The Woman in the Mirror
Author: Rebecca James
Published: March 17, 2020
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars
For more than two centuries, Winterbourne Hall has stood atop a bluff overseeing the English countryside of Cornwall and the sea beyond.
In 1947, Londoner Alice Miller accepts a post as governess at Winterbourne, looking after Captain Jonathan de Grey’s twin children. Falling under the de Greys’ spell, Alice believes the family will heal her own past sorrows. But then the twins’ adoration becomes deceitful and taunting. Their father, ever distant, turns spiteful and cruel. The manor itself seems to lash out. Alice finds her surroundings subtly altered, her air slightly chilled. Something malicious resents her presence, something clouding her senses and threatening her very sanity.
In present day New York, art gallery curator Rachel Wright has learned she is a descendant of the de Greys and heir to Winterbourne. Adopted as an infant, she never knew her birth parents or her lineage. At long last, Rachel will find answers to questions about her identity that have haunted her entire life. But what she finds in Cornwall is a devastating tragic legacy that has afflicted generations of de Greys. A legacy borne from greed and deceit, twisted by madness, and suffused with unrequited love and unequivocal rage.
This was my pick for my neighborhood book club. I was pretty pleased with it. But this is one of those books that I enjoyed, but then dislike it the more I think about it. I got very engaged in the story and it had some creepy elements and I got through it quickly and easily. It kept me guessing and I’ll admit that I didn’t see the end coming. But the characters weakened as the story progressed.
Watching Alice throw herself at the Captain is cringey and caused me to like her less. Rachel is just an idiot. Typical girl who can’t decide what she wants and she strings two men along even though the choice is pretty obvious to the rest of us but you’re too dumb to see it and then complain when the guys act like you tell them to. The twins are just nasty children. I also wish more info was given on the original woman and her story had been more thoroughly wrapped up.
Thankfully, the horror factor saved this book for me. That mirror … I want that mirror in my house! There were a couple places where the goosebumps were raised and I had to pause my reading to chill out some. I feel bad because I liked it while I was reading, but while considering it later, it just misses the mark. I am glad I read it and I am liking that it’s sticking in my head like it is … it just has some flaws.
The Vanishing Half
Author: Brit Bennett
Published: June 2, 2020
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: August 11-24, 2020
Jessica’s Rating: 3 stars
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?
**Unpopular opinion alert**
Everyone seems to be raving about The Vanishing Half, but this is one novel that did not really work for me and I am still not sure why almost a month later. It has an interesting premise: The novel starts out in the 1950s and we have twin girls (Desiree and Stella), both black, but one can pass as white, and she does. But keeping this secret from everyone, including her husband seems to damage Stella. The novel ends in the 1990s with their daughters and lives intersecting.
To see twins live totally different lives despite being the same race during a time of racial changes and the effects of their decisions change everything including their daughters’ lives.
The storyline I was most interested is not even mentioned in the book description, so it came off as a surprise: It dealt with Jude (Desiree’s daughter) and her relationship with Reese, a transgender man. This relationship almost did not make sense with some of the activities they participated in, as the LGBTQ community has not always coincided well/ been inclusive together in the past especially during this time in the past that the novel is based.
Overall, this is one that had promise, but maybe I just listened to the audiobook at the wrong time. Maybe it was the fact that I listened to the audiobook. Some books don’t translate well to audio. I know it has been optioned for TV/Film, so I would give that a try and see what I think.[Top]
Burn Our Bodies Down
Author: Rory Power
Published: July 7, 2020
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars
Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.
But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.
Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?
The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape.
I loved Wilder Girls. This one, not so much. While a lot seemed to happen, I felt like I couldn’t get into it. I kept getting distracted by everything else that was happening around me. I didn’t feel very connected to Margot. I really didn’t like her mom. I get that the emotions were supposed to be high and strained, but I felt uncomfortable and exhausted after reading one conversation between Margot and her mom. Normally I like all those raging feelings, but in this case, it wasn’t pleasant at all. While the mystery of the Nielsen family was kinda intriguing, I didn’t like that I didn’t learn really anything until the very end. Normally a mystery will give you little bits as you go along, but this one didn’t. I did guess a part of the resolution, but even then, the ending wasn’t very satisfying. I liked how most of the plot was tied up and explained, it just felt like such a struggle to get there!
I think I would only recommend this book to certain people, but unfortunately, I can’t really recommend it to the general public. I wanted so badly to love this book, I just didn’t.