Book Review: The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova

Title: The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina

Author: Zoraida Córdova

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Blurb: The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—not for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed into a ceiba tree, leaving them with more questions than answers.

Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings and powers. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, her descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.


My Review

It’s not often I pick up this sort of contemporary fantasy these days, but I received this one as part of a subscription box several months ago and just now got around to reading it. My feelings about this one are really mixed, so let’s start with the good.

The writing style is one of this book’s major strengths. The prose is smooth, easy to read, and consistently engaging. There’s very little filler in the narration, and yet the descriptions always seem to have just the right amount of detail to allow me to picture exactly what’s happening in the story. I never had any issues understanding what was happening, even though the story jumped between multiple time periods and several different major characters.

The other notable strength is the book’s ability to toe the line between full-on fantasy and contemporary family drama. There are just enough fantasy elements to keep me, a big fantasy reader, interested throughout, though the main theme of the story is not so much the fantasy but rather the effects of Orquídea’s decisions and how they impact the rest of her family across the generations.

That said, the book’s weaknesses kind of render that balance moot.

One of my biggest problems with the story is the pacing—the build toward the action-packed climax is painfully slow, especially in the beginning. While I understand that the author wanted to fully explain the complicated family dynamics before having the more fantasy-esque second half play out, I think the whole book suffered substantially as a result of the first half’s glacially slow plot development.

On a similar note, I think the book packs too much into the last third of the story. After spending more than two hundred pages just building up family conflicts and sprinkling in bits of fantasy here and there, all the action happens really fast, in a handful of pages…and the book is over. I think the story would’ve benefited from inserting more action earlier rather than packing it all in there at the last minute.

So, to give this book a fair shake, I will admit that it’s not the usual kind of fantasy that I would read. But even so, I think the book has fairly noticeable structural issues that could’ve been resolved without changing the core story and themes.

Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

My January TBR

Hard to believe it’s 2022 already, but here we are. A brand new year filled with new books. I’ve seen some lists of the books coming out this year—I’m working on my own most anticipated list—and it seems to me that we’re in for some fantastic reading. But to start with, I’ve got to play catch-up on some of the books I didn’t quite get to last year.

So here are five books I’d like to read in January. Let me know in the comments what you’re planning to read this month, or if you’ve read any of the books on my list.


Title: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Author: Isabel Wilkerson

Genre: Nonfiction

Blurb: In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.

Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day.


Title: The Jasmine Throne

Author: Tasha Suri

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Blurb: Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.

But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire. 


Title: The Luminous Dead

Author: Caitlin Starling

Genre: Science Fiction

Blurb: When Gyre Price lied her way into this expedition, she thought she’d be mapping mineral deposits, and that her biggest problems would be cave collapses and gear malfunctions. She also thought that the fat paycheck—enough to get her off-planet and on the trail of her mother—meant she’d get a skilled surface team, monitoring her suit and environment, keeping her safe. Keeping her sane.

Instead, she got Em.

Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .


Title: The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina

Author: Zoraida Córdova

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Blurb: The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.

Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.


Title: Ancestral Night

Author: Elizabeth Bear

Genre: Science Fiction

Blurb: Haimey Dz thinks she knows what she wants.

She thinks she knows who she is.

She is wrong.

A routine salvage mission uncovers evidence of a terrible crime and relics of powerful ancient technology. Haimey and her small crew run afoul of pirates at the outer limits of the Milky Way, and find themselves on the run and in possession of universe-changing information.

When authorities prove corrupt, Haimey realizes that she is the only one who can protect her galaxy-spanning civilization from the implications of this ancient technology—and the revolutionaries who want to use it for terror and war. Her quest will take her careening from the event horizon of the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s core to the infinite, empty spaces at its edge.

To save everything that matters, she will need to uncover the secrets of ancient intelligences lost to time—and her own lost secrets, which she will wish had remained hidden from her forever.


Weekly Writing Wrap-Up 12/13 – 12/27

So I forgot to write this post last week. Whoops! I have Christmas prep to thank for that. But Christmas is now over, and we’re rapidly approaching the new year, in which I plan to publish several books. Therefore, I need to stick with my writing wrap-ups. They hold me accountable. 😅

Since my last wrap-up post, I have written 9,200 words, or about 4,600 words per week for the past two weeks. That’s a bit less than I wanted, but again, preparing for Christmas sucked up a lot of my time. I’m hoping to ramp up my weekly writing totals now that Christmas has come and gone, and I no longer have to take time out of my day to go shopping for last-minute gifts or wrap a whole bunch of boxes.

Right now, I’m at around ~14,000 words on Under the Sun, and I also wrote a bit for a second project, Midnight Gambit. I’m planning to finish both drafts in January, so I need to get on the ball and up my daily word counts to around 3,000 or 4,000 words. Which is perfectly doable. As long as I don’t let myself get distracted by the internet too much. *cough*

Anyway, that’s my post-Christmas update. I’ll see you guys next Monday for the first week of January!

— CJ Sinclair

My December 2021 Reading Wrap-Up

There are still a few days left in December, but I’m pretty sure I won’t finish any more books between now and then, so I’m going to go ahead and do this wrap-up before I get swept into New Year’s preparations.

I attempted to read 11 books this month (despite only having 6 on my TBR at the beginning of the month). I finished reading 7 of those books. I DNFed 4 of those books.

The books I finished:

My favorite books out of those I finished were Malibu Rising, The Blacktongue Thief, and The Emperor of All Maladies. That last one was by far the best, in my opinion, and I’d love to read another nonfiction book that good in the near future.

My least favorite books were Once There Were Wolves, The Eye of the World, and The Ice at the End of the World. Out of those, the worst was by far Once There Were Wolves, for which I wrote an admittedly scathing one-star review (something I rarely do these days).

The Books I DNFed:

I DNFed each of these books for a different reason. The Disappearing Spoon was way too heavy on the in-depth chemistry for me. Black Water Sister was too slowly paced and lost my interest. We Begin at the End had a really odd writing style that I couldn’t get into. And The Space Between Worlds had a strangely distant narrative despite being written in first person present, and as a result, I couldn’t connect to the protagonist.


Conclusion

So, as you can see, I had a pretty mixed month. There were some books I really enjoyed, some that I finished but didn’t really care for, and a few that I couldn’t be bothered to finish because they failed to keep my interest for one reason or another.

I’m still compiling my TBR list for January, but hopefully that one will end up a bit more positive.

Let me know in the comments what you guys read in December, or if you have opinions on any of the books I read this month.

— CJ Sinclair

Book Review: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Title: The Four Winds

Author: Kristin Hannah

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb: Texas, 1921. A time of abundance. The Great War is over, the bounty of the land is plentiful, and America is on the brink of a new and optimistic era. But for Elsa Wolcott, deemed too old to marry in a time when marriage was a woman’s only option, the future seems bleak. Until the night she meets Rafe Martinelli and decides to change the direction of her life. With her reputation in ruin, there is only one respectable choice: marriage to a man she barely knows.

By 1934, the world has changed: Millions are out of work, and drought has devastated the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as crops fail and water dries up and the earth cracks open. Dust storms roll relentlessly across the plains. Everything on the Martinelli farm is dying, including Elsa’s tenuous marriage; each day is a desperate battle against nature and a fight to keep her children alive.

In this uncertain and perilous time, Elsa―like so many of her neighbors―must make an agonizing choice: Fight for the land she loves or leave it behind and go west, to California, in search of a better life for her family.

The Four Winds is a rich, sweeping novel that stunningly brings to life the Great Depression and the people who lived through it―the harsh realities that divided a nation and the enduring battle between the haves and the have-nots. A testament to hope, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit to survive adversity, The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.


My Review

I’ve seen this book floating around social media a lot, so I decided to grab it when I spotted a copy at the library. As I’ve said before, historical fiction isn’t my usual genre, but I do occasionally enjoy books in the genre if they’re well written and have interesting characters.

With The Four Winds though, I was a little on the fence.

I enjoyed the beginning of the book, following Elsa’s struggle to gain some modicum of freedom in her life, and the portrayal of the horrible impacts of the Dust Bowl were done quite well. There were a lot of genuinely emotional moments that highlighted the suffering of the farmers and others who lived in the region affected by the droughts and the raging dust storms.

However, once Elsa and her family left for California, I thought the plot of the book got progressively weaker. It began to feel somewhat repetitive and stagnant at times, until it reached a really melodramatic conclusion that felt at odds with the tone of the rest of the book.

Furthermore, I felt like Elsa took far too long to develop into a stronger character—I think the hardships she faced throughout the book should have hardened her into a tougher person much quicker, especially given her attempts early on in the book to achieve some sense of control over her life.

Complicating matters was Loreda, whose rocky relationship with Elsa crossed over into melodrama numerous times. While Loreda’s adolescent anger and resentment of her mother makes sense to some degree, her behavior often struck me as exaggerated and some of her “tantrums” seemed to exist not because they made sense but to further heighten the tension between mother and daughter for “dramatic” purposes.

Overall, I thought The Four Winds was okay, but it started a lot stronger than it finished, and its characterization, particularly that of Loreda, could’ve used some work.

Rating

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.