Book Review: Florida Man by Tom Cooper

Florida Man by Tom Cooper takes a look the mythos of the crazy stories surrounding the various news story dubbed “Florida man” (this term was brought to my attention from the TV show Atlanta). This novel is awfully hilarious in it’s character studies of Floridian rednecks, Cuban refugees, and American Indians. Most of the stories involve sex, drugs, violence, theft, and sometimes all four. The novel spans for the 1960’s to present spending most of the time in the 1980’s. The novel has it’s problem but it is filled with so much charm, it’s hard not to fill satisfied when i finished it. I felt like the characters were straight out of an Elmore Leonard novel, but with enough originality to make them unique. Thanks to Random House and Netgalley for giving me a copy for review. Florida Man by Tom Copper is published on 7-28-20.

The Plot: When Reed Crowe was a teenager he watched a plane go down in the Florida Everglades. The plane was filled full of weed from Columbia, he thought everyone was dead but he was wrong. Reed Crowe took drugs and sold a lot, he sold enough to buy and build a seedy motel, an run down zoo and amusement park on the remote Emerald Island. He’s a beach bum that hired his friends to help him run the place, all who would rather do drugs and get laid. His world is turned upside down when a Cuban that goes by the name of Catface because of his scars, recognizes Reed when he gets his friend and employee out of jail. Catface was there in the 60’s when reed found the drugs, and blames reed for not noticing and leaving him stuck with the scars. This vicious gangster will stop at nothing to kill Reed.

What I Liked: The humor is constant through out, it sometimes guys doing horrible things but for the most part it is funny. Catface is scary and relentless, almost a pincushion literately, they character takes a licking and keeps on ticking. This novel is not known for it’s descriptions but I felt it described this character perfectly. Wayne Wade is another crazy character that would make so many bad choices but it was a train wreck that was entertaining to watch. I enjoyed the ending, it did something very unexpected, where I was super iffy if tis was the right choice but I was satisfied with the ending, that was very true to one character’s character.

What I Disliked: The descriptions are really lacking, it will name this exotic Florida animal and not describe it at all. The book has an over 10 year jump and doesn’t catch the reader up with anything that has happened in the last 20 years, which I found really frustrating. I did wonder the point of this novel about midway through, and it’s more of a character study than a narrative story.

Recommendation: This novel is not going to be for everybody, the beginning is a little bit of a mess with it’s weird time jump. I often wondered the point and where it was going. That being said, the novel is funny if you like show like swamp people, and shows about redneck culture then this book may be right up your alley. There is a trigger warning on violence and a character liking girls too young. I would slightly recommend this one on humor alone. I rated Florida Man by Tom Copper 3.5 out of 5 stars . This one is the most torn I’ve been on a review in a while, I will read another novel by Tom Cooper.

Book Review: Antkind by Charlie Kaufman

Antkind by Charlie Kaufman is a truly out of this world adventure about a film critic experiencing and trying to remember a film that last 30 days. It consumes him and his dreams as he figures out what was the film and what was his life. The book relies heavily on how film affects the watcher, and that the film can become a part of you. This book is deeply funny mind trip that only the writer of such films as Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind could write. This is Charlie Kaufman’s first novel and it is a doozy. This is the kind of novel that I think could be heavily discussed in college literature classes, because there’s a lot to explore and debate about, what is part of the film and what is a dream? The book is 720 pages and should have been well over a hundred pages shorter, it has as many endings as Return of the King, I slapped my forehead once of reading more. This is a book that I see being really divided over, some loving while others put it as do not finish. Antkind is a cross between a Kurt Vonnegut novel and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Thanks to netgalley and Random House for the copy. Antkind was published on 7-7-20.

The Plot: B. Rosenburger Rosenburg is a film critic that dives deep into the avant garde film. He goes to Florida to dive deep into the a 1908 film that is the first portrayal of a transgender on screen. Upon this trip he meets his neighbor that claims he was in the film, because he is a time traveler. As B. gets to know his neighbor he learns he is a filmmaker and has an animated film featuring puppets that know one has seen before. B. indulges himself and agrees to watch the film, the film that is untitled is 30 days long, it is about the past, present, and future. The filmmaker dies midway through the first watch, but B. is so committed now thinking this the greatest film that he has ever seen continues to watch (as a film critic his rule is to watch a movie 7 times). He doesn’t make it through the second viewing as the film burns up and B. is in a coma. He makes it his life’s work to remember everything, but he soon can’t tell his life from the film as it consumes him and his dreams.

What I Liked: There’s an on going joke about the character of B. being mistaken for jewish because of his name and appearance, that I never grew tired about. There a scene about Donald Tump (or Trunk) as he becomes to enamored with his animatronic robot from Disney’s Hall of Presidents that he orders one and it becomes his best friend. There’s a couple of scenes about Vaudeville duo Mudd and Moroony where a stage accident send one into a coma and changes his outlook on life and wants to play the straight man in the comedy act instead of the foyle. The compromise is two straight men, which is funny because how bad it is. I like the common debate does life imitate art or does art imitate life? B. is a film critic that loathes the films of Charlie Kaufman, and destroys everyone of his films. I like his nicknames for favorite directors. Theirs a lot of praise for filmmakers Judd Apatow and Wes Anderson. I liked a lot of the humor, especially the self analysis humor about his idiosyncrasy.

What I Disliked: Like all first time writers the novel is long and over bloated. I could trim 150 pages easily and have almost the same book. I don’t like the title, at the end of the novel it gets to the meaning of Antkind. The ending was all over the place I saw five times where it could have ended, and kept going and going.

Recommendations: I’m going to barely recommend this, the story is all over the place, it has strong metaphors about life and dreams, with bits of laugh out loud moments. The story is overly long, but there some diamond in the rough moments that really save it. I think literature majors are going to get a lot more out of it than I did; there is a lot to debate and discuss. I rated Antkind by Charlie Kaufman 3 out of 5 stars. This review rating tore me up I kept bouncing back and forth between 3 and 4 stars, but I thought the endings and overly long put it in the barely 3 stars category.

Book Review: What Lies Between Us by John Marrs

What Lies Between Us by John Marrs is one crazy book, that you can’t predict or put down. Characters flip from being good to bad, as the reader learns more secrets. This book has some of the most cringe worthy scenes, not because of gore or anything horrid, but because you are reading about a character that keeps digging themselves into holes. This is family disfunction at its finest. What would it take for you to chain your mother in her room? The answers come quickly but the reasons behind them stay buried in lies. This is the second novel that I have by John Marrs, last year I read Passengers about driverless car taking 8 people hostage to murder them as people choose who lives or dies. Passengers rifted me while What Lies Between Us rocked me to my core. A huge thanks to Netgalley and Amazon Publishing UK for letting me read a novel that has taken my top spot in favorite books of 2020. The screen writes were picked up by Renee Zellweger’s production company, which would have a juicy role as the daughter who chains her mother, while exposing a lifetime of secrets and lies. What Lies Between Us is to be published on May 15th 2020.

The Plot: Maggie is believed to be a shut in that relies on her doting daughter Nina to get her through her days, then the chain is revealed. Maggie is not a shut in by choice. Her daughter Nina has been chaining her up in the attic which she soundproofed for two years. Nina is convinced her mom murdered her father years ago, and is determined to lock her up, in replacement for the last 21 years of her life since her father disappeared.

What I Liked: How crazy this novel got, there were many times where I was astounded of the places this novel went. There’s so many twist, I guessed a couple of them, but there were sometimes twist on twist. I enjoyed the ending, I felt like everything wrapped up in a very messed up bow. Never have I been so back and forth with characters, you will read one thing and be like Maggie had a point and then read another where I was like how could Maggie do that to Nina. The back and forth go almost to the end.I liked the side character of Bobby and how he fit in to the mother and daughter fight. The party scene was one of the most cringe worthy scenes I’ve ever read, and I kind of loved every minute of it. The scene was like a slow train wreck, you just have to watch. The way this novel was written getting into Maggie’s and Nina’s heads was perfect and helped explain a lot about the characters and their motivation.

What I Disliked: There was disappearance scene that the police don’t have a suspect, and we know the last text that go the person there and an incident that happened just weeks before the disappearance, I found it very unlikely that this character would not be the main suspect. The police go to the house but there were all these red flags that the police wouldn’t be ale to overlook. I hate that we never knew how high Jon was during the incident, or didn’t look into his appeals. I didn’t like the cover, it looks mediocre.

Recommendations: I really connected with this thriller and could not put it down. The only thing I would caution readers with is the characters given their reasons remain mostly unlikeable. I can still love a novel even if the character’s are difficult to like, but I know some can not. I think this is a can’t miss thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat. I did not want to stop reading. I rated What Lies Between Us by John Marrs 5 out of 5 stars. So far this is my top book of the year.

Book Review: The Book Of Koli by M. R. Carey

The Book Of Koli by M.R. Carey is science fiction book after an apocalyptic battle where we tried to fix the environment but the world created trees that can walk and kill for nourishment. This book is the first book in the proposed Rampart Trilogy. This book is all heart, you can’t help but fall for Koli as he wants something more in this world, ad he manages to get a piece in the most unlikeliest of ways. The novel has a couple of good twists and turns and went in a direction I didn’t see it going. He is the unlikeliest of hero with a weapon to match. I read and reviewed this book thanks to Orbit and Netgalley for the Advanced Reader Copy. The Book of Koli By M.R. Carey was published on April 14 2020.

The Plot: The world we know has long been dead nature is what most are afraid of as a type of tree can walk and kill. Most stay protected in their little village, Mythren Rood and are forbidden from leaving the protection. Koli is a woodsmith in a family of woodsmiths that works at the lumber mill. When he is older he plans to take a test to be a rampart. A rampart is special class of citizen that rules the others, they use tech of yester-years to protect the village. To become a rampart you have make the old tech work on first touch. The tech is a flame thrower, a laser, bolt gun, and some other devices. Koli and his best friend Haijon dream of being ramparts, Haijon’s mother, aunt, grandfather, and cousin are all ramparts. Koli is tested with four other young adults with Haijon being the only one who can make the tech work and becomes a rampart. Koli is devastated, thrown into wood work, this all changes when Ursula a visiting healer, who is charge of pregnancy and other abrasions, uses and knows tech she scavenges is saved by Koli holding back a rampart from accidentally hurting Ursula. She tells him how tech really works through access codes and fingerprint analysis and that the ramparts are rigged. Koli knowing this is determined to be a rampart, breaks in to the hold and steals a piece of tech that is not exactly a weapon, that he gets to work. Under the rampart rules he is a rampart, but if the ramparts are rigged what will they do when they find out what Koli has done. So starts the adventures of Koli an totally original story with lots of charm.

What I Liked: The direction the story took was very unique. The tech he gets to work is great and very fitting, I laughed out loud when it was revealed what it did. That being said in Koli’s hands it does become a weapon of sorts. Ursula was a great character, that I enjoyed every time she showed up. I liked the idea of the rampart society and how it is easily lead astray by those in power that want to keep it. I liked that his best friend Haijon was good and didn’t realize his family was making him a rampart before the test. Senlas was a pretty terrible bad guy, his calm of believe he was a God was terrifying. I liked the analysis of how the tech ages and still goes as programed. I liked the use of modern references to seem old to the knew future. Monono Aware is a one of my favorite characters and i loved her backstory.

What I Disliked: The beginning took be a while to get into it, the character’s have weird names , the family of Koli was a lot and kind of confusing, and the syntaxof words used is off. It took me at least three to four chapters where I totally knew what was going on. The book is written in Koli’s words and he is really bad at describing what people and some places look like, which took me a little while to tell people apart. I wanted to see Haijon at the Rampart meeting about Koli, but he never showed up. The ending took a little too long to plan the next destination.

Recommendations: The Book of Koli is a special book, that I really enjoyed. This novel is full of heart and charm like I have never seen before. Koli is an easy character to root for and I can not wait for his next destination. This is the third book I have read from M. R. Carey. I liked The Girl with all the Gifts slightly more, and I liked The Book of Koli more than Unwritten Volume 1 Graphic Novel. I love M. R. Carey’s brain and the unique places his stories go. I plan to read the next Novel The Trials of Koli when it is released as well as his other novels that I own Fellside and The Boy on the Bridge. I rated The Book of Koli by M. R. Carey 4 out of 5 stars. I was very happy when selected by Netgalley and Orbit Books to read this, I glad It lived up to my expectation.

Book Review: You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen is a great thriller about power and manipulation of a young woman who doesn’t want to fell so alone. Last year I read Anonymous Girl from Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen and I was blown away just how great that thriller was, it had a load of plot twist and the story went in a direction I was not expecting. Anonymous Girl was in my top five of new novels from last year, so I was ecstatic when I got approved for an advanced reader copy for You Are Not Alone from Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press, So thank you to both. This novel did not let down, it had the twist I was looking for, great main characters, compelling reason behind the crimes, and it was a fun unpredictable ride. You Are not Alone is the third book collaboration between Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. You Are Not Alone was published on March 3 2020.

The Plot: Shay is not living the best life she is very single, still pining for her roommate Sean, that spends almost every night with girlfriend Jody. She has no permanent job and has been temping. the only thing that gives her life solace is a book in which she rights statistics of everyday occurrences, like in your lifetime you will meet 12 murders, and 60% of relationships start out as friends. Her life is about to take a turn when she briefly meets Amanda before she jumps in front of the subway train. Shay is shocked and can’t let the suicide go she she starts be curios who Amanda was? she attends her funeral meets her friends, visits her mom, and visits her old work. She draws concern over the detective investigating the suicide. What she wasn’t expecting is that Amanda’s old friends have taken to her and want to help her to not be so alone. She starts changing every thing about herself is it for her or for her new friends. The one question Shay never tried to figure out was why did Amanda commit suicide?

What I Liked: I really liked the way this book looked at revenge. The way the story is told bouncing from different characters perspectives really worked well to add to the tension, and worked really well to show not just Shay is being manipulated, but a whole group of people. I did like how every piece fit, it took a while for it to all make sense, but when that moment comes it was a masterpiece. The climax worked, I figured out the main twist but I liked the way it played out. I liked where the manipulation of Shay lead to.

What I Disliked: I had a hard time keeping up with all the girls reasons for revenge, and who did what to who? The ending would have worked better if there was a reminder of the revenge. The flow for this story was a little disjointed at times.

Recommendations: You Are Not Alone is a fun suspense filled ride. This book has moments that will leave you breathless, the authors really write the characters in to a corner. If you enjoy strong female characters then this book will be for you. I did enjoy Anonymous Girl a little more than You Are Not Alone, but if you were a fan of that book, then you have to check out this one. I rated You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen 4 out of 5 stars. I do own The Wife Between Us which is their first collaboration, and plan to up that on my TBR pile.

Book Review: Foul is Fair By Hannah Capin

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin is William Shakespeare’s Macbeth in High school! The story doesn’t hold back in it’s brutality, while keeping the dialogue foul and razor sharp. There’s Trigger warnings all over this book in terms of sexual content, murder, and language. This book is being marketed as Young Adult, a mature 16 year old might can handle it, but I would recommend older. I kept thinking of two movies while reading this Heathers the black comedy about means girls terrorizing the school and a girl falling for the bad guy that helps murder some of those that have wronged them. The second movie is I Spit on Your Grave, about a woman sexually assaulted, buried and left for dead. Rises from the grave and takes revenge. Both those movies are from the 80’s with the marketing of this book comparing it to the film Kill Bill which fits as a tale of revenge. The language and the camp make this novel stick out and is the best part of it. I had a hard time identifying with the lead character Jade/Elle and her lack of venerability she does show some at the end but it was a little too late. I wanted to like this story more than I did, the novel’s timeline is way too fast and took all believability with it. Thanks to Netgalley and Wednesday books for the advanced readers copy. Foul is Fair is published on February 18 2020.

The Plot: Elle on her sweet sixteen goes to a party with three of her best friends she calls the coven. At this party Elle is given a drugged drink and gets assaulted by a group of super rich prep boys that go to a local private Catholic School. Elle has flashes of the night and can remember some faces of one girl and six guys who let it happen. She takes care of the bruising and and tells her parents, instead of the cops she says she’s going to handle it and wants to switch schools to go to the Catholic school everyone involved went to. Elle changes her look but cutting and dying her hair and wearing contacts, she is not Elle any more but goes by her middle name Jade. Jade recruits the coven of friends to help her murder those who helped with the assault. Jade goes to her new school and immediately joins the top mean girl click noticing one of the girls who witnessed it happen and did nothing, and is dating one of the assaulters. All the people involved in the assault are apart of the boys lacrosse team. She see’s one member of the team that wasn’t involved in the assault, Mack, that has the potential to be the new king of school and someone that could help her kill. Jade’s plan starts to fall apart after she starts to fall for Mack. Will ha screw up her chance for revenge?

What I Liked: She tells her parents after the assault, I was happy to see this, since so many victims don’t speak out. The LGTBQ representation is really great, Mads, a member of the coven is Trans and represented and a real strong character that is not a cliche. The descriptions are really good they are often medieval and harken back to remind you of the Macbeth roots to the story. I really enjoyed the last 20 percent of the story, and felt the novel ended on a high note. The Jade and Piper confrontation was so great and my favorite scene with my favorite line, “What are you the patron saint of excessive drinking?” I did enjoy the twist of two character’s one for the good and one for the bad.

What I Disliked: The story time frame is so rushed, and it didn’t need to be. The whole span of this book is less than 20 days. Elle is assaulted on Friday turns into Jade and attends a new school on Monday. Joins the elite group which accepts her right away, she is an accessory to murder her third day, in love her forth day. This ridiculous time line made this story so unbelievable to me. The main character doesn’t show any venerability until the last 20 percent where it was too late. I really did not like the cover art at all, I feel it will hurt book sells.

Recommendations: I think this novel could be a good outlet for those who have been sexually assaulted and feel alone. This book was an attempt and had a lot of potential but I felt it wasn’t good enough for me to recommend. There’s some burst of greatness, I truly loved the last 20% so much, and was bummed that the rest of the book wasn’t this good. I think the author has potential and would seek out another novel. I rated Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: The Holdout by Graham Moore

The Holdout By Graham Moore is as good as a legal thriller can get, it is one very entertaining and will keep you guessing, and two it makes a statement about how our current legal system is broken and can be manipulated. The Holdout is two mysteries in one, as we get two different mysteries one is a did they or didn’t they murder? And the other is a who done it? The book is separated by a ten year span having a jury trial and then ten years later doing a retrospective documentary of what happened during the trial. This book was part 12 Angry Men combined with an Agatha Christie murder mystery (there’s one I’m thinking about but the plot could be a hint to where it goes, and would hate to spoil anything) with a dash of John Grisham. This novel is full of little twist here and there with a couple of big ones towards the end that guarantee to put you on your toes. I really enjoyed The Holdout thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group for giving me and advanced readers copy. The Holdout is being published on February 18 2020.

The Plot: Maya Seale is an attorney at a law firm in Los Angeles. We see her creatively defend a client and get a damaging police report tossed out on a technicality. She wins the case but before she can celebrate, she is confronted with a blast from her past, Rick. Ten years ago she was on the trial of the century, the Bobby Nock trial, as a juror. She was the one holdout that thought he was not guilty and convinced the rest of the jury of it as well. This victory lead her to go to law school and become a lawyer. The only problem with the Bobby Nock verdict is 84% of a America thought he was guilty with all the information the media got compared to the information in the trial. The jurors names were all leaked the media hounded them for information and insight, some of the other juror’s felt manipulated to vote not guilty. Rick wrote a book about it blaming Maya, and has been obsessed with proving Booby Nock, a 25 year old African American music teacher killed his, 15 year old Caucasian high school student, Jessica Silver. Rick is tells Maya that he has found information that is going to change the course of the old case, he and eight of the other juror’s ( one has passed away and one flat out said he was not interested) are going to sit down and tell all for a documentary ten years after the trial. Maya doesn’t want any part of it, but her boss thinks it will be could for publicity, so she reluctantly agrees. But she gets more than she bargained for when a member of the Booby Nock juror’s is murdered. Maya is left to solve this crime, with the more she finds out, the more doubts she has about the not guilty verdict of the the old trial. The only thing she can do, is solve both cases.

What I Liked: The way this story is told really stuck out to me, in the present the story is told in third person, but in the flashbacks to the Bobby Nock trial ten years ago we get a first person view of the trial through each jurors eyes, which was very effective. The Holdout balanced the fun mystery while taking a hard look at our current system of justice and the legal loop holes. There’s a great scene where someone is asked plead self defense, because it’s easier to plead than innocent. There were a lot of character’s with the 12 juror’s but everyone had their own personalities and their own agenda. There was plenty of murder suspects that kept me guessing the whole time. I loved the twist in this novel, I guessed wrong about who done it, I only got one plot twist right, but I felt it was a lucky guess, but most of the time this novel kept me guessing.

What I Disliked: I was only upset with one plot point in this book, it was a big one I thought I was going to be blown away by a reveal, and I was more like, that was just okay. The novel did redeem its self with the next plot point involving what to do with that reveal which I thought was really clever and not something that I was expecting.

Recommendations: I totally recommend this novel, I think this was a fun legal thriller that kept me on my toes, with who done it? This novel balanced legal thriller with classic mystery, if you like one or both of those genres than you are gonna have some fun with this novel. If you’re looking for a smart book that offers a biting social commentary, then this is the book for you. The commentary on our legal system is not in your face but it ask good questions to the reader, about what is right or wrong? How can a jury remain bias on the subject of race? What the media misses with it’s rush to be the first to post new information? I rated The Holdout by Graham Moore 5 out of 5, I was let down by one scene, but the charm and the fun of this novel got me to overlook it. This was the first novel that I have read by Graham Moore and it certainly will not be the last. He has written The Sherlockian which I’ve heard a lot of good things about and not only is he a novelist but a screenwriter of The Imitation Game the movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kira Knightley, a movie I quite enjoyed.

Book Review: Not So Stories edited by David Thomas Moore

Not So Stories edited by David Thomas Moore takes Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories and flips it on it’s head. With 12 stories from diverse authors, that redirect the subtext of the Empire and British Colonialism in Just So Stories, to stories that embrace independence and mock the empire. This book is not as kid friendly as the original, but would still fall in the Young Adult category as far as content goes. These stories like the original work on one level but are filed with subtext. The collection is a good mix of stories I felt some fit perfectly, but a couple of the tales were a stretching a bit to include them. In anticipation for this review I read the original Just So Stories, where as before I had read a story here or there. I would recommend reading that collection so you will get all the references in this book, it is not required but will add to some of the stories. I reviewed each tale separately to give each author their due. Out of the 12 stories I rated 5 stories with 5 stars, 4 stories with 4 stars, 1 story 3 stars and 2 stories 2 stars. Thanks to Netgalley and Abaddon Books for letting me read this Advanced copy. Not So Stories was published on January 21 2020.

The Plots and Reviews:
How the Spider Got Her Legs by Cassandra Khaw is a story that would have fit into the original Just So Stories. Where a spider born with one leg gets 8 and becomes poisonous. It used “to my beloved” too much as it was more mocking than acknowledging the original text. The story was fun a good opener. I rated this story 3 out of 5 stars.

Queen by Joseph Elliott-Coleman This was a fantastic story, more young adult than middle grade. This story involves a captured panther that is forced to fight other Panther’s. a good story with a lot of subtext and allegories to slavery. 5 out of 5 stars. This may be the stand out story.

Best Beloved by Wayne Santos I don’t know if this story really fit, it is about a man saying “Beloved” a term Kipling would often repeat at the beginning. The story is a man working for the East India Trading Company gets a girlfriend in China that he is very controlling, the girlfriend has an interesting job putting seals up so ghost don’t break through, but one does . A good story, good ending 4 out of 5

The Man Who Played With the Crab by Adiwijaya Iskandar was my least favorite so far it was uneven and felt longer than it was. It was about a fisherman seeking revenge on a giant crab, he takes a father and son hostage as they can reach this particular crab. I rated this story 2 out of 5 stars

Samsāra by Georgina Kamsika is a truly great story, where Nina visits her dead Grandmother’s home and finds out why she stopped visiting. A really good story of acceptance of death and one’s self. I don’t know if this story belonged in this collection, but it was fantastic. 5 out of 5 stars.

Serpent, Crocodile, Tiger by Zedeck Siew I loved the first part of this story, then it got hard to understand what is going on, at the end of is explained where the story comes from which really helps. The story is a crocodile trucks his mom to explore away from the river, and he turns into a tiger, but also can resemble a man? I rated this story 2 out of 5 stars.

How the Tree of Wishes Gained its Carapace of Plastic by Jeannette Ng this was a short one, but I enjoyed it. I did wonder for a bit where this one was going, but the ending really tied it up and have the story meaning. This story highlights on the weight of wishes, both figuratively and literally. I rated this story 4 out of 5 stars.

How the Ants Got Their Queen by Stewart Hotston a really clever story about the rise and overthrow of a dictator, to realize maybe they need a dictator for some time. This was my favorite so far. I rated this story 5 out of 5.

How the Snake Lost its Spine by Taurus Moosa this was another clever story and one that truly fit this collection. The great snake used to have a spine making it tall, it could see danger coming and protected the other animals from the white devils (man). But one day the lion worked out a plan with man to trick the snake to betrayal. I rated this book 5 out 5 stars.

The Cat Who Walked by Herself by Achala Upendran this is a direct throwback to the original story of the Cat Who Walked by Himself in Just So Stories. The characters are the same but now the cat is female, and the situation is different. This time man is trying to domesticate an independent woman the cat see this and tries to help. I rated this story 5 out of 5 stars.

Strays Like Us by Nina Hutton a story of a long forgotten cat God finally being seen again. I thought this story was okay, there’s a really good scene where the cat God gets a hotel that is not cat friendly. I like what the story says on independence and domestication. I rated this story 4 out of 5.

How the Simurgh Won Her Tail by Ali Nouraei a really sweet story about a grandfather visiting his sick granddaughter and telling stories. The granddaughter is in a cancer ward and he tells a story that relates to there struggles. This story was easy to follow and got all the right notes. I rated this story 5 out of 5.

There is Such Thing as a Whizzy-Gang by Raymond Gates is an Australian tale, about and Uncle telling his young nephew to look out for the Whizzy-gang, by the shrub in the front lawn. It is a story asking if your imagination can create something real. I enjoyed this simple story. I rate this story 4 out of 5 stars.

How the Camel Got Her Paid Time Off by Paul Krueger one of the more contemporary pieces. This story acknowledges two Just So Stories How the Camel Got His Hump and The Elephant’s Child. This story lies heavily on puns, some land while others do not. I liked this story but did not enjoy the ending, I rated this story 4 out of 5 stars.”

What I Liked: The variety of stories really really stuck out to me. The prologue to the book was really insightful to Kipling’s Just So Stories, especially the subtext, and to why this new collection had to be made. I liked the stories that gave odes to the original text like The Cat Who Walked by Herself and How the Camel Got Her Paid Time Off. both tales offered fresh takes while acknowledging the original.

What I Disliked: Only one story attempted the rhyming pattern and the repetition of words that Kipling did for every story in the original. The story were not written to be read out loud. I would have rearranged the order of the stories the book seems to go old to contemporary time, but this allowed some of the stories not to gel. The last half of the book had the better more consistent pieces.

Recommendations: I will recommend you check out this collection even if you haven’t read Just So Stories. I got a lot out of the stories, most are fun with all stories having that extra layer of subtext that really makes you feel the importance of the work. I rated No So Stories 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau is a novel that is insightful when dealing with class warfare and structure, but when it is not, the novel is a fairly obvious mystery that is easily solvable. The novel is called Dreamland after the Brooklyn Amusement park on Coney Island, it is most infamous for having a ride called Hell Gate. A horror boat ride at the time that was full of fire and live actor’s. Dreamland in the novel is more of an after thought since less than a fourth of it takes place there. I love reading about the amusement parks of yesteryear, and was eagerly anticipating this one since I had just read Curious Toys which was about Hell Gate a couple of years later in 1915. Maybe my review was tainted where the text in that book was way more descriptive and captured the atmosphere, Dreamland was really vague in details. That being said the one part this book nails is the class warfare and thoughts on immigrants. Bilyeau made comparisons to the muslim people of today and the struggles to break with people being lumped in as a group instead of being an individual. That was my favorite part, too bad the mystery took up the majority of the book. Thanks to Netgalley and Endeavor Media for giving me a copy. This book was published on January 16 2020.

The Plot: Peggy a New York shopgirl who at the Moonrise Bookstore, she is not you ordinary shopgirl, Peggy it part of the elite class and bucking the system as she craves for independence in 1911. Peggy’s Family owns mines and is making good money off them she has a huge trust that she gets when she turns 21. Her family was in a bit of turmoil and worry about their elite status as her father has passed away. He younger sister Lydia is set to marry Henry a very rich man who used to court Peggy. Lydia and Peggy are a bit estranged but thanks to Henry’s demands of the family, he moves them all to the Oriental Hotel in Brooklyn, not to far from Coney Island. When they arrive woman is found dead in the ocean. The death has everyone on there’s toes and the police protecting the rich from the amusement park patrons and workers. Peggy goes with some of her family and can’t stand the way they talk about the poor and splits off to go on her own adventure. Where she meets a foreign painter who doesn’t know that she’s rich. They end up falling for each other, but a women is murdered on the very spot where they kiss, and Stefan the painter is the only suspect the police want for the crime. Peggy is determined to find the real killer.

What I Liked: The class warfare was really good, and how you can see similarities today was really well done. Same with how immigrants are treated in America and judged on a group of people instead of an individual. I liked the character of Peggy and her feminist ideals that women in this country are still fighting. I hated the character of Lydia, Peggy’s Sister, at the beginning, but at the end of the book she was my favorite. The cover art is beautiful.

What I Disliked: The descriptions in this novel are so weak, it was hard to imagine what 1911 New York looked like. There’s a scene where Peggy is blown away by Stefan’s art, and she must buy two pieces, yet the reader gets only the briefest description of this incredible art. Hell Gate the attraction is so visually stunning I would have been lost if I had not read the book about it previously. The killer was way to easy there was no other suspects, and it was telegraphed so early on, you almost think, okay there’s got to be a twist, but there is not. Did really not like Stefan as a love interest, didn’t think they would get a long. The plot is slow a lot of start and stops so far as pace goes.

Recommendations: This is one that I can not recommend, there’s some nice little bits about class warfare and structure, but with this novel as a whole there’s not enough there to enjoy. I found the mystery incredibly weak, the novel does try to make it more exciting in the end but was still so so easy to solve. I love a great historical fiction but they need the descriptions to put me in that certain time period, and I felt them lacking, (note: I did read an advanced copy so these descriptions have hopefully improved). I hate to give books a low rate but I have to give Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau 2 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Curious Toys by Elizabeth Hand

Curious Toys by Elizabeth Hand is an atmospheric Historical Fiction surrounded in a world mystery by a deadly serial killer of young girls. The story takes place in 1915 fair grounds in Chicago about twenty years after the World’s Fire fire and the serial killer H.H. Holmes, with it’s own serial killer to deal with. The history is a big part I was constantly reminded of the nonfiction work The Devil in the White City which covered the 1893 Chicago’s World’s Fair. The history and the rides at the time were really neat, The book only covers one in detail Hellsgate ride I could almost imagine it. The book is LGTBG friendly with it’s lead character Pin who is a girl who lives as a boy and struggles with her feelings about girls and one girl in particular Glory. I have not read a great amount of LGTBQ books but I found this one really nailed the questioning of ones self. A special thanks to Netgalley and Mulholland Books for giving me a copy, Curious Toys was published on October 15 2019.

The Plot: Pin is a 14 year old girl who lives as a boy, it started for safety but she likes it and prefers it, her mother is a fortune teller at the fair. The both live on a shack on the fair grounds. Two years’s ago Pin’s sister was lost, she had a form of down syndrome, and has never been found. Pin runs drugs for Max, a he/she act where one side is a man and the other a woman. Pin is always curious and noticing things adults don’t she is sensitive to young girls and strangers. She watches a young girl in a yellow dress get into a ride with a man and never get out, the man she doesn’t get a good look but is sure what she’s seen. She sneaks into ride and discovers a body. Pin is the only one who cares as the body brings even more people to check out the ride and the fair, Pin is willing to risk her life but she might have to risk something more important to her identity.

What I Liked: Pin as a character was fascinating, wish we spent more time with her, and her crisis. I liked the little twist with Glory and who she turned out to be. I liked the Charlie Chaplin bit especially the bit about the cops questioning him being ashamed at the way they are portrayed in his movies. I liked the climax it was pretty exciting. The killer was good the reader was left to fill in a lot of their reasons for the crimes. I did like the flashback of the killer, even at the time reading it you didn’t know who’s flashback it was. I did like the Fatty Bacon cop character and the date scene he had. I love, loved, the part about Pin wanting to expose the killer put to do it in a way she could keep her identity as being a boy, I found that really powerful. I liked the language and found it fitting of the time period. This was one of the coolest covers with all the images about the book is has, it was one of the reasons I selected to request this novel form Netgalley.

What I Disliked: The character of Henry Darger I didn’t care for a hospital janitor that isn’t all there, slightly crazy, that looks out for young girls and has a club protecting them. His character was not needed and it kept the reader away from Pin. I would have liked his character a little more if his slight bio was at the beginning instead of at the end. I didn’t like that the story jumped around having 7 different character’s narratives. Pin, the killer and maybe one more character was all you needed, though I did like being in Charlie Chaplin’s head briefly it didn’t serve a narrative purpose and could been in the newspaper. I figured out who the killer was early, I saw where the novel was pulling me and saw through the misdirection. There was not that many possible suspects, so I found it easy to make the leap. I wanted better descriptions of all the people and things it keeps talking about boater hats, which I had to look up to know what they looked look then see it in the words on the page.

Recommendation: I would mildly recommend this to a reader searching for a LGTBQ character in the early 1900’s and the questioning of one’s self and identity was really good. If you like historical fiction of the early 1900’s, I love Charlie Chaplin and found that part fascinating, as the description of the Hellsgate amusement park ride. I rated this novel 3 out of 3 stars. I found there were some really great moment and some not so great moments that it balanced out.