Tuesday, October 25, 2022
Friday, October 21, 2022
“Assimilate now, assimilate once we break you, or assimilate when you die. The choice is up to you.”
In the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale, in The Chai House, Priti Srivastava gives readers a dystopian America where women are subjugated – for their own good, of course. To protect women, the most precious commodity, Knight and his authoritarian regime have taken over part of a split nation and created rules that remove rights for females while giving permission to men to be beasts. Women can’t receive an education and have curfews. Knowledge is power, and they can’t be out at night, you see, because it’s not safe…because of men. Oh, and if they were out in the evenings, gallivanting about, they wouldn’t be in their homes cooking dinner for their Knights and doing their chores. A Queen might have it a little better with her arranged marriage and purity intact (prior to arranged marriage, naturally), because those impure women, the worker wives (who do the scullery), and the loaner wives (available because men need companionship when traveling, bless their hearts), allow a Queen to have a modicum of freedom...from the men and their rules.
While Srivastava doesn’t give the specifics of what got the world to this point, it’s implied that the nation split, and possibly chemical warfare ensued. There’s reference to the Mideastern wastelands and fumes that cause hallucinations and sterility in men, making it a perfect place to send those noncompliant men. There are also references of continuing battles to win or win back cities and territories from Knights, who seem to be primarily white.
“I was out of my head. Or too into it. You know how that is.”
Our main character and narrator, Swati, is a strong-willed and intelligent young Indian American woman who sums up her world early on by saying she had a good life until the Fascists came. Her relationship with her mother, Amma, is complicated, and according to Swati, Amma “will never understand love. She only understands duty. She only understands rules.” But as happens when children mature or are forced to grow up early, Swati begins to understand her mother’s actions and realizes there is more to Amma’s behaviors than meets the eye, and Amma’s warning of being cautious of powerful white men is a piece of advice to take seriously.
“I came here for a better life for my daughter and instead both my daughter, and my granddaughter will have less freedom than I ever did.”
Running parallel to Swati’s story is a second one that seems intrusive and out of place initially. Readers get brief snippets into the nomadic life of Cindy and her young daughter, Jenny. These characters are voiced with a syrupy Southern accent, and they seem to be white females who are rebels trying to survive and on the run from Knight. The author shows the tenderness between this mother and daughter, but then juxtaposes that with the things they must do to survive. There are alarming scenes that are powerful in their irony, as in how Cindy considers herself a good parent and the concern of Jenny that Cindy’s kindness could get them killed.
While the two separate plots seem incongruous, Srivastava moves each forward and eventually connects them in a most surprising and horrific way, leaving readers with a jaw-dropping ending that had this one exclaiming, “WAIT! WHAAAAATTTT?!”
The Chai House is a novella-length story (127 pages) that I think could do with a developmental edit to fill the considerable holes and gaps in the stories. Granted, in listening to a story instead of reading one, it’s easy to miss a quick but vital piece of information. However, there were fine details that seemed significant in their mention but where never explained or connected anywhere else. Srivastava provides rich descriptions of scenes and situations, but often there’s a lack of providing the why behind them. The result is that after I finished the book, I had quite a “but what was X about?” list in my notes.
ABOUT THE NARRATION: Deepti Gupta is a great narration choice, and her voicing of the Indian character – young and old, male and female -- perfectly complemented Srivastava’s text. Her pacing is slow but even, and while her Southern accent was a bit over the top, it left no doubt as to who was speaking in those sections. I listened at 1.25x on Audible, which was a little faster than I’d like, but better than 1x. (Audible really needs to align with other platforms that allow finer tuning of speed.)
Overall, The Chai House is an excellent debut, and I plan on reading the eBook to re-visit the story. The author is a gifted storyteller and this world they have created clearly has more stories to be told. I will absolutely will pick up the next book they write.
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Tuesday, October 18, 2022
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Pages: 416 pages
Publication Date: October 4, 2022
Categories: Christian Fiction / Mystery & Thrillers
Scroll down for a giveaway!
On the family’s Brazos River Ranch in Texas, Avery Elliott helps run her grandfather’s commercial construction business. Raised by Senator Elliott, Avery has never doubted her grandfather is the man of integrity and faith she’s always believed him to be …. until the day she finds him standing with a gun over the body of a dead man. To make matters worse, Avery’ just discovered a billing discrepancy for materials supposedly purchased for construction of the Lago de Cobre Dam.
Desperate for answers, Avery contacts FBI Special Agent Marc Wilkins for help. As Marc works to identify the dead man Avery saw, threats toward Avery create a fresh sense of urgency to pinpoint why someone wants to silence her. With a hurricane approaching the Texas coast and the structural integrity of the Lago de Cobre Dam called into question, time is running out to get to the bottom of a sinister plot that could be endangering the lives of not only Avery and her loved ones but the entire community.
Praise For CONCRETE EVIDENCE
“* VERDICT Mills . . . delivers another action-packed novel that offers intrigue and an adventurous ride. Recommend to fans of Dani Pettrey, Lynette Eason, and Carrie Stuart Parks.”
– LIBRARY JOURNAL, Shondra Brown
“The confident plotting keeps the mysteries coming, and red herrings will have readers guessing the culprit through to the satisfying conclusion. Fans of Colleen Coble and Susan Sleeman will savor this thrilling standalone.” – PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
PURCHASE LINKS FOUND AT:
Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. You can download a list of her published titles by clicking here.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a former director of Blue Ridge Christian Writers, and a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She shares her passion for helping other writers be successful by teaching writing workshops around the country.
DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Learn more and connect with DiAnn on her website.
GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
Each receives a $25 eGift card to their choice of Amazon or B&N.
(US only; giveaway ends midnight, 10/28/22)
Friday, October 14, 2022
In this installment, the relationship between main character Nikki and her beau (and stepbrother! the scandal!) Ryan is well-established as is Nikki's career in Pine Grove. She's proven herself a competent investigative journalist who not only has the instinct for a story, but she's smart, confident, creative, and assertive enough to get to the root -- and the truth -- of the problems. But Nikki's not perfect, and Carr does a great job of giving her quirks that make her real and relatable. (I may also be in denial that I forget names and make fashion faux pas -- or faux paws, in Nikki's case!) These quirks, along with the return of Elmo, the canine social media influencer, add some levity in a multi-layered plot that gets pretty gruesome at times.
ABOUT THE NARRATION: Anita Alger is back and even better in her second book. She performs a variety of characters (from crotchety crusty men to snobby socialite women) and keeps them unique -- no small feat given the huge cast of characters. I am still in the early Goldilocks stage, as I find regular speed a bit slow and 1.25x a bit fast. (I really wish Audible would take a cue from other platforms and allow listeners more latitude.) Nonetheless, her pacing is steady and her diction perfect. Solid narration.
Carr never disappoints in having seemingly separate sub-plots threading around each other and ultimately coming together to weave a complex and cohesive mystery. All loose ends are neatly tied, and the denouement leaves readers content that the baddies have gotten their comeuppance, and all is at least temporarily well in the world. I look forward to the next installment.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2022
HALL WAYS REVIEW: AUDIOBOOK / PRINT REVIEW: Sometimes, the very best books I read are the hardest to write about once I’ve finished that final chapter; Beasts of the Earth by James Wade is one of those books.
Part of the problem is that turning that last page and closing the cover of Beasts of the Earth doesn’t end the story. Scenes settle back over me and replay in my mind, and I find myself wondering about characters, too, as if I could get into the car and travel the backroads to those melancholy times and places and check on them. But the main difficulty in summing up a book of this caliber is that no words I can string together will do it justice. Wade’s prose is exquisite and a fully immersive experience.
“LeBlanc turned back to the horizon where the far sky had tasted the morning and come aglow in swirls of rose pink.”
The descriptions in Beasts of the Earth are captivating and complex with next-level imagery that often juxtaposes beauty with ugliness, purity with evil, natural with unnatural. Wade’s mastery of figurative language enriches the story and the metaphors found in the recurrence of two animals are stunning. Scenes are haunting, even horrifying, yet there is a sprinkling of hope even in the absence of happily-ever-afters.
“How privileged are we to ponder our own existence. How cursed.”
Wade writes complex, complicated characters that make your heart ache, your head hurt, and certainly spark your ire – sometimes all at once. As with Wade’s other outstanding novels, All Things Left Wild and River, Sing Out, there is much that happens via the characters’ words and actions, but there is much more that happens in their minds and off the page. He is especially talented at creating people who appear simple and are easily overlooked but have so much depth of character. Few words, many thoughts. Wade forces readers to put themselves inside his characters, and it’s uncomfortable to be there.
The delicate, seemingly disconnected threads of the stories ultimately weave themselves together into one perfect reading package. With its dual timelines and multiple, multilayered plots incorporating elements of gritty crime fiction, mystery, and literary fiction, Beasts of the Earth is a true work of art. I’ll be watching for this novel on awards lists.
ABOUT THE NARRATION: The audiobook narration by Roger Clark is excellent. That accent! His g-dropping will have readers hangin' on Wade's every word. Clark’s style is part campfire storyteller, part backwoods preacher, and fully engages the listener with even pacing and voice inflection. Clark also narrated Wade’s second novel, River, Sing Out, and he’s absolutely perfect for narrating Southern fiction. This was the first novel I've listened to via NetGalley's app, and I had no issues at all. I listened at regular speed, but it would have been nice to have an option between 1x and 1.25x.
VISIT THE LONE STAR LIT TOUR PAGE FOR OTHER PARTICIPATING BLOGS ON THIS TOUR AND TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY.
Thursday, October 6, 2022
In a family like that, you won’t need enemies.
In the waning days of the Catskills hotel era, Stanley and Rachel Roth, the owners of the Cuttman Hotel, were practically dynasty—third generation proprietors of a sprawling resort with a grand reputation. The glamorous and gregarious matriarch, Rachel. The cunning and successful businessman, Stan. Four beautiful children. A perfect family deserving of respect and loyalty. Or so it seemed.
Fast forward forty years. The Roths have lost their clout. When skeletal remains are found on the side of the road, the disappearance of Trudy Solomon, a coffee shop waitress at the Cuttman in 1978, is reopened. Each member of the Roth family holds a clue to the case, but getting them to admit what they know will force Detective Susan Ford to face a family she’d hoped never to see again.
Best and Worst Writing Advice I’ve Ever Gotten
by Marcy McCreary
When I sat down to write this post, I racked my brain trying to recall if I’ve ever been given “bad” writing advice, namely some pearl of wisdom someone imparted to me that turned out to stymie my writing instead of benefitting the process. The answer was a resounding “no!” Most advice given to me has been tremendously helpful, whether it’s about the creative process, plot structuring, or how to leverage conflict and tension to keep the reader engaged. And even advice that is probably well-intentioned and works for many authors (i.e. how to outline using post-it notes or building your character’s entire backstory from birth) is probably great for those who outline and pre-plot, but as a “pantser,” my brain is not wired that way. I start with an inciting incident and pretty much know how it ends. The fun is in how I get there, letting my main character lead the way.
The best writing advice I ever received was from my husband, Lew McCreary, who writes literary fiction (Minus Man, Viking; Mount’s Mistake, Atlantic Monthly Press). His advice: “no stick figures . . . every secondary and tertiary character should have enough depth so that readers can imagine them as protagonists in their own story.” Because I write complex mysteries with lots of characters—some merely cameo appearances—this advice is crucial. Many of my characters make singular appearances as a witness or neighbor or a waitress, and I want each and every one of them to be memorable.
Marcy McCreary worked for several years as a marketing and sales executive at various magazine publishing companies and content marketing agencies before turning to fiction writing. She is the author of The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon (CamCat Books). With two daughters and two step-daughters living in four different cities (Brooklyn, Nashville, Madison, Seattle), she spends a lot of time on airplanes crisscrossing the country. She lives in the beautiful coastal towns of Hull, MA and Nantucket, MA with her husband and black lab.