Book Review│Don’t Keep Your Day Job by Cathy Heller

day jobI am in a really weird phase of my life. I have a job that I have loved for years, but now I had my doctorate and the job that I do have really only requires a bachelors. I find myself growing bored with my day to day life and I feel resentment building when it comes to being unable to stay home with my son and write books all day and teach college classes. It’s a sore spot in my marriage lately and we both feel my overall frustration in feeling stuck in a job that in many ways I have mastered. I am stuck between wanting more and less at the same time.

It’s a weird phase in my life like I said. I also feel really stifled creatively and sometimes when I daydream lately I find myself thinking back to that time in my life when I was newly graduated from college and maybe if I hadn’t pursued this life, maybe if I had just struggled even harder than I did, maybe I would be doing something more along the lines of writing full time and teaching college part-time. I don’t know for sure and I definitely don’t regret the life I have built, but I think I am just at a point where I want to see a change in my professional life that would allow me to be home with my baby more and would challenge me in new ways than teaching hs been lately.

I was excited to receive a galley of Don’t Keep Your Day Job because I thought that it might give me some great advice or some great push towards pursuing something new and exciting in my life. However, there was no great secret to how the author got to where they were and I also found that there was a profound lack of gratitude for the luck and support she received in abandoning the every day 9 to 5 life for the creative life.

I think many of us would like to quit our jobs today and pursue a life that we are passionate about, but with real-life responsibilities like kids, families, mortgages and paying for health insurance…I just didn’t see how I would ever be able to take that leap like so many described in this book. It’s a well-written book and if you like her podcast, this would seem to be a new way to look at it, but for me, I was just disappointed that there wasn’t some magical answer about how I could change my life today. Unlike those that have been able to make careers out of their passions, I do not have a support system…I am my own support system nor do I have the funds to pin together finances while I fight to make a living like I do through teaching. The basis of the book, seemed completely unrealistic to me unless you were someone much younger with access to parents who could financially help you and few to none responsbilities.

Which, I suppose, is more reflective of me than it is of this book. Overall, though, I will stick to listening to the podcast.

Book Information

Don’t Keep Your Day Jobs by Cathy Heller will be released on November 12, 2019, from St. Martin’s Press with ISBN  9781250193605. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

 

Book Review│Across a Broken Shore by Amy Trueblood

cover163516-mediumWilhelmina “Willa” MacCarthy is your typical 18-year-old girl. She is stuck between what her devotedly religous family wants for her and what she wants for herself as she strives to find her own way in the world as a young woman. It is 1936 and her family would like nothing more than to see her become a nun. However, Willa has other plans. She is ahead of her time and longs to find her footing in medicine, a field that is almost completely male-dominated at the time. Change is coming though, both within the ideas that are held for women and within the physical area where Willa lives and works. The Golden Gate Bridge is being built and in many ways can serve as a metaphor for Willa’s ow bridge between her family obligations and her own dreams for herself.

As the story unfolds, we learn that Dr. Maloy, the local physician has retired and in his place, Dr. Katherine Winston has arrived. The town is buzzing with news of a female doctor and many are unsure if she can handle the position. Willa and Katherine spark up a friendship which leads to Willa accompanying Dr. Winston on her appointments and visits to patients. In her journey of self-discovery, we also get to fall in love with characters like, Paddy, the brother who believes in Willa from the very start. There is also Sam, a total sweetheart, that makes for that subtle young love that makes both Willa and Sam completely endearing overall.

This novel was a quick read with an enjoyable backdrop that illuminated Willa’s journey. Depression-era 1930’s San Francisco drove much of the story and made the setting enjoyable overall.

Book Information

Across a Broken Shore by Amy Trueblood is scheduled to be released on November 5, 2019, from Flux: North Star Editions with ISBN 9781635830422. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Book Review│The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts

bright unknownAs a Christian woman, I was super excited when I received the galley for Elizabeth Byler Younts’ The Bright Unknown. I was further geeking out upon my receipt of it because it takes place in the 1940’s and I just love that era all together. Sometimes I really feel as though I was born too late, but then you read a story like this one and you’re reminded of how dark and unfair society could be back then, especially towards women…and even more so when those women were poor.

The Bright Unknown begins with Brighton explaining, “I’m not sure whom I should thank – or blame – for the chance to become an old woman. Though as a young girl, sixty-seven seemed much older than it actually is.” We open at the end of the story, but are quickly thrown back into Brighton’s life before her freedom, in a place that we come to know as a horrific, malevolent institution where the darkest sides of humanity pervaded for many years.

Born in the Riverside Home for the Insane  in 1923, Brighton Friedrich’s life revolves around her unstable mother and her overall care. With little exposure to the real world, Brighton is ill-equipped for anything outside of the asylum’s walls and at times, the true nature of what really is within. Eventually, Brighton meets Grace Douglass, a young woman who is sent to the asylum by her parents for behavioral issues.

Just as naive as Brighton, Grace struggles to adjust to her life inside of the walls of the institution. Grace draws Brighton out into the world through her love of photography and the two soon grow close.

Staying true to the time, the therapies that destroyed people inside asylums in the 1940’s are at their peak use. Hydrotherapy, insulin shock, lobotomies…and so much more, are at the forefront of the treatment of patients. Brighton becomes driven to find a way to save herself and her friends from life in the asylum, eager to get the out and into a place where they can find piece. The Riverside Home for the Insane is not where these women belong and Brighton is determined to find her own life along side the people that she loves.

However, her unrest leads to a sudden change in how Brighton is treated by the staff and she goes from being a person to a patient. Undergoing the treatments that other have had, including insulin shock, sparks a fire in Brighton that sets her and Grace on a journey towards their own freedom. They grow up fast and hard, but their journey towards a new life is riveting and the overall prose of the novel keeps you engaged as you journey through the insanity that is an insane asylum in the 1940’s and the life that comes after.

“My driveway reminds me of the freedom I have to come and go as I please. Things were not always this way.”
-Brighton Friedrich

Book Information

The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts is scheduled to be released on October 22, 2019 from Thomas Nelson with ISBN 9780718075682. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Book Review│Cursed by Thomas Wheeler

cursedAs a middle school teacher I am constantly looking for new books that will entice teenagers to read. I also like to find books that take on old material that I still believe my students should be exposed to, but will probably not be into if I used the original source material. I was very excited to receive a galley of Cursed for these reasons and also, because it has been optioned by Netflix to become a series.

King Arthur’s Court

Cursed brings us into the Arthurian Tales, but with a new spin to it. We learn that there is a sword in the stone and that whomever pulls it, will become the new king of the realm. What everyone was not prepared for is that the chosen one may very well not be a man at all. What if that new ruler was, in fact, a queen?

A Dark Druid Rising

Nimsue is an outcast in her Druid village. She is frequently drawn to the dark arts and it leaves her feeling alone and also feared by her fellow villagers. When her village is attacked and ultimately slaughtered by the Red Palladins, Nimsue, becomes charged to bring back the ancient sword to a powerful sorcerer as her mother lays dying.

Teaming up with a mercenary named Arthur and refugee Fey Folk from across England, Nimsue is on a mission to save her people and avenge her mother’s death. The visuals are amazing throughout and the style of the story will keep students reading.

However, the book reads more like a screenplay in that it jumps quickly from scene to scene and is clearly written for its eventual Netflix debut. This can either be confusing for students or it could keep their attention with the choppiness of the writing. I think it would heavily depend on the audience in your classroom.

When this series eventually does come to Netflix, it could be really helpful in creating interactive lessons around the story versus the Netflix episodes. Students will love the visuals which really brought this book to life for me.

Book Information

Cursed by Thomas Wheeler will be available for purchase on October 1, 2019 from Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers with ISBN 9781534425330. To be linked to special pre-ordering pricing click the link at the top of this section. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Book Review│A Death in Paris Mystery: The Books of the Dead by Emilia Bernhard

cover163108-mediumThe Books of the Dead by Emilia Bernhard had it all for me: Paris, death and of course, librarians. My inner nerd girl was squealing when I received the galley for this novel. I think I was so drawn to it because it had an air of Jonny Depp’s The Ninth Gate which I have watched probably too many times to count.

 A Double Murder

American sleuth Rachel Levis stumbles upon the body of an employee of the French national library strangled in the bathroom of a cafe. Having solved a murder, with her best friend Magda, only 18 months before, Rachel reaches out to Capitaine Boussicault for help.

She immediately goes undercover as a librarian to try to figure out which one of the man’s colleagues could have offed him. Almost just as quickly as she is undercover, the drama really begins to come into play: first, a priceless antique book is found mutilated and then, her favorite suspect for the first murder is found dead in the stacks. Boussicault pulls Rachel from the investigation. However, she and Magda are dedicated to solving this mystery and take the investigation into their own hands.

A Cozy Mystery

This is definitely a cozy mystery where the amateur sleuths win over the professionals and become part of an unbelievable investigation. You will have to suspend your sense of realistic cream investigations to thoroughly enjoy the novel, it has all the pieces to it: the international setting, the pair of best friends solving crimes and a slightly absurd reason to murder someone. I am excited to see where this series goes and what other kinds of trouble our two girls will get into next!

Book Information

The Books of the Dead: A Death in Paris Mystery by Emilia Bernhard is scheduled to be released on October 8, 2019, from Crooked Lane Books with ISBN 9781643851570. This review corresponds to an electronic galley supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review. To be linked to special pre-order pricing, click the link at the top of this section.

Book Review│I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones

dyingThe overall premise of Segal and Jones’s I’m Not Dying with You Tonight is that two girls from very different worlds collide when chaos breaks out at a football game that they both decided to attend. Before this night, neither of them knew of the other but they find that they must rely on each other in order to survive.

The Conflict

Campbell is the new girl in school. She has just moved to Atlanta and is treated much like new kids usually are– as an outcast with no friends and that feeling of not belonging. Campbell is also white and is perceived by Lena to be just another “rich white girl.”While Lena, on the other hand, is black, and she is popular with a killer boyfriend and knows that she is going to make it big. She sees her entire life before her and is excited for where she is headed.

The two girls do not know each other before the Friday night game. They choose to attend it and are thrown together out of circumstance. A fight breaks out at the game and a police officer is shot. Chaos quickly takes over and a riot ensues. The girls are thrown together in the hysteria and quickly realize that they must rely on each other for survival.

Surviving Atlanta

Atlanta is a tough city as is. My first residency for my doctoral degree took me there in 2015. We were in such a rough area of the city that we were told not to leave the hotel. Which was crazy to me because the hotel we stayed at was the hotel that was used for The Capital in The Hunger Games. We were told repeatedly that if you did not know Atlanta not to venture out.

It seems like that advice was solid advice because Segal and Jones paint a similar picture of Atlanta. In I’m Not Dying with You Tonight, Campbell and Lena are tossed onto the streets of Atlanta as they try to avoid the chaos and the violence that has erupted following the fight and the subsequent shooting that occurred. They realize that their only escape towards Lena’s boyfriend and eventually home is to get through Tilman Park, the “worst hood in Atlanta.”

Surviving Each Other

Along with surviving the violence that has overtaken much of the city, the girls also have to address and survive their biases towards one another. Lena is the popular girl while Campbell is just trying to get through school. Lena thinks Campbell is just another rich white girl even though that can’t be farther from the truth and Campbell reveals her own biases towards Lena in their dialogue and decisions she makes towards their survival.

This is a rather short YA read at 150 pages so the novel does not go deeply into the race relations, ideas on privilege and teenage female friendship– but the nuances are there and this could serve as a springboard for much more in-depth conversations with the younger side of Young Adult readers. I will be adding a few copies to my classroom library this fall.

Overall, while in places the book feels very character driven at the start, it quickly turns to plot driven as the girls spend the remainder of the novel jumping from place to place trying to get to Lena’s boyfriend so that he can get them home. The drive to reach Lena’s boyfriend was a little odd to me because he was not answering any of her calls. Why would you put your life on the line to get to him if he wasn’t answering his phone? Why not try to get home without the help of your boyfriend? Ultimately, the girls do each get home and we are left to wonder if a friendship will now develop between the two and if in attempting a friendship if the girls’ biases towards one another would ever be fully addressed and resolved.

Book Information

I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones is scheduled to be released on October 1, 2019 from Sourcebooks Fire with ISBN  1492678899. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was received from the publisher in exchange for this review. To be linked to special pre-order pricing, click the link above!

Book Review│Ted Bundy’s Murderous Mysteries: The Many Victims Of America’s Most Infamous Serial Killer by Kevin Sullivan

bundyI am a true crime junky and when it comes to Ted Bundy, I can read anything about him. I find it crazy how so many women found him to be so trustworthy and charming because when I watch footage of him or even see pictures, I just think how demented he looks. I would have promptly walked in the opposite direction of him had I ever encountered him in life.

That said, Kevin Sullivan has written three other books on Bundy making this volume, the fourth in his series. Sullivan’s Bundy novels include The Bundy Murders, The Trail of Ted Bundy and The Bundy SecretsWhat makes Ted Bundy’s Murderous Mysteries: The Many Victims Of America’s Most Infamous Serial Killer different from the first three books in this series is that Sullivan shares with the world case files and notes that have not previously been released, creating new information even for the most dedicated of Bundy’s researchers.

Detailed Case Notes

Sullivan does not disappoint with his inclusion of copies of copious amounts of case files from investigators that detail Bundy’s relationships, abductions and murders. As they are true files from the case, they are detailed and often bloody, but they give you an honest documentation of the horrors that Ted Bundy inflicted on countless women while he was alive and free.

Along with the case files, Sullivan wonderfull strings together the events and timelines, guiding the reader in putting together the new information presented as well as synthesizing it with previous information from earlier works. That said, this novel is not a light read and I found myself needing to take breaks often just because of how heavy and gruesome much of the material was. What made it even more difficult to stomach was how Sullivan showed you the cases through the victims. He makes you feel as though you are watching the last parts of each woman’s life as they encountered Ted Bundy and met their often gruesome demise.

Sullivan curates the case files and his own commentary with the ease of someone who knows their course material well. This book stands as a way to preserve what is known about Ted Bundy and his victims which as Sullivan himself admits, is important because so much of the material that we once had has already been lost because Utah had no interest in preserving it and what they did have was destroyed once the trail documents hit their nine-year limit. Overall, Sullivan’s completion of his Ted Bundy series does not disappoint and offers much detailed information into Ted Bundy and his many victims.

Book Information

Ted Bundy’s Murderous Mysteries: The Many Victims Of America’s Most Infamous Serial Killer by Kevin Sullivan was released by WildBlue Press on April 19,2019, with ISBN 9781948239141. This review corresponds to an electronic galley that was received from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Book Review│The Undertaker’s Assistant by Amanda Skenandore

undertakerAs Effie explains when she’s asked how she can be an undertaker’s assistant, ““The dead can’t hurt you. Only the living can.” So sets the mood for this wonderfully dark, pervasive novel set amongst a strenuous time in our nation’s history. Effie Jones is a former slave living and working in New Orleans, a place as dark and mysterious as much of the mood of this novel is. Living now, as a freedwoman, Effie is navigating her new life and her return to life in the South as she works for a white undertaker who does not share her skills that she acquired from a Union soldier and is fighting the urge to rekindle her old life and the ties she lost to her own family.

New Orleans

While slavery is now a piece of the past, the racial tensions that are building in New Orleans are not. Effie is among many who are now living as freed people in the southern city and for many, this is not always acceptable. For Effie, there is also an overbearing sense of loss both in her identity and within her ties to her family that was lost in the upheaval of slavery. It is within her past that Effie will also find her new beginnings.

New Orleans serves as a wonderful backdrop for such a turbulent time because New Orleans is itself dark and turbulent. The city really lends itself to the morose overtones that dominate much of the novel. Together, the setting and the political battles that are igniting through the racial tensions created by the end of slavery lend to a well-charted plot and inevitable end.

Racial Tension

The tension between white and black citizens exists throughout the book. People such as Effie are struggling to find their place in the world outside of slavery.  Effie has two encounters with a charismatic state legislator named Samson Greene, and a beautiful young Creole, Adeline that slightly change her course. Up until then, Effie stayed distant from the other girls in her boarding house and had no interest in getting involved in the politics of the city. However, her chance encounters change Effie and bring her into the world of activism and politicism which leads her into her own search for the family that she had long buried in her memories.

The Undertaker’s Assistant by Amanda Skenandore is as much a wonderfully written historical fiction piece as it is the story of one woman’s coming of age in a turbulent part of our nation’s story. The novel is a bit slow in the beginning, but once you get into the meat of the novel, you become invested in the political turmoil, the mystique of the city of New Orleans and in Effie and the characters that she meets and encounters along her own journey.

Book Information

The Undertaker’s Assistant by Amanda Skenandore is scheduled to be released on July 30, 2019, from Kensington Books with ISBN 9781496713681. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was received from the publisher in exchange for this review. To be linked to special pre-order pricing, click the link above!

Book Review│Buried in the Stacks by Allison Brooks

stacksWith the third installment of The Haunted Library Mysteries, Buried in the Stacks opens with our favorite librarian, Carrie Singleton, juggling the growing problem of the homeless taking shelter in the library and a new murder.

The Murder of a Rival

Carrie has been thrown into the role of Sunshine Delegate for the library. Her first task is to visit her rival, Dorothy, a fellow research librarian who is recovering from a fall. During her visit, Carrie is shocked to find out that Dorothy believes that it is her husband that is responsible for her fall. She is claiming that he pushed her. Even stranger, she is also claiming that it was her husband that caused the death of her Aunt Evelyn several years before. Aunt Evelyn is the haunted library’s resident ghost. Dorothy eventually recovers from her injuries and returns to work, but upon her return home, she is killed in a car accident. Ghost Aunt Evelyn begs Carrie to uncover who killed her niece as well as who responsible for her death.

A Quest for Warmth

The Haunted Library is in Clover Ridge, CT which means, it is in a part of the United States that is frigid when winter comes. For Carrie, this also means that a large population of homeless people are using the library as a refuge from the February frost. Some of the homeless are loud and disruptive which is causing the patrons of the library to not want to come in or bring in their children for the programs that they are offering. Carrie is excited when a vacant house is purchased to turn into a retreat for the homeless but is quickly disheartened when she learns that the committee in charge of rehabbing the house is not on the up and up.

A Cozy Mystery

As with any cozy mystery, there is a bevy of storylines that transgress the pages. In Buried in the Stacks, we have the homeless plotline, the murder of Dorothy (and Evelyn), Angela’s wedding where Carrie is her maid of honor, the search for Smokey Joe and of course, the interference of the library’s resident cat. There is a lot going on in this book and a lot to keep straight as you read your way through it, however, that is what I always have loved about books like this. Cozy mysteries offer a plethora of loveable characters that are in crazy situations with several subplots and big life changes going their way. Buried in the Stacks delivers all of this and more. What I especially love about this series is the addition of the haunted library. I enjoyed how Ghost Evelyn and Carrie worked together to talk out the mystery, shares clues and uncover secrets. It was an element that was unique to this book and series.

Book Information

Buried in the Stacks: A Haunted Library Mystery by Allison Brook from Crooked Lane Books is scheduled to be released on September 10, 2019, with ISBN 9781643851389. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was received from the publisher in exchange for this review. To be linked to special pre-order pricing, click the link above!

Book Review│Death Comes to Dartmoor by Vivian Conroy

dartmoorWho doesn’t love a period book set against a vast English countryside complete with a sweeping country manor and a couple of amateur sleuths that are eager to get a break from Victorian London and the murder mystery that they just solved?

A Merriweather and Royston Mystery

Death Comes to Dartmoor is the second installment of the Merriweather and Royston Mysteries. The novel picks up on the heels of the first book. That said, this installment is hard to get into and fully understand the backstory if you have not read, The Butterfly Conspiracy. It is beneficial to read the first book of this series before you begin Death Comes to Dartmoor or you might be lost and not be able to get into the mystery that unfolds for our pair of zoologists whose vacation doesn’t go anywhere near as planned.

Murder in the Village

I don’t know what it is about Devon, maybe it’s the moors and the overall vibe of the village, but there are so many novels like And Then There Were None and even The Hounds of the Baskervilles that use the moors and Devon as their setting. Much like stories before, our main characters Merula Merriweather and Lord Rayven Royston arrive in Devon with Merriweather’s maid, Lamb, and Royston’s valet, Bowspirit only to find that their idyllic country getaway is going to be far from what they expected.

Oaks, their host, is acting incredibly strange. The specimens that he collects are thought to be coming back to life and then, his maid disappears. Oaks is bordering on delusional and the villagers are calling for his blood. Almost inevitably, the maid turns up dead and Oaks is the main suspect, leaving Merriweather and Royston to delve into the mystery that they have walked into and prove Oaks’ innocence.

Continuing Story Line

In The Butterfly Conspiracy, we learn that Merriweather does not know who her parents are. She has lived with an aunt and uncle who have loved and raised her, but she is still determined to find out where she comes from. Merriweather’s parental lineage comes into play again when she encounters a man from a traveling theater company at a local gathering who makes the comment that she looks so much like her mother. Merriweather is given a lead into her mother’s past that she is eager to flesh out and it will be interesting to see what the story of her parents are and how she reacts when she finally uncovers the truth behind her parents’ past and how it will play out in future books within this series.

Book Information

Death Comes to Dartmoor: A Merriweather and Royston Mystery by Vivian Conroy will be released on August 13, 2019, from Crooked Lane Books with ISBN 9781643850092. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review. To snag special pre-order pricing click the link above!