Review + Giveaway: “Daughter of a Daughter of Queen” by Sarah Bird

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Title: Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen

Author: Sarah Bird

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press/Macmillan

Publication Date: September 4, 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it:

IndieBound | Book DepositoryBarnes and Noble | Amazon | Books-a-Million | Powells

(ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley)

Sarah Bird shines a light on the only known female Buffalo Soldier Cathay/Cathy Williams in her newest offering Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen.

“Here’s the first thing you need to know about Miss Cathy Williams: I am the daughter of a daughter of a queen and my mama never let me forget it”

Though born into bondage on a “miserable tobacco farm” in Little Dixie, Missouri, Cathy Williams was never allowed to consider herself a slave. According to her mother, she was a captive destined by her noble warrior blood to escape the enemy. Her means of deliverance is Union general Philip Henry “Smash ’em Up” Sheridan, the outcast of West Point who takes the rawboned, prideful young woman into service. At war’s end, having tasted freedom, Cathy refuses to return to servitude and makes the monumental decision to disguise herself as a man and join the Army’s legendary Buffalo Soldiers.

Alone now in the ultimate man’s world, Cathy must fight not only for her survival and freedom, but she also vows to never give up on finding her mother, her little sister, and the love of the only man strong enough to win her heart. Inspired by the stunning, true story of Private Williams, this American heroine comes to vivid life in a sweeping and magnificent tale about one woman’s fight for freedom, respect and independence.

I admit, aside from having to memorize and perform Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in junior year English class (for which I got an A), I know almost nothing about the American Civil War. It’s always been a point of interest though, so when I got an email asking if I’d want to read an advanced copy of a book set at the tail-end of the civil war featuring a woman, a freed slave, who disguised herself as a man to join the army, I immediately said yes.

And I’m totally giving myself a good job pat on my shoulder for making that decision.

Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen is an engaging novel, vividly re-imagining historical figures and events. I totally fell in love with this story. It has everything I could ever ask for  – captivating writing, interesting and nuanced supporting characters, action, and romance.

But, as important as those elements are, where Sarah Bird really excelled is at writing her main character.

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From the get-go, I was compelled by Cathy Williams’ character. She’s strong and feisty and proud. Having been raised by strong, proud women – her mother and grandmother – Cathy’s will remain unbroken even through years of bondage and servitude. She’s still sarcastically witty, gutsy, and resilient, and I admired her more for it. The things she has gone through, I can only imagine just how hard it had been for her, but still, she pushes and comes through in the end.

As is the case with historical fiction, this book is a mix of researched facts and the authors creative leeway. Sometimes a book may be bogged down by these creative add-ons, but Bird managed to balance it, taking what bits of history there is about Cathy Williams and weaving it into a story of her own making while tackling racial issues that are still very much relevant today.

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This was an almost flawless book for me. What kept it from getting a five-star rating is its slow pacing down the middle parts and the nonmention of Lincoln’s assassination (whereas Andrew Jackson was brought up).

Overall, Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen is a great, important read. Whether you’re a historical fiction lover or not, I believe this is one book you’ll enjoy and treasure. I definitely recommend this book.

🍂 🍂 🍂 🍂 🍂

To celebrate the release of Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen, I am, with the help of St. Martin’s Press, giving away a copy of this amazing book. Just enter the rafflecopter giveaway by clicking on the link below. This is open to everyone. (Yes, even you wonderful international readers! Yes, of course, you!) The giveaway runs until the end of September 11. I’ll be picking a winner on September 12.

I am so thankful and happy to be given a chance to be a part of the blog tour for this very special book. Special thanks goes to Sarah Bird and Clare Maurer at St. Martin’s Press.

Review: Zoje Stage’s “Baby Teeth”

35410511Title: Baby Teeth

Author: Zoje Stage

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: July 17, 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

Pre-order it:

IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Books-a-million

(Digital ARC provided by the publisher thru NetGalley in exchange for an honest review)

 

A seemingly perfect family is the center of this thriller of a debut from former filmmaker Zoje Stage.

Sweetness can be deceptive. 

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

Goodreads

Baby Teeth takes the love-hate relationship between a mother and her daughter to a new level and will make you question just how far can a mother stretch her love for a child who keeps pushing her.

Told from the point of view of emotionally-exhausted Suzette and precocious but silent Hanna in interchanging chapters, mother and daughter play protagonist of their own stories, and each other’s antagonist.

Stay-at-home mom Suzette loves her daughter, but Hanna is making it hard for her. Gone is the dark-haired angel she brought to life replaced by an intelligent but devious, cunning and manipulative child with the full intent to harm her. With a husband who is too blind to see that there is something wrong with their child, Suzette is backed into a corner helpless as she fears for her life and watches as her idealized, perfect family falls apart.

Hanna loves her father and she wants him all to herself. With the help of a late 17th century witch as her imaginary friend, she finds her voice and plot ways to get rid of her mother, the only person who stands in the way between her and daddy.

I have to be upfront, Baby Teeth was a tough book to read. There were parts I loved and parts I didn’t. I will try to detail both polar ends as much as possible in this review without spoiling the story starting with the things I liked about this book.

Baby Teeth is a well-written book. Zoje Stage is sure to hook readers, reel them into her story with her snappy, straightforward writing. It’s jarring, but she does not sugarcoat things, neither does she go into unnecessary detail – what you see is what you get no matter if you like it or not.

Another thing that I really love about Baby Teeth are the characters. Stage’s characterization of both Suzette and Hanna is so strong you could just imagine them pop out of the pages. These two characters are the heart and soul of this book, driving the plot and moving the story with every step, every decision they make, which is a testament to just how perfect Stage played Suzette and Hanna against each other.

Now, for the parts that could have been done better.

From start to finish, I had one major problem while reading Baby Teeth – I couldn’t suspend my disbelief – and the reason for this, Hanna. Though she speaks like a 7-year old, the way she thinks is more apt for a 12-year old, which is why I just can’t picture her as she is described in the book. The whole time I was reading the book I found myself asking this question: “Can a 7-year old really make very detailed plans?” And the answer I keep on getting from both a personal and professional viewpoint: “No”. It just stopped me from fully enjoying the story, which takes a big chunk of how I rate books.

Still, Baby Teeth is a worthy read. It’s a strong, controversial debut, and I’m sure other people will love it. I guess, it just wasn’t for me.

 

 

Review: Courtney Summers’ “Sadie”

38456024Title: Sadie

Author: Courtney Summers

Publisher: Wednesday Books/St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: September 4, 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Pre-order it:

IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Books-a-million

(Digital ARC provided by the publisher thru NetGalley in exchange for an honest review)

Being both a fan of true crime stories and Serial, I was naturally excited for this novel. Add to that the buzz it’s been receiving and you got me setting my expectations high, which is something I’m wary of because half the time I end up being disappointed in the book.

But Sadie more than held up.

Trigger warning: Pedophilia, child abuse, drug abuse

Sadie centers on 19-year old Sadie Hunter’s quest to find her sister’s killer and the subsequent search for her by radio personality West McCray.

Abandoned by their drug-addicted mother when she was sixteen, Sadie is left alone to fend for herself and raise her younger sister, Mattie. Sadie makes Mattie her purpose, taking every thing the young girl throws at her, so when Mattie is found dead, Sadie makes it her mission to hunt her sister’s murderer.

Sadie hadn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Goodreads

I love this book! But let me warn you, Sadie is unapologetically dark and raw. Courtney Summers pulls no punches with this one, trust me.

Sadie will reel you in from its first word down to its last. It unfolds bit by bit, chapter after chapter, going back and forth between McCray’s podcast transcripts from The Girls set five months after Sadie’s disappearance and the titular main character’s first-person perspective set immediately after she leaves her small town to begin her search.

It was the perfect way to tell the story.

It may be off-putting for some, but I cannot imagine having this particular story told another way. I loved reading both the podcast transcripts and Sadie’s POV in equal measures. The alternating chapters, a modified before and after trade-off, flawlessly moved the narrative at the right pace, revealing enough of the story to keep readers guessing but not too much that it spoils the whole thing.

Another thing I loved is the writing. Courtney Summers is no stranger to writing hard topic books, just take All the Rage as an example. Summers’ writing is sharp and on point, and she created a realistic, complicated, very human protagonist in Sadie Hunter. I can’t help feeling for her – sad at what she has been through and angry at what has been done to her. Then, there’s West McCray – a reluctant character who becomes more and more invested as he gets to know Sadie through the eyes of the people who knew and loved and her. West’s search for Sadie mirrors Sadie’s search for her sister’s murderer, and I think writing the these two characters’ narrative this way will give readers a broader view of the story.

Still, Sadie’s boundless love for Mattie is the heart of this story. Even though she starts out the determined to avenge her sister’s death, the depth of Sadie’s love, and the grief and the guilt she feels for her sister stands out.

Sadie will break you and make you care. It will keep you turning the page until you reach the end. Comparable to Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak and Louise O’Neill’s Asking for It, Sadie will open up discussions about the realities of life that are hard to talk about. I definitely recommend this to everyone.