Review – Witch Woman

Witch Woman

By Jeanette Baker

Self-Published/Brio Press

ISBN-13: 978-0671017347

3 stars

Annie McBride, newly widowed, is trying to find her way without her husband.  Venturing out to visit the cemetery, she finds a small child sitting on the bench near his grave, naked and alone.  She takes the child home with her but the child doesn’t speak for days although she warms to Annie’s kindness.  Annie, a witch who gave up practicing when she married her husband, goes to a fellow witch to ask for help.  Answers are not as forthcoming as Annie would like so she packs up the little girl, now named Margaret, and the two leave town.

Maggie McBride, now an adult caring for her aging mother Annie, finds out she adopted.  After her mother’s death, she decides to return to her mother’s hometown of Salem, Massachusetts to open a holistic store in the old house left to her and possibly learn more about her mother in the process.  Giving up her job as a police profiler, she finds roots she never knew she had which includes a talent for witchcraft.  Tapping into the past through a spinning wheel inherited from her mother, Maggie finds herself drawn to the story she is witnessing and in particular a woman named Abigail March whose life she is seeing in the visions brought on by touching the spinning wheel.  Her forays into the past come a halt when the neighbor’s daughter goes missing and her skills as a police profiler are needed.  Maggie suddenly finds past and present combining in a way she never imagined possible.

This is a self-published book which I tend not to review but considering this year I’ve read several, I seemed to have broken my own rule.  One of the reasons I tend not to read self-published is because I feel the books need a tad more editing.  This one felt fairly comfortable and I didn’t have problems with it.

I thought the time travel aspect was good and I particularly enjoyed those bits where we see Abigail’s life and her witchcraft abilities growing through her children.  Those parts of the story felt genuine and I was easily entertained with this story line, in fact, I wished there had been more of it.  Maggie, I felt was a tad hard to get attached to but there’s a reason for this and not wanting to give too much away in terms of plot, I won’t mention it but it became clear as the story went on.

I wasn’t sure what to think of this book going in but I wanted to keep an open mind.  I wasn’t completely impressed or completely underwhelmed either.  Somewhere in the middle on this one I guess.  The witchcraft element was well-done and the historical time travel/visions were good.  I just wish there had been fewer intrusions from the present on that story line though.

More information about Witch Woman can be found on Jeanette Baker’s website.

Review – Time Travelers Never Die

Time Travelers Never Die

By Jack McDevitt

Ace Books

ISBN: 9780441017638

3 stars

Science fiction is a genre I’ve fall out with, not intentionally, it somehow just happened over the years.  Lately I’ve wanted to get reacquainted and this was my first foray back into science fiction.

After Michael Shelbourne, a well-known physicist, goes missing, his son Shel finds out he developed and successfully used a time machine.  Concerned his father may be stuck in another time without means to get home, he convinces his friend Dave Dryden, to help him search for his father.

The story was good enough but it felt sort of, well, it was a lot less complicated than I thought the story would be especially for a time travel story.  His father goes missing and Shel, rightfully distraught, goes to find him and along the way there are several interesting adventures but it felt like there was no urgency to the story.  Shel and Dave do land in a few messes which is expected when time traveling but they all too easily get out of it simply by setting one of the devices to go back and put together a rescue.  Poof, they get out of trouble, no harm done.  There is a time paradox that comes into play but neither Shel nor Dave seemed all that concerned about it so I wasn’t either.  However, I wanted the whole time travel aspect to be more complicated but all of it started to feel a little vacationy to me — the two take trips to party with Voltaire and watch plays in Ancient Greece and while it’s fun, there just doesn’t feel like there’s enough conflict.

This isn’t a negative review though.  McDevitt is a fun writer and while this book wasn’t a total score for me, it made me wonder about some of his other books so I think I’ll be giving him another opportunity to impress me.

Today’s Book with Extra Book Bits

I’m about to finish The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.  It’s a ghost story and while it has it’s conventional parts, it feels more like a slow moving thriller and it works wonderfully.  She dishes out details slowly, building a lot of tension for the ending I know is coming.  The best word to describe it would be atmospheric.  It has long, lush sentences that evoke a foreboding for the horrible ending.  It reminds me a lot of Shirley Jackson whose storytelling has the same feel.  In case, you’re wondering how I know what’s coming — I read the end already.

I haven’t done a library loot in forever so here goes.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (See above.)

Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt (On my list and it fits a challenge, a twofer book.)

Savage Kingdom: The True story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America by Benjamin Woolley (I read a book last year about Jamestown and loved it so I’m trying another.  We’ll see if my interest holds up through this one.)

Also new to me but not a library loaner is A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.  I’ve been craving this one since it came through the door and it’s so my next book.  Admire that cover.  I love, love, love it.  Can’t really say why but the sapphire blue cover is working for me.

Today’s Book

I finished The Sherlockian by Graham Moore last night which has left me with a craving for some Sherlock Holmes tales but I’m going to pass on detective stories for the moment (although The Sign of Four is on my TBR to be read sooner rather than later) and move onto The Exile by Diana Gabaldon.

The Exile is a graphic novel based on Gabaldon’s first book, Outlander.  I’m excited about this book especially after hearing her talk about it at the National Book Festival back in September.  Outlander ranks high on the favorites list and the only problem I expect to have is being annoyed that the characters don’t look like the ones that have already been established in my head.  I’ll get over it but there’s always that initial shock of, “Hey, that’s not what Jamie Fraser looks like.”

The Kingdom of Ohio

The Kingdom of Ohio

The Kingdom of Ohio

By Matthew Flaming

Penguin Group

ISBN: 978-0-399-15560-4

4.75 stars

What happens when two people in love are separated? What happens to the love, the heartbreak? Can time and space shift?

Peter Force, newly arrived in New York City in 1900, finds a job working on the subway system at first breaking rock and then repairing the machines that break and move the earth. One cold evening, he meets Cherie-Anne Toledo, and feeling sorry for her, offers her help. Cherie-Anne tells him an amazing tale of time travel and inventors that he can’t believe but he also can’t tear himself away from her or her story.

Cherie-Anne is a mathematical prodigy and a member of the royal family of the Kingdom of Ohio, a place Peter has never heard of. While he is drawn to both Cherie-Anne and her story, he doesn’t find it in himself to believe her until he sees a few things for himself. Although cautious, he finds himself helping her intrigued by what he has seen and heard.

A lot of famous people make appearances in this book — Thomas Edison, JP Morgan, and Nikola Tesla. Numerous footnotes dot the story adding odd notes and sidebars the narrator feels are necessary for the reader to have a complete understanding. These notes make you wonder about the narrator and his actual role in the story he is telling.

The Kingdom of Ohio is a short book and a very rich one. It’s about love, heartbreak, time travel, science and its impact on the world as well as its consequences. It’s all about what we know and what we think we know. How something as simple as the light bulb can have such an effect on our lives and make us wonder where we are going and what the affect might be.

I wasn’t expecting the story I was told in this book but what I did find was lovely. It’s a grand love story, but not overly mushy or drawn out, that crosses time lines — one solidly rooted in the present and one in the past kindled by old photographs and antiques. It will leave you with a lot of questions in the end about what really happened but in a good way. I highly recommend it.