The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

The beautiful cover of this book caught my eye as I passed by the bargain book table at Barnes and Noble; and after a quick glance told me that it was a supernatural puzzler about the Salem witch trials, well, I was sold.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe is about Connie Goodwin, a Harvard graduate student studying American colonial history who has just been accepted into the doctoral program. Her plans of spending the summer researching for her dissertation are turned upside down when she is asked to move into her grandmother’s dilapidated 17th century home in Salem to clean it up and ready it for market. The home doesn’t have electricity or a phone, and is chock full of history, which is right up Connie’s alley, and it’s here that she stumbles upon an old bible containing a key and the name “Deliverance Dane.” She learns that Deliverance was tried as a witch during the Salem witch trials, and also that she was in possession of a “book of receipts,” which Connie is determined to get her hands on as an original source for her research.

The story jumps back and forth between 1991 Massachusetts and the late 1600’s/early 1700’s as we find out that Connie is descended from a long line of cunning women. The book gets a little more interesting when Connie meets Sam Hartley, a young historical preservationist currently working as a Steeplejack, who takes an immediate interest in both Connie and her quest and hastens to join in the search. Through the back stories about Connie’s ancestors, we learn that the significant other of each cunning woman suffered a premature death and come to realize that the lovable Sam will soon be in danger. Connie has to track down Deliverance Dane’s physick book in order to save Sam.

My overall opinion of this book is that I enjoyed it, but there was definitely something off about it that makes me pause ever so briefly before saying that. It held my interest and thoughts of it floated through my head while I was at work; and I always enjoy rich historical descriptions about the Salem witch trials. At times however, Howe’s writing style sort of read like a textbook about colonial history (again, which wasn’t a problem for me) but something about her phrasing/wording just didn’t flow smoothly. My main gripe is with Connie and the descriptions of life as a  Harvard grad student, both of which came across as pretentious and highfalutin. When my mind starts to envision preppy men with sweaters tied around their necks and tennis rackets slung over their shoulders… it’s not good for me.

Also, when it came time to hit the library in search of Deliverance’s book, it seemed like Connie, having just completed her Master’s in history at Harvard, should have been more familiar with things and such a task would be old hat. I realize I’m being a little harsh, and I should cut her some slack since her mind was preoccupied by a new distraction: Sam. I totally fell for Sam. It’s not everyday that a girl runs into a ruggedly sexy Steeplejack complete with rappelling gear and ponytail, right? I even let it slide that he nicknames her Cornell because of her “second-tier-school attitude” (gag!). Sam’s easy-going, warm personality is a nice contrast to Connie’s uptight attitude and he thankfully loosens her up a bit.

It has its flaws and the ending is a bit hokey, but I would still recommend this book if for no other reason than the generous historical details and descriptions. I respect Howe’s idea to look at the Salem witch trials as if “witches” really did exist, instead of the standard perspective that the trials were rooted in the baseless accusations of a paranoid religious community or hapless little girls afflicted with hallucinations after eating moldy grains. And props to the cover artist for making this gorgeous book completely covet-worthy.

Jamie Fraser is just a Black Mountain Bitter away….

(Consider yourself warned: what you are about to read is a potentially frightening glimpse into the mind of an obsessive fangirl.)

I have special skills when it comes to seeing/making connections between those things that I love and obsess over and random things that I come across in daily life. Right now, I’m riding high on my Jamie Fraser kick and consequently noticing Scottish references everywhere. I watched Alice in Wonderland yesterday and was thrilled to see Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter as an angry Scotsman! When he dons a kilt and sporran during the final battle against the Jabberwocky and in his flashbacks to happier days before the Red Queen when he is sporting long red hair, my mind couldn’t help but make the jump to Jamie Fraser. (And by the way, Johnny Depp doing a Scottish accent= amazing. No matter what crazy make-up or costume that man is wearing, he still gets me every time…)

Gaelic Ale

I recently discovered my new favorite beer, the Highland Brewing Company, and yes, I’m going to connect it to Mr. Fraser as well. I was drawn to it and decided to try it based solely on the fact that 1) the label has a Scotsman on it and 2) there were varieties with names such as “Gaelic Ale” and “Black Mountain Bitter,” but it turns out that it’s really good! On top of that, it’s made in Asheville, North Carolina! Now, if you know me then you know that I have been obsessed with Asheville for the better part of my life. (One day, I tell you, if it’s the last thing I do, I WILL live there! )  The Last of the Mohicans was filmed in Asheville and that movie makes me think of Young Ian in Drums of Autumn. (I was totally envisioning Daniel Day-Lewis the entire time I was reading about Ian in that book.) If you aren’t familiar with the area, Asheville is located very close to Roan Mountain, TN and Black Mountain, NC. It’s mentioned in Drums of Autumn that Claire can see Roan Mountain from Fraser’s Ridge and when at River Run, Claire longs to get back to Black Mountain. Roan Mountain also holds a very special place in my heart and I was so excited to see it mentioned in the book.  My dad used to own a house there and my husband proposed to me on top of Roan Mtn! It’s arguably some of the most beautiful country you’ll ever lay eyes on and perhaps since I have so many ties to the area, it strengthens my connection to the characters? So anyhoo, to sum it all up, I feel a little link to the Frasers when I drink Highland Brewing beer because it has a picture of a Scotsman on the label, and it’s made in Asheville, which is close to where Fraser’s Ridge is located, and reminds me of the scenery in Drums of Autumn, which is my most favorite book in the Outlander series. Don’t judge.

Dead in the Family

I am a devoted Sookie Stackhouse fan. I eagerly await the release of a new Sookie book each May and don’t even hesitate to fork over the money for the hardback. The latest installment in the series is Dead in the Family. I had read the negative reviews on Amazon that said it was no good, but refused to believe that a Sookie book could leave me disappointed. (Plus, the cover has Sookie and Eric hovering around a giant rose – which totally seems promising, right?) I kept the faith, but alas, I must regretfully admit…I was a bit disappointed.

Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 10)

The book picks up just weeks after the huge Fae War and Sookie is still healing both physically and mentally. Amelia has gone back to New Orleans, Claudine is dead, Niall is sealed up in Faery, and Jason has finally settled down with a nice girl. Claude moves in with Sookie and she begins forming a relationship with her new-found relative and fellow telepath, Hunter. Eric’s maker returns and introduces him to his new “brother” and a freshly introduced Were is murdered on Sookie’s property, where Dermot is discovered to be wandering around. Despite all that, my biggest gripe is that I was left feeling like absolutely nothing happened.  

I need to preface the impending rant by saying that I truly love Charlaine Harris and the Sookie Stackhouse series. I sheepishly admit to having read the entire series twice, actually I’ve read a few of the books three times, but this one will not be added to that  list. What didn’t I like? Well,  Eric and Sookie are officially a couple right from the get-go. I was a bit taken aback by this since apparently I missed the part where their relationship began? (No, I didn’t miss it. It  just didn’t happen.) I have wanted them to be together for some time now, so why should this rather abrupt departure be an issue with me? Well, for one, I was unpleasantly surprised to find them acting like an old married couple (i.e. Sookie picking up Eric’s wet towels off the bathroom floor. Really? Ok, who am I kidding, I’d probably pick up Eric’s towels too, but moving on…), not to mention the fact that there is practically no passion between them at all. Quite frankly, if their relationship isn’t going to include goodies like those found in Dead to the World, then why even bother? And we still don’t get much insight regarding whether Sookie’s feelings for Eric (and vice versa) are genuine or simply a result of the blood bond.

And then there is poor Bill, who practically died during the Fae War while saving Sookie, and who is still in dire straights for the most part of this book. Even though Bill has dropped the ball numerous times throughout this series, he still holds a special place in my heart and I feel he was done a terrible disservice in this book. Although some might argue that there was a happy ending for him at the end, it just wasn’t what I was hoping for.

Like I said before, the biggest disappointment for me is that nothing really happens in this book. I know, technically something happens when Eric’s maker returns, accompanied by his psychotic son; and technically things happen when a few people get murdered by said son, but I just really found it rather dull compared to the previous books. Also, the storyline with Eric’s maker was so similar to what happened in True Blood last year, I couldn’t help but wonder if Harris had gotten the idea from the show.

On the bright side, the fact that Eric is now free holds a lot of potential for future drama and I am glad that they are together now. I haven’t given up hope, it will take a lot more than one dull book to quell my love for these characters.

Lover Mine

I recently finished the newest book in J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood Series, Lover Mine. Actually, I love this series so much that I can’t believe I waited a whole two months before reading it. In my defense however, I happened to be preoccupied with the only thing that could keep me from running out and forking over the money for the brand new hardback and staying up all night to eagerly devour it: Jamie Fraser. Anyhoo, a co-worker of mine did  run out and buy it the day it hit the shelves and then proceeded to bring it to work the next day and taunt me with it before (after re-reading it several times) graciously letting  me borrow it.

Right off the bat, it’s hard not to notice that the cover style has been changed, thus eliminating any possibility of hiding exactly what type of book you are reading from the husband. No worries though, I have no qualms about being a devoted fan of the Brothers and afterall my friends, this is vampire smut at it’s best!Lover Mine: A Novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood

Lover Mine focuses on John Matthew and picks up with his search to find Xhex, who was kidnapped from the sympath colony at the end of Lover Avenged. Lash is holding Xhex captive in some sort of invisible bubble in Caldwell, where he violently beats and rapes her daily. Lash and the Omega have a falling out, and Lash begins a rather grotesque transformation that slowly weakens his powers and inadvertently allows Xhex to escape. I was never a fan of Xhex in the previous novels (because of the way she treated John Matthew), but she also goes through a transformation and discovers her softer side after being rescued and cared for in the Brotherhood’s mansion. Of course, she and John Matthew get together and very steamy vampire smut ensues.

As in all of J.R. Ward’s novels, there are several other less prominent story lines running as well. One that I was not expecting involves Payne, V’s twin sister who has been held against her will by the Scribe Virgin and who has become Wrath’s sparring partner since the total loss of his eyesight. She ends up being expelled from the Far Side and finds herself in the Brothers’ mansion, thus opening up a potentially exciting thread that will hopefully be continued in the next novel. I was also happy to see that Tohr is finally back in the game and well on his way to regaining his status as a Brother. We get a detailed glimpse into his past and discover that he has even more connections to John Matthew (and Xhex). They patch up their relationship and have a quite touching, and much deserved, happy ending.

Poor Blay is still having a hard time dealing with his feelings for Qhuinn and I found myself becoming a bit frustrated with their relationship. Their story line is definitely left undone and while I hope that they are not the main focus of the next book, I look forward to a more satisfying resolution to their story.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and I am still impressed with Ward’s ability to weave detailed histories together and neatly tie up loose ends, while simultaneously unravelling additional threads that keep us wanting more. These books are just the right mixture of suspense, adventure, sex and tenderness (involving big, tough, leather-clad vampires) and even at book eight, I don’t see any signs that she’s starting to fizzle out. Each book in this series is equally as strong as the last (although Z’s book, Lover Awakened, will always be my favorite…) and I look forward to the next one.