Serena’s Review: “The Ikessar Falcon”

35661274._sy475_Book: “The Ikessar Falkcon” by by K. S. Villoso

Publishing Info: Orbit, September 2020

Where Did I Get this Book: ARC from the publisher

Book Description: Abandoned by her people, Queen Talyien’s quest takes a turn for the worse as she stumbles upon a plot deeper and more sinister than she could have ever imagined, one that will displace her king and see her son dead. The road home beckons, strewn with a tangled web of deceit and unimaginable horrors – creatures from the dark, mad dragons and men with hearts hungry for power.

To save her land, Talyien must confront the myth others have built around her: Warlord Yeshin’s daughter, symbol of peace, warrior and queen and everything she could never be.

The price for failure is steep. Her friends are few. And a nation carved by a murderer can only be destined for war.

Previously Reviewed: “The Wolf of Oren-Yaro”

Review: I requested an ARC of the first book in this series kind of on a whim. To be frank, I was actually kind of put off by the series being titled “Chronicles of the Bitch Queen.” I mean, I get it…she-wolves, bitch, yep. And I’m sure it’s also `tied in with the fact that Talyien is not a beloved queen. But still, it’s kind of an abrasive series title, and I wasn’t sure what exactly I was getting into. Turned out, what I was getting into was an intriguing new fantasy world headed-up by a no-nonsense but still deeply flawed heroine. So after finishing that first book, it was really exciting to see that the second was coming out only 6 months later. And here we are!

Talyien’s situation hadn’t started out well when she set off from her homeland in the hopes of reconciling with the husband that had abandoned her and her son years earlier. It had only gotten worse since with repeated assassination attempts, betrayal, said husband heading back to her home, potentially to kill their son, leaving Talyien stranded in a foreign country with very few friends. But she is nothing if not persistent, especially when the life of her son is at stake. As she makes her way back to him, however, Talyien covers an even deeper web of lies, one that exists not only in the present but extends back to the past.

I think I liked this book even more than the first! For one thing, I’m still really enjoying the first person narration but told from the POV of an adult woman. All too often, the only place I really see first person narration is in YA novels with teenage protagonists. And this, in turn, leads to a certain immaturity in their focus (don’t get me wrong, I still love me a good YA fantasy, but the narrators can sometimes be a bit silly). But here, we have an adult who has a full history behind her, one that she is capable of looking back on and recognizing her own and others’ mistakes. It also makes all of her interactions with those around her particularly interesting. In some ways, she’s an unreliable narrator as her perceptions of others and their motivations are always colored by what she knows (or guesses) about them. But we also have an inside look into how their actions and words influence her.

This book also seemed to expand on almost all aspects. We see more of the world-building as Talyien and her crew travel around trying to make their way back to her son. I really enjoyed out fully fleshed out this world feels. We hear about the different foods, languages, and cultural behaviors from place to place. And it’s all presented in a very natural-feeling way, no info dumping. There was also more of magic to found in this second book and more action in general.

I also really liked how much more we learned about Talyien’s father and his actions. There’s also a pretty deep-dive into the lasting influence that her father has had on Talyien. From the very start of the book, it’s clear that his perceptions of her, his lessons, his strengths and failures as a parent are a continual influence on Talyien’s own perception of herself and of the choices she can make. She, of course, is also unreliable in her memories of him, as we, the reader, can see some of his flaws in a more clear way than she can.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It felt like it took what the first book laid down as a foundation and started really building up from there. Everything just felt more fully fleshed out, and the story was even more exciting. Of course, it’s no surprise that Talyien’s story doesn’t end here with rainbows and butterflies, so I’m excited to see what happens in the third book. Don’t forget to enter to win an ARC copy of this book as well!

Rating 8: Even bigger and better than the first!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Ikessar Falcon” is a new title, so it isn’t on any Goodreads lists yet, but it should be on: “Asian-Authored Books in 2020.”

Find “The Ikessar Falcon” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Don’t Look For Me”

49127515Book: “Don’t Look For Me” by Wendy Walker

Publishing Info: St. Martin’s Press, September 2020

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: In Wendy Walker’s thrilling novel Don’t Look for Me, the greatest risk isn’t running away. It’s running out of time. One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life. She doesn’t want to be found. Or at least, that’s the story. The car abandoned miles from home. The note found at a nearby hotel. The shattered family that couldn’t be put back together. They called it a “walk away.” It happens all the time. Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over.

But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

The last Wendy Walker book I read was “The Night Before”, which took me on a fun and convoluted ride. Given how much I enjoyed that book, I was very interested in reading her newest book, “Don’t Look For Me”, a thriller about a wife and mother who may have walked away from her life…. or perhaps not. The summary was a bit vague, which only raised my interests more. I was thinking that we were going to get a story filled with questions about Molly Clarke’s whereabouts. And it wasn’t quite that. I’m going to give a bit more info in my review than the summary does, which is kind of going to be spoilery in itself because of that. So if you don’t want to know….. turn back now?

“Don’t Look For Me” has two narratives at play. The first is of Nicole, Molly’s daughter who, after a new lead has come in regarding her mother’s disappearance, returns to the town Molly was last seen in. Nicole has guilt over her last interactions with her mother, and is fighting her own demons because of a tragic incident in the family past (more on that in a bit). The second narrative is that of Molly herself, whose car ran out of gas on the way home while passing through the small town, and who accepted a ride from a man and his daughter…. and then ended up being held captive in their home. The timelines converge pretty early, and you see Nicole trying to solve the mystery of her mom’s supposed ‘walk away’, while Molly is trying to escape her captors by using her wits and her need to survive. I enjoyed how Walker lined these two timelines up, and how you would see the actions of one affect or bleed into the other. Through these two perspectives we see how Molly might have been the type to walk away, as her family life has been a wreck ever since the death of her youngest child, in which she blames herself. And Nicole blames her too. This aspect of the story was very strong, and I thought that as an examination of a family swallowed up by grief, blame, and anger it was well done and very sad. Walker also toys a bit with perspectives and perceptions between the two women, and how they regard people they are interacting with. I won’t say much more than that, but I will say that Walker uses a device that really only works on paper, and she did it well.

But thriller and mystery wise, “Don’t Look For Me” felt pretty run of the mill. Molly checked almost ever box of plucky intrepid survivor, while Nicole has a lot of the vices and bad habits that you see of protagonists with tortured souls. The clues are all in place, and while it wasn’t obvious as to who had taken Molly and why, once we got the big reveal it felt a bit underwhelming. I’m not sure if it was because I didn’t really feel like I cared enough for the characters, or if it was the set up, but I didn’t have much investment as to what happened to either Molly or Nicole. On top of that, there was another one of those surprise twists that comes in near the end, which felt unbelievable and a bit unearned to me. I wish that more moments had been put in place that would have felt like everything coming together, as opposed to kind of nutty things just being flung at the reader in hopes that they would stick.

While “Don’t Look For Me” did keep me reading, and while it was a quick read, I ultimately wanted a bit more from it.

Rating 6: A middle of the road thriller with a paint by numbers plot, “Don’t Look For Me” had some interesting perspective manipulations and examinations of a family in turmoil, but was overall average.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Don’t Look For Me” is included on the Goodreads lists “Psychological Chillers by Women”, and “‘The Girl on the Train’ Read A Likes”.

Find “Don’t Look For Me” at your library using WorldCat, or a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Giveaway: “The Ikessar Falcon”

35661274._sy475_Book: “The Ikessar Falkcon” by by K. S. Villoso

Publishing Info: Orbit, September 2020

Where Did I Get this Book: ARC from the publisher

Book Description: Abandoned by her people, Queen Talyien’s quest takes a turn for the worse as she stumbles upon a plot deeper and more sinister than she could have ever imagined, one that will displace her king and see her son dead. The road home beckons, strewn with a tangled web of deceit and unimaginable horrors – creatures from the dark, mad dragons and men with hearts hungry for power.

To save her land, Talyien must confront the myth others have built around her: Warlord Yeshin’s daughter, symbol of peace, warrior and queen and everything she could never be.

The price for failure is steep. Her friends are few. And a nation carved by a murderer can only be destined for war.

Giveaway Details: I really enjoyed the first book in this series, “The Wolf of Oren-Yaro” when I read it earlier this spring. So I was super excited to see that the second one would be coming out this fall, so soon after.

The first story introduces us to Queen Talyien, a young queen who is anything but beloved by her people. Abandoned by her husband and left with a young son and a country that is barely holding itself together, Talyien strives to hold the fraying bits of her life together. When she attempts to reconcile with her husband several years after the fact, everything seems to go wrong and Talyien begins to discover that her problems may be even bigger than she had thought.

There were a bunch of things I really liked about the first book. The writing was strong and confident. The world-building was unique but not to caught up in itself. But most of all, I really liked Talyien. Talyien was that type of heroine that defies all of the stereotypes one typically finds when looking up examples of “strong female protagonists.” Yes, she’s smart, a good fighter, and independent. But she’s also flawed, self-aware, and has made choices that aren’t also good, and realizes it! Beyond this, it’s always nice to have an adult woman as the heroine. Too often fantasy stories focus on very young female characters. Not that I have a problem with those characters and the often very lovely romances they bring with them, but it’s also nice to have a change. Talyien is a grown woman who’s seen the ups and downs or romances and marriage and has a small child of her own. Her problems and outlooks on life are very different than the young woman just setting out in the world.

The end of the first book left Talyien in a situation all the more dire than the one she started in, so I’m excited to see what she gets up to in this one! I’m not really expecting rainbows and butterflies, but man, can’t something go right for this woman? My full review will be up this Friday. In the meantime, we’re giving away a copy of this book. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends on September 23.

Enter to win!

Kate’s Review: “Grown”

49397758Book: “Grown” by Tiffany D. Jackson

Publishing Info: Katherine Tegen Books, September 2020

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from Edelweiss+.

Book Description: Korey Fields is dead.

When Enchanted Jones wakes with blood on her hands and zero memory of the previous night, no one—the police and Korey’s fans included—has more questions than she does. All she really knows is that this isn’t how things are supposed to be. Korey was Enchanted’s ticket to stardom.

Before there was a dead body, Enchanted was an aspiring singer, struggling with her tight knit family’s recent move to the suburbs while trying to find her place as the lone Black girl in high school. But then legendary R&B artist Korey Fields spots her at an audition. And suddenly her dream of being a professional singer takes flight.

Enchanted is dazzled by Korey’s luxurious life but soon her dream turns into a nightmare. Behind Korey’s charm and star power hides a dark side, one that wants to control her every move, with rage and consequences. Except now he’s dead and the police are at the door. Who killed Korey Fields?

Review: Thank you to Edelweiss+ for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: if you haven’t checked out Tiffany D. Jackson’s books, be you a YA thriller fan or just a thriller fan in general, you absolutely NEED to. Jackson is one of my favorite authors, and when I heard that her newest novel, “Grown”, was taking on the sexual exploitation of Black teenage girls searching for stardom, I knew that it was going to be her toughest, but perhaps most important, novel yet.

First of all, content warnings abound on this book. Jackson herself puts a content warning at the beginning of this book, and it is definitely necessary. “Grown” deals with themes of sexual abuse, grooming, and psychological abuse and trauma.

“Grown” is an unflinching look at the sexual abuse and victimization of teenage girl Enchanted, a Black girl with dreams of becoming a singing sensation. When R&B superstar Korey Fields (who is twenty eight to her seventeen) sees her at an audition, he offers to take her under his wing and help her become a singer, but from the get go you know that something is off. He texts her about her life. He compliments her on how pretty she is. He calls her ‘Bright Eyes’. But once he gets her on tour and away from her parents and her support system, he isolates her, he abuses her, and he makes her completely subservient to him under guise of care and love. There are clear influences from R. Kelly in this story (side note: if you are interested in social justice issues regarding the #MeToo movement but haven’t watched “Surviving R. Kelly” yet, go watch it. Go watch it now.), but Enchanted as a character is wholly original and an incredibly realistic teenage girl. Her insecurities, her dreams, her certain naiveté, everything about her was on point. Jackson paints a clear portrait of a girl who has been manipulated into a dangerous situation, and you never feel any victim blaming towards her. On the contrary, we see how easy it would be for Enchanted to get into that situation because of the manipulations of a predator, and the inaction of those who are willing to prop up a predator based on his fame, wealth, and power. Jackson also points out the very important point that Black girls aren’t as easily seen as victims in our culture due to societal racism that dehumanizes Black people, and sexualizes Black girls from a young age. Misogynoir is a very dangerous thing, and it allows predators to get away with their predation, and you see it over and over again with Enchanted, even in seemingly mundane ways (one moment that struck me was when her swim coach told her to get a bigger suit because she was ‘spilling out’ of the one she was wearing, as if Enchanted’s body is somehow her fault). Seeing all of this play out is devastating, and seeing Enchanted failed by those who should be protecting her (I am leaving her parents out of this indictment, by the way, as while I don’t want to go into TOO many details, they are powerless in their own ways) is so upsetting.

Oh, and there is also a mystery at hand here! Right off the bat, Korey Fields is dead, and Enchanted is covered in ‘beet juice’. The narrative is split into two timelines. The first is before, and the second is during and after, with first person accounts, transcripts, and conversations all sprinkled in to lay out the building blocks of the murder case. I did feel like the mystery took a back seat to the bigger issues at hand, but that is totally okay in this work. In fact, things that made the mystery more complex and threw doubt as to Enchanted’s reliability as a first person narrator almost weakened the narrative, as it didn’t feel necessary to throw in twists and turns to throw the reader off the scent. Regardless, it was a satisfying mystery that was well laid out, and I liked how Jackson used different writing styles and devices to build up a suspenseful story that you are invested in.

“Grown” is once again a triumph by Tiffany D. Jackson. But it’s also perhaps one of the more important reads about #MeToo themes. It also asks many hard questions and makes the reader really think about how society values power and fame over the welfare of others.

Rating 9: An important, suspenseful, and heart wrenching story, “Grown” shines a much needed light on misogyny, sexual violence, and the way that race plays a part to make victims, especially Black women and girls, even more vulnerable.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Grown” is included on the Goodreads lists “YA Books for BLM Movement”, and “YA Contemporary by Black Authors”.

Find “Grown” at your library using WorldCat, or at a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Rah Rah for RA!: Short Stories Collections

Occasionally we here at Library Ladies get an email asking for some Reader’s Advisory. Sometimes it’s a general ‘what should I read next?’, and sometimes it’s a specific genre or theme that the reader is asking for. We do our best to match the reader to some books that they may like based on the question they give us.

I find I read some of the same authors over and over again, or really similar kinds of books. Are there short story collections that will introduce me to a variety of new authors? Bonus points for a wide range of settings/perspectives!
Can’t wait to see what you find!

Short Story Newcomer

Hi Newcomer!

That’s one of the beauties of short story collections: you can find a lot of great new authors that you wouldn’t have found otherwise! Here are a few edited collections across the genres that may tickle your fancy…

Book: “A Phoenix First Must Burn” by Patrice Caldwell

This is a sci-fi/fantasy collection that focuses on telling the stories of Black women as explored through the lens of speculative fiction. There are folktales, post-apocalyptic stories, space adventures and more. What really makes this collection stand out is that, while many of the stories touch on tough topics such as betrayal, strength, and resistance, they all also ultimately focus on hope. It’s a great collection full of women from all walks of life and covering a wide scope of fantasy sub-genres. For those looking for a double dipper or fantasy short stories but all tales that focus on topics that are very relatable today, this is definitely a collection worth checking out.

Book: “Odd Partners: An Anthology” by Anne Perry

Mysteries seem like quite the challenge to write in short story format, but this collection features a long list of well-known mystery authors willing to take on the task! The collection focuses on the theme of, well, odd partners. So if you like stories that feature oddball team-ups, like the classic Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes, than this is definitely the collection for you. Of course, many of the authors take this theme even further, applying it to the clashes between arch-enemies, as well as the more bizarre teams up, like those between humans and animals.

Book: “The Book of Dragons” by Jonathan Strahan

It’s pretty commonly accepted that dragons are by far the most popular fantasy creature in lore. So it is only fitting that they get a series of short stories all to themselves. Not only does this collection focus on dragons, but it comes with a star-studded list of authors including Garth Nix, Ann Leckie, Kate Elliot, Jane Yolen, and many more! The collection also includes beautiful black and white line art, and its stories are presented in a variety of formats, including poetry. There are also dragons and dragon legends from around the world, including China, Europe, Africa and North America. Definitely a must read if you’re a fan of these epic beasts!

Book: “Slasher Girls and Monster Boys” by April Genvieve Tulchoke

Calling all horror fans, if you are looking for a wide variety of haunts and horrors, “Slasher Girls and Monster Boys” is the book for you! This collection brings together a wide array of YA authors from many backgrounds and perspectives, and challenges them to write a short horror story taking influence from other horror works. So that means that you could be reading a whole new tale of terror, but it could be taking influence from such iconic horror lore as “Final Destination”, “Psycho”, “The Omen”, and many many more. With authors like Leigh Bardugo, Kendare Blake, Marie Lu, and many more, you will no doubt be able to find something that will whet your terror pallet. 

Book: “Flying Lessons and Other Stories” by Ellen Oh

We read this book in our book club a few years ago, but it still is a collection that stands out in our minds of being a well rounded group of stories. The We Need Diverse Books organization published this book of juvenile fiction that has characters and authors that are from many different diverse backgrounds, and are within stories of different genres. From fantasy to realistic fiction to poetry, “Flying Lessons and Other Stories” has a large swath of tales. With authors like Grace Lin, and Kwame Alexander, the stories can be funny, or sad, or suspenseful at times, but always relatable for readers to be sure. 

Book: “Fresh Ink” by Lamar Giles

We finish out our list with another collection in conjunction with We Need Diverse Books, this time with a focus on a YA Own Voices authors. “Fresh Ink” is similar to “Flying Lessons” in its content, and has some overlap with the authors from that anthology, but this one has some more mature themes. Once again we have many different Own Voices authors dabbling in various genres. From Jason Reynolds to Nicola Yoon to Walter Dean Myers and more, “Fresh Ink” also happens to have a graphic novel form short story which makes it a little more unique when compared to other books on this list. 

Do you have a favorite short story collection or anthology? Let us know in the comments!

My Year with Jane Austen: “Mansfield Park” [1999]

mv5bnjuyndg5owutyjzmmc00mmq4lthjzjytzme4mzbhmzi2mzq1xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymja0mzywmdy40._v1_uy268_cr70182268_al_

Movie: “Mansfield Park”

Release Year: 1999

Actors: Fanny – Frances O’Connor

Edmund – Jonny Lee Miller

Mary Crawford – Embeth Davidtz

Henry Crawford – Alessandro Nivola

Comparison – “Indulge your imagination in every possible flight.”

This is probably the most interesting Jane Austen adaptation we’ve seen so far in this review series. For the most part (other than the modern re-imaginings, of course), the other movies have stuck pretty closely to their book counterparts. There are small changes here and there, extra lines added/removed, and various actors bringing their own flare to the characters, to varying levels of success. But while this movie does keep the main plot points included, it also makes some significant character changes and also heavily focuses on themes only briefly touched upon in the book, most notably, the role of the slave trade on British life during this time period.

I’ll dive more deeply into the character changes later, but both Fanny and Sir Thomas have some striking dissimilarities to their book versions. But the other big change is the focus on slavery and the growing abolitionist movement at the time. Right in the beginning of the movie as Fanny travels to Mansfield, she sees a slave ship docked on the coastline and is struck by it. Later, as an adult, she and Edmund discuss the abolitionist movement, with Edmund noting that while progress in that area is a moral good, their livelihoods are currently funded by the wealth provided by the Bertram family’s plantations in Antigua. For his part, Sir Thomas espouses some very racist and incorrect points of view at a family gathering, starting off a minor family scuffle when Edmund and Fanny attempt to correct him. And, of course, we later see the horrific actions that Sir Thomas has taken against his slaves depicted in Tom’s artwork. I’ll get more into Sir Thomas and these violent acts later, but I have a similar problem with that depiction as I do with some of this theme.

Mainly, the movie seems to be wanting to have it both ways: it wants to bring up this topic as one that would be relevant to the times and add a more meaningful weight to Edmund and Fanny’s discussion (the book largely focuses on nature and religion here), but the movie also doesn’t want to change anything significant about the story in this light. Meaning, there’s all of this discussion about the slave trade, but no characters actually make any meaningful steps or really change anything about their lives in response to this. This is likely realistic, it’s not like many nobles of the time were probably giving up their fortune in the work of moving towards freedom from the African people enslaved. But it also makes the movie end on a very awkward, unresolved note. It’s rather uncomfortable. Perhaps that was the point? But if so, even that fails to really settle with any weight.

Heroines – “I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures.”

I have mixed feelings on this portrayal of Fanny Price. On one hand, I really like Frances O’Connor’s acting overall and think she fits the mental image I had of Fanny pretty perfectly. On the other hand, I think the character is really all over the place throughout the movie, sometimes being presented as a strong-willed, verging on rebellious young woman, and at others reverting back to the more meek and mild version of the character that we’re familiar with from the book.

One of the big challenges of adapting this book is Fanny herself. She’s an even more quiet and reserved character than Eleanor who also has Marianne to balance her out. So, I get that adjustments had to be made here. Edmund’s “grooming” of Fanny definitely doesn’t work for modern audiences. Nor does the fact that most of Fanny’s longer speeches (that she makes out loud at least) have to do with the wonders of nature, poetry, and the clergy. As I’ve mentioned in my review of the books, there are even times when Fanny seems to be suffering from some mild form of Stockholm Syndrome, especially with how thankful she is for Mrs. Norris’s constant reminders of how very, very lucky Fanny is to be in a family where she is largely ignored and otherwise put to work as a glorified maid service for the ladies of the house.

So, all of that acknowledged, I generally am ok with the changes they’ve made to Fanny here, especially when they emphasize her more wild moments (running around with Edmund, horse back riding, being more firm when she stands up to Sir Thomas about refusing Mr. Crawford). There is a bit of whiplash when she switches back to being meek/mild all of a sudden, but I get it.

The only real problem I have with her portrayal is the decision the movie makes to have her briefly accept Henry Crawford. Again, on one hand, I get the point the movie is trying to make about the very real, very scary situation facing women of the time. We see Fanny witness the life her mother has had after marrying the wrong man, essentially. She married for love, but it is clear that that love is gone and all that remains is a life marred with poverty and too many children. This could easily be Fanny’s future, and I like that they acknowledge these hard choices, especially in a Jane Austen film that, naturally, usually tells the much more romantic, lovely version of young women finding love and wealth (or at least good comfort) together.

I also think that this change can add a good balance point between Edmund and Fanny, which I’ll talk more about later. But strictly looking at it as a character adaptation from what we’re given in the book, this is the biggest change to Fanny’s character we see and one that undermines one of the most prevalent aspects of her entire character. Through the book, Fanny is largely a silent observer. But through access to her inner thoughts and the more revealing conersations we see between her and Edmund, it becomes very clear that Fanny is the only character who is truly clear-eyed about the people and events going on around her. She also is the only one to hold true to the principles she expresses. Edmund talks a good game, but he ultimately joins in the play (after very little prompting really) and is willfully blind to Mary Crawford’s true character. Most of the rest don’t even come close to his levels. By the end of the book, Austen devotes a decent amount of time to Sir Thomas reflecting on the failures of parenting that lead to his children being raised to look the part of well-bred individuals but who ultimately lacked the firm foundation that is required beneath it all to be truly moral or proper.

Fanny, alone, stands true to her beliefs. Even in Portsmouth where we see her struggling to get by in her family’s household (her health actually suffers), Fanny’s focus shifts to what she can bring to this family and she devotes much of her time to improving Susan. When Crawford visits, she sees his improvements as nothing more than a hopeful sign that he will soon recognize the pain he causes her by continuing to pursue her. She knows she doesn’t love him. Knows that a future with a character such as he is (one who she has witnessed toying with women) is questionable at best. If anything, for the book character at least, seeing the situation her mother is in also reinforces the idea that marrying the wrong man can have dire consequences, making Henry Crawford’s fortune not necessarily the assurance of comfort that it originally seems, from a purely practical sense.

The story is almost built around this essential trait of Fanny’s, and one that is presented as unique and rare to her, so to give that up in the movie is strange to say the least. And, given that she changes her mind the very next day, adding weight to Crawford’s accusations of her own inconstancy and lack of trustworthiness, I’m not quite sure what it really adds to the movie. Does it really give us any greater insights into Fanny herself? Into the situation women faced? All of that could have still been accomplished without undermining the steadiness that Fanny is later praised for. Edmund even calls it her “infallible guide”…but the movie itself just worked against such strong language or terms. I think I just wish the movie had done more with this moment. If they were really going to play around with such a key part of Fanny’s character (perhaps the key part of her character), I feel like more needed to be done to justify the change, either leading up to her making this decision or in the fallout. As it is, it feels unnecessary and both undermines Fanny herself and lends some extra motivation for Henry Crawford’s rash actions later on (though not much, and I’ll touch on that in the Villains section).

Heroes – “What are men to rocks and mountains?”

Edmund is so much more likable in this movie than he is in the book. My love for Jonny Lee Miller has been well-established at this point, so of course, I credit his natural charisma as helping bring the character more forward as a hero. But we also simply see more heroic deeds from him. Or, at the very least, more romantic hero deeds from him. Unlike in the book, this version presents Edmund as half-aware of his interest in Fanny the entire time. The audience is never left to question whether Edmund has feelings for Fanny, it’s there from the beginning. It’s there when he mistakes his father’s praising of his choice in women, thinking of Mary Crawford, for Fanny herself. It’s there when, after Mary Crawford disheartens him about her views on the clergy, he demands the first two dances with Fanny instead of Mary. It’s there when we watch Edmund and Henry Crawford gaze after Fanny as she leaves the ball, clearly paralleling them both as interested parties. It’s there in strained words of missing her when he fetches her back home and then when we falls asleep on her shoulder. And it’s most especially there when he initiates their almost kiss in the middle of their middle-of-the-night encounter in Tom’s room (this, still, before Edmund had even heard Mary Crawford finally truly expose herself).

Miller’s version strikes a good balance between Edmund’s own moral sense while also making him believably young and naive enough to fall for a woman like Miss Crawford. His take on the character is very fresh-faced and wide-eyed. So while we see him giving good speeches on the quality of literature and concerns about the slave trade, it’s also easy enough to see him swayed over to being in a tawdry play and pursue Mary past the point of reason. In the end, it’s much easier to forgive him his nonsense for all the more good we’re given to continue liking him throughout this version.

Villains – “I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.” 

For a book that is already largely made up of villains, somehow the movie went and made more?? I’ll get into the Crawfords, of course, but one of the most major changes to this adaptation of the book is the striking character revision of Sir Thomas. In the book, he could be gruff at times, but was largely a benevolent character, often coming in second to Edmund as actually caring about Fanny’s needs. We see him arrange the ball for her largely out of genuine care for her and her brother. And even after she refuses Mr. Crawford and he speaks harshly to her, he follows this up directly with the action of making sure there is a fire in her room. From there, he does nothing but quietly discuss the situation with Edmund and resolve to let things play out as they will. The worst that can be said about him is that he becomes a bit neglectful when caught up in the family drama at the end, leaving Fanny to linger in Portsmouth.

Here, not the case. It’s actually a very uncomfortable change, overall. I’m not necessarily opposed to re-writing the character this way, but I’m not sure what purpose it ultimately served with how it’s done here. We don’t really need a reason to dislike this character as, like I’ve said, there are plenty of unlikable characters in this story. And even if they had left the character completely as is in this movie, harsher threats to Fanny and colder/creepier disposition overall, he would have been plenty unlikable. But then they add in the graphic nature of his treatment of the slaves at the plantation. The images Tom draws depict every sort of violence, up to and including sexual violence. And then…the movie never touches the topic again.

We’re left with a family who essentially goes on as is, with Fanny and Edmund interacting with everyone in the same manner as always, even going so far as to bring Fanny’s younger sister, Susan, into the household. In the book, this makes sense. With this type of character portrayal for Sir Thomas? There are some serious eyebrow raises about introducing a young woman into that situation, ones that you have to think the very moral and upright Fanny and Edmund (one has to assume she would tell him about this) would have serious concerns about. And then, beyond that, the movie fails completely to make any actual statement or rebuke of this character. It just…sits there. If you’re going to touch on this very real part of history, you have to actually do something with it. As it is, it’s almost worse than not acknowledging these harsh realities at all, since the movie introduces the topic but then does so little with it that it begins to feel exploitative and used for graphic thrills rather than adding any meaningful commentary. I have a big problem with it, ultimately.

For their part, the Crawford siblings are pretty similar to what we see in the book. I do like that we actually get to see the scene where Mary Crawford so thoroughly exposes herself as a terrible person. In the book, it’s kind of anticlimatic to just hear about it second hand through Edmund’s recounting to Fanny.

As for Henry Crawford, the casting here was perfect as I think he immediately sets of spidey-senses for most women as not a trustworthy guy. Too charming by half! His arc is influenced a bit, I think, by the changes they make to Fanny’s decision to briefly accept him only to promptly drop him again the very next day. Not that this disappointment in any ways justifies his or Maria’s actions. But it does paint the entire thing in a bit of a different light, since he’s clearly still reeling from this quick about-face. It also does add weight to his comment that Fanny is somehow the perfect example of trustworthiness. He’s right! She’s not, really, after this! It’s a very human thing she does, but he also has a point. In the book, there is really nothing pushing him towards Maria other than sheer boredom and ego. Here he does have a recently broken heart to somewhat explain his poor decision making. As far as his character arc goes, I’m fine with either option. I have more problems with what it does to Fanny’s character than his, really.

Romance – “A lady’s imagination is very rapid: it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”

As I discussed in the “Heroes” section, the romance is greatly increased in this version of “Mansfield Park.” The entire movie gives us ample evidence that Fanny’s love is requited but that Edmund is just too much of a dunderhead to really put it all together. Really, there’s almost more on the screen highlighting Edmund’s love of Fanny than the other way around. We know it to be true since Fanny pretty much confesses as much, but he has many more actions and lingering looks to his side of things (probably a testament to the director/writers knowing who the main audience will likely be composed of…).

In some ways, Edmund and Fanny are more balanced together in this version as well. I know it’s been some fan’s complaints that it seems that Fanny is essentially Edmund’s reward at the end of the book for getting through the trials that were Mary Crawford. In my review of the book, I argued that it is the opposite: that Edmund is Fanny’s reward for staying true to her principles in the face of everything. Here, we see them both stumble. Edmund, of course, still pursues Mary Crawford (though the near kiss with Fanny does introduce a question into whether he’d have gone through with that relationship even if Mary hadn’t sabotaged herself). He still even has the line about not being able to picture anyone as his wife but for Mary (harder to buy that line in a movie like this that only shortly before had him confusing his father’s compliments on his choice of a potential bride for Fanny instead of Mary…tell me again how he couldn’t picture anyone else as a bride??) But here, we also see Fanny stumble, briefly giving into fear of a poor future to accept Henry Crawford, if only for one night. I talked more about that in the Heroines section, but I think the decision itself plays best when viewed through the romance angle, as one that makes equals, equally flawed at least, out of our main couple.

Comedy – “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

The movie definitely adds in more comedy to the proceedings, making it, in some ways, feel more like a Jane Austen story that the original book did itself. There’s a great little montage right after the family party meets the Crawfords where we go through each individual primping and prepping themselves, all clearly besotted in one way or another with the two new comers. Some of Mrs. Norris’s nastiness is hedged a bit more for laughs, though she’s still generally just an awful person. And Fanny and Edmund’s interactions are often tinged with a lighter note as well than they were in the books. Wisely, the director and writers steered well-clear of giving too many impressions of Edmund’s “molding” Fanny as she grew, something that is often referenced in the book but that means something very different to modern audiences than it would have at the time.

Mr. Rushworth is definitely the primary humorous character. He’s great from start to finish. He doesn’t have a ton of screen time, but the actor really makes the most of even the brief appearances we do see. He bumbles about, seemingly only half aware of his surroundings at any given moment, clearly ignorant of his fiance’s contempt. His bragging about his number of speeches and costume changes to the baffled Sir Thomas (this, on their first meeting!) is pure gold. And, of course, we get to actually see the morning where Maria and Crawford are discovered to be missing. In some ways, seeing the reality of the situation settle on poor Mr. Rushworth does more to really highlight the wrongness of the situation than what we got in the book. Silly he may be, but here we get to actually see the human cost of two selfish individuals and their thoughtless actions.

And, of course, the movie kept in my favorite comedic moment from the book: when Lady Bertram is clearly sleeping through all of the action and startles awake only to quickly protest that she was not, in fact sleeping.

Fun facts – “Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.”

Not only does Jonny Lee Miller play two Jane Austen heroes (something that I believe he is unique to?), he also had already played a character in a “Mansfield Park” adaptation before being cast as Edmund here. He played one of Fanny’s younger brothers in the 1983 mini-series version of the story.

This Fanny Price is partially modeled after Jane Austen herself, with Fanny working as an aspiring author. Some of the bits of writing she reads in the movie come from Austen’s own early work as a teenager.

The actresses who play young Fanny and young Susan are sisters in real life.

Best Movie Gif/Meme: “I dearly love a laugh.”

Thought this one was pretty good:

In two weeks, I’ll the 2007 version of “Mansfield Park.”

Kate’s Review: “Basketful of Heads”

50490087._sy475_Book: “Basketful of Heads” by Joe Hill and Leomacs (Ill.)

Publishing Info: DC Comics, September 2020

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: June Branch visits her boyfriend, Liam, on Brody Island for a relaxing last weekend of summer. After an escaped group of criminals breaks into the house that June and Liam are watching, Liam is taken by them. June grabs a strange Viking axe and flees from the intruders. When one of the attackers finds her, she swings the axe and takes off his head, which rolls away and begins to babble in terror. For June to uncover the truth, she’ll need to hear the facts straight from the mouths of her attackers, with…or without their bodies attached. Collects issues #1-7.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this graphic novel!

While it’s true that we aren’t getting a new Joe Hill novel this year, never fear fellow Hill lovers! He has made his triumphant return into the comics world with DC’s imprint Hill House Comics! Given how intricate and awesome “Locke and Key” is, when I heard that he was coming up with his own comic imprint I was very happy. When his premiere contribution “Basketful of Heads” became available in its full form on NetGalley I downloaded it almost immediately after I saw it. I had high hopes, and like most Hill content that comes my way, it met my expectations.

First thing is first, Hill has created some fun characters and a fun setting for this story. Brody Island feels exactly like the kind of beach town you would see in 1970s and 80s lore, with heavy nods to “Jaws” in particular (as this is one of Joe Hill’s favorite movies I wasn’t surprised; Brody Island named for the police chief in that movie, as well as a character saying someone should be hung up by their ‘buster browns’, a la the mayor). In this limited scope of a story you get a sense of the town and the people who live there, and the nostalgia factor was on point. Our protagonist June is the kind of lady character I’ve come to expect from Hill. She’s tough, she’s no nonsense, but she isn’t forced into a stereotypical ‘badass woman’ box we sometimes see when these kinds of characters are on the page. While it’s true that she’s lopping people’s heads off in hopes of saving herself and her boyfriend Liam, which is incredibly badass, she retains her personality and her core being. June also has some well done complexity, as she loves her boyfriend but has aspirations of her own through her education and focus on psychology. While others disparage her aspirations, she values them and holds true to them. I loved June. Add her to the list of excellent Hill heroines.

And then there’s the horror and mystery aspects of this story. As June takes off the heads of violent men who want to do her and Liam harm, we see a lot of gore and splatterpunk-esque violence that is very entertaining. We don’t really know what it is about the axe that June is carrying that makes people’s heads stay alive after being removed from the body, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. The bigger question is why were June and Liam targeted by their attackers. And as that mystery slowly unfolds, we get a well plotted and full of twists ride that I really enjoyed. Hill has a number of tricks up his sleeves, and I found all of them entertaining as hell. I sped through this story wanting to know how it was all going to turn out, and with every reveal I was excited to learn more. Throw in some really fun Easter egg references to Stephen King and his work (prisoners from Shawshank on the run, the location of “Derry County”) and I could barely contain the smiles on my face that kept breaking out.

On top of all that, I liked the art style quite a bit. It is splatterpunk and gory when it needs to be, but also has some moments of cartoony camp and intimate expressions on our characters faces.

basketfulofheads11
(source)

“Basketful of Heads” was a really fun story, and I couldn’t be happier now that Joe Hill is back to doing some work in comics. I will definitely be looking into his imprint more to see what other stories come out of it. Summer may be over, but if you want to cling to it a little while longer and you like this kinda thing, pick it up!

Rating 8: Super fun, super gory, super twisty, “Basketful of Heads” is a hoot and a half and a hell of a ride.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Basketful of Heads” is new and isn’t included on any Goodreads lists, but I think that it would fit in on “Best Horror Comics/ Graphic Novels”.

Find “Basketful of Heads” at your library using WorldCat, or at a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Serena’s Review: “A Dance with Fate”

36253130._sy475_Book: “A Dance with Fate” by Juliet Marillier

Publishing Info: Ace Books, September 2020

Where Did I Get this Book: Edelweiss+

Book Description: The young warrior and bard Liobhan has lost her brother to the Otherworld. Even more determined to gain a place as an elite fighter, she returns to Swan Island to continue her training. But Liobhan is devastated when her comrade Dau is injured and loses his sight in their final display bout. Blamed by Dau’s family for the accident, she agrees to go to Dau’s home as a bond servant for the span of one year.

There, she soon learns that Oakhill is a place of dark secrets. The vicious Crow Folk still threaten both worlds. And Dau, battling the demon of despair, is not an easy man to help.

When Liobhan and Dau start to expose the rot at the center of Oakhill, they place themselves in deadly danger. For their enemy wields great power and will stop at nothing to get his way. It will take all the skills of a Swan Island warrior and a touch of the uncanny to give them a hope of survival. . . .

Previously Reviewed: “The Harp of Kings”

Review: As always, I’m excited whenever I see a new Juliet Marillier book coming out. The first book in this trilogy (?), “The Harp of Kings” definitely set the stage for this second book, leaving a few threads dangling and a mysterious enemy in the form of the Crow People. While it wasn’t my favorite of Marillier’s work, I thought it was a good start to a new series and introduced a compelling set of new characters. This second one was…odd. I still enjoyed it, but not as much as I had hoped, even though, on the surface, it seemed to have most of what I look for in these types of books.

Liobhan and Dau are on the cusp of achieving that which they both have worked so hard and so long to accomplish: to become full members of the Swan Island crew. But, in an unfortunate accident while the two spar, Dau suffers a debilitating injury that costs him his sight, perhaps forever. With his family now demanding justice, Liobhan finds herself alongside Dau back where neither wish to be and a place that caused only harm and suffering to Dau during his childhood. There, they must both confront the evils at the heart of Dau’s family, and maybe some mysteries, too.

My description of the book, following the example of the published one, fails to mention that Brocc, too, is a part of this story. After his decision to marry a half-Fae queen and join her in her realm at the end of the last book, I wasn’t sure what we would see from him here on out. But low and behold, he ends up with a decent number of chapters and his own arc in this story. It’s also made clear by the end of this book that there will be more to hear from him in the third. Not sure why the publisher failed to include the fact that he is still a main character, but I suspect it’s because they realize that most readers are probably here for Liobhan and Dau. I know I was.

Brocc’s not a bad character, but it’s hard to be as compelling as two leads that each have quite a number of chapters devoted to their POVs making them both more compelling together and apart. Brocc’s own story here was…strange. It’s clear that he is still struggling to find his own role in the Fae world. And, due to the fact that he grew up in the human world, it’s also clear that he has very different views and ideas about the threat the Crow People pose to the Fae. He ends up with his own mini quest, which I found compelling enough. But I really struggled with the romance between Brocc and his wife. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to like her or not? By the end, I really didn’t like her at all, but was still unsure whether the author had been meaning for a few late reveals to materially change the negative impression that had been built up. For me, the reveal was definitely not enough to change my mind and, by its nature, kind of made me more mad to think that we might have been supposed to forgive her decisions and treatment of Brocc due to it. I don’t want to spoil it, but if you read this book, you’ll see what I mean. Maybe other readers will have a different impression. But all of this together left me really struggling to enjoy Brocc’s section of the story.

As for Dau and Liobhan, I enjoyed their story more. I think partly they are simply more compelling characters on their own, but they also had more to do in this book in particular. That said, they still didn’t seem to have enough to do. The mystery at the heart of their story is pretty obvious from the get-to, so it’s more a journey of reaching the obvious endpoint than in unraveling any real clues. Dau’s recovery and his attempts to come to grips with his new situation are interesting enough, but, again, there wasn’t any real tension here as it seemed like the conclusion of his arc was also well-telegraphed. And, again, the romance left something wanting.

This is a particularly frustrating thing to find in a Marillier book, as I’ve always thought that one of her best strengths is her ability to write compelling, swoon-worthy romances. But here, it just felt off. There really was no obvious progression of Dau and Liobhan’s feelings. Instead, we were simply told that they each began to have feelings for the other. It was incredibly disappointing  and said, especially knowing what the author is capable of. There could have been a really great romance here, but for some reason, it just felt deflated and underdeveloped from the start. There’s another book coming and some challenges still ahead of these two, so I’ll hold out hope that this ship can be righted.

I still love Marillier’s writing style and the overall tone of her take on fantasy stories. There are some good pieces in these books, but for some reason they just don’t seem to be coming together the same way several of her other stories have in the past. Obviously, I’ll still be here for the next one, but I’m a bit more nervous about it than I remember ever being in the past for one of this author’s books.

Rating 7: A surprisingly lackluster romance on two counts left this book feeling a bit limp at times.

Reader’s Advisory:

“A Dance with Fate” isn’t on any Goodreads lists yet, but it should be on “Strong Fighter Heroines.”

Find “A Dance with Fate” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “One by One”

50892433._sy475_Book: “One by One” by Ruth Ware

Publishing Info: Scott Press, September 2020

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Turn of the Key and In a Dark Dark Wood returns with another suspenseful thriller set on a snow-covered mountain.

Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?

When an off-site company retreat meant to promote mindfulness and collaboration goes utterly wrong when an avalanche hits, the corporate food chain becomes irrelevant and survival trumps togetherness. Come Monday morning, how many members short will the team be?

Review: Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

We are leaving the summer months here in Minnesota and I, for one, am actually actively dreading winter this time around. That isn’t my usual M.O., as someone who likes cold better than heat, but given that heat is the only way we can in person socialize with people right now, weather wise, this Minnesota Winter is going to be even more isolating than usual.

giphy
Yes, I’ve been a Debbie Downer during the pandemic. Look for a more cheerful Kate in 2021 (hopefully). (source)

But all that said, I do try to remind myself that it can always be worse, so at least I’m not going to be stuck in an avalanche ravaged chalet with a potential murderer on the loose, right? That brings us to “One by One”, the new mystery thriller from Ruth Ware! I have mostly enjoyed Ware’s takes on the whodunnit murder mystery, so I was eager to read her newest foray into the genre.

Like what we can usually expect from Ware, “One by One” is an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery where isolation is the name of the game, someone ends up dead, and almost everyone is a suspect because they all have motive, means, and opportunity. This time we dive into the world of Start Ups, when the team behind music app Snoop go on a mountain retreat to get some skiing in while discussing the future of the company. We have two narrative perspectives we follow. The first is of Erin, one of the employees at the Chalet whose job is to make everyone’s stay a happy one. The other is Liz, a former employee who doesn’t seem to fit in with the posh and entitled rest. Both women have their secrets, their traumas, and their parts to play. I feel like we mostly got a sense of what both women were about, though that said Erin definitely felt a little more well characterized than Liz at times. But for the most part by the time I was done with the book and the characters, I felt like both Erin and Liz played their parts well. Heck, most of the characters, even the ones that we didn’t get into the minds of, were drawn well enough that they felt believable in their actions and attitudes. Topher, the co-founder and one of the heads of Snoop, was especially intriguing to follow from out outsider perspective, as his smarm and ambition would occasionally give way to a complex person, depending on whether it was Liz or Erin that was perceiving him in that moment, and therefore shaping the reader’s perceptions of him. We got to see that for a few of the characters, actually, and it was a fun device to show that people have multiple sides to themselves.

The mystery itself was fairly standard, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I sort of figured it out before it all came together, but that didn’t make the journey any less enjoyable. I thought that the setting of a mountain retreat was a fun isolation tactic, and seeing the characters start to unravel as their situation became more dire and murdery was suspenseful, with questions as to who would be next on the chopping block always in the back of the mind. Throw in a unique and pulse pounding climax and I was kept on the edge of my seat, wondering if the characters I liked were going to be safe and the ones who were doing wrong were going to get their comeuppance. My one complaint was that the book felt a need to wrap up a number of ends after the fact, which just made for the ending to feel a little too long and drawn out long after the high tension of the climax was gone. On top of that, a few reveals were left for afterwards as well, when they probably should have been addressed earlier. I feel that had Ware put some of those solutions into other parts of the book it would have worked out a little better, as it threw off the tone as the story was wrapping up. It didn’t ruin the story as a whole, but it did give me a little bit of pause when I should have just been riding out the final pages.

“One by One” is going to be a fun mystery for the autumn and winter as we isolate in our homes and ride out our own storms. Ruth Ware is a reliable distraction during times when reliability is something we need more of.

Rating 8: Suspenseful, twist filled, and appropriately isolated, “One by One” is another fun mystery from Ruth Ware!

Reader’s Advisory:

“One by One” is included on the Goodreads lists “Can’t Wait Crime, Mystery, and Thrillers 2020”, and “Upcoming Books That Sound Cool” (seems subjective but that title just tickles me).

Find “One by One” at your library using WorldCat, or a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Highlights: September 2020

The summer heat and humidity is slowly fading away, and the days are starting to get a little shorter. It was a very strange, somewhat lost summer that we experienced here in Minnesota, though we’re trying to get some final summer-y outdoor activities in before the cold and the pandemic sends us back inside. But along with those last summer activities, we also have books that we are looking forward to this month!

Serena’s Picks

36253130._sy475_Book: “A Dance with Fate” by Juliet Marillier

Publication Date: September 1, 2020

Why I’m Interested: I really enjoyed the first book in Marillier’s new trilogy, “The Harp of Kings.” While I didn’t find the mystery itself super compelling, I was very intrigued by the new set of characters it introduced, mainly Liobhan and Dau. Judging by the book description, it seems that most of this story will be devoted to these two as well, which is fine by me. I’m curious whether we’ll see anymore of Brocc after the events of the last book, as it did seem that there were some mysteries left open-ended on his side. Either way, I’m always down for a new Marillier title, so I can’t wait to dive into this one!

45044785Book: “The Silvered Serpents” by Roshani Chokshi

Publication Date: September 22, 2020

Why I’m Interested: On the other end of the spectrum, I was not overly thrilled with the first book in Chokshi’s series, “The Guilded Wolves.” I’m definitely in the minority with this author as I’ve struggled in some way or another with all of the books by her I’ve read. But, again, the characters that were introduced were more compelling than the ones I’d found in her other stories, so I thought it was worth continuing on. Plus, the events at the end of the last book were pretty dramatic. Maybe too dramatic… *side-eyes this book for unnecessary angst potential*

50548197._sy475_Book: “A Deadly Education” by Naomi Novik

Publication Date: September 29, 2020

Why I’m Interested: I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Naomi Novik. Unequivocally. Completely. Utterly. So I was over the moon when I spotted this book on Edelweiss and instantly put out a request for it. The book description is somewhat vague…something about a dangerous, magical school and a main character who has some type of destructive abilities and a talent for not making friends? It’s also been hyped as a darker “Harry Potter,” which, could either be totally awesome or…worrying. But Novik hasn’t lead me wrong so far, so I’m going to place my bets on totally awesome. Can’t wait to find out!

Kate’s Picks

49127515Book: “Don’t Look For Me” by Wendy Walker

Publication Date: September 15, 2020

Why I’m Interested: I greatly enjoyed Wendy Walker’s previous novel “The Night Before”, and because of that I was very interested to see what she would come up with next. A missing woman, a daughter who is on the case, and the possibility that the wife and mother just walked away from her life due to guilt? I’m in! There isn’t much in terms of plot description, which no doubt means that Walker wants to keep things close to the vest as she has twists and turns in store. Regardless, Molly Clarke is a wife and mother who stopped in a small down on the way home, and never returned. While a note was found saying that she was running away from her guilt, her daughter isn’t so sure. And when a tip comes through that places her mother getting into a stranger’s car, she goes to investigate. Walker has delivered some intriguing thrills before, so “Don’t Look For Me” has some promise to do so again.

49246963Book: “Night of the Mannequins” by Stephen Graham Jones

Publication Date: September 1, 2020

Why I’m Interested: Given that I slept on this creepy and talented horror author Stephen Graham Jones until the book “The Only Good Indians”, I feel like I have some catching up to do. So I am excited to dive into a new horror novella that involves a potentially killer mannequin! Who doesn’t like the idea of a haunted doll story, especially ones that promise to have some tweaks upon the subgenre? Sawyer and his friends love playing practical jokes, and decide to pull one on their friend Shana, involving the use of an old mannequin named Manny they found when they were younger. But Sawyer soon realizes that Manny isn’t any old mannequin, and begins to believe that Manny wants them all dead once one of his friends is killed in a strange way. It’s up to Sawyer to save the people around him… But at what cost? This sounds like it will be a quick horror read just in time for the Halloween season!

49397758Book: “Grown” by Tiffany D. Jackson

Publication Date: September 15, 2020

Why I’m Interested: Given that Tiffany D. Jackson is one of my favorite YA authors writing right now, I of course was supremely excited to hear that she had a new book coming out. And “Grown” sounds like it’s going to be a dark and difficult thriller that talks about some very relevant social issues regarding race, sexual assault, gender, and misogynoir. Enchanted is a teenager who has dreams of becoming a singer, and at an audition she meets the famous R and B star Korey Fields. Korey tells her that she has supreme talent, and that he wants to make her a star. Enchanted jumps at the chance, and when he starts to romance the underage girl she believes that they are falling in love… until Korey’s abusive and controlling side comes out, and he starts to control her every move. There are clear real life inspirations here, and while it’s almost assuredly going to be a hard read, I know that Jackson is going to bring lots of illumination to these difficult subjects.

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!