A Broken Woman (Jinx Ballou Bounty Hunter #3), by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Dharma Kelleher, and Dark Pariah Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

A great fan of Dharma Kelleher and her work, I was pleased to be able to secure a copy of her latest novel in the Jinx Ballou series. Picking up soon after the previous novel ended, Jinx Ballou is still trying to process everything that has befallen her, including the apparent death of her fiancé, Conor. While out on a bail enforcement job, the client attempts to flee and takes a header onto the cement. This being part of a long string of incidents, Jinx is fired and begins to wonder if she has done anything productive with her life. Crawling under a rock, Jinx finds solace in the bottle and seeks to detach from the rest of the world. However, a former colleague reaches out to her with a special request, to help locate a trans woman who has skipped bail after a horrible time behind bars. Unsure if this will make her a traitor to the trans community, Jinx debates what to do, but chooses to make an effort, if only to help clear the woman’s name. Working with a new partner, Jinx begins trying to find Zia “Indigo” Pearson. Following a few leads, she finds herself at the Athena Sisterhood Motorcycle Club, where few take a liking to her presence. After a little roughing up, Jinx and the club’s VP, Shea Stevens, agree to work together, as long as they can clear Indigo’s name and find the actually person who killed a hateful preacher keen on espousing the evils of gays and loose women. Jinx finds herself in the middle of a few situations when the girlfriend of an old client resurfaces and seeks her assistance. Trying not to be deterred, Jinx works with Shea on these cases and uses her own PI license to dig a little deeper, discovering that there may be a larger situation at play. With time running out to have Indigo taken into custody before the bail is revoked, Jinx and Shea must work together and try to stay one step ahead of the killer, without become victims themselves. A wonderful addition to the series that allowed Kelleher to bridge her other popular collection, complete with a cliffhanger that will leave series fans screaming for more. Recommended to fans who enjoy police procedurals with a spin, as well as the reader who has discovered and become a fan of Dharma Kelleher’s work.

While she does bring a unique perspective to the crime thriller genre, Dharma Kelleher does well to advance causes dear to her without treating the reader like a square. She has tackled the “trans and queer aspects” (her words) well and promotes a better understanding of the lives those within the community live, meshing them nicely with other groups. I find the frank discussion not only refreshing, but needed in an era where some have turned to scoffing at those who are different, be it verbally or hidden behind Twitter. Jinx Ballou is the perfect protagonist for this series, working through many o issues from her past and into the present. Coming out and transitioning at a young age, Jinx knows what it is like to be ostracised, but has always had the support of her family and close friends. She uses this grittiness to push forward in her work as a bail enforcement officer (bounty hunter). The reader can see her struggling with trying to define herself, as well as process many of the recent goings-on in her life, all of which enriches her as a character and pushes the narrative of the story forward effectively. Others tend to complement Jinx effectively and pursue their own growth throughout this book. The attentive reader will recognise Shea Stevens from Kelleher’s other popular series, watching as she returns to the page and has some growth of her own. I will admit that I have often sought writers who have multiple popular series to blend their characters, if only for a book or two. Kelleher does this effectively and the reader can see the clash of gritty, strong women, which seems to work well. The story proves to be strong and keeps the reader intrigued, as Jinx debates her own future before making a push to help a fellow trans, finding new connections through the Athena group during the narrative’s build. With a mix of longer and short chapters, the reader will easily be able to propel themselves forward, learning much about Phoenix and the way in which many live while under the conservative umbrella of the city’s inhabitants. I hope there is more to come from Kelleher with both series, as they work so well together and keep me on my toes, posing the boundaries of what I would usually read.

Kudos, Madam Kelleher, for another winner. I can count on you showing your great writing style each time I pick up one of your pieces.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

A Broken Woman (Jinx Ballou Bounty Hunter #3), by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Dharma Kelleher, and Dark Pariah Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

A great fan of Dharma Kelleher and her work, I was pleased to be able to secure a copy of her latest novel in the Jinx Ballou series. Picking up soon after the previous novel ended, Jinx Ballou is still trying to process everything that has befallen her, including the apparent death of her fiancé, Conor. While out on a bail enforcement job, the client attempts to flee and takes a header onto the cement. This being part of a long string of incidents, Jinx is fired and begins to wonder if she has done anything productive with her life. Crawling under a rock, Jinx finds solace in the bottle and seeks to detach from the rest of the world. However, a former colleague reaches out to her with a special request, to help locate a trans woman who has skipped bail after a horrible time behind bars. Unsure if this will make her a traitor to the trans community, Jinx debates what to do, but chooses to make an effort, if only to help clear the woman’s name. Working with a new partner, Jinx begins trying to find Zia “Indigo” Pearson. Following a few leads, she finds herself at the Athena Sisterhood Motorcycle Club, where few take a liking to her presence. After a little roughing up, Jinx and the club’s VP, Shea Stevens, agree to work together, as long as they can clear Indigo’s name and find the actually person who killed a hateful preacher keen on espousing the evils of gays and loose women. Jinx finds herself in the middle of a few situations when the girlfriend of an old client resurfaces and seeks her assistance. Trying not to be deterred, Jinx works with Shea on these cases and uses her own PI license to dig a little deeper, discovering that there may be a larger situation at play. With time running out to have Indigo taken into custody before the bail is revoked, Jinx and Shea must work together and try to stay one step ahead of the killer, without become victims themselves. A wonderful addition to the series that allowed Kelleher to bridge her other popular collection, complete with a cliffhanger that will leave series fans screaming for more. Recommended to fans who enjoy police procedurals with a spin, as well as the reader who has discovered and become a fan of Dharma Kelleher’s work.

While she does bring a unique perspective to the crime thriller genre, Dharma Kelleher does well to advance causes dear to her without treating the reader like a square. She has tackled the “trans and queer aspects” (her words) well and promotes a better understanding of the lives those within the community live, meshing them nicely with other groups. I find the frank discussion not only refreshing, but needed in an era where some have turned to scoffing at those who are different, be it verbally or hidden behind Twitter. Jinx Ballou is the perfect protagonist for this series, working through many o issues from her past and into the present. Coming out and transitioning at a young age, Jinx knows what it is like to be ostracised, but has always had the support of her family and close friends. She uses this grittiness to push forward in her work as a bail enforcement officer (bounty hunter). The reader can see her struggling with trying to define herself, as well as process many of the recent goings-on in her life, all of which enriches her as a character and pushes the narrative of the story forward effectively. Others tend to complement Jinx effectively and pursue their own growth throughout this book. The attentive reader will recognise Shea Stevens from Kelleher’s other popular series, watching as she returns to the page and has some growth of her own. I will admit that I have often sought writers who have multiple popular series to blend their characters, if only for a book or two. Kelleher does this effectively and the reader can see the clash of gritty, strong women, which seems to work well. The story proves to be strong and keeps the reader intrigued, as Jinx debates her own future before making a push to help a fellow trans, finding new connections through the Athena group during the narrative’s build. With a mix of longer and short chapters, the reader will easily be able to propel themselves forward, learning much about Phoenix and the way in which many live while under the conservative umbrella of the city’s inhabitants. I hope there is more to come from Kelleher with both series, as they work so well together and keep me on my toes, posing the boundaries of what I would usually read.

Kudos, Madam Kelleher, for another winner. I can count on you showing your great writing style each time I pick up one of your pieces.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

A Broken Woman (Jinx Ballou Bounty Hunter #3), by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Dharma Kelleher, and Dark Pariah Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

A great fan of Dharma Kelleher and her work, I was pleased to be able to secure a copy of her latest novel in the Jinx Ballou series. Picking up soon after the previous novel ended, Jinx Ballou is still trying to process everything that has befallen her, including the apparent death of her fiancé, Conor. While out on a bail enforcement job, the client attempts to flee and takes a header onto the cement. This being part of a long string of incidents, Jinx is fired and begins to wonder if she has done anything productive with her life. Crawling under a rock, Jinx finds solace in the bottle and seeks to detach from the rest of the world. However, a former colleague reaches out to her with a special request, to help locate a trans woman who has skipped bail after a horrible time behind bars. Unsure if this will make her a traitor to the trans community, Jinx debates what to do, but chooses to make an effort, if only to help clear the woman’s name. Working with a new partner, Jinx begins trying to find Zia “Indigo” Pearson. Following a few leads, she finds herself at the Athena Sisterhood Motorcycle Club, where few take a liking to her presence. After a little roughing up, Jinx and the club’s VP, Shea Stevens, agree to work together, as long as they can clear Indigo’s name and find the actually person who killed a hateful preacher keen on espousing the evils of gays and loose women. Jinx finds herself in the middle of a few situations when the girlfriend of an old client resurfaces and seeks her assistance. Trying not to be deterred, Jinx works with Shea on these cases and uses her own PI license to dig a little deeper, discovering that there may be a larger situation at play. With time running out to have Indigo taken into custody before the bail is revoked, Jinx and Shea must work together and try to stay one step ahead of the killer, without become victims themselves. A wonderful addition to the series that allowed Kelleher to bridge her other popular collection, complete with a cliffhanger that will leave series fans screaming for more. Recommended to fans who enjoy police procedurals with a spin, as well as the reader who has discovered and become a fan of Dharma Kelleher’s work.

While she does bring a unique perspective to the crime thriller genre, Dharma Kelleher does well to advance causes dear to her without treating the reader like a square. She has tackled the “trans and queer aspects” (her words) well and promotes a better understanding of the lives those within the community live, meshing them nicely with other groups. I find the frank discussion not only refreshing, but needed in an era where some have turned to scoffing at those who are different, be it verbally or hidden behind Twitter. Jinx Ballou is the perfect protagonist for this series, working through many o issues from her past and into the present. Coming out and transitioning at a young age, Jinx knows what it is like to be ostracised, but has always had the support of her family and close friends. She uses this grittiness to push forward in her work as a bail enforcement officer (bounty hunter). The reader can see her struggling with trying to define herself, as well as process many of the recent goings-on in her life, all of which enriches her as a character and pushes the narrative of the story forward effectively. Others tend to complement Jinx effectively and pursue their own growth throughout this book. The attentive reader will recognise Shea Stevens from Kelleher’s other popular series, watching as she returns to the page and has some growth of her own. I will admit that I have often sought writers who have multiple popular series to blend their characters, if only for a book or two. Kelleher does this effectively and the reader can see the clash of gritty, strong women, which seems to work well. The story proves to be strong and keeps the reader intrigued, as Jinx debates her own future before making a push to help a fellow trans, finding new connections through the Athena group during the narrative’s build. With a mix of longer and short chapters, the reader will easily be able to propel themselves forward, learning much about Phoenix and the way in which many live while under the conservative umbrella of the city’s inhabitants. I hope there is more to come from Kelleher with both series, as they work so well together and keep me on my toes, posing the boundaries of what I would usually read.

Kudos, Madam Kelleher, for another winner. I can count on you showing your great writing style each time I pick up one of your pieces.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Institute: A Novel, by Stephen King

Nine stars

Long a fan of Stephen King’s work, I was eager to get my hands on this piece and take the journey. King seems to find so many ways to keep the reader enthralled with his plots and characters, as this book did not veer too far from those foundational building blocks. Luke Ellis is violently kidnapped from his Minneapolis home, his parents left murdered in their beds. When Luke awakes, he can vaguely recollect something having happened to him, but the specifics are entirely fuzzy. An exceptionally bright twelve year-old, Luke is unable to decipher what is going on around him, until he is introduced as the newest member of The Institute, a super-secret facility in Maine. Its residents are children, not necessarily blessed with great intelligence, but with the powers of telekinesis or telepathy. As Luke becomes a little more acquainted with his surroundings, he comes to understand that these powers are being used for some unknown mission, during which time the children are drained of their abilities, then have their memories zapped of any recollection surrounding The Institute. This highly-regimented place leaves little room for straying from the path, though Luke and his fellow residents can use their powers to discus options. Luke takes it upon himself to make a break, with the help of someone else, and get help for the larger group. While he is able to slide under a fence, it is only the start, as Luke must flee swiftly and get someone to believe his far-fetched tale. When Luke arrives in DuPray, South Carolina, he rests his hopes on a local police officer. Tim Jamieson may be new to the area, but he has a great deal of policing experience, which includes a gut for trouble. With members of The Institute using their connections around the country, Luke Ellis might be in more danger than he thinks, and Jamieson his only hope. But what of those left back in Maine? Well, that’s where the story gets even more interesting… Another stellar King novel that will leave the reader wondering how they got from A to Z and loving the adventure along the way. Recommended to those who have a passion for King’s energetic writing style, as well as readers who are not scared off by a book’s length and tangential narrative.

Stephen King is one of those writers that you will either love or hate, both sets of readers having made themselves known on my Goodreads feed of late. King never shies away from controversy, but he is happy to do so by layering his novels with themes and countless tangents, seeking to prove a point without always being blunt. I grew up not being permitted to read King and have since made a point of trying to devour much of his newer writing, as well as dabbling in some of his older work. This piece shows signs of being more like his newer work, where the gore and the crazy facets are less prevalent, leaving a story that needs telling to come to the surface. Luke Ellis finds himself in the middle of this piece and seems to be the ideal protagonist. While he is young—twelve being that formative age when everything is new or awkward—Luke does well throughout this novel, navigating much of what is placed before him. He must not only digest the death of his family, but the incarceration in this sinister ‘tele-prison’ of sorts, while trying to be both a leader and a child seeking guidance. King created the ideal young character here and the attentive reader will enjoy all the backstory and character development that comes along with it. Others who find their way into the story help shape the narratives, particularly Tim Jamieson, whose emergence in the opening portion of the book led me to wonder if this were another of those ‘down the rabbit hole’ moments when we would not see a character again after attaching ourselves to him. Jamieson serves as a protector and quasi-father figure to Luke as they try to wrestle The Institute and all it stands for before more children are harmed. The story itself serves as a wonderfully entertaining piece, though it is long. As with most King novels, the reader needs patience, which pays off in the long-run. There are many references to past King pieces, which is part of the adventure, as the reader tries to link the references to the different books. There is never a shortage of King works to pull upon or become excited about and they always leave the reader thinking, while also wanting more. I can say I am yearning for more and will keep my eyes open for more in the coming months!

Kudos, Mr. King, for always pushing the envelop a little more and keeping me on my toes. Brilliant work deserves much praise and I hope others see some of what I did in this novel.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Kissing Asphalt (Jinx Ballou Bounty Hunter #0.5), by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

In this short piece, Dharma Kelleher treats her loyal fans to a brief story about how Jinx Ballou decided to start up her own bail enforcement company. A strong bounty hunter in her own right, Jinx is set to work alongside a team to capture a meth maker whose as dangerous as he is big. However, she cannot help but remember the night of passion that she shared with her boss, Conor Doyle. Her head is split between the work and her amorous endorphins, which is never good when violent offenders are on the loose. When they arrive, the capture goes awry and one of the team is shot, clinging to life. Jinx wonders if she could have been more on the game and ensured her colleague was not in this predicament. When sent out to finish the capture, Jinx realises that she needs to make some major changes to ensure her life is safe and she can stay with the man for whom she has come to develop strong feelings. A great piece and puts some things into perspective for series fans. Recommended to those who enjoy Dharma Kelleher’s work, particularly this newer Jinx Ballou series.

This short piece actually fell into my lap when I finished the second book in the Jinx Ballou series, and I could not be happier to have read it over my morning cup of coffee. While the piece raced along, I was able to learn a little more about Jinx’s backstory and how she came to decide it was time to go out on her own. The reader also gets a little hint of the early Jinx-Conor storyline, which progresses nicely throughout the series. Much like the other Kelleher short pieces I have read, this story has momentum from the outset and keeps building throughout. I can only hope that others will find it and latch on to what has been a great series, tackling issues in the “transgender-queer” realm (Kelleher’s words) and laying them out for the reader who may be interested but unsure how to ask without seeming daft. I have the third novel in this series waiting as an ARC, so off I go there, sure to be impressed again.

Kudos, Madam Kelleher, for a great piece that took only a few minutes. I am so pleased to have discovered your work!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Extreme Prejudice (Jinx Ballou, Bounty Hunter #2), by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

As I tackle this second book in her newer series, I remain pleased with what Dharma Kelleher offers her readers. Never one to shy away from the controversial, or at least tackle issues that are still not fully mainstream, Kelleher uses her wonderful descriptive ways to tell an energetic crime thriller. Jinx Ballou has been happy working as a bail enforcement officer (bounty hunter) and seems to be keeping herself quite busy. After a few easy apprehensions, she is handed one that will challenge her. What looks like a simple capture for skipping bail on a murder charge soon takes on a life of its own. While she and her crew scour around Phoenix, another criminal from her past crosses her radar. These two men are not only dangerous in either own right, but have ties to White Power, which makes the apprehension even harder. If that were not enough, Jinx is getting closer to her boyfriend of a few years, Conor, though the Northern Ireland police appear and want to speak with him about a bombing from years ago. Jinx tries to stay calm, but there is more going on that leaves her worried. While she has dealt with a lot since transitioning as a teen, Jinx is shaken to the core and needs all the support she can find. Things reach a climax for Jinx, as the reader will surely also feel the plot reverberations. Well paced and never with a dull moment, Kelleher tackles much in this novel and educates the reader as they are entertained throughout. Recommended to those who love crime/police procedurals with a twist.

I have long enjoyed Dharma Kelleher and all her writing, which takes a well-established genre and spins it with some unique elements. Keen to promote some of the areas to which she is well-versed, Kelleher educates readers on queer lifestyles (her word) and how the stereotypes remain misunderstood. Jinx Ballou has quite the life, both with her work and at home. She has been able to handle herself well and finds the balance within her control, at least until she is thrown the odd curveball. Working to advance an understand of the transgender community, as well as trying to settle in with Conor, Jinx must also rub elbows with some of the criminal underbelly around Phoenix, never shying away from a fight. Others who grace the pages of this book help to sketch out many of the themes Kelleher wishes to explore throughout. The banter on many levels helps to elevate the narrative flow and provides a great deal of information on a variety of subjects. The story is quite well written and keeps the action going throughout. There is a great deal of information on a variety of subjects, particularly the gay-transgender-straight equality as the reader is provided with terms and lifestyle choices to help better explain to the less educated on the subject. I wish not to misidentify terms or anything like that, but I did find the discussion refreshing, even as it is set against a backdrop of white supremacy and ignorance to those who differ. Kelleher uses this series to tackle some weighty issues, but also keeps the core ‘chase the criminal’ theme that is highly entertaining. I have read both series she has written and love them both, as well as some of her short stories, which leave the reader guessing at how things tie off. A fabulous book that pushes the limits for some, but in a highly inclusive manner.

Kudos, Madam Kelleher, for another wonderful book. I cannot wait to begin the third, an ARC that awaits me.

Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Re-Read: Empire of Lies, by Raymond Khoury

Five stars

After having quite the hard time with this book as an ARC and marking it as unfinished, I felt as though I ought to at least try it in an audiobook format once it had been published. This is my re-read review, with some new sentiments, though I still struggled quite a bit.

Definitely a great fan of alternate history and keen when I see Raymond Khoury’s work pop up on the various book sites I use, I hoped to find great interest in this novel. That being said, things began to fall short from the beginning of this piece and remained troublesome for me. The premise, that the Ottoman Empire continued to gather strength and overtook much of Europe into the present day, sounded good on paper, but as Khoury wove his story, things never seemed to connect for me. A mysteriously tattooed man lurks in the shadows, only to be loosely revealed as a time traveller from ‘our history’, who sees the rise of America and the destruction of the Ottomans. He seeks to tweak history to further strengthen the Islamic influence in the world and to create a worldwide Islamic Empire—one that present-day ISIS would envy. However, when the secret to his abilities is revealed to two characters who have only ever known a Europe under Ottoman rule, they try to change their own history to ensure Vienna was truly the weakening of the Ottomans. Travels through time create much strain for them and the reorganisation of time comes with its own perils, but if it saves the world, why not?! Even this second time around, I found it hard to grasp onto themes that kept me intrigued, save for the promise to myself and fellow readers to write a review of the entire novel.

I am by no means the greatest reviewer or most lax Goodreads wordsmith. I hoped for some injected excitement, but even the information Khoury revealed left me wanting more and unable to find something upon which I could hang my proverbial cloak. While I hated to leave a book unfinished—particularly an ARC—and now return to offer little insight into the full novel recited to me by an audiobook narrator, I owe it to myself and others not to spruce up something that made me somewhat miserable. While some will surely love it, I cannot offer frilly comments. I did enjoy a little more about the premise of WHAT IF surrounding the Ottoman Empire and how a world under Islamic control might differ greatly from what we know today. That being said, there are a few dictators in countries that espouse democracy, that we might not be that far off from leaders drunk off their own power and Tweet abilities. I can only hope this was but a blip on the Khoury radar, not the new norm after a fairly lengthy time away from full novels.

Kudos, Mr. Khoury, for dreaming up an interesting premise. Delivery was off for me, so I hope others can see the empire for the castle walls, to poorly mangle a cliché!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Murder Off the Page (42nd Street Library Mystery #3) by Con Lehane

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Con Lehane, St. Martin’s Press, and Minotaur Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In the latest novel of this series, Con Lehane spins another tale of a dedicated librarian who seems always to be in the line of fire when murder strikes. Raymond Ambler has been working hard within the 42 St branch of New York City’s Library. He remembers a patron coming in and spending hours reviewing a recently donated collection of writings and correspondence of a popular author. He also notices that she has made an appearance at the watering hole of library employees. Shannon Darling is completely different when plied with alcohol, turning into quite the seductress. Brian McNulty is not only a friend of Ambler’s, but also the bartender of this establishment and takes it upon himself to help get Darling back to her hotel room safely. When, a few days later, Ambler learns that his friend has disappeared, he cannot help but worry. McNulty soon reaches out and promises that he is safe, but needs to handle a few things. When the body of a man turns up dead in a hotel room, Darling’s face shows up on the security camera. McNulty admits that he was with her, but refuses to come out of hiding. Ambler begins trying to see if he can determine what’s going on and if the correspondence Darling was reading could have something to do with what is going on. Darling turns up dead and McNulty is the prime suspect, but this is only the beginning. Ambler must try to protect his friend from a likely murder charge while determining what truths he can uncover. Meanwhile, Ambler must juggle issues with his grandson that have come to the surface, as if he did not have enough to keep in order. A murderer is out there and these letters donated to the library could hold all the answers. Lehane does well to keep the series going, even if things got a little busy throughout. Recommended to those who enjoy Con Lehane’s work, particularly this series of library sleuthing.

I remember stumbling on this series when perusing NetGalley a few years ago. The premise was intriguing and the narrative kept me wanting to know a little more. Ray Ambler proves to be an interesting protagonist, keen to work hard at his job and always the unwitting amateur sleuth on a murder investigation. Ambler must worry, as his friend is in the crosshairs of the police for a set of murders that are wrapped in an elusive seat of journals. He must also work hard to balance work and home life, both of which seem to be on shaky ground. Other characters work diligently to complement Ambler throughout the piece, serving their roles effectively as the narrative gains momentum. The story was slightly hokey, but one can expect that when a bumbling librarian is placed in the middle of a murder investigation, much like a Jessica Fletcher character in the 1980s mystery programme. Lehane keeps the story moving effectively and entertains the reader while keeping the characters developing throughout. I’ll surely tune in for the next book, though admit that it is lighter fare in the mystery department.

Kudos, Mr. Lehane, for a decent third novel. I am eager to see where you take things, as you left a number of crumbs that could be followed.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood

Nine stars

In the stunning and much anticipated sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood sheds light on the dystopia she created all those years ago and which resonates on televisions even today. Welcome back to Gilead, which has been running as its own theocratic dictatorship for over fifteen years. Life has been interesting, though the almighty power of the Commanders seems to have developed cracks—just don’t tell them that. Agnes is a girl who has lived her entire life under Gilead, knowing no different. She is a ‘child of the state’ and has now reached the age when she will need to be partnered off to become a subservient wife. She has her own ideas, but knows that she must work within the rules of Gilead. Daisy also has lived her entire life knowing nothing before Gilead, but on the other side of the border. She lives in Canada, where her parents have been fighting to free people from under the thumb of Gilead, protesting and helping those who are courageous enough to make it out. When terrorism strikes on the streets of Toronto, Daisy must make a decision that will surely change her life and many around her. These two girls are inextricably tied to a third woman, Aunt Lydia. The Founding Aunt of Gilead, Lydia tells her own story about living in Gilead and helping to found some of its pillars. As pressure mounts to locate the long-lost Baby Nicole, the people of Gilead turn to their leaders who are determined to exact revenge on those who caused such grief. Agnes, Lydia, and Daisy are at the heart of this, though their agendas are all their own. Brilliantly concocted, Atwood does what she promised, providing a great peek behind the curtain into the inner workings of Gilead, while drawing some parallels to current circumstances where leaders stand, sensing they are above the law. Highly recommended to those who are well-versed in all things Handmaid, as well as the reader who loves dystopian writing at its best.

I arrived late(r) to the Handmaid party, but am fully caught up with all the hype. I devoured the first book and have nothing but praise for the television adaptation, which left me very eager to read this sequel. While some books flop when they seek to add onto the original content, Atwood has worked with her original premise as well as themes found in the television programme to create a stunning piece of writing. The reader learns so much about all three protagonists, who come from different backgrounds but feel the power of Gilead all the same. Lydia tells of her capture as Gilead rose and how she became an Aunt, as well as the programs she created to keep the state running effectively. The reader will likely find this intriguing, as it fills holes left by both the book and television programme, while adding new and exciting tangents. Agnes lives a life of apparent piety as a Child of Gilead, something that has never been explored in either aforementioned medium. The reader can see some of intricacies of grooming the young girls for a life as wives to those in power. Daisy, who becomes Jade at one point, has been schooled on the evils of Gilead, though knows only what her textbooks and parents tell her. Now, she is given the chance to branch out on her own and make a difference for all she loves, even if she is still learning about herself. The premise of this piece is quite good and it seems as though Atwood did precisely what was asked of her, to delve deeper and offer answers to threads left blowing in the wind. The story moves forward through these three protagonists, told in journal entries (Lydia) and witness statements (Agnes and Daisy). These forms of first-person narratives offer the most insight into the goings-on of Gilead and the struggle to dismantle it. I could not have thought of a better way to do it and Atwood proves why she is a master of her craft.

As I am sure to get some general questions about this book, please see my Q and A below:

– Should I read The Handmaid’s Tale first? As a long-time proponent of reading a series in order, I would say yes. There is also much to be learned from the foundational novel before leaping into this one.

– Should I have seen the television programme before reading this? Not necessary, but it will make things a lot clearer. If the reader has a general understanding of the show’s premise, they will have an easier time.

– Is this book all about religion and praying? No, but Gilead is, so either hold your nose or skip this book!

Kudos, Madam Atwood, for a wonderful spin on things. I have tried to keep the spoilers out, but you did so much in this single book!

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https://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, by Jessica McDiarmid

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Jessica McDiarmid, and Atria Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

There is a stretch of road in Northern British Columbia that connects the communities of Prince Rupert and Prince George. Formally known as Highway 16, the road has become known as the Highway of Tears, as scores of women—many indigenous— have gone missing or been murdered along it over the years. While well-known to locals, Jessica McDiarmid seeks to shed light on the issues here for the rest of the world, as Canada wrestles to address the thousands of missing and murdered indigenous women in the country, a group that has long been ignored. McDiarmid, a local of the town of Smithers, returned to her roots to explore the Highway of Tears and offer some of it victims the face they deserve. In telling the stories of these women’s pasts and the time leading up to their disappearances, McDermid seeks not to make them simple statistics, but victims with a voice who cannot speak up for themselves. With small Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachments, police efforts have not been what they should and cases are growing dust or going cold before any substantial leads can be developed. McDiarmid posits that there has been a difference in coverage and activity when the victim is caucasian, rather than indigenous, which might also tell the underlying narrative of what is (not) going on. While McDiarmid does not come out and say that there is a single killer on the loose, she offered examples about how there are surely connection crimes over the years, with culpability likely long-since passed. What can be done for the family and friends of these women whose lives were snuffed out too soon? The Federal Government created an inquiry, though even its commissioners have claimed that it is not being run in the traditional indigenous manner. McDiarmid has not answers and cannot assuage the pain families feel, but she has definitely shed light on this national embarrassment, as Canada tries to address all that has been going on. Highly recommended to those who enjoy true crime, as well as the reader interested in a unique piece within the larger non-fiction family.

While I had heard of the Highway of Tears, I was not aware of the extent of the deaths. This book shed some much-needed light onto the topic and helped to educate me about the issue, as well as some of the victims. The book seeks less to offer blame for those in authority than it does to show that there are so many broken cogs in the wheel. Racial discrimination surely plays a role in the police investigating, but resources are stretched so thin and the number of cases continues to grow. These were not an isolated few deaths, as the body continue to go missing and pile up, but little is being done to stop the ongoing safety concerns in the region, many of which McDiarmid addresses in the book. With photos to support the stories she tells, the book heightens its impact with the curious reader. A series of mid-length chapters address numerous issues with the overall investigation, as well as biographical pieces on the families, all of which pulls the tale closer together. Powerfully written and delivered, the reader will surely want to know a great deal more, tapping into McDiarmid’s vast list of cited sources. This is not a book to be missed by those who want to know more, either to educate themselves or advocate those in positions of authority to take action.

Kudos, Madam McDiarmid, for this wonderful piece. I will have to read a little more on the topic to get a handle.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons