Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

Hello Stranger by
Katherine Center.
The book is being released by St. Martin's Press on July 11, 2023.

The book's jacket copy says: Love isn't blind, it's just little blurry.

Sadie Montgomery never saw what was coming . . . Literally! One minute she's celebrating the biggest achievement of her life--placing as a finalist in the North American Portrait Society competition--the next, she's lying in a hospital bed diagnosed with a "probably temporary" condition known as face blindness. She can see, but every face she looks at is now a jumbled puzzle of disconnected features. Imagine trying to read a book upside down and in another language. This is Sadie's new reality with every face she sees.

But, as she struggles to cope, hang on to her artistic dream, work through major family issues, and take care of her beloved dog, Peanut, she falls into--love? Lust? A temporary obsession to distract from the real problems in her life?--with not one man but two very different ones. The timing couldn't be worse.

If only her life were a little more in focus, Sadie might be able to find her way. But perceiving anything clearly right now seems impossible. Even though there are things we can only find when we aren't looking. And there are people who show up when we least expect them. And there are always, always other ways of seeing.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Review: Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

Some people seem to make poor choice after poor choice in life, whether because they don't know any better or because they didn't have better role models. But poor life choices don't have to define a person forever. Breaking the pattern, breaking away, can be incredibly difficult but it is possible. There is always hope. Joshilyn Jackson's novel Backseat Saints is full of both poor decisions and hope for the future.

Ro Grandee, nee Rose Mae Lolley, was a side character in Jackson's debut novel gods in Alabama (lower case g intentional) but here she takes center stage. She grew up in Alabama, abandoned by her mother when she was just eight, and left directly in the line of fire of her alcoholic father's fists. So it's no surprise when she high tails it out of town as soon as possible. But leaving doesn't break the cycle of violence in her life as she meets and marries Thom Grandee, the son of the first family in his small Texas town. Rose Mae becomes Ro, a quiet, compliant, perfect wife whose hair and makeup are always impeccable and whose long sleeves hide the near constant bruises on her arms. Ro Grandee is not the quick, fearless spitfire that Rose Mae Lolley was although she needs to find that irrepressible girl inside herself again to find the courage to leave Thom, especially after a tarot reading stranger at the airport tells her that she will have to kill her husband or be killed, a truth she recognizes even as she still loves her abuser. And if she does leave, can she escape Thom as long as they're both still alive?

This is a companion novel to gods in Alabama although no knowledge of the first novel is needed to enjoy this one. There is a surprising amount of humor here, even in the face of such heavy topics as abandonment, domestic abuse, and alcoholism. Many of the characters, and especially Rose Mae, are emotionally damaged by their pasts. She must reckon with that past though, perhaps find her mother and confront her father, in order to understand and change the present, to escape her own certain death at Thom's hands. Jackson is adept at drawing small Southern towns and the people who inhabit them, understanding where each person fits in the hierarchy of place and the complications inherent in all of that. The novel is funny, heartbreaking, suspenseful, and twisty. Those who are looking for a good look into the psychology of an abused wife, the bravery it takes to run to a new life, and the promise of hope will find this a satisfying read.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Review: Sandman by Bob Drews

Sometimes a book sounds promising but completely misses the mark and Bob Drews' Sandman was one of these for me. Worse, it, and I'm not sure whether it was the character or the book as a whole or the time in which the novel was written (which really isn't much of an excuse), was misogynistic and homophobic. All in all, it was quite an unhappy reading experience for me.

Tom Phillips is a travel writer in his forties when he gets the news that he has Alzheimer's. As it would for most people, this diagnosis makes him examine and reassess his life and whether it is worth living with something this debilitating hanging over his head. His doctor suggests journaling so some of the novel is written as diary entries while other portions are third person narrative focused on Tom and all of the people in his life. The novel jumps from narrative focus to narrative focus, sometimes even within the same paragraph so the reader is not always clear whether they are reading about Tom or Bea or Helena or another character entirely. The writing is clunky and awkward when it's not downright uncomfortable. Tom likes to tell the reader whenever he's pissing over the railing, jerking off, having an orgasm after a lap dance, and more. He has a deep fascination with "pussy." None of these things add anything to the story or to the development of Tom's character (assuming he's not meant to be a gross dirtbag). But this description in the service of nothing narratively is not confined to just Tom's bodily functions and urges. The reader is treated to an almost daily recounting of Tom's meals, the sexual predilections of every character, and long philosophical conversations between Tom and characters who are only there to be repositories of his musings. The female characters are clearly written by a man, unbelievable and inauthentic in so many ways. Tom talks to himself throughout the book, a lot. The bad news is that he is, quite frankly, boring.

There is much here that had promise: the story of a man who doesn't want to have to rely on others and who is struggling mightily for meaning in a life that is suddenly not what he envisioned for his future. Unfortunately it didn't come close to fulfilling the promise and I can't recommend it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

The Only Purple House in Town by
Ann Aguirre.
The book is being released by Sourcebooks Casablanca on July 11, 2023.

The book's jacket copy says: Iris Collins is the messy one in her family. The "chaos bunny." Her sisters are all wildly successful, while she can't balance her budget for a single month. It's no wonder she's in debt to her roommates. When she unexpectedly inherits a house from her great aunt, her plan to turn it into a B and B fails--as most of her plans do. She winds up renting rooms like a Victorian spinster, collecting other lost souls...and not all of them are "human."

Eli Reese grew up as the nerdy outcast in school, but he got rich designing apps. Now he's successful by any standards. But he's never had the same luck in finding a real community or people who understand him. Over the years, he's never forgotten his first crush, so when he spots her at a café, he takes it as a sign. Except then he gets sucked into the Iris-verse and somehow ends up renting one of her B and B rooms. As the days pass, Eli grows enchanted by the misfit boarders staying in the house...and even more so by Iris. Could Eli have finally found a person and a place to call "home"?

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

Goodbye Earl by
Leesa Cross-Smith.
The book is being released by Grand Central Publishing on July 3, 2023.

The book's jacket copy says: Four women take fate into their own hands in this big-hearted story of friendship, resilience, and revenge on monstrous men, from the award-winning author of Half-Blown Rose.

Taking inspiration from the infamous, empowering song, Goodbye Earl follows four best friends through two unforgettable summers, fifteen years apart. In 2004, Rosemarie, Ada, Caroline, and Kasey are in their final days of high school and on the precipice of all the things teenagers look forward to when anything in life seems possible . . . from falling in love, to finding their dream jobs, to becoming who they were meant to be.

In 2019, Kasey has returned to her small Southern hometown of Goldie for the first time since high school--and she still hasn't told even her closest friends the truth of what really happened that summer after graduation, or what made her leave so abruptly without looking back. Now reunited with her friends in Goldie for a wedding, she's determined to focus on the simple joy of being together again. But when she notices troubling signs that one of them might be in danger, she is catapulted back to that fateful summer. This time, Kasey refuses to let the worst moments of her past define her; this time, she knows how to protect those she loves at all costs.

Uplifting, sharp-edged, and unapologetic, Goodbye Earl is a funeral for all the "Earls" out there--the abusive men who think they can get away with anything, but are wrong--and a celebration of enduring sisterhood.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

Sally Brady's Italian Adventure by
Christina Lynch.
The book is being released by St. Martin's Press on June 13, 2023.

The book's jacket copy says: What if you found yourself in the middle of a war armed only with lipstick and a sense of humor? Abandoned as a child in Los Angeles in 1931, dust bowl refugee Sally Brady convinces a Hollywood movie star to adopt her, and grows up to be an effervescent gossip columnist secretly satirizing Europe's upper crust. By 1940 saucy Sally is conquering Fascist-era Rome with cheek and charm.

A good deed leaves Sally stranded in wartime Italy, brandishing a biting wit, a fake passport, and an elastic sense of right and wrong. To save her friends and find her way home through a land of besieged castles and villas, Sally must combat tragedy with comedy, tie up pompous bureaucrats in their own red tape, force the cruel to be kind, and unravel the mystery, weight, and meaning of family.

Heir to Odysseus's wiles and Candide's optimism, Sally Brady is a heroine for the 21st century.

Popular Posts