Book Review: Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd
Publisher: Atria Books
Length: 376 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Acquired through LibbyApp
Release Date: April 4, 2019

My Thoughts

When my library’s book club assigned Things In Jars for their April pick, I didn’t know what to expect. I enjoy Historical Fiction, and I was curious about the plot: a talented woman in 19th century London trying to solve the mystery of a missing child.

I didn’t expect to be taken for a wild, emotional ride, but that’s exactly what happened as I was reading this book!

From the start, you know that you’ll be taken on a journey filled with mystery and silence, as female detective Bridie Devine is called on the solve the mystery of Christabel Berwick’s kidnapping. As Bridie’s impeccable sleuthing skills sweep through London’s grittiness and secrets, the layers of Christabel’s disappearance (and Bridie’s roots) are peeled back. What is revealed are shocking truths and Victorian folklore woven together to create a crime rooted through greed.

Things in Jars is equal parts mystery tale and ghost story, as Bridie communicates with a specter named Ruby Doyle (whose ties to Bridie remain equally elusive throughout the novel). Ruby is able to offer guidance from afar, and through his observations we’re able to witness Bridie’s skill as both a collector’s apprentice and a student of medicine.

Things in Jars also describes the ruthless underbelly of 19th Century medicine, and its starkly uneven footing for women trying to break onto the field. The double standard in women trying to succeed in the ‘masculine’ dominated field of medicine is on full display, and Bridie goes to great lengths to hide her identity in order to belong. This fact is not lost on Ruby, who states his truth while accompanying Bridie in one of her missions: ‘Of this, Ruby is sure: nobody belongs here more than Bridie.’

Jess Kidd’s storytelling is riveting in the sense that your imagination takes the shape of the vivid imagery described in every page. The tales of love, sorrow and loss reveal so much, yet leaves out enough for you to color in what happens next, and it’s downright beautiful from beginning to end!

Reading Things In Jars was a wonderful experience, and I enjoyed this story of mystery and folklore. I also loved the fact that a strong female character with her eccentric team was at the forefront of this story!

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Synopsis

Bridie Devine, female detective extraordinaire, is confronted with the most baffling puzzle yet: the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick, and a peculiar child whose reputed supernatural powers have captured the unwanted attention of collectors trading curiosities in this age of discovery.

Winding her way through the labyrinthine, sooty streets of Victorian London, Bridie won’t rest until she finds the young girl, even if it means unearthing a past that she’d rather keep buried. Luckily, her search is aided by an enchanting cast of characters, including a seven-foot tall housemaid; a melancholic, tattoo-covered ghost; and an avuncular apothecary. But secrets abound in this foggy underworld where spectacle is king and nothing is quite what it seems.

Blending darkness and light, history and folklore, Things in Jars is a spellbinding Gothic mystery that collapses the boundary between fact and fairy tale to stunning effect and explores what it means to be human in inhumane times.



Have you also read Things In Jars? I would love to know your thoughts!





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WWW Wednesday: April 8

WWW Wednesday was originally hosted by A Daily Rhythm, and now maintained by Taking on a World of Words.

There are three prompts for WWW Wednesday:
–What are you currently reading?
–What did you finish recently reading?
–What do you think you’ll read next?

Lobizona by Romina Garber
I received a digital copy of Lobizona through NetGalley and Wednesday Books, in exchange for an honest review. This novel confronts the issue of immigration and family separation head-on! I’m about 20% through, and I’m really liking it!

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
This story has everything–diverse representation, the main character handling life while living with a chronic illness, and a steamy romance!

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
I’m very much looking forward to reading this mystery novel for the Literally Dead Book Club!


‘Ruthless Gods’ by Emily A. Duncan/OwlCrate edition

Happy book birthday to ‘Ruthless Gods’ by Emily A. Duncan!

I read and reviewed an ARC from NetGalley a few months ago, and I was so glad that I received one (thank you NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the digital ARC)! My review for Ruthless Gods can be found here!

When OwlCrate put out a notice that an exclusive edition was being released, I immediately purchased one. I couldn’t wait to own a copy of the sequel to the ‘Something Dark and Holy’ series!

After patiently waiting, the book finally arrived! It also came with some interesting treats that I can’t wait to share with you!

This pin looks so lovely!
This book looks so stunning!
Such gorgeous artwork inside the cover jacket!

Thank you OwlCrate for this wonderful special edition of ‘Ruthless Gods’!

Friday Reads: February 21

I’m currently reading ‘The Other People’ by C.J. Tudor. So far I’m really liking the creepy feels to the story, but I’m sensing that I have a feeling about a certain plot point. It may just be that the author is just tricking me into predicting one thing about the tale, when the truth is quite different.

I’ve also listened to some audiobooks this week. It’s been quite helpful in finishing up a story for book club in time. Another book I own is ‘The Women of Brewster Place’, and I learned that it was a 3 hour read on Audible. So I listened to it in one sitting! I would never have gotten to it by this month since I’m still reading C.J. Tudor’s book!

The Autumn Tag

Yes, with the passing of Labor Day weekend, it means that Summer is officially winding down. While we say ‘bye-bye’ to long, humid days, it’s
‘Hello’ to colorful leaves, long boots, and Halloween, and I’m perfectly fine with that! I’m doing The Autumn Tag as part of welcoming cooler days and spooky themes! This tag is featured on Jenniely‘s page, and I couldn’t wait to complete it!

1) Hot Chocolate: What is your comfort book?

‘The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod by Z Brewer. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this first book in a series about a teenage vampire trying to navigate the social dramas of high school while fighting off supernatural forces. I have the last installment in my Kindle, ready to read!

2) Pumpkin Carving: What is your creative outlet?


Along with reading, I find writing to be such a creative outlet! My love for writing began with poetry during college, and continued over the years with fiction writing.
I also have a deep-seeded love for crochet! I’ve been crocheting scarves and amigurumi since my grad school years, yet it’s been temporarily sidelined due to a wrist injury last year. I’ve been itching to pick up the hooks once again, I adore it so much!

3) Falling Leaves: Changes that appear bad but you secretly love?

I would have to say the changing weather! While many don’t look forward to the cooling breezes, I love that the humidity is finally fading! It makes managing my wavy hair so much easier!

4) Pumpkin Spiced Latte: Something you love but others tend to judge?


I’m a devout lover of Snoopy and Peanuts characters! I have a little Snoopy figure from Hallmark that I take pictures of regularly. People aren’t so thrilled by that, but who cares lol

5) Bonfire Night: What makes you explode with joy?
I love the holidays linked with Autumn (Halloween and Thanksgiving) since it’s a time celebrating with friends and family. it builds up to the exciting Winter holiday season!

6) Friday Night: Favorite Scary Book or Film?

I would need to refer to my Stephen King memories for this question!
For movies, I enjoyed Pet Sematary (I saw the original book adaptation, not the more recent one) It was the first movie I watched that legit scared me so much that I had trouble sleeping!
For books, my favorite scary story was a group of them: Night Shift. A rather excellent compilation of frightful tales!

7) Halloween Candy: Favorite thing to eat?
I love to eat fruits and yogurt. I especially love the key lime flavored yogurts. And peanut butter/chocolate combinations!

8) Scarves: Your Autumn must have accessory?
During Autumn, I can never be without my long boots and cardigans!

9) Fire: A Book or Film that Burns Your Soul


I love ‘The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane’ by Lisa See. She writes such beautiful historical fiction based around China and Southern California, heavily centered around mother/daughter relationships.

10) Toffee Apples: A Book or Film that seems one thing but really has a different inside

One movie that stands out is Bridesmaids, with Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph). It was hilarious, but had a lot of heart!

‘The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane’ by Lisa See/a Review

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
by Lisa See
Length: 371 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Scribner Books
Release Date: March 2017
Source: Paperback

     The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane offers a snapshot of life among the Akha minority tribe in China. The story opens in the late 1980s, following the lives of Li-yan and her family in Spring Well Village. The Akha community heavily rely on tea production, and work in laborious tasks year after year in order to provide families with the food and necessities required to survive the long months. Each member of the Akha people also rely on spirit work and dream interpretation in order to foster abundance and keep away bad omens. ‘Every story, every dream, every waking minute of our lives is filled with one coincidence after another’ states Li-yan’s mother, using her storied wisdom to work as a powerful midwife. It is through dreams that a young Li-yan foresees a negative omen among her people: a dog standing on a roof. What follows afterward are a series of events that paints Li-yan’s perspectives on taking her mother’s place  in the future, while struggling to deal with the reality of set traditions against her true interests in life.

     Li-yan’s journey is peppered with the pitfalls and suffering that were largely known among women living in China. She has a relationship with a man that her family doesn’t approve of, and becomes pregnant. While Akha tradition dictates that Li-yan is giving birth to a ‘bad omen’, with the help of her A-ma (mother), she gives birth to a daughter and gives her up for adoption. Li-yan feels crushed upon sending her daughter away, and while her life journey takes some significant turns, she never stops thinking about ‘what could have been’.

     Throughout the book, Lisa See beautifully describes the relationship between mothers and daughters. She reveals the strict yet loving bond between Li-yan and her a-ma, as she advises her to move forward with her life despite the pitfalls she already experienced in her young life. ‘You cannot let memories of what happened in the past turn you into someone you wouldn’t recognize’. Li-yan’s mother becomes the guiding light in her story, as she moves on to become a strong business woman with her mother’s blessing.

     Simultaneously, we learn about the journey of her daughter with her new family, as the story takes into account her yearning to learn about the roots of her heritage. From her tough beginnings before her adoptive parents came into the picture, through the struggles she faced while learning about her roots, to discovering the life-changing abilities of Pu’er while studying in higher education. Li-yan’s daughter takes the initiative in learning about her origins, and her personal journey takes a surprising turn as a result. Reading this parallel journey between mother and daughter was a refreshing take on the quest in both women discovering their love for one another.

     Lisa See always paints a vivid picture of life in different regions in China, taking the reader back in time to experience what the community experienced. In this case, the region is a hidden tribe within Yunnan beginning in the late 80s. Life among the Akha is extremely primitive, even during a time when most people in the modern world live with creature comforts of lights and automobiles. Their cloistered living radically shifts with the arrival of a tea connoisseur, introducing the concept of Pu’er, a raw form of tea extracted from older trees. It is the concept of Pu’er, and learning how to harvest and produce such a sacred nutrient, that shifts the path of Li-yan’s (and her daughter’s) life permanently. Li-yan uses the guidance of her Akha upbringing to foster a deep rooted respect in producing tea, and keeping this same spirit symbolism and dream interpretation to provide a healthy outlook in seeking out her daughter. It is this thread that keeps Li-yan and the other women in her family on a strong path to empowerment and survival.

     I purchased The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane very recently, and I was so excited. I always enjoy reading Lisa See’s work, since her writing style infuses me with wisdom as she travels to different regions in China. With a break finally presenting itself in my professional life, I savored this story and was very thankful. Although I’m very late in reading this book, I’m glad to share that it was worth the wait!

Rating: 5/5 Stars  

Inside and Out Book Tag

I discovered this book tag on Jessica’s page, JessicaCWrites. I enjoy taking part in book tags, and this one was fun to fill out!

1. Inside flap/Back of the book summaries: Too much info? Or not enough?
I appreciate when books have a summary in the inside flap (or on the back of the book if it’s a paperback). I would rather read those than a full back cover of endorsements!

2. New book: What form do you want it in? Be honest: Audiobook, E-Book, Paperback, or Hardcover?
I love owning new Hardcover books! I’ll also take it as an eBook if I want to conserve space.

3. Scribble while you read? Do you like to write in your books, take notes, make comments, or do you keep your books clean clean clean?
I’ve gotten into the habit of leaving notes in my books. It helps me remember important plot lines that I want to return to when I’m writing my posts or on Goodreads.

4. Does it matter to you whether the author is male or female when you’re deciding on a book? What if you’re unsure of the author’s gender?
No. I’ll read books written by anyone!

5. Ever read ahead? or have you ever read the last page way before you got there? 
I used to when I was younger, but I got out that habit a long time ago!

6. Organized bookshelves, or outrageous bookshelves?
Organized. I’ll tolerate a messy bookshelf to a point. Usually when I get sick and tired of looking at chaos lol

7. Have you ever bought a book based on the cover (alone)?
No, it’s always about the story when I pick up a book!

8. Take it outside to read, or stay in?
Both! I’ll read in parks, beaches, or at home. Any setting is good for me!

The Reading Rush Blog #1

For the first day of The Reading Rush, I decided to fulfill the challenge ‘Read a book that you meant to read last year’, and that book was ‘Small Country’ by Gael Faye. It tells the story of war and tragedy through the eyes of Gaby, a 10 year old boy living in an expatriate neighborhood near Rwanda. It’s a short, yet powerful read as it confronts the reality of war and genocide in vivid detail. Thr book also has moments of innocence as Gaby and his younger sister attempt to live normal lives with their family and friends.

I’m glad that I finally picked up reading ‘Small Country’!

Sunday Sentence, July 21: Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth

I’m participating in David Abrams’s ‘Sunday Sentence‘ project, sharing the best sentence I’ve read during the past week, ‘out of context and without commentary’.

After all the truth I’ve given her, I shouldn’t have ruined it for myself with that final lie’.
Source: Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth

‘We Hunt the Flame’ by Hafsah Faizal/A Review

‘We Hunt the Flame’ by Hafsah Faizal
Length: 472 pages
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Genre: YA Fantasy
Book #1 of the Sands of Arwiya Duology
Release Date: May 14, 2019
Source: Hardcover and Audiobook

When I first heard about ‘We Hunt the Flame’ being released, I was excited to get it! I’m all for diverse authors putting out content, and this story has a diverse range of characters along with a plotline based in an Asian inspired world. I pre-ordered my copy, and received the book on the day of release. I really wanted to read this book for the Asian Readathon, but my work schedule caused me to have a very slow pace in completing any stories! So I read this story during the day, alongside the audiobook version in the evening. I think I may read in this style moving forward!

‘We Hunt the Flame’ tells the story of Zafira Iskander, a woman who masquerades as the Hunter in the world of Arwiya. In this world, women are not highly regarded as respectable figures, so Zafira feels forced to hide her identity in order to bring peace to her kingdom in Demenhur as a male Hunter. Only four people within her family knows Zafira’s true identity, and encourage Zafira to embrace the notion of a strong female provider, yet she carries her fears throughout her daily life due to uncertainty.

Arwiya is left in a state of peril for decades due to an absence of magic. Once a powerful land governed by the Six Sisters, they suddenly disappeared after a harrowing fight in the island of Sharr. Their absence have left the Arwiyan kingdoms in disarray, causing Demenhur to be in a permanent state of winter. Zafira takes the skills learned from her father and ventures into the dangerous Arz forest as the Hunter, hunting to feed the people of Demenhur. One day she is called by the caliph to venture into the Arz and locate the powerful Jarawat in order to restore peace in Arwiya. Along the way she meets Nasir, the crown prince of the cruel Sultan of Arwiya. Nasir is known as the Prince of Death, and he is assigned to accompany the Hunter in locating the Jarawat for his own gain. Although he is asked to take out the Hunter, being an assassin is the last thing he wants to be in his life.

I found the chemistry between Nasir and Zafira so captivating. Both people are caught up in their own webs of deception, yet feel unable to relinquish their crafted identities due to obligation to their people. Each person is also set out for revenge, as both individuals lost someone they dearly cared for. Nasir and Zafira are also joined by a eclectic cast of characters who encompass the different regions of Arwiya’s vast world. Out of all the side characters, I really appreciated Altair. He and Nasir have an awkward (yet humorous) alliance, and his optimistic viewpoints are a breath of fresh air to an otherwise harrowing situation. Altair’s lighthearted tone and intriguing backstory carries the story with great interest to the end.

The world building was also done very beautifully, as I found the governing rules of Arwiya similar in some ways, as women are not held in a high regard in certain regions in our world also. Patriarchy is very common parallel in both Arwiya and our current way of life, with some regions keeping a matriarchal rule. Obviously, in real life we aren’t ruled and governed by magic. I’m sure most of us would love that to happen, though!

I also loved the metaphors Faizal uses throughout this book. She uses the rule of ‘Show but don’t tell’ in her writing expertly. Lines such as ‘That was life, wasn’t it? A collection of moments, a menagerie of people. Everyone stranded everywhere, always’ sung to my soul amazingly. The lines she used when it came to both Nasir and Zafira expressing love was also equally emotional and heartbreaking. Since both people have loved and lost before venturing into their mission into Sharr, their approach in expressing devotion is done very precariously. Lines such as ‘For you, a thousand times I would defy the sun’ melted my heart.  

‘We Hunt the Flame’ by Hafsah Faizal is beautifully written, and her literary voice was clear in character description and world building. I very much look forward to reading the sequel when it’s released next year.

Rating: 5/5 Stars