Tag: 4 stars

Short Story Sunday: Graceful Burdens by Roxane Gay

Graceful Burdens
Series: Out of Line
Author: Roxane Gay

Narrator: Samira Wiley
Published: September 1, 2020

Reviewed By: Jessica
Date Read: June 8, 2022
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars     

Book Description:

From New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay comes an unforgettable tale of nightmarish bureaucracy in which genetic profiling has redefined the “unfit mother.”

A trip to the library prompts one woman to question her fate in this galvanizing short story. For a woman like Hadley, deemed not acceptable to procreate, there’s only one recourse. Unlicensed for motherhood, she can alleviate her grief and frustration at a “baby library,” where a curiously endless supply of infants is available for a two-week loan. But the borrowed life that serves as a temporary balm leads to a journey of self-discovery that will forever change the direction of Hadley’s future.

Roxane Gay’s Graceful Burdens is part of Out of Line, an incisive collection of funny, enraging, and hopeful stories of women’s empowerment and escape. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single thought-provoking sitting. 

Jessica’s Review:

This story takes place in a dystopian world where women are evaluated to determine whether or not they will be permitted to have children. They undergo testing at age 16 to see if they will be allowed to procreate. We see both sides of this world through Hadley who is unlicensed to have children and Seraphina who is licensed. 

There are libraries in this world where only women can ‘borrow’ a child for up to two weeks.  These children are no longer ‘borrowable’ once they hit three years old. Hadley checks out a baby girl as only girls can be ‘borrowed’. We also see Seraphina who has children but doesn’t really want them.  It still seems like the ‘grass is greener on the other side’ even in this dystopian world.

I can’t say much more than this because it would give away what happens in the short story. There is much more that could be done with this story: It is another one I would like to see expanded because of the direction it goes in. It is an intriguing story that also makes you think. 

Purchase Links
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Book Review: The Ice Queen by Nele Neuhaus

The Ice Queen
Bodenstein & Kirchhoff #3
Author: Nele Neuhaus

Published: January 13, 2015
352 Pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

The body of 92-year-old Jossi Goldberg, Holocaust survivor and American citizen, is found shot to death execution style in his house near Frankfurt. A five-digit number is scrawled in blood at the murder scene. The autopsy reveals an old and unsuccessfully covered tattoo on the corpse’s arm—a blood type marker once used by Hitler’s SS. Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver Bodenstein are faced with a riddle. Was the old man not Jewish after all? Who was he, really? Two more, similar murders happen—one of a wheelchair-bound old lady in a nursing home, and one of a man with a cellar filled with Nazi paraphernalia—and slowly the connections between the victims becomes evident: All of them were lifelong friends with Vera von Kaltensee, baroness, well-respected philanthropist, and head of an old, rich family that she rules with an iron fist. Pia and Oliver follow the trail, which leads them all the way back to the end of World War II and the area of Poland that then belonged to East Prussia. No one is who they claim to be, and things only begin to make sense when the two investigators realize what the bloody number stands for, and uncover an old diary and an eyewitness who is finally willing to come forward.

Nele Neuhaus’s The Ice Queen is a character- and plot-driven mystery about revenge, power, and long-forgotten and covered up secrets from a time in German history that still affects the present.

Kim’s Review:

Dang, these European mysteries are complicated!! That’s the main reason I gave it 4 stars; there are so many names!! It felt like the story got all muddled in the beginning and took so many pages just to unmuddle it again! Thankfully, once I got about a third of the way through, things started to unravel and make sense. If you can keep the characters straight, this is actually a pretty good mystery. It kept me guessing almost until the end. I was very impressed with the resolution! I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t say anything more! It is the 3rd book in a series, which I didn’t know when I started reading it, but it was an issue. An occasional comment that didn’t make sense, but nothing to do with the plot. The main characters were actually pretty likable and had interesting arcs. They weren’t perfect by any means but the fact that I came out still liking them says a lot! So overall, a pretty good book that I would recommend!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK


Audiobook Review: The Island by Adrian McKinty

The Island
Author: Adrian McKinty

Narrator: Mela Lee
Published: May 17, 2022

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: June 3-8, 2022
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

It was just supposed to be a family vacation.
A terrible accident changed everything.
You don’t know what you’re capable of until they come for your family.

After moving from a small country town to Seattle, Heather Baxter marries Tom, a widowed doctor with a young son and teenage daughter. A working vacation overseas seems like the perfect way to bring the new family together, but once they’re deep in the Australian outback, the jet-lagged and exhausted kids are so over their new mom.

When they discover remote Dutch Island, off-limits to outside visitors, the family talks their way onto the ferry, taking a chance on an adventure far from the reach of iPhones and Instagram.

But as soon as they set foot on the island, which is run by a tightly knit clan of locals, everything feels wrong. Then a shocking accident propels the Baxters from an unsettling situation into an absolute nightmare.

When Heather and the kids are separated from Tom, they are forced to escape alone, seconds ahead of their pursuers.

Now it’s up to Heather to save herself and the kids, even though they don’t trust her, the harsh bushland is filled with danger, and the locals want her dead.

Heather has been underestimated her entire life, but she knows that only she can bring her family home again and become the mother the children desperately need, even if it means doing the unthinkable to keep them all alive.

Jessica’s Review:

I absolutely loved The Chain last year when I read it, in fact it made my Top 10 for 2021! Therefore, I was anticipating The Island (and the two covers match with the red, white, and black covers!!). As I started listening to the audiobook, it reminded me of the movie Wrong Turn: 2021: Except for being a group of friends going off the Appalachian Trail and subjected to the ‘natives’ of the area we have a newly formed family unit on a working vacation In Australia.  They go to a private island that is not for tourists and are subjected to the local island family. The Baxter family is a newly married couple who have known each other for nearly a year and his two kids from his previous marriage where his wife has died. The kids don’t like their ‘new step-mom’ either. 

An accident happens and the Baxter’s are then at the lack of mercy of the island family (the O’Neills) and it becomes a struggle to survive.  Heather is in her mid-20s and has never even babysat suddenly finds herself having to worry about two kids that barely know her and don’t like her.  The action gets going and Heather transforms into a badass heroine she needs to become. She knows more than she seems to!

The Island is a novel that shows the fight for survival and the lesson of: Don’t go where you are not supposed to or you might live/die to regret it!  Though a minor character, Ma was downright frightening: Don’t mess with the matriarch of the O’Neill clan!

The Island is fast moving with lots of action and there are multiple deaths throughout. You must suspend your belief in reality with this one and just go for the ride otherwise you might not enjoy it.  As the novel progresses you see the growth between Heather and the kids as they fight to survive.  Not as intense as The Chain, but The Island keeps you wondering what will happen next and will Heather and the kids survive.  There are twists along the way and this was an enjoyable read.  It is apparently going to be a Hulu series and I look forward to watching it whenever it is released. 

I liked the narrator, Mela Lee who did a good job with the Australian accents as she is an American actor.  In addition to the narration there were sound effects throughout the novel, which included gun fire.  I mainly listen to audiobooks during my work commute so I could have done without this addition!  I know it was to enhance the story, but the sound effects can be distracting.  A disclaimer would have been nice to have at the beginning of the audiobook.

I look forward to see what McKinty writes next. 

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK