Man Gone Down #Bookreview #literaryfiction #ownvoices

On the eve of his thirty-fifth birthday, the unnamed black narrator of Man Gone Down finds himself broke, estranged from his white wife and three children, and living in the bedroom of a friend’s six-year-old child. He has four days to come up with the money to keep the kids in school and make a down payment on an apartment for them in which to live. As we slip between his childhood in inner city Boston and present-day New York City, we learn of a life marked by abuse, abandonment, raging alcoholism, and the best and worst intentions of a supposedly integrated America. This is a story of the American Dream gone awry, about what it’s like to feel preprogrammed to fail in life and the urge to escape that sentence.” https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/79420.Man_Gone_Down

about the book winter.png

79420

Title: Man Gone Down

Author: Michael Thomas

Published December 2006 by Grove Press, Black Cat

Genre: Literary Fiction, Cultural

Page Count: 431

My review Winter.png

It took me three starts to finish this book, and the only reason I persevered is because my 2018 New Year’s Resolution was to finish the unfinished.

Man Gone Down takes place in New York. The main character is an educated black man struggling to overcome his past and provide for his wife and children. As a white woman I feel like it’s really important for me to read books like this. This beautifully written novel provides a powerful message about discrimination, dignity, perseverance, marriage, and family. Trigger warnings for child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, abandonment, and hate crimes.

Although the story is compelling, I had a hard time connecting with the characters. The main character kept making strange decisions, which made it really hard to understand his motivations. The other characters felt one-dimensional. The writing is self-indulgent, confusing and repetitive.

“I wonder if this is what it feels like, falling out of love: feeling yourself fading out of existence – the gray sky, the coffee shop limbo – everything a way station of sorts. Making promises you know you can’t keep. Making promises – period. People in love shouldn’t have to vow or demand, petition or exhort. Nothing. Not even question. No collisions with your surroundings or yourself – you move gently, unknowing, in time.”

I’m not sure who would enjoy Man Gone Down, however, it did win the International DUBLIN Literary Award in 2009. From the Goodreads reviews I get the feeling that people either “love it or hate it”, so I say give it a try because Man Gone Down is an important book.

Setting: 2/5
Plot: 1/5
Characters: 2/5
Writing: 3/5
Message: 3.5/5
Overall: 2.3 rounded down to 2 on Goodreads

about the author winter.png

“Thomas was born and raised in Boston.[1][2] He studied for a bachelor’s degree at Hunter College in New York City, where he now teaches, and for a master’s at Warren Wilson College.[3] He currently lives in New York City,[2] claiming to have never had a proper job although he has worked in several areas, including bars, restaurants, construction, pizza delivery, on film sets and driving a taxi.[4] Thomas is married and lives with his wife and three children in Brooklyn.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Thomas_(author)

smitten 4 fiction winter.png

 

 

 

Advertisements

Stray City #bookreview #MarchBookRelease #LGBTQ

All of my reviews are always SPOILER FREE 🙂

I received an advanced copy in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and Edelweiss, for allowing me to review.

Stray City

 

Title: Stray City

Author: Chelsey Johnson

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction, LGBTQ

Publisher: Custom House

Date published: March 20, 2018

Page Count: 432

 

 

synopsis

“A warm, funny, and whip-smart debut novel about rebellious youth, inconceivable motherhood, and the complications of belonging—to a city, a culture, and a family—when none of them can quite contain who you really are.

All of us were refugees of the nuclear family . . .

Twenty-four-year-old artist Andrea Morales escaped her Midwestern Catholic childhood—and the closet—to create a home and life for herself within the thriving but insular lesbian underground of Portland, Oregon. But one drunken night, reeling from a bad breakup and a friend’s betrayal, she recklessly crosses enemy lines and hooks up with a man. To her utter shock, Andrea soon discovers she’s pregnant—and despite the concerns of her astonished circle of gay friends, she decides to have the baby.

A decade later, when her precocious daughter Lucia starts asking questions about the father she’s never known, Andrea is forced to reconcile the past she hoped to leave behind with the life she’s worked so hard to build.

A thoroughly modern and original anti-romantic comedy, Stray City is an unabashedly entertaining literary debut about the families we’re born into and the families we choose, about finding yourself by breaking the rules, and making bad decisions for all the right reasons.”

 

My Review

 

Stray City is a nostalgic read, especially for those born in the 80s, teens who listened to music on walk-mans, made mixed tapes, and had Myspace profiles. There are parts of this story that are heart-wrenching, but also humour, and a big dollop of quirky-ness.

Gender, sexism, sexuality, family, acceptance, and identity are some big themes talked about, but not in a preachy way. I think we all struggle with identity, and many of us change how we act in front of different groups of people. Even if you’re not gay, I think you’ll find you can relate to the main character’s feelings.

The main character is Andrea, raised in Nebraska by an extremely religious mother, forced to hide the fact that she is a lesbian. Nebraska was a great choice for her birth place because it gave the opportunity to share Brandon Teena’s story, a trans murdered in Nebraska. Having the reader reminded of that heart-breaking story brings a heavier, darker, authentic feeling to Andrea’s stress of living in Nebraska and helps to explain why Portland was such a haven for her.

I admire how independent Andrea is. As a young person, on her own, with no family financial support, she is working three jobs, successfully paying her rent and doing okay. She has created a new family in Portland, a family that accepts her for who she is. During a night out with her friends she sees two of her ex-girlfriends flirting with each other. Devastated, she meets Ryan at the bar, and after a drunken kiss she finds herself in a secret relationship with him. Forced to hide her true self from her friends, like she did while living in Nebraska. Just when her life couldn’t feel more complicated, she gets pregnant.

 

“Smart and delightful . . . A chief pleasure of the novel is its shagginess, reflected in Andrea’s ‘mostly hopeful,’ unambitious, but inquisitive life. Johnson taps into a nostalgia for a reader’s youth and a simpler time, and the story keeps its vitality and humor throughout.” -Publishers Weekly

“Stray City has it all; as funny as it is moving, as joyful, as radically communal, as it is lonesome, the story covers the varied complications of place, home, sex, city—but mostly it’s about the necessary and unexpected revolutions of the self, and about how queerly we make our way through this world. Honestly, one of the most absorbing, finely-tuned books I’ve had the pleasure of falling down into. Chelsey Johnson is a wonder.” -Justin Torres, bestselling author of We the Animals

 

The plot is a little predictable and I really didn’t like Ryan leaving, it felt completely out of character to me. I would have loved to know more about his family and upbringing, perhaps that would have made his choices a bit more believable. That’s about the only fault I can find. Absolutely loved this book! I devoured Stray City in two days and cannot wait to read more of Chelsey Johnson’s writing.

About the author.jpg

“Chelsey Johnson received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. Her stories and essays have appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, Ninth Letter, The Rumpus, and on NPR’s Selected Shorts, among other outlets. She has received fellowships to the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and Signal Fire Arts. She currently lives in Richmond, Virginia, and is an assistant professor at the College of William & Mary. This is her first novel.”

Currently Reading: Stray City #LGBT #AdultFiction #Contemporary

Stray City.jpg

Stray City is expected to be published March 20, 2018, I was sent a complimentary copy in advance in exchange for my unbiased review.

Title: Stray City

Author: Chelsey Johnson

Expected Publication: March 20, 2018

Publisher: Custom House

432 pages

Adult Fiction, Literary, LGBT, Contemporary

 

“One of the most anticipated debuts in years, Stray City strikes a perfect balance of hipster charm, sparkling literary acumen, and the sort of timely themes that make for the most popular book club selections.” Edelweiss+

A warm, funny, and whip-smart debut novel about rebellious youth, inconceivable motherhood, and the complications of belonging—to a city, a culture, and a family—when none of them can quite contain who you really are.

All of us were refugees of the nuclear family . . .

Twenty-four-year-old artist Andrea Morales escaped her Midwestern Catholic childhood—and the closet—to create a home and life for herself within the thriving but insular lesbian underground of Portland, Oregon. But one drunken night, reeling from a bad breakup and a friend’s betrayal, she recklessly crosses enemy lines and hooks up with a man. To her utter shock, Andrea soon discovers she’s pregnant—and despite the concerns of her astonished circle of gay friends, she decides to have the baby.

A decade later, when her precocious daughter Lucia starts asking questions about the father she’s never known, Andrea is forced to reconcile the past she hoped to leave behind with the life she’s worked so hard to build.

A thoroughly modern and original anti-romantic comedy, Stray City is an unabashedly entertaining literary debut about the families we’re born into and the families we choose, about finding yourself by breaking the rules, and making bad decisions for all the right reasons.” Goodreads

  • Stray City will appeal to readers of LGBTQ-themed titles such as Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Emily M. Danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, and Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, as well as fans of general coming-of-age stories such as the ‘90s cult classic Reality Bites, or Nick Hornby’s classics High Fidelity and About a Boy.” (Edelweiss+)

 

Mid-Year #BookTag #TagTuesday

Technically Mid-Year was a few weeks ago, but I’ve seen this tag all around Youtube and thought it would be a fun way to see how my reading is going this year. I tag anyone who wants to do this Tag: the questions are at the bottom in a list for easy copy/paste.

Original Tag Creators:
ReadLikeWildFire https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03gz6k0IB-Y
Earl Grey Books https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_Wh0rPGfRg&t=6s

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2017.

The Essex Serpent

 

The Essex Serpent

By Sarah Perry

Here’ s the link for my review: The Essex Serpent Book Review – Spoiler Free

 

 

 

 

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2017.

I’ve only read one sequel so far this year!

library of souls

 

Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children Book 3)

By Ransom Riggs

My review Library of Souls: Third Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #bookreview

 

 

 

 

 

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to.

Dress Codes for Small Towns.jpg

 

Dress Codes for Small Towns

By: Courtney Stevens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.

Sleeping Beauties.jpg

 

Sleeping Beauties

By: Stephen King and his son, Owen King

In this spectacular father-son collaboration, Stephen King and Owen King tell the highest of high-stakes stories: what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men?”

Expected Publication: September 26, 2017

Book Tour Updates and More: www.stephenking.com

 

 

5. Biggest disappointment.

wyrd sisters

 

Wyrd Sisters

By: Terry Pratchett

A lot of people recommended this one to me, and it was just okay. Here’s my review: Wyrd Sisters Spoiler-Free Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

6. Biggest surprise.

Outlander

 

Outlander

By: Diana Gabaldon

I wasn’t sure I would like this one, and have been putting it off for years. I thoroughly enjoyed the book AND the first season of the TV show (on Netflix). I can’t wait to continue this series! Here’s my review: Outlander: Spoiler Free Book Review

 

 

 

7. Favorite new author. (Debut or new to you)

dianagabaldon

 

Diana Gabaldon

www.dianagabaldon.com

Diana Gabaldon on Goodreads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Newest fictional crush.

August Flynn from This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab. My Review: This Savage Song #spoilerfreebookreview #borrowathon

This Savage Song

9. Newest favorite character.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-1476282246-custom-0.jpg

 

Newt Scamander from “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, written by J. K. Rowling. His character is quirky, smart, and mysterious. I can’t wait to learn more about his past, and hopefully learn more about his interactions with Dumbledore and involvement at Hogwarts.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them

 

My Review: Fantastic Beasts #SpoilerFree #BookReview

 

 

 

10. Book that made you cry.

A Tapestry of Tears

 

A Tapestry of Tears

By: Gita V. Reddy

My Review: A Tapestry of Tears #SpoilerFreeBookReview

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Book that made you happy.

momswhodrinkandswear

 

Moms Who Drink and Swear

By: Nicole Knepper

My Review: Book Review: Moms Who Drink and Swear: True Tales of Loving my Kids While Losing My Mind

 

 

12. Favorite book to film adaptation you saw this year.

Jamie and Claire marriage

 

Outlander TV series (I watched on Netflix)

 

 

 

 

 

 

13. Favorite review you’ve written this year.

Thirteen Reasons Why #spoilerfree #bookreview

 

14. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

LOVE the cover of Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King!

Bazaar of Bad Dreams.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Dark Tower Book Series.jpg

I have an ARC to read:

A Bold and Dangerous Family in Edelweiss by HarperCollins.

A bold and dangerous family.jpg

Fantasy Book Bingo (Reddit) r/Fantasy Challenge:

  • Non-Fiction Fantasy Related Book
  • Fantasy Novel on “To be read” list for over a year
  • Award Winning Fantasy Novel
  • Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic/Dying Earth
  • r/Fantasy Big List 2016 Under-read/Under-rated
  • Horror Novel
  • Fantasy Novel featuring a Desert setting
  • Re-use any r/Fantasy Bingo Square
  • Self-published fantasy novel
  • Fantasy Novel published in 2017
  • Sequel: not the first book in the series
  • Novel by an r/Fantasy AMA(Ask me anything) Author or Writer of the Day
  • Fantasy of Manners
  • Fantasy Novel Featuring Dragons
  • New Weird
  • Fantasy Novel Featuring Seafaring
  • Steampunk
    • Five Fantasy Short Stories
    • Novel by an author from an r/Fantasy Author Appreciation Post

    Getting Too Old For This Crap: (50+) Protagonist

 

Dewey Decimal NonFiction Challenge

  • A book with Dewey Decimal 400-499
  • 600-699
  • 800-899
  • 900-999

 

A TO Z CHALLENGE — LOCATION EDITION

Book with location starting with the letter J, K, U, X, Y, Z

 

The questions:
1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2017.
2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2017.
3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to.
4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.
5. Biggest disappointment.
6. Biggest surprise.
7. Favorite new author. (Debut or new to you)
8. Newest fictional crush.
9. Newest favorite character.
10. Book that made you cry.
11. Book that made you happy.
12. Favorite book to film adaptation you saw this year.
13. Favorite review you’ve written this year. (Booktube version: Favorite video you have done so far in this year)
14. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)
15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

 

The Essex Serpent #FirstChapterFirstParagraph

The Essex SerpentThe Essex Serpent

Written By Sarah Perry

First Chapter, First Paragraph

“A young man walks down by the banks of the Blackwater under the full cold moon. He’s been drinking the old year down to the dregs, until his eyes grew sore and his stomach turned, and he was tired of the bright lights and bustle. “I’ll just go down to the water”, he said, and kissed the nearest cheek:  “I’ll be back before the chimes.” Now he looks east to the turning tide, out to the estuary slow and dark, and the white gulls gleaming on the waves.”

Currently Reading #FridayReads

I’m thoroughly enjoying The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. The wonderful Simon from “Savidge Reads” has been recommending this book for as long as I’ve been watching his Youtube videos. When I discovered my local library didn’t have a copy, I asked them to order one, and they did! I’m on page 191, and loving the characters and story. I’m not exactly sure where it’s leading, which is quite exciting. I feel like there might be some twist coming that I simply cannot begin to guess.

The Essex Serpent

Back Blurb:

“London, 1893. When Cora Seaborne’s husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness: her marriage was an unhappy one. Seeking refuge in fresh air and open space, she leaves for coastal Essex, accompanied by her eleven-year-old son and his nanny. Once there, they hear rumors that after nearly three hundred years, the mythical Essex Serpent, a fearsome creature that once roamed the marshes, has returned. When a young man is mysteriously killed on New Year’s Eve, the community’s dread transforms to terror. Eager to investigate, Cora is introduced to parish vicar William Ransome. As they attempt to discover the truth, these seeming opposites find themselves inexorably drawn together in an intense relationship that will change them in ways entirely unexpected.”

I’m also reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix aloud to my kids. We read one chapter before bed. I like to think my kids are quite impressed with my skills attempting to mimic the accents of the movie characters. HAHA!

Harry Potter and the order of the phoenixBlurb on Goodreads:  “Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…

Suspense, secrets and thrilling action from the pen of J.K. Rowling ensure an electrifying adventure that is impossible to put down. ”

 

 

 

Once I finish The Essex Serpent I’ll be starting Little Deaths by Emma Flint.

Little DeathsBlurb on Goodreads: “It’s 1965 in a tight-knit working-class neighborhood in Queens, New York, and Ruth Malone—a single mother who works long hours as a cocktail waitress—wakes to discover her two small children, Frankie Jr. and Cindy, have gone missing. Later that day, Cindy’s body is found in a derelict lot a half mile from her home, strangled. Ten days later, Frankie Jr.’s decomposing body is found. Immediately, all fingers point to Ruth.

As police investigate the murders, the detritus of Ruth’s life is exposed. Seen through the eyes of the cops, the empty bourbon bottles and provocative clothing which litter her apartment, the piles of letters from countless men and Ruth’s little black book of phone numbers, make her a drunk, a loose woman—and therefore a bad mother. The lead detective, a strict Catholic who believes women belong in the home, leaps to the obvious conclusion: facing divorce and a custody battle, Malone took her children’s lives.

Pete Wonicke is a rookie tabloid reporter who finagles an assignment to cover the murders. Determined to make his name in the paper, he begins digging into the case. Pete’s interest in the story develops into an obsession with Ruth, and he comes to believe there’s something more to the woman whom prosecutors, the press, and the public have painted as a promiscuous femme fatale. Did Ruth Malone violently kill her own children, is she a victim of circumstance—or is there something more sinister at play?

Inspired by a true story, Little Deaths, like celebrated novels by Sarah Waters and Megan Abbot, is compelling literary crime fiction that explores the capacity for good and evil in us all.“

The Goodreads Tag #BookTag

The Goodreads Booktag

I watched Peter Monn’s Youtube video doing this tag (his video is below).

I tag anyone who would like to do this tag – link yours in the comments! 🙂

Add me on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/amandadroverhartwick

Questions are below to easily copy/paste.

1. What was the last book you marked as ‘read’?

Turning

Turning by Jessica J. Lee

“Through the heat of summer to the frozen depths of winter, Lee traces her journey swimming through 52 lakes in a single year, swimming through fear and heartbreak to find her place in the world.”

At the age of 28, Jessica Lee–Canadian, Chinese, and British–finds herself in Berlin. Alone. Lonely, with lowered spirits thanks to some family history and a broken heart, she is ostensibly there to write a thesis. And although that is what she does daily, what increasingly occupies her is swimming. So she makes a decision that she believes will win her back her confidence and independence: she will swim fifty-two of the lakes around Berlin, no matter what the weather or season. She is aware that this particular landscape is not without its own ghosts and history.

Expected Publication Date: May 4th, 2017

2. What are you currently reading?

man-gone-down

Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas

In May 2014 I started reading this book, but stopped at page 246. This January 2017 I decided that one of my goals for this year was to start from the beginning and actually finish it. I’m on page 195. *hangs head in shame* I really need to pick this up again. Perhaps if i just focus on reading one chapter at a time I can get through it.

 

 

 

 

 

The Only Child

 

I started reading The Only Child by Andrew Pyper on April 8th, and am 47% done. LOVING this one so far.

Expected Publication Date: May 23rd, 2017

The publisher kindly sent me a complimentary copy for review.

 

 

 

 

 

3. What was the last book you marked as ‘TBR’?

Harry Potter The Prequel

 

The Harry Potter Prequel is an 800-word story written by J. K. Rowling, and was published online on June 11th, 2008. Set three years before the birth of Harry Potter, the story recounts an adventure had by Sirius Black and James Potter.

 

 

 

 

 

4. What book do you plan to read next?

Dragon Teeth

 

Michael Crichton, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Jurassic Park, returns to the world of paleontology in this recently discovered novel—a thrilling adventure set in the Wild West during the golden age of fossil hunting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Do you use the star rating system?

Yes, but I have a really hard time deciding what to rate a book.

6. Are you doing a 2014 Reading Challenge?

I’m doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2017 and I’m also doing a few more challenges on Goodreads:

Let’s Turn Pages Challenge

A to Z Challenge (Location Edition)

Dewey Decimal Nonfiction Challenge

7. Do you have a wishlist?

Not really. I have some books in my cart at Chapters website, Amazon.ca website, Bookoutlet.ca, and a TBR. But not an official “wishlist”.

8. What book do you plan to buy next?

Hmmm…I’m slowly buying all the books in the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. I’m also keeping an eye out for Stephen King books. I want to read the unread books on my shelf before buying more. (hopefully, haha!)

9. Do you have any favorite quotes, would you like to share a few?

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ~ Oscar Wilde

“Unless you have been very, very lucky, you have undoubtedly experienced events in your life that have made you cry. So unless you have been very, very lucky, you know that a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit.” ― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

“Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.”
Stephen King

“Sometimes, making the wrong choice is better than making no choice. You have the courage to go forward, that is rare. A person who stands at the fork, unable to pick, will never get anywhere.”
Terry Goodkind, Wizard’s First Rule

10. Who are your favorite authors?

Stephen King

Robert Jordan

Marissa Meyer

Veronica Roth

J.K. Rowling

Ransom Riggs

Sandra Gulland

William Shakespeare

J. R. R. Tolkien

Lisa Genova

George R. R. Martin

11. Have you joined any groups?

2017 Reading Challenge

ReadingRealm ReadAlong

County of L&A Libraries – Online Book Club

Monthly Recommendations

BooktubeSFF Awards

Fiction Writing

The Book Bound Society

 

THE QUESTIONS:
1. What was the last book you marked as ‘read’?
2. What are you currently reading?
3. What was the last book you marked as ‘TBR’?
4. What book do you plan to read next?
5. Do you use the star rating system?
6. Are you doing a 2014 Reading Challenge?
7. Do you have a wishlist?
8. What book do you plan to buy next?
9. Do you have any favorite quotes, would you like to share a few?
10. Who are your favorite authors?
11. Have you joined any groups?

April TBR

Here what I plan to read this month 😉

Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #3) written by Ransom Riggs
As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children.

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience. ”

A Tapestry of Tears written by Gita V. Reddy
Set in the early nineteenth century, A Tapestry of Tears is about female infanticide, and the unmaking of tradition. If a woman gives birth to a female child, she must feed her the noxious sap of the akk plant. That is the tradition, parampara. Veeranwali rebels, and fights to save her offspring.
The other stories span a spectrum of emotions and also bring to life the varied culture and social spectrum of India. Woven into this collection is the past and the present, despair and hope, and the triumph of the human spirit.

Turning: a year in the water by Jessica Lee
Publication Date: May 2
Through the heat of summer to the frozen depths of winter, Lee traces her journey swimming through 52 lakes in a single year, swimming through fear and heartbreak to find her place in the world.
Publisher sent me a complementary advanced digital copy for review.

The Only Child by Andrew Pyper
Publication Date: May 23
The #1 internationally bestselling author of The Demonologist radically reimagines the origins of gothic literature’s founding masterpieces—Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula—in a contemporary novel driven by relentless suspense and surprising emotion. This is the story of a man who may be the world’s one real-life monster, and the only woman who has a chance of finding him.
Publisher sent me a complementary advanced digital copy for review.

Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton
Publication Date: May 23
Michael Crichton, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Jurassic Park, returns to the world of paleontology in this recently discovered novel—a thrilling adventure set in the Wild West during the golden age of fossil hunting.
Publisher sent me a complementary advanced digital copy for review.

Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas
“On the eve of his thirty-fifth birthday, the unnamed black narrator of Man Gone Down finds himself broke, estranged from his white wife and three children, and living in the bedroom of a friend’s six-year-old child. He has four days to come up with the money to keep the kids in school and make a down payment on an apartment for them in which to live. As we slip between his childhood in inner city Boston and present-day New York City, we learn of a life marked by abuse, abandonment, raging alcoholism, and the best and worst intentions of a supposedly integrated America. This is a story of the American Dream gone awry, about what it’s like to feel preprogrammed to fail in life and the urge to escape that sentence.”

 

Spoiler-Free Book Review: Skippy Dies

Skippy Dies is a 2010 tragicomic novel by Paul Murray. It was shortlisted for the 2010 Costa Book Awards, longlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Price, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, ranked number three in Time’s list of the ten best books of 2010, nominated for the 2010 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, 2010 Irish Book Awards Irish Novel of the Year, and nominated for the 2012 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

skippy-dies

It is classified as a tragic comedy, and while it is certainly tragic – there were many parts where I actually cried – I wouldn’t necessarily call it funny. There were a couple funny parts that made me laugh, such as the alternate explanation for the meaning behind Robert Frost’s “Road Not Taken”.

Skippy Dies takes place in fictional 140 year old Seabrook College, a Catholic boarding school in Dublin. Split into three sections, “Hopeland,” “Heartland” and “Ghostland”, it begins with Skippy dying on the floor of a local doughnut shop, then it takes us back in time to explain how he ended up there, writing Lori’s name on the floor as he died. Lori, the frisbee girl he falls in love with, who is also romantically involved with Carl (psycho Carl). We follow Skippy and his friends Ruprecht, Mario, Geoff, and Dennis, who are all students at the boys boarding school, led by their mean Headmaster “The Automator”. Their teacher Howard also shares his story of how his long-time relationship and life unravel.

The characters are well developed, written with their own unique voice. We have an excellent amount of description, not too much, just the right amount so that you can picture each character in your mind perfectly, and feel like you are standing in the halls of Seabrook College. However, I detest the use of racist terms, unless it’s an “own voices” type book, teaching us about culture and history. If a character like Carl makes racist or sexist statements that’s fine, he is the villain, but I really want to see another character call them out on it. Carl Cullen and Barry Barnes are the two little drug-head dweebs at your school, who think they are so cool and bad-ass but they are losers.

Although most of the characters were well-written, with clear goals, motivations, struggles, and displayed growth – I had a really hard time connecting with them. I almost wanted to quit reading Skippy Dies about 55 times during the first 70%, and I think that was mainly due to the lack of empathy I had for the characters. I didn’t feel attached to Daniel Juster AKA Skippy, or to his best friend Ruprecht Van Doren. I didn’t care about their teacher Howard Fallon, or Miss McIntyre. I did find myself a little invested in Lori’s story, and may have enjoyed learning a bit more about her resolutions at the end of the story.

Ruprecht’s incessant discussion about M-Theory made me want to pull my hair out of my head. I don’t think the regular person reading this book would enjoy THAT much description about parallel universes, or string theory. I’m into science, but when I’m reading a story about drama unfolding at a boarding school I’d like the story to stay on track and not fall off the deep end into a discussion about theory.

I’m having a hard time writing this review because on the one hand I admire the story, characters, description of setting, plot. The climax was perfect, the resolution was a little muddy, but still good. By all means I should have LOVED this book but for some reason I just didn’t. I read the Ebook version, but it is available in a three volume set. I feel like reading Skippy Dies in the three volumes would give a better reading experience.

I do recommend you give this a read – as it covers important topics and is extremely thought-provoking. Have you read it? What did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by, happy reading,

Amanda

 

 

Spoiler-Free Book Review: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed is a story about a parent’s undying love for their child, grief, revenge against those who do us wrong, forgiveness, the literal and figurative prisons we live in – forced upon us by others, and created on our own. You do not need to read The Tempest before reading Hag-Seed (I did, and I found it enjoyable to have Shakespeare’s work so fresh in my mind, but it’s not necessary).

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood, part of the Hogarth Shakespeare Project, is a re-telling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of The Tempest, but was pleasantly surprised to find how masterfully Atwood has crafted a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s work.

The prologue entitled “Screening”grabbed my attention from the get-go with words like “shots fired” and “lockdown”. I don’t usually like prologues because they are often used as information dumps for character backgrounds,or back story, but in this instance Atwood effectively used the prologue as a way to grab the readers attention.

As the novel begins we meet Felix Phillips, an Artistic Director for a Canadian theater company. Felix has lost his wife and child, which has affected his work, and he’s given the news that the Festival Board have voted to terminate Felix’s contract. He learns that he has been usurped by his colleague, Tony. (In The Tempest the usurper was Antonio).

Felix finds a worn-down cabin to rent, hiding away in his “cell” to plot revenge, using a fake name – Mr. Duke. He lands a job working at a prison where over the next twelve years he introduces the inmates to Shakespeare’s work, casting convicts in plays, leading up to his final play The Tempest. As an Educational Assistant I found his teaching methods interesting.

Other readers have said they had a hard time connecting with Felix. I would have to disagree. I felt sorry for Felix. He is at times over-confident, but I feel like this comes from low self-esteem, depression, and his struggle dealing with grief. His interactions with his dead daughter brought tears to my eyes. As a mother, I could see why he wanted to keep her alive.

My one complaint is that I wanted more –  more back story about Felix’s colleagues at the art festival, his wife, and the convicts.

Every single character in both The Tempest and Hag-Seed are imprisoned in some way, and each story provides a glimpse into how we are put into our “cells”, how others lock us up, and the struggle to be set free.

FTC disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

www.crownpublishing.com

Check out Margaret Atwood’s website http://margaretatwood.ca/