• Book Reviews

    Tell the Wolves I’m Home: a book review

    ✂️✂️✂️/5

    Tell the Wolves I’m Home is the debut novel by Carol Rifka Brunt.

    June is a smart and resourceful 14-year-old with a talented but distant older sister, and parents who are both CPA’s and provide little supervision during tax season.

    Mix the family dynamics with the death of June’s beloved uncle, Finn, and you’ve got a recipe for what could go wrong?

    Set in 1987, Finn was a famous artist who died of AIDS before very much was known about the virus. This took me back to my own childhood as the book detailed the news reports, wild theories, and sadly the nastiness directed at the gay community.

    Finn had a “friend”, Toby, that the family won’t speak of and believe that he killed their brother and uncle. But in a chain of events facilitated by typical ‘80’s parenting – kids of the ‘80’s know what I mean – June meets this friend of Finn’s and they develop a bond over their mutual love for Finn.

    That’s where the book went south for me. While there were sweet moments of remembrance for Finn, the liberties taken by Toby – an adult – with a 14-year-old girl were too much for me. Nothing truly inappropriate but secretly sending letters, giving gifts, meeting her in the city, and other adventures without her parents’ knowledge made the story lose credibility for me.

    All of that was a distraction for me. The author missed her chance to highlight the AIDS epidemic, the treatment of individuals with HIV/AIDS, and the grief process of a family. All in favor of the secret relationship and exploits of a 14-year-old girl.

    What did I enjoy? The descriptions of Finn’s art, the painting he left behind for his nieces, and the push and pull of the sisterly relationship were well done. The writing was also excellent and the characters were decently developed.

    Who would I recommend this book to? If you were a child of the ’80s and can forgive some of the WTF’s of the plot, you may enjoy this book. This is classified as a young adult book but the issues addressed will appeal to both young adults and adults alike.

    If you liked The Astonishing Color of After or The Book of Essie, you will probably enjoy Tell the Wolves I’m Home.

  • Book Reviews

    Book Review: The Nix

     

    …if a new beginning is really new, it will feel like a crisis. Any real change should make you feel, at first, afraid. If you’re not afraid of it, then it’s not real change. 

    Nathan Hill, The Nix

    5/✂️✂️✂️✂️✂️

    I listened to the Nix while reading Infinite Jest. Seeking to balance that madness, I picked an audiobook from my wishlist which ended up on my list primarily because of the cover art.

    I am a sucker for good book cover art and looking back over my books read last year, the ones that I picked based on the cover never disappointed. There’s got to be something psychological there, but I’ll leave that to a marketing genius to explore.

    The Nix spans decades and follows Samuel Andreson – Anderson through years of questions, changes, friendships, failures, love interests, and the curse of the Nix. The book begins in his adulthood and finds him as a gaming addict/college professor caught up in national political headlines when his missing mother makes the news after throwing rocks at a presidential candidate.

    Samuel, a promising author that never delivered on his book deal, is put in the impossible position of paying back the advance money. That is until he offers up a story of interest – his mother, Faye. The publisher accepts his proposal and Samuel sets out to find his mother, ask her why she left him as a child, and get close enough to write a tell-all about Faye the political protestor turned assailant. 

    Nathan Hill uses historic events as a backdrop – i.e. Occupy Wallstreet and political protests in the 60’s – which helped me keep my timeline and characters straight. This is a huge positive for this book because of the length (640 pages). Even listening to the audiobook, I never got lost.

    What I enjoyed the most about this book were the well-developed rabbit trails that made each character come to life. I often find myself wanting more from the author on what seems to be an interesting character with a story.

    Nathan Hill leaves no character stone unturned. And while this leads to a long book, I enjoyed the backstories of almost every character. There are a few I could have done without but overall, the backstories added a rich layer in the plot of the book.

    Hill’s writing style is meticulous, witty, emotional, and pulls no punches. There is a healthy dose of social and political commentary which adds color when told through the perspectives of the characters.

    Who would I recommend this book to? Anyone who enjoys a long book with well-developed characters. If you are a fan of John Irving, Michael Chabon, or David Foster Wallace you should enjoy this book.

    And speaking of David Foster Wallace, an un-review of Infinite Jest is coming soon. 

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews

    Little Darlings – blog tour & review

    Author: Melanie Golding

    Publisher: Crooked Lane

    Publish Date: April 30, 2019

    Blurb:

    “Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Grimms’ Fairy Tales.Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

    A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley―to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

    Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.

    Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some of our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking―and rechecking―your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.

     
    My Review:
     
     
    What a page-turner! I read this book in two evenings. It’s a thriller, mystery, and dark fairytale, with a dash of the paranormal, all rolled into one book.
     
     
    In this debut novel, Melanie Golding perfectly captures the fog of postpartum and maternal instinct. She took me back 15 years, to my early days with my newborn daughter. This made the main character, Lauren,  immediately relatable.
     
     
    New mothers are often on the receiving end of well-meant, unsolicited advice and Lauren was no exception.
     
     
    After a terrifying night in the hospital where a filthy woman tries to exchange Lauren’s twins with her own creature-like twins, Lauren is told she is imagining things and the incident is dismissed as exhaustion. Video footage confirms that nothing happened and soon enough Lauren and her irritating husband Patrick are heading home with their newborn twins.
     
     
    Lauren’s fears and terror continue yet she cannot convince those around her that something isn’t right. As a mother, I could put myself in that situation and that’s what made this a page-turner.
     
     
    I had to know what happened next.
     
     
    What I liked:
     
     
    The writing was well done, Lauren’s character was well developed and easy to empathize with.
     
    I love a good changeling story. And changeling twins? Even better.
     
    I also appreciated the presentation of a postpartum mother, suffering from terrible worry and fear, without turning her into an unreliable narrator. I never felt the need to question Lauren’s fears.
     
     
    What I didn’t like:
     
     
    UGH the husband, Patrick. I’m sure that is a universal feeling from anyone who has read this book. Sometimes his clueless demeanor bordered on cruel, making him feel a bit overdeveloped. But I do believe that helped strengthen Lauren’s character and story.
     
    Harper, the detective – I wish her back story had been expanded more. She was right on the cusp of being an interesting and well-developed character.
     
     
    Overall:
     
     
    4.5/5
     
     
    If you enjoy a good thriller without extreme violence and terror – this happens to be me – and if you enjoy dark fairy tales and books like The Hazel Wood and Once Upon a River, Little Darlings should be added to your TBR list today!
     
     
    Want to win a copy? Head over to my Instagram to enter! I have three copies to give away, courtesy of Crooked Lane Books.

     
     
    Thank you to Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
  • Writing

    Wednesday Words: authenticity

    I will write about you.

    To be specific, I will write about how my experiences with you influenced me as a person.

    Same goes for dragons. If one showed up in my back yard it would be a safe bet that I’d be writing about dragons.

    Experiences with humans and dragons – both great things to write about.

    •    •    •    •    •

    I enjoy reading the author bio on the inside of a book jacket where it gives a few interesting facts about the author. Often the setting of the book is near or where the author lives.

    The streets they drive on, the coffee shop they stop at, the people they know –  all parts of their story. So why would it not influence their work?

    If they have found their authentic writing voice, you can count on an author drawing from their life experiences to tell their own story.

    In our home, we talk a good deal about our stories. Everyone has a story to tell and they own that story – no one else. For example, I will never write about a family member’s struggle with depression.

    But I will write about what it’s like to parent in that situation. That is my perspective and unique experience.

    •    •    •    •    •

    Lately, I have struggled with writing. In an attempt to suppress feelings and experiences so that they did not make an appearance in my words, I lost the authenticity that makes the words flow onto a page.

    But as I write this, I am moving past that obstacle. If someone chooses to take my writing and make the words about them, perhaps they need to make an appointment with their conscience.

    Their guilt is calling.

    There is also a good chance that I’m not writing about a specific situation or person but rather a collective pile of emotions. I am not willing to give a single person that kind of power over my life or my writing. Unless you’re a dragon, of course.

    And if so, let’s talk.

    I write for myself and for the shared experiences of others. If one person reads and feels less alone, acknowledged, encouraged, or amused then my writing has fulfilled my intent.

    So I will write about you – for the sake of authenticity.

    Until the dragon shows up. Then everyone will be off the hook because it will be all dragons all the time.

  • Book Reviews

    Maid: a book review

    No two persons ever read the same book. – Edmund Wilson

    4.5/5

    Have you ever read the reviews of a recent book you read/listened to and wondered if those readers read the same book or even read the entire book?

    Maid falls into this category for me. So many of the reviews missed the entire point of the book. As a matter of fact, they underscored just how deep our views of poverty and the working poor run.

    •    •    •    •

    Stephanie Land is a young single mother who found herself pregnant and in an abusive relationship with the child’s father. The book opens with her watching her daughter, Mia, take her first steps – in a homeless shelter.

    After 90 days, the maximum amount of time allowed to live in the shelter, Stephanie and Mia are moved into transitional housing which doubled as a halfway house. In a very uncomfortable scene, Stephanie’s mother and husband – visiting from Europe – help her move her belongings. The comments, the questions, and finally the expectation for Stephanie to pay for her own meal when she had $10 to her name, illustrated just how little of a support system she had.

    Stephanie found a job working as a maid, earning minimum wage minus gas money to travel from house to house. Between multiple government assistance plans, minimal child support, her jobs, and her side jobs, she barely scraped by every month. She was one emergency expense away from losing what little she had.

    More than once she was told “you’re welcome” by people in the grocery store line watching her use food stamps to pay for her groceries.

    Cue the reviewer comments criticizing her for never saying “thank you” and acting entitled.

    Have we really devolved that much? Where we expect a single parent to turn around in the checkout line and thank us after using government assistance to pay for groceries. How sad and ignorant.

    In the book Land did express her gratitude multiple times for the assistance they received, despite how often she was shamed and stigmatized. She wholeheartedly acknowledged that they would not have survived without the programs.

    •    •    •    •

    This memoir chronicles her struggles and tackles head-on, the stigmas of living in poverty and receiving government assistance. Her writing is excellent and if readers are willing to set aside their own opinions, it is very easy to slip into her shoes. My one critique would be the timeline – at times it was difficult to follow.

    I am glad for the help that Stephanie received. This book would not exist without it and the stigmas would continue. We need more books like Maid.

    And of course this book wasn’t all sadness and struggle – there were interesting and amusing parts as well. She pulled back the curtain and gave the reader a look into the world of house cleaning from a maid’s perspective. I know that I am going to be a better host for our cleaning service. Stephanie wrote about feeling invisible to her clients, despite the dirty work she did, and I never want someone feeling like that when they are in my own home.

    I also don’t want to end up in one of their memoirs. 

    Who would I recommend this book to? If you enjoyed Educated, Heavy, or Where the Crawdads Sing, you will enjoy Stephanie’s writing, strength, and resilience.

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