A Double Life

A Double LIfe

Expected publication: July 31, 2018

A Double Life was provided to me by the publisher in return for an honest review. 

This book is set in London. A member of the House of Lords (Parliament) has committed murder and has gone on the run to avoid prosecution. He had intended to kill his wife, but instead killed the nanny and only injured his wife before fleeing the country. The book alternates between the past and the present, showing us what happened but also showing us how his children are doing now. We see the story mainly through the eyes of his daughter Lydia, who has been searching for him since she was a little girl.

Have you ever looked up someone you used to know, or someone you used to date, online? If you have you know that little burst of adrenaline, that sense that you are able to see something you maybe shouldn’t be looking at, and the freedom to observe someone you might have mixed feelings about from afar. It’s simply a part of being a part of social media. Now imagine you could condense and bottle that feeling an then turn it into a book.

That would become this book.

It’s really an exploration of how people can come back and heal from trauma, especially trauma that seems to have been visited on us by those we are supposed to trust the most in the world. Mixed in is the idea that in this age of the internet nothing can ever really be forgotten, moving on from anything is very difficult with constant reminders just a click away, and letting go of the need to know why is hard when you can find just about anyone on the internet.

I’m hesitant to recommend this book. It was very evenly paced, but could be triggering for individuals who have social media addictions or family trauma in their past. The ending also seemed kind of convenient, almost like the book was due so *poof!* everyone gets what they need with just a little scuffle. It also shouldn’t be ignored that doing your own detective work or searching for people in real life is very dangerous, especially if the people you are looking for are violent or abusive.  There are a lot of unhealthy behaviors running amok in these pages.

It does have what I enjoy in a book, and that’s realistic human behavior. Lydia/Claire did exactly what I thought she would do given the circumstances. It wasn’t what I would have chosen to do, but her actions made sense for the most part (the ending notwithstanding).

It was an interesting read and it asks some compelling questions. I don’t think it’s a book I would have chosen to read and I’m not completely enamored with it, but I’m not going to discourage you from reading it either. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

 

Mammoth

IMG_20180625_193151.jpg

Expected publication: October 10, 2018

Mammoth was provided to me as a physical ARC by Eric Smith and Jill Baguchinsky in return for an honest review.

I am a fat woman. It is what it is. The books that I read growing up didn’t have me in them, or if they did I was the comic relief, the best friend, or the tomboy. Never the main character. In recent years books like Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock have put girls that are larger or different on the main stage ans asked readers to understand them. Representation matters.

When I started Mammoth my initial reaction was that there was too much going on. The main character Natalie is fat, dealing with her bullying past, running a blog about vintage fashion and paleontology, and getting ready to do an internship at Austin State University. In the beginning we are treated to a lot of details about the shapers that she wears and how clammy they get as well as how she guesses the weight of everyone she meets. We’re also treated to a possible love triangle with an Iowa farmboy. It was all a bit shallow and strained and I almost put the book down.

When she arrived at her internship it got even worse. She’s wearing self-made dresses and fashion shoes to this paleontology internship where she has to know she’s going to be in the mud and dirt a lot of the time. Has this girl never dressed down for gym? She’s a self-professed paleo-geek, a fossilista, but she doesn’t know she needs a pair of cargo shorts, boots, and a sturdy tank top, flabby arms be damned? I kept reading but after she spends the first half of her internship reapplying makeup and struggling to breathe because of her wet, sweaty body shaper, I felt like the story was lacking in realism a bit.

I was ready to tear this book apart, to say that it portrays fat girls as shallow and fashion obsessed and hoping to be beautiful using makeup and clothes, but then about 60% of the way through, something happened. Natalie gets in trouble for drinking with her fellow interns and sneaking off with the farmboy to make out. She’s given a second chance and suddenly we start to see Cody as more than just the guy who gives tours at the Mammoth Welcome Center. Her paleo hero Dr. Carver steals credit for something she finds in the bone storage and forces her to reassess her worship of his work.

The layers start stripping away bit by bit, and we hear less about fashion and more about integrity. Less about hero worship and presentation and more about risking it for what matters. Less about performing for a large audience and more about brushing away the dust at the surface to find the sabercat underneath. The book that was a bit revolting to me at the start suddenly had its arms wrapped around my heart and was telling me that it was okay to not wear make up, it was okay to be comfortable, and it was okay to pursue what I really cared about.

I am glad I finished this book. If I had given up when I felt like I wanted to, my review would have been much different. I believe that this book does justice to fat girls everywhere and shows that it’s okay to be who you are, as long as you know who that is and what you want. As for knowing those things, you shouldn’t let anyone get in your way of those important discoveries. If you have a young lady in your life that is prospecting, get her this book. She might find something she’s been looking for.

Read. Be brave. Stay angry. And go get you some. 🙂

The Flight Attendant

The Flight Attendant

There are three major reasons I stop reading a book. Four really.

  1. I get bored.
  2. I don’t care about the characters.
  3. The story isn’t compelling.
  4. The library has a hold on the book and if I keep it any longer I have to pay money.

The Flight Attendant starts in a very promising way. It presents us with a flight attendant who makes a connection with one of the people in first class and goes with him to his hotel in Dubai. They drink A LOT, and when she wakes up the next morning she finds him dead next to her, his throat slit, and he has bled out. She wipes down everything she might have touched, showers, gathers her things, and runs back to her airline’s hotel in time to catch the van back to their returning flight to JFK.

The story asks us to feel the suspense building between Cassie’s constant fear that someone will discover she was with the murdered man, and the revelation that he was wrapped up in some kind of Russian conspiracy and was assassinated for skimming and now the assassin, Elena, who had originally decided to spare her life, now hunts her to tie up the loose end.

I made it to page 214. 60% of the way through. The story was compelling enough that I wanted to give it a chance to wow me. I was ready for some kind of twist or shocking event. What killed the book for me was that I simply didn’t care about the characters.

The main character is Cassie, who is so much of a drunk that her sister won’t leave her alone with her niece and nephew. She was so black out drunk that night that she is only 93% sure that she wasn’t the one to kill Alex in that hotel room. Every three paragraphs she’s talking about how she needs a drink, and every 4 paragraphs she’s having one. She’s very stupid and has no redeemable qualities. Half of my decision to put this book down was made when I realized that I didn’t care if that Russian assassin caught up to her and killed her. Tension lost.

Elena is the dumbest assassin I have ever heard of. She killed Alex as ordered but then left a person alive in the room? I expected it to take the turn that Cassie would then be set up and framed for the murder, leaving Elena to go unnoticed, but her stated reason was that Cassie was an innocent and just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and her daddy issues fueled her compassion. Elena believes that the assassin agency had her dad killed, and is working to get revenge once she uncovers who is responsible, but is sidetracked to go to America and murder Cassie because the agency says it’s either Cassie or her to die because they can’t be connected to Alex’s death.

I’m so fucking confused. This whole book could have been solved in the first 50 pages if Elena had either killed them both or not killed either of them at that moment, but waited for Cassie to leave and killed Alex later. I have no respect for Elena as a character, and I don’t care if Cassie lives or dies, so the book is dead for me. When I saw those patterns would not be changing I just put the book down.

It’s marketed as a thriller but I am here to tell you that it is not thrilling at all. You are given just enough hope that it might become one, but honestly don’t waste your time. It’s a no from me.

Dance of the Gods (The Circle Trilogy #2)

Dance of the Gods

Morrigan’s Cross (#1)

It’s about this time that I get bored with Nora Roberts. Her books are so predictably formulaic that if you read too many in a row you start to hate them simply because you know what’s coming next like ten pages ahead of time. Dance of the Gods takes our circle of 6 heroes (3 couples) into Moira’s realm of Geall to prepare her citizens to fight Lilith and the vampire army in the Valley of Silence on Samhain.

There are a lot of moments in this book when the group decides to flex their muscles and make a statement by poking at Lilith’s forces that are hidden in the nearby caves in Ireland, which is where they are staying as of the first book. Each time they do this ends predictably – someone learns a lesson about not going it alone and making sure to work together. The person who learns this lesson the hardest in this book is Blair, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer character that was ignored and then abandoned by her father and whose daddy issues cause her to want to always be alone. The “everyone I ever loved has left me” boo hoo pity party really makes her badass character a lot less believable, but you’ll make do I’m sure.

Roberts’s thing being a couple per book, Blair is destined to be with the shape-shifter Larkin, who is from Geall and came with his cousin Moira through the Dance of the Gods (the stone circle) to train with the other four members of Morrigan’s circle of six. He shifts into different kinds of animals and at one point he shifts into a hawk in front of Blair and she says something like “that’s so hot” and she does that a couple of times, enough to make me think she might be into bestiality, but I’m not sure.

He wants to care for her, she believes she’s meant to always be alone, and they fight through that tension to have sex a couple of times, until finally she admits she loves him after they return to his country and get ambushed by a bunch of vampires that are also preparing for the battle. I get the themes that Roberts really wants to touch on here: that you can be a tough woman and a sensitive one too, but in the way of romance novels the story doesn’t get much deeper than what gets them into bed. And that’s okay, if I hadn’t just read four other novels set up exactly the same way just before this.

After returning to Geall the group informs the country that (1) yes, women are in charge here and will be teaching you how to not die, (2) vampires are real, and (3) magic is cool and okay. I liked the way that the women dealing with other women was written here. Some women wanted to hold onto the “women’s work” but were brought to understand that anything is women’s work (small caveat: it takes Glenna asking how they might protect their babies to get them to fight, so I guess it’s not exactly 100% feminist but their lives were on the line so whatever works?).

The book ends with Blair agreeing to marry Larkin (again, I don’t understand why the ending for every couple has to be marriage) and Larkin agreeing that he will leave Geall behind to return to Earth with Blair so she can continue to be a hunter of vampires there, and they streak across the sky with a flame sword and I guess she writes an entire sentence in the air like a plane might? Again, this book is a lot of “LET’S SHOW HER WHAT WE’RE MADE OF” and a lot of it just ended with them getting their noses bent.

This is not my favorite book of the series. It makes a strong woman look weak and needy, and the actions the characters take are stupid and dangerous given the stakes. I’m going to wait a bit before beginning Valley of Silence, because it has my favorite pairing and the battle is cool, but I have to get this Nora Roberts taste out of my mouth so it doesn’t spoil it for me.

The Mars Room

The Mars Room

Synopsis here on Goodreads

A stripper goes to jail for killing her stalker to protect herself and her child. As she moves through the prison system we learn more about her past, the stories of the prisoners she interacts with, and the intricacies of the prison system itself.

This book is my own personal nightmare come to life. It’s like what would happen if the Cell Block Tango became a book about those women, but with the horrors of the prison industrial complex that exist today.

I have to be honest and say that I didn’t finish this one. I was having nightmares about being arrested or raped or stuck behind bars and unable to call the husband – being trapped anyplace is terrifying to me and being in prison in America is 100% a trap that hardly anyone escapes from. And I just couldn’t read about it any more.

Another book I’ve read this year that really strikes home the horror of our US prison system was An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, and in that book you’re also given a taste of how the justice and prison systems are particularly unfair to PoC as well. Both books were extremely troubling to me, but I would say that The Mars Room was somehow darker and more revealing.

If you don’t know anything about how tangled a mess our prison system is you need to go read both of these books. It will make you furious and sad and scared all at the same time.

Also I do want to take this moment and remind you that if you have an initiative on your state’s ballot that gives felons the right to vote, please be sure to vote yes on that shit. Do it now. They deserve to have a say in the world in which they live, and that world should not be a prison that just happens to them. They did their time. We live in a democracy and everyone that shares a community with us should have a vote. I plan to vote to restore the voting rights for felons here in Florida this fall, and if you live in Florida you should too.

This book was very good, so good that I had to put it down because of my own fears. You should give it a try. It is well written and very revealing. Rachel Kushner definitely did her homework. Go get you some.

Angry Angel Novel Update

Oh angels, it is summer and I am living it up – if living it up is sitting for long periods of time, playing too many hours of video games, and still going to bed at 8:30pm because you can’t be hungry if you’re sleeping. Oh, and also going to the gym because I WILL GET MICHELLE OBAMA-LEVEL ARMS. Please clap.

The husband was in Utah from June 2nd through June 10th grading AP World History exam essays, so I had a whole week to just do whatever I wanted, so I met Joe Biden.

Joe Biden.jpg

But that was only Monday night from 7:30-9:30 so I had another 6 days to fill. Some of that time was spent writing THE BOOK.

Things I have discovered writing THE BOOK.

  1. I write about 1300-1700 words each time I sit down to write. I could do more.
  2. I can see this story beginning to end and that makes it easier to write. It’s like I’m watching the characters do stuff and I’m just describing what I see to you via THE BOOK.
  3. I skipped some days last week and so I feel a little behind now.

Things I want to try to do now that I’ve eased into summer:

  1. Write twice a day. Once in the morning and once some other time in the day. I’d like to up that word count and stick to it.
  2. Write more about the world/setting and not be afraid to describe things more. Since I am so often putting books down because I get bored with them, I am afraid of having that affect on readers myself.
  3. Think more about the magic system. Every fantasy book has a pretty clear idea about how magic works (although if we’re being honest “I was born with it so just hand me a wand” was kind of vague in HP but I still love it so much) so I want to be sure to give clear information about how magic works in this world.

As of today I have 10,000 words into this novel. It’s the 12th of June so mathematically that averages out to less than 1,000 words a day, which isn’t what I was aiming for, but it’s more than I was doing. This weekend I am leaving the husband at home and taking a few nights in a hotel just for me. I’m planning to sleep a lot since I won’t have to worry about taking the dogs out, reading, and writing, hopefully enough to catch up to where I would be by the 17th (about 25,000 words) since I won’t have anything to distract me except myself and the entire internet. What could go wrong?

This book is happening. I’m really excited and proud about it. Thank you all for supporting this effort. New book review is up tomorrow. See you then!

 

 

The Outsider

The Outsider

Blurb/synopsis here

The Outsider is the latest in a string of Stephen King books in the past couple of years. He’s mostly been collaborating, but this is solo King and it did not disappoint.

Mr. Mercedes
Finders Keepers
End of Watch

What makes this book especially creepy is the idea that this could happen to anyone with just a small amount of contact with The Outsider. I love that King calls the entire police/prison system into question through the use of DNA and fingerprint evidence versus actual visual evidence that the suspect could not have been there at the time of the murder. None of this is spoiler material – you spend about half the book deciding whether you believe Terry Maitland committed this heinous crime or whether he had a double or a doppelganger. Unfortunately Occam’s Razor is true here, it’s just that the simplest explanation is a supernatural one, complicating things a bit for our heroes and heroines.

In the latter third of the book the private investigator working for Terry’s defense attorney decides to call up a familiar face to help with their case. Holly Gibney, of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, comes in to investigate Terry’s connection to his father in Ohio, and how that might inform their search for an outsider who brought a white van from Ohio all the way to Flint City in Oklahoma to kidnap Frank Peterson.

As is the case with many King novels that I read and enjoy, I hear him speaking to larger truths through the horror of the ordinary. The idea that this outsider feeds on fear and sadness, lives in or near graveyards, and is essentially a Clayface full of worms that runs around ruining people’s lives, all it screamed was the After Times to me. So many people are out of the woodwork now that just want to say the most outrageous things or do the most hurtful things and then take joy from the suffering of others. Sure in this book it’s only one man, and flushing him out of hiding is tough because there is only one of him and he’s camouflaged, but consider that we allow these kinds of people to exist around us all the time. Sure, they don’t frame other people or steal their appearances, but they live off misery. They live off of sadness. You only need to look at the most recent practice of ripping children from asylum seekers to believe that this is true, and it has been true of this country for centuries.

Once everyone agrees to believe and work together it’s a race to the conclusion. The Stephen King books that I love the most are the ones where you can feel someone put the pedal to the metal and all you can do is hold on until the end of the road. It’s like reading the first 60% or so is the slow clicking up the beginning of a very tall roller coaster, and then your stomach will know when you’re just about to go for a very fast, exhilarating ride. The Outsider is just this kind of book, and I was hooked and ready for everything it had to throw at me from the first page to the last. It’s a 600 page book that I read in like 3 days, if that tells you anything.

This book is amazing and a great summer read if you’re lounging about. King is really on his game here and you won’t be disappointed. Go get you some.

Dread Nation (#1)

Dread Nation Cover

A simple way to describe this book would be to say it’s post-Emancipation Proclamation Civil War era America, but with zombies to contend with on top of the latent racism and slavery hangers-on. The schools which Jane McKeene and other black children are made to attend mirror those which Native Americans were actually made to attend in an effort to erase their culture. There is a lot going on in this book that could fill two semesters of an African American studies course, and if you aren’t involved with the civil rights struggle, most of it will pass over your head as a creepy, alternative history zombie tale.

Read the synopsis of Dread Nation here.

Remember when I reviewed The Hate You Give? I felt like the themes were so important, but the presentation seemed to break the 4th wall too often for me, as an adult, to enjoy the story uninterrupted. For kids it’s perfect, but the whole flow of the writing and the book missed me. Dread Nation presents many of those same themes important to the struggle of black people in America specifically, and it does it in a way that advances the plot and reinforces why those themes and issues are problematic and complicated and wrong. It was a challenge for me to read through and make sure that I was picking up everything Ireland was putting down. To miss something would be to miss a valuable lesson that I could not afford to not learn.

This is a fantastic story with some amazing characters. If you enjoy zombies, it’s for you. If you enjoy historical fiction, it’s for you. If you enjoy alternative historical fiction, it’s for you. If you enjoy novels that challenge our country’s handling of racial issues, this book is for you. If you enjoy YA or women’s fiction…I mean you get the idea, right?

Justina Ireland has brought to us an entertaining novel that speaks to everyone, as long as we are willing to listen. You wouldn’t want to miss those shambler moans now, would you? Keep your ears open and your sickles sharp, and then go get you some.

Morrigan’s Cross (The Circle Trilogy #1)

Morrigan's Cross

Time travel? Check. Sorcerers and witches? Check. Vampires? I mean, okay. Celtic vibes? FUCK YEAH.

The goddess Morrigan has come to Hoyt McKenna in Ireland after his twin brother Cian has been attacked and turned by the vampire queen Lilith. Hoyt is a sorcerer and Morrigan tells him he must travel through time to gather a circle of six people who will lead an army to take down Lilith. If they do not, Lilith will bring about the apocalypse across worlds and timelines, turning some, murdering others, and enslaving the rest. So Hoyt travels through a stone circle and lands in present day New York. He finds his brother, now about 1,000 years old and ready to help bring his maker down.

A witch named Glenna (I know, right?) also lives in the city, and is connected to Hoyt in her dreams. She follows her intuition and clues to Cian’s club and find the twins collaborating in the apartment upstairs. They all agree that returning to Ireland via Cian’s private plane is the best course of action, and along with Cian’s giant, black bodyman King, fly to Cian and Hoyt’s childhood home to train and wait for the remaining two members of the circle. Moira and Larkin do arrive through the same stone circle, but from a different realm of Geall, and then they all begin to train.

Nora Roberts’s books have a formula, and it’s a coupling per book, no more, no less. Our first couple is Hoyt and Glenna and what I find hilariously inconvenient is that every time they have sex all the candles and fireplaces in the giant old Irish house get REALLY BRIGHT AND DANGEROUS and instead of letting the sex scenes get me excited I laugh because I imagine the other characters reading or listening to music somewhere else in the house and then suddenly their candle blowtorches to the ceiling and they’re just like “really painted the ceiling with that one, huh Hoyt?” omg I can’t stand it, it’s too funny.

I love this trilogy because of the magic and the honest to god creepy and scary villain. I believe Lilith is terrifying. I believe that having drunk the blood of hundreds of sorcerers and witches she has gained their power and more and can reach between timelines and realms. This is a problem that must be solved or else all worlds will end. And I’m here with my popcorn, ready for it.

My problem with any Nora Roberts novel is the timeline of romance. Hoyt and Glenna know each other for like 6 days and he proposes to her after having sex twice. It’s just difficult for me to really invest in the love story when in a week and under duress characters are pledging their lives to each other. This book was written in 2006 so I don’t feel like it would be completely wild to just have them be together without bringing marriage into it.

I can accept that they have a deep connection, and that magic brings them closer together, and that the end of the world creates a sense of urgency – all of that is believable and I am with you when they are just suddenly attracted and having sex. What I’m not here for is for some reason throwing in marriage proposals like us ladies can’t handle Hoyt getting it in without making an honest woman of Glenna. It’s the end of the world. Get it in when you can, don’t worry about planning a ceremony or anything.

By the end of this book the circle is complete, if not in the way you expect, and plans are in place to return to Moira’s land so she can take up the mantle of queen and lead her people as the circle’s army to take down Lilith in a battle of the ages. It’s really a fun trilogy, one of her best. Go get you some.

 

Angry Angel Summer Reads 2018

It’s the summer! Time for reads that you can drag to the beach or get the corners wet at the pool. Summer is a time for relaxation and enjoyment, and the books you pick up should support that goal!

If you’d like a more established, professional touch on your summer recs, I have a compilation of links that will take you to a plethora of suggestions from several major publications. My summer list is made up of books that even I have yet to read. If you want to read like the Angry Angel, you can pick a book up off my list and know that we’re probably enjoying it at the same time!

Library Selections

I had a very nice holds list set up at my local library branch. They were all in high demand, and their wait times were nicely staggered. But the literary gods chose to smile and laugh at me and all these golden selections came in at the same time.IMG_20180530_145740_053.jpg I am starting with the Stephen King. I have heard nothing but accolades and so I would hate to have to return it because I ran out of time. I’ll probably move to The Woman in the Window next, then The Mars Room, then I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. I’m not a huge fan of non-fiction, but I am a huge fan of Patton Oswalt, and Michele McNamara essentially wrote a road map for investigators to follow to the actual capture of the Golden State Killer in April of this year. My online reading buddies have implored me to not read that one at night. All but two of these lovelies are due back on June 13th because they are on hold by another patron, so we’ll see how many I can get through in the next 11 days!

Advanced Reader Copies

Publishers and friends have supplied me with several advance copies whose books are due for publication later this summer or early this fall. I’ll be tackling the following novels.

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras – Out July 31, 2018. A debut novel set in violent, 1990’s Columbia.

Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson (I found out this one was kind of a sequel to her previous trilogy, so The Kiss of Deception in my library stack above is my effort to catch up before reading this one! Technically it’s a new work but all the reviews I read said to get the other trilogy in first.) – Out August 7, 2018

The Distance Home by Paula Sanders – Out August 7, 2018. A debut novel set in 1960s rural South Dakota which explores the lifestyles and challenges of living in rural America.

TBR Owned, Yes Owned!

I bought several books at the end of last year and beginning of this one that I have been meaning to get to but have pushed back in favor of library books with set deadlines. I have time to spare though, and so I’m definitely going to be (finally!) reading these selections from my own bookshelves.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory – Fun and flirty, perfect for summer.

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul – I am late to this one but Scaachi is hilarious and smart and I cant wait to dive into this one.

Everything is Awful: And Other Observations by Matt Bellasai – This gentleman is the one you want to sit and complain about stuff with, because everything is awful and he’s 100% about owning that shit.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton – I am here for all these challenges to racism disguised as beautiful, powerful black women kicking ass. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland is one of my current reads along the same vein. I want to read all of them. *grabby hands*

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I hope one of these books finds you with a tall glass of lemonade staring at a freshly mowed backyard, listening to the sound of splashing and summer jam playlists. Just remember that sunscreen! Happy summer!