Running For Our Lives

I truly enjoyed reading Robb Ryerse’s tale of running for the House of Representatives. Ryerse is a progressive Republican who saw how his district in Arkansas could benefit from gun safety and health care. When his wife suggests he run as part of Brand New Congress, an effort to take out career politicians by bringing in everyday people who 9780664266219_p0_v1_s1200x630 (1)understand what the laws do on a practical level. Ryerse, a co-pastor a local church, knew this would be a hard competition but also knew this was something he had to do.
Ryerse walks you through running for office and how hard it for normal everyday people. The setup of campaign finances is cost-prohibitive to many and the way money is used from special interest keeps career politicians in power. He also discusses other issues that come up during campaigning and how it’s not as easy as the TV makes it look.
The best part though is that Ryerse uses his faith to guide him and he speaks out against the Religious Right that blindly follows the current administration. He details his interactions with members of this subsection of Christianity and explains that these people are often one-issue voters. Reyrse tries to explain during his campaign, as well as in this book, why Christian faith is about people. That we have to take care of our neighbor and these “progressive” views are doing just that. While he was met positively by most people for not being a career politician it never seemed to overcome the ideas he shared with the progressive left.
I would recommend Running for Our Lives, A Story of Faith, Politics, and the Common Good  to anyone who wants to see politics from the inside; how things really work; to see Republicans as progressive allied; to see that the Evangelicals aren’t always looking after the common good. This book will challenge many preconceived notion of those all along the spectrum.

 

Publication Date: February 18

I received an ARC through NetGalley; 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.

A Beginning at the End

Mike Chen shows life after the end of the world in A Beginning at the End, a refreshing change from many dystopian stories.
Six years ago, a pandemic of the flu killed of the majority of the world’s population. People have already begun to rebuild even though they are still haunted by the past. Brought together by serendipity, a pop star in hiding, a single dad and a wedding planner find themselves entangled as their lives move forward. But it seems the virus may be making a comeback. How these three newfound friends handle a new global scare?
mediumI have always wanted to read a book set after people escape the apocalypse and start new lives. Most books end at some plateau where they can live without much danger. But what does that look like? I was excited to see that Mike Chen had thought ahead to that and gave us a world somewhat close to ours but also so very different. In fact, I was less interested in the back stories of the characters. While they were needed to truly understand the characters, I was focused on the survivability of now. I needed to see the characters let go of the past and look to the future.
Chen’s work is easy to read. It’s not fluff but is relatable to everyday readers in both writing structure and the characters. Readers will see something about themselves in the four main characters that will encourage them to find out how they handle the post-world and threat of further virus outbreaks. Chen creates wonderfully fulfilling characters even though most of the character’s relationships could be called way before the ending.
A Beginning at the End is a story about what happens after the apocalypse but doesn’t land on the troupes of zombies or supernatural aspects. This focuses on each human and their own choices. As a reader, now I want to read his other works!

 

Publication Date: January 21
I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

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.

Husband Material

I slogged through 70 percent of this book bored and ready to give up. Husband Material was as basic and stereotypical as many other romances. But then, luckily, Emily Belden added a little extra to make the story stand out.
9781525805981_TS_PRD (1)Charlotte is a 29 year old widow who has kept her secret for the last five years. But the past comes back to haunt her when her husband’s ashes suddenly show up at her apartment after a fire at the mausoleum he was placed. Suddenly Charlotte finds her life more complicated and confusing than she ever imagined.
The first chapter was pretty funny, and I was looking forward to hijinks that would ensue when the ashes arrived. But quickly I saw, that instead of being funny, Charlotte is rather petty and bitchy. She complains about everything in life. She mentally slays the interns working but when she overhears them talking about her, she gets into a tizzy. What should have endured you to her makes you roll your eyes. Why should I feel bad for someone who thought even worse of the people who were talking about her?
And that becomes the biggest problem with the book. Not the predictable plot or weird and improbable dating app the character wants to make, but Charlotte is so unlikable. She wants to keep her widowhood a secret but gets snippy wen people don’t treat her

Autho photo_Emily Belden_final

Emily Belden

with kid gloves mentally chewing them out because she was dealing with her widow hood. No one knows to help her and when they finally do, she doesn’t take help graciously.
The saving grace is that the book throws you a curve ball and Charlotte gets called out for her horrible behavior. Charlotte finally begins to grow and because a somewhat more likable as she deals with the superb twist that Belden created. While, it doesn’t work perfectly, it really gave the book depth and made me happy to have read the book.
Overall, the book isn’t that great but, by the end, I enjoyed see how Charlotte finagled her precarious position.

Publication Date: Dec 30, 2019

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

Good Girls Lie

I was happily surprised by how much I enjoyed Good Girls Lie. Typically, I find boarding school stories droll but this was a truly exciting thriller. Ellison_GoodGirlsLie_FinalCover
After the devastating loss of her parents, Ash Carlisle leaves her home in England to attend a prestigious all girl boarding school in the United States. Goode comes with all the typical high school drama but there is more lurking behind the corners of this historic school. Ash tries to keep her head down but when her roommate dies horrifically, Ash knows there will be no escape from her past.
I was highly engaged on this story. It’s not your typical boarding school story or even a mean girl thriller. Each chapter egged me on trying to guess what each character was hiding. I loved guessing even when I was wrong and loved, even more, the twist I never saw coming. I was disappointed that in the end, the story ended so quickly from its build up. Luckily, each character is given a conclusion keeping away from pesky loose ends that annoy me so as a reader.

JT Ellison Author Photo credit Krista Lee Photography - vertical

J.T. Ellison

The writing isn’t overly complex but J.T. Ellison gives the overtures needed to keep the reader engaged. The only true issue is that the perspectives and narration changes between chapters in a jarring way. The goal is clearly to hide certain aspects of the characters and keep the reader from knowing everything at once, but there is one perspective in particular that causes me to stop reading because it clashes and I have to realize it’s an entirely different narration even though it’s so similar to another.
Good Girls Lie is more than just your typical girl’s boarding girl story. Packed with deceit and twists, Good Girls Lie is tense story about identity and the way we react to our environment.

Publication Date: December 31, 2019

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

The Ronan Scrolls

The Ronan Scrolls is a companion piece to the Dragon Master Trilogy that gives enduring a look into the scientific side of magic.
Ronan the Traveler seeks answers after his brother is burned at the stake for seeing the future. In a world where dragons roam and witches are real, even having the sight is seen as madness and dangerous. But Ronan cannot agree. He will travel all of Antebellum knowing his brother cannot be the only one who can see the future. The scrolls herein relay that story.47870311._SX318_
I truly enjoyed the Ronan scrolls. Ronan believes he can use intellect to understand magic and this unique perspective endears you to him. Like many characters of the same situation, you do not pity him for the loss of his brother, instead, you cheer on his adventure to help himself deal with his own pain. Whether or not you should look at magic scientifically is a question presented here but you absolutely want Ronan to find the answer because surely there is life is a mix of magic and science.
Katie Cross chooses a fun narrative structure to tell Ronan’s adventures. Past an introduction, the novella is truly Ronan’s tale, each portion written by the character himself. While it limits the whole perspective in some ways that might be fur frustrating, it is that frustration one needs to understand to truly appreciate Ronan’s journey. Cross does well with the “diary” form of writing moving the story along without giving too much away.
While this reads best for those who are familiar with previous entries in the series such as Flame and Flight, this is also an intriguing novella that can be a bridge for new readers. I encourage readers interested in magic to dip their toes in the Dragon Master world with this work and then see the world bloom in the full novels. For avid fans, this is a must.
Overall, The Ronan Scrolls is a refreshing addition to Cross’s work looking at magic with a scientific slant.

 

Publication Date: December 18

I received a copy from the author for review; all opinions are my own.

Trace of Evil

trace-of-evilTrace of Evil gets a solid 3.5 stars. I enjoyed the story but any of the writing elements could be tightened.
Natalie is a rookie cop working on her first murder investigation, a collection of cold cases. But when one of her friends is killed in cold blood, Natalie must navigate the reality of the world without forgetting those that suffered in the cold cases.

I loved the story. I was pulled in from the moment they celebrate Grace’s death anniversary. Natalie was a character that didn’t hide much so you were able to really get into her head. The story then unfolds with witchcraft, abuse of nature, murder, and lies. How Natalie deals with each of these are shadowed by Grace so I was glad to see here come full circle by the end of the book.

The writing itself needs some work. The biggest issue is the pacing. The author throws in way too much background information slows the story and keeps the suspense for building up. I skimmed over many paragraphs because I wanted to stay with the rhythm. The other issue was there was a lot of creative freedom that ignored police procedure. A classic example is Natalie handling voodoo without gloves even though she knows it is evidence.
Alice Blanchard has a lot of potential. I want to read more of her work and see her grow into an author.

 

Publication Date: Dec. 3

I received an ARC through teh publisher; all opinions are my own.

Just Watch Me

Just Watch Me is Jeff Lindsay’s latest novel after bidding his infamous character Dexter Morgan behind
Riley Wolfe gets his thrills from thefts and disguises. But Riley isn’t your typical con man; he’s not running Ponzi scheme or such. Riley goes big, ripping a statue right from its anchors at its unveiling. But he’s getting bored; the thrill diminishes after each scheme. Then Riley finds his big get: the Crown Jewels of Iran. It will take all great foresight and a master talent of disguise to make this master robbery work; Riley salivates at the challenge.
This book is an easy read. And I don’t mean it’s simply written or flippant. Lindsay pulls you in and wraps you into the scheme too. The reader is a passive by standard that is privy to each thrill and twist of Riley’s brain. Lindsay also ensures that the reader starts to understand a little about the way he is. His antihero isn’t just some evil cliché. I was just-watch-mequite impressed with the imagination and thought that went into this book flipping each page as fast as I could.
I only have two issues with the book. the first concerns a major point in his robbery; I just couldn’t spend disbelief enough to see that it would work. The second is that I don’t like Riley, But I am mesmerized by the people he becomes. I shouldn’t call this an issue as I don’t think we are supposed to like Riley right off. Instead, we are to respect the talent it takes to pull off his cons.
The author leaves Dexter behind except for one misstep: the main character talks about the “dark” that overtakes him when he kills. Luckily, it doesn’t follow the main story but the side plot of Riley’s childhood. Other than that, Riley stands on his own without being too much like Dexter. Riley’s maladjustedness focuses more on deceit and theft for a set of all new adventures (I’m sure Riley Wolfe will ride again).
Over all, Lindsay lures you away from the Dexter legacy, allowing Riley Wolfe to stand on his own two feet. The author creates a new kind of adventure following a sociopath with a talent for extravagant cons. While, I’m not fond of Riley as a character, I can’t help but be amazed at what he pulls off when he sets his mind to it.

 

Publication Date: December 3

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