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Review:: Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land

Maid:Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land (releases 1/29/19 from Hachette
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book at Book Expo

Goodreads Summary:
Evicted meets Nickel and Dimed in Stephanie Land's memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America. Includes a foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich.

"My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter."
While the gap between upper middle-class Americans and the working poor widens, grueling low-wage domestic and service work--primarily done by women--fuels the economic success of the wealthy. Stephanie Land worked for years as a maid, pulling long hours while struggling as a single mom to keep a roof over her daughter's head. In Maid, she reveals the dark truth of what it takes to survive and thrive in today's inequitable society.
While she worked hard to scratch her way out of poverty as a single parent, scrubbing the toilets of the wealthy, navigating domestic labor jobs, higher education, assisted housing, and a tangled web of government assistance, Stephanie wrote. She wrote the true stories that weren't being told. The stories of overworked and underpaid Americans.
Written in honest, heart-rending prose and with great insight, Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it's like to be in service to them. "I'd become a nameless ghost," Stephanie writes. With this book, she gives voice to the "servant" worker, those who fight daily to scramble and scrape by for their own lives and the lives of their children.

My Review:
I'm not sure if I agree with the comparison to Evicted and Nickel and Dimed, but I do agree that this book would be in the same genre as those two. Author Stephanie Land bravely laid herself bare on the page and didn't ask for an once of pity. Reading this book was very hard for me but I was so thankful to read about someone else who had some of my same experiences. For a short time as a young single mother I was also on various forms of public assistance and over 20 years later I still carry the emotional scars. I know all about being sneered at and openly criticized in the grocery store for using WIC vouchers and food stamps. I know all about juggling a variety of appointments to verify income, track weight gains, and be asked the most intimate and private of questions about my daily routines and sex life. These appointments consumed hours and hours of waiting time. I brought my daughter to each appointment because just like this author--it was only me. I did not have family support and my daughter's father thought he deserved an award for performing the bare minimum required of him (every other weekend visits and state mandated child support, which was sporadic and minimal due to his unreported cash payments "under the table".) I worked retail with a close eye on how many hours I could work without losing my assistance. I scrambled to find child care. I slaughtered pigs. I built refrigerators. I worked as hard as I possibly could and it was still never enough. Even when I worked my way up to a full-time factory position at $13/hr in 1997 which equated to roughly $400/week after taxes. After I paid for daycare ($250/wk for second shift care) and rent ($270/month for a single-wide trailer) I was left with just over $300 to cover food, diapers, clothing, utilities, car insurance, gas, and any other unexpected expenses for the entire month. It doesn't take a mathematician to see that those numbers won't work in the long term.  

I hope that anyone who reads this book will at least have some compassion for the "invisible" working poor by seeing how Land's daily struggles are representative of millions of workers who barely dare to dream of "getting ahead" because they are too busy struggling to make it through every day. A personally heart wrenching read that I hope everyone takes the time to experience.  

Review: Golden Child by Claire Adam

Golden Child by Claire Adam (releasing 1/29/19 from SJP for Hogarth)Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation. 

Goodreads Summary:
A deeply affecting debut novel set in Trinidad, following the lives of a family as they navigate impossible choices about scarcity, loyalty, and love
Rural Trinidad: a brick house on stilts surrounded by bush; a family, quietly surviving, just trying to live a decent life. Clyde, the father, works long, exhausting shifts at the petroleum plant in southern Trinidad; Joy, his wife, looks after the home. Their two sons, thirteen years old, wake early every morning to travel to the capital, Port of Spain, for school. They are twins but nothing alike: Paul has always been considered odd, while Peter is widely believed to be a genius, destined for greatness.
When Paul goes walking in the bush one afternoon and doesn't come home, Clyde is forced to go looking for him, this child who has caused him endless trouble already, and who he has never really understood. And as the hours turn to days, and Clyde begins to understand Paul's fate, his world shatters--leaving him faced with a decision no parent should ever have to make.
Like the Trinidadian landscape itself, Golden Child is both beautiful and unsettling; a resoundingly human story of aspiration, betrayal, and love.

My Review:
As Sarah Jessica Parker's second title for Hogarth, I wasn't sure what to expect from her selections yet. A Place for Us was an unexpected jewel for me (read my review for it HERE). I loved experiencing the push/pull of a family that may be different from mine in wide sweeping characterizations (Indian-American, Muslim) but is also the same as mine--and most families--in that we are constantly trying to form our individual identities while also trying to figure out who we are in relation to other family members.

Golden Child opened my mind to what life may have been like for many Trinidadians in the 1980s in regards to corruption and the constant threat from drug lords. The story also educated me on a culture in one of my favorite ways--through food. There are dozens and dozens of references to favorite dishes, preparation styles, storage, and the transport of food that give readers a more detailed view into the characters' daily lives. I learned a lot about the landscape and culture of Trinidad through this story but I was absolutely gutted with the ending. I'm not going to give details because I don't want to spoil it for anyone but I needed some time to recover after this one. I couldn't decide if I loved it, hated it, or something else entirely. After much thought, I've decided to categorize it as "something else entirely" (just one of the reasons why I find the star rating system so difficult.) This book made me grow as a person and a reader and it is one of those books I am so glad to have read, but it also challenged my thoughts about what I "like" about a book. Previously, I found myself liking a book if it was all tied up at the end in a nice little package that I could describe to another reader in a few sentences. Now, I think I'm looking for more. I want to experience a book that pushes my reading boundaries, sails into uncharted territory, and ignores the comfortable formulas of contemporary releases--all of which I found in Golden Child. 

I can already predict a lot of divided opinions on this book, just as there were on A Place for Us. This may only be the second book in the SJP for Hogarth imprint but I also predict that her future selections will likely continue to include unsettling storylines, traditionally "unlikeable" or "difficult" characters, and complicated relationships.  

I don't think that everyone will like this book, but I would recommend it someone looking to diversify their reading material or to someone interested in complex family dynamics and relationships. 

Review: Faking It: The Lies Women Tell About Sex...and the Truths They Reveal by Lux Alptraum

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

Back Cover:
From Out of the Binders co-founder Lux Alptraum, a controversial look at women, sex, and lying--why myths about women's deceit persist, how they came to be, and ultimately why we must trust women. When we talk about sex, we talk about women as mysterious, deceptive, and - above all - untrustworthy. Women lie about orgasms. Women lie about being virgins. Women lie about who got them pregnant, about whether they were raped, about how many people they've had sex with and what sort of experiences they've had - the list goes on and on. Over and over we're reminded that, on dates, in relationships, and especially in the bedroom, women just aren't telling the truth. But where does this assumption come from? Are women actually lying about sex, or does society just think we are? In Faking It, Lux Alptraum tackles the topic of seemingly dishonest women; investigating whether women actually lie, and what social situations might encourage deceptions both great and small. Through it all, Alptraum argues that the best strategy for handling female deception is the most counterintuitive one of all: belief.

My Review:
Divided into chapters such as: I Just Came, Everybody's Doing It, I'm a Virgin, I Woke Up Like This, I Have a Boyfriend, I've Never Done This Before, and I'm on the Pill, Lux Alptraum expands on an essay she wrote for Fusion (now Splinter News) about female dishonesty. Alptraum unravels some complicated knots and offers explanations that are backed up with dozens of footnotes and references. This book is full of interesting analyses on the constant double standards. Sadly, most women readers won't learn anything new, but maybe the sexy, eye-catching cover will grab the attention of some men causing them to pick it up, read it, and become better informed. 

Spotlight: Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher

Publication Announcement from University of Georgia Press: New York Times best-selling writer Pat Conroy (1945-2016) inspired a worldwide legion of devoted fans numbering in the millions, but none are more loyal to him and more committed to sustaining his literary legacy than the many writers he nurtured over the course of his fifty-year writing life. In sharing their stories of Conroy, his fellow writers honor his memory and advance our shared understanding of his lasting impact on twentieth- and twenty-first-century literary life in and well beyond the American South.

Conroy's was a messy fellowship of people from all walks of life. His relationships were complicated, and people and places he thought he'd left behind often circled back to him at crucial moments. The pantheon of contributors includes Pulitzer Prize winners Rick Bragg and Kathleen Parker; Grammy winners Barbra Streisand and Janis Ian; Lillian Smith Award winners Anthony Grooms and Mary Hood; National Book Award winner Nikky Finney; James Beard Foundation Award winners Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart; a corps of New York Times best-selling authors, including Ron Rash, Sandra Brown, and Mary Alice Monroe; Conroy biographers Katherine Clark and Catherine Seltzer; longtime Conroy friends Bernie Schein, Cliff Graubart, John Warley, and Walter Edgar; Pat's students Sallie Ann Robinson and Valerie Sayers; members of the Conroy family; and many more.

Each author in this collection shares a slightly different view of Conroy. Through their voices, a vibrant, multifaceted portrait of him comes to life and sheds new light on the writer and the man. Loosely following Conroy's own chronology, the essays in Our Prince of Scribes wind through his river of a story, stopping at important ports of call. Cities he called home and longed to visit, along with each book he birthed, become characters that are as equally important as the people he touched and loved along the way.

Review:: Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward by Gemma Hartley

Goodreads Summary:From Gemma Hartley, the journalist who ignited a national conversation on emotional labor, comes Fed Up, a bold dive into the unpaid, invisible work women have shouldered for too long—and an impassioned vision for creating a better future for us all.
Day in, day out, women anticipate and manage the needs of others. In relationships, we initiate the hard conversations. At home, we shoulder the mental load required to keep our households running. At work, we moderate our tone, explaining patiently and speaking softly. In the world, we step gingerly to keep ourselves safe. We do this largely invisible, draining work whether we want to or not—and we never clock out. No wonder women everywhere are overtaxed, exhausted, and simply fed up.

In her ultra-viral article “Women Aren’t Nags—We’re Just Fed Up,” shared by millions of readers, Gemma Hartley gave much-needed voice to the frustration and anger experienced by countless women. Now, in Fed Up, Hartley expands outward from the everyday frustrations of performing thankless emotional labor to illuminate how the expectation to do this work in all arenas—private and public—fuels gender inequality, limits our opportunities, steals our time, and adversely affects the quality of our lives.

More than just name the problem, though, Hartley teases apart the cultural messaging that has led us here and asks how we can shift the load. Rejecting easy solutions that don’t ultimately move the needle, Hartley offers a nuanced, insightful guide to striking real balance, for true partnership in every aspect of our lives. Reframing emotional labor not as a problem to be overcome, but as a genderless virtue men and women can all learn to channel in our quest to make a better, more egalitarian world, Fed Up is surprising, intelligent, and empathetic essential reading for every woman who has had enough with feeling fed up.

My Review:
I remember talking to girlfriends when "The Break-Up" with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn came out. We were discussing the scene where Aniston asks her man-child boyfriend Vaughn to help her do the dishes after they have hosted a dinner party (that she cooked and decorated for--but hey he got her 3 lemons!) When Aniston says that she wants him to want to do the dishes and he just can't wrap his mind around that concept, my mind was blown. I thought "YESSSS! This is where the disconnect is!" It's not that a partner won't help when asked but why should they have to be asked? Why are they not aware of the steps that come before an end result? For clothes to appear in a drawer cleaned, for food to appear on a table, for a dinner party to happen, there are massive amounts of tasks which need to be performed.

When I first learned there were terms to define what I couldn't quite put my finger on about relationships, parenting, and domestic equality, I was in two college classes titled "Gender and Work" and "The Commodification of Care." This is where I first learned the terms "second shift," "invisible labor," and "emotional labor". I was a 31-year-old mother and step-mother working a 40+ hour/week retail job and taking a full college course load. Crippling mental to-do lists and endless tasks were part of my daily life and it is not a stretch to say I did everything that related to domestic tasks and parenting in my home on top of being a student and worker. I remember specifically making a list of all the household/family tasks I did on a daily basis to show my husband and asked him to please take something off the list. He chose to pick up his own dry cleaning. Not a huge sacrifice on his part but I'd take it. It was a start. Then I would have to remind him to pick it up. I was still "in charge" of this task because I was the one who was having to remember when it needed done. Like a million other tiny tasks I decided to simply do the damn errand myself. If I asked my husband to do something, he had no problem doing it, but that's exactly the point. Why am I, and millions of (mostly) women, tasked with all of the invisible and emotional labor in a relationship and often in the workforce as well?

In Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward, Gemma Hartley expands on her ultra-viral article "Women Aren't Nags--We're Just Fed Up" in Harper's Bazaar. (Read the article HERE) I was once again saying "YESSSS" because I felt like she was able to dive down to the root of the problem with her example of requesting a house cleaning service for Mother's Day. While she definitely wanted the results of a clean house, what she really wanted was for her husband to make the calls, do the comparisons, set up the appointments--all the invisible tasks the lead to the end result.

Betty Friedan brought attention to "the problem with no name" in The Feminine Mystique, but she fell short by not including several demographics, most importantly low-income women and women of color. Hartley does not make this same mistake with her research. She includes a variety of women and men of all income levels, backgrounds, and races. She offers a few examples of the division of emotional labor in non-heterosexual couples and lots of her own personal examples from her marriage. I found a few of the sections a bit repetitive but I think that may have been necessary for a lot of readers who may be coming to the book with no prior knowledge of the concepts discussed. As for recommendations, I started recommending this to everyone I know as soon as I read the first chapter. Married women immediately order it when I tell them what it's about, I tell younger single women to definitely read it to prepare themselves and learn how to explain the concept to their partners (an act of emotional labor in and of itself), I recommend it to men but so far I have yet to hear that any of them have done so.

Review: The Comfort Food Diaries by Emily Nunn

Goodreads Summary:
In the tradition of Elizabeth Gilbert and Ruth Reichl, former New Yorker editor Emily Nunn chronicles her journey to heal old wounds and find comfort in the face of loss through travel, home-cooked food, and the company of friends and family.
One life-changing night, still reeling from her beloved brother's sudden death a few weeks earlier, Emily Nunn was dumped by her handsome architect fiance and evicted from the apartment they shared, losing in the same moment all sense of family, home, and financial security. After a few glasses of wine, heartbroken and lost, Emily, an avid cook and professional food writer, poured her heart out on Facebook. The next morning she woke up with a terrible hangover and a feeling she'd made a terrible mistake, only to discover she had more friends than she knew, many of whom invited her to come visit and cook with them while she put her life back together. Thus began the Comfort Food Tour.Searching for a way forward, Emily travels the country, cooking and staying with relatives and friends, among them renowned chefs Mark Bittman and Ina Garten. She also travels back to revisit scenes from her dysfunctional Southern upbringing, dominated by her dramatic, unpredictable mother and her silent, disengaged father. Her wonderfully idiosyncratic aunts and uncles and cousins come to life in these pages, all part of the rich Southern story in which past and present are indistinguishable, food is a source of connection and identity, and a good story is often preferred to a not-so-pleasant truth. But truth, pleasant or not, is what Emily Nunn craves, and with it comes an acceptance of the losses she has endured, and a sense of hope for the future.In the salty snap of a single Virginia ham biscuit, in the sour tang of Grandmother's Lemon Cake, Nunn experiences the healing power of comfort food, and offers up dozens of recipes for the wonderful meals that saved her life. With the biting humor of David Sedaris and the emotional honesty of Cheryl Strayed, Nunn delivers a moving account of her descent into darkness and her gradual, hard-won return to the living.

My Review:
I was initially interested in this title because I love hearing what is considered comfort food to different people. It's such a wonderful conversation and it always strikes such nostalgia. At the beginning of the book I found myself unable to feel too sorry for the author Emily Nunn when I thought she was simply boo hoo-ing over a break-up, but as she continues to peel back the layers, I realized she was taking a very introspective look at her entire life. When she shared stories of her narcissistic and distant mother, her brother's struggles with his sexuality, or her addiction to alcohol I found that I, like all of the friends and family who reached out to her, wanted to comfort her. As she goes on what she dubs her Comfort Food Tour, she learns which foods someone finds comforting and why. Nunn also points out that different foods bring comfort at different points in our lives. Looking back I would say that my grandma's chicken and noodles or goulash (both served over homemade mashed potatoes) brought me the most comfort. The dishes were delicious but I am also transported back to her happy, little, yellow kitchen. So many dishes bring me comfort now that I'm not sure I could narrow down my selections. What about you? What are your comfort foods? 

Review: My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul

My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul

Goodreads Summary:
Imagine keeping a record of every book you’ve ever read. What would this reading trajectory say about you? With passion, humor, and insight, the editor of The New York Times Book Review shares the stories that have shaped her life.
Pamela Paul has kept a single book by her side for twenty-eight years – carried throughout high school and college, hauled from Paris to London to Thailand, from job to job, safely packed away and then carefully removed from apartment to house to its current perch on a shelf over her desk – reliable if frayed, anonymous-looking yet deeply personal. This book has a name: Bob.
Bob is Paul’s Book of Books, a journal that records every book she’s ever read, from Sweet Valley High to Anna Karenina, from Catch-22 to Swimming to Cambodia, a journey in reading that reflects her inner life – her fantasies and hopes, her mistakes and missteps, her dreams and her ideas, both half-baked and wholehearted. Her life, in turn, influences the books she chooses, whether for solace or escape, information or sheer entertainment.
But My Life with Bob isn’t really about those books. It’s about the deep and powerful relationship between book and reader. It’s about the way books provide each of us the perspective, courage, companionship, and imperfect self-knowledge to forge our own path. It’s about why we read what we read and how those choices make us who we are. It’s about how we make our own stories.

My Review:
When I first heard about My Life with Bob I thought that it sounded interesting because I love having an insight into anyone's reading history (hello, Goodreads) and I thought a New York Times Book Review editor would have an especially interesting list of read books. Part personal memoir and part love letter to books and the act of reading, Pamela Paul's experiences were both relatable to me ("It is a teenager's lot to feel simultaneously innocent and guilty, accountable to grown-up society but not allowed in, bristling with potential yet largely powerless.") and not relatable (her numerous privileged travel experiences). I would love the concept of this book to be repeated by other editors, readers, and book lovers. Wouldn't you love to read about all the books that your favorite author or celebrity read throughout their life, which books affected them the most and why? 

On My Radar: February 2019 Releases

Here are 7 February 2019 releases I have my eye on. Click on each title to check them out on Goodreads. 

  1. Notes from a Black Woman's Diary: Selected Works of Kathleen Collins  by Kathleen Collins (February 5 / Ecco)
  2. Divided Loyalties  by Nilofar Shidmehr (February 5 / Astoria)
  3. The Peacock Feast by Lisa Gornick (February 5 / Sarah Crichton Books)
  4. "Muslim": A Novel  by Zahia Rahmani (February 12 / Deep Vellum Publishing)
  5. The Heavens by Sandra Newman (February 12 / Grove Press)
  6. The Writer's Gift or the Patron's Pleasure?: The Literary Economy in Late Medieval France by Deborah McGrady (February 24 / University of Toronto Press)
  7. Vacuum in the Dark by Jen Beagin (February 26 / Scribner)

Are you looking forward to reading any of these? What other February releases are you excited about? 

A World Without Whom: The Essential Guide to Language in the Buzzfeed Age by Emmy J. Favilla

Goodreads Summary:
A World Without "Whom" is Eats, Shoots & Leaves for the internet age, and BuzzFeed global copy chief Emmy Favilla is the witty go-to style guru of webspeak.

As language evolves faster than ever before, what is the future of "correct" writing? When Favilla was tasked with creating a style guide for BuzzFeed, she opted for spelling, grammar, and punctuation guidelines that would reflect not only the site's lighthearted tone but also how readers actually use language IRL.
With wry cleverness and an uncanny intuition for the possibilities of internet-age expression, Favilla makes a case for breaking the rules laid out by Strunk and White: A world without "whom," she argues, is a world with more room for writing that's clear, timely, pleasurable, and politically aware. Featuring priceless emoji strings, sidebars, quizzes, and style debates among the most lovable word nerds in the digital media world--of which Favilla is queen--A World Without "Whom" is essential for readers and writers of virtually everything: news articles, blog posts, tweets, texts, emails, and whatever comes next--so basically everyone.

My Review:
I recently read and reviewed Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen (read my review HERE) and enjoyed all the word nerd stories the author had to offer about her time at The New Yorker. Between You & Me offers a bit more of a polished and classic look at language and the written word, with just a tiny whisper of "break the rules sometimes". A World Without Whom is an all out exposure of every aspect of our modern English language and its use. From memes to digital punctuation to gender/race/sexuality identification systems, this book gives readers real insight into the constantly evolving state of our language from the point of view of Buzzfeed copy editors. Now, before you roll your eyes over Buzzfeed, keep in mind that they are not just the people who bring you the "What kind of pizza am I?" quizzes; they also deliver breaking news and gear their media toward a particular demographic: millennials. Again, before you roll your eyes, keep in mind that millennials (just as every generational group before them) are changing our language by communicating across a wide variety of digital platforms...and yes I realize how old I sound by making that totally obvious statement.

As a copywriter and editor I loved the detailed analysis for how the Buzzfeed copy team came to some of their conclusions. While they are always logical, their silly reactions and communications make this book almost totally opposite of Between You & Me. Seriously, do yourself a favor and at least pick up A World Without Whom and simply flip through it. Regardless of which random section you flip to you will find some new nugget of information and most likely a laugh or two. While I grabbed this from the library, I will be buying a copy because I definitely believe I will be referencing it in the future. I also hope that just as style guides are constantly updated, that this collection continues to be updated on a regular basis. 

Review: The Book of Etta by Meg Elison

The Book of Etta (2/21/17 from 47North)

Goodreads Summary: 
In the gripping sequel to the Philip K. Dick Award-winning novel The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, one woman undertakes a desperate journey to rescue the future.

Etta comes from Nowhere, a village of survivors of the great plague that wiped away the world that was. In the world that is, women are scarce and childbearing is dangerous…yet desperately necessary for humankind’s future. Mothers and midwives are sacred, but Etta has a different calling. As a scavenger. Loyal to the village but living on her own terms, Etta roams the desolate territory beyond: salvaging useful relics of the ruined past and braving the threat of brutal slave traders, who are seeking women and girls to sell and subjugate.

When slavers seize those she loves, Etta vows to release and avenge them. But her mission will lead her to the stronghold of the Lion—a tyrant who dominates the innocent with terror and violence. There, with no allies and few weapons besides her wits and will, she will risk both body and spirit not only to save lives but also to liberate a new world’s destiny.

My Review:
I loved The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (read my review here) and was excited to read the next book in the The Road to Nowhere series. The "books" that are referenced in the titles are journals kept by women after a plague wipes out 99% of the female population. Etta's book begins about 140 years after this plague and includes her stories of the cities she visits on her "raids". What she is really doing when she leaves her city is dressing as a man to partake in trade, like the unnamed midwife of the first novel. Etta is not only doing this for her own protection but also because she identifies as "Eddie". As the second book in the series, The Book of Etta expands on themes of societal constructions, slavery, reproduction, identity, and sexuality. Traveling between newly established communities, Eddie learns of places where women keep multiple male lovers, places where men plunder villages if they aren't given sex slaves, and places creating their own new religions. Foremost in almost everyones' minds and in each community is some sort of newly constructed breeding practice. Marginalized people who are not included in these practices are often not trusted by the communities and different practices between communities are rarely accepted or understood. This book made me stop and think about so many aspects of gender, sexuality, power, and society. A wonderful work of LGBTQIA+ speculative fiction. 

Review: Eternal Life by Dara Horn

Eternal Life by Dara Horn (1/23/18 from W.W. Norton) 

Goodreads Summary:
Rachel is a woman with a problem: she can’t die. Her recent troubles—widowhood, a failing business, an unemployed middle-aged son—are only the latest in a litany spanning dozens of countries, scores of marriages, and hundreds of children. In the 2,000 years since she made a spiritual bargain to save the life of her first son back in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, she’s tried everything to free herself, and only one other person in the world understands: a man she once loved passionately, who has been stalking her through the centuries, convinced they belong together forever.

But as the twenty-first century begins and her children and grandchildren—consumed with immortality in their own ways, from the frontiers of digital currency to genetic engineering—develop new technologies that could change her fate and theirs, Rachel knows she must find a way out.

My Review:
I was initially interested in this book because it sounded like a mix between Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers and Kate Atkinson's Life After Life. I liked the storyline and found myself thinking about how I would live my live if I was in Rachel's position. For one, she has hundreds of children and then has to watch them all die. Unless I was on a mission to repopulate an entire community I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't be able to continue on that devastating cycle of grief. But then I thought "what would I do?" which led me into some daydreams and thinking about why I wouldn't just do those things now because I won't live forever. While I liked the storylines in this book, I liked the way my mind wandered away from the story even more. I would recommend this if you want a little escapist reading. Plus, the paperback version just came out a few days ago!

Review: Sugar Run by Mesha Maren

Sugar Run by Mesha Maren (1/8/19 from Algonquin)

Back Cover:
In 1989, Jodi McCarty is seventeen years old when she’s sentenced to life in prison for manslaughter. She’s released eighteen years later and finds herself at a Greyhound bus stop, reeling from the shock of unexpected freedom. Not yet able to return to her lost home in the Appalachian mountains, she goes searching for someone she left behind, but on the way, she meets and falls in love with Miranda, a troubled young mother. Together, they try to make a fresh start, but is that even possible in a town that refuses to change? Set within the charged insularity of rural West Virginia, Sugar Run is a searing and gritty debut about making a run for another life.

My Review:
You know how I kept bitching about the repackaged and mass-produced mediocre stories that publishers are throwing mega marketing dollars at in hopes that some of it sticks and people will say they love it "because everyone else does"? Well...I just finished Sugar Run and *BOOM*...finally, a book with a backbone! In the vein of Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone or Laura McHugh's Weight of Blood (read my review of Weight of Blood in The Glory Tree Herald here), Sugar Run is rural-noir at its gritty best. Full of characters scrambling to survive at the edges of society and its expectations, Sugar Run is pushed forward with a dual storyline: the first following seventeen-year-old Jodi and her girlfriend Paula through a downward spiral of drug-fueled poker binges in 1988 and the 2nd following Jodi's release from prison in 2007. Sugar Run is a glimpse into the shadows of rural Appalachia's underbelly, from the steady encroachment of a fracking operation (and its numerous seedy satellite industries) onto land that has been family-owned for generations to the daily minutiae of that land's poverty-stricken inhabitants. Mesha Maren's prose alternates between razor sharp statements that cut to the bone and descriptions that will sit heavy on your heart and mind. 

This is a definite 5 star read from me! If you are ready for a book that is a detour from the mainstream monotony and you want to actually feel something--Sugar Run is for you!

Review: An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen (1/8/19 from St. Martin's)

Goodreads Summary:
The next novel of psychological suspense and obsession from the authors of the blockbuster bestseller The Wife Between Us
Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

My Review:
I started 2018 reading (and enjoying!) The Wife Between Us (review here) and one of my first reads of 2019 was another release by co-authors Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. As a matter of fact, my 2 reviews are exactly 1 year apart. I had high hopes going into this read but was sadly let down. The short chapter layout made me keep a steady pace while I was reading and I definitely wanted to know what would happen next. Then I hit the middle and was thinking that I needed more information. Not in a "I can't wait for the next clue" sort of way, but in the "everything is happening in a circle and the storyline isn't progressing" way--I couldn't figure out where the story was. In any other case I would have simply moved on to another book, but I knew these authors could give some good twists so I kept reading. Unfortunately, the upcoming "twists" just weren't enough for me to deem this a great mystery/thriller. 

I've seen tons of rave reviews for this release all over Instagram and blogs so I know that I am in the minority by not liking this one. I have no problem with disagreeing with the masses, but I'm always honest with my reviews. However, I have really started to wonder about how many people truly enjoyed this title or are they simply saying they liked it because everyone else says that they do? 

Maybe I'm totally jaded with the entire genre but I don't even remember the last awesome, jaw-dropping, intense mystery/thriller I've read. Are the ones being released just so mediocre because the publishing industry is sacrificing quality for quantity in hopes of getting the next big one? I'm tired of the same formulas female unreliable narrator trope. I want something shocking and different...is that too much to ask?

Review: The Au Pair by Emma Rous

The Au Pair by Emma Rous (January 8, 2019 / Berkley)

Back Cover:
Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.
Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is beautifully dressed, smiling serenely, and holding just one baby.
Who is the child and what really happened that day?
One person knows the truth, if only Seraphine can find her.

My Review:
The blurb on the top of the back cover states: "If V.C. Andrews and Kate Morton had a literary love child, Emma Rous's The Au Pair would be it." That sets me up to think I'm going to get to read some dark, twisted shit...and sadly, this wasn't dark or twisted enough. While I tore through this book in a day and I was impressed that I hadn't figured everything out by page 50 (like almost every other mediocre mystery/thriller that seems to flood the market in recent years), I was still a little let down by the ending. Don't worry...no spoilers here, but I think the author could have twisted the ending to be a little more sinister. I was ready for it! 

Review:: Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris

Attention fellow word nerds! Want a peek into the copy department offices at The New Yorker? Mary Norris shares some great stories and offers advice on how to overcome some of the most common grammatical slip ups in Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen. This book isn't rigid and full of scolding explanations but rather fun and witty with lots of juicy (to word nerds) "behind the scenes" stories of which writers drove her a little bit crazy with their challenges to language and grammatical rules. You'll also learn who put the hyphen in Moby-Dick, why Norris deems #1 pencils superior to #2 pencils, and why a copy editor is irreplaceable--even in the world of autocorrect and spell-check.