Spotlight + Excerpt: The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery

Spotlight + Excerpt: The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan MalleryThe Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: Chick Lit, contemporary romance, women's fiction
Pages: 400
Published by HQN Books on February 9, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Step into the vineyard with Susan Mallery’s most irresistible novel yet, as one woman searches for the perfect blend of love, family and wine.
Mackenzie Dienes seems to have it all—a beautiful home, close friends and a successful career as an elite winemaker with the family winery. There’s just one problem—it’s not her family, it’s her husband’s. In fact, everything in her life is tied to him—his mother is the closest thing to a mom that she’s ever had, their home is on the family compound, his sister is her best friend. So when she and her husband admit their marriage is over, her pain goes beyond heartbreak. She’s on the brink of losing everything. Her job, her home, her friends and, worst of all, her family.
Staying is an option. She can continue to work at the winery, be friends with her mother-in-law, hug her nieces and nephews—but as an employee, nothing more. Or she can surrender every piece of her heart in order to build a legacy of her own. If she can dare to let go of the life she thought she wanted, she might discover something even more beautiful waiting for her beneath a painted moon.

Welcome to the Excerpt tour for The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery. She writes lovely and wonderful books that sweep me up, take me away, and put me right into the heart of relationships that manage to be both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing The Vineyard at Painted Moon in the weeks ahead, so here’s a teaser to whet all of our reading appetites!

Excerpt from The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery (continued from Friday’s Excerpt at Jathan & Heather)

The song ended and Rhys led her back to Giorgio, who was chatting with several guests. As Barbara walked over to the bar to get a glass of wine, her youngest joined her.

 “Barbara,” Catherine said pleasantly. “Wonderful party.” 

Barbara did her best not to bristle. At the beginning of high school, Catherine had insisted on changing her name to Four, of all things. As in the fourth child. Barbara had refused to accommodate her, so Catherine had started calling her by her first name, to be annoying.

 Barbara simply didn’t understand where things had gone wrong. She’d been loving but fair, had limited TV and made all her children eat plenty of greens. Sometimes parenting was such a crapshoot. 

She motioned to her daughter’s dress. “One of your own creations?” 

Catherine spun in a circle. “It is. Don’t you love it?”

 “With all my heart.”

 Catherine grinned. “Sarcasm? Really?”

 “What did you want me to say?”

 Catherine’s good humor never faded. “What you said is perfect.” 

As her daughter drifted away, Barbara moved closer to Giorgio. He put his arm around her waist, the pressure against her back both comforting and familiar. She nodded as he talked, not really listening to the conversation. Whatever he was saying would be charming. He was like that—well-spoken, always dressed correctly for the occasion. He had an enviable way with people and a natural charm she’d never possessed. She supposed that was what she’d first noticed—how easy he made everything when he was around. 

This night, she thought with contentment. It was exactly right. Her children and grandchildren were around her. Giorgio was here. The vines were healthy and strong and come September there would be another harvest.

 She spotted Avery, her oldest grandchild, talking to her father, Stephanie’s ex. Kyle was too smooth by far, Barbara reminded herself. Their marriage had been a disaster from the beginning, but Stephanie had been pregnant, so there had been no way to avoid the entanglement or the subsequent divorce. 

At least Avery and Carson hadn’t been scarred by the breakup. Barbara couldn’t believe Avery was already sixteen. She was going to have to remind Stephanie to keep a close eye on her daughter when it came to boys and dating. If she didn’t, there was going to be a second generation with an unplanned pregnancy, and no one wanted that.

 She often told people that children and vineyards meant constant worry. Just when you were ready to relax, a new season started with new challenges. 

Stephanie walked over to her. “Mom, it’s about time for the toast, if you’re ready.” 

“I am.”

 Barbara excused herself to follow her daughter toward the DJ and the small platform by the dance floor. She took the microphone the young man offered and stared out at the crowd. Stephanie called for quiet and it took only a few seconds for the party to go silent.

 “Thank you so much for joining me and my family at our tenth annual Summer Solstice Party,” Barbara said, pausing for applause, then holding up her glass of chardonnay. 

“To my children—may the next year be one of happiness for each of you. To my grandchildren—know that you are loved by all of us.” She turned and found her daughter-in-law, then smiled at her. “To my special daughter of the heart—the day you came into our lives was a magnificent blessing.” 

There was more applause. 

Barbara looked at Giorgio and smiled. They’d discussed whether or not she should mention him, and he’d asked her not to. After all, he was just the boyfriend and he’d said tonight was about family—yet another reason she loved him. The man understood her and wasn’t that amazing.

Author Info:

#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives-family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages.Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at SusanMallery.com.

Website | Facebook | TwitterInstagram

TLC
This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 1-24-21

Sunday Post

This was the weekend we were supposed to have been in Indianapolis for the American Library Association Midwinter Conference. I can’t say I was all that enthused about going to Indy in January. It’s BRRRR cold there in January. (Next year’s conference is scheduled for San Antonio and the year after New Orleans, which are much better winter venues.) Howsomever, I’m on a committee that usually meets for two 8-hour plus days at Midwinter to determine the winners of the ALA Reading List Awards for adult genre fiction, and that work still has to happen this weekend.

So, instead of those two, long, eight-hour in person meetings, we’re having four five-hour Zoom meetings. Technically we’re meeting on Webex, but you get the idea. One of my colleagues has mailed treats to all of us to help us get through the deliberations, and I think we’re all looking forward to meeting each other’s pets.

And in the spirit of that, as well as of the general idea that two – or more – heads are better than one, hence why we’re meeting in the first place, I have a cat picture. (Of course I have a cat picture!) Here are Lucifer and George to remind me that two heads are much better than one, especially when it comes to naps!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the MLK Giveaway Hop (ENDS TOMORROW!!!!!)

Blog Recap:

MLK Giveaway Hop
A Review: Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor
A+ Review: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
A Review: Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
B- Review: When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole
Stacking the Shelves (428)

Coming This Week:

Spotlight + Excerpt: The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery (blog tour event)
Storm of Eon by Anna Hackett (review)
The Golden Gryphon and the Bear Prince by Jeffe Kennedy (review)
The Girl from the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat (blog tour review)
Raider by M.L. Buchman (review)

Stacking the Shelves (428)

Stacking the Shelves

I’m so happy I almost can’t stand it. I’m also equal amounts of tired. It feels like a weight has lifted and now I can relax. Once I get several naps in.

But I have books. Oodles and oodles of books. Life is good!

For Review:
Chinook (Miranda Chase #6) by M.L. Buchman
Danger in Numbers by Heather Graham
The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon
Gone for Good (Detective Annalisa Vega #1) by Joanna Schaffhausen
How to Mars by David Ebenbach
How to Train Your Earl (First Comes Love #3) by Amelia Grey
The Jigsaw Man (Inspector Anjelica Henley #1) by Nadine Matheson
Just Get Home by Bridget Foley
Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham
Lost Immunity by Daniel Kalla
Meant to Be by Jude Deveraux
Raider (Miranda Chase #5) by M.L. Buchman
The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary
Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda
Tell No Lies (Quinn & Costa #2) by Allison Brennan
To Catch a Dream (Wish #2) by Audrey Carlan
To Love and To Loathe (Regency Vows #2) by Martha Waters

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
Behind the Throne (Indranan War #1) by K.B. Wagers (audio)



Review: When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Review: When No One is Watching by Alyssa ColeWhen No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Pages: 352
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on September 1, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood takes on a sinister new meaning…
Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.
But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.
When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?

My Review:

This is a bit of a three-legged race of a book. There are three threads to this story, all heading towards an ending, but one is going slow like a Model T, one is speeding along like it’s racing for NASCAR, and one is tootling along in a clown car.

Except that none of this story is funny.

But seriously, there are three separate plot threads to this story. While they are all heading towards the same finish, they are not racing at the same pace or with nearly the same amount of success.

When the story begins it looks kind of like we’re at the beginning of a (very) slow burn romance between Sydney and Theo, when Theo and his about-to-be-ex-girlfriend move in across the street from Sydney in the Brooklyn neighborhood where she grew up.

Both of their lives are in turmoil. Theo because of the impending breakup, but Sydney because well, shit has happened to her and it just keeps happening. Her marriage failed, her ex was emotionally abusive and wrecked her self-esteem, she’s unemployed, her mother was scammed out of her house and Sydney’s trying to get it back AND she’s trying to pay off back taxes and huge medical bills for both of them.

In the middle of their intersecting and imploding lives – drops the second thread about the consequences of gentrification for the people who live in the area being gentrified. A euphemism that usually means moving the brown people and the marginalized people OUT by fair means or foul, mostly foul, so that the white people can move IN.

Sydney is creating a walking tour of the neighborhood for an upcoming holiday celebration, and Theo gets recruited as her research assistant. The history that they uncover is well and truly appalling and it’s hard not to see it happening all around them as they are watching and researching, because Theo’s soon-to-be-ex is right in the thick of it.

But then there’s the depth of the evil that is behind this particular wave of gentrification, and is hinted at having been behind many if not most of the previous waves. And there’s the clown car rolling in.

Not that they aren’t truly evil, because they are. But because once Sydney and Theo find their way to the center of this particular tentacle of the long-running conspiracy it seems to be run by folks who learned how to be evil from comic book villains.

They’ve been successful not because they’re intelligent, but because so many people are complicit and so few seem to have chosen to stand and fight. They represent both the mediocrity of evil and and a perfect example of the old adage about the only thing required for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing.

Which may make this book the perfect thing to encapsulate recent events in the U.S. but caused it to fall a bit flat at the end.

Escape Rating B-: The history that underpins this story is absolutely fascinating. And it was great to see a book that managed to give the evils of gentrification not just a human face, but to make it comprehensible without becoming either a history text, an info dump, or just a boring lecture.

The way that the gentrification subplot wove into both of the other parts of the story was the best part of this book.

The romance, on the other hand, was a slow burn that didn’t really need to burn at all. I’m not sure I bought the chemistry between Sydney and Theo, and both of them were rebounding from such shitty relationships – and somewhat the same kind of shitty – that I wasn’t left with any real hope of even much of a happy for now.

And both of them were such unreliable narrators of their own lives that I’m left wondering if there really was anything there but sex and desperation – and whether or not there should have been. The first 100 pages of the book are a complete downer as both of their lives just seem to be spiraling towards the drain at an increasing rate of speed.

The thriller part of this story, discovering that this particular act of replacement, removal and rebuilding, or break and build as the book puts it, was a mixed bag. On the one hand, once that part of the story finally gets going it really gets going. The final 50+ pages move along like gangbusters.

Or like a first-person shooter type of video game. The pace is fast, the bodies are falling, the discoveries are horrific and the heroes barely manage to survive the boss battle at the end.

The problem was that the bosses we saw, the people behind it all, read like comic book villains. It felt like they succeeded in spite of their incompetence and not because of their competence. They succeeded up until that point because “the system” is set up for them to succeed.

Which may be the most evil thing of all. But it didn’t make for the best story, which was a disappointment because this was a book I really wanted to love and just didn’t.

Reviewer’s Note: I think I read the books in the wrong order this week. Because the “happy, happy, joy, joy” reaction I’m having post-Inauguration makes it difficult to get into a thriller that gets pretty dark but doesn’t get there half as successfully as I expected. It’s definitely making me wonder how books written during the mess of the last four years and especially during the pandemic are going to fare once we get further down the road to normal.

Although that journey feels like it’s already begun, leading to my fit of exuberance.

Review: Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

Review: Conjure Women by Afia AtakoraConjure Women by Afia Atakora
Format: ebook
Source: borrowed from library
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, magical realism
Pages: 400
Published by Random House on April 7, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

A mother and daughter with a shared talent for healing—and for the conjuring of curses—are at the heart of this dazzling first novel
Conjure Women is a sweeping story that brings the world of the South before and after the Civil War vividly to life. Spanning eras and generations, it tells of the lives of three unforgettable women: Miss May Belle, a wise healing woman; her precocious and observant daughter Rue, who is reluctant to follow in her mother's footsteps as a midwife; and their master's daughter Varina. The secrets and bonds among these women and their community come to a head at the beginning of a war and at the birth of an accursed child, who sets the townspeople alight with fear and a spreading superstition that threatens their newly won, tenuous freedom.
Magnificently written, brilliantly researched, richly imagined, Conjure Women moves back and forth in time to tell the haunting story of Rue, Varina, and May Belle, their passions and friendships, and the lengths they will go to save themselves and those they love.

My Review:

The story of Conjure Women is the story of Miss Rue, born in slavery to the healing woman – or conjure woman – Miss May Belle and her man, a slave on the next plantation over.

Through the entire story Rue is one who stands tall – even when she is bowed down by trauma, grief or fear. But there is plenty of that fear and it shadows the whole story. Everything Rue has, everything she does, is conditional – and she knows it.

She can be sold at any time – and very nearly is. She can be beaten at the owner’s whim. Her dad is killed at the owner’s whim for a crime he did not commit, because the white girl who is both Rue’s friend and her enemy carelessly mentions his name when her father is looking for someone to blame for her out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

Even after the war, when she and her people are not merely free but temporarily ignored by the whites that surround their tiny, self-sufficient village, she knows that their freedom and prosperity is contingent on whites not stumbling over them. A contingency with a life measured in months.

And yet, in spite of everything that hangs over Rue’s life, this is a story of living. Of living through adversity, heartbreak and even despair. But of making a life that is more than mere survival.

It just takes a LOT of hard work. And a bit of conjuring. Perhaps just a bit too much conjuring. Because in Rue’s attempts to save what she can, she very nearly destroys what she loves most.

Escape Rating A: Conjure Women is Rue’s story, Rue and her mother Miss May Belle are the conjure women of the title. But, it begins with the boy, Bean, and ends with him, too. And isn’t that generally the way of things?

The story slips a bit back and forth in time as we follow Rue from her childhood in slaverytime to her adolescence in wartime and eventually her heartbreaking experiences in freedomtime. But we don’t experience her life in order. Rather, the times are linked by events and memories, and lead forward and backward and in the middle again as Rue’s thoughts travel from childhood to tragedy to hope to heartbreak to childhood until the ending – which wraps its way obliquely around to the beginning – and to Bean.

Sometimes those transitions are a bit jarring, and it can take the reader a bit to figure out how the story got to the place it suddenly is. But in the end it all does flow together, as coherent and as disjointed as memory.

In the end, Conjure Women is a compelling, complicated and frequently uncomfortable book. Rue is a character that readers are compelled to follow, as she is a mass of contradictions and insecurities doing her best to survive and even thrive in a world that has declared that she is less than nothing.

It’s Rue’s responsibility and duty as the healer to take care of her people and keep them healthy and safe, just as her mother did before her. No matter how often she feels inadequate to the task. No matter that they love her when she heals their ills but hate and fear her when she fails. Nor does it matter, as it did with her mother before her, that in slaverytime her task of keeping them healthy served the purpose of a master who wanted to get the maximum amount of work out of them for the minimum of expenditure.

No matter how many lies she has to tell. To her mother, to her people – and to herself. Feeling with her as we see the price she has to pay – and keep paying – is what makes her a character that carries the reader through this marvelous book. As she carried so many others.

Reviewer’s Note: Fiction is the lie that tells the truth. This work of fiction, created as a beautifully written combination of first-person accounts and historical documentation, tells a truth that we as Americans don’t want to see. That slavery was “a curse to the whites as well as to the blacks,” as Harriet Jacobs said in her autobiography Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. And that the hatred on the faces of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, because they believe in everything that the last four years have stood for, are the spiritual descendants of the hatred on the faces hidden under the post-Civil War masks of the KKK who haunt the later chapters of this story. As much as we don’t want to admit it, the haters are every bit as much a part of this country, every bit as much a representation of who we really are, as those who are doing their damnedest to make the arc of our history bend towards the justice for all that is espoused in the Pledge of Allegiance.

I didn’t factor in just how difficult it would be to sit down and compose this review just after the inauguration ceremony finished. I also can’t help but think it’s important and significant that Amanda Gorman, the National Youth Poet Laureate who read her poem, “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration could be Rue’s (however many greats) granddaughter. And that Rue would never have imagined this day to be possible from the perspective of her own life, even by the time she died at the book’s end.

This book was marvelous from beginning to end – and so was that poem.

Review: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Review: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah JohnsonThe Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: dystopian, F/F romance, post apocalyptic, science fiction
Pages: 336
Published by Del Rey Books on August 4, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's Website
Goodreads

An outsider who can travel between worlds discovers a secret that threatens her new home and her fragile place in it, in a stunning sci-fi debut that’s both a cross-dimensional adventure and a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging.
Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.
On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security.
But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.

My Review:

The Space Between Worlds is filled with paradox and wonder, and resonates to the beat of butterfly wings.

This is a story of the multiverse, of parallel universes that are almost, but not quite, the same. Universes that are all post-apocalyptic, in one way, or another, or all of the above.

It’s also a story of irony, in that this is a story where the people that society has classed as the most expendable, are also the most valuable – but only as long as they are useful.

And it’s a story about families, and the infinitesimally thin line between love and hate.

The Space Between Worlds is a story about contrasts. The contrast between safe, wealthy and white Wiley City, and the dangerous, poor and brown wastelands that surround it.

Cara is someone who walks between the worlds. Because she is a wastelander, brown and disposable on seemingly all of the worlds that resonate enough with “Earth Zero” to be visited, she is mostly dead.

Not in The Princess Bride sense of “mostly dead”, but in the sense that most of the different Caras, the Cara on most of the 382 worlds that are close enough to her own to be able to be visited, Cara has not lived to reach adulthood. Or at least not reached the age that the Cara on Earth Zero has.

That paradoxically makes Cara a very valuable “traverser”, or traveler between the worlds. People can only visit worlds where their local equivalent has already died – and Cara has died nearly everywhere.

But she’s also someone who travels between worlds on her own world. At work, she does her best to fit into the sterile, safe, white world of Wiley City – no matter how little it looks as if she belongs there.

When she goes back home to the wastes, she pretends to still fit into her family, the religion that keeps them together and the violence that surrounds them.

But Cara belongs in neither place. Because she is not the Cara that the Eldridge Institute hired, and she is not the Cara raised by the family she has come to love. She is the Cara from another Earth who found the original Cara dead and took her place.

Because she is a survivor. It’s what she does best. It’s who she is.

This story puts that survival instinct to the test. Not just because she finds a world that she has a chance to save, but because saving Earth 175 gives her the tools to save the Earth she has made her own. If she is willing to take them up.

If she is willing to risk her safety, her secrets and her skin to discover exactly what she’s made of. If she’s willing to die to make things right, just once.

Escape Rating A+: This was awesome. A lot of my reading buddies recommended this one, and now I know why. It tells a fantastic story and there’s so much packed into it if you want to go hunting for all the possibilities, but the story has the reader on the edge of their seat for the whole ride.

The Space Between Worlds is very much a post-apocalyptic story. But it’s not the immediate aftermath. While those are fascinating because there’s so much chaos, it’s every bit as interesting to see what humans have made of the messed up world that other humans caused and left behind. Usually by dying.

One thing that caught me was that we don’t know where, relative to our current world, Wiley City and its surrounding wastelands are. And it doesn’t matter. What we see feels plausible, that enough of a city survived that it became prosperous again and gathered refugees around it who wanted to share in that prosperity and safety. Only to discover that the prejudices of the old world continued in the new. There are always haves, and there are always have nots who hope to become haves. And that the haves guard their position ruthlessly.

It’s very explicit in this story that the haves are white. Very, very white. Not just by skin color, although that seems to have been at the heart and the start of it, but also because of that ruthless guarding of privilege. Citizens of Wiley City live in a completely enclosed world. They don’t see the sun, they only experience natural light through extreme filters, because natural light can be dangerous. So over the generations their coloring has become lighter and paler.

The wastelands are exposed to all the elements. The brutal sun, the chemically destroyed earth, water and air. The dirt. They are brown of skin, dark of hair and eye, and their clothes are never completely clean because there is so much junk in the air and water.

One of the fascinating contrasts is the way that Wiley City takes care of its people, while the wastelands force their people to survive if they can and die if they can’t. At the same time, the two areas are trapped in an entirely symbiotic relationship, and they need each other.

And they are both ruled by an emperor, even if the “emperor” of Wiley City isn’t called that. And even if, in some of the Earths of the multiverse, the positions of the two rulers is reversed. Because in all of them they are brothers.

As fascinating as everything about this future world is, at its heart it is always Cara’s story. Caralee from Earth 22, who pretends to be Caramenta from Earth Zero but who only begins to figure out who she really is and what she really wants to be when she meets the one person she should never be able to meet, her doppelganger on Earth 175. They’ve all made different mistakes, the wings of the butterfly have flapped and blown them in slightly different directions, but their lives have all been wrapped around the same family and the same men, the two emperors.

But this time is going to be different, because Cara isn’t just going to survive, she’s going to fight. Once she figures out who and what she is really fighting for – and against.

This is, in the end, a story about choosing your battles, finding your path, and figuring out which version of your life is the one you can live with. And it’s awesome.

Review: Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

Review: Remote Control by Nnedi OkoraforRemote Control by Nnedi Okorafor
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: African Futurism, science fiction
Pages: 160
Published by Tordotcom on January 19, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The new book by Nebula and Hugo Award-winner, Nnedi Okorafor.
"She’s the adopted daughter of the Angel of Death. Beware of her. Mind her. Death guards her like one of its own."
The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit. From hereon in she would be known as Sankofa­­--a name that meant nothing to anyone but her, the only tie to her family and her past.
Her touch is death, and with a glance a town can fall. And she walks--alone, except for her fox companion--searching for the object that came from the sky and gave itself to her when the meteors fell and when she was yet unchanged; searching for answers.
But is there a greater purpose for Sankofa, now that Death is her constant companion?

My Review:

Remote Control is the story of Sankofa, the adopted daughter of the Angel of Death. Or so the legends go.

When I first read the blurb for this book, my first thought was that Sankofa was someone like Susan Sto-Helit in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. In that fantasy world, Susan is really the adopted granddaughter of Death, the anthropomorphized personification of the Grim Reaper, who rides a pale horse named Binky and likes cats. This is a fantasy world where anything can, and frequently does, happen.

But Remote Control is not set in a fantasy world. Instead, this is a not-too-distant future of our own world, set in an Africa where jelli-tellies and even-smarter smartphones are coveted and sold and where legends that feel as if they are out of the distant past walk the earth at the same time.

This is not a fantasy, no matter how much it reads like one.

Sankofa is not, technically, the adopted daughter of the Angel of Death, no matter how many such stories get wrapped around her small, slim person.

But she is death. Or she brings death. Or she can. Or all of the above. Once upon a time, when she was an even younger child than she is now, a meteor shower dropped meteorites like little seeds over her father’s shea tree orchard.

One of those meteorites WAS a seed. A seed that Sankofa before she became Sankofa, back when she was a little girl named Fatima, nurtured and petted and talked to as if it were a person and a confidant and a pet.

Whether it was the girl’s care of that seed, or whether it was the seed’s intended purpose all along, the seed gave her a gift – or a curse. And when that seed was stolen from her, that gift bloomed from her like a toxic gas.

When she became angry, or upset, or was in pain, the little girl burned hot and glowed green like poison. Whatever that green glow touched fell down dead. Like the mosquitos that loved to eat her. Like her parents who sold her little seed for a lot of money. Like everyone in the village who was just too close when her pain and anger overcame her – including her family.

Like her name and her memory that burned away in the fire of that green. She left Fatima behind among the dead of her village and wandered the roads as Sankofa, searching for the seed that was stolen from her.

Only to discover, once she found it, that it was even more of a curse than she ever believed.

Escape Rating A: Remote Control is a novella, meaning that it is relatively short but complete in and of itself. So if you love SF and have not yet read any of Nnedi’s books, this is a great place to start. As is her absolutely awesome Binti, which is both a novella and the first in her epic and marvelous Binti Trilogy of novellas.

Novellas are shorter than novels, but longer than novelettes or short stories. They are not novels that got cut down. Rather, novellas are the length that they are meant to be, they’re meant to be the length that they are. They may tease at a larger world or deeper background or more that happens after they close – or all of the above – but they complete their own story in their shortness, and are great ways to introduce yourself to a new-to-you author.

Which doesn’t mean that I don’t frequently wish that a particular novella had a bit more to it, because I often do. But then, I love worldbuilding when it’s good and I always want more.

Remote Control is a bit of a tease of a story, because at first it seems more like a fantasy than SF. In Sankofa’s childish perspective – after all the story begins when she is only 5 – we don’t see much in the way of SFnal trappings. Her family farm and her world could be in a wide range of eras.

It’s only after Fatima becomes Sankofa and takes herself away from home and tragedy that we see the wider world and learn that this is the relatively near future. It’s a world that we can sort of see from here, if we squint a bit.

As Sankofa travels, we see her grow, and follow along as her legend grows with her – and she learns how to take advantage – but not too much – of that legend. People give her what she needs both because they are afraid of what she brings. She brings death. She can kill an entire village. She has. She can lash out in fear and/or self-preservation. And she can bring release to those who desperately need it.

And we watch her try to leave her legend and her gift behind, to grasp at some semblance of what passes for “normal”, only for that gift to reach out and grab her back.

Remote Control is the story of Sankofa’s coming of age and her coming to terms with who and what she is. But I’ll admit that I didn’t figure out where the title came from until the very end. And that when I did, it made the whole story into a much bigger WOW than I expected.

A revelation that I’m still reeling from a bit. And you will too if you follow along on Sankofa’s journey to its bittersweet but triumphant end.

MLK Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the MLK Giveaway Hop hosted by Caffeinated Reviewer &  Mocha Girls Read !

In honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, observed on the third Monday of January each year – that’s today although his actual birthday is tomorrow, January 19 – Caffeinated Reviewer and Mocha Girls Read have created this giveaway hop of books celebrating Black authors. As book reviewers and book bloggers, we are celebrating diverse reading and drawing attention, we hope, to the richness of a more diverse reading experience.

To that end, this week I’ll be reviewing books by Black authors, no matter what their genre. And we’re all giving away books that express that diversity and/or gift cards so that our winners can read what’s available for themselves.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more terrific recommendations and more chances to win, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 1-17-21

Sunday Post

It was definitely a grade B sort of week. No real highs, no serious lows. Just some decent reads – along with an audiobook I totally bailed on. C’est la vie. Hopefully this week will be better. The audiobook I started is certainly a vast improvement – which gives me hope!

The picture below proves that cats rule the universe. Lucifer decided to take over Galen’s monitors and his Zoom meeting. Isn’t he gorgeous? I have a multi-day Zoom meeting starting on Friday and I’m hoping that he’ll come invade my meeting too!

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the New Year, New You Giveaway Hop is Wendy H.

Blog Recap:

B+ Review: You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria
B Review: Find Me in Havana by Serena Burdick
B+ Review: The Secrets of Colchester Hall by Sophie Barnes + Giveaway
B Review: Breathe the Sky by Michelle Hazen
B Review: The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher
Stacking the Shelves (427)

Coming This Week:

MLK Giveaway Hop
Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor (review)
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson (review)
Conjure Women by Afia Atakora (review)
When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole (review)

Stacking the Shelves (427)

Stacking the Shelves

The stacks are starting to feel “normal” sized, which probably means they are too big. But there are SO MANY good books coming. It’s hard to resist! So I don’t. LOL

For Review:
The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser
Capture the Crown (Gargoyle Queen #1) by Jennifer Estep
Death with a Double Edge (Daniel Pitt #4) by Anne Perry
Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison
The Hidden Palace (Golem and the Jinni #2) by Helene Wecker
Leonora in the Morning Light by Michaela Carter
Murder by Page One (Peach Coast Library Mystery #1) by Olivia Matthews
The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
Someone to Cherish (Westcott #8) by Mary Balogh
Sugar Birds by Cheryl Grey Bostrom
Sunset on Moonlight Beach (Moonlight Harbor #5) by Sheila Roberts
While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
The Duke and I (Bridgertons #1) by Julia Quinn
Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher
An Offer from a Gentleman (Bridgertons #3) by Julia Quinn
The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgertons #2) by Julia Quinn