Friday, January 29, 2016

Mini-reviews: The Wrath and the Dawn & Kitchens of the Great Midwest

You've heard this story before. A king marries a new woman each day only to kill her the next morning. A brave girl volunteers to be the new bride in order to save her kingdom. But you've never heard it quite like this. Shahrzad has a broken heart after her best friend is the latest victim of the Caliph's edict. She decides to volunteer as the newest bride, but she doesn't plan to die the next morning. She plans to murder the king. Instead, she finds herself telling him a story...a tale so intriguing that Khalid allows her to live in order to hear its end. But as the nights go by, both the murdering king and the would-be assassin bride find themselves falling in love. When Shahrzad discovers what is really happening in her kingdom, will she be able to carry out her plan?

I picked up The Wrath and the Dawn because I am a huge fan of all things Sheherazade and One Thousand and One Nights related. This book was perfect because it was similar to the original tale, but Renee Ahdieh really takes it in a different direction. It hooked me in early and soon I was ignoring my responsibilities in order to finish the story. There is magic and romance and Ahdieh beautifully conveys the beauty of the palace, the surrounding village, and the desert that lies beyond both. The characters are really interesting and while I plan to read the second story, I would even pick up additional books that feature the supporting characters. The Wrath and the Dawn is the perfect book to lose yourself in for a weekend.

The Wrath and the Dawn
By Renee Ahdieh
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers May 2015
388 pages
From the library

Lars and Cynthia seem to have a charmed life. They have just welcomed their first child, a daughter named Eva, into the world. They share a passion for great food and wine. But then, seemingly out of the blue, Cynthia runs off with a sommelier. She leaves only a half-hearted apology that she needs to find what makes her happy. Lars is determined to make his daughter happy and teach her the joys of cooking and enjoying good food. As Eva grows up, she discovers that food will play a vital role in her life - inspiring her, challenging her, and ultimately leading her to become one of the most infamous and sought after chefs in the country.

I promise I haven't ruined the plot for you with the above description - it's on the book jacket. But what I am about to write may spoil some things for you if you like to go into a book with no knowledge of it. [Spoilers ahead] You have been warned.

The charm of Kitchens of the Great Midwest is threefold. First, J. Ryan Stradel has crafted characters you will adore. They don't always do the right things, and they make stupid decisions. But they have heart and good intent and such big dreams to fulfill. Secondly, Stradel goes ahead and makes the state of Minnesota a character. It's not by taking readers through sweeping vistas or over rolling plains. Instead, Eva discovers her home state through food. She learns to love and cook the dishes that the people around her adore and, in doing so, we learn about the people who live in Minnesota. Lastly, Stradel has conceived a really fascinating and brilliant scheme for telling a story. Each section is from the point of view of a different character. While this initially threw me off, I soon found myself wishing for more time with Eva's dad, a high school boyfriend, a jealous rival and of course, Eva herself. I am utterly impressed by an author doing something new in fiction and doing it so wonderfully.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest
By J. Ryan Stradel
Pamela Dorman Books/Viking July 2015
310 pages
Read via Netgalley


  1. Two such different books and both so very intriguing.

    1. I really enjoyed both books. I don't know why I combined these two, but both reviews turned out to be a little on the short side!

  2. I feel like I've seen the cover for the first so I'm intrigued. It sounds like a great story but the fact that she falls in love with him after he kills her friend would bug me throughout the story. Maybe I get too hung up on stuff? I still plan on checking it out but thought I'd just throw that out there. And I keep seeing The Kitchens of the Great Midwest (and didn't read the whole review because of spoilers) so I really need to give it a go. Glad you enjoyed both!

    1. I can understand that - it bugs her too, for a good portion of the story.

      Kitchens of the Great Midwest is such a good read. I hope you enjoy it!

  3. Ooh, The Wrath and the Dawn sounds so good! I enjoy retellings in general and I haven't read a Shahrazad story in a long time. Given how much you enjoyed the characters and setting, this is definitely going on my to-read list :)