Review: Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

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Published: 23 January 2018

Publisher: Razorbill

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult/LGBT+ (Bisexual MC, Gay & Lesbian side characters)

Odessa is one of Karthia’s master necromancers, catering to the kingdom’s ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it’s Odessa’s job to raise them by retrieving their souls from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised–the Dead must remain shrouded, or risk transforming into zombie-like monsters known as Shades. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, the grotesque transformation will begin.

A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears among Odessa’s necromancer community. Soon a crushing loss of one of their own reveals a disturbing conspiracy: someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead–and training them to attack. Odessa is faced with a terrifying question: What if her necromancer’s magic is the weapon that brings Karthia to its knees?

Rating: 2 Stars

Visually, Reign of the Fallen was intricate and stunning. There were colors everywhere and different lifeforms were described beautifully. Even the Deadlands were attractive in an eerie sort of way, with their blooms, meadows, and gardens, though lacking the color and scent of living plants. Food and drink were described in a way that made it easy to envision the feast laid out before the attendees, to almost smell it coming off the page.

Odessa was a difficult character to get to like, though like might be a bit of a stretch. I forgot her name only a little bit into the book because the point of view is first person and it hardly came up. Having to flip back and figure out who the main character was doesn’t bode well, especially as early as 13%. Then there was her personality, which felt all over the place. One moment she’s a strong bad necromancer, the next she’s easily offended by a comment Evander makes that she misread. Yes you can have variances in personality, soft moments among the rough, but that wasn’t what was going on. I felt like she made a lot of foolish decisions, not thinking things through, and that muddied any positive feelings I might have had.

The relationship between her and Evander felt very forced to me. The way they interacted came across as stilted, like a textbook head over heels couple but without any spark, any life to make me believe in them. There were very few moments in which to see them as being together; most of the time they were in groups which I think hindered any attempt to get me to care about them.

After a certain event happened, I was reminded very strongly of Bella’s situation in New Moon by Stephenie Meyer. Odessa took a page out of her book with the calming draft she became addicted to and doing so came across as infuriating and ridiculous, a waste of whatever strength Marsh wanted us to believe resided in Odessa. Her giving into grief was a combination of Bella and Padme (in Revenge of the Sith). There are a variety of ways to experience grief in reality, that I can admit to, but Odessa, on top of the fact that I couldn’t really get to like her to start with, felt like someone I couldn’t care much about after this.

The secondary relationship felt very convenient, like it had to be there and the person involved, other than Odessa, was the most “logical” choice. It could have been something, maybe, but the way it sort-of developed, sort-of floundered contributed to an apathetic feeling about the whole thing.

Valoria was easily my favorite character. In a kingdom that has forbidden change for the last two hundred years, she’s secretly working on inventions and improvements for the city. As the second living heir to the king, she’s in a unique position to be able to work on these illegal items and hide them away, waiting for a chance to enact a new canal system to help prevent the common plague or stable enlargement for animal comfort. She was brilliant and intense and the only one of Odessa’s circle to push her to give up the calming draft that brings hallucinations of Evander and imaginary monsters.

Something I didn’t understand about this world was: if there are so few blue-eyed people (the only ones who can see Deadlands gates) and even fewer that are chosen to do necromancer training, why aren’t they protected more? Why aren’t they guarded so that they don’t get hurt or try to leave the country, as Evander wanted to do? Even though there were times when Odessa would mention other mages, such as beast mages or weather mages, they also seemed to have slight populations and yet no one besides Odessa talks about that. It seemed weird to have so few magical people and yet have no protections in place, even if they were misguided or bad methods.

Another thing was when Odessa made an observation about the nobles trying to forget that a necromancer had been ripped from their lives, that they were sorrowful. I didn’t feel like this observation, or any of Odessa’s about the citizens level of despair toward Master Nicanor’s death rings true. Necromancers are a close group and they’re valued for their skill, but as people they don’t seem important to nobles. I think the citizens are fine so long as there are more necromancers and Odessa thinking they’re drowning their sorrow in cake comes off fake because we don’t see any emotional connection to the necromancers as people.

I had issues with the pacing of the book. Things seemed to alternately happen too slowly or jump ahead too quickly, making for a jarring experience. The characters added to my blase feeling about the plot line. I was more interested in the secondary characters than the primary ones, which made it difficult to really get into the story as I spent a lot time focusing on the “wrong” people. There were at least a couple of inconsistencies with the information given, scene changes and the like, that irked me as well.

There was also the matter of the villain of the piece, the big bad that’s supposed to be on the “wrong” side and be the person we cheer against. The villain in Reign of the Fallen was more than a little disappointing. I felt like they came across as petulant and boring. It’s as if, while I was reading, I saw the name and thought “Oh, then. Okay then, moving on.” There was no shock, no suspense, nothing to have me invested in the hero finally discovering the identity of their enemy and trying to defeat them.

I can easily see why this book would attract fans, as it’s written well enough, but not to my liking. I hope a lot of people can find enjoyment in it, but for me, I think I’ll go back and read Marsh’s earlier book Fear the Drowning Deep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

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Sunday Street Team: Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke – A Guest Post by the Author

Nice Try Jane Sinner

I picked up Nice Try, Jane Sinner because reality t.v. can be so much fun, even as you’re watching the characters spiral, as well as the fact that Jane sounded like a smart ass that I would love spending time with.

Earlier this month I reviewed Lianne Oelke’s novel, which you can read here, and am so pleased to be able to share with you today a guest post by the author. I asked some questions about her favorite reality shows, what Jane might take with her if she had to choose only five items, and more.

 

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Published: 9 January 2018

Publisher: Clarion Books

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary

The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.

Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don’t know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she’ll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.

As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She’ll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.

 

Guest Post by Lianna Oelke

 

Favorite reality shows:
 
The Bachelor/ Bachelorette, America’s Next Top Model, and Alone (a History channel show about surviving in the wilderness).
If you like this reality show, read this book:
America’s Next Top Model: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
 
Things you would compete for in return for appearing on a reality show, like Jane does for the car:
 
My student loans paid off. Books. Food.
 
Video games you would appear in live adaptations of: 
Legend of Zelda
 
Books you’d take on a camping trip:
Or any other (preferably long) book that I can lose myself in for hours! 
 
5 things Jane would never leave the house without:
Her journal, gel pen, coffee (or money for coffee), sarcasm, and a healthy mistrust of everyone around her.

 

 

About the Author

lianne

Lianne Oelke holds a degree in philosophy and works in the film industry. She resides in Vancouver, and Nice Try, Jane Sinner is her first book. Visit her online at lianneoelke.com and on Twitter @lianneoelke.

Goodreads  –  Twitter  –  Website

 

Tour Schedule

 

1/7 Tour Stops

Review – Books And Ladders

Creative Post  – Bayy In Wonderland

Interview – The Regal Critiques

1/14  Tour Stops

Interview –Book Stack Amber

Creative Post – The Ultimate Fangirl

Guest Post – Haunted By Books 13

1/21  Tour Stops

Review – A Gingerly Review

Review – Emily Reads Everything

Interview – Dani Reviews Things

1/28 Tour Stops

Interview – Curly Hair Bibliophile

Guest Post- The Hermit Librarian

Review  – Here’s To Happy Endings

 

 

 

 

 

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Xpresso Book Tours Presents: A Review of Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

 

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: January 23rd 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

Rating: 4 Stars

Caution warning: anti-asexual comments early on, including a breakup scene

Let’s Talk About Love‘s portrayal of an asexual character is the closest I’ve ever come to reading a book that represents me. It was amazing to, as I was reading, highlight passages that really pinged in my brain. Claire Kann did an excellent job of explaining what being asexual meant for Alice without coming across as patronizing. She acknowledged that there’s a spectrum to asexuality and did so in a way that I felt she’d really done the research rather than relying on stereotypes.

This isn’t a novel about one thing. There are passages about Alice’s experience dealing with potential romantic partners and her sexuality, her experience as a Black queer woman, and of being asexual and not always fitting into the queer community due to some people’s view re: asexuality.

Early on, she is separating from her girlfriend, Margot, who makes some racist remarks about Alice being Black and not liking sex, followed up by asking if Alice had been to a doctor about her sexuality. “Have you gone to a doctor?” is a line that highlight a big misconception about asexual people: that it’s a problem, something to be fixed. Coming from a lesbian character, someone whose sexuality was thought of the same way not too long ago (and still is sometimes), this remark is particularly hurtful. There are instances where Alice mentions people wanting to touch her hair and other microaggressions relating to her race.

Reading about Alice’s day to day interests was fun and furthered the connection I felt to her. From interior design to her pop culture tastes (Supernatural FTW!), she was a kind, intelligent, fun character to get to know. It was easy to sink into her mindset and see what she enjoyed about life. I appreciated the method of storytelling being in third person. Some may find it easier to relate to a character when first person p.o.v. is used, but my preference is third and in the case of Let’s Talk About Love, it was utilized well.

I can appreciate a slow burn kind of story and Let’s Talk About Love certainly felt like that, but there was something missing from the developing relationship between Alice and Takumi. There’s a scene where Alice is looking through pictures Takumi took of various times they spent together: dates, time at work, etc. As the reader, we never got to see these moments and so their impact on the story felt diminished.

Further to that point, when Feenie and Ryan, Alice’s friends and roommates, make the claim that they’ve been hurt by Alice spending so much time with Takumi and supposedly ignoring or replacing them, it feels more like Feenie is being controlling. Feenie’s already abrasive character, without the date scenes backing up a possible cause for her attitude toward Alice, comes across as controlling or emotionally manipulative. With the set-up of their close friendship, this viewpoint feels awkward and unfair to Feenie.

The secondary plot line, of Alice’s parents and siblings pressuring her to change her undeclared major to pre-law, felt like it lacked the punch of an unsupportive family. It wasn’t present enough to leave a lasting feeling and the climax of the situation felt bland. The story of Alice, her sexuality, and her relationships was much more interesting while Alice’s family’s plot came across as though it had been inserted for drama and didn’t follow through on that attempt.

So much effort was put into this book and it shows. Claire Kann’s debut novel should be considered her first step onto the young adult book stage where the spotlight is sure to shine.

 

About the Author

Claire Kann hails from the glorious Bay Area where the weather is regrettably not nearly as temperate as it used to be. She has a BA in English/Creative Writing from

Sonoma State University, works for a nonprofit that you may have heard of where she daydreams like she’s paid to do it. LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE is her debut novel.

Website / Facebook / Twitter

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Book Tour

January 22nd
Margie’s Must Reads >> Excerpt
Fannatality >> Review
Actin’ Up with Books >> Review
The Heart of a Book Blogger >> Review
The Hopeless Romantic Bookworm >> Review

January 23rd
The Candid Cover >> Review
BookCrushin >> Guest post
Married To Books Reviews and Blog >> Review
Books of a Shy Girl >> Review
Olivia’s Catastrophe >> Review

January 24th
The Avid Reader >> Interview
Jill Jemmett >> Review
The Hermit Librarian >> Review
Butterfly-o-Meter Books >> Interview

January 25th
Lisa Loves Literature >> Interview
Abooktropolis >> Review
A Dream Within A Dream >> Excerpt
Literary Meanderings >> Review
Bookwyrming Thoughts >> Review

January 26th
Rolling with the Moments >> Review
Belle’s Book Blog >> Review
Book Stacks Amber >> Guest post
missbriony.com >> Review
The Nocturnal Fey >> Review

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book as part of the Xpresso Book Tour from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Release Day Blitz: Dear Dwayne, With Love by Eliza Gordon

I am so excited that DEAR DWAYNE, WITH LOVE by Eliza Gordon is available now and that I get to share the news!

If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Author Eliza Gordon, be sure to

check out all the details below.

 

This blitz also includes a giveaway for an awesome DEAR DWAYNE, WITH LOVE Prize Pack courtesy of Eliza and Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in

the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

 

About The Book

Title: DEAR DWAYNE, WITH LOVE

Author: Eliza Gordon

Pub.: Date: January 23, 2018

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Pages: 380

Formats: Paperback, eBook, audiobook

Find itAmazonAudibleB&NTBDGoodreads

 

 

Wannabe actress Dani Steele’s résumé resembles a cautionary tale on how not to be famous. She’s pushing thirty and stuck in a dead-end insurance job, and her relationship status is holding at uncommitted.

With unbearably perfect sisters and a mother who won’t let her forget it, Dani has two go-tos for consolation: maple scones and a blog in which she pours her heart out to her

celebrity idol. He’s the man her father never was, no boyfriend will ever be—and not so impossible a dream as one might think. When Dani learns that he’s planning a fund-raising event where the winning amateur athlete gets a walk-on in his new film, she decides to trade pastries and self-doubt for running shoes and a sexy British trainer with adorable knees.

But when Dani’s plot takes an unexpected twist, she realizes that her happy ending might have to be improvised—and that proving herself to her idol isn’t half as important as proving something to herself.

 

* * *

 

This is a work of fiction. While Dwayne Johnson p/k/a The Rock is a real person, events relating to him in the book are a product of the author’s imagination. Mr. Johnson is not affiliated with this book, and has not endorsed it or participated in any manner in connection with this book.

About Eliza Gordon

 

Eliza Gordon has excellent taste in books, shoes, movies, and friends, and questionable sanity in the realm of love. Best leave that one alone.

In real life, she’s an editor, mom, wife, and bibliophile and proud parent of one very

spoiled tuxedo cat. Eliza writes stories to help you believe in the Happily Ever After; Jennifer Sommersby, her other self, writes YA and is repped by Daniel Lazar at Writers House.

 

Giveaway Details: Open Internationally

1 winner will receive a DEAR DWAYNE, WITH LOVE Prize Pack including a finished copy of the book and swag! International. Ends on January 31st at Midnight EST!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: The Scarecrow Princess by Federico Rossi Edrig (Author), Andrea Colvin (Editor)

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Published: 24 October 2017

Publisher: Lion Forge

Category: Graphic Novel/Fantasy/Young Adult

Morrigan Moore has always been moody, but her new home is the worst. Her novelist mother has dragged her to the countryside, drawn by the lost myth of the King of Crows, a dark figure of theft and deceit, and the Scarecrow Prince, the only one who can stand against him. When Morrigan finds herself swept up in the legend, she’ll have no choice but to take on the Scarecrow Prince’s mantel, and to stand and fight. For her town, her family, and her own future. This lushly drawn graphic novel will pull you into its sinister secrets and not let go till the final page. For fans of Coraline and Over the Garden Wall

Rating:  1 Star

I looked for this on NetGalley at the recommendation of someone close to me who had seen it somewhere and thought it might be interesting. Luckily it was on NetGalley as a Read Now option, so here we are. With the line “for fans of Coraline…” in the synopsis, I thought it might be interesting enough. That’s one of my favorite books and movies, after all.

Morrigan is, right off the bat, described as “always moody” in the synopsis. From what I could tell, however, she acted like a teenager that had had her life disrupted in what she thought was an unfair way: because of the job of her mother and bother, novelists that chase myths and legends. While her snark toward the new landlady was a bit biting and obviously rude, I understand where she was coming from and rather felt like she was being painted as a brat when she was simple reacting as one would expect her to have in such a situation. That doesn’t mean I liked her, as such, but I understood her bratty-ness.

Sophie and Edgar Moore were an odd pair of characters. I didn’t get much of a sense of personality from them, besides that of absentminded authors. What I’m still wondering about it, why mother and brother? There wasn’t enough detail about them to flesh them out and see them as such. To be honest, without the brief mention of his being her brother at the beginning, I would have thought Edgar was her father. He and their mother came off as absentminded author parents, really, rather than a brother working with his mum. Plus the language used to talk about them, “your folks”, is most often used for parental figures.

The King of Crows was by far the creepiest, most perverted character in the book. I disliked his mannerisms, his way of speaking; for a thousands year old creature, he sounded like an entitled modern man full of arrogance. I hated him when he started making sexual advances toward Morrigan, our fourteen year old heroine, and nothing is said in the text about it. He’s a bad guy because he took her parents, not because he’s trying to seduce her or because he made a comment about a four panel page scene earlier in the book when, after escaping from his kingdom, she pleasured herself. What. The. Hell. was that about??

The final battle between Morrigan and the Crow King further feeds into this creepiness because both characters are completely naked at the end. The Crow King has his lower half covered by crows/shadows, but Morrigan? The child in this book? Not a stitch, nothing. It was a rude scene change in the narrative and added nothing that I could see. If the mantle of the Scarecrow turning evil and needing to be stripped away was so important, I feel like the author could easily have managed this without parading Morrigan around like he did. It made a read that was somewhat dull into one that was downright uncomfortable.

The book is touted as being for fans of Coraline and I can almost see that, but I think it shared a bit too many similarities with Coraline to really stand out as a unique work of fiction that might appeal to fans of both books. If you didn’t use names or the details about the crows, I think people might not be able to tell the difference very well and that seems a problem for me because this could have been wonderful. The idea of a Crow King haunting a small English town sounds eerie and mythical. It was a bit sad that it didn’t quite reach that level for me.

The art seemed rather rough around the edges, like static on a television. Then, the coloring. It was quite flat and didn’t seem to flesh out the story. It was like filling out a coloring book page with one colored pencil or paint pen and not doing much in the way of shading or layering.

Ultimately, even if the art had been of a higher quality, I don’t think I could rate this higher because of the story and gratuitous nudity.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

The Hermit Librarian Presents: A review of Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman + Interview with the Author

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Published:  22 May 2017

Category: Romance/LGBT (F/F)

Small-batch independent yarn dyer Clara Ziegler is eager to brainstorm new color combinations–if only she could come up with ideas she likes as much as last time! When she sees Danielle Solomon’s paintings of Florida wildlife by chance at a neighborhood gallery, she finds her source of inspiration. Outspoken, passionate, and complicated, Danielle herself soon proves even more captivating than her artwork…

Fluffy Jewish f/f contemporary set in the author’s childhood home of South Florida.

Rating: 5 Stars

Knit One, Girl Two is artistically rich and features more than one brand of artistic endeavor. Clara is not only a knitter, but an indie dyer, looking all around her for inspiration for her next yarn line. Danielle also sees the beauty around herself in Southern Florida, translating these sights into paintings which inevitably inspire Clara.

Painters are hard workers and I’ve seen many styles portrayed in fiction, ranging from oil paintings to grafitti. Knitters don’t seem to get as much attention and seeing Clara featured, as well as her other crafty friends, brought new joy to my reading experience in 2017.

Aside from the artwork displayed by both Clara and Danielle, there’s a sweet romance that develops between them. Starting as a business relationship, it has the right balance between slow burn and instalove. Their interests aren’t stagnant, either, so we get to see other things they like, such as films. Both of them being Jewish also had an impact on the story and while the book didn’t have to teach me something about their Jewish faith, I found it neat to learn about a few aspects of it.

Things were a bit shorter than I would have liked, but within those pages the author told a complete, thoughtful story about Clara and Danielle. It was a pleasure to read this book, brief as it was. Seeing my craft (I do love knitting and new color lines are always inspiring) on the page in a recent, LGBT+ friendly novella was so good and I hope to read more by Shira Glassman, especially if Clara and Danielle make an appearance!

As a special treat, I have an interview with the author herself! Thank you to Shira for answering my questions and sharing some thoughts about seeing yourself on the page and her arty thoughts.

 


 

The Hermit Librarian: Do you ever find yourself inspired to write a story based on a pattern or a yarn line like Clara creates a colorway based on Danielle’s paintings?

Shira Glassman: I haven’t gotten story ideas from patterns or yarns before, but maybe I will now that you’ve put the idea into my head! Since my writing focuses on relationships between characters, most of my inspiration comes from just watching people interact.

 

THL: Can you think of the first time you saw yourself in a book, in any capacity?

SG: I’m not sure about the first time I saw myself as a queer woman, but the first time I saw a face like mine — and a nose like mine — presented as cute and pretty was in Dylan Meconis’s Family Man comic, with the character Liesl Levy. It was basically world-changing to realize you COULD DO THAT.

 

THL: When reading Knit One, Girl Two, it felt like it was written by someone who really understood what it was to be a crafter. What got you into knitting in the first place?

SG: I got into knitting when I was about nine because my grandmother thought it would help keep my fingers out of my mouth. (I have dermatillomania/dermatophagia, which I now manage by giving myself regular homemade manicures.) Knitting didn’t actually solve the problem but now I can make blankets and sweaters and all kinds of other fun stuff. It also provided most of my social life in grad school, where I met Caitlin, the indie dyer who inspired Clara.

 

THL: If you had to pick a type of pattern for your main characters, Clara and Danielle, such as shawls, fingerless mittens, etc., what type of project do you think best represents them?

SG: Clara, like me, likes stories — in her case, a made-up superhero fandom that’s getting its own book next year, and musical theater. I think she’d want to participate in that nerd event on Ravelry where everyone has teams — Buffy, Firefly, etc. — I’m blanking on the name?? Oh, gosh. The one where you make whatever projects you want as long as they’re themed for the “team” you’re on. So, lots of little things. Danielle, she’s a bold, artsy type who enjoys romantic style. She’d wear an outrageously fancy looking shawl. Or an asymmetrical scarf. (They live in South Florida, so fingerless mittens and knit socks are probably pushing it.)

 

THL: Follow up question: what colorway type would go with that? Speckeled, variegated, solid, tonal?

SG: Danielle would explore handpainted colorways and speckles and all the fun stuff — she’s an artist and she’d want to experiment. I’ll give Clara a tonal gradient since I really like them.

 

THL: If you could go on a writing vacation and set your book in that place, where would it be? Let’s throw time travel in there for fun, any TIME PERIOD. 😀

SG: I feel like Clara would want to go to any of the settings of the big musicals — Sweeney, Les Miz — and Danielle would have an edgy, feminist answer like “you think I’m gonna say 1940’s for the pinup clothes but haha no” 😛

 

THL: Last but not least, because I have to ask: will there be any more adventures for Clara and Danielle in the future? More sock club adventures, perhaps?

SG: I never know what my muse is going to throw at me! I have no further Clara/Danielle adventures PLANNED, but all that means is that I haven’t come up with them yet. I mean, when I finished A HARVEST OF RIPE FIGS I honestly thought Mangoverse was over, but I missed them too much and then out came OLIVE CONSPIRACY which is the best of the books because I had the most practice. So I can’t ever really “know” something’s over, especially when they had no time to get going, like Clara and Danielle. Maybe? I’m sorry I can’t say for sure! I can promise you this — there is more f/f coming. In general.

 


 

Thank you, Shira, for taking the time to answer my questions and for writing Knit One, Girl Two. Here’s looking forward to many more books in 2018. 🙂

 

 

 

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Review: Poison by Galt Niederhoffer

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Published: 21 November 2017

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Category: Psychological Thriller/Mystery

Poison is a literary psychological thriller about a marriage that follows minor betrayal into a bubbling stew of lies, cruelty, manipulation, and danger.

Cass and Ryan Connor have achieved family nirvana. With three kids between them, a cat and a yard, a home they built and feathered, they seem to have the Modern Family dream. Their family, including Cass’ two children from previous relationships, has recently moved to Portland —a new start for their new lives. Cass and Ryan have stable, successful careers, and they are happy. But trouble begins almost imperceptibly. First with small omissions and white lies that happen daily in any marital bedroom. They seem insignificant, but they are quickly followed by a series of denials and feints that mushroom and then cyclone in menace.

With life-or-death stakes and irreversible consequences, Poison is a chilling and irresistible reminder that the closest bond designed to protect and provide for each other and for children can change in a minute.

Rating: 1 Star

Caution: marital rape/sexual assault scenes

The premise of Poison sounded like it would make for a rather good thriller. Tense moments, mystery, a life-or-death situation…these elements appear in many a good book and I thought I would find the same here. I found that to be rather far off the mark in this instance.

The book starts off rather pompously, with over exaggerated language to describe the family unit and what it’s members do to ensure survival. It was a bit off putting, almost condescending, as the author/narrator pontificate about the perfect system that is a family, how everyone has to follow the rules or the unit crumbles. As this wasn’t being said by a member of the Connor family, I felt like this prologue was more preachy than necessary.

The manner in which the story progresses felt very much like the copy for a documentary on the modern family. As the reader, I didn’t sink into the story as usual, but felt like I was peering in at the Connors as one might look at an aquarium, complete with narration from some omnipotent being.

In another writer’s hands I might have been able to sympathize with the Connors, see them as a family that is tired in their routine, but generally alright. There was no time to come to that point in Poison. From the start all I got was a deep sense of co-dependency, of the author stretching out the details like an overextended rubber band.

I didn’t much care for how Cass, the matriarch, was portrayed. It’s stated early on that grief had made her dull and boring, grief for her first husband that died of an extended illness. This didn’t come across as a personal belief that Cass held, but rather a dismissive opinion of the author or, as I mentioned before, the narrator of the documentary that is the Conner family. The problem is, with the way she’s treated early on, it makes it difficult to like her midway through when normally I would have been sympathetic, maybe even sincerely worried about her. Building that foundation was essential for a story like this and I didn’t get that.

There were also snide, sexist remarks about Cass’s “true calling”: picking up after her children, not the career she’s had for years in legal journalism and as a journalism professor. Again, this might not be so bad if it felt like the character’s desire, but the way in which that passage in particular came across as the author breaking into their own story and remarking upon what they think is the “proper place for women”.

There was a chapter when, describing her narcissistic, egotistical, misogynistic father than Cass seems to rebel against his more dated ideas, to pity or mock them, but these protests felt like a puppet speaking from a script because, as I’d seen prior to this point, she is encumbered by these notions more than she admits. This is either a result of falling back on familial comforts or the author trying to portray Cass one way, but letting their own opinions shine through despite that.

It wasn’t consistent, either. One moment things seemed decidedly old-fashioned, the next Cass was going on about how modern Ryan was, how he didn’t wholly subscribe to traditional genders roles by being both able to construct floors and cool a good meal. There was always this undercurrent of falling back on a more 1950’s world view, but the narrative going forward couldn’t make up its mind.

Ryan wasn’t a good character either, though in his case I strongly disliked him because of his constant gaslighting of Cass. I was frustrated with Cass because she allowed it, accepted that this was how things were, and instantly forgiving him despite acknowledging that he was turning his fault into a criticism of her and her “failures”.

No one in the book seems to realize the privilege they have either. Though it’s never stated, I assume the family is white because of how they behave and remarks made about things in their life, such as the Victorian house they inhabit. The narration indicates that it’s “an example of what can be attained with hard work, a little luck— and a low-interest mortgage.” That’s not all there is to it and yet not one person recognizes the advantages they have because of who they are as well as what they’ve accomplished.

Home aside, they also have hired help within the home and children in multiple activities that require a good deal of money to attend, the ability to have these things never seeming worthy of note by either the family or the author. It was frustrating because the book is built around their achievement of a sort of familial nirvana, but there’s no recognition for getting there or being able to get there.

Cass even ticks off the things she has, the privileges of middle class wealth, at one point and instead of noting that she is fortunate enough to have these things both because of her person and her accomplishments, she waves them off as comforts she can count on, as though they were marks on a map or ladder that everyone aspires to follow or climb.

There was a careless comment thrown in about Cass being a “sleep anorexic” that rubbed me the wrong way. Eating disorders are nothing to joke about and the author using this phrase was unsettling because it felt like it diminished the severity of a person with anorexia and made Cass’s insomnia a flippant thing. The way Cass talks about her self-diagnosis was really bewildering because it sounded like something an anorexic person might say when in denial about what their disease is doing to them: bragging about how little they need, how much better they are than others because they can do more on less than their peers.

An oddity I noticed, especially concerning Marley (the new babysitter), was that the timing and order of events was off for some things. In Marley’s case, when they first meet Cass finds out that she’s 24, but later Marley says, when speaking of her personal illness, that she was 12 in 1984. That would make her at least 45 since the book takes place in 2017. These inconsistencies don’t seem to be because of paranoia, as Cass’s husband might suggest, but perhaps a bit of carelessness in the writing.

The formatting was a bit awkward in the book and I don’t think it was because it was an ARC. The transitions from scene to scene were very abrupt. One line to the next you might find yourself, formerly in the Connor house, then all of a sudden in a restaurant in Seattle proper, with nary a line split to really set things apart.

As for the pacing…with all the issues that kept coming up, along with the strange writing style considering this is pitched as a thriller/mystery, I found myself wondering when something would actually happen. Even when things did pick up, around 30%, it was a rather random acceleration of events, like 0 to 60 in three seconds. The whiplash did not endear me to the characters or the story.

For long expanses of time I found myself uninterested because nothing was really happening. The family troubles, which could have made for some kind of drama, were flat and, written as they were documentary style, had no real rising action that I could find. When Cass begins to suspect Ryan of indiscretions, it wasn’t written in an engaging manner. It was like a textbook case being displayed on the page. No humanity to the words, really, just the blunt statement of “fact”.

The ending was unsatisfactory in that, despite all the troubles and legal complications stacked against her, Cass was able to solve the case to the authorities’ satisfaction rather quickly. It didn’t seem real or possible, considering what the courts and the police had thought of her moments ago. There was also the matter of the story not really being resolved. The reader is more given a foot on the path to the end rather than a definitive conclusion.

I wouldn’t recommend this because of the lack of interesting content and the problems that arose from sexism, gaslighting, and the cycle of repetitive interactions between the two main characters.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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