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Monday, August 14, 2023

My Name Is Iris by Brando Skyhorse

My Name Is Iris  by Brando Skyhorse
Published by Avid Reader Press ISBN 9781982177850
Hardcover, $28, 257 pages

One of  the best things fiction can do is create empathy on the reader. Brando Skyhorse's new novel, My Name Is Iris does that masterfully.

Iris Prince is a second-generation Mexican-American. She has a good job, a young daughter she loves, and she is getting a drama-free divorce from her husband. Iris and nine-year-old Mel are moving into a new home in a nice neighborhood.

Iris's mother has always taught her to follow the rules to living in  America- speak English in front of strangers, walk far from gringos on a sidewalk until they acknowledge you, call them "sir or ma'am", and never ever cry in front of anyone. Iris always tries to follow the rules.

But suddenly the rules were changing. A company created "the Band", something a person wears on their wrist that had their identity on it. You would use this band to get a drivers license, pay your utility bills, basically anything you need to do, you need the Band to be able to do it.

In order to get a Band, you have to show proof of not only your citizenship, but also of your parents' United States citizenship.  This is something Iris in unable to do, and her life was shrinking because of it.  Eventually, the government required employers to prove their employees each had a Band. 

While the Band was becoming a part of American life, Iris notices a wall in front of her house. This wall appears to be growing, and no one else seems to be concerned or even acknowledges that it is there. Her neighbors (who are all white and pepper Iris with microagressions in each encounter) and even her ex-husband make no mention of this huge wall growing in front of Iris' home.

Iris doesn't understand what is happening. She has always followed the rules, she believes that if she works hard and raises her daughter to work hard, she will be justly rewarded with a good life. But now those rules mean nothing.

Brando Skyhorse has created a character in Iris Prince who is unforgettable. The reader has empathy for a woman who is doing everything right only to be told that it doesn't matter, it only matters where your parents came from. My Name Is Iris is such a timely and relevant novel, a great companion to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. I found myself shaking my head in disbelief and yet also thinking that this is something that frighteningly could be a reality. I give My Name Is Iris my highest recommendation, it is truly a superb piece of fiction.

Thank you to TLC Tours for putting me on Brando Skyhorse's tour. The rest of his stops are here:

TLC tour schedule:

Monday, July 31st@marensreads

Tuesday, August 1st@tialala001 on TikTok

Tuesday, August 1st@librarywhore

Wednesday, August 2nd@wendysbookclub – review

Thursday, August 3rd: IG: @anovelkingdom and TT: @anovelkingdom

Thursday, August 3rd: @nissa_the.bookworm

Thursday, August 3rd: @mikaylasbooknook_  on TikTok

Friday, August 4th:  @exclusivepalmbeachliving on TikTok – review

Friday, August 4th:  @page_appropriate 

Saturday, August 5th:  @storytimewithshelbs on TikTok 

Sunday, August 6th@bethanys_books on TikTok 

Monday, August 7th@andrea.c.lowry.reads 

Tuesday, August 8th@nurse_bookie

Tuesday, August 8th@spaceonthebookcase

Wednesday, August 9th@thatreadingmom on TikTok

Thursday, August 10th@aneedleinmybookstack 

Thursday, August 10th@ambershelf – review

Friday, August 11th@suzylew_bookreview

Friday, August 11th@ems_rxlibrary on TikTok

Friday, August 11th@donasbooks – review

Saturday, August 12th@gallaghergirlreads

Sunday, August 13th@jadeelawson on TikTok

Sunday, August 13th@the.caffeinated.reader  

Monday, August 14th@kelly_hunsaker_reads 

Monday, August 14thBookchickdi – review

Tuesday, August 15th@bookoholiccafe 

Wednesday, August 16th:  @laura_cover_stories 

Wednesday, August 16th@kayewiththebooks – review

Thursday, August 17th@thepoetscorner_ on TikTok

Thursday, August 17th@subakka.bookstuff and Subakka.bookstuff

Friday, August 18th@finding_joyathome

Friday, August 18th@allthebooksalltheways

Saturday, August 19th@pineshorelittlefreelibrary – review

Sunday, August 20th@ohmynameiskaylee on TikTok 

Monday, August 21st@book_boss-12

Tuesday, August 22nd@booksandcoffeemx

Tuesday, August 22nd:  @wovenfromwords – review

Wednesday, August 23rd@books.inreallife on TikTok

Wednesday, August 23rd@secretreadinglife

Thursday, August 24th@totahlybooked

Friday, August 25th@bookswithniki on TikTok

Saturday, August 26th@backporchpages

Saturday, August 26th@bookgirlbrown_reviews

Sunday, August 27th@books_n_yogapants

Sunday, August 27th@oilycaffeinatedmama  

Monday, August 28th@angiearoundwonderland

Monday, August 28th@ataleoftwolitties – review

Tuesday, August 29th@blackbiracialandbookish – review

Wednesday, August 30th@rickys_radical_reads

Wednesday, August 30thEliot’s Eats – review

Thursday, August 31st@bookdragon217 – review

Friday, September 1st@djreadsbooks

Sunday, August 13, 2023

The Secret Recipe of Ella Dove by Karen Hawkins

The Secret Recipe of Ella Dove by Karen Hawkins
Published by Gallery Books ISBN 9781668018309
Hardcover, $28.99, 368 pages

Coming from a small city, I enjoy a good book in a small town setting, and if you throw in a food theme along with recipes at the end, I am definitely in. Karen Hawkins' enjoyable The Secret Recipe of Ella Dove has all that and more.

Ella Dove has become famous on social media for her wonderful baked goods. She sold her company and after a stint in Paris and New York, she returns to her hometown of Dove Pond (named after her ancestors) for what she hopes is a brief visit with her sisters. She can't stay there, she will become bored.

She also hopes to confront a longtime family friend to get to the bottom of a controversy. Ella was accused of stealing The Book of Cakes, a family heirloom belonging to the Stewart family that contained recipes going back to 1792. Worse, she was accused of using those recipes to create her popular recipes.

The Stewart family have owned a popular local restaurant for many years, now run by Jules and her son Mark. Her other son Gray has had an unrequited love for Ella who broke his heart twice many years ago. Jules not only has to deal with seeing the woman she believes stole her family's heirloom book, she now has to see Ella and Gray growing closer again, knowing it will end badly.

Jules' mother Angela has also returned to Dove Pond following the death of her second husband. Angela is determined to repair her relationship with Jules, which fractured after she divorced Jules' father, even if she has to resort to some deceit to do so.

The characters in this novel are wonderful. Angela is delightful, using everything in her power to get what she wants. She convinces her grandson Gray to help her hide the truth from Jules, and their playful grandmother-grandson banter and relationship is adorable. Angela manages to get Ella to do her bidding as well.

Jules is a helicopter mom, and I think many of us know someone like her. She is fiercely loyal to her family. I found it an interesting character development that Gray has an anxiety disorder, and it's dealt with compassion. 

I also found the social media angle intriguing, as it has become ubiqitous in today's world. We get a peek behind the curtain there. There is a bit of a magical element here too, as Ella's baked goods cause people to remember specific good times in their lives when they eat them. I'll have to make some of the recipes in the book to see what happens.

After reading the third book in the series, I am going to read the first two books- The Book Charmer about Ella's sister Sarah, a librarian who can give the perfect book to someone in need (isn't that every librarian's special power?), and A Cup of Silver Linings, about Ava Dove's tea shop and her magic tea leaves. I can't wait to return to Dove Pond. 

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing me with a book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, August 7, 2023

In A Quiet Town by Amber Garza

In A Quiet Town by Amber Garza
Published by MIRA ISBN 9780778334255
Trade paperback, $18.99, 336 pages

In Amber Garza's new suspense novel In A Quiet Town, Tatum is a pastor's wife who has begun to question her direction in life.

Her pastor husband is consumed with his job and her every move in their small Californian town is monitored closely the members of his congregation. Their adult daughter Adrienne is estranged from them, something that troubles Tatum. Adrienne struggled under the overly strict rules of her father and moved out.

Tatum has begun to secretly visit Adrienne's place of work, a bar just outside town. She goes every Wednesday when Adrienne is working, and it appears that her efforts are being rewarded. At first wary of her mother, lately Adrienne has been friendlier to her mother, and even agrred to an appointment for a mother-daughter mani-pedi day.

When Adrienne fails to show up for work and misses her appointment with her mother, Tatum becomes worried. She goes to Adrienne's empty apartment, and her texts are unanswered. Convinced that something bad happened to Adrienne, she goes to the police who, after a cursory look around, decide that Adrienne probably just went away with a boyfriend.

Tatum's concerns grow when she notices a man following her. She confronts the man who says that he is  Adrienne's fiance Seth, and he too is worried that something happened to Adrienne. They were to go away for a weekend trip and she didn't show up. They team up to find her.

What happened to Adrienne? And why doesn't anyone know about Seth, Adrienne's coworkers or her best friend Mara? 

In A Quiet Town is a twisty suspense story, told from the viewpoints of Tatum, Adrienne, and her fiance. There is a a big twist at the end, and while I found parts of the ending a little too unbelievable, you can't deny that a mother will find the strength do anything for her child.

Tatum suffers from a medical issue that her husband seems to have no patience or understanding for, and I think many people will be able to relate to that. Readers of John Searles' recent pyschological suspense novel, Her Last Affair, and fans of Dateline and 20/20 will want to put In a Quiet Town on their list to read.

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on their 2023 Summer Blog Tours.

My review of Amber Garza's Where I Left Her is here.
My review of Amber Garza's When I Was You is here.