I really enjoyed the audio Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez from Audible.com. Quincy Tyler Bernstine did such an amazing job narrating this and capturing and expressing the varying emotions of the characters. Quincy was really able to effectively present each character in a way that was relatable and gave me, as a reader, a real feel for that time period.
I thought Wench was an amazing debut novel. It tells the story of Tawana House, an American resort located in Ohio just before the Civil War. Tawana House was frequented by quite a few southern plantation owners who brought their slave mistresses with them which caused quite a bit of gossip for the northerners. Wench mainly focuses on the story of 4 particular women who are brought to Tawana House by their owners. Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet, who have visited several times, are introduced to Mawu, whose unpredictable behavior and blunt honesty help the others to face some truths and begin to feel things they have never allowed themselves to feel. Most of all, hope.
One of the things that fascinated me the most was that Tawawa House actually existed. I guess that shouldn’t be so surprising, but I can see how learning about this place could inspire someone as talented as this author to tell its story. And I felt that Dolen Perkins-Valdez told it brilliantly. Even presenting such a painful subject as slavery and all the horrors that accompany it, while at times it was uncomfortable to read about, the characters were so engaging that I wanted to know their stories, however painful they may be. I was intrigued by the concept that, although these women were forced into a carnal relationship with their “owners” and even to have their children, some of the women considered themselves to be in love. The dynamic between all involved was as fascinating as it was disturbing. I was definitely presented with perspectives I had never before considered.
The Queen of Last Hopes tells the story of Margaret of Anjou and the reign of Henry VI from the rarely heard perspective of the Lancastrians. I think nearly every historical novel I've read that takes place during the reign of Henry VI has demonized Margaret of Anjou so this was such a new and refreshing viewpoint that it read like a story I was completely unfamiliar with. From the beginning, Margaret seemed like such a weak and foolish woman, so quick to naively trust and ally with people without fully considering possible long term consequences. However, throughout the story, I began to sympathize with her even when I didn't always agree or when I knew she was making fatal errors in judgment. Susan Higginbotham did such a wonderful job of humanizing this queen who so many have portrayed as being a ruthless queen responsible for the deaths of thousands in her incessant wars. Several times, near the end, I was moved to tears by the narration of what I already knew was going to happen.
I listened to The Queen of Last Hopes on audio from Audible narrated by Nicole Quinn. This is the first audio narration I've listened to from Quinn but hopefully it will not be the last. Quinn does a phenomenal job with the multiple perspectives, accents, and personalities in The Queen of Last Hopes, allowing the listener to fully immerse themselves in this era of court intrigue, scandal, war, and betrayal. Her stellar performance enhanced a story that was already incredible.
I haven't yet read any of Higginbotham's previous novels, but I would compare her writing favorably with some of my favorite authors in this genre such as Alison Weir and Jean Plaidy as far as historical detail. I think where Higginbotham really excels is in writing historical figures in a way that allows a reader to connect to them. I found each of the characters to be fully realized and with all too human flaws and feelings. I am looking forward to enjoying more of Higginbotham's historical novels and would highly recommend The Queen of Last Hopes to all fans of historical fiction.
From the book:
"Miss Alexia Tarabotti was not enjoying her evening. Private balls were never more than middling amusements for spinsters, and Miss Tarrabotti was not the kind of spinster who could garner even that much pleasure from the event. To put the pudding in the puff: she had retreated to the library, her favorite sanctuary in any house, only to happen upon an unexpected vampire."
Soulless by Gail Carriger is a fun and quirky book right from the first paragraph. My first foray into steampunk transports me into an unlikely world of gagetry, flamboyant vampires, authoritarian werewolves, not to mention a preternatural minx with devilish wit and impecable fashion sense as well as a penchant for getting herself into awkward perdicaments. Alexis terrabotti is a dynamo that literally leaps off the pages, armed with her parasol and her cunning intellect, ready to face down rude vampires and overbearing werewolves, and anyone else who gets in her way.
Carriger's writing paints a vivid picture of Victorian London populated with supernatural, preternatural, and ghostly residents. Soulless is entertaining from start to finish, each of the characters were original, the plot was fast-paced and exciting, and I found myself laughing or gasping out loud several times throughout the audio.
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