Is There Still Sex in the City?

Is There Still Sex in the City is the story of one writer’s midlife crisis.
Candace Bushnell finds herself in middle age, divorced and worried about money. 42360872.jpgThings truly come apart when her dog dies and she moves out to Village. Bushnell chronicles the experience of Tinder “dating”, having younger boyfriends and the suicide of one her close friends.
This is one of the saddest books I have read in a long time. Bushnell refuses to accept she is in a middle life crisis and gives it a cute name and acronym. This is sad in and of itself. She refuses to truly accept her life. And then writes this book in order to make money from it.
It was hard to identify with her and her friends. Unlike her previous essays, there is no fantasy of being in the thrilling world of New York. I rolled my eyes when she complained living in the Upper East Side (if you can’t afford it don’t live there. Damn.). I despised her desperateness at thinking she would get something real from Tinder. And don’t get me started on her “not mom but acting like mom” chapter.
Maybe this something people her ages (late fifties/early sixties) would enjoy. But I don’t see many of normal people being able to empathize with a life that is still better than their because of economic status. Plus, many of the topics have been covered before in more entertaining and engaging ways (specifically The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt episode about the older woman/younger guy dynamic).
In her book, she mentioned she wrote several novels no one would publish. After reading this one, which has been chosen for publication, I have to wonder how bad those are.

Publication Date: August 6
I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

 

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Those People

42041520Those People looks at the idea of how far you will go to be rid of horrible neighbors.
Welcome to Lowland Way, the perfect home for the upper middle class. Everything here is idyllic and makes for the perfect place to live. This resident’s world is turned upside down when a lower class family member inherits the house on the corner. The homeowner has no respect for his neighbors selling cars from his front yard; playing loud music keeping the home next door’s baby wake; being generally rude when spoken to. When disaster strikes, everyone in the neighborhood is a suspect. Who is cruel enough to actually harm their neighbor?
The chapters include the testimony of the characters then looks back from the dangerous event that happens on their street. This unique set up gives your insight in both what the characters though when the even occurred while giving the reader the background to understand their statement to their police. The characters are not exceptionally long moving the story along at a great pace, keeping the reader guessing and getting them invested in the cast of characters.
Those People works well thought out its first twist. But Louise Candlish overreaches including a second twist instead of dealing with the plot she had created. This second twist ended up having no pay off for the overall plot and just seemed a little too extra. I wasn’t satisfied with the ending as it seemed that no one really put anything on the line.
Those People keeps you on your toes and engaged with the character though the ending isn’t overly satisfying.

Publication Date: June 11
I received an ARC for review; all opinions are my own.

 

The Summer We Lost Her

 

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The Summer We Lost Her promises emotional investment but instead delivers unlikeable characters without any depth.
Matt and Elise Sorenson head to the Adirondacks to sell Matt’s family home. This will be their first chance for quality time in quite a while. Elise is competing in dressage with her eyes on Rio Olympics. Matt is a lawyer who mainly raises their daughter while Elise is off training and competing. The two week getting the cabin ready will be a chance to get away from it all and focus on family. Elise decides, without Matt, that their daughter will attend day camp while they work on the house causing tension as the balance of power shifts when she returns from her latest competition. Their idyllic summer comes crashing down when Gracie doesn’t come home from camp and the Sorensons must deal with every parent’s worst nightmare.
The book struggles. The plot doesn’t actually happen until about halfway through. You spend the majority of the time getting to know the highly unlikable Elise and her husband. As the story goes on, Matt isn’t perfect either but you mostly feel sympathy for him and Gracie. For example, Elise rags her daughter about sucking her thumb but never pauses to understand the under lying psychological cause of the behavior (to be fair the author ignores this as well). I honestly didn’t care about her Olympic aspirations and wanted her to fail.
The publisher suggests this book to fans of Jodie Picoult; I don’t agree. The story is never really deep. The inclusion of the characters past doesn’t add much to the overall story. Tish Cohen writes Matt’s experiences with his grandfather and Elise’s love for Dressage without really getting to the bottom of the desire of the characters. Cohen presents Elise as poor with a troubled youth but Elise has natural talent and a coach who gives her everything she needs so I could not empathize with her at all. Matt’s past built up to what would be the twist (it’s not a twist really, just a surprise) but it wasn’t shocking especially from Matt’s recollections of the past. The author fails to truly delve into the idea that Elise wants her daughter to be perfect to erase her own mistakes. There was every opportunity in to delve deep into the characters but the author only ever scratches their depths. There is no true heart there like in Picoult’s novels. The end is too tidy and unemotional just like the rest of the book.
The Summer We Lost Her has the bones to be a great story, but the author stops herself from truly diving into these characters and her situations. The best 100 pages are when the daughter is gone because that story is exciting and there is emotional tension, but whenever Gracie is with her parents, everything falls flat.

Publication Date: June 4

 

Stoker’s Wilde

Stoker’s Wilde is a fun look into the friendship/rivalry of Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde.
Stoker is living a normal life when his friends drag him into a killing perpetrated by a stoker's wildewerewolf. Bram cannot believe until he sees it himself. Once the event is over, Bram is believes but is also relieved that all the drama is over. But when he moves to London and marries the fiancé of a homosexual acquaintance (Wilde), Bram finds that there is evil all around. But worst of all? He must put up with Wilde to defeat the evil chasing him.
Stoker’s Wilde is similar to last year’s Dracul. It tells the story that inspired Dracula and sheds light on Stoker’s early life. Both books are very in style and tone. Though it’s written in correspondence, Stoker’s Wilde is lighter reading with more modern language and less wordy. Stoker’s Wilde also focuses on a wider range of Stoker’s life and acquaintances. Though I didn’t like the story as much as Dracul, I found it an easier read.
The best part of the novel is the reference to other vampire pop culture. The book incorporates other vampire lore and gives it a base to stand on. My favorite was the reference to the morticians Wolfram and Hart. I didn’t like that it didn’t look into actual lore and why it existed. For example, there was no reference to why stake through the heart killed vampires. This was actually done by people when they dug up bodies that looked bloody. This wasn’t to kill them but to pin them to the ground and keep them from rising. This is why the legend exists.
Overall, Stoker’s Wilde was a fun read and encouraged me to read up more about Stoker’s time at the theater.
Publication Date: May 9, 2019

Bonus Review: Dracula

Dracul is written in the same style as the original title but adds some light to how Bram Stoker was inspired for Dracula.
Bram Stoker was a sickly youth. But everything changed when Nana Ellen arrives. At draculdeath’s door, Bram is cured by Nana Ellen and inspires a search into the woman herself and how she healed him. With his sister and brother, Bram travels a strange path that leads him to Dracul and the world of vampires.
The prose style matches that of the original Stoker title. This means there is superfluous wording and a tendency to over-describe each moment and place. This makes the exposition difficult to get into. Once the action starts happening, it easier to follow along as the tension rises perfectly.
I enjoyed the novel’s slant: explaining where Bram’s ideas came from. According to additional information included in the book, some things were based on Stoker’s notes as well as research into his own lives. In fact, it seems many characters are based on real people outside the family.
Overall, this is a wonderful tale that fits into the Dracula lore beautifully. I enjoyed the actual story here than in the spiritual counterpart Stoker’s Wilde. While that one was an easier read, its story was overly whimsical and not very deep.

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

I received free copies of these books for review. All opinions are my own.

The Night Window

The Night Window satisfyingly concludes Jane Hawk’s story. While the lead up is not overly exciting, the ending is well done.
Jane has been fighting against the Arcadians, a techno-terrorist group who had her husband killed. On the run, she is trying to prove the depth of the conspiracy that has overtaken the United States and, eventually, the world. Finally, she has what she needs to bring them down; the data regarding who is an Arcadian and who is on the Hamlet (kill) List.night window
The Night Window is a huge improvement over the last two books in the series. Jane is moving forward and actually getting somewhere. This material isn’t filler; it’s actually part of the story. That being said, Koontz does create an adjacent story that becomes the stereotypical man-hunting-man quest that just drags down the pacing. The beginning of this sub-story started off wonderfully; it was an imaginative and fun way to recap what had happened in the last four books. But then it dragged out into a story that didn’t have any impact on the overall arc of the novel.
The ending is perfect. The conclusion makes sense and is the only way the situation could have been countered. While there is plenty of blood and violence, the solution is cerebral and very satisfying using the Arcadian’s tech against them.
I wish the cast of characters has been better integrated. There are characters I really liked that only got a one sentence write-off in this book. Unlike Odd Thomas, this series makes no sense as to why it suddenly dumps characters that were helping her. This is unfortunate; I was rather invested in them.
The Night Window ends Jane’s saga and ends it well. It was about time as the third and fourth entries in the entries were meandering and underwhelming. While I enjoyed the first two novels and was investing in Jane, Dean Koontz overreached and drew out her story for too long.
Publication Date: May 14
I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale

Ink_UMCTW_1_FINAL_COV_HR_no cropsUnder the Moon: A Catwoman Story details the dark life of Selena Kyle. After dealing with abuse and poverty, Selena finds herself having to take care of her own interest.
Selena doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere. At home, her mother lives with a man who hits her mother and her. At school, she is outcast, friends only with those on the fringe. She also has a crush on Bruce Wayne, who is just as cruel to her as the others. After her stepfather causes her cat to die, Selena takes off and meets with a group of teens who give her a place to belong and excitement (the good kind).
I wasn’t big on how the book was broken in tiny sections. While there is a lot of ground to cover, nothing ever goes too deep. Though the book allows us to empathize with Selena, I don’t feel we ever got to truly see her deal with her emotions. the story jumps from plot point to plot point. It did make me cry at one point though as I am a cat girl myself.
Weirdly, enough, I had the opposite problem with Under the Moon that I did with Mera: Tidebreaker. Whereas the romantic story there fit with the themes, Bruce’s inclusion Ink_UMCTW_1_FINAL_INT_HR_no crops-145 here did nothing but make me angry. In fact, readers are supposed to see Bruce as a nice guy; he is anything but. He can’t belittle someone around his friends and help them in private and have true, positive feelings for them. Here, Bruce was just like everyone else, and I did not root for her relationship with him. It is just a continuation of the patterns Selena is trying to break from.
I did like the art as well as the color scheme. Isaac Goodhart creates a lovely and expressive view of the world Selena lives in. The color scheme was atypical but worked perfectly for the piece. The moon shadow cast really drove home the title and feel of the story.
Overall, I enjoyed reading about Selena’s life and how she became the epic cat burglar of Batman fame. But it left a bad taste in my mouth in regards to Bruce Wayne.

 

Publication Date: May 7

I received an ARC for review; all opinions are my own. 

The East End

Publisher Summary

THE EAST END opens with Corey Halpern, a Hamptons local from a broken home who breaks into mansions at night for kicks. He likes the rush and admittedly, the escapism. One night just before Memorial Day weekend, he breaks into the wrong home at the wrong time: the Sheffield estate where he and his mother work. Under the cover of darkness, their boss Leo Sheffield — billionaire CEO, patriarch, and owner of the vast lakeside manor — arrives unexpectedly with his lover, Henry. After a shocking poolside accident leaves Henry dead, everything depends on Leo burying the truth. But unfortunately for him, Corey saw what happened and there are other eyes in the shadows.9780778308393_RHC_PRD

Hordes of family and guests are coming to the estate the next morning, including Leo’s surly wife, all expecting a lavish vacation weekend of poolside drinks, evening parties, and fireworks filling the sky. No one can know there’s a dead man in the woods, and there is no one Leo can turn to. With his very life on the line, everything will come down to a split-second decision. For all of the main players—Leo, Gina, and Corey alike—time is ticking down, and the world they’ve known is set to explode.

Told through multiple points of view, THE EAST END highlights the socio-economic divide in the Hamptons, but also how the basic human need for connection and trust can transcend class differences. Secrecy, obsession, and desperation dictate each character’s path. In a race against time, each critical moment holds life in the balance as Corey, Gina, and Leo approach a common breaking point. THE EAST END is a propulsive read, rich with character and atmosphere, and marks the emergence of a talented new voice in fiction.

 

Reader Review

The East End is neither well described nor summarized in its official blurb. This book isn’t really a thriller but a thoughtful look into the lives of both the rich and the poor in the Hamptons. How does one handle a closeted life if you are rich and must put on a good show? How does one handle the stress of teenage life without money and a good support system? How does one handle having children when you are stuck between a rock and a hard place? These are questions Jason Allen tries to answer in The East End.
Corey is poor and lives with his alcoholic mom and, until recently, her abusive ex. In an effort to control something in his miserable life, Corey sneaks into homes for a thrill. One night Corey sneaks into the wrong home. He finds himself overseeing an overdose of drugs that will not only tie him to his mom’s rich employer but one of the daughter’s friends as well. How each of the three deals with the death will dictate how their futures will turn out..
The novel spends a lot of time inside the character’s head. Allen spends a considerable amount of time going through their thought processes and reliving their history. There are bursts of action but because it’s so cerebral, it isn’t a typical thriller. I enjoyed seeing how this event was a coming of age story for Corey and that is where it is so powerful—not because of the suspense.
That being said, I really didn’t care much for Corey otherwise, and I didn’t like any of the other characters. The author seemed to be trying to get across that no one is perfect but the characters didn’t have enough good characteristics to balance. Corey’s mom tries to evolve but never does. Her chapters seem to just stretch the story out. I wasn’t invested in Angelina. While I felt for her family situation, her history soured her for me.
Where Corey’s chapters are the best thematically, it is the first few chapters of Leo‘sperspective that is the best mechanically. Allen does well with the erratic vibe of the character as he snorts and gulps his way to oblivion.
Overall, The East End doesn’t live up to the HR hype. It’s not a typical thriller and fails at trying to be one. When you look at what it is, a cerebral look into the variety of lives in the Hamptons, you’ll enjoy it more and truly understand the story the author is telling.

Publication Date: May 7

I received a book for review from the publisher all opinions are my own.e

A Spark of Light

Are you looking for a great book for your women’s book cub? Look no farther than A Spark of Light. Beautifully written, Jodi Picoult focuses on characters than just the idea of abortion which makes everyone on every side.
When a shooter goes to the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, everyone there from the doctor, to the patients, to the protestors are affected. How did they get here? What is going on in their lives? How do they reconcile their stance with their moral beliefs?a-spark-of-light
Picoult writes reverse chronological order. In another author’s hands, this would prove a challenger in keeping the material fresh. But Picoult manages to add new information as she goes back in time staving off any boredom and keeping the reader engaged. There are even two twists. While I saw one coming, the other took me by surprise and will change my perception when I read it again. (I have read reviews where people have claimed that this twist was unbelievable, but I live in the Deep South and can tell you this happens more than you can ever imagine.) That being said, I was left without closure for so many characters and wish there had been more about what happens to these characters after the events.
While Picoult makes her stance on her abortion heard, she treats every character with respect showing readers each side. The book focuses on the characters’ lives instead of just an ideological or political issue. Each person could be your neighbor, your family or your friend.
Touching and beautifully written, A Spark of Light is Picoult at her best.

King of Fools

The Shadow Game #2

In the sequel to Ace of Shades, Amanda Foody ramps the violence and danger for the story’s protagonists.
In New Reynes, City of Sin, Levi and Enne have gotten away from the Shadow Game with their lives intact. But their infamous actions will both hinder their new lives while at the same time driving their status in the North Side gangs. With the senator dead, Levi works with an estranged member of the donna who holds his life in her hanKing-of-Foolsds. If Levi can ensure this family member wins, then Levi will win his freedom in return. Enne finds herself building her own gang of women from the ground up and must combine both who she was with where she is now and show everyone who she can be.
While this is not as good as its original, I enjoyed reading the story of Enne’s growth. I loved to see her take her past and fit into her present to make a better future. Instead of foolishly trying to reinvent herself, she molds aspects of her life into one whole. I was a little disappointed that she wasn’t a bit stronger where Levi is concerned but their romance is a driving force of the story.
Levi’s was less enthralling this time around. He second guessed himself at every moment and seemed to put away his humanity. But his lack of balance was filled out by the addition of Jac’s perspective. It was great getting to know him and see his own story.
Overall, the political game and gang wars was less compelling than the Shadow Game but Foody seems to be steering the finale back to the game and enthralling all those encapsuled in the gang war.

 

Publication Date: April 30

I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Mera: Tidebreaker

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Mera: Tidebreaker puts a strong woman front and center with a color scheme ripped straight from the ocean.

Mera is a princess of Xebel, an underwater world that has been invaded and controlled by Atlantis. Desperate to prove herself a patriot, Mera rebukes marriage for politics and decides to take action herself. Her father wants the hidden prince of Atlantis dead. The prince lives on land and is not aware of his lineage but his death would be a coupe for Xebel nevertheless. Over hearing her father ask her betrothed to kill Arthur, she takes her own dagger and heads to the surface. But the assassination is not as easy as it seems: Mera must adjust to the world above land. She must also learn that humanity has more depth than she ever thought.

I loved the art in this graphic novel. I am partial to red heads myself and love how colors are used to accentuate that hair color. It makes her stand out and stay strong. The basic blues and green were a great choice for her underwater world and then tinting Arthur’s world through her eyes. The lines are beautiful but not over done so the drawings aren’t busy.

Usually, I would be negative on the aspect of putting a romantic relationship into a story about a woman superhero. It bugs me that men become the focal point. But this story uses cultural differences and plays on expectations to show how people truly are. Mera learns that that blind faith in an ideal does not negate what people actually are.  This isn’t she met some man and now she fights (it’s okay in The Little Mermaid; not in m kick ass heroes),she actually develops as a character understanding the complex issues of politics and human nature.

Over all, I was pleased with Mera’s story. I was glad to see her portrayed with strength but the openness to change. I enjoyed seeing her interact with a variety of characters especially outside of a romantic theme. Mera: Tidebreaker puts a spot light on a character that the non-comic community doesn’t really know.

Publication Date: April 2

I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.