Jen’s Review of The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

tkdjmThey say “normal is just a setting on a dryer” (with the exception of my dryer, I guess.) However, more to the point: what is normal, exactly? In The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry this question is explored.

From Goodreads

After the unexpected death of her parents, painfully shy and sheltered 26-year-old Ginny Selvaggio seeks comfort in cooking from family recipes. But the rich, peppery scent of her Nonna’s soup draws an unexpected visitor into the kitchen: the ghost of Nonna herself, dead for twenty years, who appears with a cryptic warning (“do no let her…”) before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish.

A haunted kitchen isn’t Ginny’s only challenge. Her domineering sister, Amanda, (aka “Demanda”) insists on selling their parents’ house, the only home Ginny has ever known. As she packs up her parents’ belongings, Ginny finds evidence of family secrets she isn’t sure how to unravel. She knows how to turn milk into cheese and cream into butter, but she doesn’t know why her mother hid a letter in the bedroom chimney, or the identity of the woman in her father’s photographs. The more she learns, the more she realizes the keys to these riddles lie with the dead, and there’s only one way to get answers: cook from dead people’s recipes, raise their ghosts, and ask them.

Honestly, I was very disappointed in this book. It received rave reviews on Goodreads, so maybe I set my expectations too high.

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry is about a young woman, Ginny, who is living with (undiagnosed) Asperger’s Syndrome. The book is written from her point of view, so you spend a lot of time in her head. Her parents pass away unexpectedly and as a result you read much about how she copes with this. Her sister, Amanda, wants to sell the house Ginny has lived in all her life and tries to make Ginny be more “normal,” or at least realize how abnormal she is. I did not like Amanda at all. Her characterization was very one-dimensional.

Cooking is Ginny’s passion and coping mechanism. She suddenly has the ability to conjure up ghosts by preparing the deceased person’s recipes. I was very intrigued by this but wound up being disappointed when it had little to do with the storyline, with the exception of perhaps her parents. As far as the “secrets” went, there aren’t really any, at least in my opinion. One could skip over much of this portion book without losing the story.

I did find myself relating to Ginny having to find a new “normal” since I deal with social anxiety and chronic illnesses. I liked Ginny’s view that everyone has their own “normal,” and to not label mental health issues as abnormal, but instead a different variant of normal. Because really, what IS normal?

Sadly, the plot really fell flat. I was not motivated to keep reading to see what would happen and it took me longer to finish because I had to force myself to read it. If you are looking to learn what it’s like to be inside the head of someone with Asperger’s, you may enjoy this book. But if you want a more exciting plot, skip this.

2 out of 5 Stars

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry
Gallery Books (2011)
Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN: 9781451648508

Special thanks to Gallery Books for my review copy!

Jen’s Review of The Storycatcher by Ann Hite

tsahI’m not entirely sure how to review this book without sounding overly cliché. So, let’s start with the fact that I read mainly British or French historical fiction. This book, The Storycatcher by Ann Hite, is neither of those. But after reading some reviews on Goodreads which stated, “I usually don’t read this kind of book, but it was awesome,” I decided to give it a try. I’m very glad I did.

The synopsis really doesn’t do the book justice. It’s far more complex than it leads you to believe. There are many characters and what seems like many plots, however, they come together in a huge spider web (make sure you read the names on each chapter as the POV changes with each one. I did not find it hard to follow, but I can see how one might be confused.)

From Goodreads:

Shelly Parker never much liked Faith Dobbins, the uppity way that girl bossed her around. But they had more in common than she knew. Shelly tried to ignore the haints that warned her Faith’s tyrannical father, Pastor Dobbins, was a devil in disguise. But when Faith started acting strange, Shelly couldn’t avoid the past; not anymore.

Critically acclaimed, award-winning author Ann Hite beckons readers back to the Depression-era South, from the saltwater marshes of Georgia’s coast to the whispering winds of North Carolina’s mystical Black Mountain, in a mesmerizing gothic tale about the dark family secrets that come back to haunt us.

If a book is listed in the “supernatural” category I tend to stay away. I mean, I never finished one of The Babysitter’s Club books because: ghosts. But the “haints,” as they’re called in The Storycatcher are more like messengers than ghosts. The only thing the people on the mountain really had to fear was one who was still alive. The story of these haints had to be told, no matter the cost. Only the truth can allow these haints to rest.

Sins of the past and present collide in this intrinsically woven novel that really is … a page-turner. Suspenseful, interesting, amazing characters and “AHA!” moments make this a very epic read.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Storycatcher by Ann Hite
Gallery Books (2013)
Paperback: 352 pages
ISBN: 9781451692273

Special thanks to Gallery Books for my review copy!