Review: Her Mother’s Grave

This was my first Josie Quinn novel, but it definitely won’t be my last. Josie is the chief of police of a small town and in the course of investigating the discovery of skeletal remains, she realizes she may have a connection to the victim. Rather than recusing herself immediately, she dives in and tries to figure out just how close the case might be. Where it goes from there, I can’t comment on because major SPOILERS!

I will say that Josie is a great strong female lead. I appreciated the line she walked through the story between self preservation and ethics. I wouldn’t call this a thriller so much as a great detective story, but there were a couple of twists that definitely rose to thriller level. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks Grand Central Pub for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

If a crime happened to you or someone in your family would you be trying to get involved to solve it or would you leave it to the professionals?

~ Dana

MLK Day

“It’s like I’m trying to climb a mountain, but I’ve got one fool trying to shove me down so I won’t be on his level, and another fool tugging at my leg, trying to pull me to the ground he refuses to leave.”


———————————————-

In honor of Martin Luther King day, do yourself a favor and read Dear Martin. It will open your eyes to how young discrimination and racism becomes prominent in someone’s life. Any of the reads on these shelves will help you understand and appreciate the contributions of black people in your life. Let’s make today about peace, unity and growth. Read, listen and engage.

I’m hoping to read Dear Justyce soon. Have you read either of these? What are your thoughts?

~ Dana

Review: Big Lies in a Small Town

For most of my reads I am focused on connecting with a character or finding an experience that resonates with me or at least one that sparks some passion in me. Big Lies in a Small Town did none of that for me and yet I still really enjoyed the read. 

I signed up for this one as part of our North Carolina authors book club so I had no idea what I was going into beforehand. I really enjoyed the experience of figuring out how all these drastically different characters fit together. The weaving of the two stories with varying POVs was masterfully done.

This book is about three artists in a small town separated by sixty years. In the 1940’s a competition for a muralist brings a young Yankee girl to a small town in North Carolina to paint a mural for the post office. When she arrives, she is quickly unsettled by the stark differences in culture from the world she knows.

She attempts to persevere through the chauvinism and prejudices of the town determined to make her mark. In modern times, a young girl is paroled from prison with one of her community service requirements hinging on her restoring the very same mural. As the two time periods progress we get to unravel the mystery of how and why each woman’s lives have been so entwined with completing this mural.  What I appreciate about Chamberlain’s writing is that she was able to cover topics that I didn’t know much about by imparting only the essential details it did not feel like she was over-explaining or condescending to the reader. There are lots of details about mural painting and restoration without it being overwhelming. 

I didn’t connect with either woman as I found them in general to be rather meek unless they were focus on their craft and that’s where the passion shown through. They both seemed really challenged to manage their personal and social lives which frustrated me. In the novel in both timelines the men were all extremely capable and put together which in contrast to the women was off-putting for me. There are also many trigger warnings although those are spoilers but be prepared for some physical and sexual violence in conjunction with the racism.


Thanks to St Martin’s Press for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

~ Dana

REVIEW: Binti

Binti is a fabulous sci-fi novella that felt like Ray Bradbury visited Wakanda. Binti is a strong female heroine who is trying to figure out who she is in the universe. Is she the dutiful daughter with her parent’s genius mathematical skills destined to take over the family business? Is she an earth-devoted member of the Himba tribe strengthened by the cultural rituals of her people? Or might she be something bigger than anyone could imagine? 

I will definitely be picking up the next book to see where her new found identity takes her next.

This was my first BIPOC sci-fi/fantasy read of the year. This month I’m also hoping to read Black Sun, Legendborn and Queen of the Conquered.

What’s your first BIPOC read of 2021?

~ Dana

🏒 HOCKEY IS BACK!! 🏒 and Review: Willie

I am a huge Bruins fan and there are many names that resonate with fans in Boston: Orr, Borque, Neely, Chara. But the one that should resonate with everyone across the league is O’Ree. Willie is the Jackie Robinson of the NHL, the first black player to take to the ice in a professional game. I truly enjoyed his recounting of his life not just in hockey and his pursuit of the NHL but also a brush with the MLB and how race impacted his life.

I was amazed by the story of his ancestors who had been slaves that escaped to Canada, a wise choice as Willie grew up in a relatively safe environment and didn’t feel truly discriminated against until his brush with the MLB which brought him to Atlanta. The racism he faced there just after the horror of what had happened to Emmett Till pressed him back to Canada for his own safety. But it also pressed him towards his dreams of a career in hockey. He detailed his journey from pond hockey through the minor leagues and all the way to the NHL all while hiding the fact that he had gone blind in one eye! I appreciated that he acknowledged all of the other black players before him that just didn’t get the opportunity due to their race and the circumstances to survive in the pro leagues.

The narrative well balanced the exciting hockey stories with his experiences with racism and social justice. His stories about the greats who he played against and meeting Jackie Robinson once as a fan and once as a peer were really entertaining. I am so grateful that these stories are getting published so that we can share in the journeys that weren’t appropriately covered in their time. Well done, Mr O’Ree! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Are you a hockey fan? Who’s your team? 🐻

~ Dana

Review & Pub Day – The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry

“This wasn’t at all like her ordinary lackadaisical gallops with old friends or perfect strangers. This felt like being a page of old newspaper caught up in a sudden gust of wind.”

———————————


If you read the synopsis for The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry, you might think that it’s a simple sapphic love story with your typical protagonists from two different sides of the tracks. But it’s much more than that. It’s a crime caper with a love story at its heart complete with a bing bong-ing necromanced mouse skeleton leading the investigation.


This mismatched group of magical ladies are brought together when they are charged with protecting a young woman who is about to get married. Delly is the star of our story; not much more than a grown-up street urchin running games to make money and hunting dark alleys to make sure her drug-addicted mother is still alive she finds herself suddenly in a world of privilege. As the story progresses we find that or she may not be the most sophisticated person, she is street savvy and exactly what is needed to properly protect the young bride. As their short stent in this project ends they find themselves embroiled in a much bigger criminal mystery and find themselves pulling together around a common cause. Our Delly finds herself drawn out from her life of moral ambiguity into a much more proper one. But will it take?


The writing is unbelievablely clever, the world uses its own vernacular of hilarious terms for various things. Some examples:

Gull : Girl

Gallop : Casual sex

Daintitudinous : fragile

Regulation hammerball : playing by the rules

That made the book extremely challenging to read. I am someone who can regularly power through for 500 pages in a day but I found myself working through this much more slowly. This was both because I wanted to better understand the world (the world building here is not as obvious as in some other novels, you need to put together a lot of the pieces for yourself) but also because I wanted to savor the words. The more closely you read each sentence the more you can appreciate the vision or laughter it evoked.


The one thing that I didn’t love about the story, is that there was parts that seems to glorify drug use. You see the gritty bad side but there are several passages that talk about the elation and feelings of escape. This is classed as an adult novel, but I feel like should younger readers pick this up it was more than I was comfortable with. I will caveat the statement by saying I am a complete straight-edge so my opinion may be severe for the average person but I feel like it’s a warning I would have preferred to have tacked on somewhere. I also really struggled with Delly’s mommy issues, as they struck a little close to home, but I think that’s a sign of great writing, when it makes you uncomfortable.


When trying to think of parallels to the story I’d say it’s Once and Future Witches with a dash of Things in Jars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫


Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

Any pub day releases you’re excited for today?

Review: Walking with Ghosts & Happy Almost Pub Day!

I adore Gabriel Byrne’s acting work, with one of my favorites being In Treatment, this recounting of his life helped me see why he was so great in that role. He is a man who has lived through a lot and has dealt with some of the heavier parts of life. He holds nothing back. As I read, I pictured him as this stark Irish narrator staring at the sea recounting his life to you after one too many pints. He meandered around telling stories that linked to other stories in quite a nonsensical way and yet it all wove together in a beautiful way. I appreciated the way he weaved his religious upbringing throughout, as I strongly identified with how it shaped his view of the world. I think I would have enjoyed this book better as an audiobook as it would have felt like sitting in a pub in Dublin for an afternoon of craic with a wizened old soul. 

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion. This one goes on sale tomorrow, so get your orders in!


What memoirs are you looking forward to this year?

~ Dana

Review: Sinking City

Sinking City reminded me of a mash up between Shadowhunters and the Volturi from Twilight (hold on before you judge that… just talking about the structure of magical Italian politics). It’s one of those YA stories that has action from sentence one straight through to the last page. Set in Venice you have all of the beautiful ambience of the ancient city with the tradition and politics of a magical Mafia.
Zan is our main male character who is the son of one of the Capo’s and is like most teen sons, not quite what his father envisions. The family is what’s called in this world, Skilled, which means they have varied magical powers with a history that stems all the way back to Galileo. When an American family moves into town, Zan finds himself drawn to the daughter, Ellie, who is just your average girl. This is frowned upon, queue your forbidden romance. Interestingly, the more time they spend together, the more forbidden the romance becomes because she finds herself embroiled in the brewing magical tensions between Zan’s family and their rivals.

I really enjoyed the world building and the interesting way magic manifested in this world, although there were a few times where I felt it was convenient they happened to have a certain power at a certain time. There is also insta-love which is not my favorite but they acted appropriately for teenagers so the steam was at a perfect level for me. There’s lots of intrigue and betrayal and I appreciated that there was a clear ending even though this is a series. I’m looking forward to checking out the next installment.

Thanks so much to the authors for providing me a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.


One of the powers in this one is to be able to share memories so that people can see events through your POV, what’s a memory you would want to share with someone?

~ Dana

Review: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

I’ve been a little bit of a reading slump since 2021 started so I thought I’d do something I don’t often do, I’d try a re-read of an old classic I haven’t read since I was young. I have this gorgeous old set from my childhood which I had to read with care.
My thoughts reading as an adult is that these were written with real care to be mindful that the readers were young impressionable minds. I appreciate that, middle grade reads these days often deal with heavy topics and have children thinking and acting well beyond their years. The Pevensie children are, of course, thrust into rather otherworldly situations but they deal with them as children of their age. There are harsh lessons meted out but with kid gloves.
I was amazed at how descriptive Lewis was with the world. In a very short novel you are quickly immersed in the beauty of Narnia. There isn’t a ton of description about the magic or how it came to be in the first book that makes it easier to read. Although I wonder why some of the cast got proper names and yet He-Beaver and She-Beaver were not.


The main action doesn’t really start until the final quarter and then it goes quite quickly. I wished for more detail there rather than a fairy tale glazing.


Still a lovely story with positive messages and still wish I could throttle Edmund. We all have one of *those* siblings, don’t we? Giving this one ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 as an adult reviewer.


Have you ever gone back to do a re-read of a childhood favorite as an adult?

~ Dana

BOOK TOUR & REVIEW: A Twist of Karma

Ok, I’ll be honest, during this one there were a few times where I wondered what type of book I was reading. The first 30% is about Jennifer’s spiritual conversion to Buddhism at a retreat in Sri Lanka after her daughter’s death, this was a well written treatise on grief and recovery. When Jennifer returns and tries to pick up with her life, she becomes somewhat embroiled in the mystery of a serial killer that is haunting Santa Monica. It is not initially clear about how these two stories fit together. I would say it’s akin to the Egyptology in Jodi Picoult’s Book of Two Ways, it’s setting you up for the progression of the climax of the story. But, I could see how it could be overkill to some. I enjoyed it as it was well done as you were learning with Jennifer rather than having facts thrown at you seemingly for no reason.

The murder mystery comes in and out, so don’t go in expecting a straightforward detective story or thriller. The story is more about Jennifer’s progression and how her actions have brought her into this place. She is tortured by the idea that her daughter’s soul is not at peace. The paranormal elements were well done and super creepy; reading this one before bed left me with some crazy dreams!

Thanks to Blackthorn Book Tours for a copy in exchange for my honest opinion. This one is on Kindle Unlimited so easy to grab a copy if this sounds like it might be for you.


In this story, Jennifer needs to be really hit over the head with the fact that she must act to help her daughter and these murdered women. If you were visited by a ghost, do you think you’d be the same or would you jump into action right away?

~ Dana