Categories
Fiction General Fiction Literary Fiction

We Are the Brennans (ARC Review) by Tracey Lange

Thank you so much to my partner Celadon Books for the advanced copy of We Are the Brennans! This is a complicated family drama that explores life in a large Irish family, the effects of shame and secrets, poor decisions, and how much love holds everyone together at the end of the day.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: We Are the Brennans
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Tracey Lange
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, 08/03/21
  • Length: 271 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🍀🍀🍀🍀 Sure for fans of family dramas

Here is the Book Blurb from Amazon:

In the vein of Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest, Tracey Lange’s We Are the Brennans explores the staying power of shame—and the redemptive power of love—in an Irish Catholic family torn apart by secrets.

When twenty-nine-year-old Sunday Brennan wakes up in a Los Angeles hospital, bruised and battered after a drunk driving accident she caused, she swallows her pride and goes home to her family in New York. But it’s not easy. She deserted them all—and her high school sweetheart—five years before with little explanation, and they’ve got questions.

Sunday is determined to rebuild her life back on the east coast, even if it does mean tiptoeing around resentful brothers and an ex-fiancé. The longer she stays, however, the more she realizes they need her just as much as she needs them. When a dangerous man from her past brings her family’s pub business to the brink of financial ruin, the only way to protect them is to upend all their secrets—secrets that have damaged the family for generations and will threaten everything they know about their lives. In the aftermath, the Brennan family is forced to confront painful mistakes—and ultimately find a way forward, together

The synopsis does a fantastic job of summarizing the story.  What happens after one generation’s morals and misgivings seeps down into the lives of their children?  Is running away the answer to a terrible event, and what will it take to bring everyone back together?  I think the author drew a lot on her own family experiences to make this story work, I don’t feel like it’s something that can be well written without growing up in a large Irish family yourself.

The characters are really everything in this novel.  Mickey is the father, suffering from early dementia, and it was always his job to take care of the family.  The mom is now deceased but I got the impression that she made up a lot of medical ailments for attention, to the point where it nearly ruined Sunday, the daughter’s, life.  Shane is the youngest child and has some kind of developmental disorder that took up even more of the siblings’ time and attention, but they all rallied around him as kids. 

Now as adults, Sunday took off to California in a hurry, and the two remaining middle brothers (5 siblings total) as well as Sunday’s ex, an adopted family member more or less, are left to shoulder the family responsibility.  They are also managing near financial ruin while expanding their pub business. Enter Sunday coming home in the midst of all of this after a drunk driving crash …. and you have the beginning of We Are the Brennans.

I think the staples of Irish family drama are secrets – check.  Shame – check.  Irish Catholics covering up bad decisions – check. Maybe some undercover or shady business – check.  What set this one apart to me was the strength of the characters, the sibling bonds, the size of the hearts capable of forgiving and moving forward together after the secrets are aired… and who inadvertently saves the day at the end.   The writing is also very smooth and flows well from chapter to chapter despite the different view points, and I do like how each character’s voice is so distinct.

The ending left a lot of things open to interpretation but the main storylines were wrapped up – and this may be added in the final copy but I think it could have used an epilogue.  Give us a glimpse of how everything settled 10 years down the road.  Did true love or duty win out? Did everything work out for better or for worse?  How did the one little boy make out with the family changes? I don’t mind having these questions at the end but I would have 5 starred it with an epilogue.

Celadon puts out some very distinctive literary fiction, I would recommend for fans of family dramas, general fiction, and literary fiction!

Categories
Contemporary Fiction General Fiction Literary Fiction Suspense

ARC Review: The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz (and a word on bullying)

Thank you so much to Celadon Books for the ARC of The Plot in exchange for an honest review! I participated in the Little Free Library drive and then requested on #NetGalley so I could finish reading! Here is my review, a little meet the author blurb at the bottom, and then my Real Talk on author bullying!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Plot
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, May 11th 2021
  • Length: 336 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 sure for fans of suspense, fiction, publishing!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Hailed as “breathtakingly suspenseful,” Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot is a propulsive read about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written―let alone published―anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then . . . he hears the plot.

Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that―a story that absolutely needs to be told.

In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.

As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his “sure thing” of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?

My Thoughts:

This is a slow burning story that starts out detailing Jacob Finch Bonner’s sad writing career, and his cynicism towards it. I think his ranting about student writers was hilarious and probably pretty accurate, I can’t even imagine.  Jake is a great character, a bit of a troll himself but he felt so real to me.

One cool thing I will say first is that as a Plattsburgh native who spent some time in the Cooperstown/Oneonta/Cobleskill area, I freaking love the setting in these towns 😂 Why Yes, I *have* been to the Price Chopper in that town, thank you!

As we start learning about “The Plot”, the mystery develops when Jacob loosely steals an idea from a now deceased former student. The book then took on a bit of a tribute aspect to the greatest plot ever written (cue Tenacious D music) *THIS IS JUST A TRIBUTE* heh heh.

But…then… An internet troll attacks Jacob. It seems pretty benign at first then gets more serious. Thus begins my favorite aspect of The Plot which is a mocking but also kind of true conversation about the publishing industry, reviewer culture, and people trolling authors. The damage it can do (even though it really shouldn’t), and how Jacob and the legal team handle the issue. I dropped the book and clapped when his publicist was ranting about GoodReads trolls and author morale, because someone finally said it.  What is the industry coming to??

Seriously though, who could possibly be this upset about the book? Who has access to Jacob’s house to leave threatening letters? What … Really … Happened… In the “fictional” plot? Read to find out, it’s a slow burn but I promise it’s worth it as Jacob starts tracking down the truth


Meet the Author: (from Amazon)

Jean Hanff Korelitz is the author of the novels YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN (adapted for HBO as “The Undoing” by David E. Kelley, and starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland), ADMISSION (adapted as the 2013 film starring Tina Fey), THE DEVIL AND WEBSTER, THE WHITE ROSE, THE SABBATHDAY RIVER and A JURY OF HER PEERS. A new novel, THE PLOT, will be published on May 11th 2021. Her company BOOKTHEWRITER hosts “Pop-Up Book Groups” in NYC, where small groups of readers can discuss new books with their authors. http://www.bookthewriter.com


I also wanted to just touch on GoodReads trolling and the bullying of authors.  This is fully and solely my opinion and does not reflect that of the author or publisher in any way.

I think the main thing I want to say here is that Korelitz is pretty timely in satirizing this issue. It is out of hand.  Jacob (in the book) did the right thing at first by “not feeding the trolls”, not engaging, and hoping the troll would peter itself out – then the publisher’s legal team got involved.  Honestly I encourage authors going through these things to first  consider letting it go away on it,s own without feeding the fuel, and if it doesn’t, consider  seeking cease and desist letters from a lawyer against people slandering and bullying on social media. I also encourage reviewers to … Well.. Just stop this mob behavior and state your opinion, then let others form their own.  What happened to literary criticism?  Everyone is entitled to an opinion but that doesn’t entitle anyone to bully or attack.  I also would go a step further and put out there that publicists, publishers, merch companies, and other businesses should stop working with these bullies and stop seeking them as reviewers, and we can all try to bring the book world back to an appropriate level of civility and conversation. 

That’s my Real Talk for the night, what do you think??

Categories
Dystopian Literary Fiction Science Fiction

Book Tour & Review: Composite Creatures by Caroline Hardaker

Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books (Caroline, Gemma, and Sam are good eggs!) for having me on the book tour for Composite Creatures, an exciting new book that releases on 04/13/21!  This is a low-key science fiction novel that is also a meditation on the future of healthcare ethics, growing up, growing older, and prioritizing what matters most

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

How close would you hold those you love, when the end comes?

In a society where self-preservation is as much an art as a science, Norah and Arthur Ratare learning how to co-exist in their new little world. Though they hardly know each other, everything seems to be going perfectly – from the home they’re building together to the ring on Norah’s finger.

But survival in this world is a tricky thing, the air is thicker every day and illness creeps fast through the body. And the earth is becoming increasingly hostile to live in. Fortunately, Easton Grove is here for that in the form of a perfect little bundle to take home and harvest. You can live for as long as you keep it – or her – close.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Composite Creatures
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Caroline Hardaker
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 04/13/21
  • Length: 400 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨  Yes for the patient readers

The Plot & Story: I honestly believe that the less you know going in about this book, the better.  Health in the UK is going drastically downhill in the future as the air itself causes cancer, the animals are all extinct, healthy life expectancy is pathetic… and the NHS is handing the reins over to a private company.   Enter an elitist group called Easton Grove, that promises health and happiness to those who can afford it, and pass all the tests.  

What exactly is this little bundle that Easton Grove offer?

Hardaker makes us wait, and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait……and wait for it.  Most of the reveal happens towards the end of the book so I definitely recommend this one for the patient readers.  In the meantime we get a lovely meditation on life, losing one’s parents, falling out from our old friends, and co-existing with our chosen company.  This one takes a good hard look at life’s hardships.  The question becomes – is it worth holding out so long for the answers?  It took until the very last page but I think so.

The characters: I also think that the less you know about the characters, the better.   Norah and Arthur seem like a good pair, except it again takes a very long time for the book to reveal how they got together.  I liked Norah a lot and really, really hated Arthur until almost the end.  I think Hardaker did that on purpose though, she waited until page 400 out of 400 to make me forgive him, in that she also showed Norah as a “Composite Creature”

What does that even mean? Well – read it to find out

The World: Think of a slightly futuristic, overly polluted London with toxic soil, a sky with no birds, and a generally gray atmosphere.  The book creates gorgeous reminisces of the past through artwork and Norah’s memories of her mother.  I will give Hardaker endless Kudoes for the imagery in the book.  Hardaker is a published poet and I think that shows in her debut novel quite a bit.

Miscellaneous: One other cool thing I noticed is that RJ Barker (you know I always rave about The Bone Ships) blurbed the book, so that’s awesome.

The only thing that I really didn’t like was that Hardaker made us wait, for EVERYTHING.  She would mention a name, or a conflict, or a story, and give us absolutely no background until much later in the book.  Luke and Aubrey were good examples of this – I spent half of the book feeling like I missed something, but eventually I realized that we would eventually learn what’s going on.  I didn’t feel like these smaller reveals were necessarily worth waiting for though, which is where I docked the 1.5 stars.  I would have liked an occasional “bone” from the author.

Overall: Definitely recommend for fans of twisty, meditative books, mysteries, speculative fiction, sci-fi, and strong character builds.  


Meet the Author:

Author and poet Caroline Hardaker in her workspace. Caroline has published several books, including Bone Ovation.

Instagram: @angryrobotbooks – @caroluna_writes_stuff

Twitter: @angryrobotbooks | @carolinehwrites

More Information can be found about the author on her website:

https://carolinehardakerwrites.com/about-caroline-hardaker/


There is also plenty of book tour left, so make sure to check out the following hosts on Instagram or on their blogs! Thank you again to Angry Robot for letting me participate and feature the book!

graphic: list of book tour, blog hosts
Categories
Fiction Literary Fiction

ARC Review: Sophomores by Sean Desmond

Thank you so much to the publisher for my giveaway digital ARC of Sophomores!  I don,’t always gravitate towards general / literary fiction but read the last 50% of this one in one night and have no regrets!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Sophomores
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Sean Desmond
  • Publisher & Release: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1/26/21
  • Length: 384 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of fiction, nostalgia, and literary discourse!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

The late 1980s come alive in this moving and keenly observed story of one boy’s unforgettable sophomore year, and his parents’ surprising journey alongside him.

It’s fall 1987 and life as normal is ending for the Malone family. With their sterile Dallas community a far cry from the Irish-American Bronx of their youth, Pat and Anne Malone have reached a breaking point. Pat, faced with a debilitating MS diagnosis, has fallen into his drinking. Anne, his devoutly Catholic wife, is selected as a juror for a highly publicized attempted murder trial, one that raises questions–about God, and about men in power–she has buried her entire life. Together, they try to raise their only son, Daniel, a bright but unmotivated student who is shocked into actual learning by an enigmatic English teacher. For once, Dan is unable to fly under the radar, and is finally asked to consider what he might want to make of his life.

With humor and tenderness, Sophomores brilliantly captures the enduring poignancy of coming of age, teenage epiphanies and heartbreak, and family redemption.

Such a great premise.  I latched onto “enigmatic English teacher” and decided to give the book a shot! The book follows each member of the Malone family for about a year, and I think the easiest way to review this one is to give each character/storyline a paragraph!

Let’s start with Dan: he is a sophomore in a private high school for boys, smart but not drawing attention to it. His absolutely brilliant honors English teacher sparks a sense of Give-A-Shit into Dan when Mr. Oglesby challenges the class to not be regular rats, but Norwegian rats! It’s just something you have to read.  Dan deals with his father’s alcoholism and sickness, and the family’s overall dysfunction, while navigating sophomore year amongst a group of realistically loveable and ridiculous friends.  I liked having glimpses into their shenanigans and family troubles, and they were funny!

It’s not a party til someone shoots a firework out of their ass, right? 😂😂

Anne, the mother, is selected to be a juror in a local high profile attempted murder trial, where a Reverend tried to (allegedly) murder his wife .  I think Anne sees herself and her own suffocation in the victim.  What a life, I can’t imagine having a blithering alcoholic husband who loses his job and keeps spending money on alcohol! I would be screaming and picking fights too, but I have to hand it to her for staying in the house.  Anne’s unravelling is pretty sad to see

Pat, the father, is an alcoholic like his own father.  He loses his job at the airline after enough people catch him drinking when he should probably be working or available for work.  He knows he’s sick, with both MS and Alcoholism, and has an epiphany in the hospital at one point where he and this other alcoholic are just taking up beds for people who might be having real emergencies. Yep, that happens.  I really disliked Pat, I’m kind of surprised he wasn’t scared of alcohol after his own childhood.  His point of view served to show the family’s history a bit too though and then he became the broken head of a broken  household, trying to break the cycle he was stuck in.

Would Oglesby like that analysis? I wish my AP English teacher cared so much!

Anyway – all of the storylines form well rounded, thoughtful characters.  Dan’s hilarious friends and high school life offset some of the tougher themes like faith and broken families.  It is a very real story that spares no feelings whatsoever, and I did read the last 50% in one sitting 😳

My only thing was the absolute number of words I had to look up! I consider my vocabulary pretty well rounded and I was still thankful to be reading on Kindle so I could just click words! So many words.

I would totally recommend for anyone interested in high school nostalgia, literary discourse, football, Irish American slice of life, fiction in general, and family stories!

Categories
General Fiction Historical Fiction Literary Fiction

ARC Review: The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan

Thanks so much to Bookish First and HMH (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) for the advanced copy of The Arsonists’ City in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

This is an extremely rich and nuanced look into family, life, heritage, and identity, but I struggled with whether or not to feature this one on the blog.  I try really hard to stick to cleaner content these days and there are more than a few mature sexual situations & adultery in this one, but there’s also a discourse on humanity, immigration, and reconciliation that as a 30-something, I could appreciate, and hey, we are all adults here.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Arsonists’ City
  • Author: Hala Alyan
  • Publisher & Release: HMH, 03/09/21
  • Length: 464 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of the genre

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

A rich family story, a personal look at the legacy of war in the Middle East, and an indelible rendering of how we hold on to the people and places we call home

The Nasr family is spread across the globe—Beirut, Brooklyn, Austin, the California desert. A Syrian mother, a Lebanese father, and three American children: all have lived a life of migration. Still, they’ve always had their ancestral home in Beirut—a constant touchstone—and the complicated, messy family love that binds them. But following his father’s recent death, Idris, the family’s new patriarch, has decided to sell.

The decision brings the family to Beirut, where everyone unites against Idris in a fight to save the house. They all have secrets—lost loves, bitter jealousies, abandoned passions, deep-set shame—that distance has helped smother. But in a city smoldering with the legacy of war, an ongoing flow of refugees, religious tension, and political protest, those secrets ignite, imperiling the fragile ties that hold this family together.

I was originally interested in this book because allegedly my grandfather was a random Syrian exchange student’s brother, and I sometimes feel interested in Syrian books assuming he came from the actual motherland.

So let’s just discuss content first because it’ s the first thing that anyone reading the book encounters.  A man is murdered in the prologue, and it sets the whole book up to be super dramatic and interesting and I am thinking “oh boy this is going to be good!!”  Then the next thing you know one of the characters is on her stomach thinking about a deflated condom, like, shit.  So now I have to remember her depressing sex life throughout the rest of the book, and it’s a theme through all the characters’ chapters, including a heavy discussion of the gay sibling’s sexuality, which is tied to Beirut’s youth culture in general somehow. Between that and pretty much everyone either contemplating or committing adultery at some point, I am like… Well sex is not what I want to read, and it’s depressing.

But it’s part of life, which along with death, are major themes of the book.  Idris and Mazna immigrated to America on asylum when he started his surgical residency, leaving his ancestral house behind.  Years later once Idris’ father dies and the house is empty of family he decides to sell it – which brings the scattered family all back together.  In Beirut.  For one very enlightening summer.

Each of the three siblings and Mazna the mother, were the chapter points of view. This sorted into the present (the kids) and past (Mazna).  It is always interesting to see people struggle bus through their 30s in slice of life style, because that’s me, but a big part of me just didn’t care.  Mazna’s story was legitimately interesting with her life between Damascus and Beirut, and seeing the war, plus being brown in America once they immigrated.  None of the characters were really likeable for me though, like I wanted to like Mazna but she’s so stubborn and then hooked up with that film guy, plus she took Idris (a heart surgeon) for a total moron.

The book spent a LOT of time building each character. It is kind of the point of the book, but some parts involving the siblings were just boring to me.  I didn’t care about Marwan’s band or Ava’s cheating husband, or even Naj, even though she had the most interesting life by far it was all flings and drugs and music. Once they got to Beirut and all the secrets started coming out, it got more interesting.  

There were so many side characters mentioned too that I just couldn’t keep track… Many of them not horribly relevant but still.  Also I liked Alyan’s writing style and language use overall but occasionally just lost her train of thought.  She would get philosophical/ profound at times and drift off into left field to the point where I had no idea where the train of thought ended up.

One thing that I thought Alyan did really well was setting – she gave a good feel for the sights and smells and weather, food, even the knick knacks in rooms, plus the atmosphere in general. 

I can relate a lot of the book to real life though – for example – being entitled to our secrets, and maybe not needing to know all of our parent’s secrets.  Also learning that we (as adults) are maybe a little bit more like them than we like to admit.

I know this is a book that a lot of people are loving for Alyan’s fantastic writing style and the story of love, loss, immigration, and familial reconciliation that she tells, and I don’t blame them at all. I think fans of the genre will love this. I just found it to be a 12 day long snooze fest when the kids were featured and I was limited to one rather long chapter at a time.

Overall: definitely recommend for fans of family dramas, sagas, and character based books!

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Literary Fiction

ARC Review: The Butchers’ Blessing by Ruth Gilligan

Thank you so much to the publisher for my Advanced copy in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Butchers’ Blessing
  • Series: n/a
  • Author: Ruth Gilligan
  • Publisher & Release: Tin House Books, November 10th 2020
  • Length: 312 or
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡sure,  because I think it’s a personal problem

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Every year, Úna prepares for her father to leave her. He will wave goodbye early one morning, then disappear with seven other men to traverse the Irish countryside. Together, these men form The Butchers, a group that roams from farm to farm, enacting ancient methods of cattle slaughter.  

The Butchers’ Blessing moves between the events of 1996 and the present, offering a simmering glimpse into the modern tensions that surround these eight fabled men. For Úna, being a Butcher’s daughter means a life of tangled ambition and incredible loneliness. For her mother Grá, it’s a life of faith and longing, of performing a promise that she may or may not be able to keep. For non-believer Fionn, The Butchers represent a dated and complicated reality, though for his son Davey, they represent an entirely new world—and potentially new love. For photographer Ronan, The Butchers are ideal subjects: representatives of an older, more folkloric Ireland whose survival is now being tested. As he moves through the countryside, Ronan captures this world image by image—a lake, a cottage, and his most striking photo: a single butcher, hung upside-down in a pose of unspeakable violence.

A widow’s grief after losing her 7 sons and husband in a war, led to the curse: no cattle can be slaughtered without 8 men present and touching the cow at the time, to celebrate her grief and keep it alive. Enter the butchers – a squad of men that go around Ireland, leaving their families behind to slaughter cattle for people that believe in the old traditions.

First off – I made the mistake of thinking this is historical fiction – and it is definitely more literary fiction and coming of age than historically true, as the curse and butchers are fictional.

I was 100% on board with this as fiction set in 1990s Ireland, until the last page, which made me re evaluate the whole entire book. I can’t say why it threw me without spoilers, but it was so out of character for the entire book. What did I miss? What happened next? I also wasn’t following some of the things that happened in the last few chapters, the finality didn’t make sense and I felt like the aim of the story unravelled a bit as it was coming to a close. I was at 5 stars until i finished the book and dropped to 3-3.5, and it didn’t help that I originally read it thinking “historical fiction,”

Set in a time of Irish cultural change, The Butchers’ Blessing is a meditation in faith, growing up, growing apart, and changing culture. My brain had it pegged as historical fiction but its just stereotypical of Irish legends, in a more modern setting. Regardless, this is a great story (minus the last page). It is labelled as a literary thriller and while definitely dark and poetic at times, I don’t think its really a thriller. There is the ever present issue though of how the heck a Butcher got hung up by his feet and left in a cold storage. Tension in the country surrounding BSE and old vs new in general, is a huge ongoing theme in the novel.

The chapters bounced between Gra, Una, Davey, and Fionn, four characters at different life stages. Una is probably the main character and has to cope with growing up while her dad is off slaughtering 11 months out of the year, targeted by her classmates, and wanting to follow in her dads footsteps. Davey is learning who he is before he heads off to college. Gra and Fionn both are dealing with growing apart from their kids, difficult parenting, and various senses of desperation and loss. Each character has to come to terms with the changes brought to their personal lives as Ireland and it’s people modernized.

For a meditation on growth, self discovery, a bit of corpse defamation and mystery, Irish legend, beautiful writing, and a whole lot of growing pains, this is an excellent read for anyone I would say 14+. I just didn’t like the ending and felt like it brought the whole book out of character, as well as some events occuring that I just don’t personally care to read about. I would still recommend to anyone interested in Irish folklore, life, and some 90s throwback culture!

Categories
Fiction Historical Fiction Literary Fiction

ARC Review: The Wrong Kind of Woman by Sarah McCraw Crow

Thank you so much to MIRA for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Wrong Kind of Woman
  • Series: n/a
  • Author: Sarah McCraw Crow
  • Publisher & Release: MIRA – October, 2020
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 maybe for older women?

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

A powerful exploration of what a woman can be when what she should be is no longer an option

In late 1970, Oliver Desmarais drops dead in his front yard while hanging Christmas lights. In the year that follows, his widow, Virginia, struggles to find her place on the campus of the elite New Hampshire men’s college where Oliver was a professor. While Virginia had always shared her husband’s prejudices against the four outspoken, never-married women on the faculty—dubbed the Gang of Four by their male counterparts—she now finds herself depending on them, even joining their work to bring the women’s movement to Clarendon College.

Soon, though, reports of violent protests across the country reach this sleepy New England town, stirring tensions between the fraternal establishment of Clarendon and those calling for change. As authorities attempt to tamp down “radical elements,” Virginia must decide whether she’s willing to put herself and her family at risk for a cause that had never felt like her own.

Told through alternating perspectives, The Wrong Kind of Woman is an engrossing story about finding the strength to forge new paths, beautifully woven against the rapid changes of the early ’70s.

Man I have to say that it took me forever to get through this book. The Wrong Kind of Woman takes place in the early 70s during a time of political and campus unrest.  It follows a woman trying to find her way through the Clarendon collegiate (fictional) boy’s club after her husband dies. There is a group of four women pushing for coeducation, tenure, rights, recognition and etc. It also follows a confused young man named Sam who is a student of Oliver’s, and he incidentally botches a small bombing to impress a girl. Sounds exciting but it was honestly pretty tedious for me.

I was not really feeling anyone except Sam’s passion, and he confused me too. I wasn’t quite sure what the purpose of his character was.  At first he seemed like a sexually confused kid who had a crush on the dead teacher, but then he fell for a girl involved in domestic terrorism.  A lot of the book was Virginia’s inner monologue as she learned about the women’s movements and adapted her thinking to her own needs and those of the “radicals.”

The parts I found most interesting were the family issues as Virginia and Rebecca tried to make ends meet, and reconcile their household after Oliver (the husband) died.  They had some misadventures.  I would have not minded some more time spent on the commune out of town either.

I just feel like somehow it could have been a little more readable and engaging.  Something about the storytelling lacked for me.  Maybe slightly older women who can relate to the times and connect with the characters would enjoy the book a little bit more than I did, but I did finish it eventually.

Thanks again to the publisher for my copy!

Categories
Dystopian Horror Literary Fiction Paranormal Science Fiction

Book Review: The Phlebotomist by Chris Panatier

Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books for the finished copy of The Phlebotomist in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Quick facts:

  • Title: The Phlebotomist
  • Series: standalone
  • Author: Chris Panatier
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot – September 8th 2020
  • Length: 345 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

War brought the Harvest. Willa Mae Wallace is a reaper.

To support herself and her grandson Isaiah, Willa works for the blood contractor Patriot. Instituted to support the war effort, the mandatory draw (The Harvest) has led to a society segregated by blood type. Hoping to put an end to it all, Willa draws on her decades-old phlebotomy training to resurrect an obsolete collection technique, but instead uncovers an awful truth.

Patriot will do anything to protect its secret. On the run and with nowhere else to turn, Willa seeks an alliance with Lock, a notorious blood-hacker who cheats the Harvest to support the children orphaned by it. But they soon find themselves in the grasp of a new type of evil.

My dark sci-fi dystopian blood drawing nurse heart was all about this book. My patients not-so-lovingly call us night shift nurses “vampires” because we are always after blood at night, and I was immediately drawn to the synopsis where a mandatory blood harvest has created a segregated society based off of blood types.

Willa Mae is in her 60s and a fantastic older main character. Lock, the blood hacker, can’t be much younger, and for some reason reading about older women playing the heroes struck a chord with me. They are snarky and wholesome and so caring for their young charges. Both rely on their knowledge and use of older technologies in a highly automated big-brother type world to undermine Patriot and practice some old-school phlebotomy to (at least try) to save society.

I can’t talk about Patriot too much without spoilers but the company runs blood collection stations all over the country to fuel the need for blood transfusions after nuclear bombs struck in certain “gray areas.” The lies, murders, and political structure of Patriot.. let me just say that I couldn’t put this book down once I started.

100% not what I expected.

The side cast of characters was great too, there was so much hope in one area called “bad blood” where everyone that was undesirable for transfusions was sent. They grew gardens and repurposed factory stores. The book definitely was not always happy, there were some significant and bloody deaths which I 100% endorse in any good resistance based dystopian.

Lastly there is a bit of transfusion based science provided just for informational sakes and I thought that was great. We have to do so much checking and double checking of blood before transfusing and I think Panatier did a phenomenal job putting this all into layman’s terms for readers.

If you are even slightly into dystopias, sci fi, resistance based novels, even fantasy/paranormal readers could cross over and enjoy this, I totally recommend it.

Happy Book Birthday!!!!

Categories
Fantasy Fiction Literary Fiction

In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey

Title: In the Night Wood

Author: Dale Bailey

Length: 224 pages

Release Date: 10/8/18 (get a copy)!!!

Rating: 4/5 ****

Thank you to NetGalley and John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishing for the free eARC in exchange for an honest review!

My little summary: “Once upon a time…” a man living near an enchanted wood starts having delusions and writes a book. Many years later, an English scholar bumps into that book and his fate appears to be linked to the Story from that point on. It is a Story (capital Story) within a story… Something I wish the author had pursued more!

The book is more about grief than folklore, but there is a healthy mix of both. Charles and Erin are still reeling from the death of their child and his infidelity. Their marriage is disintegrating and they move to Hollow House trying to start over. When the visions and nightmares and story parallels start…!

In the middle of the book the grief exposition got a bit repetative, but I had no urge to skim pages. My biggest issue was that neither main character showed a tad of growth. Can their relationship change despite ?

I enjoyed learning a lot of new words but some parts seemed unnecessarily complex. It fit with the atmosphere but the writing took a bit of work and a dictionary at times.

Long story short: awesome story! Would recommend to anyone that likes a good fairy tale, atmospheric fiction, folk lore, or a good story in general!

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Categories
Fiction General Fiction Literary Fiction Uncategorized

Review of Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk

Good evening everyone and welcome back! I finally finished Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk, has anyone else read this or any of his work?

My first thought about this novel is that it is not a good one to introduce yourself to Palahniuk with. This is an obvious conclusion after getting midway through two chapters. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Invisible Monsters, Fight Club, Diary even, but this book requires warming up to.

This is a satire of American culture, seen through the eyes of a young foreign operative. I would guess Czech Republic or one of those countries. The protagonist is a genius yet supposedly speaks in terrible broken English, in which the entire book is written. I felt like I missed important things due to the way that the language made me want to skim paragraphs. The language is also very repetitive at times.

To the meat though – if you can stomach the shock of a graphic sodomizing, or tolerate the 13 year old’s constant fixation with genitals, the book really is hilarious. Trips to Wal-Mart, religious propaganda outlets, his reverence of great war hero Colonel Sanders, mixed with quotes from all of the European dictators … it all does make for a difficult but entertaining read. The take home point is reading this in the mind frame that it is satire, and taking the recurring shock points for what they are.

I would recommend this for adults who are already Palahniuk fans or like his minimalist style. You can google similar authors faster than I can type them!

Recap: 3/5 stars for difficult structure. Redeeming point is that he managed to make Pygmy out to be a real person with feelings by the end. Also made me alternate between laughing out loud and cringing, at least every chapter.

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