Take My Money! Sunday

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Expected publication: January 2021 by One World

Goodreads

Synopsis: A whipsmart debut about three women–transgender and cisgender–whose lives collide after an unexpected pregnancy forces them to confront their deepest desires around gender, motherhood, and sex.

Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese–and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby–and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it–Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family–and raise the baby together?

This provocative debut is about what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can’t reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel.

Why I’m Excited: It’s not often that I come across a book that sounds so utterly unique. This is that book and it made me HAVE to read it. It sounds emotionally riveting and one of a kind.

Where Madness Lies by Silvia True

Expected publication: January 29, 2021 by John Hunt Publishing

Goodreads

Synopsis: Germany, 1934. Rigmor, a young Jewish woman is a patient at Sonnenstein, a premier psychiatric institution known for their curative treatments. But with the tide of eugenics and the Nazis’ rise to power, Rigmor is swept up in a campaign to rid Germany of the mentally ill.

USA, 1984. Sabine, battling crippling panic and depression commits herself to McLean Hospital, but in doing so she has unwittingly agreed to give up her baby.

Linking these two generations of women is Inga, who did everything in her power to help her sister, Rigmor. Now with her granddaughter, Sabine, Inga is given a second chance to free someone she loves from oppressive forces, both within and without.

This is a story about hope and redemption, about what we pass on, both genetically and culturally. It is about the high price of repression, and how one woman, who lost nearly everything, must be willing to reveal the failures of the past in order to save future generations.

With chilling echoes of our time, Where Madness Lies is based on a true story of the author’s own family.

Why I’m Excited: World War II historical fiction is having a moment, much of coming across almost exactly the same storylines in the process. But this one sounds different. This is examining two women, separated by time but not by circumstance. I am further intrigued that this is based on a story from the author’s family history. I am sure that will make it an emotional story.

Review: God is Dead, Long Live the Gods by Gus diZerega

God is Dead, Long Live the Gods by Gus diZerega

Published: June 8, 2020 by Llewellyn Publications

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Rating:

Synopsis: God is Dead, Long Live the Gods shows how polytheism–unlike monotheism–fits with the revolutionary ideas found in quantum physics, biology, and ecology. Beginning with the Enlightenment and the roots of what we now know as science, Western thought has generally turned away from religious belief. But what if the incompatibility of science and religion only applies to monotheism?

Gus diZerega explores contemporary science to show why consciousness is a fundamental aspect of reality, why the universe is alive at all levels, and why polytheistic experiences are as varied as the enormous array of life forms that enrich our world. This fascinating work develops a bold new vision for polytheism’s evolving role in our society and in our individual and collective spiritual experiences.

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

I found this book utterly fascinating. I was not quite sure what to expect when I picked it up, but as a long time practicing polytheist I was interested in what the author had to say. The message was insightful, logical and very respectful. Sometimes books like this can come across as demonizing or ridiculing faiths that are traditionally considered monotheistic. But I didn’t get that vibe from this one at all.

The research that the author did on this was immense. Literally every paragraph has some quotation from a scholarly source. He looks at the vicious debates that Christianity has had with itself over its 2,000 year history as well as similar vicious theology debates that have happened in Islam and Judaism also. But rather than come to the conclusion that this means the faith is inherently flawed (as other authors have) diZerega instead focused on the why those theological debates are happening. They happen because of a logical fallacy in the theology, so in an effort to “close the gap” a new branch of the religion is formed on a similar but often very different theology. Leading to an entirely different idea of God.

At the end of the day, diZerega came away with a conclusion similar to the one that led me to polytheism all those years ago….religion is inherently polytheistic, even if it doesn’t recognize that fact itself. That no religion is inherently right or wrong, good or evil. He comes away with a vicious respect for the right to religious freedom and details a long history of religious totalitarianism from all branches of religion over human history. Acknowledging that when that control over faith is removed all of these theology debates crop up, which turns out to be a beautiful thing.

Ultimately all humans are looking for answers to how the universe works and the path that we take to get those answers is different for everyone. But ultimately we all might be a little happier if we recognize that following the logic is easier than living with the cognitive dissonance required by monotheism. I think this one will be making a space in my permanent library.

Review: What Lies Between Us by John Marrs

What Lies Between Us by John Marrs

Published: May 15, 2020 by Thomas & Mercer

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Rating:

Synopsis: Nina can never forgive Maggie for what she did. And she can never let her leave.

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.

Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.

But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.

Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.

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

I could not get enough of this book. It was similar to seeing a horrifying car crash on the side of the highway. You know that you don’t want to look. You don’t want to see the potentially mangled bodies or the severed head rolling down the shoulder. But you have to be sure that those things aren’t there too. You have to keep looking.

That comparison got rather dark, not nearly as dark as this book though. But this book in a less gruesome way. This was a psychological kind of dark. And just about every page had me sitting on the edge of my seat wondering what secrets I would discover next.

This is a story of a mother and daughter. Both of them have secrets. Both of them have a boatload of resentment and anger. And the two of them are trapped in a house together, punishing each other for their respective secrets and past history.

I really loved this book. I can’t really say too much more about it without giving anything away. This book is deep and layered. The title has layers and nuances. The layers have layers. Just read it, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

New Releases Wednesday

Clean: The New Science of Skin by James Hamblin

Published: July 21, 2020 by Riverhead Books

Goodreads

Synopsis: The author of the popular Atlantic articles “You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus” and “I Quit Showering, and Life Continued” explains the surprising and unintended effects of our hygiene practices in this informative and entertaining introduction to the new science of skin microbes and probiotics.

Keeping skin healthy is a booming industry, and yet it seems like almost no one agrees on what actually works. Confusing messages from health authorities and ineffective treatments have left many people desperate for reliable solutions. An enormous alternative industry is filling the void, selling products that are often of questionable safety and totally unknown effectiveness.

In Clean, doctor and journalist James Hamblin explores how we got here, examining the science and culture of how we care for our skin today. He talks to dermatologists, microbiologists, allergists, immunologists, aestheticians, bar-soap enthusiasts, venture capitalists, Amish people, theologians, and straight-up scam artists, trying to figure out what it really means to be clean. He even experiments with giving up showers entirely, and discovers that he is not alone.

Along the way he realizes that most of our standards of cleanliness are less related to health than most people think. A major part of the picture has been missing: a little-known ecosystem known as the skin microbiome–the trillions of microbes that live on our skin and in our pores. These microbes are not dangerous; they’re more like an outer layer of skin that no one knew we had, and they influence everything from acne, eczema, and dry skin to how we smell. The new goal of skin care will be to cultivate a healthy biome–and to embrace the meaning of “clean” in the natural sense. This can mean doing much less, saving time, money, energy, water, and plastic bottles in the process.

Lucid, accessible, and deeply researched, Clean explores the ongoing, radical change in the way we think about our skin, introducing readers to the emerging science that will be at the forefront of health and wellness conversations in coming years.

My Thoughts: As a bar-soap enthusiast I am really fascinated by this book. I have also been thinking that we may have done ourselves a disservice as a society by our determination to be “clean” and “germ free”. It’s an interesting take and I will be reading this book.

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

Published: July 21, 2020 by ACE

Goodreads

Synopsis: A young woman living in a rigid, puritanical society discovers dark powers within herself in this stunning, feminist fantasy debut.

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.

But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.

My Thoughts: I ❤ dark fantasy. I ❤ stories about witches. A young woman rebelling against a conservative religious upbringing into witchcraft (vaguely reminiscent of my own journey). Yes, please! This sounds so creepy and wonderful. I am looking forward to it immensely.

Review: Catherine House by Elizabeth Thomas

Catherine House by Elizabeth Thomas

Published: May 12, 2020 by Custom House

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Rating:

Synopsis: A seductive, gothic-infused tale of literary suspense — the debut of a spectacular new voice — about a dangerously curious young undergraduate whose rebelliousness leads her to discover a shocking secret involving an exclusive circle of students . . . and the dark truth beneath her school’s promise of prestige.

You are in the house and the house is in the woods.
You are in the house and the house is in you . . .

Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years—summers included—completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises its graduates a future of sublime power and prestige, and that they can become anything or anyone they desire.

Among this year’s incoming class is Ines, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, pills, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline—only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. The school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves and their place within the formidable black iron gates of Catherine.

For Ines, Catherine is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had, and her serious, timid roommate, Baby, soon becomes an unlikely friend. Yet the House’s strange protocols make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when Baby’s obsessive desire for acceptance ends in tragedy, Ines begins to suspect that the school—in all its shabby splendor, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence—might be hiding a dangerous agenda that is connected to a secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.

Combining the haunting sophistication and dusky, atmospheric style of Sarah Waters with the unsettling isolation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Catherine House is a devious, deliciously steamy, and suspenseful page-turner with shocking twists and sharp edges that is sure to leave readers breathless.

Review: This is another book that I was so torn about that I had no idea how to rate or review it. I found that I really loved the story but I can certainly see its flaws. I have seen five star reviews and one star reviews and frankly I agree with the points of both of them, so that means that I feel a three star rating is probably the most accurate.

Ines was a good narrator for this book, to an extent. Her rebellious nature made her a good conduit to see through some of the mystery shrouding the school. But it also meant that she was erratic as a narrator. Occasionally she would be trying to pry open mysteries and then the rest of the time she was getting blackout drunk and having random sex with people she couldn’t remember in the morning.

I found the school, and the mystery surrounding it, very interesting as well. The staff of the school. The students. And the journey of those students from their first year to their third year. That was all fantastic and drew me into the story.

The ending was okay. I saw it coming a mile off but it was well written and so I didn’t mind too much. But it wasn’t great either. What sold me on it was the last few lines of the book. It threw me for a loop with the possibilities that would never be realized. Had everything gone according to plan? Was the gig up? What was going to happen when that door opened? I’ll never know! That expectation sold me on the ending entirely.

At the end I was left with a book that I thoroughly enjoyed but I recognize all the reasons I should not have liked it. It’s a conundrum. I just can’t deny that I enjoyed it immensely.

Review: Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawaii Strong Washburn

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawaii Strong Washburn

Published: March 3, 2020 by MCD

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Rating:

Synopsis:Sharks in the Time of Saviors is the story of a family, a people, and a legend, all wrapped in one. Faith and grief, rage and love, this book pulses with all of it. Kawai Strong Washburn makes his debut with a wealth of talent and a true artist’s eye.” –Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling

In 1995 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on a rare family vacation, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean. When a shiver of sharks appears in the water, everyone fears for the worst. But instead, Noa is gingerly delivered to his mother in the jaws of a shark, marking his story as the stuff of legends.

Nainoa’s family, struggling amidst the collapse of the sugarcane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favor from ancient Hawaiian gods–a belief that appears validated after he exhibits puzzling new abilities. But as time passes, this supposed divine favor begins to drive the family apart: Nainoa, working now as a paramedic on the streets of Portland, struggles to fathom the full measure of his expanding abilities; further north in Washington, his older brother Dean hurtles into the world of elite college athletics, obsessed with wealth and fame; while in California, risk-obsessed younger sister Kaui navigates an unforgiving academic workload in an attempt to forge her independence from the family’s legacy.

When supernatural events revisit the Flores family in Hawai’i–with tragic consequences–they are all forced to reckon with the bonds of family, the meaning of heritage, and the cost of survival.

Review: I finished this book well over a week ago and I find that I still don’t know quite what to make of it. It was fascinating, interesting, confusing, head scratching, and magical. So in the end I come to a high three star rating, probably closer to 3.5 stars.

I thought that I was going into a book about a boy who is saved by sharks and develops magical powers. And the struggle of his family and larger community to come to terms with the scope of those powers and what they mean. To an extent, this was accurate. But the book was also not about that at all. It was about Noa’s family. The struggle of his mother and father to survive the ever increasing cost of survival in Hawaii while trying to get their three kids to better themselves and their lives. The struggle of a brother and sister who feel overshadowed by their magical brother and cope with that stress in entirely different ways.

I really was drawn in to this family. I was rooting for them and cared for them deeply. I also loved the weaving in of the myths and magic of Hawaii. I could tell just how deeply the author feels connected to his Hawaiian heritage and it was beautifully done. This was a book about things that divide us and the things that mend those divides.

The only problem I had with this book is that it dragged in places. It was a heavily character driven plot but sometimes the only thing the characters seemed to want to do was complain for chapters at a time. When I got past those parts the story swept me up in its magic in an instant. But getting through some of those sections was hard. This book felt like it needed one more good pass by the editor’s scalpel to be utterly perfect.

Take My Money! Sunday

After a few weeks break, we are back! I had to search a bit through the covers I’ve seen recently for this one. Being sick took me out of the loop for upcoming releases.

A Solitude of Wolverines by Alice Henderson

Expected publication: September 15, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: While studying wolverines on a wildlife sanctuary in Montana, biologist Alex Carter is run off the road and threatened by locals determined to force her off the land.

Undeterred in her mission to help save this threatened species, Alex tracks wolverines on foot and by cameras positioned in remote regions of the preserve. But when she reviews the photos, she discovers disturbing images of an animal of a different kind: a severely injured man seemingly lost and wandering in the wilds.

After searches for the unknown man come up empty, local law enforcement is strangely set on dismissing the case altogether, raising Alex’s suspicions. Then another invasive predator trespasses onto the preserve. The hunter turns out to be another human—and the prey is the wildlife biologist herself. Alex realizes too late that she has seen too much—she’s stumbled onto a far-reaching illegal operation and now has become the biggest threat.

In this wild and dangerous landscape, Alex’s life depends on staying one step ahead—using all she knows about the animal world and what it takes to win the brutal battle for survival.

Why I’m Excited: This is the beginning of a new series, a mystery series that focuses on a wildlife biologist. That idea really interests me. Once upon a time I wanted to be a biologist of some sort when I grew up, so these kinds of stories always capture my attention.

Fable by Adrienne Young

Expected publication: September 1, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

Why I’m Excited: As much as I should say no to young adult fantasies that sound as good as this, I never can. I keep hoping that the period of crappy young adult fiction will be over. Maybe this one will be the one. Because it sounds great! This one is also the first in a new series.

Review: The Guest List by Lucy Foley

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Published: June 2, 2020 by William Morrow

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Rating:

Synopsis: The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

Review: This book was one of my most anticipated of the summer. The synopsis is great, the cover is intriguing, and the narrators for the audiobook were great. In the end, it was okay.

I really enjoyed the lead up to the climax of the story. Everyone had an interesting tale and some secrets to hide. Mostly they were not good secrets. They were pretty mundane except for one person. By the time we got to anything interesting we were already in the midst of the climax of the story. But I didn’t really mind because when you think about life most secrets are horrifying for the person keeping it and mundane for most other people.

It was fairly obvious that the author was going for an Agatha Christie vibe with the ending but unfortunately I think she picked the wrong Christie to emulate. By the time we find out who got killed, who killed them and why it just seemed a bit ridiculous. It was very convoluted and an innocent person ended up going to prison. I didn’t like that and it brought the book down for me. I know precisely the Christie ending that the author should have gone for, but I won’t tell. It would give away too much about the story.

Review: Hunted by Darcy Coates

Hunted by Darcy Coates

Published: May 1, 2020 by Poisoned Pen Press

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Rating:

Synopsis: She only went off the trail for a moment…

22-year-old Eileen goes missing while hiking in the remote Ashlough Forest. Five days later, her camera is discovered washed downriver, containing bizarre photos taken after her disappearance.

Chris wants to believe Eileen is still alive. When the police search is abandoned, he and four of his friends create their own search party to scour the mountain range. As they stray further from the hiking trails and the unsettling discoveries mount, they begin to believe they’re not alone in the forest… and that Eileen’s disappearance wasn’t an accident.

By that point, it’s too late to escape. 

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

This book scared the daylights out of me at a few points. I really need to stop reading at night with only a bedside light on and when everyone else in my house is asleep. I wasn’t expecting this book to get to me but it did. The author had a really interesting way of making you feel as alone and isolated as the lost characters. So it wasn’t really a horror book but it was certainly frightening.

I went back and forth in my head through the entire book, is it a monstrous creature or a person? Serial killer or Bigfoot? Demon or cult? I found evidence for any of these possibilities all along the way. It was such a thrilling ride. And frankly, I think I would have been happy with any outcome. To me, this tells me it is a very well put together story.

My only complaint is that I felt the characters were a bit one dimensional at first. Though they did create some depth and layers to them as the story went on, so this didn’t actually impact the story too much. Chris was wonderful and ultimately I found him to be the most complex and compelling character out of the whole book.

I also appreciate an author who can make me honestly believe that they might kill off any of their characters at any moment. Lots of author can’t do that and I always seem to be able to point out “well, this guy can’t die or the whole book is over.” This book was not like that at all. At any point anyone could have been killed and the story would have carried on without them. In the end not all of them make it. I recommend this book highly. I’ve been disappointed by thrillers lately but this was a fun ride.

Radio Silence

My apologies for the radio silence over the weekend everyone. I have been dealing with feeling mildly sick for a week or so and then suddenly on Friday I just got hit by the sick bus. So just touching base to say that I will likely be out of commission for a few more days. Then, hopefully, I will have some reviews to share. What have you all been reading? Anything to recommend?