Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd |book review|

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Synopsis

“I am Ana. I was the wife of Jesus.” So begins the new novel from the number one New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings, an extraordinary story set in the first century about a woman who finds her voice and her destiny in a time of great despair and great hope.

In her fourth work of fiction, Sue Monk Kidd brings her acclaimed narrative gifts to imagine the story of a young woman named Ana. Raised in a wealthy family in Sepphoris with ties to the ruler of Galilee, she is rebellious and ambitious, a relentless seeker with a brilliant, curious mind and a daring spirit. She yearns for a pursuit worthy of her life, but finds no outlet for her considerable talents. Defying the expectations placed on women, she engages in furtive scholarly pursuits and writes secret narratives about neglected and silenced women. When she meets the eighteen-year-old Jesus, each is drawn to and enriched by the other’s spiritual and philosophical ideas. He becomes a floodgate for her intellect, but also the awakener of her heart.

Their marriage unfolds with love and conflict, humor and pathos in Nazareth, where Ana makes a home with Jesus, his brothers, James and Simon, and their mother, Mary. Here, Ana’s pent-up longings intensify amid the turbulent resistance to the Roman occupation of Israel, partially led by her charismatic adopted brother, Judas. She is sustained by her indomitable aunt Yaltha, who is searching for her long-lost daughter, as well as by other women, including her friend Tabitha, who is sold into slavery after she was raped, and Phasaelis, the shrewd wife of Herod Antipas. Ana’s impetuous streak occasionally invites danger. When one such foray forces her to flee Nazareth for her safety shortly before Jesus’s public ministry begins, she makes her way with Yaltha to Alexandria, where she eventually finds refuge and purpose in unexpected surroundings.

Grounded in meticulous historical research and written with a reverential approach to Jesus’s life that focuses on his humanity, The Book of Longings is an inspiring account of one woman’s bold struggle to realize the passion and potential inside her, while living in a time, place, and culture devised to silence her.

Have you ever read a book that leaves you completely inarticulate? Because I just did. I read a lot of books that leaves me at a lost for words, but the Book of Longings has left me not only speechless, but also breathless.

I’m going to be frank with you guys- I’m agnostic, so the Book of Longings was originally no where near being in my pile. I was scrolling through Goodreads one day, and someone gave this book a one-star without even reading it because it didn’t follow their religious view, so it peaked my curiosity.

I was skeptical going into this book, worrying it would be more focused on the religion aspect than the synopsis leads you to believe. It came through on Libby three days ago, and you guys- I practically inhaled the book. WOW! I’ve been working on this review the last three days, and yet- I find myself continuously rambling because I still cannot articulate my thoughts.

It is a poignant story that is character-driven and may not be for devout Christians unless you are willing to keep an open mind, reminding yourself it is a work of fiction because it is traditionally believed that Jesus did not marry. While obvious mentions of God, prayers, and biblical stories are present throughout the book, the story primarily focuses on Ana, the wife of human Jesus, an amiable husband who is in the background. Ana is fierce and strong. She speaks her mind and writes her words in a time period that tries to silence women.

What I loved about this book are the women, their resilience, and their friendship. There are definite note of feminism, courage, and perseverance. Ana’s voice is strong and she uses that to make sure other’s stories get told and are heard.

All in all, Kidd did a terrific job balancing the book between biblical stories and weaving in a woman’s voice and determination to stand up for herself and others as well as maintaining equality in her marriage with human- Jesus. It is very clear that Kidd put a lot of research into this novel, and while I am not familiar with all biblical stories, I know they are sprinkled throughout the book.

This is a book I’d highly recommend for anyone willing to step out their comfort zone, regardless of which side you stand on, because you have to have an open mind in order to see all the beauty this book has to offer. It is a book that’ll sit with you for a long time if you’re willing to look at the big picture instead of dissecting every phrase of paragraph, or page.

Title: The Book of Longings
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: April 21, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you are a BOTM member, do you have any books in mind that might be a contender for the year, because I can see Book of Longings being one! I’d love to hear your thoughts and chit-chat 🙂

pretty things by janelle brown | book review |

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Pretty Things by Janelle Brown

Synopsis

Two wildly different women–one a grifter, the other an heiress–are brought together by the scam of a lifetime in a page-turner from the New York Times bestselling author of Watch Me Disappear.

Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.

Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer–traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family’s sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: A mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa’s past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.

Nina, Vanessa, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.

This dazzling, twisty, mesmerizing novel showcases acclaimed author Janelle Brown at her best, as two brilliant, damaged women try to survive the greatest game of deceit and destruction they will ever play.

My Review

“Don’t take too much; don’t get greedy. Take only what won’t be missed. And only steal from those who can afford it.”

Firstly, can we all just take a moment to admire the beautiful cover! I’m not going to lie. It was one of the reason that convinced me I needed to have this book. Cover aside, this is my first novel by Janelle Brown and it truly did not disappoint.

Pretty Things is a slow-burner, character-driven novel. At almost 500 pages, there were moments that felt too slow to me and wished it was just a tad bit shorter; however, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was well-written and does keep you intrigued from beginning to ending.

The story is written as alternating POVs from Nina, a con artist, and Vanessa, an Instagram influencer, which will always be a plus for me because it tends to capture my attention more. Nina uses her Instagram primarily as a way to track her targets and learn the ins and outs of their life. She has been tracking Vanessa for quite some time, so when Nina’s mother fall ill and needs a heaping amount of money for treatment, Nina decide it is time to insert herself into Vanessa’s life. What happens next is a story of deception, betrayal, and loyalty.

Now might also be the time for me to tell you that I personally would not classify this book as a psychological thriller. While there are plot twists and tension that will have you turning the page like there is no tomorrow, I think it’s more appropriate to classify it as a literary suspense. The suspenseful moments are woven throughout the story leaving you to try and anticipate the ending. The story plays on more than just the plot of con-artist and social class difference. It is a multi-layered book. You get to see the impact social media has on a person when they broadcast every moment of their lives, it brings awareness to the fact that you don’t need anyone to validate you, and through all the backstabbing and lies, it shows what forgiveness can do for you.

Overall, I found Pretty Things to be a gripping story with many twists and turns. I did have some minor questions and though I do wished it was a tad bit shorter, I absolutely enjoyed this story and the emotional yet suspenseful roller-coaster it took me on. I am so ecstatic that Nicole Kidman will be starring and producing Pretty Things.

“When you’re documenting everything that you do, you stop living life for yourself and start living it as a performance for others.”

Book Details:

Title: Pretty Things
Author: Janelle Brown
Publication Date: April 21, 2020
Goodreads: Pretty Things

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Have you read Pretty Things yet? If so, have you started thinking about some cast members? Drop your guesses in the comments!

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

Synopsis:

Celaena Sardothien is Ardalan’s Assassin and has been imprisoned in Endovier. The Crown Prince, Dorian has come to make her a competitor to become the King’s champion. When she makes it to the castle and begins in the competition, one by one the champions start dying in horribly gruesome ways. Calaena must fight for her freedom and survival, while trying to root out the source of the killing before it kills herself and those she holds dear.

Along the way she finds ways to overcome her previous betrayals and seek refuge in new friends and allies. From the Crown Prince himself, the Captain of the Guard, and an unlikely friendship with a foreign princess.

Review:

Sometimes, the wicked will tell us things just to confuse us — to haunt our thoughts long after we’ve faced them.”

Let me start this review by saying, if you have not read the Novella The Assassin’s Blade prior to picking up this book, I highly suggest that you do. The novellas give you a nice preface to the start of this series and lay out the ground work for Calaena’s journey.

This book was everything and more for what I was looking for in a Sarah J Maas novel. Her writing style is one to be admired, as she really has a way of dragging you into a universe and fully immersing you into the characters and setting. Not only that, but I am in awe of anyone who can create such dynamic characters and truly make you understand the difference in all of the personalities.

Speaking of such characters, Calaena Sardothien has got to be one of my all time favorite female leads in a YA fantasy novel. I have yet to come across many female leads that do not sound whiny and/or annoying. Calaena is a badass assassin, who also enjoys the finer luxuries of style. She is a breath of fresh air in this genre and I feel like more authors should take note.

I have fallen in love with this series even after just reading the novellas and the first book. I am excited to see where the next book will take us on this journey.

Book Details:

Title: Throne of Glass
Author: Sarah J Maas
Publication Date: May 7th, 2013
Purchased/Gift/Library/Borrow: Christmas Gift
Goodreads: Throne of Glass

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Christie