Review | Let Me Tell You by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson is one of the most important American writers of the last hundred years. Since her death in 1965, her place in the landscape of twentieth-century fiction has grown only more exalted.

As we approach the centenary of her birth comes this astonishing compilation of fifty-six pieces—more than forty of which have never been published before. Two of Jackson’s children co-edited this volume, culling through the vast archives of their mother’s papers at the Library of Congress, selecting only the very best for inclusion.

Let Me Tell You brings together the deliciously eerie short stories Jackson is best known for, along with frank, inspiring lectures on writing; comic essays about her large, boisterous family; and whimsical drawings. Jackson’s landscape here is most frequently domestic: dinner parties and bridge, household budgets and homeward-bound commutes, children’s games and neighborly gossip. But this familiar setting is also her most subversive: She wields humor, terror, and the uncanny to explore the real challenges of marriage, parenting, and community—the pressure of social norms, the veins of distrust in love, the constant lack of time and space.

For the first time, this collection showcases Shirley Jackson’s radically different modes of writing side by side. Together they show her to be a magnificent storyteller, a sharp, sly humorist, and a powerful feminist.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I cannot find any patience for those people who believe that you start writing when you sit down at your desk and pick up your pen and finish writing when you put down your pen again; a writer is always writing, seeing everything through a thin mist of words, fitting swift little descriptions to everything he sees, always noticing.

~Memory and Delusion (lecture on the craft of writing)

As an avid fan of Shirley Jackson’s work, I was excited to finally pluck this one off of my bookshelf and get it off of my TBR. If you have never ready any of Jackson’s work I will say that I would not recommend starting with this, I would start with her collection of short stories containing The Lottery.

Having already read a good number of her short stories and novels, this was a wonderful collection of her previously unpublished or uncollected short stories, essays, humor and lectures. Being someone who enjoys the art of writing myself, I especially enjoyed her lectures on the craft of writing. They especially spoke to me when she discussed how she was always composing stories, even while doing every day things.

I’m really happy I was able to explore these stories from her, especially since they were ones I had never read. Anyone who enjoys her work will enjoy this one and be happy to add it to their library.

Happy reading!

Can’t Wait Wednesday | 3/3

Can’t Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings based on the meme Waiting on Wednesday by Breaking the Spine. In this weekly post people share a book that they’re excited about being released.

I’m loving seeing all the new middle grade books coming out which sound amazing, including this one! It’s coming out at the end of March and I can’t wait to check it out!

Twelve-year-old Alba doesn’t want to live with her estranged grandmother in Barcelona.

But her mother needs her to be far, far away from their home in New York City. Because this is the year that her mother is going to leave Alba’s abusive father. Hopefully. If she’s strong enough to finally, finally do it.

Alba is surprised to find that she loves Barcelona, forming a close relationship with her grandmother, meeting a supportive father figure, and making new friends. Most of all, she discovers a passion and talent for bread baking. When her beloved bakery is threatened with closure, Alba is determined to find a way to save it—and at the same time, she may just come up with a plan to make their family whole again.

From the author of How to Make Friends with the Sea comes a heartfelt story of finding one’s chosen family, healing, and baking.

Happy reading!

Blitz | Thieves by Greg Jolley

Thieves
Greg Jolley
(Obscurité de Floride Trilogy, #1)
Publication date: February 15th 2021
Genres: Adult, Suspense

From Tropea, Italy to Michigan and Florida, the thieves Molly and April Danser are on the run, trying to escape from an enraged ex-US Marshal. He is hell bent on stopping them once and for all, his twisted black heart fired up for revenge and their total destruction. Will the sisters elude his blood-soaked hunt? They have their smarts and resource but have never faced a pursuit like this.

Can they somehow put an end to his blood lust?

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

EXCERPT:

Chapter Twenty-Nine

A Day to Do

April woke at first light, seeing she had slept on top of the bed instead of climbing in under the blankets. After putting the coffee percolator on the burner, she went and checked the boat’s position at the lower helm. Starting the engines, she steered southeast in the northward Gulf Stream and watched the blue swells until the boat was pretty much in the same location as the day before.

“At least eat,” she instructed herself, it being twenty-four hours or more since her last meal. Opening a can of stew, she ate it cold with a spoon while sipping coffee. Looking at the closed laptop at her elbow, she hesitated to reach for it.

“Only one way to deal with fear.” She opened the lid and started the computer.

Her fingers unsteady above the keys, the vision from the previous day’s nightmare came fully into view. The big dark doorway at Klave’s. Her imagination ran with and gave her the rolling door crashing down and up fast like steel teeth chomping, chewing.

“Back off.” Her shoulders shuddered, and she barked at the vignette.

Opening a secure internet browser, she launched the messaging application.

After addressing an email to Allison, she froze for a minute, her fingertips quivering. The three hardest words she ever typed displayed.

April: Did she die?

Hitting send, she stared at those three words, waiting for the reply that she couldn’t will Allison to answer.

***

Sometime later, she opened a browser alongside the messaging application where her question to Allison still floated without an answer. The local television stations had previously recorded ‘on scene’ footage ripe with frightful images of Klave’s with the breathless voices of newscasters. There were no details of any worth.

Opening the online Daytona Beach News-Journal, the story was in the banner.

Three Killed in a Possible Attempted Robbery

April read that David Klave was declared dead on the scene. She learned that Molly’s pal, Dennis, was also murdered, evidence suggesting that he was trying to cover and protect another victim. No other names were offered, pending notification of next to kin. One man had been shot twice and was expected to survive. He was being attended to in the ICU at Memorial Medical Hospital. There was nothing about the third victim. No mention of Molly or her status.

She saw her own name given as one of the ‘persons of interest.’

Klave’s employees were quoted as saying that the suspect had a long face that was injured. He had driven off in a late model red Corvette, heading north.

She read three more news reports in the Ormond Beach, Orlando, and St. Augustine newspapers, the body count making the story a headliner. There was no additional information, only a recap and worthless commentary.

She closed the browser and looked to the messaging application.

No reply from Allison.

She sent the text again and waited ten long and painful minutes.

Leaving the table for the flying bridge, she grabbed a bottle of water and a package of the saltines she had seen her sister snacking on. The light went out over the middle of the galley as she left, and she made a mental note to put in a fresh bulb.

Up top, the breeze was sweeping away the heat of the day. She checked her location, fired the engines, and spent the next hour staring at the ocean until she had the boat back in place.

Climbing down the ladder, she went inside and saw that Allison had not replied.

“My beautiful Molly…” she held her eyes closed, “… I’m still hoping.”

She spent the rest of that day at the lower helm, getting up every half hour to look for a message from Allison.

As the sun set at her back, she went inside to look again. The darkening galley reminded her to find a package of light bulbs and a step-ladder. She found both in the click-lock supply closet and had the dead bulb out and was poised to twist in the new one when it slipped from her fingers. It shattered, and she got a new one from the closet, along with the dustpan and broom. The second bulb went in easily, and she climbed down to sweep up the aluminum cone and shards.

The messaging application pinged.

Instead of hurrying to it, she stalled, fearful of the news. She finished up the sweeping and stepped to the table, the ball of her right foot landing on a stabbing missed piece of glass.

“Brilliant.” She felt the deep cut as she swung around on the bench and looked to the message screen.

April: Did she die?

Ali: Don’t know.

April: Find out.

Ali: I’m on it. It is a fuck storm here. Wasn’t here when it happened. Parts store.

April: You learn anything?

Ali: Yes, of course.


Author Bio:

Greg Jolley (also published under Gregory French) earned a master of art in writing from the University of San Francisco. He is the author of sixteen novels and one collection about the fictional, film industry-based Danser family. He currently lives in the Very Small town of Ormond Beach, Florida

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram


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Blog Tour | Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers | Review

HONEY GIRL (Park Row Books; February 23, 2021; $17.99) by Morgan Rogers is a stunning #ownvoices debut, a charming, lyrical, and introspective romantic coming-of-age story about Grace Porter – millennial, Black woman, astronomy Ph.D. – who wakes up after a wild night in Vegas married to a woman she doesn’t know. 

Strait-laced and structured all her life, Porter now faces life without a plan for the first time ever. Between her disappointed military father, the competitive job market, and a consuming sense of aimlessness, finding and falling in love with her wife across the country seems to be the only right answer. But Porter’s problems are just as big in Brooklyn as they are anywhere else, and she realizes she’s going to have to face adulthood whether she’s ready or not.

Buy Links | Harlequin  | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Powell’s

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I would say that this is a great book for anyone on the precipice of their adult life and at a crossroads. It explores a lot of topics, ranging from depression to more coming of age aspects. It illustrates the feeling of being overwhelmed and unsure of where you want to go, which is often the case after finishing something as all consuming as a college degree (or in this case PhD). I really enjoyed how fleshed out Grace was, she was a wonderfully complex and real character. Some of the other characters weren’t as well established as her and for me some of the relationships weren’t completely believable in some aspects but these were very small nit-picking things. I really enjoyed this novel, and really appreciate that it was an #ownvoices debut novel, I definitely look forward to more from Morgan Rogers in the future.

Morgan Rogers is a queer black millennial. She writes books for queer girls that are looking for their place in the world. She lives in Maryland and has a Shih Tzu named Nico and a cat named Grace that she would love to write into a story one day. HONEY GIRL is her debut novel.

Social Links | Author Website | Twitter: @garnetmorgue | Instagram: @garnetmorgue | Goodreads

Happy reading!

Kindle Deals | 2/28

Hey everyone! Thought I would finish out the month by finding some great kindle deals. As always make sure to double check the prices before buying as they may have changed or be different in your area. Enjoy!

A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope ($2.99) – Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs, have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. A Phoenix First Must Burn will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A Phoenix First Must Burn shine brightly. You will never forget them.

Gods of Jade and Shadow ($2.99) – The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own. 

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

Cinderella is Dead ($1.99) – It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

Happy reading!

March TBR | Reading Plans

How is it already the end of February?! I know it’s the shortest month, but it went by SUPER fast. Still, I find that when I get towards the end of the month I’m really excited to draw my cards to figure out my stack of six books that I put on my TBR. As a refresher I did take inspiration for this from others, but made the rules my own. If I don’t complete the books I don’t punish myself, I’m simply using this as a fun way to try and tackle my (mostly) physical TBR. Any books not finished do get carried over and I can pick them up in following months if I am in the mood to.

With that, here’s how March’s cards came out:

2 of Spades – Kindle + YA
9 of Clubs – Anthologies
5 of Diamonds – YA
10 of Hearts – Historical
9 of Spades – YA + Color
7 of Clubs – Contemporary

For the first challenge I browsed my Kindle for something that was calling to me and decided to finally finish A Tyranny of Petticoats, which has been on my currently reading shelf longer than I would like to admit. The anthology I grabbed from my stack is Color Between the Lines which I’m super excited for.

Next I decided to go with Pet for my YA pick since it’s something I picked up recently and want to pick up sooner rather than later. Historical is a hard category with me and I’ve pretty much decided I’m going to switch out the Historical prompts for something else in the future – I just don’t have enough books to choose from for this prompt. My pick is definitely stretching it, The Saturday Night Ghost Club – but I decided it counted since it’s set in the 80s.

For YA + Color I turned to the random color generator and came up with a very unique mustard yellow/gold color. For this one I had some difficulties, but my boyfriend agreed that the balloons on 10 Blind Dates were close enough to count.

Again, the last choice was a stretch – when I pick Contemporary I don’t necessarily need contemporary to be the main focus, I just consider it something set in the contemporary setting, so because I wanted something a bit spooky in my TBR I went with The Haunted since people do have it shelved as contemporary on Goodreads (hey! my game, my rules haha).

So those are my plans for March (besides review books and mood reading) and I’m excited. Hopefully I’ll make my way through them!

Happy reading!

Review | Waiting on a Bright Moon by JY Yang

Xin is an ansible, using her song magic to connect the originworld of the Imperial Authority and its far-flung colonies— a role that is forced upon magically-gifted women “of a certain closeness”. When a dead body comes through her portal at a time of growing rebellion, Xin is drawn deep into a station-wide conspiracy along with Ouyang Suqing, one of the station’s mysterious, high-ranking starmages.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I really enjoyed the glimpse of the world that Waiting on a Bright Moon introduced us to, but I did find myself wishing there was backstory and more depth to some of the characters. As a snippet into another world this was a good taste and introduced integral characters to the main plot point. The writing style was really lyrical and immersive, which was beautiful to read. I just wanted more from this one and could see a whole novel built on some of these characters or their back stories.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery

MacKenzie Dienes’s life isn’t perfect, but it’s as close as she could ever hope to get. Her marriage to Rhys, her best friend’s brother, is more friendship than true love. But passion is highly overrated, right? And she loves her job as the winemaker at Bel Apres, her in-laws’ vineyard. So what if it’s a family business and, even after decades of marriage and incredible professional success, she’s still barred from the family business meetings? It’s all enough…until one last night spent together leads to an incredibly honest—and painful—conversation. Rhys suggests that they divorce. They haven’t had a marriage in a long time and, while he wants her to keep her job at Bel Apres, he doesn’t think they should be married any longer. Shocked, MacKenzie reels at the prospect of losing the only family she’s ever really known…even though she knows deep in her heart that Rhys is right.

But when MacKenzie discovers she’s pregnant, walking away to begin a new life isn’t so easy. She never could have anticipated the changes it would bring to the relationships she cherishes most: her relationship with Barbara, her mother-in-law and partner at Bel Apres, Stephanie, her sister-in-law and best friend, and Bel Apres, the company she’s worked so hard to put on the map.

MacKenzie has always dreamed of creating a vineyard of her own, a chance to leave a legacy for her unborn child. So when the opportunity arises, she jumps at it and builds the Vineyard at Painted Moon. But following her dreams will come at a high price—one that MacKenzie isn’t so sure she’s willing to pay…

Buy Links | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | IndieBound | Libro.fm | Books-A-Million | Target | Walmart | Kobo | AppleBooks | Google Play

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The more I read of Susan Mallery’s writing the more I enjoy it, I’m definitely thinking I’m going to need to pick up more of her books when I’m looking for chick lit. This book really covers the transitive nature of life and truly coming into your own when you discover that what you have may not really be what you need. Even though it was hard at times I really enjoyed Mackenzie’s journey as she found herself after the loss of her marriage and presumed place. It was interesting to see how relationships and actions towards her changed once her marriage ended, but also heartbreaking in some ways. This book will make you feel a wide range of emotions as you follow along with her story.

#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives―family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages. Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at SusanMallery.com.

Happy reading!

Can’t Wait Wednesday | 2/24

Can’t Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings based on the meme Waiting on Wednesday by Breaking the Spine. In this weekly post people share a book that they’re excited about being released.

Ever since I heard of this one I’ve been wanting to check it out. It comes out in March and sounds amazing!

The haunting and poignant story of a how a young Japanese girl’s understanding of the historic and tragic bombing of Hiroshima is transformed by a memorial lantern-floating ceremony.

Twelve-year-old Nozomi lives in the Japanese city of Hiroshima. She wasn’t even born when the bombing of Hiroshima took place. Every year Nozomi joins her family at the lantern-floating ceremony to honor those lost in the bombing. People write the names of their deceased loved ones along with messages of peace, on paper lanterns and set them afloat on the river. This year Nozomi realizes that her mother always releases one lantern with no name. She begins to ask questions, and when complicated stories of loss and loneliness unfold, Nozomi and her friends come up with a creative way to share their loved ones’ experiences. By opening people’s eyes to the struggles they all keep hidden, the project teaches the entire community new ways to show compassion.

Soul Lanterns is an honest exploration of what happened on August 6, 1945, and offers readers a glimpse not only into the rich cultural history of Japan but also into the intimate lives of those who recognize–better than most–the urgent need for peace. 

Happy reading!

Review | The Secret Loves of Geeks

Cartoonists and professional geeks tell their intimate, heartbreaking, and inspiring stories about love, sex and dating in this comics and prose anthology, a follow-up to 2016 best-seller The Secret Loves of Geek Girls.

Featuring work by Margaret Atwood (Hag-Seed), Gerard Way (Umbrella Academy), Dana Simpson (Phoebe and Her Unicorn), Cecil Castellucci (Soupy Leaves Home), Gabby Rivera (America), Valentine De Landro (Bitch Planet), Amy Chu (Poison Ivy), Sfe R. Monster (Beyond: A queer comics anthology), Michael Walsh (Secret Avengers), and many more.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

After reading previous books in this group, namely The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, I was excited to pick this one up. I did really enjoy the inclusivity and diversity included in this book and found many of the stories enlightening and interesting, while others were full of humor or deep thoughts. I did enjoy the other collections a little more, just because they did see more cohesive to me, but that’s not to say this one doesn’t belong with them. It includes stories and comics that are going to speak differently to different people and is an important inclusion in the ‘series’ (for lack of a better word). I do love collections like this because you get exposed to different writing styles, voices and in this case, art styles while also opening up conversations and sharing experiences.

Happy reading!