Everything my Mother Taught Me by Alice Hoffman – ARC Book Review

Arc provided by Amazon Original Stories publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Everything My Mother Taught Me was an atmospheric short historical fiction story that was deceptively simple to read and yet conveyed so much with so few words. As someone who doesn’t read many short stories, I found myself wishing for this one to be extended in to a full length novel. There are some short stories that can convey everything you’d want and need in a short span of words. Unfortunately, I think the quality of this story was sacrificed by making it short.

The sacrifice in making this emotionally-packed story short was the lack of detail and connection with events and characters, respectively. If this had been a full length novel (my bias is very present here, so please bear that in mind) I imagine I’d have fallen head over heels in emotional love for Hoffman’s latest work.

Synopsis:

In this haunting short story of loyalty and betrayal, a young woman in early 1900s Massachusetts discovers that in navigating her treacherous coming-of-age, she must find her voice first.

For fatefully observant Adeline, growing up carries an ominous warning from her adulterous mother: don’t say a word. Adeline vows to never speak again. But that’s not her only secret. After her mother takes a housekeeping job at a lighthouse off the tip of Cape Ann, a local woman vanishes. The key to the mystery lies with Adeline, the silent witness.

“There are those who insist that mothers are born with love for their children and place them before all other things, including their own needs and desires. This was not the case with us.”

Pros:

  • Adeline, named after French soap, had suffered a neglectful life at the hands of her selfish adulterating mother, after the death of her beloved father. Their journey to the seaside Lighthouse town in New England was evidence of the first opportunity for Adeline to truly be happy since the passing of her father. My heart ached for the compounded loss of her father and childhood home all in one fell swoop. The story’s premise was beautifully portrayed in events and insights in to Adeline’s psyche. I would have been very happy staying there for another 200 pages.
  • The writing, while odd and not a usual favourite of mine, was compelling in its simplistic nature. Told in past tense, with the inclusion of frequent foreshadowing, this story was unlike one I had read in a very long time. The combination of these two features may seem unappealing to read but Hoffman’s style was captivating. The lack of dialogue, as a result of Adeline’s selective mutism wasn’t a blinding loss throughout the story.
  • The ending of this story was deeply satisfying. Hoffman managed to get the perfect balance between just deserts and HEA.

Cons:

  • The shortened length of this book made the story, while still highly intriguing, feel rushed. This is one that would have thrived as a full length historical novel. The lyrical descriptions of nature and the rural New England setting were reminiscent of Where the Crawdads Sing’s writing by Delia Owens and it genuinely felt like a loss to not give the author free reign to explore and enchant us further with the beautiful setting.
  • The side characters felt (mostly) two dimensional due to a lack of opportunity to develop and establish their personalities further. This could have been a result of the lack of dialogue or a spotlighted focus on each character. It felt like the other lighthouse keepers and their family were only there to set the backdrop for Adeline’s story without truly contributing to it.
  • Some further insight in to Adeline’s selective mutism would have added an extra layer (that wasn’t entirely required) of depth to the story. Her father’s death was named as the catalyst but other than that there wasn’t much explanation on the development of it or the establishment of alternative forms of communication.

Overall, Everything My Mother Taught Me was an atmospheric read that captured my attention and left me satisfied right through to the end. A few changes in length or description of characters could have made this an exceptional story to never forget. I plan to read the remainder of Hoffman’s Inheritance Short Story Collection to compare.

Jen

Mini Review Monday – Graphic Novel eARCs

Hi all!

As we tend to read quite a few graphic novels but don’t want to do a full post for each one of them we decided to do weekly mini reviews to sum up the ones we’ve read recently and hopefully get more people interested in this fascinating genre. We’ve noticed that graphic novels go quite unnoticed in the book blogging community but some of them are phenomenal and deserve to be shared. Just as audio books can be an acquired reading format, so too are graphic novels.

We hope to share some of our thoughts and favourite reads with you in the hopes that it inspires more people to try this genre!

Pre-Order Princess de Cleves here and Tamba Child Soldier here.

La Princesse de Cleves – Written in 1678 by Madame de Lafayette, ‘The Princess of Cleves’ is a founding novel. The young Miss de La Marche took her first steps in the court of the King of France, Henry II. Between cabals, gossip and gallantry, she meets love in a world full of conventions. By returning to her advantage the stereotyped feminine ideals of the time (solitude, silence, secrecy, restraint, decency and discretion), the princess exhibits a new form of feminism, based on self-esteem where reason triumphs over passion.

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As someone unfamiliar with the original Princess of Cleves written by Madame de Lafayette, the introduction to this graphic novel was intense. There was a lot of information provided that was essential in understanding complex dynamics between characters. Luckily, a family tree is provided. Unluckily, I received an eARC (which I usually don’t mind) but it made going back and forth to the family tree quite cumbersome. If you’re familiar with the story however, it may not be an issue for you. Nevertheless, once I was able to get my head around all of the socialites and their family trees, the story was quite interesting!

I found myself becoming invested in the uncertain future of La Princesse de Cleves. The premise perfectly outlines the unusual feminist stance taken in this story. I can’t quite say I was in approval of it but I’m not living during the time period. In terms of meeting historical romantic conventions of the time, this story definitely achieved that. I was so intrigued by the Princess of Cleve’s choices. Her refusal to be with the man she loved, and whom loved her back, was definitely not what I had been expecting! I’m a HEA kind gal.

The side characters were also quite enjoyable and the graphics themselves were delectably embellished with small details that perfectly set the scene in the time period. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, literature or are just keen to try something new then I’d recommend you try this!

ARC provided by Darguard via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tamba Child Soldier – “My name is Tamba Cisso. When I was eight years old, I lived in the village with my father, my mother and my sister. I went to school and had learned to read. I knew there was war in my country, but I didn’t know that children could wage it.” Providing a testimonial to one of the most heart-wrenching and chilling developments in modern warfare, this graphic novel chronicles the realities of hundreds of thousands across the world, kidnapped and forced to commit atrocities.

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Wow. This book was hauntingly honest and completely stole my breath. The horrors that happen for the sake of greed, power and money are unimaginable. Except, this novel attempts to shed light on the deplorable acts children are forced to commit daily around the world. This novel forced me to imagine what that living hell would be like. I was utterly heart-broken and yet in awe. The graphics in this novel were some of the best I’d seen. The vivid colours and striking scenes almost pulled me out of the story they were so good!

What really made this book stand out from the crowd was the emphasis it placed on the rehabilitation and healing process of the people when the war ended. While kidnapping and forcing children to fight a war they don’t understand is unimaginably harsh, the after-effects of the war were arguably as bad. You’d expect freedom and peace with the cessation of fire. Instead, a land was left torn from the destruction its own people had caused. Children were murderers and seen as the perpetrators of extensive human rights violations. How does a country come back from that? How is peace attained? And who is ultimately responsible for the horrors committed?

This depiction of an attempt to create peace after shockingly vile and destructive events was poignantly written and tore apart my heart. It was so authentic and achingly real. I loved the inclusion of the author’s own history that had inspired this novel. This is one I would recommend everyone (who is aware of the triggers) to read!

ARC provided by NBM Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Jen

WWW Wednesday – #5

Hello lovelies!

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This meme was originally hosted by A Daily Rhythm but was revived by Sam from Taking on a World of WordsIt’s a place to talk about the books you’ve been reading, plan to read and have read. I don’t usually keep track of my reading, except for my Goodreads Challenge, but I’ve found this meme to be really helpful with keeping me on track.

To take part all you have to do is answer the following questions:

What are you currently reading?

What have you recently finished reading?

What are you going to read next?

Currently Reading

I’ve SOMEHOW managed to over-commit myself to ARCs and my goal this week is to get through as many of them as possible! I’m currently reading three great books right now. I enjoy changing it up every couple of chapters and these ones pair so well together!

I’m in a bit of a historical mood so Realm of Knights and Hunting for a Highlander satisfy this perfectly. I requested these ARCs because they sounded so good but I have to admit I’m genuinely surprised by HOW GOOD they’re actually turning out to be. To be Taught, If Fortunate is a delightful reprieve for when I’m feeling like something more futuristic.

Recently Finished

This was a pretty packed week of reading for me! Two of these are graphic novels and were super quick reads though… so it looks more efficient than it was haha. I ADORED HeartStopper, Nimona and A Lie for a Lie. I enjoyed reading A Curse so Dark and Lonely (mostly) and am still (slowly) working my way through the Chronicles of Nick series. I was quite disappointed with Everything, Everything though so that was probably my low point of the week.

HeartStopper Review
Nimona Review
A Lie for a Lie Review
Everything, Everything Review
A Curse so Dark and Lonely Review

Reading Next

Coming up, I’ve got another ARC with The Earl’s Christmas Pearl and then a Buddy Read with Ngoc from Nish and Ngoc’s Book Nook for These Broken Stars. Lastly, I’m keen to give These Rebel Waves a try. The cover is what initially caught my attention but I’ve also read reviews on its world building being phenomenal so I’m excited for that!

// what are you currently reading? have you read any of the books on my list? //

Jen

More than a Rogue – Sophie Barnes

Arc provided by publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers for an honest review.

“When we allow ourselves to abandon the rules we’ve been taught to adhere to…we open ourselves to new experiences and a freedom that cannot exist as long as we let ourselves be restricted.”

– Emily

This book has been a hard one to review. I found myself alternately captivated and frustrated throughout the majority of the story. The inconsistency between a forward thinking Emily, who was revolutionary for her time, and a deeply insecure Emily who continuously made incorrect assumptions about others made this book hard to rate. For this reason, I have decided to rate it 3.5 stars as despite my frustrations I still found myself looking forward to a HEA for Emily and Griffin.

More than a Rogue is about a spinster named Emily; an independent, opinionated and compassionate woman who is not in the business of finding a husband. Stubborn about her ability to take care of herself, after having been involved in a scandal six years’ prior with Lord Langdon, Emily is a very competent woman for her time and position in society. Her spinster lifestyle was caught up in chaos however, when she was caught kissing Lord Crawford at the first ball of the season. In an attempt to escape a forced marriage at the hands of her mother and Aunt, Emily flees to the country Clearview house. Emily’s efforts are in vain however, as Lord Griffin Crawford follows her to provide protection on their journey to Clearview. As an unlikely pair, Emily and Griffin partake in a slow-burn romance over the ensuing weeks.

“God, he wanted to kiss her right now. He wanted to taste the raindrops on her face and feel the drenched fabric of her gown bunched in his hands as he pulled her against him.”

– Griffin

While I found Emily to be a surprising character, she was my least favourite in the book and that made it somewhat a tough read. Throughout the story we experience the struggle Emily has with following the rules that propriety dictates of her while suppressing her inner curiosity and desires. Barnes raises awareness of the inequalities between men’s and women’s knowledge of carnality during the time, as well as their societal acceptance to partake in it. Emily conveys her displeasure of this in the book:

“Are you really able to imagine what it is like to be six and twenty years old and not have experienced kissing? …Men are able to learn about these aspects of life without anyone caring one way or the other. Indeed, they are expected to do so and more.”

– Emily

Despite my love of Emily’s independence, the issue I had with her was that at times she was hypocritical in her judgement of others despite her hearty disapproved of others forming incorrect opinions on her status as a ruined woman and spinster. This was consistently apparent in her dismissive opinions regarding Griffin’s feelings and motivations toward her throughout the story.

Griffin was my favourite character in the book as he displayed an honourable, thoughtful nature that eventually sought to gain Emily’s attentions and acceptance of his hand in marriage. While averse to the thought of marriage at the beginning of the novel, his attraction to Emily’s independence, strength and beauty was enough to change his mind on the matter. What I loved about Griffin was that he accepted and encouraged Emily to be herself and voice an opinion. This earned my respect as a reader and I found myself cheering for his success in winning her over.

A contention I have with the book, purely because of its title, is the notion of Griffin Crawford being a rogue. I just couldn’t see it. Despite what the title suggests, Griffin comes across as nothing less than an upstanding gentleman who seeks to win the hand of Emily. His admiration and respect for her independence was endearingly charming. Who could resist a man that wants a strong woman? What I could not picture however, was Griffin as a ravishing rogue. Throughout the book he firmly held the line of propriety for Emily’s sake, despite her objections at times, and for this I see him as more of a white knight seeking to save her tainted reputation. In all honesty, this was refreshing to read as too many historical romances favour portraying wicked male characters who become repetitive to read over time. I just wish that the title had been more in line with the real Griffin.

The similarities between Emily and Griffin’s circumstances (their independence and seeking to escape the confines of their families’ expectations of them) made for a believable connection between them from which love would slowly grow. The over-abundance of obstacles between these two points however, got a bit tiresome toward the end.

In spite of all this, I still found More than a Rogue to be an enjoyable read – if only occasionally frustrating.

Jen