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.

 

Book Club Review: The Tenth Girl

The Tenth Girl is a beautiful ghost story weaving time and space.

When Mavi finds refuge in a unique and special school for girls, she brushes away the ideas of ghosts and curses that seem to permeate it. But it doesn’t help that the staff seem to have things they aren’t talking including the missing tenth girl. Mavi soon finds herself over her head both in teaching these girls and navigating the history of the school itself.

the tenth girl-MECH.inddSara Faring creates a beautiful world making the school a character all its own. The same level of attention is paid to the characters giving them an impish tint with deeper layers. The author envelopes you into this world while weaving several narrators into a seamless telling. Switching narrators adds something special from each respective building up to a new layer of the story. Each perspective is vital to the overall tale.

This starts as a beautiful Goth horror and seamlessly changes genres without upsetting the reader. This twist was amazing. There were hints along the way but I was so absorbed into the world that I seconded guessed myself and continued with the story. The ending was satisfying for the reader but the story continued exactly one chapter too long.

The book is ripe for the discussion about human consciousness and identity. Book club members will enjoy the mystery but will truly want to discuss the ethics of the final twist.  The Tenth Girl will delight all members of your club.

The Last Confession of Autumn Casterly

This novel is not what you expect. Instead of a ghost story, it is a metaphor for modern life.

Autumn Casterly deals drugs to her friends while she saves to go to vet college. Everyone thinks she’s a slut and no good. So when she disappears the police aren’t interested in finding her. It is her sister Ivy who actually cares and decides to find her. What Ivy 67af50ff-af79-4f78-b6c1-0912c0655ec8_2.adc9c3424942f004e6fd374364449d9cdoesn’t know is that Autumn’s spirit is leading her to clues so Ivy will find Autumn before she dies.

You must re-see the plot and the characters knowing that this story is not a ghost/metaphysical/supernatural story. And I tell you this upfront to help manage expectations. I was truly disappointed with how little the supernatural was used. But after understanding it was a metaphor, I began to see the metaphysical was just a tool for the writer to explain how women are unseen in this world. This is when you can truly appreciate the book for what it is. Meredith Tate masterfully integrates what it’s truly like to live life as a woman with a sketchy past. It’s a beautiful tribute to how horrible people can be and the beauty of when people rise above it.

The title still confuses me. Autumn never truly confesses anything. Maybe it is a metaphor like the rest of the story and the confession is her finding the strength to speak what actually happens to her. Maybe I still don’t get it at all. Regardless, it disappoints me as a title.

Overall, this is a YA book that screams to be read. Each person will see themself somewhere in the story. They could be the nerd, the jock, the bad girl. And they will see that their lives go past more than just the typical stereotype. We all deserve that.

 

Publication Date: February 12

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

 

Own Voices

In honor of Black History month, this own voices feature includes the reviews I have done since I turned my blog into a book review blog. Two of these are Bo CLub picks that will elicit conversations. The third  is truly recommend as a beautiful piece of literature

The Deep

solomonr-deepusThe Deep is the result of work by many voices. The book written by Rivers Solomon is inspired by the work of clipping. which was inspired by yet someone else’s work. Because editor Navah Wolfe saw a beautiful vision, this multifaceted art project exists.
Yetu is the historian. She holds the memory of the Wajinru, merfolk who evolved from the African slave women who were thrown overboard pregnant. Once a year, Yetu shares these memories, the pain with her tribe; this is The Remembrance. Yet she doesn’t exist outside these memories and this year Yetu makes a choice that will change her own life and the lives of her people. Continue reading…

 

I’m Not Dying With You Tonight

I read I’m Not Dying with You Tonight as part of The Big Library Read. This global bookIm-Not-Dying-With-You-Tonight-e1564125646558 club ensures anyone who wants to read the book club titles can though the digital library for a certain period of time.
This novel is an interesting collaboration; the women, one black and one white worked together to spin a narrative to encourage discussion about race, police action and our perception of the world.
It’s just another Friday night for Lena. She’ll hit the school football game and then meet up with her older boyfriend. For Campbell, this night is a terror already. She’s been in town for six weeks and made no friends and is working at the football concession stand with a bunch of people who aren’t helping. When a fight breaks out, racial relations across the town spiral out of control and these two girls from very different backgrounds must manage to make it out together. Continue reading…

 

The Hate U Give

f043712f-4655-4c8a-b60f-fca1e4c6ca9fThe Hate U Give is ripped from the headlines and showcases the actual lives of African Americans and the issues they face.
Starr straddles two worlds: the first is the poor area of town filled with minorities and drug dealers. The second is the rich world of a white private school that Starr attends. She has to balance being in both cultures while keeping her lives separate. That all comes crashing down when she sees her black childhood friend gunned down by the police. Starr must find her voice and learn that she is more than just either side of her personality. Continue reading…

Book Club Review: The Dead Girls Club

The Dead Girls Cub is a fun thriller that pulls back just at its ending.

45701350Heather is a psychologist who works with kids helping them deal with the massive traumas in their lives. Heather herself dealt with the death of her best friend as a child and knows what it’s like to be haunted by the past. One day, out of the blue, she receives a necklace-half a best friend’s heart that matches one she keeps at home. The appearance of the necklace owned by her best friend is just the beginning as Heather’s future becomes her past.

The Dead Girls Club reads like it’s going to push into a rare psychological event, but Damien Angelica Walters pulls back just in time to make the climax something pulled from a far corner. The crescendo of the twist slams down but has little emotional value.

But, to be fair, I loved the story itself. The idea of trauma and how it is presented is so real and so varied instead of the stereotypical PTSD characters. I loved how the story moved from the present to the past intertwining as most psychological trauma does.
There is a lot here to discuss in your book groups. The flashbacks are great fodder for discussing childhood friendship sand how we see abuse and neglect as children. The novel also brings these ideas into present time sparking discussion on adult friendships and how we deal with childhood guilt. If these topics are too deep for your particular group, you can have your own dead girl’s club and discuss our interest in ghost stories and salacious crimes.

Overall, The Dead Girls Club is thrilling and heartbreaking. Even though the ending disappoints, it’s worth the journey.

Big Lies in a Small Town

Big Lies in a Small Town is typical Diane Chamberlain; the kind of typical you always enjoy from her.
Morgan is serving time because of a drunk driving accident that left a young woman injured. But, surprisingly, she finds herself out after serving her minimum sentence. There is a caveat: she is being released to do work on an old mural as part of her parole. The mural is old and nasty, but she must restore it before the gallery opens in just a few short months. Morgan must learn painting restoration while being distracted by the story of the artist Anna Dale who, who according to the townfolk, went crazy and disappeared.
As usual, the author gives readers a story they can take to their hearts. The female51b5l6oQQdL._SY346_ protagonists are quickly accepted and loved, and you just want to see happiness with in their tragedies. Morgan is no exception. Big Lies is a double whammy; you latch onto to Anna Dale as well as Morgan as the book switches between present and past. Your heart is doubly torn apart as both women share center stage.
Chamberlain is queen of emotional twists. While I called one, I did not see the other coming and that delights me. Chamberlain always has at least one present for the reader. A present that moves you and causes you to see the characters in a different light.
There are a few small issues. The townsfolks claim not to know what happened to Anan Dale as if she just disappeared but there is no way the historians of the town missed the articles of the events that caused her disappearance. No one would have just said that was just her going crazy. The second issue is my own. The book ends and I needed to know what happened to Morgan. Chamberlain implies with this ending that it doesn’t matter, but it does to me. I have come to love Morgan and I feel a need to know exactly what happens to her.
Big Lies returns to the more traditional set up of Chamberlain (that’s not to say The Dream Daughter wasn’t amazing; it was, in fact, superb). This novel is women’s fiction at its height looking into the things women face and how we have to deal with them.

Publication Date: January 14, 2020
I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Book Club: I’m Not Dying With You Tonight

 

I read I’m Not Dying with You Tonight as part of The Big Library Read. This global book club ensures anyone who wants to read the book club titles can though the digital library for a certain period of time.
This novel is an interesting collaboration; the women , one black and one white, worked together to spin a narrative to encourage discussion about race, police action and our perception of the world.
It’s just another Friday night for Lena. She’ll hit the school football game and then meet up with her Im-Not-Dying-With-You-Tonight-e1564125646558older boyfriend. For Campbell, this night is a terror already. She’s been in town six weeks and made no friends and is working at the football concession stand with a bunch of people who aren’t helping. When a fight breaks out, racial relations across the town spiral out of control and these two girls from very different backgrounds must manage to make it out together.
From a literature standpoint, the story seems highly contrived and nothing flows organically. That is because this is a statement book; putting the characters in this position is more important that how it flows. I was disappointed to not understand the town more and see the larger picture of the societal relations. Readers are left with just one perspective to understand why the whole town is on fire.
To be honest, this story is nothing unless you talk about it and that is the authors’ goal. The reader sees racism and stereotypes from both sides. Facing these head on, you see the main characters act on this and then see what ramifications their actions have. The authors, Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones, leave it up to the reader to understand why these views are held by the characters; they lead no discussion themselves.
The book comes with book club questions. But I challenge readers to go beyond that. As a society we need this mass discussion because once the problems and issues are brought to light we can make changes. And we need change in our society. I hope this book can be one step towards true change.
As a literary tale, I’m Not Dying with You Tonight, isn’t that great. But as a force for change? If people take it seriously, then it can be a great tool.

Book Club Review: Watching You

9781501190070_p0_v1_s550x406Watching you gives you a look into how neighbors keep an eye on each other and will spark gret gossip in your book club.
Tom Fitzwilliams is the head at the local school and helping it get back on its feet. Joey and her husband lives with her brother and his pregnant wife. Joey lives wither mother who suffered from paranoia. They will al intersect bringing passion, obsession and violence to their town.

Watching you has some similarities to Those People. The chapters are introduced with excerpts of characters speaking with the police setting up for an unseen crime. Most of the characters are all suspects. But unlike, Those People, Watching You gives you closure and you have sympathy for the majority of characters involved.

Lisa Jewell keeps you guess and at once you learn to see past the red herring but what are red herrings and what are truths? These blurs just as the purity or evilness of each character. The book moves quickly and you are hooked.

Watching You is a great entry into Shock Fiction; challenge your club to figure out the twist and keep the discourse going through the entire book. When you’re done, share your stories of neighborly nosiness.

Book Club Review: 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.

Book Club Review: The Hate U Give

My friends and I participate in a book club with our inaugural book being The Hate U Give. I will be including reviews of the books that we read. These will be mingled with the new book reviews on the site.

The Hate U Give is ripped from the headlines and showcases the actual lives of African Americans and the issues they face.
Starr straddles two worlds: the first is the poor area of town filled with minorities and drug dealers. The second is the rich world of white private school that Starr attends. She has to balance being in both cultures while keeping her lives separate. That all comes crashing down when she sees her black childhood friend gunned down by the police. Starr must find her voice and learn that she is more than just either side of her personality.
I was surprised how close to the central conflict the story stayed. I had expected a sweeping story to set precedent about how this event affected the world and such. But the author skillfully stays with Starr and her family. This is her (and Khalil’s) story. Seeing how it impacted the family and those around them is something that most media representations don’t show. It was enlightening to read about how these events effect on the local community level.
f043712f-4655-4c8a-b60f-fca1e4c6ca9fAngie Thomas has her characters walking a complex line which allows for growth for the character and identification for the reader. Not one person is just one-sided and the majority of the characters show the complexity of true life. This allows anyone reading to identify and appreciate the story. I was able to identify with growing up poor around those with money. This empathy made me even more invested in Starr past the explosive predicaments she
I could never imagine being in that situation and bridging that gap allowed myself (and, I am, sure other races) to start to see more humanism in these characters and these events.
I did have some issues with a few things (such as propagating stereotypes of others when the author is trying to fight those against African Americans), but overall the writing brought you into Starr’s world, let you see through the characters’ eyes and understand their feelings.
I came away from this book with so many question, emotions, and desires to advocate. I suggest everyone one read this book and see a side to an ongoing issue that some many don’t think about. I look forward to seeing what our discussion in book club brings.