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Blog Tour: The Orphan of Cemetery Hill

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Synopsis

The dead won’t bother you if you don’t give them permission.

Boston, 1844.


Tabby has a peculiar gift: she can communicate with the recently departed. It makes her special, but it also makes her dangerous.

As an orphaned child, she fled with her sister, Alice, from their charlatan aunt Bellefonte, who wanted only to exploit Tabby’s gift so she could profit from the recent craze for seances.

Now a young woman and tragically separated from Alice, Tabby works with her adopted father, Eli, the kind caretaker of a large Boston cemetery. When a series of macabre grave robberies begins to plague the city, Tabby is ensnared in a deadly plot by the perpetrators, known only as the “Resurrection Men.”

In the end, Tabby’s gift will either save both her and the cemetery—or bring about her own destruction.


My Thoughts

The Orphan of Cemetery Hill is my first Hester Fox novel. I found her writing to be very atmospheric. I was easily transported back in time. Tabby’s character resonated with me. I was scared for the child abandoned and happy for the girl who found a home. She was resilient and despite the trauma she endured she still was a compassionate and loving person. Despite the fact that I usually gravitate towards kick a$$ females I could appreciate the fact that Hester Fox’s characterization of Tabby as a “little woman waiting to be rescued by her knight in shining armor” was true to the way women in that era were treated. I still don’t like Caleb though and was a bit skeptical about his professions of love. But I digress.

Overall, The Orphan of Cemetery Hill was an enjoyable and engaging read. I was taken in by the mystery and loved that the book was loaded with history. I also enjoyed how Hester Fox handled both Tabby’s and Alice’s supernatural gifts. It was just the right amount of the paranormal: enough to keep me intrigued and not too much where the story would be unbelievable. Definitely picking up Hester Fox to read again.

Historical Perspective

The Orphan of Cemetery Hill takes place in Boston before the abolition of slavery and the establishment of equal women’s rights. Set in 1844, many slaves had escaped to the North for freedom but did not have much protection under the law. The Seneca Falls Convention has yet to happen but the Suffragettes are organizing and increasing their numbers.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Harvard was a burgeoning medical center and its numbers of medical students were rapidly increasing. The one or two cadavers that the school would obtain each year meant that the entire class would be sharing and dissecting a specimen for the full year. With the Paris Method of teaching hands on being the definitive instruction method this meant that there were simply not enough cadavers to meet the needs of the anatomy classes.

Legally, medical schools would be given the bodies of the indigent and executed criminals. Bodies of slaves were also sold, stolen and given over to the schools for experimentation. At Harvard Medical School a secret student society called the Spunkers formed to meet the rising demand for bodies.

Their means of procuring cadavers – grave robbing. In some cases they were quite clever. Some members would go to funerals and blend in with the mourners so that they knew where the fresh graves were. They would pull up the casket by the head slipping the body out through a small opening and returning the casket to the grave. If anyone were to stumble across the grave it would appear undisturbed. They also were quite deliberate about whose grave they would rob. If they disinterred bodies from slave burial grounds they knew there would be no legal ramifications.

Body snatching was so widespread that people started to take extra precautions when burying their loved ones. Family members would vigilantly guard the grave for weeks. Special cages were erected around the grave. The most extreme measures were perhaps the grave guns and coffin torpedoes that were attached to caskets, primed and at the ready.


Meet the Author

Hester Fox is a full-time writer and mother, with a background in museum work and historical archaeology. Most weekends you can find Hester exploring one of the many historic cemeteries in the area, browsing bookshops, or enjoying a seasonal latte while writing at a café. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and their son.


Where You Can Find Hester Fox

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Blog Tour: Skunk and Badger

Synopsis

Wallace and Gromit meets Winnie-the-Pooh in a fresh take on a classic odd-couple friendship, from Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake with full-color and black-and-white illustrations throughout by Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.
 
No one wants a skunk.
 
They are unwelcome on front stoops. They should not linger in Important Rock Rooms. Skunks should never, ever be allowed to move in. But Skunk is Badger’s new roommate, and there is nothing Badger can do about it.
 
When Skunk plows into Badger’s life, everything Badger knows is upended. Tails are flipped. The wrong animal is sprayed. And why-oh-why are there so many chickens?
 
Nooooooooooooooooooooo!”
 
Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake spins the first tale in a series about two opposites who need to be friends.
 
New York Times bestselling author/illustrator and Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen completes the book with his signature lushly textured art. This beautifully bound edition contains both full-color plates and numerous black-and-white illustrations.
 
Skunk and Badger is a book you’ll want to read, reread, and read out loud . . . again and again.


My Take

“Adventure and Science made the best stories.”

Skunk and Badger represent these two opposites but show that joy is to be had by embracing both of these principles. Adventure is fun but things get messy. (Beware of rocket potatoes!) Science has structure and discipline but its very essence is magic. Timberlake captures this very well in her story of Chicken Little the Mighty.


What Geralyn Liked Best

My daughter’s favorite character was Skunk. She liked him because he seemed like a lot of fun. She used his jumping on beds as her example. Most importantly for her was that he could COOK. Yes! With a capital C! And Lord knows my girl likes to eat. It may be her favorite pastime. LOL I mean no harm. I am a foodie too 🙂 But my girl was coming up with ideas. Skunk is putting this Momma to work! I have to be honest and say that those strawberry cinnamon muffins sounded delish. We’ll be savoring all of their goodness this weekend. Here’s the recipe in case you guys would like to share it with your kiddos as well.

Strawberry Cinnamon Muffins


For my part I have to admit that I sound a lot like Badger these days. Working from home is challenging and it’s hard to find a quiet place to work without interruption. Oh how I envy Skunk though. That moon room sounds like the ultimate reading nook.

Artwork by Jon Klassen

What We Learned As a Family

  • Everyone must contribute. “It’s a Law of Nature.”
  • “The fastest way to win a kingdom is by being kind and gentle instead of using violence and cruelty.”
  • It’s easier to make friends when you show a genuine interest in getting to know them, their likes and dislikes.
  • Sincere Sorrys do not come with “Buts”. (But this . . . But that)
  • You should get to know someone first before making judgments about them. It is wrong to lump groups of animals (or people) together and assume they all act the same way.

Family Fun Ideas

  • Go rock hunting! Explore some of our local national parks to see how many different types of rocks we can find.
  • Learn more about rock properties using a rock testing kit.
  • Make our own gem bracelets.
  • Grow a potato at home.
  • Make PEEP kebobs.
  • Write and illustrate our own retellings of Chicken Little.

Meet the Author

From her website: “Amy Timberlake grew up in Hudson, Wisconsin. She attended Mount Holyoke College and majored in History. She also holds an M.A. in English/Creative Writing. Most of the time, she can be found in Chicago, where she lives with her husband. But on especially good days she can be found walking on a long, long trail.”


Meet the Illustrator

From Goodreads: “Jon Klassen received the 2010 Canadian Governor General’s Award for his illustrations in Caroline Stutson’s CAT’S NIGHT OUT. He also created illustrations for the popular series THE INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE and served as an illustrator on the animated feature film Coraline. I WANT MY HAT BACK is the first book he has both written and illustrated. Originally from Niagara Falls, Canada, he lives in Los Angeles.”

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Blog Tour: Punching the Air

Synopsis

From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

The story that I thought

was my life

didn’t start on the day

I was born

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.

The story that I think

will be my life

starts today

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?

With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.


Review

I can remember vividly the days surrounding the Central Park jogger case. I remember the collective fear that held New York City in a vice. The way the press preyed on our emotions with descriptions of roving gangs of teens “wilding out”. Five teens — black and brown — were accused of this depraved act. They were villainized. Trump took out a full page ad in the New York Times demanding the death penalty in their case. In the days the followed one person stood out for me. Yusef Salaam’s mother. Because of her stoicism. She never faltered. In the heat of the frenzy she boldly proclaimed her son’s innocence across her chest.

In the end the five would spend 6-13 years behind bars for a crime they did not commit.

Punching the Air is a collaboration between award winning author Ibi Zoboi and Exonerated Five member Yusef Salaam. It tells the story of a teenage boy Amal who has been wrongfully convicted of a crime. The book is a beautifully rendered piece that delves into the disenfranchisement of young black men.

“Locking you up isn’t enough
for them They will try to crush your spirit until
you’re nothing but —

Dust
we both say
together”

Written in verse, Punching the Air shows Amal whose name means hope draw strength through creativity. His poems and art are glimpses of freedom that give him hope to carry on.

” And what does dust do, Amal?
What did Maya Angelou say about dust?
Umi asks
It rises, I whisper”


“It was this one dude
who said that’s why we’re always
fucking up, we’re always making
mistakes
because ain’t no butterflies in the hood

See, if there were butterflies
we would have what’s called
the butterfly effect

A butterfly’s wings can
change the path of a storm

Something so small
can change
one big thing in the world
one big thing in the universe

If there are no butterflies here
no pretty little wings flapping in the
hood
then we can’t change a thing, he said

We’re the butterflies, I said
and the things we do are like wings”


Meet the Authors

Ibi Zoboi

Ibi Zoboi was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her novel American Street was a National Book Award finalist and a New York Times Notable Book. She is also the author of Pride and My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, a New York Times bestseller. She is the editor of the anthology Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America. Raised in New York City, she now lives in New Jersey with her husband and their three children.


Dr. Yusef Salaam

Dr. Yusef Salaam was just fifteen years old when his life was upended after being wrongly convicted in the “Central Park Jogger” case, along with four other boys who are now known as the Exonerated Five. Their story has been documented in the award winning film The Central Park Five by documentarians Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon and in Ava DuVernay’s highly acclaimed series When They See Us, one of Netflix’s most-watched original series of all time. Yusef is now a poet, activist, and inspirational speaker who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama.

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Blog Tour: Impersonation

Synopsis

Allie Lang is a professional ghostwriter and a perpetually broke single mother to a young boy. Years of navigating her own and America’s cultural definition of motherhood have left her a lapsed idealist. Lana Breban is a high-profile lawyer, economist, and advocate for women’s rights with designs on elected office. She also has a son. Lana and her staff have decided she needs help softening her image in the eyes of the public and that a memoir about her life as a mother will help.

Allie struggles to write Lana’s book as obstacles pile up: not enough childcare, looming deadlines, an unresponsive subject, an ill-defined romantic relationship on the verge of slipping away. Eventually, Lana comes to require far too much of Allie and even her son. Allie’s ability to stand up for herself and ask for all that she deserves will ultimately determine the power that she can wield over her own life.

With the satirical eye of Tom Perrotta’s Mrs. Fletcher and the incisiveness of Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion, acclaimed writer Heidi Pitlor tells a timely, bitingly funny, and insightful story of ambition, motherhood, and class. 


Review

Ghostwriter Allie is used to stepping into someone else’s shoes and wearing their identities for months at a time. This level of method acting or getting into her subject’s head is required for pulling off a convincing read in someone else’s voice. Unlike actresses however, Allie never gets to take the credit for her work. Some charismatic headliner or successful business woman gets to put their pretty picture on the cover of her books and watch their faces climb the best seller lists. But Allie does not care for the accolades. She just wants to make a good enough living to support her son Cass.

Writing for condescending and sometimes sexist stars can make her job frustrating at times, but Lana Breban, feminist advocate, might be her most challenging client yet. Known for her blue cropped hair and no-nonsense style, Lana is an immigrant who has made her place in the world and has fought for the rights of other women. Allie looks up to her but as she tries to gather personal information for her book, Lana is not very forthcoming. Now that Lana is running for Senate she is not sure if her brand of motherhood appeals to the masses. As she tries to soften her public image Allie’s humble life and experiences seem more of the stuff that voters would like.

Impersonation asks a lot of questions not just about politics, but how we view women and how we judge mothers. Pitlor does start the conversation about modeling feminism for our younger generation in the hope to raise more compassionate and loving men for tomorrow. In the book, Allie tackles with the limits imposed on children by the genderization of babies. She strives to raise Cass in a gender-neutral setting offering him traditionally “feminine” toys like dolls to play with alongside trucks and cars. She also allows Cass to wear clothing of different types and colors but recognizes that other parents are not so open to little boys in pink. Nor will these parents chastise their children for being cruel. Bad behavior is usually explained away as “boys will be boys”.

Although I do not not think everything about motherhood is a feminist discussion, I do feel that oftentimes people feel they have the right to assert themselves in personal matters that are none of their business.

To breast feed or bottle feed? Which is right is a decision made between that mother and that child. I’ve breastfed four children. One I was able to feed on demand. With another we only lasted two months before switching to formula only. A third child was nibbling on chicken bones by 4 months old. The last took to bottle and breast equally. It made him no nevermind how he was eating as long as he had some type of food in his mouth.

What is the right way to disciple your child? Do you give them time out, take away privileges or use rewards as incentive for good behavior? What works with one child does not always work with the next. Nor does it work with the same child day in and day out. Whether she has one child or five, every mom needs to be quick witted and carry many tools in her arsenal.

Impersonation is in part an ode to the many hats that women wear as we make our way through American society. Daughter. Wife. Single mother. Career woman. Sometimes we wear a multitude of titles and they all carry a heavy weight loaded with the expectations of others. Ultimately, it is up to us to decide what works best for our own happiness and learn to advocate for what we want. Don’t apologize for who you are just because it does not fit the definition of who someone else wants you to be.


Meet the Author

Heidi Pitlor is the author of the novels The Birthdays and The Daylight Marriage. She has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 2007 and the editorial director of Plympton, a literary studio. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Huffington PostPloughshares, and the anthologies It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art and Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers. She lives outside Boston.


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Blog Tour: A House is a Body

Synopsis

INTRODUCING A DAZZLING NEW LITERARY VOICE

In two-time O. Henry-prize winner Swamy’s debut collection of stories, dreams collide with reality, modernity collides with antiquity, myth with true identity, and women grapple with desire, with ego, with motherhood and mortality. In “Earthly Pleasures,” Radika, a young painter living alone in San Francisco, begins a secret romance with one of India’s biggest celebrities. In “A Simple Composition,” a husband’s moment of crisis leads to his wife’s discovery of a dark, ecstatic joy and the sense of a new beginning. In the title story, an exhausted mother watches, distracted and paralyzed, as a California wildfire approaches her home. With a knife blade’s edge and precision, the stories of A House Is a Body travel from India to America and back again to reveal the small moments of beauty, pain, and power that contain the world.

Review

A House is a Body is an intimate collection of stories that explores a range of human emotions, conditions and relationships. It is tender and riveting. The prose is simple yet searing. Even though each story embodied a different soul, together these stories came together to reveal a humanity that is full of beauty, hope and pain.

“She was like hearing your own heartbeat. If you stop for a minute and are entirely still you can hear it. All along she’s with you, but you never notice until you think to notice.”

In this passage Swamy is talking of mothers but in her intuitive way her female characters call to attention many nuanced perspectives of looking at the world.

“When he lifted his eyes to me for a moment I felt the wind knocked out: I was a bell, and he’d rung me.”

A House is a Body using electric prose and imagery to bring both the realistic and surreal alive. It is definitely worth your time to pick this book up and steep in its well of emotions.

Meet the Author

From the author’s website: “The winner of two O. Henry Awards, Shruti Swamy’s work has appeared in The Paris Review, the Kenyon Review Online, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. In 2012, she was Vassar College’s 50th W.K. Rose Fellow, and has been awarded residencies at the Millay Colony for the Arts, Blue Mountain Center, and Hedgebrook.

She is a Kundiman fiction fellow, a 2017 – 2018 Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University, and a recipient of a 2018 grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation.”

Buy Links

Blog Tour: Paris Never Leaves You

First, I would like to thank Clare Maurer and Maria Vitale at St.Martin’s Press for thinking of me when organizing this blog tour.

Synopsis

The war is over, but the past is never past …
 
Paris, 1944. Charlotte Foret is working in a tiny bookstore in Nazi-occupied Paris struggling to stay alive and keep her baby Vivi safe as the world around them is being torn apart. Every day they live through is a miracle until Vivi becomes gravely ill.  In desperation, Charlotte accepts help from an unlikely saviour – and her life is changed forever.
 
Charlotte is no victim – she is a survivor. But the truth of what happened in Paris is something she can never share with anyone, including her daughter. But can she ever really leave Paris behind – and survive the next chapter of her life?
 
Seamlessly interweaving Charlotte’s past in wartime Paris and her present in the 1950s world of New York publishing, Paris Never Leaves You is a heartbreakingly moving and unforgettable story of resilience, love – and impossible choices.

Review

Paris Never Leaves You is an historical novel about the German occupation of Paris during World War II. What stood out for me was that it showed the impact on civilians during a time of war. We see their daily struggle to get food and essentials. We understand their fears as their houses are no longer their homes, but instead commodities of war. Families are divided and move nightly to evade the German soldiers.

The effect of the war is palpable. Charlotte has lost a considerable amount of weight. Her father has fled the country. Her closest friend Simone has been arrested and her daughter Vivi is starving. And through all this a German soldier comes to her bookstore proffering food. At first she tells herself that she accepts his kindness out of necessity. Then she realizes that she has feelings for him that run deeper. She cannot admit or express how she truly feels. It seems like a betrayal. To her dead husband and to the people of Paris.

At the end of the war Charlotte and Vivi have both made it through. Their new lives in America are strained by the secrets of the past. Not only does survivor’s guilt weigh down heavily on Charlotte, but she also is ashamed of how she came to secure the life that she and Vivi now live.

I found the book slow going at first and had a hard time getting into it. When I read the blurb I thought it was going to be more about books because of the bookstore and publishing angles. However, I did appreciate learning another aspect of World War II that is rarely depicted in books. I never thought of a Jew serving in the German army or others using Jewish classification to escape war. I found this whole concept of “hiding in plain sight” intriguing and was touched by both Julian’s and Charlotte’s stories.

Meet the Author

Ellen Feldman, a 2009 Guggenheim fellow, is the author of Terrible Virtue, The Unwitting, Next to Love, Scottsboro (shortlisted for the Orange Prize), The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank (translated into nine languages), and Lucy. Her last novel, Terrible Virtue, was optioned by Black Bicycle for a feature film.

Ellen has lectured extensively around the country and in Germany and England, and enjoys talking to book groups in person, on the phone, or via the web.

She grew up in northern New Jersey and attended Bryn Mawr College, from which she holds a B.A. and an M.A. in modern history. After further graduate studies at Columbia University, she worked for a New York publishing house.

Ellen lives in New York City and East Hampton, New York, with her husband and a terrier named Charlie.

Where You Can Find Ellen

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Blog Tour: Hieroglyphics

Synopsis

Lil and Frank married young, launched into courtship when they bonded over how they both—suddenly, tragically—lost a parent when they were children. Over time, their marriage grew and strengthened, with each still wishing for so much more understanding of the parents they’d lost prematurely.

Now, after many years in Boston, they have retired in North Carolina. There, Lil, determined to leave a history for their children, sifts through letters and notes and diary entries—perhaps revealing more secrets than Frank wants their children to know. Meanwhile, Frank has become obsessed with what might have been left behind at the house he lived in as a boy on the outskirts of town, where a young single mother, Shelley, is just trying to raise her son with some sense of normalcy. Frank’s repeated visits to Shelley’s house begin to trigger memories of her own family, memories that she’d rather forget. Because, after all, not all parents are ones you wish to remember.

Hieroglyphics reveals the difficulty of ever really knowing the intentions and dreams and secrets of the people who raised you. In her deeply layered and masterful novel, Jill McCorkle deconstructs and reconstructs what it means to be a father or a mother, and what it means to be a child piecing together the world all around us, a child learning to make sense of the hieroglyphics of history and memory.


Review

Hieroglyphics opens as a character study of three generations of people not necessarily connected by family, but related by home. Lil and Frank are an older couple returning to their hometown in the winter of their lives. Shelley is a single mother of two boys Jason and Harvey. She and Harvey live alone in Frank’s childhood home.

We get a very good sense of Lil through her collection of letters and odd bits of history that she leaves about the house. Of all the characters her voice was the one resonated with me the most. I felt nostalgic at times even though she is not of my generation nor is her story my story. I was just pulled in by the love that she showed her family, her inner strength and her loyalty.

Frank is an archaeologist who investigates “graves and caves” in search of clues of long gone civilizations. But the past that he is really trying to decipher is his own.

Shelley works as a stenographer who is beset by the current case that she is transcribing. It is a high profile murder case where she over identifies with the victim. As she listens to testimony it triggers flashbacks of her past traumas. This intense anxiety is causing her to reflect on different aspects of her life. Not only forcing her to revisit her mistakes of the past, but to also reevaluate her decisions as a parent.

Poor Harvey thinks their home is haunted. There is a ghost that lingers at night and causes him to wet the bed. He has a vivid imagination. When he puts on one of his fake mustaches he could be either a sentient adult or a superhero known as Super Monkey. His superpower is that he can talk serial killers out of doing wrong and turn them onto the path of all that is moral and good. All of these are symptoms of his overriding fears – his sensitivity over his cleft lip, his abandonment by his father and his awareness of his mother’s grief and distress.

When I was a student I found that picking a title that encapsulated the heart of my story was perhaps one of the hardest tasks of writing. So now as an adult whenever I read a book I try to figure out why the author chose the title and its significance. After reading Hieroglyphics I came up with two justifications for the name.

Hieroglyphics are an ancient code of pictures that tell a story. Each of the characters encode their experiences. Shelley uses shorthand while transcribing her cases. Harvey and his brother trade secrets in Klingon. Lil reminisces over her mother’s unique sort of jargon. She and Frank share secret words so if one dies first they can “send messages” through the living.

Hieroglyphics are a language that informs the past. Here the past can be bittersweet with characters at times examining their lives through experiences of death and catastrophe. As Lil helps her daughter prepare for her wedding she is reminded of her own. Although her own mother was taken before she wed Frank she feels blessed to share this moment with her daughter and remembers how tragedy brought her and Frank together.

Take your time reading this book. It is subtle. It is sublime. If I had to sum Hieroglyphics up in one sentence I would say that it was a heartfelt, bittersweet examination of the legacy we leave behind for those we love. Highly recommend.


Meet the Author

Jill McCorkle’s first two novels were released simultaneously when she was just out of college, and the New York Times called her “a born novelist.” Since then, she has published six novels and four collections of short stories, and her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories several times, as well as The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. Five of her books have been New York Times Notable books, and her most recent novel, Life After Life, was a New York Times bestseller. She has received the New England Booksellers Award, the John Dos Passos Prize for Excellence in Literature, and the North Carolina Award for Literature. She has written for the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, the Boston GlobeGarden and Gun, the Atlantic, and other publications. She was a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Fiction at Harvard, where she also chaired the department of creative writing. She is currently a faculty member of the Bennington College Writing Seminars and is affiliated with the MFA program at North Carolina State University.


Buy Links

Book Review: Luster

My Thoughts

Luster — lus·​ter | \ ˈlə-stər:

  • 1. :a gentle sheen or soft glow, especially that of a partly reflective surface.
  • 2. a: a glow of light from within LUMINOSITY the luster of the stars; b: an inner beauty RADIANCE
  • 3 a superficial attractiveness or appearance of excellence

I have a hard time putting into words what I think about this book. I didn’t really like the characters and I found the story sad. There is quite a bit of social commentary though. Now please understand that a book does not need likeable characters to be a good book. There are some books where the only reason why I read them is because of the bad@$$ antagonist. Sometimes you need a character you love to hate to drive the novel. But Luster is not that type of novel. All the characters are suffering and throughout the book we see them archiving their loneliness and sorrow in different ways. It doesn’t matter what skin they are in – young, old, black, white, rich or poor — there is pain and desolation here. And you wait a long time for Edie to find her inner beauty and shine. In the end she discovers more about who she is, but she has not come full circle yet.

As I was reading there were sentences that stopped me in my tracks. All I could say is “Wow! That’s deep!” There was poetry in the language and a depth of understanding the human condition. Then there were other times where I felt that the text was too cerebral. I felt that the writing got in the way of emoting the feelings.

From this debut it is obvious that Raven Leilani is very talented and creative. I am interested in seeing what she does next.

Raven Leilani

Raven‘s debut novel, Luster, is forthcoming from FSG August 2020. Her work has been published in GrantaMcSweeney’s Quarterly ConcernYale Review, ConjunctionsThe Cut, and New England Review, among other publications. She completed her MFA at NYU. Represented by Ellen Levine @ Trident. You can reach her at @RavenLeilani

Weekly Wrap Up: July 26, 2020

This week was filled with many ups and downs. My best reading day was Wednesday with 571 pages. By the end of the day I had finished 4 books for the week and was halfway through the fifth. My worst day was Thursday when my migraines started. But as you can see I never picked myself back up. Still feeling drained and out of sorts. Not sure if I am actually sick or just run down from online classes.


What Books Did I Read This Week?

This week my focus was on reading ARCs and getting my NetGalley average up. In total I read 7 ARCs and 2 backlist titles – A Good Marriage and The Night Watchman. Both backlist titles were bookclub picks.

Here are the buy links and release dates of the ARCs I read this week:

My NetGalley feedback ratio is now 91%, the highest since I joined the service. I still have 13 galleys to read. Four of these are due to be released within the next month.


Which Book Was My Favorite?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I had four five star reads this week. Choosing one is very hard as they were all different styles and genres. The Death of Vivek Oji is a contemporary fiction about identity. Emezi’s prose is tender and beautiful. I cried my way through this one. The Night Swim is a fast paced thriller. After the Rain is a graphic novel adapted from one of Okorafor’s short stories and Underground, Monroe and the Mamalogues are three plays written by scholar Lisa B. Thompson.

But if I have to choose just one it would have to be Awaeke Emezi’s third novel, The Death of Vivek Oji.


What Am I Reading Next?

Empire of Wild is a supernatural fable in the vein of Little Red Riding Hood. Hieroglyphics is a contemporary novel about parenthood, memory and loss. I will be reviewing both of these novels over the next week so stop back and hear my thoughts.

Book Review: His & Hers

This is my third book by Alice Feeney. I absolutely loved Sometimes I lie and couldn’t help but rave about it. Her second novel, I Know Who You Are was a completely different matter. I ended up giving it two stars. EEK! So when this book popped up I was hesitant to buy it. I did not know if it was safe to be excited. Then I saw it on NetGalley’s “Listen Now” shelf and figured I would give it a whirl. For those of you who haven’t already heard – – NetGalley now offers audiobooks!

I have to say that this was the perfect match-up. Alice Feeney has redeemed herself in my eyes and delivered a knock out punch. Richard Armitage and Stephanie Racine gave wonderful narrations of their characters.

The title His & Hers stems from the old adage “There are always three sides to a story – yours, mine and the truth”. So when I first saw that we were being given the story from the perspectives of Detective Jack Harper and his ex wife Anna Andrews who is a reporter, I wasn’t sure if the story was going to delve into a “he said – she said” rendition of what happened to their marriage. But it is a murder mystery and both Jack and Anna have connections to the victims. Both are trying to work the case, but from different angles, and sometimes with opposing motivations. Their past relationship sometimes gets in the way of solving the case as do their many secrets.

Who is telling us the truth? Are either of them guilty?

His & Hers kept me guessing and the third mysterious voice lent to the intrigue. Although it took me a bit to get into the novel, once I was in I was hooked. And let’s just say that twist was delicious. (*Chef’s kiss*)


Check Out Our Narrators

Richard Armitage


Stephanie Racine