The Island of Sea Women Book Review

In my review of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See, I mentioned the concept of how fiction can help connect readers to the facts. For a brief bit, I also discussed that if the author focuses on the facts too much, then it would start sounding like a Master’s Thesis. Not only would this alienate readers, but it would also cause them to not bond with the story as much. While I liked reading See’s follow-up The Island of Sea Women, I could not get into the story as much as I should have due to the over emphasis on facts.

The Island of Sea Women is about the friendship between Young-sook, who is from a long line of haenyeo (female divers), and Mi-ja, who is the daughter of a wealthy Japanese collaborator, on the Korean island of Jeju – a place where the women are the primary breadwinners, and the men stay at home. Despite their differences, they become best friends as they dive together as part of their village’s haenyeo collective. Their friendship is tested throughout many decades starting in the Japanese colonialism period in the 1930s and 1940s up until 2008. Forces outside of their control ultimately push their friendship beyond the breaking point, and it is up to one of them to forgive the other.

Don’t get me the wrong. The information that I learned while reading this book was very fascinating. For example, it was interesting to learn about the working habits of the haenyeo. They would continue to work even when they are pregnant. In addition, I liked how See explained the various historical events that impacted Korea and tied them into the story.

However, I could not emotionally connect to the story for the first third of the book. See crams a lot of information about the haenyeo, what was occurring on Jeju Island in the 1930s and 1940s, and the shamanistic rituals during those passages. While these facts were interesting, they barred me from being fully invested in the main characters until they received marriage proposals. This was disappointing because See did such a fabulous job of balancing fact and fiction in her previous book The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane that it made me wonder why she was not able to strike that lightening twice.

Luckily, there was one thing that made an impact on me, and it was the line, “To understand is to forgive”.

During one crucial part of the novel, a massacre occurs, and some of Young-sook’s family members lose their lives. She blames Mi-ja for not doing anything to save them. It takes Young-sook decades to finally look at Mi-ja’s perspective on why she was not able to save them, and when she does, she is finally able to forgive her.

I listened to the audiobook, and Jennifer Lim – an actress who has appeared in the Broadway show Chinglish and in movies like 27 Dresses – narrates it. As far as I remember, Lim does a good job, but it was not really memorable. The only thing that I recall from her vocal delivery was how she makes most of the women from Young-sook and Mi-ja’s diving collective sound like they were Asian versions of Phyllis Diller. This is such a shame since Lim also narrated Little Fires Everywhere – a book that I enjoyed very much in the past mostly because of her vocal performance.

All in all, The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See is a good book. The story was compelling when I finally got into it after the first third of the novel, yet I learned a lot on what occurred on Jeju Island from the 1930s to 2008. I sadly did not really connect with the story because See seems to consume herself with facts so much that it got in the way of the plot itself. I would still recommend this book to people, especially to those who are interested in historical fiction; female friendships; and reading stories about strong, confident women. If one has read her other books, I would also recommend to lower their expectations on this one.

Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates. Also feel free to email me here for any review suggestions, ideas, or new titles!

Book Reviews From the Vault: Glass Houses

I usually do not read a lot of mysteries, but when I first started reading the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny, it got me hooked! Find out why with my review of the 13th book in the series Glass Houses!

With a lot of book series, there is a risk of quality decline with each subsequent book. However, according to a lot of readers including the ladies in my book group, the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny gets better and better with each installment. Today, I will review the 13th book in that series – Glass Houses – and test that theory as much as I can.

Now a reader might ask, “Who is this Chief Inspector Armand Gamache?” Well reader, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is a part of the Sûreté du Québec, a provincial police force in Quebec, and he investigates a lot of murders that coincidently happen at or near Three Pines – a village where he and his wife reside. By the time Glass Houses rolls around, Gamache is now the Chief Superintendent at the Sûreté Academy.

Also, a reader might inquire, “Do I need to read all the other books to understand what is going on?” That answer, my friend, is no. According to the author herself, it is not essential as all of them are stand-alone books, but if you want to know more about the main characters, it is vital to read the other installments to understand how those people have evolved. For more information, Penny has a FAQ page on her website: https://www.louisepenny.com/faqs.htm

Now to the actual plot: the situation that Gamache finds himself in for Glass Houses is that a cobrador del frac has appeared on the Village Green in Three Pines on All Saints Day. It stands there on a consistent basis, and it makes everybody uneasy. Tensions rise when a body is discovered in the church basement. Flash forward to July when Gamache takes the stand to share details about the murder, and he reveals that it was far more complicated than anybody expected.

The only other book that I have read in the series was the previous book, A Great Reckoning. To me, A Great Reckoning had more compelling new characters like tattooed and pierced Amelia than Glass Houses, but the latter expanded on the recurring characters in ways readers will not expect. For example, readers will get a bit of a back story on Ruth – the profane, crabby, old poet – and why she initially came to Three Pines. In addition, there is a subplot involving fentanyl that is a bit boring to me, but all I can say to anyone who has not read Glass Houses yet is that it will reveal how far Gamache is willing to go in order to serve justice.

In terms of structure, I would have to go with A Great Reckoning over Glass Houses. The former has the beginning-middle-end structure in present day, which makes it pretty consistent. In contrast, the latter switches from the present aka the trial to the past almost constantly. Many people have found this difficult to keep track of. Even a lady from the book club stated that she barely knew if a part was in the present or in the past until Penny mentioned the weather.

Finally, any mystery should keep readers on their toes. One of the main aspects that I noticed about A Great Reckoning was that it contained very loud hints, as in hints that are not all that subtle and that may ruin the excitement and enjoyment. For instance, those loud hints in A Great Reckoning made me figure out who the killer was very early in the book. Luckily, these kinds of hints are almost non-existent in Glass Houses, as in I had an idea who might have been the killer, but I was right and wrong at the same time. Finding out who the killer was had kept me on my toes at times, which is what a mystery should do. All in all, Glass Houses is an improvement over A Great Reckoning to a certain degree.

Additionally, I listened to the Glass Houses audiobook, and I thought that Robert Bathurst aka Sir Anthony Strallan in “Downton Abbey” did a good job in bringing each of the characters to life, even when the vocal differences between each character were only subtle. He also recorded the audiobook for the previous book too, and I enjoyed that one for the same reasons.

Overall, I would recommend Glass Houses as well as any other book in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, especially to those who love mysteries and character-based novels. It does not have much emphasis on the plots themselves, but the author did that on purpose to focus more on the characters. I want to see how the characters deal with the future crimes.

Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates. Also feel free to email me here for any review suggestions, ideas, or new titles!

The Four Sworn: Spring Equinox Book Review

Full disclosure: I was guided to this particular title based on the recommendation of a good friend of mine in exchange for an honest review.

Books have many focuses or stress different elements. Some are plot-driven; some are atmosphere motivated, and others emphasize characters. When a novel does this, the other elements can sometimes fall to the wayside. However, a reader might forgive this if the elements in focus are developed well. The Four Sworn: Spring Equinox by Lenore Sagaskie clearly stresses characters and the environment, which are well executed, yet the plot gets lost along the way.

The Four Sworn: Spring Equinox is the first novel in the Four Sworn series, which follows Abby – a metalsmith; Sara – a jeweler who is Abby’s best friend; William – an English watercolor painter, whose work can predict catastrophic events; and Joe – a Native American art teacher who works with clay and eventually starts dating Sara. One day, an incident happens when all four people are struck by strange forces with powers associated with earth, water, air, and fire. Meanwhile, Thaddeus – the brother of the Queen of Feyland, the land of the fairies – wants to combine both worlds and be the ruler. The Four Sworn eventually realize that they have to fulfill their destiny and work together to defeat Thaddeus and prevent fairy and human worlds from tearing each other apart.

All in all, the story is essentially Power Rangers, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the Chosen One trope with fairies and nymphs thrown in. The Avatar elements are obvious, but it reminds me of Power Rangers the most because these ordinary people are given extraordinary powers to defeat various villains and to protect various worlds. The main difference between this book and Power Rangers is that the Four Sworn receive powers based on what they do for a living, not on who they are.

As I mentioned before, the plot falls to the wayside in exchange for placing importance on the characters and the environment. This is especially true in the beginning, where the book establishes each main person. There is so much of this that I had to look back and find where they got their superpowers. In addition, I felt that the pacing was incredibly slow right until the third act due to nothing really happening that could move the plot forward. Yes, there is a scene, in which Sara first encounters Thaddeus in her front yard, which got me intrigued. However, the novel also balances that out with slightly unnecessary backstory. For example, does the book really need an entire chapter devoted to Joe spending Christmas with his family? It was nice in all, but it contributed very little to the overall story. The plot could have been beefed up with more action to move the story along quicker.

Luckily, I am willing to put my grievances about the thin plot aside because of how developed each of the characters and the environment are. Sagaskie gives so much description to these people that I could vividly imagine all of them, quirks and all. The most developed of the main four is easily Abby, who struggles with controlling her fire power so much that it affects her relationships with the others as well as with her husband Dan. Like the characters, the environment is also well created. I could feel the water or what is like to be thrown through the air and land alongside a tree that the author describes during one of the major battles in the third act.

For the most part, The Four Sworn: Spring Equinox by Lenore Sagaskie is a well written first novel-in-a-series book. There is not a whole lot of action before the third act, which can be a slog to some readers, especially if they are reading it before going to bed. On the other hand, the main characters and the environment are so fully realized that I am willing to put my complaints aside. I recommend this to readers interested in Chosen One stories, fantasy, and overall character-driven books. This will not be the last time one will see the Four Sworn; I guarantee it.

Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates. Also feel free to email me here for any review suggestions, ideas, or new titles!

Book Reviews From the Vault: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, A Sortabiography

There were a multitude of reasons why I started reviewing books and sharing them with others. One of them was this particular author Eric Idle. He has a reader’s blog on his website, and he would promote it on Twitter. I thought that this was so interesting that I wanted to do it myself. So thank you Eric! Now please enjoy my review of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, A Sortabiography! ( I did my best not to let my inner fangirl takeover, really I did!)

For nearly six months, I anxiously waited for Eric Idle’s new book Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, A Sortabiography as I am a huge Monty Python fan. When it got to my door in October, I picked it up and started reading it immediately. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely! I completed the book in three days! Well, there are other reasons as to why I enjoyed it, in which I will explain here.

The book made me laugh and nearly cry as Idle tells his story and how he managed to persevere by always looking the bright side of life. He uses his cheeky wit to tell various stories about his childhood in an austere orphanage/boarding school; rise to fame as a member of Monty Python; friendships with various celebrities like George Harrison and Robin Williams (Warning: expect a lot of name dropping!); and personal life, especially how he met his second and current wife – former model Tania Kosevich. It is with the latter two that I was nearly brought to tears because of how sincere and kind he is to the people he is/was closest with.

If there was one thing to complain about, it would have to be that I wish he would have talked more about the origins of the sketches he wrote for Monty Python even though he did reveal the origins to the “Nudge, Nudge” sketch. However, this is not a big deal because this book is about HIS LIFE, not his skits although they do intertwine at times. Besides, I can either read about them in one of the many books about Monty Python along with this title or ask him on Twitter; he is really good with responding back.

Overall, I enjoyed this book from start to finish, and I would recommend it to all Monty Python fans as well as to anyone looking for a humorous book to read! And yes, it will make you hum and whistle “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”!

Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates. Also feel free to email me here for any review suggestions, ideas, or new titles!

Secrets of Eden Book Review

I have and will read many books in my lifetime. There will be books – both good and bad – that I will remember because of the lasting impact they made on me. However, there will be books that I thought were good at first, yet they ultimately ended up being forgettable in the long run. In other words, they were average. This essentially sums up my feelings on Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian.

From what I can tell you, Secrets of Eden is about a supposed murder-suicide of Alice and George Hayward – a seemingly happy couple from a small town in Vermont. However, it turns out that the suicide may have actually been another homicide. Secrets unravel as various characters try to figure who was the second killer. The novel itself revolves around four distinct characters: Reverend Stephen Drew – the town’s cynical minister, who baptized Alice the same day that her husband killed her and had an affair with her prior -; Catherine Benincasa – the smart and sassy state district attorney, who possesses a strong moral compass -; Heather Laurent – a best-selling author of books about angels and who relates to the couple’s now orphaned teenager -; and Katie Hayward, the couple’s 15-year old daughter, who has become wise beyond her years.

The novel is divided into four sections, one for each main character mentioned above. Even though Bohjalian creates four distinct characters with this structure, it ultimately creates a whole set of problems. For instance, once a section is done, the book never goes back to that character’s perspective. I wanted to know more about Reverend Drew, especially his relationship with Alice, but I never got that chance because the book felt that it needed to spend time on the other characters. In addition, since the book only allotted so much time for each character, they do not feel as developed as they should be. Even Bohjalian appears to have eventually realized this error because his later books like The Flight Attendant have at most two narrators.

Now, let’s address the white elephant in the room, or shall I say, the angelic elephant in the room – Heather Laurent. Many reviewers have objected to her because of how pointless she was in the overall plot. Ok, she hooks up with Reverend Drew and later gets angry with him for not telling her about his affair with Alice. Additionally, she relates to Katie’s plight because of her own parents’ murder-suicide. I also liked how excerpts from her book are included to reflect the situations that the characters are facing at a particular moment. But other than those three separate instances, I agree with the others in that she contributes nothing to the plot. Heather is essentially a crazy lady who believes in angels. In fact, a minor character even calls her the “Angel of death. I’m telling you: That woman is as stable as a three-legged chair” (p. 182).

Eliminating her could have helped with developing the three other characters, who at least contribute to the story in their own ways.

And the biggest problem of all was that hardly anything happened. The Flight Attendant also had a similar problem, but at least one of its redeeming factors was that the main character was thoroughly developed. As a result, I was interested in seeing how she reacted to certain situations. However, I wanted to feel that way with this book, especially about Reverend Drew and Katie, but my interest waned as other characters shared the spotlight. Moreover, this slowed the pacing down tremendously, which can make it a slog to get through.

Despite my problems with the story, there are two highlights. One was the ending. I know some readers figured out who killed George very early on, but I genuinely did not know. This made it worth it to get through the novel despite its slowness.

The other highlight was the audiobook. The four actors chosen to voice each of the characters brought them to life, more so than the book ever could. Mark Bramhall – an actor who has narrated three other books for Bohjalian (The Night Strangers, Skeletons at the Feast, and The Light in the Ruins) – plays Reverend Drew with cynicism and sincerity as the minister consciously doubts his faith as the investigations go on. Kathe Mazur – an actress known for her role as Dr. Hallerman in American Sniper and for the multiple audiobooks that she has recorded over the years – voices Catherine Benincasa like a character that one might see on NCIS, full of sass and no crap about anything. And that was fine by me. Susan Denaker – an actress who has appeared in the West End, provided voices for Monty Python video games, and has narrated two other Bohjalian novels (Before You Know Kindness and The Double Bind) – plays Heather Laurent with such heavenliness, elegance, and serenity that I almost forgot how pointless her character really was. Rebecca Lowman – an actress who has appeared in shows like CSI: NY and Grey’s Anatomy as well as narrated multiple audiobooks – voices Katie with great maturity while reminding us that she is still a teenager. I heard Lowman narrate before with Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, yet I think this is a more memorable performance.

Overall, I believe Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian was still good, yet it will not be remembered in the long run. Sure, it was boring due to barely anything happening, and Heather was a useless character. On the other hand, it is unique with its four-narrator structure, but it could have been better executed. I also enjoyed how distinct each main character was and the ending. All in all, I highly recommend the audiobook if you want to be distracted from the book’s flaws.

Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates. Also feel free to email me here for any review suggestions, ideas, or new titles!

Book Reviews From the Vault: The Polished Hoe

This review of The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke was one of the quickest that I have ever written. Since I first posted this review, I found out that it has become a play. Stay tuned for a review of that in the future!

For all of the books that I have read in my lifetime, there are only TWO books that I did not finish. One of those books was The Polished Hoe. I will explain why I was not able to read it completely.

Written by Barbados-born Austin Clarke, The Polished Hoe is about Mary-Mathilda -a black woman who has worked on a Barbados plantation in a variety of positions including mistress to its powerful manager. It takes place over one day, in which she confesses a crime committed against the manager to the constable and sergeant on the island.

Let’s start off with the good. The book offers interesting commentary on the collective experience of the slavery-characterized society in the Barbados, especially about the role of women in said society. In one passage, the main character explains this to the sergeant:

“It was common practice on plantations in Bimshire [Barbados] for a Plantation Manager to breed any woman he rested his two eyes on…. And so it was with me. And with Ma. And with Ma’s mother, until we get far-far-far back, get-back on the ships leaving Africa, sailing on the high seas, crossing the Atlantic Ocean, trying to reach Amurca, …. And they decide to jump overboard [to avoid that fate], and face the broiling green waves of the Deep; and God; taking suicides, which was better” (442-443).

I find it fascinating to read about the past and to see how both real and fictionalized individuals deal with the problems of their times.

Even though the book possesses an interesting premise, it is a slog to get through. Even a snail could move faster than this. It doesn’t help that it is over 450 pages! In the midst of passages discussing Mary-Mathilda’s life an enslaved woman on the plantation, it repeats itself about almost every detail. Also, for some reason, the book likes to have its male characters picture the female ones naked every now and then. I am not sure why. Additionally, the main character is obsessed with her garden hoe – the title object – even to the point of sleeping with it. What a way to shove the item’s significance down our throats! And if you are wondering, yes, it plays a huge role in the crime that she committed. Finally, the best (used ironically) part is that the book itself is even not divided into chapters. In fact, it is divided into THREE PARTS! Someone should have edited it prior to publishing it.

The book is a bestseller in Canada. It won many awards like the Giller Prize, which is a literary award given to Canadian authors (Clarke resides in Canada). In other words, there are people who have enough patience to get through it. Clearly, I am not one of them, but that doesn’t mean I have given up on it. The plot alone is compelling to explore, but it is certainly not a story that one reads before going to bed although it is great if you want to fall asleep quickly. In conclusion, this is why I could not finish The Polished Hoe.

Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates. Also feel free to email me here for any review suggestions, ideas, or new titles!

Confessions of a Campaign Manager Book Review

Confessions of a Campaign Manager Book Review

Full disclosure: I was given a free PDF copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I am not usually the type to read about politics in a straight manner. However, since I recently read Confessions of a Campaign Manager by Bharat Krishnan, it allowed me to have a greater understanding of what goes on behind the scenes of a political campaign.

Confessions of a Campaign Manager is a memoir about Krishnan’s involvement in politics for roughly a decade. It all started with hearing a racist comment spoken by a senator against an Indian American and ended with him realizing that working on various Democratic campaigns was taking a toll on his life.

Krishnan writes his memoir in the most honest manner possible, while also balancing the fine line between conventional and analytical prose. For instance, he has a chapter called “Race Problems”, in which he discusses how American politics has tackled these issues within the last decade. He takes a two-tiered approach by utilizing both various articles and personal experience as an Indian American to discuss how America has refused to talk about its racist past, which has now exploded into the headlines. To balance that out, he offers some suggestions to improve race relations like allowing all kinds of people – women, people of color, and people of different sexual orientations, etc. – to run for all levels of office.

In addition, it contains some interesting stories about various campaigns that he worked for. For example, while Krishnan was working on a campaign for an Indian American politician looking to get into local office in northern Virginia, he gave him a discounted rate for his services since he wanted to see a person of his own heritage win. To justify this, he put a fundraising bonus into his contract, so when they raised a certain amount, he got said bonus. They did reach that amount, but Krishnan was not given the bonus because the politician refused to honor that part in the contract. These and other stories paint a real picture of the campaigning world.

Coincidentally, the one story that does not directly involve campaigning was arguably the most impactful. That story was about Kevin Sutherland – Krishnan’s friend from college who was stabbed to death on July 4, 2015. Krishnan relates that he took plenty of advice from Kevin, including the importance of paid internships and of family. The latter made Krishnan realize that he “didn’t want to waste [his] life in random states in an office late at night” (p. 58).

Additionally, Krishnan gives advice for anybody who is looking to get into politics, including how much time one is willing to be away from family, starting out at the grassroots level, and how much money to raise depending on the position in office. It helps that the chapters are relatively short. However, this advice is targeted more towards Democrat-leaning readers. While I personally do not have a problem with this, I can see it alienating readers who could have loyalty to the Republican party.

Overall, Confessions of a Campaign Manager by Bharat Krishnan is a very useful book for anyone looking to work in a political campaign. Even though he has a bias for Democrats, he is still very honest and analytical while writing in an effective conversational tone with short chapters to help keep readers glued to the book.

Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates. Also feel free to email me here for any review suggestions, ideas, or new titles!

Book Reviews From the Vault: Where’d You Go Bernadette

Before I started this website, I had posted reviews of books on social media. Since I have been reviewing books for a year now, I wanted to show you these posts in a new series called “Book Reviews From the Vault!” starting with the excellent Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.

I run a book club at my workplace, and we discussed Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple awhile back. It is about a daughter who tries to piece together what happened during her mom’s – the title character – disappearance as the family plans for a Christmas trip to Antarctica. I had initially chosen this book because I had figured that with a title like that, it would be more light-hearted and quirkier than the previously examined books, which tended to have intense themes. It also helped that its movie version is slated for a release date in August 2019 with Cate Blanchett as the titular person. It certainly fulfilled my expectations of light and fun.

The best parts of the novel were the characters and the one-of-a-kind structure. The characters felt real as they all had their winning traits as well as their flaws. These can be seen especially in both the title character and her Christian-loving nemesis Audrey Griffin. In addition, Semple writes most of the story epistolary-style aka through letters (both print and email). This unique style allows the author to explore various characters’ relationships to one another, beliefs, and their motivations at their most personal. The only complaint I have is that she does not use it throughout the entire novel. She uses for two-thirds of it, and the third act uses a conventional first-point-of-view structure. I wonder why she did that, for it seems odd to switch from a distinctive style to an ordinary one. Nonetheless, I have never seen a book written in the epistolary form before, but in terms of enhancing the story, it was very effective.

Additionally, I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite. Wilhoite does a good job at bringing the characters even more to life even if the vocal differences were subtle at times. The only problem that I had with her performance was with the character Bee – the protagonist. Bee is supposed to be 14 years old, yet Wilhoite makes her sound like as if she was 10. This was not too much of a problem when Bee is naïve of what was going on with her mom, but once she finds out, it got annoying. The audiobook is still worth listening despite the vocal realization of Bee.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in reading something that is light, fun, and quirky. It keeps the story interesting through its well-rounded characters and epistolary structure.

Before We Were Yours Review

Before We Were Yours Book Review

If you were to ask me what one of my favorite books was, I would immediately say Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. I read this book about a year ago, and I loved it the moment I read the first page. It is historical fiction at its best; it creates an emotionally gripping story based on an actual historical event. I re-read it (technically I listened to the audiobook) for book club, and I didn’t realize that this was possible, but I loved it even more.

Before We Were Yours has two separate stories that eventually come together. The main story involves a 12-year-old girl named Rill and her four siblings, who live on a shanty boat with their parents in 1939 Memphis. When their parents leave for the hospital one stormy night, the children are taken away to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage. Having been put in charge that night, Rill fights to keep her siblings together. The other story revolves around Avery Stafford – a federal prosecutor who comes from a privileged family in present day Aiken, South Carolina. As she helps her senator father with his health crisis, an encounter with an elderly woman in a nursing care facility leads her to a journey through her family’s hidden history.

When I said that the best historical fiction creates an emotionally gripping story based on an actual event, I really mean it. The actual event in this case was Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. For over two decades until 1950, Tann and her cohorts kidnapped poor children, and sold them to wealthy families across the country, even to Joan Crawford and June Allyson. It is sadly estimated that some 500 children died due to disease, poor care, and possibly abuse while in the society’s hands. (https://nypost.com/2017/06/17/this-woman-stole-children-from-the-poor-to-give-to-the-rich/). Many of them were molested as well.

I had no idea that this event even occurred, and to think that this happened to children of all ages AND that Tann managed to get away with it frightens me all the more. That fear translated into sympathy for Rill and her siblings in their quest to not only make it out alive, but also to tell their stories while still in the orphanage. Even when she had no choice but to obey, I understood because for Rill, that meant survival. This is why Rill’s story gripped me to the bone more than Avery’s story even though I have nothing against the latter.

It was the audiobook that made my read the second time around all the more enjoyable. Emily Rankin and Catherine Taber put on some great vocal performances. Rankin – a well-known audiobook narrator and creator of the popular web short Jane Austin’s Fight Club – plays Avery, and she voices her in a professional east coast manner with hints of a Southern accent. This is highly appropriate since Avery lives in the east coast, but grew up in South Carolina. I extremely respect this particular detail that Rankin made to Avery’s character. Taber is also a well-known audiobook narrator, and she has appeared in television shows like Jane the Virgin and Star Wars: Clone Wars as well as gaming franchises like Final Fantasy. In my opinion, Taber is the standout.She voices Rill as a southern 12-year-old girl, who is perfectly fine with living by the river, yet it never gets too juvenile, especially when Rill experiences several traumatic episodes at the orphanage. There is also a sense of maturity in Rill that Taber also provides with such honesty. In addition, Taber shines when voicing Georgia Tann, who could be sweet and manipulative to not only the children, but also to the wealthy families. It is through Taber’s vocal performance of Tann that I could imagine an evil smile draping across her face when she said many of her lines.

If you have not read Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate yet, do so as soon as possible. The story and the horrific events that it is based on are why many people have praised the novel. I can’t say enough good things about it, and I will continue to enjoy it forevermore.

Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates. Also feel free to email me here for any review suggestions, ideas, or new titles!

Hi Everybody!

Hi Everybody!

My name is Emily Blakowski, and I work at two public libraries in southeast Michigan. At one of them, I facilitate a book club, where we read a wide variety of novels. I started reviewing books in October 2018 with my Facebook page “Book Reviews by a Person Who Reads Everything” after a year of doing the book club because I wanted to express my thoughts on the books that we were discussing. The page has grown so much that I decided that it was time to create a website for “Book Reviews”.

For those who are not familiar with this blog, I read every kind of book from the absolute serious to the downright silly. Therefore, I review everything! If you have something of interest that you want me to review, feel free to contact me at chickwhoreadseverything@gmail.com!