Review: Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and YouStamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ibram X. Kendi’s book Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America was first released in 2016.

Kendi, a Boston University Professor and founder of the BU Center for Antiracist Research, was awarded the National Book Award in nonfiction for the title. It’s also close to 600-pages by a man who can certainly run intellectual circles around me. For that fact alone, I find it intimidating.

Luckily for me and the rest of the world, Kendi decided he wanted to find someone who could take his ideas and write it in a way that would be more agreeable to a younger audience. Hence, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You was born.

It sounds like it took a little cajoling, but eventually Reynolds, a well-loved author of Children’s and Young Adult fiction, agreed to take on the project.

I chose to listen to the audiobook because I knew that it was narrated by Reynolds. I’m so happy that I did. I would have enjoyed it had I read a hard copy, but hearing it from him, in the way he felt it should be read, was a really special experience.

This book offers a concise history of racism, and the racist ideas that have been used to justify slavery and oppression of black people in the United States, from the time of the first slaves arrival to the country, up through the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement.

It’s framed through three separate schools of thought: segregationists, assimilationists and antiracists. It explains how racist ideologies were constructed in a way to gain and keep power; how they led to the systemic issues prevalent today.

Reynolds states numerous times that this is not a history book, and you know what, it doesn’t feel like one. The way this is presented makes it feel like you are talking with a friend. It’s engaging, it’s forthright and it’s a must read.

The entire way through I was jotting down ideas, people and events that I want to learn more about. After reading this, I am no longer intimidated by Kendi’s original work. I want to read it and plan to by the end of the year!

I cannot recommend this enough. Particularly the audiobook. If you haven’t read this one yet, you absolutely should.

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Review: The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

The Echo WifeThe Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Oh wow, you really brought this full circle, didn’t you, Sarah Gailey?! You clever, clever, clever human.

I read the majority of The Echo Wife in one sitting today and I had so much fun with it. There are a lot of great themes and ideas to think about with this one.

This is the first novel I have read by Sarah Gailey, but absolutely will not be the last. I have already added three of their other books to my TBR.

This novel follows Evelyn Caldwell, who is an award-winning research scientist in the field of genetics; more specifically, her work deals with genetic cloning.

We hear this entire story through Evelyn’s perspective, which personally, I found quite refreshing actually. It seems like most novels I read are multiple perspective, so it was nice to just sit with one narrator the whole way through.

Evelyn’s husband, Nathan, has betrayed her with another woman who just so happens to be a clone of Evelyn.

Essentially, he has replaced her with a version that will be more compliant with his wants and needs. More docile in their relationship, something Evelyn never was.

When Nathan ends up dead, Evelyn’s clone, Martine, suddenly becomes a very real problem for her. One that could end her career as she knows it.

Evelyn needs to get control of the situation, and Martine, before everything she has worked for is taken from her.

As Evelyn and Martine begin to work together, Evelyn is shocked when she begins having actual feelings for the clone; like she is a real person.

This novel explores so many fascinating, and frankly, frightening topics. Set in the not too distant future, it examines the ethical issues that arise when you are involved in cloning and cloning research.

What makes something human? What are the parameters that should be followed in this type of research? What if something goes wrong, or a clone goes rouge? Who has the authority to decide the clone’s fate?

In addition to the fabulous scientific elements, I really enjoyed getting to know Evelyn Caldwell. I felt she was such a well-developed character.

We learn how Evelyn’s parent’s relationship shaped the woman she would become. Her parents had quite a contentious relationship and Evelyn was the silent observer to it all.

Her Father was brilliant, he taught Evelyn so much and set her on the career path she ends up on, but he also was a raging tyrant.

Her Mother taught her another set of skills entirely. While she viewed her Mother as mild and cowardly, her experiences with Nathan and Martine caused her to re-evaluate those beliefs.

While this is just a subplot to the greater story, it contributed quite a bit to my enjoyment. I felt it added a lot of depth to Evelyn’s character and allowed me to better understand her choices and motivations.

I really connected with Evelyn. I’m sure many will find her cold, but I think she is more determined and driven than uncaring. Choices she made, if made by a man, would probably be viewed differently by a lot of people.

Overall, this is an extremely intelligent and well-constructed story. My one very small negative, was that I was pitched Thriller and was expecting that. To me, this really isn’t much of a Thriller even though it is quite compelling.

I do highly recommend this. I think it would make an incredible Book Club selection, or Buddy Read, as there are a ton of deep issues to discuss.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I cannot wait to pick up more titles from this author!

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Review: Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan

Good NeighborsGood Neighbors by Sarah Langan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Welcome to Maple Street. Located in a Long Island suburb, it’s a setting we all know.

That picturesque cookie-cutter neighborhood where all the kids play together and everyone knows each other’s business; bad and good.

The Wilde family is new to Maple Street and it’s clear from the start that they don’t necessarily fit in.

Arlo, the man of the house, is a has-been rocker who, gasp, has tattoos.

His wife, Gertie, is an ex-beauty queen who dresses trashy and speaks with an accent. As sweet as she is, anyone can see she’s a hot mess.

Then there’s the kids. Julie, the preteen daughter, stole a pack a cigarettes when they first got to the neighborhood and showed the other children how to smoke. The little boy, Larry, carries around a doll!

When the Queen Bee of Maple Street, Rhea Schroeder, seems to take Gertie under her wing, the rest of the neighbors chill a bit. If the Wildes are good enough for Rhea, they must be good enough for them.

Seemingly out of nowhere, however, Rhea begins to snub Gertie and her family.

The main confrontation occurs at a block party and during this very party, a sinkhole opens up in the neighborhood park, sending residents scurrying to the safety of their respective homes.

It’s utter chaos.

The tension continues to mount on the street in the days that follow. Rhea’s daughter, Shelly, who has been told not to talk to Julie Wilde any longer, defies her Mom and confesses a dark secret to Julie.

This dramatic conversation ends with Shelly falling into the sinkhole. Lost to its dark depths.

Some crazy accusations are thrown around after this event and the target is, unsurprisingly, Arlo Wilde. Thus creating a boogie man to focus their anger and fear at. The infamous other.

Reading Good Neighbors was like peeling back the layers of a very quirky onion. I was so impressed with this!

The Wilde family, by moving to Maple Street, were hoping to provide potential upward mobility for their children. They had the best of intentions and although not perfect, were good people doing their best.

The reaction of the neighbors to them was absolutely fascinating and in a depressing way, 100% realistic.

Langan incorporated a lot of mixed media aspects into the telling of this story, which I loved! I always think that is a fun way to add energy into a storyline.

It is set in the not too distant future and the sinkhole, as well as a few other details, were clearly caused by climate issues. I liked how that was a backdrop, but none of the characters acknowledged it. So, like I said, real.

I also really enjoyed the group of kids in the neighborhood, coined the rat pack.

Sure, they weren’t perfect. There were some real assholes in the bunch, but when things were at rock bottom, they were the ones that banded together, showed some courage and solved a problem. All while their parents hid behind their closed doors and gossip channels.

Additionally, I really enjoyed the unconventional narrative style.

It felt like a season of Desperate Housewives if it were directed by Wes Anderson; and yes, at least one of the Wilson brothers would have been in it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Atria Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I really enjoyed my time with it.

It’s actually one of those books, that the longer I sit with it, the more I appreciate it.

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Review: Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff; Illustrations by Marie Lu

Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #2)Gemina by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

THE BEST MOST WONDERFUL REREAD!!!
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I originally read Gemina, the second installment of The Illuminae Files, in December of 2019. I listened to the audiobook and I had a hard time connecting with it. I really felt like I didn’t retain any of the story.

I decided to pick it back up and give it another shot, as for me, I genuinely believed it was a choice of formatting issue and not a story issue.

Oh, how right I was. I loved my time reading my hard copy and was surprised to learn there was artwork by Marie Lu incorporated into the story, one of my favorite YA authors!

This time through I was connected right away. I could not put it down and ended up finishing it very quickly.

Gemina takes place on the Jump Station Heimdall and follows two new characters, Hanna, the station captain’s daughter, known to be a spoiled princess, and Nik, the resident bad boy with a heart of gold.

After the Kerenza invasion, you may recall from Illuminae, that Kady Grant was heading to the Heimdall Station; unfortunately, she’s not the only one.

When a BeiTech strike team boards the Heimdall, it is up to Hanna and Nik to work together to try to salvage all they can and hopefully expose BeiTech and their misdeeds along the way.

This gets seriously intense. As with Illuminae the unconventional structure makes this a unique reading experience. One that is memorable and a ton of fun!

I am hoping to continue on with Obsidio very, very soon and add this to my completed series list!

I cannot recommend this series highly enough. I am so happy that I went ahead and reread this as opposed to skipping straight to Obsidio. Hanna and Nik are now two of my favorite characters ever and I would have missed that had I not reread this.

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Review: Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass IncidentDead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dead Mountain is an eerie recounting of the Dyatlov Pass Incident exceptionally well-told by Donnie Eichar.

I find this to be one of the most haunting unsolved mysteries of all-time.

In February of 1959, nine experienced hikers set out on a challenging back-packing expedition in the Russian Ural Mountains. One hiker survived and only because he departed early due to medical complications.

The young people involved were all college age, with the exception of one, and were members of a hiking club at their university.

Led by Igor Dyatlov, their goal for this particular hike was to receive a Grade III hiking certification, because of this the mountaineers kept copious notes and took photo documentation of their journey.

When they didn’t return home on the date expected, people naturally assumed they must have run into complications that delayed them, but they would arrive any day.

That day never came. A search party is sent out and what they find is extremely shocking and mysterious, spurring numerous theories as to what caused the hiker’s demise.

I won’t go into the horrific details of the discovery of the bodies, just know everything from government conspiracies, armed men, chemical attacks to aliens, were considered.

Donnie Eichar became interested in the case, like many of us, after hearing of the mystery by chance. As a documentary filmmaker, his natural instincts are to do whatever it takes to learn more.

Eichar connects with individuals inside Russia still interested in the case, travels there, pours over the old travel diaries and photos, interviews people involved, including the sole survivor and even hikes the same path the group took.

With the book, we alternate between Eichar’s historical retelling of the incident as he understands it, and his journey over the course of his investigation.

Even though I had read and watched quite a few videos on this incident, I found Eichar’s theory behind the mystery to be wholly unique, interesting and quite possible. While there is no way to say this is definitely what lead to their deaths, it is a very strong theory.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys learning about unsolved mysteries; bonus if you are a hiker, mountaineer or rock climber. Eichar’s writing is engaging and he truly presents this tale with respect and grace.

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The Project by Courtney Summers

The ProjectThe Project by Courtney Summers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After a terrible car accident, which killed both of her parents, Lo Denham lies close to death herself.

She’s young though and ultimately pulls through, but with lasting repercussions.

Lo’s older sister, Bea, abandons her after the accident, leaving Lo in the care of their Aunt.

Lo, understandably curious about why her sister would leave, only knows that Bea has joined a mysterious group called The Unity Project.

The Project has deeply embedded itself within a few towns in Upstate New York through extensive charitable works and community outreach.

Even with their good deeds enhancing their image in the eyes of some, many assume The Project is a cult, led by a charismatic leader, Lev Warren. Lo is one of those who believes something is not normal about the group.

Years later, when a good friend of her boss loses his son, Jeremy, to suicide, he blames The Project for driving him to his death. It turns out Jeremy had been a member and as such was purportedly kept from his family and friends.

Looking through photos of the man’s son, Lo stumbles upon one with Bea and Jeremy together. Lo has been desperate to be in contact with her sister again and vows to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Lo works for a magazine, currently in an administrative position, but she dreams of being a writer. Getting the scoop on The Project could not only help her find her sister, but also help her to reach her goals.

She infiltrates and things progress from there.

The Project is a slow burn. Unfortunately for me, one that fizzled out rather than ignited.

The last quarter of the book started to intrigue me more, but prior to that I felt nothing for it; no passion, no intrigue, no curiosity, it was just sort of meh.

As always, Summers includes a lot of hard-hitting subject matter and that’s important.

I love her examination of difficult familial relationships. Lo, as a character, is really struggling to find her place and meaning for her life. Her need to reconnect with Bea is palpable. My heart did ache for her.

However, I did struggle with some of the back and forth between perspectives and timelines, as the narrative shifts from Lo to Bea at different times.

I would often forget whose perspective I was reading from, as I didn’t find them particularly distinct, as odd as that may sound.

Also, the timelines that it switched between were all fairly close together, for example 2012, 2017, 2018, and I am just not used to that type of format.

I think I am used to larger gaps in time, say for example from 2000 to 2020, but that is a me problem, not a book problem, however it did impede my enjoyment.

Since I was so highly anticipating this, I am left with a sense of disappointment. Even though it is a good book, there’s nothing wrong with it, for me it fell flat. I wanted it to go darker, the atmosphere to be more ominous, and I wanted more suspense.

With all this being said, there’s a Reader for every book, so please do not let my slightly unenthusiastic review stop you from picking this one up. If the synopsis intrigues you, absolutely pick it up and try for yourself!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: We Hear Voices by Evie Green

We Hear VoicesWe Hear Voices by Evie Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

During a mysterious flu pandemic, Rachel’s son, Billy, lies close to death. Rachel is so distraught. He is just a little boy, how could this happen?

Defying all odds, Billy fights through and survives, but he brings a friend back with him from the brink. An imaginary friend who he calls, Delfy.

Rachel knows that many children develop imaginary friends to help them cope through difficult times, so she’s not too concerned about it.

From what Billy is telling her, Delfy is encouraging him to get stronger and that can’t be a bad thing, can it?

But when Billy’s behavior takes a frightening turn, Rachel knows Delfy is to blame.

Billy’s older sister, Nina, also thinks Delfy’s influence is harmful, and she is determined to get to the bottom of it. Her theory is that the flu is the root of the issue and she believes other children may be experiencing the same phenomenon.

There’s a lot going on in this novel; some of the subplots being more interesting that others. One of my favorite aspects was reading about the pandemic, obviously made more eerie due to everything happening in our world.

This novel follows multiple perspectives as it builds out the dreary post-apocalyptic atmosphere. We follow Rachel, a struggling mother, Billy’s sister, Nina, who is part of a space program for teens, and a doctor, whose name I can’t recall, who treats children hearing voices post-flu.

While many of the aspects of this were interesting to me, once they were mushed together, it became a bit much. It was like the plot suffered a little because there was almost too much going on.

The pacing was off because of this as well, with me much preferring particular perspectives to others. Frankly, I could have done with just Rachel and Nina’s points of view.

Even though this is pitched as Horror, I would categorize it more as a Sci-Fi Thriller.

In spite of the tiny criticisms mentioned above, I still found this be to an engaging story and Green’s writing style to be quite pleasing. I would definitely pick up future work from this author.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I truly appreciate it.

On the heels of 2020, now is the perfect time to pick this one up! You’ll know what I mean once you read it.

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Review: Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Know My NameKnow My Name by Chanel Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This has to be the most powerful memoir I have ever read. The courage and unapologetic nature of the writing brought me to tears more than once.

I am so proud of Chanel Miller, a woman I have never met, but that is genuinely what I feel; proud of her strength, as really she speaks for so many.

Before she came out to the world, Chanel Miller was known as Emily Doe. Her victim impact statement from a sexual assault trial went viral after being posted on Buzzfeed.

This book follows Chanel from just prior to the assault, through the night it occurred, the immediate aftermath and the years of struggle through both the court and healing process.

It was really heavy at times, as you can imagine since it recollects such a traumatic event, but I felt that Miller conveyed it with such honesty and grace. It’s worth the heavy heart, for sure.

I picked up this audiobook on the recommendation of a friend who had just read it. I’m so glad she told me about her experience with reading it and now I feel like it is my duty to recommend it to others. So, please pick this one up.

The writing is fantastic. Miller made her trauma relatable. She talks about things I know many women will be nodding their heads to while reading. This book is a phenomenal exploration of rape culture and the treatment of women and girls within our society.

At over 15-hours, it’s a fairly long audiobook. Initially, I couldn’t imagine how that could be, but I wouldn’t cut anything out. Every moment of this leaves an impact.

It’s truly an exceptional memoir, one that will stay with me for years to come. Highly, highly recommend!

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Review: The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry

The Ghost TreeThe Ghost Tree by Christina Henry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

The town of Smith’s Hollow has suffered quite a few tragedies over the years. The eerie part is, no one seems to remember.

When two girls from out of town are found slayed in a backyard, literally cut to pieces, it does grab everyone’s attention. At least momentarily.

Lauren has grown up in Smith’s Hollow and now, just shy of her Freshman year in high school, she begins to sense something is severely wrong with their quiet town.

For one thing, her father was murdered in the woods just last year. His heart cut out of his body.

When she hears about the murdered girls, she doesn’t hold much hope for the police finding the culprit. They never solved her Dad’s murder.

Everyone just seemed to move on, but Lauren remembers and she wants to get to the bottom of it.

The thing I loved the most about this story was the atmosphere. The setting of Smith’s Hollow, that eerie small town vibe where you can instantly tell something is off.

Additionally, I found Lauren to be a likable character and the relationships within her family were interesting.

Since her father passed, her mother has been struggling and seems to take a lot of her frustrations out on Lauren. Nothing she ever does is right, her mom is always nagging at her.

Then there is Lauren’s little brother, Danny, who she loves dearly, but he’s a strange kid. He seems to know things he shouldn’t and he says the oddest things.

When Lauren begins to have visions as well, of a horrible monster and the murdered girls, she starts to investigate.

What is going on in Smith’s Hollow and what is her connection to it? Her first stop is her Grandmother’s house and boy, does she have a tale to tell!

There’s witches, there’s curses, there are sacrifices that need to be made.

Lauren sees it as her job to put an end to the madness. Along with a friendly policeman, a cute next-door neighbor and a roving reporter, Smith’s Hollow had better watch its back.

Throughout this story I was reminded of other stories. I felt Sawkill Girls, Strange Grace, The Devouring Gray and The Wicked Deep all rolled into one.

It was fun, I’m glad I read it. I love how Christina Henry’s mind works, but this isn’t my favorite of her books.

Lauren’s best friend, Miranda, drove me batty. I was hoping she would be the first victim, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

Also, there were some subplots I wasn’t as interested in and I found those portions dragging for me. I think I could have enjoyed it a lot more if those had been shaved back a bit, including the racist neighbor.

Overall, this is a solid story. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy a dark atmosphere with some gruesome deaths steeped in mystery.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I adore Christina Henry and will continue to pick up anything else she writes!

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Review: Possession by Katie Lowe

PossessionPossession by Katie Lowe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ten years ago, Hannah’s husband, Graham, was brutally murdered in their bed.

Hannah, along with their baby girl, Evie, were both in the London home that evening, but Hannah claims not to remember a thing; a mysterious head injury apparently to blame.

The police arrested a man, Mike, for the crime. A stranger to both her husband and herself, this man is now in prison for Graham’s murder.

Hannah moved from the city after that, unable to stay in the home where such a traumatic event took place. Her and Evie, along with Hannah’s long-time love interest, Dan, now reside in a comfy home in the suburbs.

Even though, for the most part her life is going well, Hannah is still troubled by flashbacks to that night and to her troubled marriage with Graham.

Unfortunately, things are about to get stirred up even more, as a popular True Crime podcast sets sights on the decades old murder case and decides to feature it on the next season of their show.

Conviction host, Anna Byers, believes Mike, the man currently in prison for Graham’s murder, was set-up by the police and she claims to have the proof needed to set him free.

The show’s suspicions focus on Hannah and thusly, popular opinion begins to sway that way as well, churning up all sorts of issues for Hannah and her family. This negative focus on her, causes Hannah to spiral out of control.

Alternating between past and present timelines, as well as incorporating podcast episodes, the truth behind Hannah’s past begins to come to light.

Hannah is a hugely unreliable narrator, so that definitely added to the overall suspense, as you had to question even her most basic memories.

I did feel like the pace of this was a little slow for my tastes, however, and frankly, I never found myself really invested in the mystery.

Some interesting choices were made in the plot progression and I thought the ultimate conclusion definitely tread into over-the-top eye roll territory, but that could just be me.

Overall, it is a good story that I think a lot of people will have a lot of fun with. It will not go down as particularly memorable for me, but I’m still glad I gave it a shot.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity.

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