Review: Between Shades of Gray

TITLE: Between Shades of Gray
AUTHOR: Ruta Sepetys
PUBLICATION: 2011 by Philomel Books
FORMAT: Hardcover

BOOK SYNOPSIS

Lina and her family are forced from their home and sent to a labor camp to toil for the Soviets. She draws their life in hell. However, amidst the very worst that people can do, Lina learns of the quiet strength that comes from hope and love…

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

I originally became aware of this novel from the NPR article “Two Gray Titles, One Sexy Mix-Up” that I came across during my break at work. Let’s see, erotica versus historical fiction… I wonder what the reader with a bookcase devoted to history is going to pick?! I became encouraged after Kathleen at Diary of a Future Golden Girl said I would like it since I liked The Book Thief.

The book is a young adult novel so I know that some of my blogger friends and followers would definitely like checking it out. The chapters are short, consisting of a few pages each. Most chapters contain a short flashback that detail a brief glimpse into our protagonist’s normal life. While Lina herself is a fictional character, the experiences related in this novel come from those of survivors that the author interviewed while researching for her book. It gives the story that much more weight.

This is the kind of historical fiction that I like to read about. I thought that I would take my time reading this book, but I became captivated and finished the last two hundred pages the next day only because I was too tired the night before to keep my eyes open anymore. This was a very hard book to put down and I do not hesitate in saying that it was definitely one of the best books that I have read this year. Just when I start to believe that anything I read will be average or something I find more wrong with than right to the point that I give up, I have to encounter Between Shades of Gray and endure my heart being ripped out of my chest and handed to me.

I could relate to Lina quite a lot actually. Why? I would never call myself an author or even a writer, but an artist works. It encompasses my passion for words, but also my desire to sketch and create something on the paper. I know that desire to draw. How it’s easier to express yourself with a pencil and paper than any verbal exchange could possibly accomplish…

Seriously why are you people not reading this book? I need others to join me in this emotional trauma!

Review: Hood

TITLE: Hood (King Raven Trilogy #1)
AUTHOR: Stephen R. Lawhead
PUBLICATION: 2006 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
FORMAT: Paperback

BOOK SYNOPSIS

Bran ap Brychan finds his world ripped from its foundation as invaders topple his father’s kingdom and send the young prince fleeing into the forest. Although he has lost everything except his life, deep in the forest the King Raven will rise to claim what is his…

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

I had heard of these books from a source I can no longer recall, but I found the first two books marked down at half price in one of my favorite bookstores and felt the whim to purchase them for reading at my pleasure. I plan on getting the final book in the trilogy from the library.

I do like Robin Hood stories. My favorite films are the animated Disney classic and the Ridley Scott film, but I find my experience with books has been less than satisfactory. The last book I read was Lady of the Forest and I didn’t care for it much at all, although I think I might have liked the character of Will Scarlet just a bit. Hood gives the legend a fresh perspective and I find it to be a nice change of pace. Characters we thought we knew so well have been recast in a new mold and it is interesting to see how they become like the heroes (and villains) that we’ve known over the centuries.

It was pretty easy to get swept up in this narrative at times. It’s descriptive but not bogged down by details and I think that readers will appreciate. It contained detailed action scenes, but I confess that my eyes have a tendency to glaze over during descriptive battle scenes so I would be unable to relate how these skirmishes were fought. It rather reminded me of Bernard Cornwell.

The characters are most interesting. The novel is narrated in third person, but we get focus on several of the key players in this conflict of Wales after the Normans have invaded. Bran doesn’t begin as a noble heroic type because he’s rather a selfish and hot-tempered brat who flits around in pursuit of seducing the fair sex. There is definitely room for character development to go on and it does, yet I think I’d like to see more of it. Or at least see the preparations that went into creating the King Raven that hides Bran’s identity. In this respect I can see Bran resembling more of the Scarlet Pimpernel than Robin Hood. Merian appears as a conflicted young woman who despises the invaders and yet is drawn to their elegant and refined lifestyles. This clashes drastically with the harsh treatment that Bran and his people suffer at their hands.

Oooh, I think I like this version of the cover!

The real question that you are asking yourself now is whether or not it is worth a read. I think that it is worth taking the time to read if you like these kind of retellings, or just a heroic adventure in general. I did like reading the book, but I didn’t love it. Therefore I think it is safe to say that I more than likely won’t read it again even though I enjoyed it. So I would recommend checking it out from the library if you are interested in a fresh take on an old story. And in that respect I will now be moving on to Scarlet, the second book in the trilogy.

MY RATING

Review: Red River

TITLE: Red River
AUTHOR: Lalita Tademy
PUBLICATION: 2007 by Warner Books
FORMAT: Hardcover

BOOK SYNOPSIS

For the newly-freed black residents of Colfax, Louisiana, the beginning of Reconstruction promised them the right to vote, own property-and at last control their own lives.Tademy saw a chance to start a school for his children and neighbors. His friend Israel Smith was determined to start a community business and gain economic freedom. But in the space of a day, marauding whites would “take back” Colfax in one of the deadliest cases of racial violence in the South. In the bitter aftermath, Sam and Israel’s fight to recover and build their dreams will draw on the best they and their families have to give-and the worst they couldn’t have foreseen.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

The only reason that I have this book is because I loved the author’s previous novel Cane River. I can’t remember whether my mother or myself purchased Red River when it was on the bargain table at Borders, but I’ve had it for a few years and not really touched it. Still I figured it was time to finally dust it off and see whether or not I wanted to keep it on my shelves or add it to my stack of books to donate to the public library.

I think it’s interesting how Tademy constructs her books around the family lore of her ancestors. I’ve thought about writing stories based around the anecdotes of my own family.

The main event of this book is the 1873 Colfax “riot”. The reader is shown how residents became involved and the tense feeling of a storm that none would escape from unscathed during the ensuing weeks. The chapters leading up to the conflict are peppered with anecdotes about Sam and Israel’s past in slavery and their fledgling years of freedom. The first half of the novel details the weeks leading up to the massacre at Colfax and then each chapter afterward jumps ahead in the span of years to see what happens to the survivors and the families involved. I think that I probably would have liked the pacing better if the first half of the book hadn’t been drawn out so much and the second half occur at such a breakneck speed of covering the next sixty years.

A few characters are given the better portion of the center stage. Although I probably would have liked to see more from some of the characters who aren’t really touched upon that often. You really have to feel sorry for Noby and how his half-brother treated him. Even if you don’t like family, you don’t do that to them. It’s cold. At any rate I can say for certain that I do not have a favorite. I suppose it wouldn’t be a bother if I liked the book more. There have been well written books I liked even though I failed to have a real favorite from among the characters in it.

This book had its moments and some good writing, but it just didn’t quite enrapture me as the author’s previous book had done. Its main fault I think was its pacing, but it failed to hook me as anything that I would wish to read again.

MY RATING

Review: Mistress of Rome

TITLE: Mistress of Rome
AUTHOR: Kate Quinn
PUBLICATION: 2010 by Berkley Trade
FORMAT: Paperback

BOOK SYNOPSIS

Thea, a slave from Judea, falls in love with the new star of the Colliseum named Arius. However, due to the jealousy of a cruel mistress the happiness of the lovers is short lived as they are torn apart. Then Thea, in a new life as a singer, catches the eye of the Emperor and old rivals are thrust together once again. Amidst the cruelty of an Emperor’s favor, a love long thought to be dead also arises. Now that she is mistress of Rome what will become of Thea and Arius?

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

This was a book that was receiving some high praise on GoodReads at one of the groups I had membership to so I’ve been curious for awhile. I found it at Borders in the bargain section so for a few dollars it was hard to resist adding this to my collection. Now that I have read it, I cannot believe I waited so long to get around to it!

Mistress of Rome picks up pretty much where the epilogue of Daughters of Rome leaves off. The author has stated how she spent her time writing this novel while listening to the Gladiator soundtack on repeat. I own that soundtrack and I have no problem listening to it on repeat, hehe! I found myself easily drawn into this narrative and I can honestly say that I had difficulty putting this one down. It’s told from a few different perspectives, first person and third person respectively. Make no mistake that this novel is a harsh romance set in Rome during the first century. Characters do not seem all that coddled here, or at least Thea isn’t, but I suppose anything softer wouldn’t seem real given that she is a slave.

Again I am grateful for the historical note at the end. Quinn has listed some interesting books I’d like to check out that were used in her research on the period. You know that someday there’s going to be a slew of history books reviewed on this blog, don’t you? I’ve constructed quite the list of things to read in the future. Anything about Rome is usually added.

I love the characters in this book. Thea and Arius will make me squeal with delight. Thanks to the Ridley Scott film I have something of a fondness for gladiators, and I hope I am not incorrect in seeing some influence from Russell Crowe’s character in Arius? Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking. There was a moment of surprise when Quinn breaks the cliche and it’s the hero lacking the sexual experience instead of the heroine. Early on I was afraid that some of the actions taken would leave me feeling disappointed in this book, but oddly enough it all worked out and I am very pleased with the book overall. I also like the characters that exist for the reader to love to hate, but what’s a story without a good villain or two? Otherwise there’s no antagonist angle for the climax. Although I wonder if I might have liked the Empress more had I not read Daughters of Rome prior to this novel.

I believe it is safe to say that Mistress of Rome is everything that I wished to find in Daughters of Rome. Oh, this book will be kept on the shelf and read again. I know that Kate Quinn is suppose to release Empress of the Seven hills in a few months, but I think I will be getting that from the library to test and see if it is worth owning. It should be interesting to read more about Sabina and Vix.

MY RATING

Review: Comfort Woman

TITLE: Comfort Woman
AUTHOR: Nora Okja Keller
PUBLICATION: 1998 by Penguin Books
FORMAT: Paperback

BOOK SYNOPSIS

Beccah thought that she knew her mother as a woman who believed in spirits and that wishing could kill a man, but after her mother’s death Beccah discovers that there was another mother she never knew with a past she could never imagine.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

I’ve read a book by Nora Keller before and that one was called Fox Girl, which I found while browsing in the library stacks for something new and different to read. I remember random scenes from it and the overriding emotions, but my memory recollects how depressing it was overall. I don’t remember how I came across the knowledge of Comfort Woman, perhaps a blog review, but I’ve had a borrowed copy for awhile and I read bits at a time of it.

I first encountered the comfort women of the Japanese military from Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking so the fact that soldiers used a young girl like a prostitute wasn’t a shocking revelation for me as I read this novel. The book alternates between Akiko and her daughter Beccah and both women tend to dip in and out of the past to the present and to the past again so the flow seems a bit all over the place. Most of Akiko’s reflections involve her life from a small child and the experiences she has thereafter, but it’s peppered with thoughts about her daughter. I did wonder how a woman like her would have a husband after the ordeal that she went through, but all is explained. And the daughter’s perspective seems about like all of us would if we had such a mother, shame and the inability to claim her when pressed.

It wasn’t a beautiful work of prose that had me begging for more, but I will confess that it had some interesting imagery. I have noticed a theme in the two books I’ve read of Keller’s where she has a young girl the victim of sexual assaults and the recovery thereafter. Comfort Woman isn’t for everyone. I’m sure some would view it as a somewhat confusing piece, and I often felt myself in a surreal narrative with Akiko’s musings about the spirits that haunted her throughout her life. Although you are left wondering if sometimes the mother’s past hasn’t indeed driven her to madness to cope with it. The experiences at the camp keep coming back in Akiko’s viewpoint chapters and I am sure that there are readers who might find it difficult to read in some of those portions.

In a way it’s what I expected, but then again it’s unlike what I expected. I think it would be worth looking into if your library has a copy.

MY RATING

Review: Daughters of Rome

TITLE: Daughters of Rome
AUTHOR: Kate Quinn
PUBLICATION: 2011 by Berkley Trade
FORMAT: Paperback

BOOK SYNOPSIS

A.D. 69. Nero is dead.

The Roman Empire is up for the taking. With bloodshed spilling out of the palace and into the streets of Rome, chaos has become the status quo. The Year of Four Emperors will change everything—especially the lives of two sisters with a very personal stake in the outcome….

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

I found this a few months before Borders had its going out of business sale. It was discounted and I did have Mistress of Rome at home, so I thought I’d get another one by this author. I found out it was the prequel to Mistress of Rome and since I had not read that book, this gives me the chance to read this one first and leave anything about Mistress a surprise when I get to that one. I confess I have a weakness for books that take place in ancient Rome. I’m so familiar with the time of Julius Caesar and the rise of Augustus that it’s refreshing to find something in my TBR pile that takes place later as Daughters of Rome does.

I’m not really familiar with the span of history that this novel covers so I was thankful to see the author’s historical notes at the end. She lays out what major events and figures were real and what she added to advance the fiction. I find myself agreeing with some of her decisions for historical license, such as the fate of the centurion who fought to save Piso’s life.

The prose is very readable and doesn’t spend too much time on dwelling on things. The pacing seemed pretty even to me and it kept me reading at a steady pace. I’m not sure what it was about this novel that made me not like it as much as I hoped to. It was still a pleasant read, but I just didn’t feel an overriding attachment to it. You know what I mean? At this time I’m not even sure of the probability that I would read it again.

The four women who serve as our main characters in this novel are different from each other, but I found myself surprised that I felt attached to the Cornelia cousin nicknamed Lollia. I did not figure that I would like her in her quest for other lovers, but her growing attachment to her Gaul slave made her grow on me. And she wasn’t afraid to do what was right as she did her duty for her grandfather. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen to that pig of a general she married. Marcella seemed nice enough at first and the character you would think I would root for, but much like the Senator toward the end I didn’t like her much anymore. I think that my favorite of the romances that arise in this novel would be between Cornelia and the lover she takes. At any rate I was pleased to see that all the women changed over the course of the novel, for better or worse.

I didn’t love it, but it was a pleasant enough way to pass the time.

MY RATING

Review: Annie, Between the States


TITLE: Annie, Between the States
AUTHOR: L. M. Elliot
PUBLICATION: 2004 by Scholastic
FORMAT: Paperback

BOOK SYNOPSIS

The Civil War has broken out and Annie Sinclair’s Virginia home, Hickory Heights, is right in the line of battle. Caught up in the rising conflict, Annie and her mother tend to wounded soldiers while Annie’s older brother, Laurence, enlists in the Confederate cavalry under JEB Stuart. Even Annie’s rambunctious baby brother, Jamie, joins John Mosby, the notorious “Gray Ghost.” Faced with invading armies, Annie is compelled into a riskier role to protect her family and farm. She conceals Confederate soldiers and warns Southern commanders of Union traps, and the flamboyant JEB Stuart dubs her “Lady Liberty.”

Annie’s loyalty is clear until a wounded Union officer is dragged onto her porch. Saved from a bullet by a volume of Keat’s poetry he keeps in his pocket, Thomas Walker startles Annie with his love of verse. After several chance encounters, Annie is surprised by her growing interest in the dark-eyed Northerner as they connect through a shared passion for poetry.

As the war rages on, Annie begins to question some of the values driving Virginia’s involvement. Then tragedy befalls Hickory Heights, and Annie becomes the subject of a shocking accusation. She must confront the largest quandary of all: choosing her own course.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

I kept seeing this book sitting on the used shelf at a quaint little bookshop that I like to visit. I’m a sucker for historical fiction that takes place during the Civil War, but I kept resisting because I didn’t need another new book to throw on my TBR pile just yet… I can show resistance to the siren call, right? However, sometimes you just want to get a new book and this was only a few dollars. (Excuses, right?)

I found myself enjoying this book as I started reading it. It’s written for a younger audience, but I found no trouble immersing myself into it. I read it mostly before bedtime in the evenings at a chapter or two unless I became interested in what might happen.

I enjoyed how the characters are profoundly touched by the hardships and the tragedies of the war. Our heroine Annie loses her innocence of the gallantry of the cause and just how much her way of life isn’t what she has perceived it to be. From her we learn that women’s work is tending the sick, stretching the food, and waiting. Still at times I felt that the story moved too slowly or jumped around a bit too much. The climax of Annie’s conflicting emotions toward a Yankee soldier don’t even really become an issue until the last 150 pages because Thomas is missing through most of the book once Annie’s mother tends to him after the battle in the novel’s opening chapters. So it’s not without it’s tedious moments where you wonder if a bullet’s going to put an end to Annie’s younger brother of the fiery temper. And it doesn’t end on quite such a happy note either. Yet there is hope for a better tomorrow.

Overall I would say it’s an average book. I know there are a lot of YA readers out there in the blogsphere and for those with an appetite for historical fiction, especially of the Civil War era variety, this book may be something you should check out. For me it’s one of those books that I fail to see a reason to read it more than once, but I’m one who prefers books more like Gone with the Wind and Widow of the South.

MY RATING

Review: Pope Joan


TITLE: Pope Joan
AUTHOR: Donna Woolfolk Cross
PUBLICATION: 1996 by Three Rivers Press
FORMAT: Paperback

BOOK SYNOPSIS

For a 1000 years her existence has been denied. She’s the legend that will not die-–Pope Joan, the 9th-century woman who disguised herself as a man & rose to become the only female ever to sit on the throne of St. Peter. Now in this riveting novel, Donna Woolfolk Cross paints a sweeping portrait of an unforgettable heroine who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept.

Brilliant & talented, young Joan rebels against medieval social strictures forbidding women to learn. When her brother is brutally killed during a Viking attack, Joan takes up his cloak & his identity & enters the monastery of Fulda. As Brother John Anglicus, Joan distinguishes herself as a great scholar & healer. Eventually, she is drawn to Rome, where she becomes enmeshed in a dangerous web of love, passion & politics. Triumphing over appalling odds, she finally attains the highest office in Christendom. But such power always comes at a price.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

I remember hearing a very obscure reference to Pope Joan on some documentary program a long time ago. I thought she was rather fascinating to be able to do what she did from that small bit of information. I found out about the movie due to a curiosity to see David Wenham (my Faramir crush seems to be taking its toll) and seen the novel on the shelf at one of my favorite little bookshops. So I finally broke down and bought it since I didn’t see any region 1 DVDs of the film available because I’m that kind of person whom would read the book to wait for a chance to see the movie at a later date. I’m kind of surprised that I didn’t know of this book’s existence sooner or I may have picked it up for a perusal before now. *sighs* I guess there are just too many books for one lone bibliophile to keep up with!

The story starts to weave its spell in the first chapter as we are told of Joan’s birth and the years of her young life in the proceeding chapters when she discovers that she has the gift to be a scholar. I like reading books of the women from history who would seek to defy their given role in society just to prove that it could be done. Yes, I like the prose style of this author. It was quite easy to get wrapped up in the novel and I stayed up later at night than I should have because of it! I was in “one more chapter” mode! Once I had an afternoon to myself I accomplished a lot of reading because it was hard to put the book down.

Although if I have any gripe, it’s I need more details to gain a better appreciation. Yes, by now my readers know that I like a vivid picture painted before my eyes of the setting and characters. Again it’s a personal preference. Still the efforts to be true to history with minimal licenses should be commended. It’s rather a fascinating study: did Joan exist or is she just a legend? I for one would like to think that she was real and I couldn’t blame her for choosing to live life as a man when you look at her options in such an abysmal time of history.

Joan comes across many contradictions in her life, but none so much as herself. The daughter to an English clergy and a pagan mother, her mixed upbring of the Christian god and Norse dieties, accepted tradition and dangerous reasoning offer her the chance to see things from new perspectives. Still I found myself gripping the pages and silently cheered her on to give in to her feelings for Gerold as though she were just another romance heroine, heh!

Please add Gerold to my list of book crushes! Although it seems odd that he wouldn’t spend more time lamenting the loss of his daughters instead of merely pining over Joan whom he thought taken captive during a Viking raid. Yet I suppose it would have dampened the romantic aspect of the novel.

I would have liked to own that book of Homer’s Iliad that the Greek gave to Joan!

Overall I found this novel to be quite an enjoyable read and am pleased that a whim purchase turned out to be a wise decision rather than a disaster. If you fancy a good intrigue, but are tired of queens and princesses, why not give Pope Joan a try?

MY RATING

Review: Agincourt


Title: Agincourt
Author: Bernard Cornwell
Publication: 2009 by HarperCollins
Format: Hardcover

Book Synopsis

Young Nicholas Hook is dogged by a cursed past—haunted by what he has failed to do and banished for what he has done. A wanted man in England, he is driven to fight as a mercenary archer in France, where he finds two things he can love: his instincts as a fighting man, and a girl in trouble. Together they survive the notorious massacre at Soissons, an event that shocks all Christendom. With no options left, Hook heads home to England, where his capture means certain death. Instead he is discovered by the young King of England—Henry V himself—and by royal command he takes up the longbow again and dons the cross of Saint George. Hook returns to France as part of the superb army Henry leads in his quest to claim the French crown. But after the English campaign suffers devastating early losses, it becomes clear that Hook and his fellow archers are their king’s last resort in a desperate fight against an enemy more daunting than they could ever have imagined.

What I Thought About It . . .

The only books that I had read by Cornwell before now consisted of two installments from the Richard Sharpe series. However, Small Review was good enough to send me this book since she found it not to her liking. I read just about anything and I confess I knew little about this battle. My knowledge of English history is sadly lacking, I’m afraid.

I imagine that Cornwell’s message is that war is not glamorous in this novel, but I could be wrong in my interpretation. I often found myself wondering though if we could have a little bit less mentioning of the army’s rampant diseases, and more about the death and destruction but we get some more of that once the army reaches Agincourt. Still I suppose it adds to the realistic feel of the book, in which I am quite certain I would not want to be a soldier or a soldier’s wife traveling with the army. I ponder whether or not I would have enjoyed it better had I been familiar with the history. Probably not since I don’t really find anything spectacular about the event (and you know this is because it doesn’t fall under one of the areas of history that I fancy). The author’s note mentions that it is a fairly accurate depiction from historical research and I think it is kind of neat that he takes the names for the archers from an actual roster of archers that were present during that campaign.

I wanted to like this book more because I think Cornwell does a great job of really bringing history to life in his books. But I consider myself to be a character-driven reader. I have to care about the characters to really enjoy a story. And that’s really why I fail to give this book a higher rating. I didn’t really care if Nick Hook survived Agincourt to be perfectly honest. Although the hearing voices of saints aspect was unexpected, and interesting to say the least. However, it is nice to discover he grew a spine after his initial horror of striking a priest in a failed attempt to save an angelic-looking “heretic” from being sexually assaulted by a lecherous man who claimed to speak for God. Seeing him gut the man about to do the same to a novice nun in Soissons? Yes, I confess I enjoyed the descriptions of how people died in this book.

Sir John’s dialogue was comical though at least to me. Now there’s a character I could like for no other reason than the fact that he amuses me.

But this doesn’t deter me from reading more books written by Bernard Cornwell. I was investigating his website and discovered other books he has written that I would like to read, books taking place during the American revolution and civil wars among other things.

MY RATING

Review: Wench


Title: Wench
Author: Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Publication: 2010 by HarperCollins
Format: Hardcover

Book Synopsis

In her debut, Perkins-Valdez eloquently plunges into a dark period of American history, chronicling the lives of four slave women—Lizzie, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu—who are their masters’ mistresses. The women meet when their owners vacation at the same summer resort in Ohio. There, they see free blacks for the first time and hear rumors of abolition, sparking their own desires to be free. For everyone but Lizzie, that is, who believes she is really in love with her master, and he with her. An extended flashback in the middle of the novel delves into Lizzie’s life and vividly explores the complicated psychological dynamic between master and slave. Jumping back to the final summer in Ohio, the women all have a decision to make—will they run? Heart-wrenching, intriguing, original and suspenseful, this novel showcases Perkins-Valdez’s ability to bring the unfortunate past to life.

What I Thought About It . . .
One of the things which appealed to me about this book is the fact that the resort the novel centers around is based on a real place in Ohio. It takes place about a decade before the Civil War so that also piqued my interest in it because I like to read books leading up to the war and during it. I’ve been wanting to read it since its publication, but it wasn’t until I seen that it’s now available in paperback that I finally decided to stop procrastinating and get a copy from my library. Praise for it by Lalita Tademy, author of Cane River, made me wonder why I waited so long!

The complex relationships in this novel are not sugar-coated and these slave women live in a world that is not black and white. Yes, it is easy to say that given the chance of being in a “free” territory we would all run. Still would you be able to leave those you love behind, your children even if they were the children of your master, whether the product of rape or consent? I did enjoy how the author presented complications to the characters and their motivations. Mawu brings her radical ideas to her new found friends and their perceptions of their situations begin to change. Even Lizzie, who thinks she possesses so much control over her owner, sees that she is merely a slave and a female slave at that to be used when he feels like it.

The only thing I didn’t really understand was why Lizzie’s extended flashback happens in the middle of the novel. It seems that it would have been more suiting to be positioned at the beginning of it. Nothing new is particularly gleaned from it except that her master took great pains to seduce her into offering her virginity to him when she’s thirteen years old instead of forcing himself on her, as Mawu’s had done when her rejection prompted a beating and her vulnerability during recovery. Can a slave owner really take the time to teach his property to read when all he really wants is a mistress? I suppose it can be a baffling notion as human behavior tends to present itself to be. After all why would one man force another human being into slavery based on nothing more than the color of his skin?

This novel had a very engaging prose and story so that I found myself absorbed by the narrative to the point where I had it finished in a few days. I was so close to the end of the story that I even stayed up past my usual time to retire to bed because I felt I had to know how this engrossing story ended for Lizzie and her friends. So I would most assuredly recommend this novel for any reader out there who possessed a fancy to add it to their book list.

MY RATING