A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (Book Review)

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

1. Bridget Bishop was not a witch and neither were the Proctors. Fight me.

Understand, please. The Salem witch trials and the entire Inquisition mindset that made them possible were a horrific example of what happens when religion poisons government and misogyny is the order of the day. Despite that, I might be able to tolerate using the Salem huge-quoty-fingers witches as a poetic-license-jumping-off-place, except that

2. Too much telling, not enough showing, and

3. Mary Sueiest of Mary Sues.

When I’m this annoyed and I’m only at page 8, it’s best to bail.

Bookshelves: urban-fantasy, threw-it-against-the-wall, bad-history, abandoned

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Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones (Book Review)

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer (Unusual Chickens #1)Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a delight of a book! I think it’s aimed toward middle-school-age kids, but no matter. It doesn’t get much better than chickens with super powers. This story of twelve-year-old Sophie and her parents, taking refuge in the somewhat dilapidated farm her father has inherited and thankful to have it too, following her father’s layoff from his job, is a quick read, warm and funny and perfect for a rainy afternoon.

The epistolary format is one of my favorites and it’s even better when some of the letters are from…well, no spoilers, but this story and the way it is told is quirky and refreshing. The illustrations are delightful.

I appreciated the matter-of-fact inclusion of the juxtaposition between the haves and the have-nots. The depiction of life as a brown person in a predominantly white community, with their condescending assumptions and microaggressions, is timely. A circumspect shout-out to LGBT inclusion made me smile. Even if young kids aren’t living this stuff, the world is a diverse place and their literature should reflect that and this book gets with the program nicely.

Highly recommended, and I’ll definitely be reading the sequel. I hope there are several.

Bookshelves: ya, epistolary, coming-of-age, magic, supernatural

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My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray (Book Review)

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler HamiltonMy Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton by Stephanie Dray

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First, thanks to my son Monster for the gift card. I’m not sure which was the greater gift, the books themselves or the opportunity to browse a bookstore, which I don’t do very often. Second, a huge thank-you for a historical novel that is actually about history and not just rapey romance crap.

I really, really enjoyed this one. While telling the story of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, it also tells her husband’s story, beginning shortly before they met during the War for Independence. The crux is Alexander’s dedication to the formation of a great country and his meteoric rise from his birth as the bastard child of a woman charged with prostitution to his legacy as a gifted statesman and one of our founding fathers. Betsey/Eliza was there for all of it, often helping with his endless writings and playing the “woman’s role” as a lady of the state, friends with Martha Washington and Dolley Madison and heading countless charitable endeavors. Their marriage wasn’t perfect–no marriage is–but they faced their battles head-on; their devotion to each other and to their newly founded nation is clear.

I see that Dray and Kamoie have previously written another novel of American history, America’s First Daughter. Unfortunately, that phrase immediately brings Ivank-a Stank-a to mind, and I’m going to have to get over that. I love this team’s writing. I’m a new fan.

Bookshelves: american-history, fictionalized-biography, founding-fathers

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Golden Witchbreed by Mary Gentle (Orthe Duology Book Review)

Golden Witchbreed (Orthe #1)Golden Witchbreed by Mary Gentle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Ancient Light (Orthe #2)Ancient Light by Mary Gentle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Bookshelves: sci-fi, fantasy

Golden Witchbreed is the first not-Ash book by Mary Gentle I’ve read. I adore the Ash chronicles, so much so that for years I feared they would be ruined for me if Gentle’s other books didn’t enrapture me as much.

These books do not, in fact, meet the Ash standard, but that’s okay. I enjoyed them. Gentle’s created world is very real, the characters varied and well-developed, the culture and natural environment richly imagined. Golden Witchbreed is the story of human Lynne Christie, envoy from Earth to the post-holocaust, post-tech planet Orthe, where advanced technology is considered suspicious because of the super-tech once wielded by the now-extinct (or are they…?) and evil Golden Witchbreed. As Christie shares the skin tone of the ‘Breed and has advanced tech in her possession, her first-contact job is exponentially more difficult, and she quickly finds herself ensnared in political intrigue, fighting for her life.

The only issue I had was with the rather elaborate character names (examples are Sulis n’ri n’suth SuBannasen and Gur’an Alahamu-to O’he-Oramu-te; those are only two people) used interchangeably with the characters’ titles, so that combined with the sheer volume of them made it difficult to remember who was who. There’s a Cast of Characters in the front of the book, but I got tired of flipping back and forth. I’m lazy that way.

I liked the first book well enough that I bought the sequel, Ancient Light. My biggest gripe with that one was toward the end, it was draaaaaaging out soooooooo baaaaaad. I considered not finishing it several times – we’ll have a meeting here, now I’ll take a shuttle over here and have a meeting, while you take another shuttle over there and have a meeting, and Whosis can take a third shuttle for a meeting in that other place – on and on and on and on. But I’d invested almost a month reading these two books, and I had to find out what I happened, and I stuck with it. A great many other reviewers were angered by the ending, but it made sense to me. I mean, this is colonialism.

Neither book has a lot of action and both are heavy on descriptive passages, but the world-building is phenomenal and they’re worth reading just for that.

So while I liked these well enough, I’m not so much a Mary Gentle fan as I am a Super Huge Fan of the Ash books that happen to be written by Mary Gentle.

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