THE HUMMINGBIRD’S CAGE by Tamara Dietrich

HummingbirdsCage
Publisher: NAL
Released: June 2, 2015
Source: Review copy from publisher
Rating: ★★★★


A dazzling debut novel about taking chances, finding hope, and learning to stand up for your dreams…

Everyone in Wheeler, New Mexico, thinks Joanna leads the perfect life: the quiet, contented housewife of a dashing deputy sheriff, raising a beautiful young daughter, Laurel. But Joanna’s reality is nothing like her facade. Behind closed doors, she lives in constant fear of her husband. She’s been trapped for so long, escape seems impossible—until a stranger offers her the help she needs to flee…

On the run, Joanna and Laurel stumble upon the small town of Morro, a charming and magical village that seems to exist out of time and place. There a farmer and his wife offer her sanctuary, and soon, between the comfort of her new home and blossoming friendships, Joanna’s soul begins to heal, easing the wounds of a decade of abuse.

But her past—and her husband—aren’t so easy to escape. Unwilling to live in fear any longer, Joanna must summon a strength she never knew she had to fight back and forge a new life for her daughter and herself…


THE HUMMINGBIRD’S CAGE wasn’t an easy book to read – stories with gawd-awful abusive husbands never are – but at the same time it pulled me in and wouldn’t let go. For Joanna to have survived so long with this a-hole is amazing. Finally, a stranger comes along and offers to help her escape, and Joanna and her young daughter end up in an idyllic town called Morro.

I can’t say much about the plot without giving away spoilers, other than Morro was a curious place, and Joanna was drawn there for a reason. While the beginning of the book was suspenseful and gut-wrenching, the pace slowed down during her time in Morro. There was much for Joanna to take in and process, but it seemed her husband’s threatening presence was always close by. I thought that the ending was great, very dramatic, and also a bit sad – though in a bittersweet way.

I enjoyed Tamara Dietrich’s engaging writing style and complex characters. Joanna’s story is a haunting one, and one that I won’t soon forget.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: THE MEMORY GARDEN by Mary Rickert

MemoryGarden
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Released: May 6, 2014
Source: Review copy from publisher
Rating: ★★½


An atmospheric and eerie crossover debut of mothers and daughters, friendship and forgiveness, that’s being compared to early Alice Hoffman and classics like The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

 Sixteen-year-old Bay Singer doesn’t believe the rumors that her eccentric mother, Nan, is a witch. It’s just the gossip of their small town, Bay thinks, until two eccentric friends from Nan’s past unexpectedly appear one afternoon. The curious reunion summons haunting memories: of an oath the three women took years ago, when they were girls themselves, and the devastating secret they promised to protect. What they unearth has already claimed one life, leaving Bay wondering who the real witches are, and who is truly wicked.


THE MEMORY GARDEN is a curious coming-of-age story threaded through with magical realism, unsettling memories, and herbal folklore. At the heart of the story is Bay, a teenage girl being raised by her adoptive mother Nan, an elderly woman thought to be a witch. Nan has spent many years harboring guilt over a tragedy from her girlhood. Just after Bay’s 15th birthday, Nan invites the two friends who share her dark secret to visit, hoping to put the ghosts of the past to rest.

I was very intrigued by the premise of THE MEMORY GARDEN, but unfortunately the story and characters never quite clicked with me. The book had a slow start, and much of what was going on was hard for me to follow. After the big build up, the revelation at the end was a bit disappointing. I also wish the prose had flowed smoother than it did. The odd, choppy dialogue between characters didn’t help my confusion.

That said, there were parts of the book I enjoyed. I loved the strange atmosphere the author created with Nan’s rustic old house, her eccentric garden of mismatched shoe planters, and the restless spirits drawn to Bay and Nan. I also liked how the book highlighted the friendship between Nan, Ruthie, and Mavis that couldn’t be broken, even after decades apart.

Even though this book didn’t work for me, readers who like quirky tales, ghost stories, and magical realism might want to give it a try.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Audiobook Review: THE ICE QUEEN by Alice Hoffman

IceQueen
Format: Audio; 5 CDs; 6 hrs
Narrator: Nancy Travis
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Released: April 1, 2005
Source: Borrowed from the Library

From the best-selling author of Practical Magic, a miraculous, enthralling tale of a woman who is struck by lightning, and finds her frozen heart is suddenly burning.

Be careful what you wish for. A small town librarian lives a quiet life without much excitement. One day, she mutters an idle wish and, while standing in her house, is struck by lightning. But instead of ending her life, this cataclysmic event sparks it into a new beginning. She goes in search of Lazarus Jones, a fellow survivor who was struck dead, then simply got up and walked away. Perhaps this stranger who has seen death face to face can teach her to live without fear.

When she finds him, he is her opposite, a burning man whose breath can boil water and whose touch scorches. As an obsessive love affair begins between them, both are forced to hide their most dangerous secrets: what turned one to ice and the other to fire. A magical story of passion, loss, and renewal, The Ice Queen is Alice Hoffman at her electrifying best.

———

I listened to the audio format of THE ICE QUEEN, and once again Nancy Travis gave an amazing performance and captured the magic, passion, and sorrow of Alice Hoffman’s novel. THE ICE QUEEN is a dark fairy tale about a lonely librarian who learns the hard way to be careful what she wishes. Wishes do come true, but not always with the desired outcome. From the beginning, the story had a dreamlike quality that held me captive. Hoffman always delivers gorgeous imagery and stunning prose, and I think she outdid herself with this novel.

This is the fourth book I’ve read by Alice Hoffman, and it’s also the saddest. It started sad and got sadder, but such was the tale of a morose, lightning-struck librarian and her obsession, a man named Lazarus who cheated death. Had I not been listening to this while in the car with other people, I would have been a sobbing mess the last 30 minutes for sure. Even so, the ending left me hopeful, and I’m so glad I gave THE ICE QUEEN a listen. Thank you to RJ @ Art @ Home for the recommendation!

Rating: 4 Stars

Book Review: THE BISCUIT WITCH (A Crossroads Café Novella) by Deborah Smith

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Series: The MacBrides, #1
Length: 130 pages
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Released: May 1, 2013
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

Welcome back to the Crossroads Cove where new loves, old feuds, and poignant mysteries will challenge siblings Tal, Gabby, and Gus MacBride to fight for the home they lost and to discover just how important their family once was, and still is, to the proud people of the Appalachian highlands.

Tallulah MacBride hasn’t been back to North Carolina since their parents’ tragic deaths, twenty years ago. But now, Tal heads to cousin Delta Whittlespoon’s famous Crossroads Café in the mountains above Asheville, hoping to find a safe hiding place for her young daughter, Eve.

What she finds is Cousin Delta gone, the café in a biscuit crisis, and a Scotsman, who refuses to believe she’s passing through instead of “running from.” He believes she needs a knight in shining flannel.

When a pair of sinister private eyes show up, Tal’s troubles are just beginning.

For Tal’s brother and sister—Gabby, the Pickle Queen, and Gus, the Kitchen Charmer—the next part of the journey will lead down forgotten roads and into beautiful but haunted legacies.

———

This is the first book in Deborah Smith’s The MacBrides series, which is a spin off of her novel, THE CROSSROADS CAFE. While THE BISCUIT WITCH can be read stand alone, I think I would have gotten a better sense of the place and characters had I read THE CROSSROADS CAFE first. THE BISCUIT WITCH is a novella, and things happened very fast.

Tal is on the run with her five-year old daughter, Eve. Looking for a place to hide out, the mother and daughter head to Tal’s hometown in the mountains of North Carolina, hoping to get help from Cousin Delta, owner of the cafe. But when they arrive, Delta’s gone, and instead they meet up with a sexy Scotsman named Doug Firth. He’s the local veterinarian, and he has a soft spot for any creature in trouble. Immediately he can sense trouble surrounding Tal and Eve. Tal’s not looking for a knight in shining armor, but she’s smart enough to accept help when offered.

THE BISCUIT WITCH is a big, complex story compacted into a short 130 pages. For me, Doug and Tal’s love story and the bond that formed between Doug and Eve was way too rushed. Sure, it was sweet, but not realistic. The point of view alternated between Doug and Tal, and it switched a lot, sometimes abruptly. There were a few times I was confused about whose head I was in.

I did enjoy learning the MacBride family secrets, and what they mean for Tal and her troubled siblings in the rest of the series. I also liked the magical realism in this book. Tal had a couple of unique gifts, one of which was her enchanted baking, though I wished that part had been fleshed out more too.

There’s no resolution to the MacBride Family mystery in this book, though it does set a strong foundation for the rest of the series. I am very curious to see how the siblings’ story plays out, so I’ll probably continue on with the next book.

Rating: 3 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.