Waterfall by Lisa T Bergen

Genre: YA historical
Secondary genre: romance/adventure
Format read: audiobook
Series: River of Time vol. 1
CW: violence
Rating: planchet-3

My mom and I do not have similar taste in books. Her favorite author is Nora Roberts. I would gleefully fire all of her books into space. I like reading creepy books with fierce women. My mom “doesn’t get it.” If it isn’t in the mass market romance section at Half Price books, she basically doesn’t read it.

So I was shocked when she recommended a book to me that was not only young adult, but not horrible.

I used to live in Italy (Florence) so I tend to be drawn toward books set in the country, especially in the 1500-1600s (Renaissance art was my area of study).

Gabie and her younger sister, Lia, get dragged after their mother, an archaeologist, to the hills outside of Sienna to study an Etruscan burial site. While hiding from Italian authorities bent on taking over the dig, Gabie is somehow sucked back in time to the 1300s, where she’s nearly murdered, then is rescued, kidnapped and mistaken for a spy all in one go. Meanwhile, she has no idea where Lia has disappeared to. Is she sill in present day? Has she also been pulled back in time and caught in the heat of battle? Or worse?

Determined to find her sister and get home, Gabie weaves lie after lie to avoid telling her captors-turned-hosts the truth, afraid of what the consequences might be, even if someone believes her. Though these lies, she becomes swept up in the messy politics of the time and era, disrupting treaties and arranged marriages in the process.

I thought this book was great fun from a history perspective, however I did find the romance predictable and I did not like Gabie’s love interest. In my notes, I nicknamed him “Gladiator Ken,” because through about half the book that’s how much personality he had. There were actually two other people I would have preferred to see her with that were not only more dimensional as characters but less…Controlling? Bossy? Misogynistic? Annoying? Take your pick.

I’m still on the fence on whether or not I want to read the next two books. I have them saved in my Overdrive wishlist, but haven’t checked them out yet. What do you think? Have you read them?

The Bell Witch: An American Haunting

Genre: Paranormal fiction
Secondary genre: historical
Format: audio
CW: child molestation, cruelty to animals, racism, victim blaming, pedophilia
Rating: planchet-3

A word of warning about this book: While inspired by historical events, this is a novel. However, not everyone seems to realize this. My library listed it as nonfiction in Overdrive, it’s listed as both fiction and nonfiction on Goodreads, and the introduction makes it sound like nonfiction. I finally visited the author’s website for confirmation that yes, it is indeed a novel.

Needless to say, my expectations when I started reading were quite different from what I actually got. If I’d been expecting fiction, I might have rated this as 4 stars, but I doubt it, just because of that long list of content warnings. There were a few points where I wanted to throw my phone across the room due to the content.

If you aren’t familiar with the Bell Witch, take a moment to go look up the Wiki. I’ll wait.

The  novel is from an outsider’s perspective, that of a man come to investigate the haunting. Honestly, if I were going to write the book, I would have made it from Betsy’s POV, but the detached outsider looking in is a hallmark of the era; so many books were written this way that it adds to the feel that this is an actual account of the mysterious events.

While it was well written and the author did a good job of making it feel like a historical account, I can’t say this is high on my recommendations list. Why does it always come down to pedophilia?

Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

Genre: YA historical
Secondary genre: scifi
Format read: audiobook
Series: The Madman’s Daughter vol 2
Rep: chronic illness, autism coding
CW: graphic violence,
Rating: planchet-4

The second book in the series, you can find my review of book one here.

After fleeing her fathers secret island laboratory as it burned, Juliet is back in London. She has, surprisingly, found a new family for herself, and is beginning to build a life, though the struggle of keeping her mysterious illness and her “oddities” to herself is beginning to wear.

But when murders begin happening in London, Juliet begins to see a pattern the police have missed: all the victims are people who have wronged her in one way or another. Chilled to the bone, she begins to suspect she’s not the only one who escaped the island.

But when Montgomery turns up in London, too, things begin to look up. Surely the two of them can solve the murders and save her life if they work together, can’t they?

Drawn from Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this book continues Shepherd’s retelling of dark, classic literature with a scifi twist.

I really enjoyed this book, though I did have a few things about it that bothered me, as with the first volume. It is definitely problematic in more ways than one, but I still find myself looking forward to the third book, which I believe is the conclusion of the series.

Have you read this series yet? What are your thoughts?

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Genre: YA historical
Secondary genre: scifi
Format read: audiobook
Series: The Madman’s Daughter vol 1
Rep: chronic illness, autism coding
CW: graphic violence, violence against animals, attempted sexual assault
Rating: planchet-4

Inspired by The Island of Doctor MoreauI was drawn to this book from the title alone. I’m always down for a book about mental illness, and this one seemed to have a good chunk of mystery and intrigue to boot.

If you are looking for something light and fun, then please turn around now because that is not what you’re going to find. This book is dark, it’s gritty, and it questions what it means to be human and how bad a person has to be before they aren’t worth saving anymore.

Juliet has been ill her entire life. For the most part, it doesn’t affect her–provided she takes her daily injections. But life is hard in the slums of London, and even harder with no family or friends to lean on.

Left destitute after her father’s exile and her mother’s desk, once genteel Juliette finds herself scrubbing the floors of the lectures halls where her father once taught. But why he fled England is still something of a mystery. While rumors abound, which ones are true?

Then, just as her life in London becomes unsustainable, Juliet runs into a familiar face: Montgomery, her family’s old servant, who vanish at the same time as her father.

Call it flirtation, call it blackmail, call it sheer force of will, Juliet convinces Montgomery to take her with him, back to the remote island where her father now lives.

This heart wrenching novel of family, friendship, betrayal, and redemption is highly problematic to say the least, but largely in a way that questions morality and humanity; it usually calls itself on the questionable content, but be ready to be horrified.

Good for fans of Frankenstein, Mindy McGinnis, and Penny Dreadful. 


Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

Genre: YA historical
Secondary genre: romance
Format read: audiobook
Series: Bright Young Things vol. 1
Rating: planchet-4

Cordelia’s small Ohio town chaffs her. Raised by her abusive aunt after her mother’s death, she’s been planning her escape almost since she could walk. So when her opportunity comes–on her wedding night, no less–she takes her best friend, Lettie, and makes a run for the train.

The two arrive in New York City the following day, but within short order find themselves out of money, kicked out of their boarding house, and with nothing but a shattered, life-long friendship between them. The girls go their separate ways, each determined to survive independently for the first time in their lives.

But Cordelia has an ace up her sleeve–her father is still alive, and he’s somewhere in New York. It doesn’t take long to find him, as he’s a notorious bootlegger frequently in the papers. Cordelia crashes a party, introduces herself, and holds her breath to see if her father will welcome her or reject her.

While I wasn’t fond of many aspects of this book, I did overall enjoy it a  lot. I have a soft spot for books about the 1920s, especially if they don’t focus on the vice of the era (let’s just say I’m not a fan of Jay Gatsby).

The book follows both Cordelia and Lettie on their journeys, as well as a third young woman, Astrid. While I didn’t care for Astrid at all, she had enough redeeming qualities for me to keep reading, and I will be picking up the next book in the series sometime soon.

Murphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen

Genre: mystery
Secondary genre: historical
Format read: audiobook
Content warning: attempted sexual assault
Rating: planchet-4

Molly Murphy is in trouble. After accidentally killing her landlord in self defense–he was trying to rape her–she flees her rural Irish town for England, hoping to get lost in a factory town and start a new life.

But the police are already looking for her. A chance encounter with a dying woman, however, might be just the chance she needs.

Kathleen O’Connor is supposed to sail for American in two days, but her health check revealed TB. She will not be allowed to enter the country.

But she has her tickets, her husband is in New York, and her children need a better life than one ill woman can offer. The women hatch a plan: Molly will take Kathleen place, impersonating her, and deliver the children safely to their father.

But things go sideways when a man who harassed Molly and others on the crossing is found dead, and Molly and her new friend Michael become the prime suspects.

The police won’t listen, so the only way to prove their innocence is to track down the real killer.

This book was a reread for me, and an old favorite. I love the narrator of the audiobook so much that I actually refuse to eye-read it. This is actually the audiobook that got me using that format regularly.

I love Molly so much. My one complaint about this series is that every man Molly meets except two either try to rape her or imply it is an acceptable form of payment for whatever she is trying to accomplish. This makes her best friend, Michael, and her love interest the only viable options for her closest circle because they are literally the only ones who don’t do this.

This book does have a lot of questionable content, but it is still a really good series made better by an excellent narrator.


The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Genre: adult mystery
Secondary genre: historical
Format read: audiobook
Rep: autistic coding
Series: Flavia de Luce vol 1
Rating: planchet-4

This book is unusual in that it is written for adults, but the main character, Flavia, is only eleven.

I’m a sucker for a girl genius, especially one living in a previous era, so when I heard about this book I was eager to get my hands on it.

Set in 1950, Flavia lives with her two older sisters–who are horrid–and her distant father in a big old English manor house.

When Flavia discovers a dying man–who expires right before her eyes–in the garden, it sets the wheels turning on a mystery that dredges up her father’s past and puts out intrepid young chemist on the path to no only uncovering one murder, but two.

I gobbled up this book in two days. I loved the dynamics between the sisters, and how, in this stiff-upper-lip family, they show affection by tormenting each other. I do wish that Daphne, the middle sister, were just a little more fleshed out–I feel like if the three of them could find common ground, they’d be hell on wheels if they worked together.

I adored the complexity of the mystery, the characters, the setting–everything about this book, and I will definitely be looking for the next in the series.