Short Stories Challenge – Busted by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Published November 26, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

From Karin Slaughter comes a fast and furious tale in which no one is quite who they seem. This electrifying eBook novella featuring Will Trent is a prequel to Slaughter’s upcoming novel,Unseen.

Detective Will Trent is standing in a Georgia convenience store, waiting on an obstinate Icee frozen drink machine. To the surveillance cameras and bored staff of the Lil’ Dixie Gas-n-Go, however, Will appears to be someone very different—the menacing ex-con Bill Black. Going undercover as Bill, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent is about to infiltrate the most corrupt town in the most corrupt county in the new American South. But first: his Icee.

Everything changes in one horrific instant, as all hell breaks loose at the Lil’ Dixie. A cop is shot. A bag of cash goes flying across the floor. A young woman disappears while a killer takes off in a battered pick-up truck. Within seconds, Will is in pursuit.

What did I think?:

Karin Slaughter is one of my must-read authors and I’ve enjoyed the recent eBook shorts she’s written. Busted, like Snatched involves one of my favourite characters from the author’s Will Trent series i.e. Will Trent! This novella is also a sort of prequel to Karin’s next full novel in the series, Unseen which was a pleasant surprise for me. So for anyone who hasn’t read any of the series, Will Trent is a detective with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a job which he loves but his usual role has been put on the back burner as he is required to go undercover as Bill Black, hardened criminal with a few colourful arrests and convictions on his record. When the story opens he is at a convenience store, waiting for what seems like an age just to get some frozen Coke.

Life never goes that smoothly for Will Trent however, and before he knows it he is caught up in an armed robbery on the store. As the perp demands money while brandishing his gun, Will’s cop instincts kick into overdrive and while he at first takes the sensible option and dials 911, he also ends up getting fully involved in the incident while trying to restrain the perp. Of course, there’s always one in the wings waiting in a getaway car and the situation turns quite messy as a policeman who had also been in the store as a customer is shot. Will himself ends up in a high speed chase for the second perp on his motorbike, earning him quite a few injuries in the process. The bad guy ends up a lot worse off though you may be pleased to hear as Will chooses quite a novel way to bring him down.

Will’s injuries are nothing compared to the roasting he gets from his boss, the fiesty Amanda Byrne as she arrives on the crime scene with Will’s partner, Faith. After all, he is meant to be undercover and look at the attention he’s brought to himself. Naughty Will. As they all try to make sense of the crime not everything is as it seems and there are a lot of things that just don’t add up. For starters, where has the bag of cash gone? What happened to the young woman behind the counter? And why do the video camera images show a probable third perp?

Karin Slaughter has a gift for creating fantastic characters and very readable, thrilling fiction. Busted was another easy to read but adrenaline coated novella shrouded with enough mystery, action and the author’s wonderful sense of humour to please her current fans and perhaps entice a few more for the Slaughter army? I enjoyed as always trying to figure out what was going on (I never get it right!) and submerging myself in Will Trent’s world once again. Out of the novellas I have read so far it isn’t my favourite – that award goes to the fabulous The Blessing of Brokenness but it’s still a great read and can also be enjoyed as a stand alone if you’ve never read any Slaughter before.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Nocturne by Kazuo Ishiguro from the collection Nocturnes: Five Stories Of Music And Nightfall

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

Published November 25, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

What did I think?:

I don’t even know where to start with this review, A Monster Calls is one of those books that will take your breath away. Not only is the premise incredibly sad but it was an idea conceived by the author Siobhan Dowd who tragically passed away from cancer before she was able to write the story. Patrick Ness took the project on and combined with the beautiful illustrations by Jim Kay, it stands out as one of those rare and powerful books that touch something in your heart and remain with you forever. Our main character is a boy called Conor whose mother is beginning treatment for cancer, although the prognosis is unfortunately not good. While this is happening Conor is having terrible nightmares and problems at school including bullying. Then it seems that others at his school, including teachers aware of his mother’s illness don’t really know how to talk to him and wherever he goes he is conscious of their pitiful glances. If all this wasn’t more than enough for a young boy to deal with, his father has moved abroad building a different life for himself with his new wife and child and doesn’t seem to know how to interact or support Conor in his time of need. Furthermore his grandmother, who looks after him when his mum is having her treatment is a bit prickly and does not conform to the stereotype of a loving, spoiling gran so they also have a difficult relationship:

“He didn’t like the way she talked to him, like he was an employee under evaluation. An evaluation he was going to fail.”

Then the monster comes. Fashioned from an old yew tree in the front garden, it appears just after midnight (obviously) and attempts to terrify Conor. However it is rather taken aback when Conor refuses to be terrified, after all Conor has in his words “seen a lot worse,” and his fears run a lot deeper than an old creaking yew tree. Conor dismisses the visit as just a nightmare, but then nightmares don’t leave bits of themselves behind like leaves and wood, do they? When the monster returns, he tells Conor that he will visit him again and each time tell him a story, three in total and then he expects Conor to tell him a fourth – THE TRUTH.

monster

I don’t want to say too much more about the plot of this book as one of the many beautiful things about it is discovering the secrets yourself. I just have to re-iterate how blown away I was by it. Patrick Ness has already established himself as one of my new favourite authors with The Knife Of Never Letting Go, but with A Monster Calls he cemented it for good. I really appreciated the dark humour that ran throughout the story that made the heart-breaking moments so bitter sweet and I finished the story feeling emotionally exhausted but exhilarated at the same time as I knew I had just finished something incredibly special, the likes of which are rarely seen in a generation. I must also urge anybody who hasn’t read it to plump for the illustrated version – Jim Kay’s drawings also add a little something extra to the story and are truly gorgeous. I think this book would also be a must-read for anybody who has lost someone they loved, or a child in the same position as Conor that risks losing a parent.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Banned Books #5 – Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden with Chrissi Reads and Luna’s Little Library

Published November 24, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

“If you don’t put that ring on this minute, I’m going to take it back,” Annie whispered in my ear. She leaned back, looking at me, her hands still on my shoulders, her eyes shining softly at me and snow falling, melting, on her nose. “Buon Natale,” she whispered, “amore mio.”

“Merry Christmas, my love,” I answered.

From the moment Liza Winthrop meets Annie Kenyon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she knows there is something special between them. But Liza never knew falling in love could be so wonderful… or so confusing.

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Welcome to a new feature on my blog! It’s Banned Books that I’m collaborating with Chrissi Reads and Luna’s Little Library on.

Every month for the rest of 2014 ChrissiReads, Luna’s Little Library and myself will be reading one Banned/Challenged Book a month. We’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book.

If you’d like to join in our discussion (and please feel free!) below is a list of what we’ll be reading:

December

Lush by Natasha Friend

Chosen by: Beth

But back to this month….

Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden

First published: 1982
In the 100 most frequently challenged books: 1990–1999 (source)
Chosen by: Luna’s Little Library
Reason: Homosexuality
 

Do you understand or agree with any of the reason for the book being challenged when it was originally published?
BETH: Not at all. Perhaps in the early eighties homosexuality wasn’t quite as accepted as it is nowadays (although there are still some nasty bigots out there) but I think this is a great book to show that there’s nothing seedy or wrong about two girls being in love. There are no graphic scenes or bad language, nothing really to warrant banning although I’m not sure how teachers would see it if they had to teach it to a class of sniggering students.
CHRISSI: No. There’s nothing particularly graphic in this book, it really is just a book about two people in love. It just so happens  that they are the same sex. That said, I can somewhat understand why teachers would shy away from it. Not because it’s an explicit story, but because there could be so many homophobic behaviours displayed during the reading of it. It would take a strong and good teacher to challenge them. I do hope there are some out there because I think homophobia should be addressed so that we can become more tolerant.
LUNA: No. For the purpose of our Banned Books Discussion I read Annie on My Mind again, this time going over it with a fine tooth-comb to see if there was anything that could be classed and explicit or graphic. There isn’t.  Two people met and fall in love. They’re both female. That is the reason this book was banned, challenged and burned! Yes you read that right, burned – 1993 in Kansas City. (source)
I don’t get it. I will never get it and for that I am really grateful because it’s a load of nonsense. There I’ve said it. You love someone because of who they are not because of their gender or race. Teaching understanding and tolerance would get us so much further.
Because it’s one of the reasons that Liza is judged and also because I think it’s still one of the reasons Annie on My Mind and LGBT books are challenged (recently The Miseducation of Cameron Post was removed from a reading list) I’m going to look a bit closer at the below scene/quote:
“…It’s – it’s so disgusting.”
[Cont. further down the same page.]
“…Read your Bible, Liza. Ms Baxter showed me it’s even mentioned there. Read Leviticus, read Romans 1:26.”
I don’t know what I said then. Maybe I didn’t say anything. I’m not sure I was able to think any more.
I do remember, though, that I went home and read Leviticus and Romans, and cried again.
Annie on My Mind, page 194

 
Ok then… Earlier this year I read a brilliant book called This Book is Gay by James Dawson. It has a very helpful chapter which deals religion. So let’s get to more quoting:

 “The Bible has been translated and interpreted many, many times. We can’t be one hundred per cent certain what the original even said… / Even the various modern version of the Bible are different, so how can one possibly take it all literally?
Contexts change. The bible repeatedly refers to going after taxmen – who at the time were crooked. You don’t hear about Christians chasing HMRC* with flaming torches, do you?
… Jesus said precisely NOTHING on the subject. As we know, Jesus taught nothing but love and tolerance.

*HMRC is like the IRS in US

Specifically on Leviticus:
Leviticus is mean as a list of instructions…. / anyone throwing that bit of Leviticus your way should also be prepared to:

·        Sell their daughter to slavery
·        Never make any physical contact with a woman on her period
·        Burn bulls
·        Never eat shellfish (also an abomination, so BEWARE THE PRAWN)
·        Never trim the hair around their head. This is forbidden.

Point made.
And:
“It’s not a negative. Don’t you know that it’s love you’re talking about? You’re talking about how I feel about another human being and how she feels about me…”
Annie on My Mind, page 222
 
How about now?
BETH: Well why not? The physical part of Liza and Annie’s relationship is handled very delicately – I think the most graphic part is where the word “breast” is mentioned (Oh no! Call the police!!) Apologies for my sarcasm, but I see no valid reason for this book to be banned.
CHRISSI: I hope there’s more tolerance now, but sadly I believe it probably still would be challenged in schools. 
LUNA: “Don’t let ignorance win,” said Ms Stevenson. “Let love.”
Annie on My Mind, page 232


What did you think of the book?
BETH: It was a sweet love story that showed that a relationship between two people of the same sex is NORMAL. I think it would be a great book for teenagers unsure of their sexuality or out and proud!
CHRISSI: I enjoyed it. I hadn’t read it before, so I’m glad I did! 
LUNA: I’ve lost count of how often I’ve read Annie on My Mind now but it’s been a lot. It’s still one of my favourite books.

Liza’s teachers, Ms Widmer and Ms Stevenson, are the adult parallel of what Liza and Annie wish to be and (while infuriating) their ending only makes the story more real.

I really really love this book because it is a wonderful, beautifully written story that makes you fall in love.


Would WE recommend it?
BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Yes! 
LUNA: Love this book so much! YES. (Sunshine Star)

Beth’s personal star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

This book definitely raised some good issues for discussion (I’m still trying to stop laughing over Luna’s BEWARE THE PRAWN comment!). Let us know what you think and join us again on the last Monday of December when we’ll be discussing my Banned Book choice, Lush by Natasha Friend.

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Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA – Brenda Maddox

Published November 21, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Our dark lady is leaving us next week; on the 7th of March, 1953 Maurice Wilkins of King’s College, London, wrote to Francis Crick at the Cavendish laboratories in Cambridge to say that as soon as his obstructive female colleague was gone from King’s, he, Crick, and James Watson, a young American working with Crick, could go full speed ahead with solving the structure of the DNA molecule that lies in every gene. Not long after, the pair announced to the world that they had discovered the secret of life. But could Crick and Watson have done it without the dark lady? In two years at King’s, Rosalind Franklin had made major contributions to the understanding of DNA. She established its existence in two forms and she worked out the position of the phosphorous atoms in its backbone. Most crucially, using X-ray techniques that may have contributed significantly to her later death from cancer at the tragically young age of 37, she had taken beautiful photographs of the patterns of DNA.

What did I think?:

Rosalind Franklin is unfortunately probably best known for not achieving the recognition she should have got in life for unravelling the secrets of DNA. Instead, two scientists called Francis Crick and James Watson boldly used parts of her work to find out the secrets for themselves and published their findings which led to them winning the Nobel Prize. Personally, I was aware of the dis-service that had been done to Franklin but did not realise until reading this book exactly how much her work had contributed to the unveiling of “the molecule of life.” The book tends not to focus too much on the early part of Rosalind’s life as it is when she becomes a scientist, the true nature of this independent, determined and highly intelligent woman is realised. However, a couple of things sprang to my attention from her early life. Firstly, a letter written by one of her relations describes the young Rosalind as:

“alarmingly clever – she spends all her time doing arithmetic for pleasure & invariably gets her sums right.”

Although the word “alarmingly” is probably meant as an endearment it resonates from a time when females were not expected to be clever as managing their household and pleasing their husbands was probably the best they could amount to. It is no wonder that Rosalind has become somewhat of a feminist icon. After all, being Jewish, female and a scientist in times which were not friendly to all three is a tremendous achievement. Being a bit radical also ran in her family as her Uncle Hugh, a pro-suffragist, attempted to attack Winston Churchill with a dog whip due to his opposition to women’s suffrage. Rosalind knew herself from the age of twelve that she wanted to become a scientist and certainly fit the criteria according to Einstein:

“a scientist makes science the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way the peace and security which he cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.”

Rosalind Franklin (picture from mysciencebox.org)

She first began to make a difference during the war where she was employed by the British Coal Utilisation Research Association studying the porous nature of coal and the density of helium. Her work there led to coals being classified, predicting their potential for fuel and for the production of essential devices i.e. gas masks. In 1946, she extended her CV and broadened her skills by studying X-ray diffraction with the French scientist Jacques Mering, a technique that would prove crucial and valuable in her later work with DNA. It was during her next post with Kings College that she finally made her mark, discovering that there were two forms of DNA and that they were helical in structure. Indeed, her X ray photographs of the molecule were pronounced by J.D. Bernal to be amongst the most beautiful X ray photographs of any substance ever taken.

Enter Watson and Crick, who were currently working on producing a model of the structure of DNA but were having a few technical problems with discovering exactly where each bit went. Papers and photographs belonging to Franklin were given to Crick on the sly causing them to pronounce that they had discovered “the secret of life.” Shockingly, they then went on to publish their paper in the journal Nature in the spring of 1953 with only a short footnote regarding the “general knowledge” of Franklin’s contribution. Franklin’s paper did follow but due to the order of publishing, it seemed only support for Watson and Crick’s amazing discovery, rather than revealing who exactly had done all the legwork. Unpublished drafts of her papers revealed that it was she alone who had discovered the overall form of the molecule with the location of the phosphate groups on the outside. Rosalind went on to carry out brilliant work on the tobacco mosaic and polio virus but tragically succumbed to ovarian cancer in 1958 at just 37 years of age.

I found this book to be an absolutely fascinating read even if I did get carried away a bit at times with the injustice done to Rosalind Franklin and the tragic end to her life. She wasn’t particularly careful when using radiation and tended to just “get on with it,” neglecting to wear appropriate protective coverings or adhere to our now stringent safety requirements when dealing with such a hazardous substance. Could this have contributed to the development of her cancer? She was also a very interesting person, perhaps a bit prickly at first and difficult to get to know but she was immensely passionate about many things besides her beloved science – for example, travelling and climbing and was a fiercely loyal friend. For me, it was wonderful to read an interesting account of a woman that made such a difference even if it was sadly not recognised in her own lifetime.

Would I recommend it?

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Short Stories Challenge – The Fly, and Its Effect upon Mr Bodley by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Published November 20, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Fly, and Its Effect upon Mr Bodley all about?:

Michel Faber revisits the world of his bestselling novel The Crimson Petal and the White, conjuring tantalising glimpses of its characters, their lives before we first met them and their intriguing futures. You’ll be desperate for more by the time you reluctantly re-emerge into the twenty-first century. The Fly, and Its Effect Upon Mr Bodley follows Mr Bodley as he has an epiphany on life after watching a fly in the most peculiar of places.

What did I think?:

I’ve had a bit of trouble deciding how exactly I’m going to write this review but I’m going to carry on typing and see where the momentum takes me! Our main character is Mr Bodley, a regular “user” of the prostitutes at the infamous Mrs Tremain’s brothel in Fitzrovia. One morning, Mrs Tremain opens her door to a quite different gentleman, “bleary-eyed,” and “desperate-looking,” which is considerably different from his usual demeanour. Furthermore, it is rather early on the whole for him to be contemplating a bit of a good time and he is without his partner in crime and best friend Mr Ashwell which in itself is rather disturbing as the two men are known to be inseparable. Upon further interrogation, it is clear that something terrible must have happened to Mr Bodley:

“The willingness of comely girls, the novelty of foreign flesh, the smell of strawberries – none of these things can mean anything to me now… In this house, the candleflame of my manhood was snuffed out.”

Of course this is incredibly worrying for Mrs Tremain, Mr Bodley being one of her best customers and all, so she begs him to tell him what has happened so she may set it right. He explains that when he was last at the house and things began to get er… slightly more intimate with one of the girls, a fly came in and settled itself on her left buttock. Mrs Tremain’s defence of her establishment is one of the most hilarious passages I have read:

“We keep a clean house, sir. The Queen’s palace won’t be so clean, I’ll wager. But we must keep it ventilated, sir. That’s part of good health: ventilation. And where there’s an open window, a fly may enter. And even be so bold as to settle on a girl’s bottom.”

But Mr Bodley does not think it is the fly so much, after all he left feeling rather satisfied, job completed. It is only afterwards that he begins thinking about things more deeply. Flies and what they feed on, flies laying eggs, and how when we die our decomposing bodies crawl with maggots that arise from the eggs that are laid by flies! Even the offer from Mrs Tremain of the same girl who she assures him is very much alive and maggoty-free, or a new girl, Lily free of charge cannot tempt him or cheer him in any way. We live, then we die – what is the point in it all? Luckily for him, Mrs Tremain has an answer and a prescription for his melancholy that has him soon sleeping soundly, quite literally.

I think as with all the stories in this collection, you need to have read the author’s fantastic novel, The Crimson Petal And The White, as it involves the same characters. Fans of The Crimson will love it and the humour in it is knock your socks off, laugh out loud funny, so is definitely worth a read. I also love that Michel Faber is not afraid to explore the dark side of human nature, take a few risks and be blatantly crude in places. However, it probably isn’t for the easily offended or innocent! Really enjoying this collection so far, and looking forward to the next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Busted by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

 

The Martian – Andy Weir

Published November 8, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Apollo 13 meets Cast Away in this grippingly detailed, brilliantly ingenious man-vs-nature survival thriller, set on the surface of Mars.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive–and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit–he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

What did I think?:

I first heard about this book through a podcast I listen to regularly, Books On The Nightstand (which I highly recommend, by the way). So when Richard and Judy picked it as part of their Autumn Book Club 2014, I was pleased to bump the book a little further up my huge TBR list. The premise of the book is nothing short of thrilling – Mark Watney is an astronaut on a mission to Mars with his crew when unfortunately something goes terribly wrong and his crew, believing him dead, return to the ship leaving him stranded. For Mark is very much alive, and now abandoned on Mars with little hope of ever getting home again. The novel is mainly based around journal entries made by Mark as he continues to battle the toxic atmosphere and come to the reality of the hopeless situation he now finds himself in. Luckily, his training and intellect as an astronaut assists him as he calculates what to do with his meagre rations of food and water, contemplates how to get a message to Earth and consider starting Mars’ first potato farm! He deduces that he is unlikely to have enough food or water to survive on until the next mission to Mars comes passing by so has to improvise and do it fast if he wants to survive.

Mark is a fantastic character with a wicked sense of self-deprecating humour that had me chuckling many times as his journal entries continued:

“My asshole is doing as much to keep me alive as my brain.”

Of course there are problems and danger involved, hey it would be a pretty boring and unrealistic account for the readers if there weren’t. However explosions, highly volatile gases and extreme radioactivity never get our protagonist down for a moment. He carries on regardless, toughing it out until a solution can be found to get him home. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that he does manage to make contact with Earth, and becomes somewhat of a celebrity as the entire world becomes involved in his fight to return. The sections of the novel set with the bigwigs at NASA were slightly less compelling but still made for an exciting read. I think the only thing that made me give it a slightly lower star rating than it perhaps deserves was purely my opinion on the scientific elements. I am a scientist in my other life and appreciated the research that must have gone into creating a story like this, but sometimes it was a bit too much and a lot of things went slightly over my head especially when it turned mathematical. I am certain however that this would be a big pull for other readers, who would find this particular element fascinating. In general, it is an exciting, interesting, realistic and beautifully imagined story of one man’s fight to survive in a hostile environment that has everything working against him. I’ll finish with my favourite quote of the book where Mark is communicating with Earth:

NASA: “Also, please watch your language. Everything you type is being broadcast live all over the world.”

WATNEY: Look! A pair of boobs! -> (.Y.)

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Kindred – Octavia E. Butler

Published November 4, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

What did I think?:

I’ve only recently started reading more science fiction as I didn’t consider it a genre I was particularly interested in. However, I have been pleasantly surprised from the recent books I have read and this is no exception. Many thanks to the lovely people at Book Bridgr and Headline Publishing for allowing me to read a copy and although I have never come across the author’s work before, I am now eager to try some more. The story is set across two main time frames – the current, contemporary period (1970’s) and 19th century Maryland where our main character is a young black woman called Dana. When celebrating her birthday with her husband Kevin all of a sudden she is transported back to the South at the height of the slavery period, obviously a very dangerous time for a black woman to be on her own. First of all however, she must find out why she has travelled back in time in the first place. It appears that whenever the son (Rufus) of a rich plantation owner is in danger, Dana materialises and she deduces that she must be travelling back in order to save his life.

Dana’s first trip back in time where she saves Rufus as a young boy lasts merely minutes but with each subsequent journey her stay in the South becomes longer. This heightens the danger that she is in as being a young black woman without an obvious white owner may lead to her being beaten, raped, even killed. Rufus himself is not a particularly likeable character as he grows up and takes on the mantle of his terrifying father and although he grows close to Dana with every visit, there is a risk that he may become just as much of an adversary to her. In the contemporary time, Dana’s husband Kevin is also desperately worried about the effects of her time travel, especially when she comes home with injuries having run into the path of the wrong (white) man. He is determined to be with her the next time she leaves, even if they both have to be careful regarding the particulars of their relationship as he happens to be white. He manages to time travel back with her successfully but cannot reach her side quickly enough (they have to be touching) for the return journey home leaving him stranded in the past, his only hope of return being Dana coming back. Attempting to guess when Dana will next return is highly unpredictable and when she does, her life is increasingly at risk to a point where the likelihood of her FUTURE self even being born is becoming more and more unlikely.

As a science fiction novel, I thought this was a good addition to the genre. I enjoyed the parts set in the 19th century South better than the contemporary story as I felt the latter felt a little thin and under-developed. As historical fiction it is beautifully written and captures perfectly the voices of all black people kept as slaves in a dark and shameful part of our history. I found that some characters were drawn better than others, for example Rufus, whom I ended up despising by the end of the novel was a fantastic “love-to-hate” character compared to Kevin, Dana’s husband and the “goodie” of the story who just felt a bit wishy-washy and slightly two-dimensional. However, the novel was exciting and intriguing enough to keep me turning the pages and I would definitely try something else from this author.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

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