• 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.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
  • 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.

  • Book Reviews

    Book Review: The Farm

    The Farm – Joanne Ramos

    ✂️✂️✂️/5

    Welcome to the future – welcome to The Farm.

    Jane is a single mom and a struggling immigrant from the Philippines. She is presented with the opportunity to be a host and live at a luxury retreat of sorts – Golden Oaks.

    Massages, gourmet food, expert medical care, and generous pay with one caveat – you are pregnant as a surrogate for a wealthy family or individual and cannot leave the grounds. Oh, and you are continuously monitored. It’s a business and you are simply a host with a number instead of a name.

    Jane accepts the opportunity and leaves her daughter, Amalia, in the care of Ate, her cousin they are living with. While motivated to provide a better life for her daughter, Jane still struggles with losing contact with her daughter and the outside world.

    As a mother myself, my heart broke for Jane, especially when Golden Oaks used contact with her daughter as a means of control. The other hosts were in similar situations – missing family and significant others.

    Naturally the hosts bond and one by one you learn their own backgrounds and experiences at The Farm; some in more detail than others.

    This was where the book went sideways for me. I was initially captivated by the difficult choices Jane had to make and the big business of surrogacy. But as each host and their individual lives were introduced, the plot became crowded with characters and none of them felt well developed.

    When I finished the book I felt like something was missing. There was a lot of potential to examine the ethics of a surrogacy farm, the control of their bodies that the women gave up, race, imbalances of power, and motherhood and the sacrifices mothers make. The author briefly hit on all of these issues but almost seemed hesitant to fully weave them into the plot.

    Overall the book was written well and the concept was unique and creative. It was entertaining in parts – it just lacked depth.

    Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the free e-ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  • Book Reviews,  Feminism,  Writing

    Shrill: a loud book review

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    Three years ago I sat in my car, in my driveway, listening to an old This American Life podcast. It was featuring a young woman working for an online publication who confronted her boss via email after his rant/article was published about fat women and the obesity epidemic. He never responded so she posted her own article.

    Listening to her read her writing brought tears to my eyes. I am not a crier but there I was because I felt her exhaustion from the endless pursuit to measure up to what men, women, society, the media, and internet trolls believe you should look like. People are cruel but unlike me, this young woman put herself out there online – it was her job.

    •     •     •     •

    I purchased Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman because I had seen several people talking about the book on Instagram. After a few hilarious pages in, I realized that Lindy West was the young woman from the podcast that brought me to tears.

    First, the hilarity:

    Why is, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ the go-to small talk we make with children? ‘Hello, child. As I have run out of compliments to pay you on your doodling, can you tell me what sort of niche you plan to carve out for yourself in the howling existential morass of uncertainty known as the future? … The answer was ballerina, or, for a minute, veterinarian, as I had been erroneously led to believe that ‘veterinarian’ was the grown-up term for ‘professional animal-petter’. I would later learn, crestfallen and appalled, that it’s more a term for ‘touching poo all the time featuring intermittent cat murder,’ so the plan was abandoned. (The fact that ANY kid wants to be a veterinarian is bananas, – by the way, whoever does veterinary medicine’s PR amoung preschool aged children should be working in the fucking White House.) Lindy West, Shrill

    But soon after that, West takes a hard right and tackles some of the toughest issues facing women today. Abortion, rape culture, fat-shaming, bullying, discrimination, misogyny, death, and grief – just to name more than a few.

    Her writing is raw, angry, and vulgar, but with touches of fantastic humor along the way. I stopped a few times wondering if these extremes were necessary, mainly because I was  hoping to let my 14-year-old daughter, Chaney, read this book. Spoiler: I’m not going to let her but I’ll be sharing passages with her.

    But back to the necessity – yes, it is necessary. Our culture and the world we are raising our daughters and sons in is that toxic. When our president is spewing taunts via Twitter at the suffering people of California in the midst of historic and horrific wildfires – yes, it is that toxic and necessary.

    •     •     •     •

    Necessary. I thought about our advice to Chaney in January after being assaulted at school. The old advice of kick them in the balls goes out the window when you are a tiny 14 year old girl and you are cornered, out of view, with no way out, and there is over a foot in height and 100 lb differential between him and her.

    Our advice to her if any other situation where she felt threatened should happen: SCREAM AND SCREAM PROFANITIES OVER AND OVER UNTIL YOU GET AWAY, HE BACKS DOWN, OR HELP ARRIVES. AND THEN SCREAM SOME MORE. Why would we, fairly typical parents, tell our daughter to curse loudly in public?

    Because people pay attention when a small, young woman is screaming profanity.

    Why? Because we are expected to be sweet, ladylike, compliant, quiet, and non confrontational, all with a smile. That is the gender norm. Something has to be wrong if she’s spewing profanity. So pay attention when you hear women like Lindy West.

    •     •     •     •

    When West is crass and profane, I don’t mind. Because it gets people’s attention. It is outside the norm of expected female behavior and whether you like it or you don’t, she grabs your attention to address issues that are that toxic.

    A recurrent theme throughout the book is Lindy living life as what the world would call “fat”. She’s in good health, she is smart, funny, and beautiful but that doesn’t matter to some – especially the internet trolls who have been absolutely relentless in their bullying of her. Death threats, rape threats, and the worst – a troll impersonating her father who had passed away. They were all means of harrassment. I honestly don’t know how she has endured so much of the vileness that the internet, and even some celebrities, have to offer.

    Lindy is an excellent writer and there wasn’t a part of this book that I did not enjoy. One of my favorite parts was when she took on comedy and comedians and their perpetuation of rape culture by making rape “jokes” a regular part of their comedy routines. I can’t believe I even had to type that.

    Her honesty is refreshing and we need more books like this one and Meaty. I truly hope that the paradigm begins to shift with this next generation but until then, I’ll be over here not being afraid to be shrill.

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