Take My Money! Sunday

Burn by Patrick Ness

Expected Publication: June 2, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: On a cold Sunday evening in early 1957, Sarah Dewhurst waited with her father in the parking lot of the Chevron gas station for the dragon he’d hired to help on the farm…

Sarah Dewhurst and her father, outcasts in their little town of Frome, Washington, are forced to hire a dragon to work their farm, something only the poorest of the poor ever have to resort to.

The dragon, Kazimir, has more to him than meets the eye, though. Sarah can’t help but be curious about him, an animal who supposedly doesn’t have a soul, but who is seemingly intent on keeping her safe.

Because the dragon knows something she doesn’t. He has arrived at the farm with a prophecy on his mind. A prophecy that involves a deadly assassin, a cult of dragon worshippers, two FBI agents in hot pursuit—and somehow, Sarah Dewhurst herself. 

Why I’m Excited: I love anything to do with dragons and I am intrigued by this idea of the poor in the community using dragons are forced servants. There is something very appealing about this synopsis and I want to read it so much.

Size Zero by Abigail Mangin

Expected Publication: July 12, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: Condom dresses and space helmets have debuted on fashion runways.

A dead body becomes the trend when a coat made of human skin saunters down fashion’s biggest stage. The body is identified as Annabelle Leigh, the teenager who famously disappeared over a decade ago from her boyfriend’s New York City mansion.

This new evidence casts suspicion back on the former boyfriend, Cecil LeClaire. Now a monk, he is forced to return to his dark and absurd childhood home to clear his name. He teams up with Ava Germaine, a renegade ex-model. And together, they investigate the depraved and lawless modeling industry behind Cecil’s family fortune.

They find erotic canes, pet rats living in crystal castles, and dresses made of crushed butterfly wings. But Cecil finds more truth in the luxury goods than in the people themselves. Everyone he meets seems to be wearing a person-suit. Terrified of showing their true selves, the glitterati put on flamboyant public personas to make money and friends. Can Cecil find truth in a world built on lies?

In high fashion modeling, selling bodies is organized crime.

Why I’m Excited: This one is getting a lot of mixed early reviews, but I cannot wait to read it. It sounds so out there and on the very fringes of what horror is meant to be. I am hoping for a skincrawling adventure into the world of horror fashion.

Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Published: April 7, 2020 by Quirk Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.

Review: I had fairly high expectations for this book when I got the audiobook. I had heard a lot of great reviews from good friends of mine and it sounded absolutely thrilling and charming. Taking horror back to a time when the Internet was still just dial-up and cellphones weren’t a thing. Center it around a southern ladies’ book club and you have the stage set for a great read. Unfortunately it was just okay.

Patricia started out as a good character but she quickly became boring. Most of her narration is complaining about her boring life as a housewife. She complains about her mother in law, her husband, her children, her book club, her friends, the household chores, the new neighbors, the weather. She just complains a lot. And I was okay with that at first because it seemed like the plot was moving on from it, but then it didn’t and I had to listen to many more hours of Patricia complaining about everything. She’s also a very weak character and I just couldn’t deal with her anymore.

The plot meanders quite a bit too. We meet the suspicious James (I am fairly sure that was his name at least) early on and Patricia grows suspicious of him early on too. But when the women decide that they have to turn over the information they’ve found to the police their collective husbands hold a meeting to tell them how hysterical and ridiculous they are being. The husbands decree they are never to speak of this again. (Sidenote: I really really hated all the husbands in this book, there should have been a massive neighborhood divorce going on.) And so we spend many more hours of book club meetings, dinner parties, and pretending that James is just a perfect new neighbor. In fact no further plot development happens until three years later. And it literally felt like I had been listening for three more years too. It was so utterly boring.

It also isn’t lost on me that the white women in the book club are all perfectly fine with overlooking their suspicions for three years when it’s children from a poor, primarily African American community who are going missing or turning up dead. They only change their minds when it’s their children who are in danger. Then they can’t remain silent any longer.

Now, once Patricia decides to stop cowering behind her husband (remember what I said about her being weak?) and starts bringing the women over to her side I was back on board too. Things were moving and it was interesting and well written. I really loved the back half of the book. It was gritty, dark and at times disgusting. The ending was imaginative and unexpected. If the middle half had been taken out of this book then it would have been an easy five stars from me. But that middle half was some of the boring drivel I’ve ever read.

Review: After She Wrote Him by Sulari Gentill

After She Wrote Him by Sulari Gentill

Published: April 7, 2020 by Poisoned Pen Press

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: If you get lost in a book, be sure you can find your way back . . .

Madeleine d’Leon doesn’t know where Edward came from. He is simply a character in her next book. But as she writes, he becomes all she can think about. His charm, his dark hair, his pen scratching out his latest literary novel . . .

Edward McGinnity can’t get Madeleine out of his mind–softly smiling, infectiously enthusiastic, and perfectly damaged. She will be the ideal heroine for his next book.

But who is the author and who is the creation? And as the lines start to blur, who is affected when a killer finally takes flesh?

After She Wrote Him is a wildly inventive twist on the murder mystery that takes readers on a journey filled with passion, obsession, and the emptiness left behind when the real world starts to fall away. 

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press!***

The synopsis of this book appealed to me right away. As someone who fashions themselves an amateur writer, I was drawn into the idea of an author writing a character who is also writing about her as a character. Or is it the other way around? That premise did not disappoint. I can honestly say I have never read a novel so ingeniously written. I could not tell which one was the character and which was the author. And ultimately it didn’t really matter, the two were so intertwined that their fates depended on each other. Maddie would tell a bit of her story and then sit down to write Ned’s story, and his story picks up from there until he sits down to write about Maddie. It was perfectly executed.

Some elements of the plot were very predictable. I knew right away who the killer was in Ned’s story and I knew right away who the bad guy was in Maddie’s story. But even this was intentional I think. It’s supposed to be obvious, to the author, what the answers are. The author knows who the killer is. The author knows who the bad guy is. In that way, the reader was supposed to know these things too. Maddie and Ned didn’t know, because that’s real life. It’s always easy to point out the killer in a book. It’s not so easy when that person is someone close to you. That was one of the themes of the book that was executed perfectly.

The only thing I wished had been done differently was the ending. We spent a lot of time getting to know Maddie and Ned but their respective stories didn’t really get moving until we had about fifty pages to go. The ending seemed rushed and a bit unfinished. Neither of them got a resolution because their respective author was unavailable to finish the story. That ending might appeal to some readers but it detracted from the overall story a bit for me.

Compare/Contrast Movies: Joker and Parasite

I know what you’re probably thinking. Why on earth would I be spending time writing about two vastly different movies to compare or contrast them. These thoughts started with a discussion between my husband and myself. We both love the Joker movie. We’ve talked about it at length and watched it several times now. We watched Parasite the other night and he felt there were a lot of thematic similarities between the movies. I did not. It led to a rousing discussion that made me think about it and decide to share with you.

Warnings first: Both of these movies will be discussed thoroughly, that means spoilers. If you do not wish to be spoiled, please read no further.

Joker: This movie follows the journey of Arthur Fleck, who will become the famed Joker of the Batman universe. He is a deeply disturbed man. We learn almost immediately that he has hallucinations and we cannot entirely trust what he tells us. The movie follows him through his struggles to be a productive member of society before eventually deciding that society doesn’t care about people like him and he wants to burn it all down.

Parasite: This movie follows a South Korean family who scheme and lie their way into working for a wealthy family, literally becoming a parasite on their lives. But they run into some houseguests that they didn’t expect and it all leads to a violent end.

Obviously, both of these movies deal with classism and how society treats certain fringe elements. In Joker, it is Arthur who is struggling to hold down a job with severe mental illness. In Parasite, it is a poverty stricken family who is willing to do anything to improve their lot in life.

Both of these movies deal with the sociopathic nature of our larger society that wishes to ignore people on the fringes. Ignore the crazy man laughing to himself on the subway, it’s not your problem. Feel free to call your house staff and ask them to help you prepare for a party regardless of what tragedy may have just befallen them. In some cases the party is intending to be cruel, in others they are merely ignorant. The boys who attack Arthur Fleck on the subway are intending to be cruel, the people who look the other way are just trying to protect themselves from a similar fate. In Parasite, the wealthy family is ignorant to the fact that their staff might not be able to accommodate their need because, after all, isn’t that their job? It’s not done out of vindictiveness, it’s done out of a privileged ignorance.

But the ending of these movies is where we have a divergence. And it is also why I believe Joker is the superior movie.

Joker is telling us a very personal story about a man who was let down by his society. Arthur tries. He tries so hard. He goes to see his therapist, until she gets let go because of budget cuts. He goes to work, even though it means getting mugged a lot of the time and then punished for it. He takes his medication, even when it isn’t being managed properly. Arthur is a man who desperately wants to be able to survive in a cruel world. He keeps getting kicked down and every single time he gets up. He idolizes people that appear to have integrity and sets his sights on accomplishing something that will impress them. And they let him down too. Ultimately that is the final straw. When he is abandoned by Thomas Wayne, his alleged father, and Wayne decides to demean his mother while he’s at it. Realizing he spent his whole life caring for his mother when she was his first abuser. Then he is invited to be on the show of his surrogate father figure and realizes that he is only there so the audience can laugh at him. He’s had enough. In my opinion he went to the Murray show with the intention on killing himself, until he realizes that Murray is just one more person who wants to kick him while he’s down and laugh at him. In that moment he decided that maybe he isn’t the problem, society is the problem. And he, Arthur Fleck, is going to give them what they deserve. What they’ve always given him. It’s a heartbreaking cautionary tale for a society that is ever increasingly self-absorbed.

Now on to Parasite. The themes here are largely similar. The poor family seems to be wanting to improve their lot in life, by getting jobs with a wealthy family. But they aren’t doing so in an admirable way. They lie, cheat, and poison the existing staff so that they can take their jobs. Then they sit in their new employer’s home and laugh at them. They mock them and their wealth and decide that they deserve to be ripped off. This family has done nothing to them at this point except give them jobs and be kind to them. But even their kindness is spat on with the comment “must be easy to be nice when you’re rich.” This movie seemingly casts the wealthy family as bad simply because they are wealthy. Later on the family does go some cruel things, like commenting on the poor smell of the father and joking about it…..done in private and shouldn’t have been overheard but it was still not right. When the story ultimately erupts into violence it is not out of desperation, it’s out of anger. Anger that the rich man is more concerned for his son then their daughter, even though their daughter was harmed as a result of their own actions. It didn’t matter that all of this came to pass because THEY attacked people and tried to kill them, no it was the rich person’s fault. And at the very end the movie gives you the message that it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you can never make it. The boy makes a dream to buy the big house and rescue his family from poverty, but it’s just a dream and we’re reminded of what his father said…that not having a plan is better because at least you won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t happen.

This is the single biggest difference in the message of the two movies. Joker is telling society at large that they have the choice not to create someone like Arthur Fleck. We are shown our failings in stark relief and told explicitly that we don’t have to be those people. Parasite is telling society that it doesn’t matter, the rich people will always laugh at you and it’s useless to try to better your life because you won’t succeed anyway. Personally, I prefer the first message.

New Releases Wednesday

The Prisoner’s Wife by Maggie Brookes

Published: May 26, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: Inspired by the true story of a daring deception that plunges a courageous young woman deep into the horrors of a Nazi POW camp to be with the man she loves.

In the dead of night, a Czech farm girl and a British soldier travel through the countryside. Izabela and prisoner of war Bill have secretly married and are on the run, with Izzy dressed as a man. The young husband and wife evade capture for as long as possible–until they are cornered by Nazi soldiers with tracking dogs.

Izzy’s disguise works. The couple are assumed to be escaped British soldiers and transported to a POW camp. However, their ordeal has just begun, as they face appalling living conditions and the constant fear of Izzy’s exposure. But in the midst of danger and deprivation comes hope, for the young couple are befriended by a small group of fellow prisoners. These men become their new family, willing to jeopardize their lives to save Izzy from being discovered and shot.

The Prisoner’s Wife tells of an incredible risk, and of how our deepest bonds are tested in desperate times. Bill and Izzy’s story is one of love and survival against the darkest odds.

My Thoughts: This sounds like a thrilling journey spurred by love and surrounded in tragedy. World War II historical fiction seems to be having a moment right now and I am very excited to see what it brings.

The Lady Alchemist by Samantha Vitale

Published: May 26, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: In a land torn between magic and alchemy, Sepha is an exceptional alchemist, able to bend the rules in ways no one else can. But when a slip of the tongue lands her in prison with a mountain of straw, even she has to admit that she can’t transmute straw into gold.

With the threat of a death sentence hanging over her, she’s forced to make a deal with a conniving magician. Sepha escapes with her life – but at a cost: she has one year to alchemically create a body for the magician, or else her firstborn child will be his.

As Sepha’s deadline approaches, she uncovers a deadly secret. How can she save her country when the body she owes the magician will be used to destroy it?

My Thoughts: Fairytale retellings are quite possibly my biggest guilty pleasure. I love the new take on a familiar story. Not to mention this cover is absolutely spectacular. I really want to read this.

Reading Progress Updates

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Goodreads

Progress: 3 hours 5 minutes of 13 hours, 49 minutes

Synopsis: Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.

Thoughts so far: I waited for this audiobook for almost two months and so far it was worth the wait. The narrator is wonderful and feels like a complete embodiment of the narrating character. We’ve met the suspicious James and I am beginning to think that Patricia is much too naive. Though I hope we’ll get to some action soon, the minutiae of Patricia’s day to day is getting a little dull.

After She Wrote Him by Sulari Gentill

Goodreads

Progress: 100 out of 194 pages

Synopsis: If you get lost in a book, be sure you can find your way back . . .

Madeleine d’Leon doesn’t know where Edward came from. He is simply a character in her next book. But as she writes, he becomes all she can think about. His charm, his dark hair, his pen scratching out his latest literary novel . . .

Edward McGinnity can’t get Madeleine out of his mind–softly smiling, infectiously enthusiastic, and perfectly damaged. She will be the ideal heroine for his next book.

But who is the author and who is the creation? And as the lines start to blur, who is affected when a killer finally takes flesh?

After She Wrote Him is a wildly inventive twist on the murder mystery that takes readers on a journey filled with passion, obsession, and the emptiness left behind when the real world starts to fall away. 

Thoughts so far: I can’t even begin to describe how fascinating I find this book. The two characters are so intertwined that I have legitimately no idea who the author is and who the character is. Is Madeline writing a story about Ned who is writing a novel about her? Or is Ned writing a story about Madeline who is writing a novel about him? The fact that I can’t tell speaks to the skill of the writer.

Review: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Published: March 3, 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis:

The world is not tame.

Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof. So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine. Morning brings the realization that she’s alone – and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive despite the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.

Review:

I have never read a Mindy McGinnis book before this one but from reading reviews she seems to be a love it or hate it author, often from the same reader. A huge fan might love one of her books and hate the next. I looked forward to reading it based on the synopsis but I didn’t know quite what to expect.

Most of this book is narrated in Ashley’s head, because she’s alone in the woods for most of it. I worried that this might be a bit overplayed and turn out boring. Girl alone in the woods, we’ve all read it and seen it plenty of times. But I liked Ashley. We had some tropey “I’m not like all the other girls” going on. She doesn’t care about makeup or her hair, she hunts, she lives in a trailer, she drinks beer. But apart from the tropes, I liked her. She was funny and very frank, even in her own head. There was no sugarcoating going on from herself or anyone else. That was great, it make the novel feel very gritty. Although I do have to note that Ashley made some pretty rookie mistakes. Anyone who has gone camping knows that if you get lost the first thing you do is stay still, because people coming to look for you are going to start at the last place you were seen. And Ashley is a very experienced woodsman. But no, Ashley chooses to wander off, thinking she’ll find her own way. Rookie mistake. But without that mistake, we wouldn’t have had a book so I can forgive that.

The pacing of the book was just right for me. We had a lot of flashbacks and Ashley going over her life in her head, and I liked that. It took me away from the gritty grossness long enough to see another side of her and then get plunged back into the grossness. I can also honestly say that the author left me wondering if Ashley would make it out of this alive. Most of the time you can intuit that the single narrating character must live to the end because without that character then the narrative is over. But the way it was written, I could imagine Ashley giving us a posthumous play by play of her final days. That left me not knowing what to expect for the end of her journey.

This was a good book, I enjoyed it. And I will likely pick up the author again in the future. My only complaints is the minor tropes and some rookie mistakes that didn’t make sense from the character.

Take My Money! Sunday

This feature now has a better name. I’ve been thinking of one for awhile and then it hit me. These are the books that make me want to yell, “Just here’s my wallet! Take the money and gimme gimme!”

A Mother’s Lie by Sarah Zettel

Expected Publication date: April 7, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis:

A compulsive family drama about a mother’s desperate search to reclaim her daughter from the horrors of her own past, perfect for fans of Then She Was Gone.

Beth Fraser finally has her life together. She’s built a successful career in the tech sector, has a bright fifteen-year-old daughter, and she’s completely erased all evidence of her troubled past. At least that’s what she thought.

Dana Fraser always wondered why she’s the only kid with two backup phones, emergency drills, and a non-negotiable check-in time every single day. When a stranger approaches her on the street claiming to be her grandmother, Dana starts to question what else her mother has been hiding. 

Soon Beth’s worst nightmare is coming true: Dana is in grave danger, and unless Beth is willing to pull one last con job for her parents, she may never see her daughter again.

Why I’m Excited: This sounds really good. A child who grew up surrounded by secrets and has to piece things together when it all comes crashing down around her. I really need to hurry and read the ARC I have of this one.

Hush by Dylan Farrow

Expected publication date: October 6, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis:

How do you speak up in a world where propaganda is a twisted form of magic?

In the land of Montane, language is literal magic to the select few who possess the gift of Telling. This power is reserved for the Bards, and, as everyone knows, the Bards have almost always been men.

Seventeen-year-old Shae has lived her entire life in awe of the Bards—and afraid of the Blot, a deadly disease spread by ink, which took the life of her younger brother five years ago. Ever since, Shae fears she’s cursed. But when tragedy strikes again, and her mother is found murdered with a golden dagger—a weapon used only by the Bards—Shae is forced to act.

With a heart set on justice, Shae journeys to High House in search of answers. But when the kind, fatherly Cathal, the High Lord of Montane, makes Shae an undeniable offer to stay and train as a Bard, Shae can’t refuse.

Through this twisty tale, Shae endures backbreaking training by a ruthless female Bard, tentative and highly-forbidden feelings for a male Bard with a dark past, and a castle filled with dangerous illusions bent on keeping its secrets buried.

But sometimes, the truth is closer than we think. We just have to learn to listen.

Why I’m excited: I have always loved the idea of words having actual power, so this seems to play on that theme. It begs the question of how much more careful would people be if they knew there was real world consequences for the things they say. Or would they be more reckless?

Review: Master Class by Christina Dalcher

Master Class by Christina Dalcher

Published: April 21, 2020 by Berkley

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis:

Every child’s potential is regularly determined by a standardized measurement: their quotient (Q). Score high enough, and attend a top tier school with a golden future. Score too low, and it’s off to a federal boarding school with limited prospects afterwards. The purpose? An improved society where education costs drop, teachers focus on the more promising students, and parents are happy.

Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s elite schools. When her nine-year-old daughter bombs a monthly test and her Q score drops to a disastrously low level, she is immediately forced to leave her top school for a federal institution hundreds of miles away. As a teacher, Elena thought she understood the tiered educational system, but as a mother whose child is now gone, Elena’s perspective is changed forever. She just wants her daughter back.

And she will do the unthinkable to make it happen.

Review:

I went into this audiobook with only mild expectations. The synopsis caught my attention and sounded like it could be a great dystopian novel. Then I noticed that this was from the same author that wrote Vox, which got very mixed reviews. As many people loved it as hated it. This one just wasn’t that good, but at least it was pretty short at only 8 listening hours.

The book started off well. We were introduced to Elena, who is married to the guy who came up with the Q system. Anne is her oldest daughter and exactly like her father, whom Elena hates. And then Freddy, who has always been an anxious child that struggled to keep up to the high demands of the Q system. Elena tells us how much she hates her husband all the time, it’s the main thing we hear about besides the history of their courtship and marriage.

I soon realized that I was not going to like Elena. She does nothing but complain, about everything. She also does absolutely nothing about anything else. She hates her husband, but doesn’t do anything except complain. She has concerns about the Q system, she complains. People tell her disturbing things about the system, she complains that she doesn’t think it’s that bad. She complains about feeling like a bad mother. She complains about the tests. She complains about someone offering to help her with a heavy bag, because he’s male and while she didn’t want to carry it she doesn’t need his help. But then she also complains when men don’t treat her as a piece of ass either. She actually says that most women want a husband who loves her for more than her body, but she just wants to be wanted for her body. Elena and I did not get along.

I also don’t buy how an educated woman (she has a doctorate degree) wasn’t suspicious of this system that she helped put into place. It never struck her as odd that the Q rating is supposed to be a combination of IQ, test scores, attendance, attitude, participation, etc but you could have a test of your baby’s Q rating before they were born? It never struck her as odd that the company who administers those tests is named Genics (Genix, however it’s spelled)? It didn’t strike her as odd that she kept seeing kids who were highly intelligent all of a sudden drop to the lowest rating and get shipped off to the state schools? It didn’t strike her as odd that her husband wan’t desperate to help their daughter when she failed her test? She must not be very bright, because I knew where these things were going immediately.

None of the characters in this book are nuanced at all. The bad characters do bad things all the time, seemingly just to be evil. They aren’t even doing bad things out of good intentions. Good characters do only good things all the time. That is boring and lazy writing at its best.

This book also didn’t know who it wanted the scapegoat to be. From everything I’ve heard her first book, Vox is a complete demonization of Evangelical Christian men. But at first this seemed to go the opposite way. Once Elena starts questioning the true nature of the Q system (only after it affects her of course) she talks at great length about how this all started with the liberal intellectuals in places like California, New York and Connecticut. Which makes sense when you know the country’s history of eugenics. But then she randomly throws in bits about how men are always favored over the wife in this system, and all of Washington DC has a day off on Sunday for church. So, I have no idea what she was going for.

The ending was completely inexplicable. We’re expected to believe that no one else in government has sussed out the problems with this Q program except the ones who are in on it. It’s entirely a secret operation being borne out by the Department of Education and once the rest of government hears about it they are shocked and appalled! That is just so nonsensical. You are running a eugenics program on America’s youth and sending some of them to labor camps and no one knows about it. No one from the President, the House, Senate, state governments? No one. Sorry, I don’t buy it.

This was a story with so much promise but it was poorly executed and poorly constructed.

Review: The Making of a Marquess by Lynne Connolly

The Making of a Marquess by Lynne Connolly

Published: March 31, 2020 by Kensington Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis:

The Society for Single Ladies is a crime-solving club founded by the wealthiest woman in London. Yet even Miss Angela Childers’ charming detectives are not immune to the forces of love…

Dorothea Rowland attends a country house party to investigate a long-lost heir—not to find a husband. But when the dashing American claimant discovers her prowling for clues, she is startled—and then seduced—by his provocative kiss. It’s all Dorothea can do to remember her mission. Especially when a series of accidents adds up to something far more dangerous…

Benedict only meant to silence lovely Dorothea—not find himself enamored. What’s a gentleman to do but join forces—and propose to the clever beauty? Yet as Ben and Dorothea pursue the truth about his inheritance, their faux betrothal threatens to become the real thing. Soon, Ben’s plan to return to his life in America is upended—not only by his deepening bond with his bride, but by someone who wants his fortune badly enough to jeopardize his future—even end it. And Dorothea can’t let that happen. Not for the title, but for Ben…

Review:

***Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Kensington Books!***

This book was a fun ride and Dorothea was a delightful leading lady. Ben was an interesting bloke too but he was often times too serious and seemed to be blind to obvious things. Dorothea was sharp and didn’t miss a beat in contrast. I liked the fact that Dorothea being present when her former betrothed comes home is incidental. She was there on behalf of his cousin’s banker who wanted her to find out if he was good for the loans that had been given to him or not. The fact that Ben showed up was entirely unexpected and naturally throws her emotions through a loop.

I enjoyed the mystery that surrounded the pair, but honestly it felt like it took a long time to get going. I enjoyed all the slow burning romance that we had in the meantime, because Dorothea and Ben are fabulous together, but it seemed like we went from one incident that could have been an accident to murder all of a sudden. And there was not too much that happened in between. I did fall for the red herring though. I admit it, I did not suss out who was the real culprit.

The only drawback to the book was that I have no idea what the connection was to the Society for Single Ladies. I mean, that sounds fantastic. A group of society women who use their status as single women to investigate mysteries. And Dorothea was on assignment for the SSL. But all of that got sidetracked by an attack and romance. So, in the end, it didn’t seem to have much connection at all. I was rather looking forward to that part and it was more of an afterthought by the end. I might pick up the first book though and see if that quenches my desire for single society ladies solving crimes.

Overall this was a great romance and a decent mystery, but I wished for a bit more.