Review: Silent Lies

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**5 Goodreads Stars**

Wow. I did not see that ending coming! Kathryn Croft’s Silent Lies starts off as a somewhat unsuspecting thriller; there are characters who make slightly poor choices, but no one seems capable of the murder (or murders?!).

The book begins with a funeral. Mother and child are mourning the death of their dearly beloved husband and father. We quickly learn that the mother, Mia, lost her university professor husband to what is believed to be a murder suicide. The running theory is that her husband, Zach, committed suicide after killing his college student and lover, Josie.

The second narrator is Josie, Zach’s supposed college-aged lover. The book tacks back and forth between Mia and Josie’s stories. You start to sympathize with both of the narrators, both leading you to form different, and sometimes contradictory, opinions of up to the two narrators, Mia and Josie. You develop feelings for both of them despite the years separating them and the man in between them.

Josie has led a hard life. She was raised by a teenage mother who really didn’t want her. As a result, Josie was beat, starved, and taunted by her mother, Liz, to the point that she nearly died by her mother’s boyfriend’s hands (while her mother stood by watching).

I won’t spoil this book for future readers, but I would encourage readers to think about Mia’s motivations for telling her story. I tended to sympathize more with Mia, but then I started to question why she was telling me her story and the narrative conventions upon which she was relying. I’d also encourage the reader to think about Josie’s story as well. Why is she sharing it?

I really loved the shocker of an ending, and how it wrapped up so neatly.

Thank you to the author, Kathryn Croft, the publisher, Bookouture (one of my favorites!), and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of Silent Lies.

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What I Am Reading Right Now

This past week has been busy at work and at home, so I’ve made some minimal progress on my reading. I am still making my way through a number of books, which is certainly not a reflection of their content but rather a reflection of my busy schedule!

I started reading Kathryn Croft’s Silent Lies a day or two ago, and then was up half last night reading it. I am close to 50% of the way through the book. I will be featuring her book during a blog tour, so my review won’t be up until closer to the book’s publication date.

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I also started reading Chris Bohjalian’s The Flight Attendant, but I am only a tiny bit of the ways into the book (9%). I am on the fence about it right now, and I may or may not return to reading it.

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I just received an advanced review copy of Tom Sweterlitsch’s The Gone World, which I had been wanting since I heard it was coming out. This is a post-apocalyptic adventure that I am excited to start reading soon.

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I am enjoying Brittney Cooper’s Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, which is a powerful read on the importance of intersectional feminism. There are so many great passages and quotes in this book that I think I have half of what I’ve read highlighted! I am 57% of the way through that book.

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I am close to finishing Ta-Nehisi Coates’ We Were Eight Years in Power, which is a compilation of his articles on race and inequality here in the contemporary U.S. I am 67% of the way through it.

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I have reviews forthcoming for AJ Finn’s The Woman in the Window, which is sure to be a bestseller. The book comes out January 2, 2018 (my birthday!), and I rated it 5++ out of 5 Goodreads stars.

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I also have a review coming out in a month in celebration of Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen’s The Wife Between Us publication date. I really enjoyed the book (and rated it 4/5 Goodreads stars), and yes, that cover is everything!

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Review: The Feed

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**5 Goodreads Stars**

“Who did you first share your thoughts with? It was the most intimate feeling, wasn’t it? Nothing between you, no way to lie, just pure and perfect thinking. All of us, plaited together.”

“The space we create, that we forge with our lives – that’s what we have to protect. We work hard for such an inconsequential space, but it is absolutely everything to us.”

Nick Clark Windo’s The Feed is a beautifully written, darkly intense dystopian novel concerning the future of humankind in a technology saturated world.

Imagine if Twitter and Facebook were implanted in your brain; you could access non-stop thoughts, memories, and newsfeeds of everyone in the entire world. This is the world in which The Feed is set, and this is what “the Feed” refers to. It isn’t hard to envision our world moving in that direction in the not so distant future.

Despite the draw and addicting allure of “the Feed,” there are some citizens who don’t like it. They are known as the “Resistors,” people who have reverse engineered or reverse biohacked their implants, including such things as microphones in one’s lip. They have physically cut out the implants from their bodies to avoid “the Feed.”

The book begins with Tom and Kate, a couple who have strong feelings about “the Feed.” Tom is adamantly opposed to it despite the fact his father and brother, Ben, were the creators of it. Kate enjoys the fanfare of the “Feed,” as she is essentially what we would consider a viral YouTuber in her world. She has lots of followers, and experiences endorphin rushes when they share or praise her content.

When “the Feed” is hacked by an unknown group, society as Kate and Tom know it collapses. Think Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road collapse. It’s bad, and what makes it worse is that most of the world has become so reliant on “the Feed” to tell them what to do that they have no clue how to do the most quotidian things. All information has been digitized. Physical books are obsolete. Medications and products are marked with QR codes rather than text describing their contents and use. If you needed to know how to cook a meal, you pull it up on “the Feed.” The Feed’s absence renders most people helpless, leaving few people and little knowledge left to rebuild the world. Even language and vocalization have to be rediscovered, as most people communicated through their minds via “the Feed.”

The hacking of “the Feed” has also caused a mysterious illness infecting millions of people across the globe. This illness only comes on at night while people are sleeping, which means that someone always has to stay up watching their friend or family member for signs of infection. The infection causes people’s personalities to dramatically change to point that they often kill or attack their friends or family members. The only way to “cure” this illness is to kill the infected person. It only infects people with “the Feed” implants, so Resistors without implants have slowly been taking over civilization.

I’ll admit it took me a few days to really get into this book. This is because the book’s world is so rich and intricate that you have to memorize and learn lots of new vocabulary/terms. This is what makes the book so successful, though. Once you get into the book’s brave new world, you find yourself enmeshed in its uniqueness. Once I got 25% of the way through the book, I could not put it down. There are so many unexpected, exciting twists and turns in this book, but they make sense within the context of the story and the characters’ personalities and motivations. There were a few moments at the beginning of the book where I felt like I was reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but I mean that as a compliment.

To close, The Feed provides timely, apt criticism of our digitally infused world. It encourages the reader to reflect upon the potential long term social and environmental consequences of a digitally connected and digitally addicted world. For those of you who are already itching to get a copy of The Feed, you’ll have to wait until March 13, 2018. I can assure you, however, that it is definitely worth the wait. Thank you to the author, Nick Clark Windo, the publisher, HarperCollins, and Edelweiss for providing me with an advanced ready copy of The Feed.

Review: Nyxia

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**5++ Goodreads Stars**

I just finished Scott Reintgren’s Nyxia this afternoon on the bus ride home from work, and it was so good that I almost missed my stop! Nyxia is set in the not too distant future where a corporation, Babel, has colonized a planet named Eden. To extract resources off of Eden, Babel will need a group of mentally and physically strong teens capable of surviving on an entirely new planet. Babel has recruited 10 teens from planet Earth to compete for a spot to Eden. Babel has specifically sought out teens who have very little left to lose on planet Earth, and have created a series of unique challenges to determine the teens’ fitness to survive Eden.

The lead of the story is Emmett, an African American teen from Detroit, Michigan (in the U.S.). He’s joined Babel’s crew as a competitor because his mother has cancer, and his dad has spent most of his life toiling to make ends meet. Emmett wants his mother’s cancer cured and wants his father to have an easier life. Joining Babel means not only freedom for his family, but freedom from a generational legacy of poverty and enslavement. As Emmett describes, “In every branch of our family tree, someone’s brushed shoulders with real freedom. But there’s always a catch in life. There’s always been some fine print that snatched dreams just before they were real enough to hold in our hands.” Emmett is a fierce competitor; however, through his experiences with Babel he learns that what makes him unique is not his mental or physical strength but rather his ability to be a good person and friend when placed in the worst of circumstances.

There is so much to love about this book. The author is a master at depicting and detailing scenes so that they play in the reader’s head like a movie. There is a lot of action in the book, which is often hard to write and therefore envision as a reader. The author has no trouble communicating and etching out every single environment no matter how unusual, action-filled, and outer-worldly.

As a parent, I appreciated how the author emphasized the intimate, close friendships that young teens and adults forge. The author avoids tiresome relationship tropes often found in young adult fiction, such as unrequited love or jealously and competition. While the lead character was intent on winning his ticket to Eden, he cared about many of his competitors even when they were cruel to him. Emmett has a solid moral compass, one that we all hope our children emulate even in the worst of circumstances. He develops deep, caring relationships with both girls and boys his age, demonstrating that friendship is what makes us human. When Emmett feels tempted to compromise his values to gain a spot to Eden, his close, tender friendship with Bilal grounds him: “A branch can be cut away, but roots run deep and dark. What I wanted didn’t matter. When someone treats you like a friend, that’s what you become. His words have made a brother out of me. My words have carved him into the same.”

The recent proliferation of dystopian young adult books (e.g. The Hunger Games trilogy; the Divergent trilogy; and The Maze Runner series) may make some hesitant to read yet another YA dystopian book, but Nyxia’s rich plot, writing, world, and characters will not disappoint. I can’t wait for the second book in this series!

Thank you to the author, Scott Reintgren, and Random House Children’s for an advanced reader copy of Nyxia.

 

What My Kids Are Reading: August & September 2017

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My daughter adores Raina Telgemeier’s books. They are beautifully illustrated and the stories are compelling. My daughter is enjoying Telgemeier’s re-telling of Ann Martin’s infamous The Baby-sitters Club series. This past month my daughter read Telgemeier’s Claudia and Mean Janine, which I recall vividly from my childhood. The book provides some heartfelt discussions regarding sibling rivalry and sibling friendships. The added perk of my daughter reading these books is that I can enjoy the retelling of a series I was in love with as a child!

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My 6 year old son started Kindergarten this fall. His favorite things right now are anything Mario related. We picked up this book off of Amazon, which was written and designed by people directly involved with the creation of Super Mario Brothers. It is filled with original comics from the 1992-1993 Nintendo Power magazine. There are a lot of other books on Amazon that are made by fans of Mario, but this one is the closest it comes to getting Mario’s world right. And trust me, for a 6 year old that’s important.

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My daughter’s school did a “common read” this year, which means that students can check out or purchase the same book and read it over the summer. When they come back to school for summer, they can share their experiences reading the common read. This year’s common read, A Boy Called Bat, is written by Elana K. Arnold and illustrated by Charles Santoso. My daughter flew through the book in a day. It’s a chapter book, and it’s about a boy on the autism spectrum who helps rescue and take care of a baby skunk. My daughter said it was an “excellent story,” and I am planning to read it to my son later this semester.

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The last popular read in our house this past month was the beginning of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series. My mother bought the entire series in a boxed set for my daughter. My daughter is enjoying this series, which she is reading on her own as well as reading with us in the evenings.

We have a Scholastic Schools order in with both of our children’s schools, so we will be revealing those purchases in the next month or so!

Weekend Reads

It’s hard to believe the fall is here already. I am back to teaching at a new university, which has been a welcome and exciting change involving a move across country, selling a house, buying a house, and putting our kiddos in new schools! I am adjusting to our new “normal” and my new normal now that I am back to teaching and my children are back in school.

This new normal has likewise affected my reading patterns. My goal this year has been to read and review one book a week, though I’ve surpassed that goal several times. My review reading is separate from the reading I do for work, and generally my free time reading is not directly related to my work (archaeology). Since I’ve been down with a cold this week and not feeling great due to asthma, I’ve been a bit slow on the reading front. In lieu of a review, I’m going to post on the four books I’m actively reading right now. Hopefully I will finish a few in the coming week.

This weekend I barely started Scott Reintgen’s Nyxia, which has an impressive 4.14 out of 5 stars rating on Goodreads right now (out of 455 ratings). That’s pretty spectacular for a new book. I normally don’t delve into Young Adult fiction, but I do love sci-fi, and the buzz on this book in the reviewers’ community is very positive. I’m only a few pages in, but it hooked me from the start. The book seems to be similar to the Divergent/Hunger Games/Maze Runner series, so if you like dystopian dramas with teenagers you’ll likely enjoy this book. It is being published by Random House Children’s and comes out in less than a week (September 12th!).

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Next up is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ newest book, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Random House Publishing Group. This book comes out October 3rd, and has been a hard, but critical read. For those of you who were left devastated and stunned after the US Presidential elections this past fall, you might find yourselves delving back into the darkness of post-election fallout. However, Coates reminds his readers that African Americans have always suffered at the hands of the US military and prison industrial complex and its earliest days as an empire built by black enslaved bodies. It’s a heart-wrenching, brutal read, one that reminds us that Democrats are just as guilty for the racial divisions we see in our country today. Coates charts how, for instance, Bill Clinton’s policies to detain and imprison African Americans en masse left a lasting scar on communities, and perhaps shaped the voting habits we witnessed last fall. I am close to finishing the book, and am hoping to have a review done this week. On a side note, a highlight of my nerdy book reviewing life was when Coates’ retweeted a positive comment I made regarding his new book!

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A number of mystery/thriller reviewers have been discussing The Wife Between Us, which is co-authored by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen and published by St. Martin’s Press. I was lucky enough to get an advanced reader copy of it this past week, and I am 26% of the way through it as of today. This domestic thriller is written from the perspectives of two very different women: the aging ex-wife of Richard, and Richard’s attractive, young fiance. Richard is the man “in between” the two “wives” (though one is an ex-wife, and the other is a bride-to-be). The writing is first rate and engaging. It won’t be out until January 9, 2018, but if my predictions are correct this book will be a bestseller.

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The last book I started to actively read this week is Dr. Brittney Cooper’s Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower. This book comes out February 18, 2018, and is published by St. Martin’s Press. I am 22% of my way through this book, and it has kept me up late several nights thinking about feminism, youthful relationships with women of color, and my responsibility as someone who considers themselves a white feminist. I love that Dr. Cooper deftly moves from the personal to the political, weaving feminist theory and data on gender and race into her experiences growing up as a self-proclaimed nerdy black girl. The narrative is accessible to readers unfamiliar with feminist thought, but will make readers want to explore it via the references Cooper provides. It’s heartbreaking, informative, intimate, and timely. The author, Dr. Brittney Cooper, is the co-founder of The Crunk Feminist Collective and an Associate Professor at Rutgers University. My hope is to finish this book by the end of the coming week or week after at latest.

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I am thankful to NetGalley, the authors, and the publishers for all these wonderful reads! Now back to reading.

Review: The Surrogate

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**3.5 Goodreads Stars**

“Revenge whispers the voice inside my head. I drain my drink to silence it.”

With a title like The Surrogate, readers can expect one wild Lifetime-Movie-of-the-Week ride of a thriller. I am not a fan of gimmicky titles, but I read the description of Louise Jensen’s book and thought it might be worth a try.

Admittedly, I couldn’t put it down much like I can’t turn off a new Lifetime Movie despite its predictable ending and a familiar cast of characters. The book isn’t stale, but the ending is so wild (and for those of us who read suspense and thrillers, a bit easy to figure out early on) that it took me a few hours to digest. The Surrogate is a guilty reading pleasure, like a pint of ice cream you eat in one sitting.

The story is told from the perspective of Kat, who seems to have a normal, comfortable life with her husband, Nick. Everything seems perfect except for one thing: she can’t get pregnant. Nick and Kat have suffered through two failed foreign adoptions, and are mourning their losses. That is until Lisa walks into Nick and Kat’s life.

Lisa was Kat’s childhood friend, and she reappears in Kat’s life when the two awkwardly run into each other. Kat and Lisa become close friends as adults despite the fact that their childhood friendship did not end on good terms. Lisa offers to help Kat and Nick have a child by being a surrogate. In her haste to have a child, Kat accepts Lisa’s offer. Soon, however, Kat questions Lisa’s motivations for being a surrogate, which leads Kat to dredge up long buried memories of her torrential teenage years.

Jensen’s writing will draw you in, and Kat’s story will keep you turning the pages. I rated this book 3.5 stars because the ending seemed so completely unbelievable, and I felt like none of the characters had any redeeming qualities whatsoever by the end of the book. I read this book in two days, though, and if you start reading it you probably won’t put it down.

Thank you to NetGalley, Louise Jensen, and Bookouture for an advanced reader copy of The Surrogate.

Sneak Peak! The Woman in the Window

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**5++ Goodreads Stars**

I had the pleasure of getting my hands on a copy of A.J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window this past month, and wanted to let my readers know that you absolutely NEED to read this book if you love psychological thrillers or mysteries. Finn already has a movie deal for this book with Fox, which does not surprise me in the least bit. This book needs to be on the 2018 New York Times bestseller list.

I will post my full review of the book closer to its publication date (January 2, 2018), but I highly recommended pre-ordering your copy of this book so it is in your hands as soon as it out!

More to come on the book in December 2017!

Review: The Salt Line

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**5++ Goodreads Stars**

Readers are thrust into a dystopian world divided by disease, borders, and fear in Holly Goddard Jones’ masterfully written The Salt Line. In the not too distant future, the world has been infested with ticks. The majority of these ticks cause Shreve’s disease, which kills those it infects. In response, the entire world has been cordoned off into quarantined enclosed zones. Those quarantined, also known as “Zoners,” have been told that the exterior world was obliterated, destroyed via massive fires designed to burn landscapes clean of ticks.

Despite the danger that the exterior world (out of zone) poses, it has become a tourist attraction full of abandoned towns and historical sites that capture how humanity once lived. Outer Limits Excursions (OLE) provides an outlet for this adventure or “dark” tourism, catering to the uber elite who have the pockets to bankroll such trips. The first portion of the book sketches out a group of characters who have decided to take such a trip. It explores the motivations leading these well-off tourists to take fate into their own hands and risk their lives for a glimpse into what once was.

There’s Edie, who is whisked away from her life as a poor waitress by Jesse, a mega pop star who charms her. There’s Wes, one of the Zones’ wealthiest men alive due to his tech savvy and entrepreneurial prowess despite his youth. There’s Marta, who is the wife of a mob boss, and who cares more about her sons than anything else in her life. There’s Andy, who leads the tour group for OLE despite his shady past.

I often have a hard time following a book with so many characters, especially if the author neglects to flesh them out and make them seem human. This was definitely not the case with The Salt Line. I was rooting for each character despite their flaws and sometimes nefarious intentions. The author makes you care about each character by telling their back stories and how those shape their actions and beliefs. The author avoids stereotypes and generalizations; she really wants to you to empathize with each of the characters, to truly understand why and how they act the way they do.

This was a fantastic read, one that I hope ends up on the big screen in the near future. It was brilliantly written and I could not put it down. I highly recommend this book for readers who enjoy dystopian thrillers and sci-fi. I really hope she writes a sequel to this because I will be first in line to grab it!

Thank you to Penguin Random House’s First to Read program for an advanced ready copy of this book.