Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

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Alias Grace
By Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Anchor Books
ISBN: 9780385490443
Pages: 486
Genre: Historical Fiction



In Alias Grace, bestselling author Margaret Atwood has written her most captivating, disturbing, and ultimately satisfying work since The Handmaid’s Tale. She takes us back in time and into the life of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the nineteenth century.

Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders.

Dr. Simon Jordan, an up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness, is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories? Is Grace a female fiend? A bloodthirsty femme fatale? Or is she the victim of circumstances?


While significantly different from my usual reading selections, Alias Grace is a standing reminder that regardless of the past hurdles I have encountered with some of Atwood’s work, I can and do still hold a deep admiration and respect for it.

Set in the 19th century, Alias Grace follows the events unfolding after the conviction of young Grace Marks for her involvement in the heinous murder of her employer and his head housekeeper alongside stable boy James McDermott. Dr. Simon Jordan interviews Grace daily in an effort to restore memories of the fateful day she claims to have no recollection of. There are those who believe in her guilt and those who wish to see her pardoned. But whether Grace is truly innocent or indeed a manipulative and cunning murderess remains a mystery.

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While Alias Grace is a work of fiction, it has been based around the real life case of Grace Marks, an Irish-Canadian housemaid who was charged in the murder of Thomas Kinnear (her employer) and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery in 1843. The trial and conviction caused a large amount of controversy as there were many who believed she was an unwilling accomplice to the murders and that James McDermott was solely responsible. She was pardoned 30 years after being sentenced and relocated to New York. The case is still shrouded in mystery.

It is hard to discuss what Margaret Atwood delivers in Alias Grace to full extent without leaving enough revelation for potential readers. This is a slower paced, character study that immerses the reader into the 19th century and explores the relationship between men and women. It touches on themes of women’s social standing and treatment as well as exploring the practices and changes occurring within the field of mental health.

Grace is a complex and perplexing character with a natural intelligence and intuition that often leaves you questioning her capabilities and motives.  I found myself absorbed in her story and often less concerned with her guilt and more so with what actually happened. Dr. Jordan is equally fascinating with his youthful passion for the evolving mental health practice and asylums and sometimes questionable actions. The point of view weaves between the two with snippets of news-clippings and letters, providing a cleverly alternating perspective that manages a suspicious and uncertain narrative. All of this feeds the beautiful mystery that is Grace Marks elegantly.

“…I was shut up inside that doll of myself and my true voice could not get out.” 


While the leisurely pace and sometimes disjointed narration can require an adjustment period, the end result is an unexpectedly inviting and puzzling experience that challenges the reader to confront those heavier topics and message concealed within. It is a story told in a manner that only Atwood can. Brilliantly patient, yet equally rich and rewarding.

tea cupPairs well with an Irish Breakfast blend served with milk.

Purchase Links: Book Depository

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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My Name is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd

Book Review

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My Name is Venus Black
By Heather Lloyd
Release Date: 2/27/18
Publisher: Dial Press
ISBN: 9780399592188
Pages: 368
Genre: YA Fiction



I think about this a lot lately, trying to figure out how I got here. I trace my life back in time, looking for all those places in the past where, if I could change one key detail, I would never have seen what I saw or done what I did that terrible February night. 

Venus Black is a straitlaced, straight-A student obsessed with the phenomena of astronomy—until the night she commits a shocking crime that tears her family apart and ignites a media firestorm. Venus refuses to talk about what happened or why, except to blame her mother. Adding to the mystery, Venus’s developmentally challenged younger brother, Leo, suddenly goes missing.

Five years later, Venus emerges from prison with a suitcase of used clothes, a fake identity, and a determination to escape her painful past. Estranged from her mother, and with her brother still missing, she sets out to make a fresh start, skittish and alone. But as new people enter her orbit—including a romantic interest and a young girl who seems like a mirror image of her former lost self—old wounds resurface, and Venus realizes that she can’t find a future while she’s running from her past.

In this gripping story, debut novelist Heather Lloyd brilliantly captures ordinary lives upended by extraordinary circumstances. Told through a constellation of captivating voices, My Name Is Venus Black explores the fluidity of right and wrong, the meaning of love and family, and the nature of forgiveness.


My Name is Venus Black tells the unpleasant story of 13-year-old Venus Black who has been locked up for a terrible crime that makes national headlines and devastates her family. During her incarceration, Venus struggles with the events that have occurred, blaming her mother and refusing to speak of what has happened or maintain a relationship with her. Tragically, before her release, her younger brother Leo, who the story indicates is autistic, disappears. 5 years later, Venus finds herself thrust back into the real world attempting to scrape together any semblance of a life while coping with the fact that Leo has never returned, and she no longer knows where she belongs.

Told mainly from Venus’ perspective, this was a unique character study that explores what happens when individuals find themselves trapped in terrific circumstances. Venus has done something awful but initially we are not given full details of what has occurred. What is received is a young, angry and closed off teenager who offers little insight. Establishing a connection with Venus is a slow process, but also one that I found to be ultimately rewarding. The author removes those factors of influence and allows us to explore her as an individual before fully divulging what she has done and why.

This is a slower paced story that manages to successfully capture the tension and angst surrounding the characters and their suffering and loss. The plot unfolds through events involving both Venus and Leo. Clever manipulation of time line and revelations provide an experience that feels not only original but gratifying. Narration is clearly defined and fluid, facilitating a somewhat fast read even with the slower pacing. I did find certain moments harder to digest than others, as the topics addressed are heavy ones and possible triggers for some readers. So while I try to avoid spoilers please be aware that there are difficult elements and themes contained within.

Heather Lloyd manages to engage the reader on all emotional fronts while refraining from coaxing them in any specific direction. She simply provides a solid, incredible story and leaves us to our own devices. And it works brilliantly. My only minor complaint might be that the conclusion was the one instance of Venus’ story that felt slightly disconnected from reality, but I highly recommend this to fans of character driven titles with heavy emotional aspects!

*I would like to thank Dial Press & Netgalley for this copy. The review above is my own, unbiased & honest opinion.

Untitled designEnjoyed with a nice cup of Earl Grey & lavender tea.

Purchase Links: Book Depository

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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Excerpt: Snow City by G. A. Kathryns


Excerpt & Spotlight (1).pngToday I am pleased to share an excerpt from the magical realism book by G.A. Kathryns, Snow City.

About Snow City

G. A. Kathryns is an award-winning author of novels and short stories. Her latest release SNOW CITY is a novel of hope and magical realism.

SNOW CITY is a dreamlike journey into the life of a woman who has given up on a dystopian reality and fabricated her idea of a perfect dream world. And then one day she wakes up in that fantasy world…

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Snow City
By G.A. Kathryns
Publisher: Sycamore Sky Books
Genre: Magical Realism



Her name is Echo Japonica, and she lives in Snow City. But she was not always Echo, and she did not always live in Snow City. Somewhere else, she was someone else, and it was to Snow City that she fled in order to escape a place and a self that had at last become intolerable.

For Snow City is a dream — Echo’s dream — of a better place, an idealized place, a place of both anonymity and fulfillment. It is, for Echo, a haven of peace, a refuge, a sanctuary.

But Snow City remains, nonetheless, a dream, and dreams, being such fragile things, can so easily shade into nightmare…

Purchase:  Amazon UK


Excerpt from Chapter 3

“Good evening,” I say. I do not have to see her. I know she is there. “My name is Echo Japonica.”

“H-hello…” comes the uncertain reply. “Have you been following me?”

“I have not. But I knew where you would be.”


“I saw you here on a previous occasion.” I do my best to keep my voice noncommittal. “You were standing in the rain in the daylight, and now you are standing in the rain in the night. It is not right that you be out alone in the dark and the wet. So I wonder…”

I risk a glance at her. Yes: in the rain and at night. But not a drop of water on her.

“…I wonder whether I might once again be so bold as to offer you the sharing of an umbrella.”

Her voice drifts out of the dim alley like a distant hand groping through miles of mist. “Why?”

“Because you are a child.”

The hot denial comes quickly. “I’m not a child!”

I nod, sighing. I should have expected it. “And I, for my part, find it difficult upon occasion to believe that I am an adult. But,
leaving aside the question of our respective ages: share an umbrella with me, I pray, and I will see you home directly.”

“I…I don’t…”

I sense — no, I know — what she is a about to say, and it frightens me. Has Snow City fallen so far? Frayed so terribly? Raveled so completely?

“…I…don’t have a home.”

Homeless, then? Horror follows horror. This should not — cannot — be happening here.

“I mean,” the girl goes on, her words spilling forth in fits and starts, “I’ve got a home, and I’ve got a family. But they don’t…they
don’t want me. They turned me out. They told me…they told me to go away and never come back.”

I stare at her. Well-spoken, polite…vulnerable, perhaps, but with an edge of determination, she seems so unlikely a candidate for abandonment that for the better part of a minute I can find no words with which to reply.

“What about friends?” I manage at last.

“They run away…now.”

Which explains the scene I witnessed the other day: the students’ uneasy expressions, the agonized guilt of the older sister.
I cannot let this happen. Unbidden, I step into the alley and, uninvited, shield the girl with my umbrella…which appears to be
entirely superfluous: there is not a speck of water on her save for the tears trickling down her cheeks.

Has nobody spoken to her like this before, asked these questions, offered the slightest shred of help, of comfort?

What is happening?

“Child,” I say, “regardless of your family, regardless of your friends” — We are face to face, almost touching. I have never allowed anyone else in Snow City such intimate proximity. I never dreamed that I would ever permit such a thing. — “you surely cannot be living on the street.”

Anger flares…accompanied by a kind of vague shame. “Stop calling me a child. My name is Charity. I’m sixteen years old and I’m not a child!” And then: “And in any case, I’m…

She looks away quickly.

“…I’m not living anywhere now. At least…not…not really living.”

I stare at her.

“There was an accident,” she says, the water falling all around and she dry in spite of it. “In January. A car. I was killed.” She
lifts those green eyes to me, and I see in them what I, concerned until now only with surface appearances and bare facts, did not see before: a window into unknown depths, into abysses of knowledge that lie beyond all dreams, all nightmares, all imaginings.

“I…” I stare, stupid and bewildered.

“Don’t you see?” she demands. “I’m dead. I’m a ghost.”

The tears take her then, and she begins to sob uncontrollably.

Author Bio

G.A. Kathryns grew up on the West Coast and later on moved to the drier and higher realms of the high plains. She currently makes her home in the Denver metro area where she shares the company of a spouse and two small dogs.

Along with SNOW CITY, she has written a Southern Gothic themed title, THE BORDERS OF LIFE (soon to be reissued in a revised, corrected, and updated version), several pedagogical works devoted to playing the harp, a number of short stories, and a collection of dark fiction.

Follow G.A. Kathryns: Website  Facebook

I would like to thank the author and Book Publicity Services for this opportunity and excerpt!

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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