Give Me Your Hand

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Expected publication date July 17, 2018

Advanced copy provided by publish in exchange for an honest review.

Have you ever wondered if the past will come back to haunt you? Whether it is an ex or a family member or an old friend, I’m sure we can all think of someone who, if they showed up in our lives today, would give us that tv moment of shock and slow-mo (cut to commercial). In Megan Abbott’s GIVE ME YOUR HAND, two women who were high school classmates have grown into scientific powerhouses who have been chosen to be a part of an important PMDD study. The only problem is that Diane told Kit her deepest, darkest secret in high school, she knows who Diane truly is, and she thought that was all left in the past. She is scared to work with her again, and afraid of what Diane might do to make sure her secret stays a secret.

The turning point of the novel happens about halfway through. Having Diane return to her world makes Kit panic. She goes on a date with her coworker Alex that she’s been crushing on for awhile, and after a few too many Long Island Iced Teas she divulges that Diane is dangerous, Kit knows her, and that she’s a killer. The next day Alex has left the apartment for the lab early, saying he’s going to handle it for her.

Problem is that Alex isn’t just her crush, he’s also one of the most irresponsible scientists in their lab. Notorious for leaving things dirty, using the wrong materials, breaking things, and taking rats to use without permission, it’s no surprise that when Kit confronts him in the lab while he is working, they argue, and then the cracked pipette he was heating explodes spilling chloroform everywhere and shredding his throat for good measure. He dies, and wouldn’t you know it, Diane is in the next room. Oh no Kit, what have you done? I heard you arguing, he was violent you had no choice! And then suddenly they are cleaning up the scene and sneaking Kit out in Diane’s lab coat, leaving the clumsy Alex to be discovered by someone else.

Even though Kit did nothing wrong, and calling 911 would have made more sense and been easier, her senses were muddled by the chloroform and she let Diane guide her. Now Diane has something over Kit like Kit does over her. They are even. They are equals and must be friends. And honestly, this is when I stopped reading.

I highly dislike books where misunderstandings like this happen, or when someone has too much power over another. By telling Kit her secret when they were in high school, Diane freed herself because she knew Kit would never tell, and when they reconnect she finds a way to ensure that it never does, almost by accident. The rest of the book would be an anxiety-filled will she or won’t she as Kit decides if putting herself in jeopardy is worth the truth being told. Personally I have enough anxiety in my life right now to kill a bull elephant, and while I enjoy a good thriller this novel is just not to my taste.

It was well written and enjoyable, I’m just not into that kind of a plot device. Want to find out what happens once both girls have blackmail material on each other? Go get you some! And then let me know what happens.

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.

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.

The House of Broken Angels

House of Broken Angels

It is a shame that this book did not hook me like I wanted it to. I love books with good, healthy family drama, and the fact that this was based on a Mexican family with mixed immigration statuses also fed my hunger for stories that speak to deeper societal issues too. Unfortunately I got about 90 pages in and became weary with reading about how Big Angel (the patriarch) is dying and all the things he thinks about and the family dynamics around him…I don’t know, I just didn’t care enough to keep reading.

This is a book that would be a perfect seminar book. I need to make a tag for those – you know, the kind of book that you could read across a semester in an English class (high school or college) and there are enough references in the fiction to connect to actual, real world issues happening currently in real time? Immigration, how the armed forces treats its members that are not civilians, Mexican time/family dynamics, drug issues, gang issues – they are all here. It’s a book I want someone to read with me and discuss, not necessarily one I would read for enjoyment or in my free time.

So I set it aside, not because it was poorly written or a bad story, but because I’m not really in the mood for an academic read disguised as a fiction novel at the moment. If you enjoy books that expose you to culture and teach you about it through story, grab this book right away. It’s current and fresh, and the writing is good. I know I’ll come back to it at some point, it’s just not the right time right now.

 

The Female Persuasion

The Female Persuasion

I got to 80 pages and put this one away. I couldn’t even tell you exactly why, other than to say that I wasn’t interested in another story about how an older lady helps a younger lady learn how to be a feminist. The amount that Greer (the main character) whines about having to go to her lowly college instead of Yale because her parents messed up her financial aid (?) happens at least 15 times in the first 80 pages, and I am 100% not here for that bullshit either. I just don’t have time for this level-of-privilege/figuring-out-how-to-be-human pity party story. NOPE.

You should read some other reviews though, because this book is getting some seriously mixed ones from what I’m seeing. But I’ll tell you this, fam, I’m out. I’ve got other things to read.

The Light Fantastic (Discworld #2)

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The Colour of Magic (Discworld #1)

One-hundred and eighty nine pages are all that make up this second installment of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and so as a palate cleanser after reading the giant tome The Name of the Wind, I picked it up ahead of starting the next whopper of a book, Children of Blood and Bone. Spoiler alert, I ended up reading Children of Blood and Bone first, but here we are.

I have never done any kind of drugs. Not even cigarettes. Considering that I grew up in extremely rural Maine where I have memories of at least two marijuana busts in mine and the neighboring towns and at least 4 of my family members smoked around me, this is a minor Christmas miracle.

Keep that in mind when I say that The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic are each what I imagine it would be like to be so high on cocaine that you create your own reality. These books move so fast and are so random-yet-well-planned that I can only conclude that Terry Pratchett was either VERY HIGH ON SOMETHING when he wrote them (i.e. Aaron Sorkin and the first 2 seasons of The West Wing) or he is a fucking genius.

Reading this book was like being spun around on a tire swing, then brought to an abrupt stop, forcing me to attempt to stay still until the world around me stops spinning.

Reading this book was like having one too many cups of coffee and then getting REALLY PRODUCTIVE.

It’s a bunch of non-sequiturs that magically come together to form a cohesive story that is only 180 pages long. You are taking a hilarious, weird, fantasy drag off of Pratchett’s mind joint and you will enjoy every moment.

 

 

The Parking Lot Attendant

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Debut novel – April 2018

I have really been striking out with books lately. Yet another is The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat, which is an ARC provided to me by Macmillan Publishing Group in return for an honest review.

I read more than I expected to of this strange “girl hangs out in parking lot with older man” book. All parties involved have ties to Ethiopia, and you sense an undercurrent of the mob or a gang, at least some unsavory goings-on. A sentence on the back of the book claims that this would be “an unforgettable, haunting story of family and fatherhood, national identity, and what it means to be an immigrant in America today.” Really? I read 60% of this book and it’s mostly this girl hanging out in a parking lot where the attendant, Ayale, lets her do her homework in the attendant booth and eventually involves her in “package delivery” when she seems to be hanging around enough to pick up what’s happening.

Her father is largely absent, and when he is present he’s upset about how much time she spends with Ayale but doesn’t take steps to prevent her from going there. I guess she kind of goes to school too? And the book begins with her and her father escaping to an unnamed island to start over, which I suspect is a kind of witness protection, but I am okay never finding out.

If this is what it means to be an immigrant in America today then I apparently don’t get it. This book is written well enough to keep me hooked longer than others have lately, but it is not compelling enough to make me feel guilty about not finishing it. I became tired of the short chapters revealing nothing, and stringing me along without revealing anything. Perhaps this story is too personal to what it’s like to be an immigrant in Boston, and so alienates readers outside the limited sphere of influence. We’re not in on the joke. We’re not in the know enough to connect.

I guess I just didn’t get it. There is an immigrant story to be explored, but this book seems to be reaching out to a very small audience. The writing was good enough to keep me going, but eventually I got tired of Lucy pulling the football out from under me and set the book down. If you are looking for a book about the immigrant experience in America I would seek out Americanah, Homegoing, or Behold the Dreamers, among others.