Monday, July 8, 2024

Monday Book Love (07-08-24 edition)


Monday Book Love is a catch-all for all of those events where you share your latest acquisitions, events like:

What are You Reading?

Stacking the Shelves and Sunday Post both with Reading Reality

Mailbox Monday (now defunct)

Books that I got last week:

Beneath a Crescent Shadow by A.L. Sowards

After an arranged marriage, Konstantin and Suzana must find a way to meet the demands of a conquering Ottoman sultan amid a torrent of setbacks and dangers much closer to their Balkan home.

The Balkans, 1373

A devastating battle claimed the lives of Konstantin's father, uncle, and most of their Serb army, leaving him to rule as a vassal of the Ottoman sultan, a role he is wholly unprepared for. Between war, famine, and a persistent band of brigands, Konstantin is nearly bankrupt. He will need to find a wealthy bride to marry if he is to have any hope of saving his lands and securing his future.

A betrothal to Suzana, the daughter of a prosperous merchant, is soon arranged, and upon meeting her, Konstantin immediately feels hope that their marriage could someday grow into love. Yet, from the moment of Konstantin and Suzana's betrothal, enemies threaten their lives, outlaws prey on their lands, and the terrors of Suzana's abusive past haunt their fragile new relationship. As this onslaught of threats closes in, the two face challenges that will test their love, their faith, and their hope to save their people and win their freedom from the heavy weight of Ottoman oppression.

Southern Man by Greg Iles

Fifteen years after the events of the Natchez Burning trilogy, Penn Cage is alone. Nearly all his loved ones are dead, his old allies gone, and he carries a mortal secret that separates him from the world. But Penn’s exile comes to an end when a brawl at a Mississippi rap festival triggers a bloody mass shooting—one that nearly takes the life of his daughter Annie.

As the stunned cities of Natchez and Bienville reel, antebellum plantation homes continue to burn and the deadly attacks are claimed by a Black radical group as historic acts of justice. Panic sweeps through the tourist communities, driving them inexorably toward a race war.

But what might have been only a regional sideshow of the 2024 Presidential election explodes into national prominence, thanks to the stunning ascent of Robert E. Lee White, a Southern war hero who seizes the public imagination as a third-party candidate. Dubbed “the Tik-Tok Man,” and funded by an eccentric Mississippi billionaire, Bobby White rides the glory of his Special Forces record to an unprecedented run at the White House—one unseen since the campaign of H. Ross Perot.

To triumph over the national party machines, Bobby evolves a plan of unimaginable daring. One fateful autumn weekend, with White set to declare his candidacy in all fifty states, the forces polarizing America line up against one another: Black vs. white, states vs. the federal government, democracy vs. Fascism. Teaming with his fearless daughter (now a civil rights lawyer) and a former Black Panther who spent most of his life in Parchman Prison, Penn tears into Bobby White’s pursuit of the Presidency and ultimately risks a second Civil War to try to expose its motivation to the world, before the America of our Constitution slides into the abyss.

In Southern Man, Greg Iles returns to the riveting style and historic depth that made the Natchez Burning trilogy a searing masterpiece and hurls the narrative fifteen years forward into our current moment—where America itself teeters on the brink of anarchy.

Metal from Heaven by August Clarke

For fans of The Princess Bride and Gideon the a bloody lesbian revenge tale and political fantasy set in a glittering world transformed by industrial change – and simmering class warfare. 

Ichorite is progress. More durable and malleable than steel, ichorite is the lifeblood of a dawning industrial revolution. Yann I. Chauncey owns the sole means of manufacturing this valuable metal, but his workers, who risk their health and safety daily, are on strike. They demand Chauncey research the hallucinatory illness befalling them, a condition they call “being lustertouched.” Marney Honeycutt, a lustertouched child worker, stands proud at the picket line with her best friend and family. That’s when Chauncey sends in the guns. Only Marney survives the massacre. She vows bloody vengeance. A decade later, Marney is the nation’s most notorious highwayman, and Chauncey’s daughter seeks an opportune marriage. Marney’s rage and the ghosts of her past will drive her to masquerade as an aristocrat, outmaneuver powerful suitors, and win the heart of his daughter, so Marney can finally corner Chauncey and satisfy her need for revenge. But war ferments in the north, and deeper grudges are surfacing. . . H. A. Clarke’s adult fantasy debut, writing as August Clarke, Metal from Heaven is a punk-rock murder ballad tackling labor issues and radical empowerment against the relentless grind of capitalism.

The Lion Women of Tehran by Marjan Kamali

From the nationally bestselling author of the “powerful, heartbreaking” (Shelf Awareness) The Stationery Shop, a heartfelt, epic new novel of friendship, betrayal, and redemption set against three transformative decades in Tehran, Iran.

In 1950s Tehran, seven-year-old Ellie lives in grand comfort until the untimely death of her father, forcing Ellie and her mother to move to a tiny home downtown. Lonely and bearing the brunt of her mother’s endless grievances, Ellie dreams of a friend to alleviate her isolation.

Luckily, on the first day of school, she meets Homa, a kind, passionate girl with a brave and irrepressible spirit. Together, the two girls play games, learn to cook in the stone kitchen of Homa’s warm home, wander through the colorful stalls of the Grand Bazaar, and share their ambitions for becoming “lion women.”

But their happiness is disrupted when Ellie and her mother are afforded the opportunity to return to their previous bourgeois life. Now a popular student at the best girls’ high school in Iran, Ellie’s memories of Homa begin to fade. Years later, however, her sudden reappearance in Ellie’s privileged world alters the course of both of their lives.

Together, the two young women come of age and pursue their own goals for meaningful futures. But as the political turmoil in Iran builds to a breaking point, one earth-shattering betrayal will have enormous consequences.

Written with Marjan Kamali’s signature “evocative, devastating, and hauntingly beautiful” (Whitney Scharer, author of The Age of Light) prose, The Lion Women of Tehran is a sweeping exploration of how profoundly we are shaped by those we meet when we are young, and the way love and courage transforms our lives.

The Story Collector by Evie Woods

In a quiet village in Ireland, a mysterious local myth is about to change everything…

One hundred years ago, Anna, a young farm girl, volunteers to help an intriguing American visitor translate fairy stories from Irish to English. But all is not as it seems and Anna soon finds herself at the heart of a mystery that threatens her very way of life.

In New York in the present day, Sarah Harper boards a plane bound for the West Coast of Ireland. But once there, she finds she has unearthed dark secrets – secrets that tread the line between the everyday and the otherworldly, the seen and the unseen.

With a taste for the magical in everyday life, Evie Woods's latest novel is full of ordinary characters with extraordinary tales to tell.

Tricksters by N.L. McLaughlin

“I love how author N.L. McLaughlin opens her stories in the middle of the action and sets the tone of the story from there.” –Rabia Tanveer, Reader's Favorite

For generations, the Tricksters have inhabited the mountains of west Texas. Preying off unwitting travelers, the pack's existence remains a well-kept secret.

On a road trip, Ash and her friends make the fateful decision to stop in the dusty little town of Sierra Diablo where they meet a handsome and charismatic local named Caleb and his peculiar group of friends.

Later that night, a frightened young girl stumbles into their campsite, begging for help.

What follows is a night of terror as Ash and her friends fight for their lives against a pack of bloodthirsty coyote shapeshifters.

When she fails to return home, Ash's older brother, Matt, sets out to find her. Upon arrival in Sierra Diablo, he realizes that there's something odd about this tiny desert town. Determined to uncover the truth, he investigates further.

As he slowly uncovers the truth, Matt realizes some secrets are better left undisclosed.

When searching for answers, be careful that you don't come to regret what you find.

Not What She Seems by Yasmin Angoe

She left home as the local pariah at twenty-two, but when a family tragedy brings her back, she must confront her tortured past—and a new danger in town that no one seems to understand but her.

After years of self-exile, Jacinda “Jac” Brodie is back in Brook Haven, South Carolina. But the small cliffside town no longer feels like home. Jac hasn’t been there since the beloved chief of police fell to his death—and all the whispers said she was to blame.

That chief was Jac’s father.

Racked with guilt, Jac left town with no plans to return. But when her granddad lands in the hospital, she rushes back to her family, bracing herself to confront the past.

Brook Haven feels different now. Wealthy newcomer Faye Arden has transformed the notorious Moor Manor into a quaint country inn. Jac’s convinced something sinister lurks beneath Faye’s perfect exterior, yet the whole town fawns over their charismatic new benefactor. And when Jac discovers one of her granddad’s prized possessions in Faye’s office, she knows she has to be right.

But as Jac continues to dig, she stumbles upon dangerous truths that hit too close to home. With not only her life but also her family’s safety on the line, Jac discovers that maybe some secrets are better left buried.

Effortless Menopause For The Savvy Woman: Simple Science-Backed Solutions For Hot Flashes, Mood Swings, Vaginal Dryness, and More, to Restore Physical & Mental Vitality by Marsha Shepherd Whitt

"Effortless Menopause for the Savvy Woman" is a groundbreaking book that revolutionizes the way women approach and manage menopause. Written by a dedicated advocate for women's health, this guide challenges common misconceptions about menopause, presenting it not as a period of decline but as an opportunity for growth and rejuvenation.

This comprehensive guide is rooted in the author's personal journey and extensive research into holistic health strategies. It offers women empowering and practical solutions to manage the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of menopause. From mitigating hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness to fat loss, the book covers a wide range of topics essential for navigating this transitional phase with grace and confidence.

The book places a strong emphasis on dietary strategies, particularly the benefits of the carnivore, ketovore, and keto diets, in alleviating menopause symptoms. It also introduces fresh perspectives on exercise, tailored specifically for menopausal women, focusing on routines that support bone strength, vascular health, muscle mass, and mental wellness.

Beyond symptom management, the guide delves into the importance of mental and emotional support, advocating for a supportive community and the practice of self-care. It reassures readers that all advice is evidence-based, blending scientific research with personal insights to offer a guide that is both credible and relatable.

"The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Effortless Menopause" invites readers to embark on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment, encouraging them to view menopause as a positive, life-enhancing phase. It's not just a book; it's a call to action for women to engage actively with their health, embrace menopause with optimism, and share their stories to foster a supportive community. This book stands as a testament to the strength and resilience of women, offering gratitude and solidarity to all who join in this transformative journey.

What I'm reading:

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Poetry Sunday (07/07/24 edition)

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

-- Maya Angelou

Saturday, July 6, 2024

REVIEW: The Pecan Children by Quinn Connor



For fans of The Midnight Library and Swamplandia! comes a breathtaking story of magical realism about two sisters, deeply tied to their small Southern town, fighting to break free of the darkness swallowing the land―and its endless cycle of pecan harvests―whole. In the struggling town of Clearwater, Arkansas, the annual pecan harvest is a time of both celebration and heartbreak. But even as families are forced to sell their orchards and move away, Lil Clearwater refuses to let go of the land her family has been rooted to for generations. She feels a connection to the earth that goes deeper than memory―which is why she reluctantly accepts her sister Sasha's return to the fold after so long away. It should be a time of joyful reconnection, yet it isn't long before things take a dark turn. There is rot hiding beneath the surface, and hungry eyes that watch from the dark. As phantom fires begin to light up the night and troubling local folklore is revealed to be all too true, the sisters―confronted with the ghosts of their pasts―come to the stark realization that in the kudzu-choked South, nothing is ever as it seems.

Format 352 pages, Paperback
Published June 4, 2024 by Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN 9781728263908 (ISBN10: 1728263905)
Genre Horror, Fantasy, Magical Realism

About the Author

Quinn Connor is one pen in two hands, Robyn Barrow and Alex Cronin.

Both writers from a young age, Robyn and Alex met at Rhodes College in Memphis and together developed their unique co-writing voice. They are thankful that no matter what, there’s always another person in the world who cares about their characters as much as they do. An Arkansan and a Texan, when they aren’t writing, they’re arguing about the differences between queso and cheese dip. 

Robyn is an art historian of the medieval Nordic world, and a PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania. Though often abroad, clambering around in medieval church roofs, Robyn loves writing about her home state of Arkansas. Alex is a Texan living under a Brooklyn zip code, working in PR to fund her writing habit. In her free time, she can be found exploring the city, topping off her tea, and amassing a collection of winter coats. Whether Robyn is wandering the Far North, or Alex is chasing down homemade pasta in Prospect Heights, they write all the time. It’s their preferred form of conversation.

Follow the author on Twitter @quinnconnorwrites
Instagram @quinn.connor.writes/

My Thoughts
A screech shreds the delicate membrane of the night.

The Pecan Children is a wistful tale of a dying town, the sister tied to it and the one who escaped only to return. This story centers around the pecan orchards in the town of Clearwater, Arkansas.

AI generated image

Clearwater is a dying town, cutoff from the rest of the world when the main road washed out. The old pecan orchards are being bought up and dying off, and the town with them. 

Clearwater Orchard is run by Lil Clearwater, one of a set of twins born to a woman who raised them as a single mother while dedicating her life to caring for the family orchard. Lil inherited the obligation of orchard keeper while her twin sister Sasha escaped the small town for New York City. Lil is tied to the land. She nurtures it. 
As a teenager, Lil liked falling asleep outside, under the shade of tall trees. When she hit her teenage years-- and her teenage years hit back-- when the inside of the house felt too tame and soft for her sharp edges, Lil would spread out a blanket under the trees, where she was finally able to breathe...curled against the roots of those trees, it was as if she grew roots of her own. She felt right within herself among the trees. 
Now, years later, Sasha has returned to Clearwater after the death of their mother. Sasha describes herself as "the lesbian-- outsider twin sister of the town's foremost orchard keeper".
You are so beautiful, as soon as I stop looking at you, I forget what you look like, her great-aunt told her once. Her and Lil's faces are similar, but Sasha's features are more catalog-girl generic, which means people usually feel a little more comfortable looking at her. Then they mistake her for the friendly sister, next to Lil, who stomped her way through high school with rips in her jeans and a silver barbell piercing her tongue. But to be honest, neither of them is too friendly.
The two sisters have been at odds for some time and struggle under the yoke of resentment and long-buried pain and anger. But the love is there, and they are struggling to find their way back to one another.
It's a stone in her shoe, a constant, quiet ache. But Lil is too sharp even at the best of times, too prone to passion, and Sasha too untethered. In an argument, Sasha won't fight. She'll flee. At least, she reminds herself, Sasha is here. That's all she needs.
In addition to her long-lost sister, Liv finds that her long-lost high school love has also returned to town. Jason and Lil were an item throughout high school, but Jason left town after Lil refused to leave with him. His presence takes Lil right back to those passionate and carefree days with Jason.
In summer, his hair brightens to the color of a crisp lemon. It's like he absorbs energy straight from the sun, and there on her porch, he glows with it. 
Creepy Theon lurks around town, buying up orchards and letting them die. 
Used to care, suddenly deprived, maybe it takes time for land to remember it is meant to be wild.
Theon to me represented greed and progress. How little towns can't hold out forever against "progress" and those looking to make a buck at all costs, and the people who suffer in the name of Progress. Progress is always lurking, waiting to leap when it detects vulnerability, and the old way of life is killed off and lies in its wake.

Lil and Jason join forces to try and revive the town by reviving the town's Pecan Festival. They work closely on it and for the first time in a long time Lil finds herself excited about something and even neglects the orchard a little while focusing on something outside of the orchard for a change. 

While Lil is busy with Jason, Sasha is busy with odd jobs around town and running the town ferry boat, which is the only way in and out of town since the road washed long has the road been washed out now? No one can seem to remember. And then Sasha learns that her childhood best friend Autumn has returned to town. Old friendships are rekindled, old loves still smolder, and the sisters find themselves settling into their tethers with a newfound happiness.

For the first half-dozen chapters, it felt as though each sister was written by a different author. I liked the authoring of Lil better. The prose flowed effortlessly. For Sasha, the writing was somewhat stilted and more ungainly. I often found myself rereading Sasha's chapters to grasp what was being said. This became less of an issue as time went on. Perhaps the authors improved and became less stilted, or perhaps I just got used to it. (I say "authors" because I looked up the "author" to discover that Quinn Connor is actually a pen name for two authors: Robyn Barrow and Alex Cronin. When I read this, the different writing styles suddenly made sense. But like I said, for whatever reason, I didn't really notice it as the book went on.)

I enjoyed the authors use of alternating perspectives of Lil and Sasha and seeing things through the eyes of each twin. The writing is very atmospheric. The orchards are alive, the environment another lifeform-- another character in the story.

Five words: unusual, peculiar, confusing, mystifying, moody 

How it made me feel:  wistful

Buy Now:
Check out the authors website for purchase options

My final word: The first two paragraphs grated on me-- they felt contrived. But the authors won me over with their lyrical prose as I continued on. 

Clearwater is a place frozen in time where nothing changes. Homesteads, people, places all the same even after decades. I love the imagery evoked throughout this story and the writing style. Lyrical and moody, it uses atmosphere very effectively. 

But in the end, the crazy, fantastical story got the best of me. I just didn't enjoy the last third, nor did I really care about it or the characters at that point. It was too dark, dreary, and contrived, and I had a hard time following the different threads and making sense of it. Very much a goth feel to it, and I guess that I'm just not really a goth girl.

Some disturbing imagery with children, mild violence, mild sexual situations

Cover: 4 stars
Writing Style: 4 stars
Characters: 4 stars
Storyline/Plot: 3 stars
Interest/Uniqueness: 3.5 stars


The Cerebral Girl is a middle-aged blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through Book Browse and the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.  

Saturday, June 29, 2024

WHADDYA MEME? (6/29/24 edition)


Monday, June 24, 2024

Monday Book Love (6/24/24 edition)

Monday Book Love is a catch-all for all of those events where you share your latest acquisitions, events like:

What are You Reading?

Stacking the Shelves and Sunday Post both with Reading Reality

Mailbox Monday (now defunct)

Books that I got last week:

Four Squares by Bobby Finger

From the beloved author of The Old Place comes a tender, funny, and fresh novel spanning the 1990s and present day, about a young writer and the community he builds in New York City, and his lonely life 30 years later when an unexpected injury lands him at the local queer senior center.

Artie Anderson wouldn’t call himself lonely, not exactly. He has a beautiful apartment in the West Village, a steady career as a ghostwriter, and he has Halle and Vanessa, who—as the daughter and ex-wife of his former partner—are the closest thing he can call family. But when the women announce a move across the country, on Artie’s 60th birthday no less, Artie realizes that his seemingly full life isn’t quite as full as he imagined. To make matters worse, a surprising injury strips Artie of the independent lifestyle he’s used to and pushes him into the hands of GALS, the local LGBTQ senior center down the street.

Since the death of his ex-boyfriend, Abe decades ago, Artie’s intentionally avoided big crowds and close friends. So, he’s woefully unprepared for the other patrons of GALS, a group of larger-than-life seniors who insist on celebrating each and every day. They refuse to dwell in the past, but Artie, who has never quite recovered from Abe’s death and the loss of his dearest friends, can’t shake the memories of his youth, and of the chances he did, and didn’t, take.

Stretching across the 1990s and the present day, Four Squares is an intimate and profound look at what it means to create community and the lasting impressions even the most fleeting of relationships can leave. With Bobby Finger’s signature warmth, humor, and wit, it is touching reminder that it’s never too late for a second chance at truly living.

Between Friends & Lovers by Shirlene Obuobi

Talia Hibbert meets Carley Fortune in this swoon-worthy story of love and friendship in the age of social media—where what you see might not be all you get.

To her countless Instagram followers Josephine Boateng is the dazzling Dr. Jojo—and her opinions on health, growth, and self-love matter. Her message: be smart (she has a medical degree after all), be significant, and do not put up with foolish men.

But behind the camera, Jo’s story is more complicated—she finds her influencer career underwhelming; her potential career in medicine overwhelming, and she’s hung up on her best friend, nepo-baby and romcom heartthrob Ezra Adelman. When Ezra shows up to his thirtieth birthday party with her childhood bully on his arm, however, Josephine realizes that it’s time to take her own advice and prioritize herself for once.

No one is more shocked than Malcolm Waters when his debut novel turns him into a critic’s darling. When he’s invited to a swanky penthouse party to discuss turning his book into a film, he knows rubbing elbows with the elites of entertainment will be great for his career. The only problem: he’s not good with people, and even worse at networking.

Just when he’s about to throw in the towel, he’s rescued by none other than Dr. Jojo. He’s been following her on social media for years, and she’s even more impressive in real life. And to his bewilderment, the feeling is mutual.

But in a world where the lines between private and public are as blurred as those between friendship and love, can they risk it all for something real?

What I'm currently reading:

How did your week go? What are you looking forward to reading?