Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #FamilyDrama BLIND TURN by @CaraAchterberg

Today’s team review is from Jenni, she blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/the-miscellaneous-drawer-blog/

#RBRT Review Team

Jenni has been reading Blind Turn by Cara Achterberg

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I suppose this review should start with a disclaimer: I’m a Texan.

Not only am I a Texan, I’m a northeast Texan. I was born and raised roughly 50 miles from the city of Jefferson, where Cara Sue Achterberg’s Blind Turn nominally takes place. This setting is what drew me to her novel in the first place, despite tight family drama’s like this laying way outside my usual genre.

For fellow Texans out there looking for loving descriptions of the historic red brick post office, the Beauty and the Book hair salon, Big Cypress Bayou, or the annual Krewe of Hebe Mardi Gras parades, I’m afraid you will have to look elsewhere. Achterberg’s “Jefferson” is a kind of Anytown USA, rather than specifically Jefferson TX, zip code 75657.   

For me, the weakness of Achterberg’s work can be found in this. In a novel where one of the biggest hurdles is that the entire town turns their backs on the protagonists, the absence of that uniquely Jefferson spice is felt keenly. A weekend jaunt through Jefferson, the B&B and antiquing scenes are fabulous!, or even an afternoon stint on Wikipedia would have helped lend the novel local flavor and enriched the setting and the story immensely. When someone tries so hard to write a generic small town, they lose some of the DNA that makes every small town unique.

That said, there are some universal truths in Achterberg’s novel. Truths like small towns are places were “people mistake proximity for intimacy”, and frequent musings on the “invisible and impossible ways” people’s lives intertwine. There is beauty in these universalities, and in the ways that a mother’s love can transcend even doubt about her child’s innocence, in the redemption and of a flawed father, the generosity of a near-stranger who becomes a part of a family, and the maturing of a teenager.

There is beauty in forgiveness, of the self and of others, and that too lies at the heart of this very human novel full of very human characters.

The great strength in Achterberg’s work lies in this humanity, in the ways she makes her characters stumble and fall as they struggle to grow into themselves. There are no perfect people in this novel, but they’re all trying, and damn do we love to watch them try.

When Jess runs away from home, all of sixteen and crumbling beneath the weight of the world, our hearts run with her. She has been through so much, physically and emotionally, how can we begrudge her this escape?

And when she comes home? When her parents find her and finally realize how much hurt their child has been hiding and they break with the weight of it? How can an empathetic reader not break as well?

Despite the story taking place across several months, Blind Turn is a rapid read. The inciting incident, a horrific car crash that upends everyone’s lives, happens about page three and the punches keep coming from there. Courtroom drama, complicated family dynamics, small-town histrionics, and workplace politics all come into play in Achterberg’s story, just as they do in real life.

And just like in real life, the ending is messy. A man is killed in the opening car crash and there is no un-ringing that bell. Jess, who was driving the car, her parents, who have alternately fallen together, apart, and together-ish again throughout the novel, the dead man’s widow, and the town as a whole all have to learn to live with that. Lines of love and loyalty are tangled, but everyone we care about as readers is working towards better. Working towards being whole.

There’s no riding off into the sunset here, but there is satisfaction in the conclusion both in redemption well earned, and in completing a story well written.

3.75/5 for fellow Texans who see what it could be with a little research.

4/5 for everyone else.

Book description

In the aftermath of a fatal texting and driving accident, a mother and daughter must come to terms with the real meaning of forgiveness.

Liz Johnson single-handedly raised an exemplary daughter. Jessica is an honor-student, track star, and all-around good kid. So how could that same teenager be responsible for the death of the high school’s beloved football coach? This is Texas, where high school football ranks right up there with God, so while the legal battle wages, the public deals its own verdict.

Desperate for help, Liz turns to a lawyer whose affection she once rejected and attempts to play nice with her ex-husband. Jessica faces her angry peers and her own demons as she awaits a possible prison sentence for an accident she doesn’t remember.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC #Histfic #Romance THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by @AilishSinclair #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s Review-A-Book Challenger is Jenni; find out more about her here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Jenni chose to read The Mermaid And The Bear by Ailish Sinclair

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There can be a claustrophobia to first person narratives. Trapping readers entirely inside a stranger’s thoughts, emotions, and experiences is a foreign thing, something few novelists can accomplish with finesse.

Fortunately, Ailish Sinclair is a novelist with finesse.

The narrator, and our eyes in the world of The Mermaid and the Bear, is Isobell. A young woman escaping a dangerous fiancé by fleeing to a remote estate in Scotland with her brother and a friend. The setup for the narrative is simple enough—she is a fish out of water, a high born lady from London masquerading as a kitchen maid in a Laird’s castle with various new friends and rivals coming into her life as she and the readers explore this foreign land where Isobell has placed herself.

Like many “not a normal girl” heroines, Isobell loves reading, has a penchant for being alone in the woods, and has some difficulty settling into her new role, from ignorance of the work, if nothing else. She is also virginal, innocent enough that a bawdy joke about men and pipes flies over her head at one point.

This final trope, that of the virgin girl, is something of a sticking point for me, personally. There are times when blatant innocence in female characters gets fetishistic: the idea of the virgin who never entertained an impure thought. Who is beautiful and doesn’t realize it. Who is just waiting for the right man to awaken her passion.

A protagonist cliché that gets retold again and again in novels written for young women.

And in many novels, and in the hands of a less skilled storyteller, this would be the story of that virgin’s awakening. Her falling in love, and it would happily end with her in the marriage bed.

Sinclair’s The Mermaid and the Bear hits the marriage bed roughly halfway through, and then keeps going.  Lovingly crafted and extensively researched, this is not the historical romance it was advertised as. There is romance, multiple love interests, breathless confessions dire circumstances that led to those confessions (again, well-worn tropes for those who frequent the historical romance genre), but at heart this is a story about women.

Women and the love they have for each other, not their love for men.

Women and the power they take for themselves, and the powers that abuse them.

Women and their faith.

This is a story about the women murdered by witch hunters, and about those who survived the witch trials.

And the trials are arduous. Isobell is no modern surgeon to describe the physical toll wrought in clinical detail. The intimacy of the first-person narrative makes her pain inescapable. Visceral. The 16th century was no time for the faint of heart, and during the trial, as in every thread of this novel, Sinclair’s research shows in brutal, effective detail.

This is a novel for the daring and for those who believe that the past can still speak through modern works- this is a necessary narrative.

A narrative about the hurt that can be given carelessly, and the pain that can be survived. A fairytale, and a myth, and a Shakespearean epic all rolled to one—The Mermaid and the Bear is a delight for those brave enough to tackle it.

5/5, would re-read most any day of the year.

Book description

Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird.

Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning…

Until the past catches up with her.

Set in the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and the Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

AmazonUK | AmzonUS

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