karma, is on rampage to take Cole’s narthex and add to his body count. For their safety, Cole and two of his prep school friends are pulled into the enormous secret headquarters of the Legion, which operates like an underground 1920s spy organization. While living at the secret location, Cole learns about the secret double life of his father.

With the pressure to find his role within the legion, maintain a strained relationship with his stepmother, and live up to a daunting legacy left by his father Cole, withdraws and makes secret plans to take on his father’s enemies.

Alsin Gideon cleverly taunts Cole, to meet him at a prearranged battle meant for his father. Cole’s anger and determination boil over and he is willing to risk his powerful tool and Karma’s stability for the hope of getting his parents back.

Will Cole, along with his friends, be able to work together to bring back his parents, keep Karma’s in balance, and stay alive?

Book Title: The Blue Moon Narthex by N.J. Donner
Category: Middle-grade Fiction (Ages 8 to 12) 360 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Steele Page Press
Release date: February 7, 2017
Tour dates: June 4 to 29, 2018
Content Rating: PG (Some violence between forces of good and evil, but it’s not bloody or gory)

To follow the tour, please visit N.J. Donner’s page on iRead Book Tours.

Buy the Book:
 
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Meet the Author: 

N.J. Donner is a dad who loves to tell stories and create worlds. He has created 3D models of parts of the Legion’s secret headquarters and drawn extensive maps of the underground world where the Legion operates. He loves to explore and to figure out why and how things work, including Karma.When he’s not writing, N.J. runs a successful steel fabrication business in the Midwest. He loves to travel with his wife, Amanda, and their three children.

Six books are planned for the series taking the three main characters and the Legion of Karma to new continents and new adventures across the world.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Book Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

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Ends July 7, 2018

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Reader Profile – Hannah Ralston


D7EFB933-16A7-45EA-BFC8-4FAF0FBD0738Hannah Ralston is still relatively new to “libraryland,” having just about 5 years of experience under her belt.  She’s worked in both academic and public libraries, and she considers herself to be the “swing” librarian at Webster (NY) Public Library because she’s happy to assist in the Children’s, Teen or Adult departments (even though technically she’s a grown up librarian – read that as you will). When not at the library, she likes to read. Surprise! She also enjoys yoga, swimming, beach and forest bathing, funny TV shows, and hanging out with her shaggy labradoodle.

Write a one-sentence description of yourself as a Reader.
I read all sorts of things and I read them slowly, taking time to absorb and digest, sometimes getting bored, always following my intuition.

What are you reading right now?
I’ve been reading a lot of poetry this year. Right now, I’m reading The Passages of Joy by Thom Gunn. I usually try to read a mix of fiction and non-fiction at the same time (even though fiction is incredibly difficult for me to stay interested in), so I’m also reading Dubliners by James Joyce.

The desert island question – What 5 books would you have to have with you if you were stranded on a deserted island?

  1. The first book I would make sure to have is a Field Guide/Plant Identification book specific to that region.
  2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  3. Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich
  4. The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne
  5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Are you a finisher? In other words, are you compelled to finish a book even if you hate it? What are some books that you’ve had to force yourself to finish, or which you’ve bailed on?

Nope! Life is too short, and there is too much to read waste time on a book you don’t like. I recently quit two popular books:The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. They just weren’t catching my interest. I’ve heard that you should know by page 45 whether or not a book has grabbed you, but I usually give it 70 pages to be more forgiving. I also struggled, really fought with myself, through Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. I love poetry, and I wrote a lot in college, but it’s been really disappointing for me to slog through the poetry of my peers. Most millennial poetry seems like quick summaries of notes, jotted onto a legal pad during a therapy session. It’s whiny and aggressive, shallow and unskilled. I understand that it’s opened doors for many non-readers to get into poetry, so I’ll let that be the end of my rant for now.

Do you ever read the end of a book first? Why or why not?

Oh, I know that this is such a bad habit… It’s like the one thing that really makes me feel like I’m sinning as a reader. I do have a little bit of “story anxiety,” so every once in a while I’ll peek at the last line. It’s horrible! I wish I didn’t do it. It usually doesn’t help my nerves in any way! It’s been a while since I’ve done that, but I know my weakness.

Who is your go-to author when someone asks you for a recommendation?

It depends what type of book they are looking for… I don’t have a go-to author for non-fiction, but I have a few go-to books like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Tiny Beautiful Things. For adult fiction, I like to recommend Donna Tartt and Sue Monk Kidd. If a teen or adult is looking to try graphic novels for the first time I’ll recommend Bryan Lee O’Malley. There are just too many great recommendations for kids! It really depends on the request.

What book do you wish you’d never read?

I really felt like Milk and Honey, as mentioned above, was a waste of my time and frustration. I’m also going to go ahead and just say it… I’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey, and for me that may have been a life mistake.

Has any book defined your life, as in you would be a different person if you hadn’t read it?

When I was ten years old, my father read the Chronicles of Narnia to me before bed every night. That was a life changing experience for me. I had always been a strong reader, but these books opened up a whole different world to me. It may have been the stories, or it may have been the time with my dad, but something about that ritual made me a life-long reader.

Describe your favorite place to read.

I will forever prefer to read in bed, which, according to The Atlantic (https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/05/reading-in-bed/527388/), is dangerous and “depraved.” What can I say? I like to live on the wild side.

What is your preferred format? Hardcover, paperback, digital, audio, doesn’t matter?

I love audiobooks! For the first 2 years that I was working at Webster Public Library, I was commuting from Canandaigua. The long daily drive turned me into a huge fan of the audio format. Surprisingly, I’m not listening to anything right now, but I like to have one audio and one printed book going at the same time when they’re available.

If you were to get a bookish tattoo, what would it be?

I already have some brainstormed! I’ve wanted a Watchmen tattoo ever since I read it about 5 years ago. It would be an owl, with a stopwatch in its talons, and the following quote, which is too long for tattooing: “For you are life, rarer than a quark and unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg; the clay in which the forces that shape all things leave their fingerprints most clearly. Dry your eyes… and let’s go home.” Someday I’ll also have a Sylvia Plath tattoo. I’d like a bell jar, but I haven’t decided what I want in it yet. It will be slightly open, hovering above its base, ambiguous as to whether or not it will stay that way.

Interview with Ruth Ware


westawayA few weeks ago, I reviewed The Death of Mrs. Westaway, Ruth Ware’s newest which just hit the streets. The folks over at Goodreads just posted an interview with Ware in which she talks about Mrs. Westaway. Check it out:

British author Ruth Ware keeps good company. Her mystery and thriller novels have been compared to Golden Age crime writers like Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey, and Dorothy L. Sayers. Her previous novels—The Woman in Cabin 10, In a Dark, Dark Wood, and The Lying Game—riff on classic mystery templates, with women who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Read more….

May Micro-Reviews


445D17F0-2560-4C5E-A733-139FE248408ABellewether by Susanna Kearsley – Similar to Kearsley’s previous stories, this one again features a blend of storylines from the past and present. One nice change is the location, which is Long Island, New York. As we have come to expect from Kearsley, there is meticulously researched history here, as well as laid-back romance. Her writing is lovely, with just the right blend of description and action. This is recomended for Kearsley fans as well as fans of Kate Morton.

Publication Date: August 7, 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Sourcebooks Landmark
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

 

41D21F7A-0F0A-4EB4-8855-5D2F221E8F69World of All Souls by Deborah Harkness – Deborah Harkness has created a whole mythology in her All Souls trilogy which is dependent on the fairly complicated genealogies of the Bishop and Clairmont families, plus associated characters. And there are A LOT of characters. The World of All Souls is a handy guide to that cast of characters where all the disparate tidbits of information Harkness wove into the trilogy are gathered in one place and expanded upon. As I read this book, I felt like I had both a peephole into Deborah Harkness’ imagination and a peek at her writing notes. This is a must for fans of the trilogy. Recommended.

Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Publisher: Penguin Random House/Viking
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

484412CB-A37B-4AF6-9BBE-15F57C66A4FFSins of the Father by Stephen Weeks – This isn’t *terrible* in that it’s fairly well written, with some instances of true wit, but the characters and story are fairly shallow and uninteresting. It’s a light, quick read, but not something I’ll remember.

Publication Date: May 2, 2018
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

 

 

 

03C12724-FA8C-4042-BF8C-8F91FB1C61D9Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston – Paula Brackston has produced an intriguing time slip mystery here, which is not exactly what I was expecting. The story is interesting and somewhat unusual. I cannot recall many other time slip stories where the person from the present is forced into the past by a ghost as menacing as Mistress Merton. The characters are appealing, and the relationship between Xanthe and her Mum is heartwarming. I thought the whole drug back story was a little odd, but it didn’t detract from the story. All in all, this book provides a pleasant escape for a couple hours.

Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

206BA534-56F6-4B8E-8102-51E4519AD351The Lost Carousel of Provence by Juliet Blackwell – As a fan of Blackwell’s Lily Ivory series, I was excited to try out something different from her. I enjoy Blackwell’s breezy writing style and quirky characters, and was not disappointed in this sweet, captivating story. At first, I found Cady a little jarring, but she grew on me as the story progressed. I love stories featuring strong women who have overcome difficult circumstances, and Blackwell certainly delivered on that account. Blend that with a truly interesting story of carousel carving and you have a winner.

Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: Berkeley
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

 

 

 

Circe by Madeline Miller

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CE60DF93-14E4-472B-9DBA-F9CA6948A502My introduction to Greek history and mythology happened in 4th grade, and I was immediately hooked on the stories of gods and heroes. I clearly remember borrowing D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths from the library over and over, reading about Ariadne, Theseus, Hercules, Jason, and Athena. Then I discovered The Odyssey a few years later and was entranced by Polyphemus the Cyclops, the Sirens, Calypso, and Circe, Witch of Aiaia.

While I can’t say Circe was a favorite character in my adolescent myth reading, she has been mentioned in some books I’ve read over the years as the “source of power” in lines of women who practice the healing arts, so I was intrigued when I heard about this book.

Miller presents Circe as a complicated character here, a lesser god by birth – daughter of the Titan Helios and the nymph Perse – but the object of ridicule and subject to what can only be described as low self-esteem. She lives in hope of being noticed and praised by her father and craves basic kindness and love, but at the same time refuses to be cowed by the cruelty shown by her brothers and sister.

In her quest for love, she concocts a potion using flowers born from the blood of gods to turn a human into his true, godly self. Unfortunately, once he becomes a god, he does not choose Circe for his mate. Consumed with jealousy, she brews more of the potion and succeeds in turning the object of his affection into the monstrous Scylla.

As punishment for this act, Circe is banished to the island of Aiaia for all eternity. Her use of a potion to create a monster is feared by the gods, who foresee that “witchcraft” can harm them. On the island, Circe makes a home for herself among the wild animals, teaching herself about herbs and witchcraft. Centuries pass, and Circe learns more and more about mortals and gods, until she meets Odysseus who transfixes her with his stories and adventures. Circe’s relationship with Odysseus comes full circle when his wife and son, Penelope and Telemachus, arrive on Aiaia, forcing Circe to examine her own life and consider her future.

The most striking thing about this story is the humanness of Circe and how the self-centered ways of the gods are misguided, dangerous, and hurtful. She is let down again and again by her father, her uncles and grandmothers, her brother, her sister, Odysseus, and, finally, by her son but she still is willing to offer second (and third and fourth) chances for people to be good to her.

Admittedly, her willingness to let people take advantage of her or treat her badly can wear on the reader, but her final confrontation with her father makes it all worthwhile. Circe’s weakness, in the eyes of the gods, is that she loves too much and she wants to be loved in return. By the end of the book, she has stopped apologizing for that and embraced that as a strength.

Miller’s writing is engaging and lyrical. She is true to the Greek myths and epics, and sprinkles heroes and gods like salt throughout the story. It’s refreshing to examine the Greek myths from a woman’s point of view, and Miller is not always kind to our male heroes. Theseus and Jason fare particularly badly at her hands.

This would make a really interesting “buddy read” with The Odyssey. It would certainly spark some lively discussion about the roles and situations of women in history. I can’t decide if it’s empowering or infuriating to read about a female “god” who is treated badly because she’s not beautiful or clever. At its core, Circe is about a woman finding her own power and taking control of her own life, which is what makes this such a satisfying read.

Highly recommended.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

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37756654Read, remember, think.” These three words capture the very basic premise of Kate Morton’s newest story, and are especially important to two of our protagonists – Elodie the archivist and Lucy the Reader/Teacher/Collector/Thinker. The reading, remembering, and thinking these two do throughout this enchanting story are the Yin to the Yang of Birdie, the Clockmaker’s Daughter who narrates much of the story.

Morton is especially adept at time slip stories that feature multiple voices which, in less capable hands, can muddle the story. Here she tells the story of a fateful summer month in 1862 which touched multiple lives over the next 150 years, eventually coming to light at the hands of a 21st century archivist enchanted by a photo of an enigmatic beauty and a sketch of a house that she knows from a childhood story. That archivist, Elodie, is one of several narrators. Others include Birdie, the titular “Clockmaker’s Daughter” who truly is the heart of the story; Lucy, witness to the tragic events of 1862; Juliet, a journalist and young mother widowed during World War II; Leonard, a soldier haunted by war who first gives voice to Birdie; and Ada, a fiery young girl who will not give in to bullying. Morton swirls all of these voices together into a whirlpool of laughter, love, deception, and betrayal all centering on the house, Birchwood Manor.

It is Birchwood Manor that gathers the multiple story strands, beginning with the fateful summer of 1862 when artist Edward Radcliffe assembled a group of artists known as The Magenta Brotherhood to spend a glorious month creating art at the remote manor house.    In attendance is Radcliffe’s muse and model, with whom he intends to run away to America and marry. Over the course of a few hours, all their plans unravel, leaving one woman dead and another disappeared. The events of that day carry forward through generations, until Elodie discovers the photo of Birdie/Lily and Edward’s sketchbook, leading her to unravel the story.

Morton has a knack for bringing her characters to life, developing them in such a way that the reader laughs, cries, sighs, and grumbles through the story, feeling the feelings as deeply as the characters themselves. All of Morton’s books contains characters and stories like that, and she succeeds again here, building a story that you will remember for a long time.

My only complaint Here, and it’s a small one, happens midway through, when we get to a jarring, climactic scene with Ada which is never fully resolved or explained, at least not to my satisfaction. Despite this one issue, I found The Clockmaker’s Daughter to be just as lovely as Morton’s earlier work and highly recommend it.

Publication Date: September 9, 2018
Publisher: Atria Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Author Spotlight – Kate Morton


mortonDo you like secrets? Author Kate Morton is a master at telling tales that revolve around secrets. I found my way to Morton’s work with her second novel, The Forgotten Garden, which is one of those books that just transfixes you and everything else fades to gray while you read. After that, I went back and read her debut, The House at Riverton, and was just as enthralled; that experience has been repeated with each new book she’s published. Morton is set to publish her sixth book this year – September/October in Australia & New Zealand, and October in the U.S. I just got my hands on an advanced reading copy of that new book, The Clockmaker’s Daughter, and thought I’d share my fondness for the author here.

On her website, Morton writes:

“I started writing because I wanted to recapture the joy of reading as a child. As soon as I learned that the black marks on white pages were doorways, and that it was within my power to go through them (and the back of a wardrobe) whenever I chose to, I was hooked. I read everything that I could get my hands on and could usually be found hiding in the bough of one of the avocado trees in our garden, book in hand. I’m still chasing that feeling of complete immersion, which makes the real world disappear.”

It seems Morton’s reading experiences as a child have informed her writing as an adult, given the addictive nature of her books. Storytelling is an art, and Kate Morton’s work is a masterful example of the art form at its best. Much of her work reminds me, in its basest form, of the Gothic novels I read when I was a child – Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart, for example – but Morton has taken the form to a new level. Her stories are typically told across time and in multiple voices, with meticulously researched history, and memorable character development. I encourage you to add one of Morton’s books to your summer reading list.

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The House at Riverton – Fans of Downton Abbey will enjoy this debut novel set in England after the First World War. The “war to end all wars” signaled a major change in the lives of England’s aristocracy, and Morton chronicles the trials and tribulations of one family buffeted and bound by secrets, tragedy, and misunderstanding.

 

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The Forgotten Garden – The first Morton book that hooked me on the author. A young woman comes into an unexpected and shocking inheritance from her beloved grandmother, and travels across the world to discover long-buried secrets that will change her life forever.

 

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The Distant Hours – A compelling story featuring a decaying manor in the English countryside, the trio of odd sisters who live there, and (of course) secrets from the past better left buried. This includes a fascinating look into the era when children were sent to the country from London to keep them safe from bombings during World War II.

 

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The Secret Keeper
– A young girl witness an unexplained act of violence involving her mother, which becomes a distant memory as she grows up. As an adult, that memory begins to haunt her as the family celebrates her mother’s 90th birthday.

 

 
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The Lake House
– Heartbreak and tragedy destroy a family in the early 1930s, then 70 years later, a burned out police inspector on a forced holiday picks up on a cold case and re-opens old wounds.

 

 

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The Clockmaker’s Daughter
– Scheduled for publication in the U.S. in October 2018. Murder, intrigue, art, tragedy – all these things coalesce during a heady summer in 1862, observed by the clockmaker’s daughter, whose voice carries over the decades to be heard once again by an archivist.