The Good Widow, The Black Witch, and The Third Girl

The Good Widow was received from the author at BEA for a free for a fair review.  I specifically circled this one on the BEA program to pick up because I had been reading about it and it sound interesting, so I was excited to get it.  “Jacks” Morales is the good widow of the title, recently bereaved, in a strange occurrence.  Her husband died in Hawaii with another woman when he was supposedly in Kansas on business, hmmmm.

The story unfolds as Jacks and the “other woman’s” fiance decide to retrace the deceased pair’s last days in Hawaii to find out what happened and why.  Jacks uncovers some truths about herself, her marriage and her husband in the process, but that is not all she uncovers.

The pacing is excellent and the point of view shifts are well done.  The chapters shift between before and after and also between Jacks’ POV and Dylan’s, the other woman,  POV.  It is definitely a fun  and engrossing read and there are moments of psychological tension.  The only let down is that I saw the “twist” coming from almost the onset and in fact I’m almost sure I’ve seen a Lifetime movie with this twist.  So, there was no wow moment of a reveal.

I have been waiting for The Black Witch from the Library for quite a while ever since I read the controversy surround the book.  Pretty much when people tell me I should not buy a book, should not read a book, my eyeballs will bleed if I read a book,  my oppositional nature pokes through and I put it on my TBR.  I also felt that it was hugely unfair that even before the book came out there were people rating it 1 star on Goodreads and saying directly in their reviews that they had not read it.  They were rating based on other bloggers saying it was controversial.

The Black Witch is about a young woman who lives in a very “racist” society, although I would think that specist would probably be more correct since we are talking here about discriminating against Dragons, Kelpies, Elves, etc. but obvious metaphors for racism.  Elloren is the descendent of the last Great Black Witch and has disappointingly, as far as her aunt is concerned, thus far shown no aptitude to be the next one.  Her uncle whisked her away to be raised in a small village in the country sheltered from the  evils occurring in the city.

The story is engaging and the world and its political system/history is explained enough without being drawn out for pages and pages.  Despite being almost 600 pages, I found the book to be a really quick read.  Elloren is understandingly naive and unaware of her own prejudices and indeed the evils of her society until she goes to University and engages with others who are different from herself.  She is racist, classist and elitist.  She is all of those things and completely lacks self-awareness.  She can see the evil of the Kelpie in distress in a cage, but doesn’t connect that to the field Urisk that worked in the fields surrounding the village where she lived.

The critiques of this book as racist, in my opinion, miss the point.  The book is directly addressing issues of racism, classism, sexism, mental illness, elitism in University settings, immigration and deportation, and  sweat shop and child labor.  The weakness is that the book is written on about the same level as  Harry Potter.  In fact, I think kids who liked Harry Potter would really like it, but they might not get all the issues being addressed.  (It is a little darker than the first Harry Potter, but later books in the Harry Potter series got darker and this is on par with them in that aspect).

I found The Third Girl lovely!  The first in a new mystery series, set in a small village in France.  The protagonist, Molly, just has purchased and opened a small bed and breakfast type establishment as she finds her feet after a divorce.  The village is home to a small exclusive art school and one of the students goes missing and though Molly does not set out to investigate she becomes mixed up in the case.

The strong point of this book is the sense of place.  You come away feeling that you really know the community, the village in France, the people, the cafe, the neighbor who hangs out her La Perla lingerie, the barman and the police officers.  That is what really drew me into this book.  The mystery was entertaining and wrapped up well in the end.  There were enough red herrings to keep the reader guessing.  I look forward to reading more in this series.

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