Book Tour: CARRY THE DOG

Thanks so much to Algonquin Books for inviting me on the book tour for Carry the Dog by Stephanie Gangi and for the advanced reading copy which publishes tomorrow, Tuesday, November 2, 2021.

When Bea Seger and her older twin brothers were growing up, their chores were unlike that of their peers—they were expected to pose for their mother, photographer Miriam Marx. Taken over a period of years, the series of photographs became known as the Marx Nudes, and while they made Miriam famous, they also created strife in the family not to mention drew the attention of authorities. By the end of the 1960s, the family had shattered, two dead and three estranged.

Now, on the cusp of sixty, with two failed marriages—to the same man—and no career to speak of, Bea reluctantly agrees to meetings with a Hollywood producer and a MOMA curator to discuss projects with Miriam at the center. Both, however, require her to visit the Marx “archive,” a storage unit outside the city.

Previously, many of Bea’s memories had been as locked up as the prints, negatives, and memorabilia at StoreSpace. As she faces the truth about her past trauma with her family and her ex-husband, aging rocker Gary Going (now Gone), Bea begins to make peace with her aging body and her future.

While Carry the Dog’s plot relates to the fate of the archives and what actually happened when the photos were created, the more compelling aspect of the novel is Bea—and how being forced to be her mother’s model shaped her—and her character arc. At times, she was absolutely infuriating and her own worst enemy. At the same time, it was impossible, for me at least, not to have deep affection for her despite her flaws and to root for her as she struggled. I especially found the reflections on aging and memory resonant. The ending, too, was perfectly satisfying, even triumphant, despite the difficult topics.

TW: suicide, miscarriage, child abuse

R E V I E W :: THE LAST CHANCE LIBRARY by Freya Sampson

June Jones had planned to leave her home town for university, but a family emergency kept her in Chalcot, the small English village, and she developed a solitary existence working at the library and spending time immersed in books. As her world shrank, so did her self-confidence. Yet, she adhered to her routine, and she loved her job, even though her boss, Marjorie, was insufferable.

Her ordered existence, however, is disrupted when the council announced budget constraints would lead to closing some of the libraries in the district. At first, June avoids explicitly aligning with “FOCL” (Friends of Chalcot Library), but watching the devoted patrons fighting for the library and understanding all the ways the library is essential to them inspires her to take a stand for what she believes. Her new friendships make her realize her loneliness, and she even rekindles communication with Alex Cheng, a classmate from London in town helping at his family’s restaurant. Despite June’s efforts and the rising community support, powerful forces are at work behind the scenes against the library.

I loved the library setting and all the library denizens. They were interesting secondary characters who showed that libraries are more than repositories of books. Once their backstories were revealed, they also challenged stereotypes. I also liked the age diversity—a precocious young boy to an elderly man and everything in between.

June at times frustrated me, she was so conflict-averse. On the one hand, I share that trait so empathize. On the other, June really let Marjorie take advantage of her and demand inappropriate personal tasks.

While there is a romance between June and Alex, it’s not the focus of the book, and I even wish that there had been more scenes with him. The book reminded me more of A Man Called Ove or All the Lonely People told from a thirty-year-old’s perspective.

Review: THE OTHER ME

The Other Me by Sarah Zachrich Jeng, Publication Date: August 10, 2021


An aspiring artist an alumni of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Kelly never looked back when she left her Michigan hometown. But on her birthday, while attending her best friend’s art opening, she opens the door to the bathroom and walks into her own twenty-ninth birthday party in Michigan with her family and a husband, Eric, who had been a high school acquaintance. She has twelve years of new memories—but has echoes of her Chicago life.

What’s more, she experiences glitches: her tattoos fade in and out, and when she asks Eric about conversations they’ve had, he denies them. She doesn’t doubt he loves her, but he also has a controlling impulse and a covert relationship with a secretive and security-conscious start-up.

Kelly tries to find her real life, but there’s no one she can really trust, not even her own memories.

For me, The Other Me started slowly, and I thought there was too much time and repetition regarding the authenticity of Kelly’s relationship with Eric while I would have been happier for Kelly and Linnea to interact more. Once the situation clarified, Kelly determined a course of action, and more characters entered the narrative, I thought the action was more exciting and that interesting ethical issues were introduced. Trying to keep it vague – best to go into it without too many preconceived ideas!

Thanks to @NetGalley and @Berkleypub for providing a digital reading copy in exchange for an honest review and to @berittalksbooks for organizing the #berkleywritesstrongwomen #berkleybuddyreads!

Book Review: The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass

It’s not enough that Jake Livingston is one of the only Black students at his exclusive private school, or that he’s gay, or that he likes drawing more than sports. He also can see ghosts. For much of his life, they’ve existed in the background—he sees them in death loops, but they don’t cross over into the world of the living to interact with him.

That changes when Matteo Money, survivor of a high school shooting and Jake’s neighbor, is murdered In his bathroom. Days later, he finds the initials S.A.D. written in blood, Sawyer Doon, the shooter at Matteo’s school who killed five before shooting himself.

Powered by anger and desiring vengeance, Sawyer identified Jake, suffering from low self-esteem, as the ideal host through which conduct his revenge tour. Realizing he’s at risk, Jake decides he needs to learn as much as possible about Sawyer to be able to effectively resist him.

With his friends Fiona and Allister, he steals Sawyer’s journal which traces his path from troubled teen to murdered. Ultimately, Jake will need help from both the living and dead if he hopes to overcome his nemesis.

THE TAKING OF JAKE LIVINGSTON is incredibly creative and thought-provoking. In a small volume, it addresses so many important issues: bullying, racism, negative LBGTQ+ attitudes, and other traumas. As Jake was exposed to Sawyer’s rage, he might have found that some of it mirrored his own but that he never expressed.

Personally, I had a hard time visualizing many of the scenes where Jake interfaced with ghosts; the descriptions confounded me. Additionally, I wanted a little more information about how the “rules” of the spirit world worked: it felt like there were many inconsistencies. My biggest challenge is that Jake did the one thing he was cautioned not to do, risking everything, and his behavior flummoxed me.

Thanks to Penguin Teen and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy of the book and Nina for the RAOK of the finished version!

A Classic Japanese Mystery Now Available in English

Originally published in Japan in 1946, The Honjin Murders was first translated into English last year and is now available in the United States.

Kenzo Ichiyanagi and Katsuko Kubo, despite opposition from Kenzo’s family, become engaged, and though the wedding is a small affair, the small town is excited by the nuptials. By the time the couple serves the members of the community and completes the saki ceremony, it is after 2:00 a.m.

Within three hours, the guests and residents of the Ichiyanagi home hear koto music and screams from the annex, where the couple had retired. The annex is locked, the shutters closed, and no footprints lead away from the building. When the family is finally able to enter, they find two dead bodies awash in blood.

The narrator, a mystery writer, delights in presenting the locked room mystery. The first few chapters are explosion around the characters and property, important details, but not as interesting as the introduction of quirky Kosuke Kindaichi, a young private detective educated in United States with the logical mind of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.

Seishi Yokomizo, a prolific writer who loved reading mystery novels, completed seventy-seven Kosuke Kindaichi works along with other books. The Honjin Murders won the first Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 1948.

I love reading mystery novels from other countries, and while The Honjin Murders has similarities in structure to Agatha Christie’s books, I enjoyed it not only because of the dastardly plan devised by the killer but also because of the plethora of Japanese cultural and social norms depicted.

I recommend The Honjin Murders for fans of classic mystery novels as well as those who are interested in reading non-Western mysteries.

Thank you to NetGalley and Pushkin Press for providing an electronic reading copy in exchange for an honest review.