It Came from the Sky

This alien story comes from As You Wish author Chelsea Sedoti. Unlike the magical world in that book, this one stays perfectly in our magic less realm.

Gideon likes doing science experiments in the shed. One day, while working a 40032347._SY475_seismograph, his brother causes his test to go awry and making a big explosion on their parent’s farm. At first, the white lie covers up the danger of explosion but then it morphs quickly into a tale of extraterrestrial beings. Gideon, at first, fights this misconception but gives in when he sees it as a sociological experiment and one that gets him into MIT.

I enjoyed the main voice being someone who is not neurotypical. Gideon never has it all together. His thought differently than his friends and his voice will resonant with many readers. The author makes no big deal about this aspect of his character by labeling and bringing attention, Gideon just is without expectation.

The rest of the characters. However, are all flat. Despite this, I loved Ishmael. He is a lovable oaf and this plays off Gideon’s seriousness well. Other characters don’t fare so well. The sister seemed out of place and really didn’t interact with Gideon so the readers didn’t really get to know her or her motivations a well.

Story-wise, I was at first intrigued about the hoax. I enjoyed aliens in history including the variety of hoaxes and misconceptions. So thigh splayed in my wheelhouse. But the book pivots making a villain out of a Multi-Level Marketing CEO. Comparing the characters hoaxes seemed a little extreme. I’m not big into MLMs and know for most people it’s just a pyramid scheme gone wrong. But I know friends who have made it a business and who will be mighty pissed at this idea. There are many an example of modern cults that might have been a much better match in gravity. But I wonder if the author moved away from religion on purpose as that might cause even more bad attitudes from parents than calling out their Mary Kay or Avon.

While the first half of the book pulled me on, I was unsatisfied with the ending. There wasn’t a big enough payout. The main character makes some introspective changes but nothing but the punishments for the hoax is pretty nonexistence. I wanted to see how do you handle that? What would actually happen in the real world if these kids had been caught?

Overall I was disappointed in It Came From the Sky having read As You Wish. While there are some good aspects to this tale, the ending of the hoax leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Publication Date: August 1

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

Bonus: As You Wish

As You Wish is a cautionary tale about getting what you want especially at an age where you don’t even truly know what you want.
In Madison, a small town outside of Rachel (UFO headquarters) Nevada, each citizen gets a wish on their 18 birthday. The wishes run the gambit of normal things such as love and money, but many wishes are deeper like keeping their As-You-Wish-Chelsea-Sedotifather’s business running. Eldon is about to turn 18 and he doesn’t know what to wish, but everyone else seems to have an idea. Eldon must decide who he is and how he wants to change his life.
Sedoti hows what it’s like to be a teen and adds something huge on top of their normal lives (rather akin to picking a college and choosing a path of study). The novel chronicles how each teen deals with this immense privilege/chore reaching back into the town’s history as well as present-day stories. We see a variety of wishes and dreams and how they work out for each person. This lets us into each person’s head or just a bit proving, once again, we don’t know what’s really going on inside someone.
While I did call Eldon’s wish before he ever decided what he wanted, I was pleasantly surprised by the ending. The ending backs up one of the morals of the books and I was really pleased with how it turned out.

Book Club Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

Kim Michele Richardson spins an emotional tale about the book women of Appalachia adding an interesting twist.

Cussy Mary is a “Kentucky Blue,” born from a family whose skin is literally blue. Already Book-Woman-Troublesome-Creek-Kim-Michele-Richardsonstruggling in poor Appalachia in the 1930s, being colored is just another hurdle Cussy has to get around. Called Bluet by the majority of the population, she overcomes her stigma by becoming a Book Woman, one of the programs set up to help the poor area by providing books to the local population. Bluet must content with racist town folk, murderous preachers, and the creatures of the Appalachian wilderness. Each day, she rises above this because providing books, knowledge to her patrons gives her a sense of purpose.

I’ll be honest; I was intrigued because I had never heard of the Blues. And honestly, I feel like my education has let me down. While it was only in small, confined areas, it happened to many other populations and not just Kentucky. There is, in fact, an answer and diagnosis in regards to this and I’ve never heard about it. I loved learning about the illness and it broke my heart that these people were treated so shamelessly. I will make sure my children know their story.

I really enjoyed learning about the life of those in Appalachia. My heart ached for each patron on her route. In fact, I had sympathy for everyone but her supervisors at the Center; they were horrible people. I was frustrated with their fights from the coal miners to the chicken stealers. I do think that these stories were too strung along. There were so many it was hard to truly get into these stories as deeply as was called for. There were times when they slowed down the narrative dragging the story along as slowly as the mule on the rocky path.

That being said, I like how the author didn’t play all her cards upfront. We didn’t meet each patron at the beginning adding freshness to the story and Cussy Mary’s route. But at points, these stories started to drown out the Book Woman’s story.

My biggest issue with the novel is the ending. It is thrown in at the last minute and is a huge twist in the tale. The author handles it in one chapter and an epilogue when it is a clear turning point for the story that needed more time to deal with and understand. A “poof” and its gone answer belittled the event and the story.

Overall, this would be a great book to discuss in your book club. Engaging and educational, your group will enjoy a trip to Appalachia.

 

Bonus Review: The Giver of Stars

The Giver of Stars is another book to read if you are interested in the Book Women.

In 1937, women in Baileyville, Kentucky go against the wishes of many a man when they take part in the federal program that pays them to make sure even the most remote people had a chance to read. Alice, Margery, and a few others ignore the gossip of the thtown that women shouldn’t be working at something like that because all the people need is the Bible. The women face many trails culminating in one of the women being accused of murder.

Jojo Moyes presents characters that you can really feel for. This one, in particular, shines lights on the “outcasts” and how they can make a difference if someone just let them. Your group can discuss each women’s story, how they intertwine and how you can see parallels to today.

I really enjoyed how Moyes branched out with this work. While she often works with historic fiction, this one took her out of her comfort zone and showed how well she can understand and empathize with an area outside her continent.

These two books are great stories of strong women in a world where they weren’t usually allowed to be.

 

Keeping Lucy

Keeping Lucy is a beautiful tale full of heartbreak and love.

Ginny gives birth to a daughter with Down’s Syndrome but since it is 1969 and those with disabilities are treated less than human. Ginny is unaware that her daughter is sent 41150385away to school until it is too late. Her husband and his powerful lawyer father brush it all aside saying it is what is best or everyone. Two years later, a series of articles exposes what is going on at the school: horrible conditions, suicides, and uncared for children. Ginny is compelled to go to the hospital and sees her daughter for the first time. Even though her husband disagrees, she takes Lucy for the weekend. What she found horrifies her and she knows she cannot take Lucy back to the school. Ginny finds herself at war with her husband and his family while trying to take care of her precious daughter.

T. Greenwood brings the same humanity to these characters that she did with Rust & Stardust. Ginny’s reactions to what was done to her child were mine; I felt her heartbreak and determination and cheered her own.
Others charters moved me as well. Ginny’s friend Marsha was amazing, and I was so glad Ginny had Marsha in her life. These characters were so real to me. Especially little Lucy who couldn’t walk because she was neglected in that “school.”
Because of this, the ending brought tears to my eyes. This journey had gutted me. Greenwood never held back giving the book heart and real emotion. The topic would have been too sugary without any depth in any other writer’s hands.

I will recommend this anyone who loves a good tale but isn’t afraid to see the ugly side of the world and feel despair. I know there will be those who this is too much for and there will be people who understand the struggle from experience. To them, I let them decide on their own.

Publication Date: August 6

 

Bonus Review

Engaging and griping, Rust and Stardust is the fictionalized story of Sally Horner, the inspiration for the infamous Lolita.

Sally Horner is caught trying to steal a cheap composition notebook in New Jersey in 1948. The “FBI agent” tells her she must go with him to face trail over her crime. So begins the years long capture of an eleven year old girl by a 50-sometyhing pervert. While the novel is the fictionalized version of these events, the majority of the story’s rust-stardust-book-covercomponents are factual.

I finished this book in two days because the book was engaging and the chapters short enough to spur the reader to want to know what happens next. The story follows the point of view of a variety of characters including Sally, her mother, and those she meets along the way.

As both a novel lover and a true crime buff, I loved Rust & Stardust; I was entranced on page 1.

Publication Date: August 7, 2018

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

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: Dracul

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.