Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Published: September 8, 2015
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
Today Miss Chandler gave me this beautiful book. I vow that I will never forget her kindness to me, and I will use this book as she told me to—that I will write in it with truth and refinement…But who could be refined living at Steeple Farm?
Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs, just like the heroines in her beloved novels, yearns for real life and true love. But what hope is there for adventure, beauty, or art on a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania where the work never ends? Over the summer of 1911, Joan pours her heart out into her diary as she seeks a new, better life for herself—because maybe, just maybe, a hired girl cleaning and cooking for six dollars a week can become what a farm girl could only dream of—a woman with a future.
Inspired by her grandmother’s journal, Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her sharp wit and keen eye to early twentieth-century America in a comedic tour de force destined to become a modern classic. Joan’s journey from the muck of the chicken coop to the comforts of a society household in Baltimore (Electricity! Carpet sweepers! Sending out the laundry!) takes its reader on an exploration of feminism and housework, religion and literature, love and loyalty, cats, hats, bunions, and burns.
I did enjoy this book, mainly based on the relationships that Joan establishes throughout her experiences. This is essentially, a story about growing up in the early 20th century. I’ll admit that I thought Joan to be a little whiny, but she is only 14 and it wasn’t too annoying. I also liked the way that Schlitz tackled anti-Semitism. That’s not a very popular issue to take on but there was plenty of material from that time period!
She seemed to be very accurate with the personalities of people such as Mrs. Rosenbach and Malka. I ended up liking them the most. Malka is a crotchety old lady who knows how she likes things done and won’t tolerate any change or nonsense. Yet she still has a soft spot. Reading about her interactions with Joan and the Rosenbachs endeared her to me. And Mrs. Rosenbach handles every situation with grace, poise, and a steady moral compass. I really appreciate how Mr. Rosenbach encourages Joan’s love of learning and tries to hold his own children to a higher academic standard. Hardwork is also a central theme that I think would benefit certain generations who are far too entitled for their own good! All this to say that although the book is written in Joan’s own thoughts, I liked it for most of the characters aside from Joan! I recommend this to any teenager and anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
Today Kim reviews The Blood and Salt Series by Kim Liggett . She loved the first, but the second one was not really for her. She rated the series 4 stars.
Books in the Series:
Blood and Salt
Heart of Ash
Blood and Salt
Published: September 22, 2015
Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror.
“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”
These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.
Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.
As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.
Heart of Ash
Published: February 20, 2018
Ash may have escaped the immortal-worshipping cult that killed her mother, but the love of her life is still under its thrall. Dane has been possessed by his diabolical ancestor Coronado, a man who’s fabulously wealthy, dripping with fame, and the leader of Europe’s most dangerous immortal network. Dane begs Ash to join him at Coronado’s castle in Spain, and swears that his blood bond with Ash is stronger than Coronado’s hold over him. Ash is desperate to help Dane vanquish Coronado without having to sacrifice herself to the darkness. But when you’re all in, blood and salt, the only way to hold on to the light might just be by setting everything on fire.
Kim’s Rating of the Series: 4 Stars
Kim’s Review of the Series:
I found Blood and Salt by mistake three years ago during my scary stage! I had been looking for another book but got the title wrong and found Blood and Salt instead. Totally worth it! I really enjoyed this first book. I love the setting, the characters, and the story. Ash and Rhys are teens, but they are far more mature than the typical teen. They’ve grown up with a very unconventional mother who raised them away from the cult she was born into. I’m just weird, y’all know this about me already. Cults are fascinating!
All my friends make fun of me because I grew up in a “cult like” environment, so the character that I identified with most is Beth. She’s quirky, sheltered, optimistic, and innocent. She’s definitely more perky than I was when I left college, but I like her a lot. She adds a humorous side to the story that helps lighten a rather dark situation. And the legend of Katia and Coronado brings some historical realism.
This is the second time I’ve read this book, but the first time was long enough ago that I didn’t remember what happened. Everything fit perfectly together and made sense. It was dark and creepy and although the ending was technically a cliffhanger, it didn’t drive me nuts. A solid 5 stars!
Unfortunately, Heart of Ash did not live up to the standard Blood and Salt set. The first book was on a smaller, more intimate scale that held the tension really well. Then Heart of Ash turned it into a global conspiracy that just took away from the original story. Where Ash used to be a mature teen who had to deal with a lot of adult stuff and did it capably, she then turned into that annoying teen who flip flopped on every little thing and spent most of the book talking herself in and out of loving Dane. OMG stop!! Y’all got way bigger fish to fry here! It felt like Blood and Salt should have had just a few extra pages that could have resolved the whole saga, but Leggitt tried to draw the story out and fell flat. Katia and Coronado’s story became petty and unrealistic (fantasy realism is different than actual realism lol). I was so excited about this sequel . . . but overall I just didn’t like it. I’ll give it 3 stars.
I think I’d recommend the first book with no hesitation to anyone, teens included. Yeah, go ahead and read the second book, but really only to resolve the story. So the whole series gets 4 stars.
Author: Em Bailey
Published: July 18, 2017
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
A mysterious cult leader has complete control over Esther’s life…or does he?
Esther is one of the Special Ones: four young spiritual guides who live under his protection in a remote farmhouse. The Special Ones are not allowed to leave, but why would they want to? They are safe from toxic modern life, safe from a meaningless existence, safe in their endless work. He watches them every moment of every day, ready to punish them if they forget who they are—and all the while, broadcasting their lives to eager followers on the outside.
Esther knows that if she stops being Special, he will “renew” her. That means being replaced with another Esther. Nobody knows what happens to the Special Ones who are taken away from the farm for renewal, but Esther fears the worst. She also knows she’s a fake. She has no ancient wisdom, and is deeply troubled about her life in captivity. But like an actor caught up in an endless play, she must keep up the performance if she wants to survive long enough to escape.
To be 100% honest, this book seemed like a rehash of The Cellar by Natasha Preston. There were a lot of similarities and it really felt like almost exactly the same story. However, there were details that were different and I still enjoyed reading this book very much!
The first half of the book was definitely stronger than the second half. I enjoyed reading about the specifics of the kidnappings and imprisonment of the Special Ones and I liked learning about the nature of the delusion in which he has immersed himself. But, I was left feeling a bit disappointed about the photograph from which he got his inspiration. Who were these people? Why was that photo so important? What kind of research did he do? How did he know their names? We’ve had this discussion before, I’m a historian and you can’t leave me dangling like that! I need more information! Em, I’d like to formally request a book exclusively about those people in the photograph. Thank you.
The ending did get a little slow, but I liked the way the story resolved itself. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good psychological thriller or anyone who loves Criminal Minds. Yes, I did try to do some behavioral analysis on this book . . . it kept me stumped so I think that’s the sign of a stirring story! Definitely worth 4 stars!