"Everyone knows how much I love you.
All your gestures have become my gestures.
Have become my gestures."
'Everyone Knows How Much I Love You' by Kyle McCarthy follows a thirty year old writer named Rose as she navigates parallels between her past and present with the best friend she betrayed in high school.
After moving to New York, she ends up reconnecting with that former friend, Lacie at the suggestion of someone they both know. When she's as drawn to Lacie during their meeting as she'd been in school, Rose manages to convince Lacie to let her move in.
Though the pair have an unpleasant history, they grow close again and at least on Lacie's end.. things seem to be almost like they were before. Almost. Though it's questionable as to whether or not that's ideal.
"I did swerve. But it wasn't a flinch. It wasn't a mistake. There was a column of rage in me, a crackle of blue flame, clarifying."
Soon after moving into Lacie's home, Rose takes a job tutoring wealthy kids on their SAT scores. Her spare time is spent working on her novel, a story about the details of the betrayal all those years ago. Enamored with the friend they share, Lacie's boyfriend.. the past and present begin to merge.
Rose is an intelligent, introspective character. She's artistic, but seems to struggle constantly with her self-image.. and that plays a huge role in her ability to understand those around her. It's ironic, that she envisions Lacie as being this woman who moves through life having such impact on the people she comes into contact with and never realizing it, when Rose herself carries that same sort of mysterious charisma. The behaviors differ, but the results are similar.
"Home. I wanted so badly to believe in the myth of us, in the myth of all female friendships, the deep ones, the lasting ones: that they were more true than romance, more fun than children. That they were a place to live: home."
I really enjoyed the external conflicts between the characters in play, but even more.. I enjoyed the 'appearance' of inner conflict. I say 'appearance'.. because its actual existence is extremely questionable. There's definitely the comprehension of right and wrong, but often a lack of investment in those feelings and it's interesting to watch evolve.
All the characters we really spend any quality time with know how to wield their skills to manipulate others. Some do so almost benevolently, while others are just careless with them. Putting things in motion without thought of the outcome, only to be unhappy or upset when they do inevitably lead to some sort of collision in their personal lives.
There are also those who know exactly what they're doing. They enjoy the feeling of power it gives them and they like to think they don't mean for things to play out in certain ways, but they still have the urges to do it all over again.
"A man who is involved with a woman who burns is not interested in nice or trust, no matter what he says, no matter if he writes I don't understand."
As a behavioral study, their social circle is fascinating and despite some less realistic consequences, I hate to admit their actions are not so uncommon. I could see people I've known.. relationships I've witnessed.. in this novel. And it's hard not to say at the end of the day, that most things probably turned out as they should have, knowing everything that took place along the way.
If you enjoy thought provoking stories that delve into the complexities of relationships of all kinds, particularly where envy and longing plays a role in the machinations from all sides.. you should give this novel a read.
The Marriage Game
“You’re sitting at my desk.” She put the pot on the reception desk and folded her arms.
Sam shuffled his papers, spreading them across the polished wood surface for no reason other than to keep his gaze off her distractingly perfect breasts. “I didn’t see your name on it.”
“Just look at your lease. You’ll see it written across the top, or can’t you read big words like Patel?”
“I don’t recall seeing any identification,” he countered. “For all I know, you could have just walked in off the street. You’re certainly not dressed like you’re running a business.”
Eyes blazing, she glared. “What’s wrong with how I’m dressed?”
“An apron and a pink tracksuit with Juicy written across the ass are hardly serious business attire and they certainly don’t scream swipe right on desi Tinder.”
Sam didn’t know if there was such a thing as Tinder for people of South Asian descent living abroad, but if it did exist, he and Layla would definitely not have been a match.
Layla gave a growl of frustration. “You may be surprised to hear that I don’t live my life seeking male approval. I’m just getting over a breakup so I’m a little bit fragile. Last night, I went out with Daisy and drank too much, smoked something I thought was a cigarette, danced on a speaker, and fell onto some loser named Jimbo, whose girlfriend just happened to be an MMA fighter and didn’t like to see me sprawled on top of her man. We had a minor physical altercation and I was kicked out of the bar. Then I got dumped on the street by my Uber driver because I threw up in his cab. So today, I just couldn’t manage office wear. It’s called self-care, and we all need it sometimes. Danny certainly didn’t mind.” Danny certainly didn’t mind.”
“Who’s Danny?” The question came out before he could stop it.
“Someone who appreciates all I’ve got going here…” She ran a hand in and out of her generous curves. “… and isn’t hung up on trivial things like clothes.” She tugged off the apron and folded it on the crock-pot.
“I’m not hung up on clothes either,” Sam teased. “When I’m with a woman I prefer her to have no clothes at all.”
“You’re disgusting.” Layla grabbed her crock-pot and donuts and marched into the small kitchen at the back of the office.
Sam heard cupboards bang. Cutlery clatter. Angry mutters and a huff. A few minutes later Layla marched back out with a bowl of dal in one hand and two donuts circling her finger like rings.
Only when she sat down and proceeded to eat one of the donuts off her finger did he realize he hadn’t done any work since she walked in.
“Donuts and dal are not two foods that naturally go together,” he pointed out.
Layla took a giant bite and licked her lips. “Do you not have work to do? Or are you just going to sit there and look pretty?”
'The Silent Wife' is the tenth book in the Will Trent series by internationally bestselling author, Karin Slaughter, slated for release on August 4th, 2020. Her previous novel, 'The Last Widow,' was a #1 Sunday Times bestseller. She's sold over 35 million copies across 120 countries worldwide.. and believe it or not, this is the first of them I've read.
You have to forgive me, her first novel was being published in 2001.. at a time things in my life were getting just a bit wild. That only really began to come to a halt last year and now I'm just getting to a lot of great authors who were breaking at a time reading was just not happening. That being said, I've heard a ton of praise for her work and she absolutely lives up to the hype.
The story follows Will Trent, a GBI investigator with demons of his own to wrangle, as he ends up at a state prison to look into a murder that occurs there during a riot. While he and his co-workers are beginning to piece together what might have happened and who may have been involved, another prisoner reaches out with information to trade.
Claiming his innocence, the prisoner offers them a plethora of details in exchange for his request that they investigate a death that seems to mimic one he was accused of eight years earlier. He insists that the young woman who was brutally attacked and left for dead is the work of another and that he believes he has proof the attacker is still active.
Slaughter's pacing is superb. She does a wonderful job of shifting between non-linear timelines and multiple narrators, giving the reader both the backstory and the current lay of the land simultaneously. Both timelines move with a steady, parallel rhythm that continues forward smoothly. Transitions are seamless, characters have their own distinct voices, and they're all fascinating in their own right.
I definitely have a soft spot for characters like Will and I can see why he'd be part of a series with such longevity. I'm certainly interested in going back and reading some of the other titles. His childhood was rough and his relationships as an adult have mostly been toxic too. It's easy to see how badly he could have turned out, if not for second chances and a grim determination to make something of himself. He's still a little broken.. and he's not the only one.
His girlfriend Sara has had some tough moments too. She didn't get the difficult start Will did, but there's absolutely a point in her life where everything changed for her.. and those changes have affected her daily life in long term ways. Through it all, she remains compassionate and incredibly likeable.
None of Slaughter's characters are infallible. In fact, most of them feel very real. I found myself comparing them to people I know. Some of them try the reader's patience far more than others, however, and I had several theories as I made my way through this book. Ultimately, I enjoyed every step of the journey. I'm pretty solidly versed in procedural information and she still pulled out a few things I'd never heard before.
There may be some triggers here if you're sensitive to violence. The assaults are vicious. The premeditation and methodology are the stuff of nightmares. But wow, what a read.
If you want to pick up an intriguing mystery/suspense novel that will hold your interest all the way through, 'The Silent Wife' is a good choice.
From the author of Thorn comes the first book in a companion duology. We meet Rae, the main character introduced in the short story The Bone Knife, which is included at the end of Thorn.
Title: The Theft of Sunlight
Series: (Dauntless Path Duology Book 1)
Author: Intisar Khanani
Cover Artist: Jenny Zemanek
Publication date: March 23rd, 2021
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: HarperTeen (US/CA)
Hot Key (UK)
When the spell that keeps her hidden fails, she’s catapulted into the Zweeshen, a realm where all tales live, and her dream of meeting her favorite characters comes true. But wishes are tricky, and behind its wonder and whimsy, the Zweeshen is under attack. A character is burning bookworlds in pursuit of a weapon to rule both stories and storytellers. To succeed, he needs a riddle in Beatrix’s possession.
Now he’s hunting her down.
Joining forces with William, a cursed conjurer, Beatrix must face an enemy who knows her every weakness in a realm where witches play with time, Egyptian gods roam, and Regency heroines lead covert operations. And with her darkness as the only weapon, she may have to sacrifice everything to save a world that rejects her.
(Thorn's ebook is currently on sale for only $2.99 in the US and Canada (and has been spotted at £3.99 on Amazon UK.)
“If he could tell us anything helpful, surely we would have heard by now,” I tell Ani, not wanting to give her false hope.
“I can’t give up,” Ani says desperately. “I can’t.”
If only there were some lead, some small clue to grasp at, but we’ve turned up nothing: no one remembers anything unusual, every stranger has been accounted for, every wagon searched. There is not a track out of place, nothing.
“Baba is riding east with two other men, following the road to Lirelei,” she says. “Everyone’s heard that . . . that the children might be sent on from the eastern ports.”
“It’s good that he’s going,” I say. It’s only scraps of rumor and fireside theories that suggest the snatched end up as slaves in other lands. Who sends them, how they are to be discovered—no one knows. But it’s worth the journey if Seri can be found.
Ani turns to me, her face tight with fury. “Children disappear every day. Have you thought about that? Perhaps only every few years for us, but in the cities? Across the whole of this kingdom? It must be a few every day. How can it go on? How is it that no one manages to stop it?”
I shake my head. It had been easy enough, these past years, to pretend the snatchers were not so constant or near a threat— because they rarely strike here, in so small a town as this. But now little Seri is gone, with her laughing eyes and impish sense of humor. Niya asked if the Circle of Mages really has tried to track the snatched, and I wonder if they have. If they care, or the royal court cares, or if anyone at all knows how the snatchers are able to hide every last trace of our children.
Ani takes a deep breath. “What use are the taxes we pay? What use is our king and all his soldiers, if they can’t stop our brothers and sisters from being stolen on the streets?”
“Not much,” I admit. It might be treason to say so, but there is no one to hear us on this empty road. I run my hands over my head, tug at my braids, hating this helplessness. “What can we do, though?”
“I don’t know,” Ani says, and for the first time since she came to our cart asking after Seri, she begins to cry.
I fold her into my arms, holding her tight as she sobs into my shoulder, and promise myself I’ll keep trying. And I won’t give up either.
Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She first remembers seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and vaguely recollects having breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when she was five. She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters.
Intisar used to write grants and develop projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. She is the author of The Sunbolt Chronicles and Thorn.
"I tasted the sea.
I tasted salt, and brine, and the ocean breeze.
I tasted the sunlight on the waves, and the shadows of the undertow.
And beneath it all, I tasted magic.
I tasted power."
I'm always drawn to stories that are linked to the sea in some way. So, it was only natural that when I spotted 'Arms of the Ocean' by Jamie Webster and M. Dalto, that I'd be curious about it.
Centering around Tristaine, a young woman left as the only caretaker for a drunken father, the story is a bitter one.
Sloane, her brother, is married and long gone from their childhood home, visiting briefly and infrequently. Their family abandoned by her mother when she was only five years old, Tris barely has memory of her and her days are filled with her father's needs. Her only peace, her only true happiness.. comes from the moments she spends at the edges of the sea.
When something unthinkable happens, she makes an irrevocable decision.. but the sea has other plans for her. Soon, she's drawn into a world she never could have imagined. A world filled with love and loss, honor and betrayal, and secrets she never saw coming.
I feel like this is a good book that had the potential for greatness. I don't know if what held it back was the result of the authors working together, or if that was actually a strength. But someone has a lot of potential.
From a creative standpoint, the concepts are interesting. They play both with established themes known in the fantasy genre and utilize some of their own, more unique elements.
The world-building, while not expansive, is definitely intriguing and they definitely left themselves the possibility to continue telling this story in the future. While I didn't love it, I did enjoy it and I'd absolutely pick up a sequel if they were to release one.
Imriel however.. I did love. Read the book, you'll see why. Nyx and Loch also deserve special mention. Loch is certainly the book's main source of humor, but he's not one-dimensional at all.
There are things I think could have been done better. Could be in the future, if the authors do another book.
Throughout the story, there are numerous dramatic moments. Some more emotional, some more physical. Some are beautiful and some are brutal. But I didn't really feel any of them. I felt as if someone was telling me a story with hazy recollection.. through a soft lens.
What I mean by that is.. the approach to these moments is almost romanticized. Even the violence comes across as sort of dreamy instead of vivid. It lacks immersion for me.. and therefore any real sense of what the characters are feeling. Yes, we're told how they're feeling. Shown, sort of.. but like on an old tv with a breakdown of realism between us and the characters.
Anyway, that's a matter of preference. The book is still well-written, the story unravels slowly and precisely. The authors telegraph some things a little too clearly and very early on by over-emphasizing the foreshadowing, but it's still worth the read.
"She had often thought of casket girls with pity -- that their parents would be so crass, that their lives would be so transparently close to death, that their futures would be so blindingly arranged."
'The Mermaid, The Witch, and The Sea' by Maggie Tokuda-Hall is a dramatic adventure filled with characters struggling to define themselves, while surviving a world that seems bent on destroying them.
This shifting narrative told from multiple viewpoints, mainly focuses around a somewhat wild imperial lady.. Evelyn and the pirate Florian.. assigned to guard her.
Flora, one half of a pair of desperate orphans and crew member of the pirate ship, the Dove.. has taken on the identity of Florian. In part, it's a matter of survival amongst the men, but it's also part of their journey of self-discovery.
"Know your truth, not your story."
Lady Evelyn Hasegawa is a casket girl. She's been sold into an arranged marriage by parents who seem to have little regard for her. Sent with her things packed neatly into her coffin, a provision offered to the husband to be. She's always been rebellious and 'crooked' in her mother's eyes. Never quite ladylike enough, but to be separated from her only friend.. sent away across the sea to assume the role of wife suddenly, is more than she can fathom.
Inexorably drawn to one another, Evelyn and Florian attempt to escape the ship and free a captured mermaid who is coveted for the effects of her blood. A prize worth a pretty penny.
"She was not a creature of courage, but she was one of spite. This one little rebellion would sate that, at least."
Tokuda-Hall did a fantastic job of merging swashbuckling fantasy with a brooding sea magic that almost feels like it's infused with primordial Titan mythology. I loved the author's take on mermaids and their connection with the sea itself, as well as all the complex layers of deceit happening amongst the cast.
We do get to meet some other great characters like Alfie, Florian's soul broken brother.. and boy is his a story. There's also Rake, the first mate, Lafayette, the Nameless Captain.. known as such from a unique over-indulgence, Lady Ayer, a childhood friend of Evelyn's mother who sticks close on the voyage, and Xenobia, a healer they meet on a far away land. Fawkes is particularly nasty, but in the most basic of ways.. there's the Pirate Supreme, Xoan, who is loyal to the sea first, and I found Evelyn's betrothed.. the Commander, to be intriguing as can be.
"She'd tried to love him out of it, nagging and begging and pleading with him. But there was nothing she could do, and she'd long since lost the energy to fight the currents so bent on drowning him."
The book certainly holds plenty of surprises for its readers and you won't be disappointed if you're looking for something original, that's smoothly crafted, and poses questions of identity.. both in who we believe ourselves to be and how others see us. I found every character led a bit of a brutal life, when you looked closely at them. It was simply the way of their world.
The characters are incredibly diverse and I found myself deeply invested in the outcome for several of them. I enjoyed seeing them reach understandings about themselves and their predicaments.. conclusions about how.. even when.. to take action. In some cases, being figuratively blasted out of complacent lives in a moment of realization that they needed to make a decision because no one else was going to.
Taste My Wrath
"She hit him in the best way, like a rainstorm after five years of drought, healing the parched earth with a gentle touch; and in the worst way, like an unexpected earthquake, leaving dust and debris in her wake. She was, in equal parts, a gift and a natural disaster."
I suppose there's some irony in the fact that as I worked to catch up on my scheduled reads, 'The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones' by Daven McQueen, happened to come up at such a critical moment in history.
If you know me, you know that since I like to read as near to release date as possible.. by the time I get to most of my reads, I no longer remember the synopsis. I like beginning a story with a fresh set of eyes and no presumptions.. just letting it unfold as I make my way through it.
In hindsight, I vaguely remember being concerned about requesting it because I've only read one Wattpad writer and that was less than a great experience. McQueen has certainly shown me the level of skill in that community is diverse, however.. as this is a well-sculpted story, full of heart and tempered with sadness.
"All of this really fits in the trees?"
"..I told you: it's magic."
The story revolves around a sixteen-year-old boy named Ethan Harper, the son of a biracial couple, in the summer of 1955. His father decides that it seems like a solid idea for Ethan to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle in smalltown Alabama, where the majority of the residents are filled with ignorant prejudices and disapproval for anyone they don't feel 'blends in.'
Having come from a city in Washington, Ethan is already miserable just dealing with the sudden isolation. He doesn't know his aunt and uncle and they don't seem welcoming either. He's got nothing but a few comic books and some records to attempt to make the place feel like home, and he's expected to work at his uncle's malt shop to earn his keep. He has a relatively innocent perspective which comes to a screeching halt in Ellison.
During one of his lonely morning shifts, in comes Juniper Jones. She's wildly creative and full of life.. a veritable force of nature.. and she decides upon meeting him that they're going to be best friends and have an invincible summer adventure together.
"Trying doesn't make me feel safe here. And I guess I just think there's only so much trying you all can do. There are some things about me and my life that you'll never understand."
What develops between them is a beautiful, sometimes complicated relationship. While the townspeople leer at him, making horrendous comments about his presence and the neighborhood bullies do their best to torment him, she's busy trying to counter all that with as much kindness and warmth as she can muster.
It's important to note, I think.. that there is indication he isn't targeted as openly as someone who lived in the town before him. Both due to his familial history with the town and his lighter skin tone, it's stated that he isn't made to suffer as much as he might otherwise, but what he does suffer is horrible.
Overall, it's a story with plenty of joy and plenty of darkness. There's grief and sorrow. There's a sea of hate threatening to drown Ethan and even those who mean well, who seem to care.. don't really understand, which means they screw up too. There are definitely times that either well-meaning uninformed intentions or just plain ignorance to what it's like to be black, end up causing him pain too. I think the truth of their journey would have ended differently, but that's a tragedy real people are living with everyday.
"..while I don't love the idea of you getting into fights... sometimes you need to be angry. A lot of the time, these days, you need to be angry."
Honestly, there are a ton of sad stories like this, more devastating stories than the one found in this book.. actual experiences stretching back through generations. Unfortunately, this kind of thing isn't a rare occurance at all. It's still everywhere. As a society, we like to turn our heads and pretend everything is okay, but we're far from okay and that should be pretty apparent across the world right now.
If you read this book.. I recommend it.. I hope you take a couple of things away with you. One.. no matter how much you think you comprehend of the reality someone else is living, unless you've lived it too.. you actually don't understand. And two, sometimes anger is not only justified.. it's necessary.
Sleeping With Shadows