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.

The Deep

The 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 solomonr-deepusthe 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.
Click below to listen to The Deep by the clipping. Because this book is so entwined with the song, you cannot truly appreciate what has been done with this novella and how it has beautifully captured (mostly) the themes and moods from the song. This is art within itself.
The novella can easily be broken down into three parts. The first is a lyrical presentation to the characters, the location and their situation. There is beauty in the writing here; Solomon has written their own song. As a reader, go with the rhythm as the plot and story will be explained more in the second section.
The second portion takes Yetu away from the collective and here is where the reader truly understands what the Remembrance is, what it contains and why it is important. The third section wraps up the modern fable but doesn’t pack as much of a punch as the past two sections.
My only true negative issue is that it is too short. Not too short as in I needed more, too short as something huge was given and built and then-Snap!- resolved. The third section crescendos with a flat fall and everything is suddenly and simply fixed. There was no true fallout to the events beyond Yetu and the population, while remembering their past, seemed to forget their present. Maybe this was a way to say there is no simple answer for the real world parallels the book follows but it felt weak on a literary level.
Overall, The Deep is a lyrical, moving, and crosses culturally lines many other novels cannot. This is also multifaceted art. While this book starts from one song, clipping. has created new music based from this book that will be released simultaneously with the book. This brings this project full circle and will touch you emotionally whether you respond more to written or vocalized word.

Publication: November 5
I received a copy from the publisher for review; all opinions are my own.

 

 

Takes One to Know One

Takes One to Know One is a basic mystery that is as boring as the main character’s suburban life.

Corie Keller used to chase terrorists for a living until she left the FBI to get married and be a mom to her stepdaughter. Cori works free-lance in publishing and meets with a lunch group that discusses their current freelance projects. At one of these lunches, Corie gets a bad feeling about one of the men. Is Peter really dangerous or is she inventing intrigued because she’s bored in Suburbia?

I htakes onead a hard time getting through this book. It was mundane in every aspect, not just in the detailed of the suburban life. The storyline is basic with no twists or turns. Everything is exactly as it seems.
I was hoping for an exciting showdown to take the book up a notch. But even the climax doesn’t give you a true sense of danger. The most interesting parts are told to the character afterward; you don’t even get to live through it for an adrenaline rush.

SPOILER 
I was most disappointed because the book summary gives you the idea that there will be a delicious argument that the character may just be imagining things. It was this puzzle that called to me. While there is some discussion of if she was inventing the danger, there was no depth to the idea and it was quickly dismissed (as was my enjoyment in the book).

A basic story dragged down with suburban life, I would tell my friends to pass on this.

Publication Date: October 1
I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own

Bloodlust & Bonnets

Bloodlust & Bonnets is the child of Emily McGovern best known for her web comic My Life as a Background Slytherin. McGovern blends Lord Byron, vampires and a brave female hero to create a hilarious and chaotic tale.
In the early 19th century, Lucy rejects her life as a debutante and finds herself catching the eye of Lady Travesty and her cult of vampires. Lucy partners with Lord Byron and a mysterious hunter to track Travesty and put an end the cult. During their journey they cross paths with psychic eagles, talking castles and high society balls.
Bloodlust & Bonnets shares the same charm from McGovern’s comic. The art is simple but effective and helps keep the gory bits from being too gory. In facts, it just makes the blood funny especially when paired with the character’s reactions.40680980
I loved the chaos that ensured when this rag tag bunch comes upon adventure. This isn’t a fantasy novel where the characters are at least somewhat prepared. This is a Christopher Moore style tale where no one can keep anything straight and the most ridiculous things happen. It is refreshing and funny.
Amidst the drunken livery and death, there is also heart. Themes from the area still resonate today. Who am I? How do I handle the ideals society pushes upon me? Why can’t I just stay in my bed and read? (I’m with Byron on this).
The graphic novel meanders in the middle, throwing in chaos just to throw in more chaos but because the characters are lovable and the voice enchanting, Bloodlust & Bonnets is a must for anyone looking for a fun getaway from the real world.

Publication Date: September 17
I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Mother Knows Best

Mother Knows Best looks at the emotional side of huge ethical questions involving embryotic changes.
Claire has a rare mitochondrial disease that manifests in different ways. She herself can live a normal like but her son Colton died at age 8 due to complications of the defect. MKB-cover-678x1024Devastated, Claire and her husband want to have another child, but Claire can’t stand the idea that they may be like her first child. Claire and her husband to agree to IVF, but what he doesn’t know is that Claire has a secret plan. They will be seeing a doctor whose specialty is illegal embryonic DNC modifications. But Claire is willing to try anything especially when she hears he can take away the mitochondrial issue.
Mother Knows Best is thrilling putting family drama front and center while blending in cutting edge science. The book never leans too heavily on the science, and the author describes everything in a way that the average reader can understand. Family drives the story, not the science.
The writing keeps you on your toes and the characters are relatable. Though I figured out all the twists but one, each one was written in a way that it wasn’t a cop out and was a perfect fit for the story and characters Kira Peikoff weaves characters to care about. I was engaged in the characters and what would become of the family they had created. With the exception of just one character, I agree with the choices they made even if I wouldn’t have myself I don’t know where I stand ethically on the idea of DNA modification, I was emotionally on Claire’s side. I never once wanted Claire’s family to fail no matter what the practical side of my brain said.
Mother Knows Best is thrilling and though provoking. What would you do for a healthy child?

Publication Date: September 10
I received an ARC through the publisher; all opinions are my own.

My 2019 Dragon Con Highlights

 

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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.

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: 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.