Tag: 4 stars

See What I Have Done

Author: Sarah Schmidt
August 1, 2017
328 pages in Kindle

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: August 2-13, 2017

Jessica’s Rating: 4 Stars

Book Description from Goodreads:

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.

Jessica’s Review:

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

Nearly everyone has heard this rhyme and this case.  Andrew and Abby Borden were both brutally murdered in their home with an axe; Andrew’s daughter Lizzie was arrested and brought to trial for their murders. She was found not guilty and the murders are still unsolved today. Sarah Schmidt took a 10 year writing process/obsession and has brought us the fictional account of what led to the murders and afterwards with See What I Have Done.

There are four narrators in See: Lizzie, her sister Emma, Bridget the maid, and the enigmatic Benjamin who is a fictional character. Each narrator brings something different to this very disturbing story and family. It is a slow moving novel that at times can be hard to follow with the narratives. See goes back and forth within the chapters which can be confusing.    I had to reread some paragraphs several times because of the confusion.

There is a timeline included at the end of the novel. I felt that would have been better used at the beginning as an introduction to see where things will go for those who don’t know many details about the case. I felt a “cast of characters” would have been helpful as Schmidt seems to assume that the reader will know who each character is.

Even knowing this novel is fictional, it all seemed very real.  This comes with the in-depth research that Schmidt did. It does make you think about the case and wonder what really happened.  If you are looking for a good fictional introduction to Lizzie Borden, this is the place to start. If you are looking for anything ‘new’ with the case or any conclusions as to who did commit the murders, you will not get that.

Despite the issues I had, Schimidt did a very good job with See, which is her debut novel and it is an accomplishment. Living and breathing Lizzie for 10 years must have affected her as she ‘lived’ with these real people for so long. You can see in the Author Acknowledgements where she thanks Lizzie, but asks her to move on.

I received a copy via NetGalley, thank you so much for my copy!


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Author: J.K. Rowling
304 pages

Published: November 18, 2016
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 Stars

Description from Amazon:

J.K. Rowling’s screenwriting debut is captured in this edition of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay.

When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt’s fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone…

Inspired by the original Hogwarts textbook by Newt Scamander, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, author of the beloved and internationally bestselling Harry Potter books. A feat of imagination and showcasing a cast of remarkable characters and magical creatures, this is epic adventure-packed storytelling at its very best. Whether an existing fan or new to the wizarding world, this is a perfect addition to any film lover or reader’s bookshelf.

The film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them received its theatrical release on 18th November 2016.

Kim’s Review:

No more scripts for Kim! Seriously, the only thing keeping me from giving this book 5 stars is the fact that it’s not a book, it’s a screenplay. And it drove me nuts! The story was awesome, the characters where fun, the creatures were imaginative, and the artwork was beautiful . . . the format was horrible. Ok, I’m done. I did love the story. It was easy to get into and had all the wonder that belongs in the wizarding world. It wasn’t on the scale that Harry Potter was, but I don’t think it was meant to be. It was a great addition to the saga. My favorite character is Jacob Kowalski. Without him, this book would have been lacking all humor and realism . . . as real as a book about magic can be. And he’s a baker; I love baking. Newt, Tina, and Queenie were also pretty cool! I’d like to petition J.K. Rowling to write a historical book about the Dumbledores. Or a Wizards’ History. I just want to learn more. I’m a historian, so that book that Rita Skeeter wrote about the Dumbledore family fascinated me! And The Half-Blood Prince was my favorite book in the whole series because of all the history that Harry and Dumbledore saw in the Pensive. Fantastic Beasts makes me want those history books even more! If you haven’t read the Harry Potter series, then you probably won’t get this book. But to everyone who has read Harry Potter, then read this book, it’s great!



Bellamy and the Brute

Bellamy and the Brute: A retelling inspired by the story of Beauty and the Beast

Author: Alicia Michaels
344 pages

Published: March 13, 2017
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 Stars

Description from Amazon:

A fresh twist on the classic story of Beauty and the Beast, Bellamy and the Brute proves true love really is blind.

When Bellamy McGuire is offered a summer job babysitting for the wealthy Baldwin family, she’s reluctant to accept. After all, everyone in town knows about the mysterious happenings at the mansion on the hill—including the sudden disappearance of the Baldwin’s eldest son, Tate. The former football star and golden boy of Wellhollow Springs became a hermit at the age of sixteen, and no one has seen or heard from him since. Rumors abound as to why, with whisperings about a strange illness—one that causes deformity and turned him into a real-life monster. Bellamy wants to dismiss these rumors as gossip, but when she’s told that if she takes the job, she must promise to never, ever visit the third floor of the mansion, she begins to wonder if there really is some dark truth hidden there.

Tate’s condition may not be the only secret being kept at Baldwin House. There are gaps in the family’s financial history that don’t add up, and surprising connections with unscrupulous characters. At night there are strange noises, unexplained cold drafts, and the electricity cuts out. And then there are the rose petals on the staircase. The rose petals that no one but Bellamy seems to be able to see. The rose petals that form a trail leading right up to the 3 rd floor, past the portrait of a handsome young man, and down a dark hallway where she promised she would never, ever go…

As Bellamy works to unravel the mysteries of Baldwin House and uncover the truth about Tate, she realizes that she is in way over her head… in more ways than one. Can her bravery and determination help to right the wrongs of the past and free the young man whose story has captured her heart?

Kim’s Review:

Bellamy McGuire needs a summer job and when a babysitting position opens with the town’s richest family, she takes it. She doesn’t let the local rumors of hauntings and the disappearance of the Baldwin’s oldest son, Tate, stop her. But when she gets to the house, and begins to settle into her new position, weird stuff starts happening. Rose petals that no one else can see, an off limit 3rd floor, and parents who are distancing themselves from their kids, can Bellamy survive the summer? Is this job worth it?

So, Bellamy and the Brute is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, so of course I was gonna pick this up! Plus, this cover is amazing, just sayin. I liked this book from the beginning. The characters were likable, the story kept me interested from the start, and Baldwin House fascinated me. The only reason that I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5, is because of the annoying teenage hormones. I love Tate Baldwin. He’s that ideal, bad boy turned good, mysterious guy that all of us dreamed of in high school. But dang, before he turned good, he annoyed the crap out of me. Back and forth, sorry, screw up, sorry again, screw up again, over and over again . . . STOP! Please stop! Time to grow up, kiddies!!! Thankfully, both Tate and Bellamy matured significantly by the end of the book. I have nothing but great feelings about them.  Plus, Max and Emma Baldwin, the kids that Bellamy takes care of, are pretty darn cute. Emma made me giggle! I was also a little worried about yet another retelling of a popular fairy tale, but this one gave a twist that made it more interesting. I wouldn’t even necessarily call this a retelling, I think Beauty and the Beast was just a jumping off point and the author just ran with it. At the risk of dealing with controversial issues, I will say that I greatly appreciated the fact that Bellamy is an African American girl, but the author doesn’t make a big deal about race. If there’s anything that doesn’t matter to me, it’s the race of a character. If I like the character, then I like the character, no matter race, creed, or orientation. But what I can’t stand is when authors make a big deal of those things that should not matter. And the fact that this story took place in Georgia, with several African American characters, but without all the racial troubles every other sentence; I’m tired of authors beating a dead horse with how every book set in the South is surrounded by racial tension. I found it refreshing to read a book with normal teenagers, who don’t care about their race, and a normal story without all the political undertones, that I could just read in the news. If I wanted to read about all that, I’d just turn on the TV. But I don’t want to! I’m reading!

I would definitely recommend this book, but I would caution against younger kids and teens reading it. There are some mature themes, but mature themes handled maturely. It’s a light read, that’s perfect for summer!