About This Blog

This blog was started as a place to post book reviews. The books reviewed here will be mixed. Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, General Fiction, NonFiction and more. Both positve and negative reviews will be posted, as well as reviews for books written for all ages and all reading levels.

Many of the books reviewed here are ones that I have purchased for my own reading pleasure. Some, I receive free in exchange for reviews. Beginning in December, 2009 you will know which are the free ones if you read the final paragraph of my reviews.

Also of note: I choose what I will read, attempting to avoid the books on which I would end up writing a negative review... but I have been known to make mistakes. Thus you see some one and two star reviews here. Since I don't enjoy writing negative reviews, I only write them if the review was promised, or if the book was so exceedingly bad, I just had to say so. Regardless of the percentage of positive to negative reviews on this blog, I give my honest opinion each and every time, and have never received financial compensation for posting my reviews.

Note that, except for fair use portions quoted from some of the books reviewed, all copyright in the content of the reviews belongs to Lady Dragoness.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Flawed, Yet Still Interesting

The Kitchen House
By Kathleen Grissom
Touchstone (2010)
Hardcover, 384 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

The Kitchen House is about a young Irish girl, Lavinia, whose parents die on board the ship bringing the family to America. Lavinia finds herself an indentured servant... one step up from slavery, but one step below freedom. I found the premise of the story intriguing and couldn't wait to read this novel, but when I'd gotten fairly started, I discovered a lot of problems with the story... beginning with the prologue. The dramatic prologue of The Kitchen House serves to draw the reader into the story rather quickly, so it's not all bad. however, I must say that I've never been a fan of this method of storytelling. By reading this prologue, the reader is peeking ahead to a scene much later in the book, which, to me, feels like cheating. I also felt the prologue was better written than the ending of the story, or rather, that part of the ending which used the same information.

From the prologue on through the first half of the novel, I kept having a sense of deja-vu, otherwise known as "where have I read this before?"  I have yet to figure out why this novel seems so familiar.

And then we have the story being told from two viewpoints; an adult black slave - Belle - who also happens to be the master's daughter; and the young white indentured servant girl from Ireland - Lavinia. Stories told from multiple viewpoints must be delicately handled to be related smoothly; and sorry to say, the author didn't do so well with this. The transitions between Belle's chapters and Lavinia's chapters were sometimes confusing and often as rough as the storm-tossed sea. Mostly this seemed to be the case with Belle's part of the story.

The other main problems I have with this novel is that the characters, aside from Belle and Lavinia are rather under-developed, so that the reader has a hard time caring about those characters. I would liked to have seen the characters of Marshall and his parents better developed at the very least.

Additionally, everyone in this story seems to have his or her own secret that must be closely guarded; never shared. Beginning with the master, and including everyone down to the lowliest slave. As the reader will see, these secrets lend an air of tragedy to the story, and still it seems that too many secrets tend to make the story a bit unbelievable.  The plot develops too slowly, not enough detail about some of the incidents. The ending feels abrupt and unresolved to me; which, in most cases, I do not consider an asset, hence taking off the full star.

The novel's strong points (as I see them) are the evenly paced storyline, spreading out the suspense and the happy parts of the story without cramming all the good parts together and leaving part of the story boring. The novel was - to me - consistently, if not highly interesting. Character motivations play a large part in the plot of this novel and should be studied.

Handled correctly, this great premise could have been a 5 star novel; yet sadly, there are too many flaws for that high rating. Despite the many flaws, I enjoyed reading this 4 star novel. Recommended to readers who do not demand flawless storytelling, and who like a bit of study with their reading pleasure. Those looking for a "light and fluffy" novel should pass this by.  This review has been simultaneously posted on Amazon.com, Dragonviews and LibraryThing.

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