A Week at the Shore, at first, seems like a breezy summer read. But the cover and the title don’t reveal the true depth of the story.
Mallory hasn’t been home to see her dad in a long time. She escaped to New York and has a great life as a photographer and raising her teenage daughter. When she gets a strange call from her ex-boyfriend (her dad is threatening him with a gun), Mallory thinks her father is sicker than her sister ever let on. Her daughter Joy convinces her they should visit him so Joy can bond with her family. Mallory gives in to her daughter. Their visit starts a cascade surrounding a decades-old mystery of a woman who died while on a boat with her father.
The characters are all very flat. The main character seems almost like she has no personality; she takes from other characters. Mallory absorbs the emotions of those around her second-guessing her own. Her teenage age daughter basically runs her life (and doesn’t act like a teenager at all). The other characters aren’t much better; they are pretty much basic archetypes.
Delinsky uses a hammer to tackle every topic. There is very little finesse which seems odd for the author. Usually, her stories are deep and subtle allowing the readers to absorb the ideas. Mallory suddenly thinks that she has another parent and acts like she has thought that for a long time but there is nothing before in the book to back that theory. There was no subtle lead up to the idea.
Even so, plot-wise, she manages to throw a few curbs balls. But in the end, it wasn’t enough to save the novel. I won’t recommend this one when I make a suggestion to my friends about this author.
Though the subject matter is thoughtful, it’s not written very well, leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth.
Publication Date: May 19
I received an ARC through NetGalley; all opinions are my own.
Allen T. Brown became an amateur ballroom dancing champion in his 80s and, as a ballroom dancing fan, I was excited to read about pursuing your dreams through the lens of dancing.
To be upfront there isn’t a lot on the actual ballroom dancing that. It’s more a general metaphor that is the theme for the chapters and ideas. The book itself is only about 130 pages which makes it a quick read. This also means that the chapters aren’t too long or dense. Brown disseminates information in an easily understandable way.
Each chapter begins with an inspirational quote as a theme for that particular chapter. Then the chapter is divided into sections. Brown shares his stories of his life that give real-life examples of his own advice so the reader can see the guidance in action. The chapters end with questions to help you get started dancing through life. The only thing on format is the pull quotes are too close to the actual quote making it seem redundant instead of distinctive.
At first glance and reading about Brown, I was concerned about someone with money telling us how to have a good life. But Brown has true integrity. He understands the need to give and be grateful and he won me over; which isn’t an easy thing to do.
Overall, I enjoyed Brown’s outlook and his outlook made me question how I see things. I truly came away with new ways to dance in my life. This would be a great book for your Self Help book club choice. The book is an easy read and the advice easy to understand with ideas on how to implement change.
I received a free copy for review; all opinions are my own.
I was taken in by the story presented in Before He Vanished
Halle has moved home after leaving Nashville and her mistakes behind. She settles in at the local newspaper and sees her chance to prove her mettle: it’s the 25 Anniversary of The Lost Boy. Andy was Halle’s best friend and she knew his mom would talk to her. This story was more just business–it was truly personal. When a man arrives in town looking just like Andy, Halle must figure out what’s really going in this town and if this mysterious strange is who she thinks he is.
This is taking place in a series of books about Winchester Tennessee. I haven’t read anything before them, but it was not needed as the author Debra Webb mentions past cases. She also makes sure the story stands on its own apart from the others. This makes it easy for new reads to join in this series.
I really like the story created here. There are several levels at work, and I enjoyed the twist (I almost didn’t see it coming; so that’s some good work by the author). This wasn’t just some love story with a mysterious background. it is the mystery that moves the story forward. The set up even made the whirlwind romance fitting for the story. I have to say this is one of the best Harlequin books I have ever read whether Intrigue or not.
The book is written simply, nothing overly complex. This works well for the intended target audience and keeps the story moving.
Overall, I mostly enjoyed Before He Vanished even if this isn’t usually the type of books I typically read.
Publication Date: March 7
I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.
The Vanishing Deep is a post-apocalyptic world covered by water. This adds new dimensions to typical dystopian fiction that I was intrigued with.
Tempest lives in the world after the Great Waves where actual land is scarce and people struggle to survive. Tempest makes her Notes by diving, finding any last treasure of the old world. She saves each Note because she wants to revive her sister. That’s the magic of this world; the dead can be brought to life for 24 hours. But Tempest didn’t imagine to bring back her sister would be so dramatic and turn her world upside down.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this book. It breaks from the stereotypical YA love triangle. Instead, The Vanishing Deep focuses on family. Each character has a motive and a detailed past. I never once wondered why a character said or did a thing; they were well fleshed out.
I also loved the world created. I wanted to see so much of it! The book takes us to a few places and my imagination loved the places and just wanted to peek in every nook and cranny. I never got bored reading the world’s history.
My four-star rating is because Astrid Scholte doesn’t go quite deep enough. While the basics of revival technical are explained, it’s never told truly how it works. The author also doesn’t follow through with some of the connections she has made. Without spoiling the book, I will say as a reader, I was confused why certain characters weren’t affected earlier in the book when biological aspects changed as they did later. I needed a bit more about the world, about the revival connection, about the science of it.
The ending stretches and doesn’t add. The truth of death is hidden. No one truly suffers from a twist that makes little sense overall and changes nothing about the story already told.
The Vanishing Deep is an atypical dystopian story with a hint so science fiction. I truly enjoyed being submerged into this world even if I wasn’t completely satisfied.
Publication Date: March 3
I received an arc from the publisher; all opinions are my own.
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.
Sara 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.
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 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.
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. 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
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.
Trace 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.
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 older 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 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.
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.