Archive for July, 2017


Mormama

Hey all, I’ve got a review for you today. It’s a little late, just due to general life stuff, but still up on Wednesday. So I’m happy with that. Thanks to the nice folks at Tor, this is Mormama. Enjoy!

Mormama cover

Sometimes the past doesn’t like to let go. The Ellis house has been standing for three generations, a rotting shrine to fabulous wealth and festering greed.  The house keeps its own, drawing them back when they try to escape. Lane escaped once, until her husband walked out on her and her son. She had to go back to the house that nearly devoured her as a child. Memory less, Dell can only hope that the card in his pocket will take him home to the Ellis house and a family that could be his. Theo, Theo wants out, away from the elderly Aunts who haunt the house like a trio of ghosts, away from his mom being stuck unable to care for either of them, and away from the thing that whispers to him at night. Away from the Mormama who tells him about the house’s tragedies and the darkness that presses in on its residents. Sometimes the past doesn’t like to let go. Sometimes it refuses to.

Southern gothic isn’t a genre I’ve done much with before. Based on Kit Reed’s Mormama, it’s not quite horror, and it’s not quite genre literature, but somewhere between the two. There’s a lot of almost character versus atmosphere going on and, more than that, a character versus past thing. I really dug both of those aspects. The downside to how atmospheric and into how trapped the characters feel by their situations is that the book can be very easy to put down.

So, what do I mean by that? Part of the atmosphere for the book was this sort of floating hopelessness. It seeped into little corners of the characters lives and pulled them more tightly to the house. Lane wants out as soon as possible, but she can’t find a job to allow that. Dell wants his past back, wants to know where he came from, but he’s so desperate for it to be this one version of him that he can’t accept anything else. He also can’t bring himself to use the one source he has that might tell him everything. Even the Aunts are trapped in their past and the bitterness they have over merely being caretakers of the house rather than the belles they had been in their youth. It’s both something that slows down the book and cuts its readability and also, ultimately, really cool.

That’s kind of my feeling on a lot of the book ultimately. It’s a slow read with a lot of bits that don’t feel super important to the story but that absolutely build the characters and atmosphere. Which makes for an interesting read. I do feel like some of the supernatural bits could have been tied in better, but that’s a little thing for the most part. The fairly slow pace over can make the ending feel a little too fast, but that’s not a huge deal, that little too fast can also make it feel cataclysmic. It’s a scale thing I guess. I actually don’t have a ton to say about this one so on to the score I guess?

Like I said earlier, southern gothic isn’t a genre that I have a ton of experience with. That’s part of why I don’t have a ton to say about it. There’s also a lot of almost fiddly bits that would probably count as spoilers, so I’m not talking a ton about those. That said, I did quite enjoy this book. While it can get slow at points that works for the overall feel of it. I’m giving Mormama a four out of five and would read Kit Reed again.

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Alright everyone, I’ve got something awesome for you today. It’s a guest post from Leslie Hauser, author of Chasing Eveline! Enjoy!

Chasing Eveline cover

A lot of the focus of Chasing Eveline has been on the musical aspect. But when I was writing it, an equally important idea I wanted to develop was that of fading memories. How does one cope with loss and then with the fact that after while, our memories begin to lose some of their shine. It’s like a double loss.

 

Last summer marked the ten-year anniversary of my aunt’s death. I’ll never forget the last time I saw her alive. My parents and I just finished a round of golf with my uncle. My aunt didn’t play golf, but on this particular afternoon, she met us at a restaurant near the course for drinks after the round. She sparkled. That’s what I remember. Her blond hair was especially golden that day, and her bright blue eyes danced in step with her laughter, accentuated by the bright blue paisley shirt she wore. Or was it a blue-checkered shirt? No, I think maybe it had a blue floral design.

 

You see, I can’t remember anymore.

 

I thought I’d never forget that day, but it’s happening little by little. As the years pass, the photo in my memory is dissolving, and details that were once so clear are fuzzy and even lost completely.  And that scares me. What if someday I lose that memory of my aunt entirely?

 

It’s this idea of how our memories fade that I wanted to explore with Ivy in Chasing Eveline .We are often so sure of ourselves, saying I’ll never forget this moment. But we have no control over that clarity. Time is ultimately in charge. Ivy’s mom has left her, and all she has are her memories. But after two years, the details in Ivy’s mental slideshow aren’t so sharp anymore, and it scares her. It’s frightening to feel ourselves losing that tight grip on pictures and people who were once so clear in our minds. And it’s especially scary when these people are family members.

 

For so many years, my aunt was part of our family gatherings and holiday celebrations. She colored the events with all of her quirks. She stuck her finger right through the center of the creamed corn dish every Christmas to see if it was hot enough to put on the table. Her sighs of “Oh, Leslie…” to me or “Oh Natalie…” to my cousin or “Oh Barry…” to my dad were part of the soundtrack to every gathering. And she always showed up with a girdlebuster pie for dessert.

 

Since she’s passed away, we still all gather for holidays and celebrations, but it’s not quite the same. The scene is a little less colorful. There’s laughter, but it sounds different. There is still a girdlebuster pie on the table, but it looks different. I put my finger in the creamed corn to test its readiness, but it’s not as funny. Everything just feels different without her there.

 

When a family member leaves—whether it’s death or disappearance—there’s a void that can’t be filled. You can try to substitute, but it’s never the same. The dynamic is irrevocably changed, and you’re forced to forge a new path. But how do you move on in this new direction yet still try to keep the past alive in your mind? It’s tough, and I think it’s one of the most difficult things about losing someone, particularly a family member. It’s definitely what Ivy is struggling with.

 

Luckily for Ivy, she has music—a passion she gained from her mom. Music helps Ivy latch on to the best parts of her mom while giving her a positive outlet for the pain that could so easily overwhelm her. It’s a much needed life vest for her as she navigates the murky waters of loss.

 

So even though Ivy and I may forget what shirts our loved ones wore in our memory snapshots and we may never feel completely at ease in our new worlds absent of those we love, we know the sparkle that emanated from them can never be taken by Time. And it’s that remembrance that helps us find enjoyment in the new paths in front of us.

Leslie Hauser author picture

Author Bio:

Leslie Hauser teaches middle school English and history. She is a Midwesterner at heart—born in Cincinnati, Ohio—but currently resides in Los Angeles, California, with her dog Mr. Darcy. She loves cupcakes, coffee, and most of all—music. Her debut YA novel CHASING EVELINE released July 11, 2017. Visit Leslie at www.lesliehauser.com or on Twitter at @lhauser27.

As promised, I’ve got a review for you all. This one comes from Bold Strokes Books via netGalley. Enjoy!

The Girl on the Edge of Summer cover

Micky Knight has taken on two cases, one to pay the bills and the other because she feels she has to. The first has a rich out of towner wanting her to solve a murder from a hundred years ago, research at the most. The other was brought to her by a grieving mother, looking for why her daughter killed herself. It doesn’t look like either case is going to have a happy ending, if she can find an ending at all. But secrets seldom keep and, as Mickey will find out, the lives of teens rarely simple.

The Girl on the Edge of Summer by J. M. Redmann is something of a cozy mystery, high on personal character drama and low on plot. The protagonist, Micky Knight, is mired in her feelings over her girlfriend leaving her and her friends all acting strange. The book doesn’t seem interested in the plot for the most part. None of this adds up to a particularly compelling read. I would also feel remiss in not mentioning that this is the ninth book in the series, and I do think that a lot of my issues with the book tie into that in one way or another.

A big part of jumping in on a later book in a series is that I’ve missed everything that came before this book. The entirety of Micky’s character development, the entirety of the relationship she’s mourning the loss of, I have none of that. So my first impression is of a character who is such a downer that it became a slog to get through the book at times. She just felt so sorry for herself and the book got mired in that. Plus, there was a lot of stuff that felt like early series character development stuff, stuff that’s important to shaping who Micky Knight is meant to be. But given the general downer vibe of the book and how often it was repeated, it just felt like Micky looking for more things to be sad about. She’s down on herself, on the women she meets online, on her friends, and even on the people who hired her. It gets tiring.

Was there anything in this book that I enjoyed? The parts where Micky actually does her job, particularly the parts with her doing research for the rich guy’s case, were pretty solid. The Micky Knight working in the library trying to find out what happened to this guy’s ancestor was almost a different character, one I’d be interested in reading more. She was invested in what she was doing and talking to people without the self pity from the rest of the book. I would have really liked to see more of this part. It might count as a mild spoiler but I also liked that, towards the end at least, Micky seemed to realize that she was being a downer and started trying to fix that. It’s not enough to save the book for me but I appreciate that it’s there.

So, wrap up time. I feel like I would have enjoyed this book a little bit more if I’d read the first eight books. Having not, the book is a slog with an unlikeable main character and a habit of not caring about its own story. This is one of the few books I’ve seriously considered just not finishing. Which is a shame, because when J. M. Redmann writes well she writes really well, unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of that in this one.  The Girl on the Edge of Summer gets a one out of five.

Returning Triumphant

Or something to that effect anyway.

Long time no see. I’ve been working on the same review for the last month and a half, so clearly something’s up.

Life’s been kind of kicking my butt and I’ve been afraid to work on anything because nothing felt good enough. Gonna try and change that, so the next few reviews may not be super polished but I’m planning on working my way back to on track. More on that coming up later. I’m not going to have one for this week, because catching up is a pain and I want to work a little ahead to try and avoid this for at least another month or two.

For next week I’m going to go back to posting on Wednesdays. That seemed to work out pretty well. I’ve got a couple of things tentatively planned for later, but I want to do a little catching up before announcing them.

So, yeah, that’s the state of things here and now.