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.
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.
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! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
“Tomorrow – next month – next year. Everything was always going to be better in the future. And suddenly the future had come. It was a brief present. Too soon it would merge into the past to be remembered.”
Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my favorite classic novels. With Tomorrow Will Be Better, she continues her exploration into the tenor of life NY in the 1920s. This novel focuses more on the generational pain of poverty. Margy’s story highlights the dynamics of many families and their different ways of surviving. You see how each generation dreams for more, for a bigger life than they’ve been given but finds themselves settling hoping to make their life into more than it is.
This novel is equal measures of heartbreak and hope. There are times where you are frustrated with each character and other times where you want to sob for them. I wished for 100 more pages to see where they each ended up.
There are lots of trigger warnings for this one, it is not a story for the faint hearted, its a beautiful story that is well done but it deals with issues like domestic abuse, racism, infant loss and suicide.
Thanks to Harper Perennial for a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.
Do you have any classic reads on your upcoming TBR?
“Most superheroes don’t know they’re superheroes until they get caught up in a moment, just like you. Something either overcomes them, showing them a glimpse of their hidden powers, or they’re pushed so far past their limitations that they have no choice by to succumb to whatever makes them special.”
“Life, like sales, comes with an endless amount of opportunities to do the wrong thing to win.”
What if Tyler Durden had been black instead of spreading mayhem he had been trying to teach selling skills to ambitious POC? That’s Black Buck.
The titular character, Darren AKA Buck goes from rags to riches by making two key sales in his career. One morning, he upsells a yuppy white a**hole an alternative caffeine vehicle at his Starbucks job and suddenly he’s thrust into a new career and ultimately new life. Initially, he is throttled by the impudence of a team of white sales robots who underestimate and belittle him because he is black. But over time, he begins to drink the sales Kool-Aid… and believe me, if you’ve ever worked in a high pressure sales organization, Askaripour nails the character of the over-driven sales douche to a T. He also accurately satirizes start-up culture with little nuance and it’s amazing. Buck’s second major sale comes at a vital time for the company and it thrusts him into the stratosphere of money and fame. After many accusations of becoming an Uncle Tom, he finds himself reluctantly shepherding other smart, ambitious POC on how to get what they want out of life trying to prove that being successful has nothing to do with race.
Along the journey you will grit your teeth with anger over the injustice both upon Buck and perpetrated by him. You will laugh and roll your eyes at the absurdity of the situations he finds himself in and those he puts others in. You will flush in shame as Buck forgets who he is, where he’s come from and who got him there; but you just might swell with pride at Buck’s evolution by the end… or will you?
Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.
This coffee spread is my husband’s as I don’t like hot drinks and therefore have never tried coffee. What’s your go-to coffee order?