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Review: Mr. & Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel

Mr. & Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel (August 7, 2108 / Inkshares)

(I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation)

Goodreads Summary:

The year is 1969. Dick Nixon was just sworn in as the thirty-seventh President of the United States. Neil Armstrong just took one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind. And notable Palm Springs socialite Maxine Simmons just found out that her husband is leaving her for his twenty-two-year-old secretary. After a public meltdown at Thanksgiving, Maxine finds herself not only divorced, but exiled to Scottsdale, Arizona. However, these desert boondocks will not be her end―only her Elba. The former beauty queen sets her eyes on a new crown: that of the Mrs. American Pie pageant, awarded to the nation’s best wife and mother. Maxine only has one problem: to win the crown she’ll need to find―or build―a family of her own.

My Review:
Consider this a public service announcement from your bookish BFF...READ THIS BOOK ASAP! This is the funniest book I think I have ever read. I mean, I was laughing until I cried. I was cracking up so much that I was cracking my husband up. I would be quietly reading in the other room and then just start let out a yelp or squeal or whatever noise you make when think "oh this is hilarious!" Then he would laugh at how much I was laughing! I usually DON'T want the books I like to be made into movies (because they are NEVER as good) but I really hope this one comes to the big or small screen. Oh, it is just too perfect. I've been pushing to everyone on my Bookstagram and I'm immediately mailing my copy off to my mom. 

I would say it is a mash-up of The Great Outdoors and Miss Congeniality, but even that funny description doesn't do it justice.  

Review: Before She Sleeps by Bina Shah

Before She Sleeps by Bina Shah (August 7, 2018 / Delphinum)

(Disclaimer: I received a copy of this release from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation.)

Goodreads Summary:
In modern, beautiful Green City, the capital of South West Asia, gender selection, war and disease have brought the ratio of men to women to alarmingly low levels. The government uses terror and technology to control its people, and women must take multiple husbands to have children as quickly as possible.

Yet there are women who resist, women who live in an underground collective and refuse to be part of the system. Secretly protected by the highest echelons of power, they emerge only at night, to provide to the rich and elite of Green City a type of commodity that nobody can buy: intimacy without sex. As it turns out, not even the most influential men can shield them from discovery and the dangers of ruthless punishment.

This dystopian novel from one of Pakistan’s most talented writers is a modern-day parable, The Handmaid’s Tale about women’s lives in repressive Muslim countries everywhere. It takes the patriarchal practices of female seclusion and veiling, gender selection, and control over women’s bodies, amplifies and distorts them in a truly terrifying way to imagine a world of post-religious authoritarianism.

My Review: 
In the dystopian world of Green City, (not too far in concept from the Gilead of The Handmaid's Tale) women must take multiple husbands in order to replenish the lost population of women who were wiped out by The Virus. One would think the sheltered women of an underground resistance group would be sneaking around at night to provide sexual comfort, but the powerful men of Green City seek the comfort and care provided by women. They want someone to sit in a room with them or to watch over them as they sleep.  

I like that this feminist dystopian novel was written by a Pakistani woman and that it is set in South West Asia. I currently can't think of a non-Western feminist dystopia and find that this novel adds to the genre in unique ways (such as technology and medicine). I would recommend it to readers who loved The Handmaid's Tale but there are also tones of Vox (technology) and Memoirs of a Geisha (cloistered, communal living and providing attentive service to male clientele).

Review: Squeezed (Why Our Families Can't Afford America) by Alissa Quart

(Disclaimer: I was provided a free advanced copy of this release from the publisher)

Pork chops, green beans, sweet potatoes, and applesauce. Possibly a "typical" middle-class American meal. But what does it mean to be "middle class"? News reports ring alarm bells to tell us that the middle class is disappearing. But what does that mean?

Rating this one was difficult because the importance of the topic made me want to give it a higher starred rating, but the author's passive journalistic style frustrated me. While the last chapter offers a few suggestions for pushing back against "the squeeze", I wish she would have provided more ideas (hers, others, radical, or small) throughout the book for different situations. Anyone in the middle class already knows about most of the struggles referenced in the book but I imagine that readers want ideas and answers in addition to the dozens of depressing stories that are so much like their own lives.

Review: Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive by Kristen J. Sollee

Goodreads Summary:
Witch, Slut, Feminist: these contested identities are informing millennial women as they counter a tortuous history of misogyny with empowerment. This innovative primer highlights sexual liberation as it traces the lineage of “witch feminism.” Juxtaposing scholarly research on the demonization of women and female sexuality that has continued since the witch hunts of the early modern era with pop occulture analyses and interviews with activists, artists, scholars, and practitioners of witchcraft, this book enriches our contemporary conversations about reproductive rights, sexual pleasure, queer identity, pornography, sex work, and more.

My Review:
This compilation of 22 chapters touches on medieval witchcraft, Salem, midwives, voice/language, sex tools, porn, fashion, music, capitalism, film, reproductive rights, and several other controversial topics. Written in a very accessible (and often tongue in cheek) sort of way, this slim book is a primer of sorts--an introduction into the parallels between the sex positive icons/tropes of witches, sluts, and feminists. It also provides an extensive collection of works cited to further one's reading, which I will definitely be referencing.

Review: Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

[Disclaimer: I received my free copy of BABY TEETH by @zoje.stage_author (July 17, 2018 @stmartinspress) at Book Expo].

Can a 7 year old be a psychopath?

Goodreads Summary:
Sweetness can be deceptive.
Meet Hanna.
She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.
Meet Suzette.
She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette's husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

My Review:
Hang on to your hats, people! You're either going to love this one or hate it--there's not going to be an in between. After growing up with an inattentive mother, Suzette gives her daughter Hanna what most parents strive to give: the best home; the right amount of discipline; access to arts, crafts, parks, etc. But Hanna refuses to speak--to anyone. After eliminating the possibility of medical conditions leading to her mutism, Hanna's parents attempt to enroll her in multiple schools but her behavior leads to devastating consequences. As Suzette's desperation for some time away from her demanding daughter builds and Hanna's determination to remove her mother from her life (she keeps trying to kill her!) increases, Hanna's parents are forced to make some life-altering decisions.

This book really digs into some ugly cracks about parenting and unconditional love. It belongs right beside WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN and THE DINNER.

Review: The King's Witch by Tracy Borman

The King's Witch by Tracy Borman (July 3, 2018 / Atlantic Monthly Press)

**Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation**

Goodreads Summary:
In March of 1603, as she helps to nurse the dying Queen Elizabeth of England, Frances Gorges dreams of her parents’ country estate, where she has learned to use flowers and herbs to become a much-loved healer. She is happy to stay at home when King James of Scotland succeeds to the throne. His court may be shockingly decadent, but his intolerant Puritanism sees witchcraft in many of the old customs—punishable by death...
But when her ambitious uncle forcibly brings Frances to the royal palace, she is a ready target for the twisted scheming of the Privy Seal, Lord Cecil. As a dark campaign to destroy both King and Parliament gathers pace, culminating in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, Frances is surrounded by danger, finding happiness only with the King’s precocious young daughter, and with Tom Wintour, the one courtier she feels she can trust. But is he all that he seems?

My Review:
I loved escaping to the castles and kingdoms of this historical novel. I was drawn in to the story by Frances' use of herbs to assist those in need. I did wish there was more of that content as the story progressed, but the 2nd half of the book is much more focused on the plot to assassinate the King and all the court players. However, this is the first book in a trilogy and I am hoping the second and third books will focus more on Frances' talents (I mean the trilogy is name after her!).

I am still not receiving notifications about the comments from my posts so be sure to jump over to Goodreads or Instagram (@writerrhiannon) if you want to chat about this or any other book. Otherwise, I'll respond the next time I check my blog (which isn't everyday). 

Review: The Banker's Wife by Cristina Alger

The Banker's Wife by Cristina Alger (July 3, 2018 / G.P. Putnam's Sons)

***Disclaimer: I received a copy of this release from Get Red PR in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation.***

Goodreads Summary:
On an early morning in November, a couple boards a private plane bound for Geneva, flying into a storm. Soon after, it simply drops off the radar, and its wreckage is later uncovered in the Alps. Among the disappeared is Matthew Lerner, a banking insider at Swiss United, a powerful offshore bank. His young widow, Annabel, is left grappling with the secrets he left behind, including an encrypted laptop and a shady client list. As she begins a desperate search for answers, she determines that Matthew's death was no accident, and that she is now in the crosshairs of his powerful enemies.

Meanwhile, ambitious society journalist Marina Tourneau has finally landed at the top. Now that she's engaged to Grant Ellis, she will stop writing about powerful families and finally be a part of one. Her entry into the upper echelons of New York's social scene is more appealing than any article could ever be, but, after the death of her mentor, she agrees to dig into one more story. While looking into Swiss United, Marina uncovers information that implicates some of the most powerful men in the financial world, including some who are too close to home. The story could also be the answer to Annabel's heartbreaking search—if Marina chooses to publish it.

My Review:
FINALLY!!! A smart thriller with smart female characters! I have been let down with thrillers and mysteries for so long that I had almost given up hope. Then Cristina Alger introduced me to Marina and Annabel (and lots of other really, really great characters). I thought a book about finance would be boring, but this was absolutely the opposite. Alger does a wonderful job of explaining complex financial and technical concepts in a way that is easy to understand but not so weak and watered down that you don't actually learn something. The chapters alternate between Marina and Annabel and are quick reads at only a few pages each. I'm hearing lots of great reviews from my fellow bookstagrammers and I hope this book gets pushed to the top of all the lists so we can have more reads like this in the future! 

Review: The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan Crandall

The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan Crandall  (June 19, 2018 / Gallery) 

**Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation**

Goodreads Summary: 
Tallulah James’s parents’ volatile relationship, erratic behavior, and hands-off approach to child rearing set tongues to wagging in their staid Mississippi town, complicating her already uncertain life. She takes the responsibility of shielding her family’s reputation and raising her younger twin siblings onto her youthful shoulders.

If not for the emotional constants of her older brother, Griff, and her old guard Southern grandmother, she would be lost. When betrayal and death arrive hand in hand, she takes to the road, headed to what turns out to be the not-so-promised land of Southern California. The dysfunction of her childhood still echoes throughout her scattered family, sending her brother on a disastrous path and drawing her home again. There she uncovers the secrets and lies that set her family on the road to destruction.

My Review:
I had my doubts about 20% in on this one and almost quit. The writing is thick with Southern expressions and they almost got to be too much. I also couldn't figure out where THE storyline was in the jumble of storylines. But, in the end, I'm glad I stuck with it! This family's dysfunction is not easy to figure out at first. As a reader I was trying to find "the problem" but there are several. Dad Drayton is a college professor with undiagnosed bipolar disorder and Mom Margo is consumed with the social upheavals of the time. She is constantly attending meetings and protests while being generally absent from parenting--leaving her four children in the care of her mother-in-law. Daughter Tallulah resents having to care for her younger twin siblings, Dharma and Walden, while her older brother Griff has more freedoms. The story opens with adult Tallulah learning that Walden has been arrested and her emotional return to Mississippi after years away. As she confronts her grandmother and demands answers for long buried secrets and decisions, the family's story is teased out. There is not a single incident that led to the scattering of this family, but a compilation of serious problems that sent everyone spinning into their own orbits. I would recommend this to anyone who liked The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood and Fried Green Tomatoes, just as both of those are thought of as "Southern chick lit", anyone who has read them (or seen the movies) knows they deal with large and heavy issues in both terrible and touching ways. 

**FYI: Blogger is currently not notifying me of comments so be sure to jump over to my Instagram @writerrhiannon (where I'm most active) if you want to chat about this or any other books! ***