Review of Whispers From Another World (Whitney Powers #1), by Jason Paul Rice

I received a Audible code for a copy of Whispers From Another World (by Jason Paul Rice) from the narrator Tiffany Willams.

Description from Goodreads:
A strong-willed woman. A new cop on the local force. Two lonely souls find each other and embark on a paranormal mystery adventure.

Twelve-year-old Whitney Powers looks at the books on supernatural phenomena in a dark corner of the Granny Larson Library. As she stares, the bookshelf begins to shake and a prism-like flash of light blinds her momentarily.

Whitney goes missing for the next three days. Finally, a local patrolman finds her a few miles from the library. Her explanation of the incident causes her to be ridiculed for the next eighteen years. Despite countless opportunities to leave and end the abuse, she’s stayed in this small town.

Why has she always remained close to the Granny Larson Library, which is supposedly haunted?

What happened during those three days that’s forcing her to stay back and work at the library?

I really hate doing this. I always feel guilty when I offer to review a book and then have to say bad things about it. I know there are reviewers out there that request a book to do just that. I’m not that person. I go into a book hoping to love it and I’m disappointed when I don’t.

But honestly, this story just does not hang together. The ghosts are extraneous to the plot. Whitney is a random ‘chosen one,’ special for no apparent reason and far, far too perfect. But worst of all is the attempt an being a police procedural. Reasonably, if she didn’t end up dead she’d be in jail for impersonating a police officer and interfering in an active investigation, instead of being given some vague ‘clearance’ and invited to work with the special police. None of it works! At all.

I try not to generalize. But I honestly think some male authors shouldn’t try to write female characters. Whitney is so incredibly unlikable I almost can’t verbalize it. The things she’s supposed to think are important just make her horrible. Her whole life comes down to pettily rubbing ‘her man’ into the face of people who made fun of her. As if having a man makes her complete. I cannot tell you how many times I rolled my eyes, said “gross” out loud or made gagging motions. For real, if I hadn’t accepted this in exchange for a review I wouldn’t have finished it. It’s that bad.

The writing seems mechanically fine, though I had the audio so I can’t be certain. But its the sort that leans heavily on ‘very,’ ‘extremely,’ ‘really’ and far too many adjectives. Tiffany Williams did a fine job with the narration, but the story is an utter flop.

Review of The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

I won a copy of Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give through Audiobook Access.

Description from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

OMG, so good. This book destroyed me, but I loved it. Outside of just being a great book, it was also meaningful for me personally. I had several startling experiences while reading it. The first being that I live in Saint Louis, MO, home of Michael Brown and Lamar Smith and the protests around their deaths and the acquittals of the officers who killed them. The events of this book could easily have happened here.

I wanted to read this book from the moment I saw it, but put it off (even after I won an audio version of it) because I didn’t know if I could handle it while my city and on occasion I am currently protesting yet another failure of the justice system. I don’t make it to as many actions as I’d like, but the book still seemed like it could be too close, too real.

Even once I started it, I listened to the first chapter and it took me a full week to come back and face chapter two, where I knew Khalil would die. Then, once I did, I listened in the car. Not three minutes after I managed avoid bawling my eyes out at the scene where a traffic stop about a tail light (if it was even out) turned deadly. I was sitting at a stoplight and a police officer pulled up beside me and motioned for me to roll my window down. I did. He asked, “Did you know only your top break light is working?” “No,” I said, “I’ll have that looked at. Thanks.” He nodded and drove away. The timing shook me, life mimicking art but with one GIANT difference that was impossible to miss. This book is fiction, but there are so many Khalils and I—a white women in a Subaru—didn’t even merit an officer getting out of his car! He was terse, but otherwise polite.

But those things are about me and my circumstances with the book, not the book. The book is amazing, ya’ll. It takes a community that is too often dehumanized and reduced to “thug” or “gang banger” and makes them real people.

This book is the direct opposite of another I read recently in which the author kept having generic “gang bangers” threaten the heroine. The gang bangers did this. The gang bangers did that. There was nothing human about them, “gang banger” could have been substituted with “the monsters” or “the evil entities.” This, I think, is too often the case. But even people in gangs or that sell drugs are people with families, histories, hopes and desires. They are real people and this book makes you see this in a way I think too many people sadly need to be reminded of. I honestly think this should be required high school reading!

It’s also just marvelously written and has a surprising amount of humor for such a serious topic. It is one of the best books I’ve read this year and certainly the best audio I’ve listened to. Bahni Turpin did an amazing job with the narration. Everyone go read/listen to this and Hollywood better not mess up the movie!

On a side note: Angie Thomas is gonna be speaking in my town next month!

Review of A Kind of Justice, by Renee James

I received a copy of Renee JamesA Kind of Justice through Netgalley.

Description from Netgalley:
Against all odds, Bobbi Logan, a statuesque transgender woman, has become one of Chicago’s most celebrated hair stylists and the owner of one of the city’s poshest salons. She is finally comfortable with who she is, widely admired in her community, about to enjoy the success she deserves.  

Then her impossibly perfect life falls apart.

In the space of a few weeks, the Great Recession drags her business to the brink of failure, her beloved ex-wife needs help in facing a terrible tragedy, and a hateful police detective storms back into her life, determined to convict her of the five-year-old murder of John Strand—pillar of the community—and a sexual predator.

As the detective builds an ever more convincing case against her, both of them will be shaken by revelations—about themselves, about their own deeply held secrets, and about the bizarre ritual murder of John Strand. 

I’m having a complicated reaction to this book. To start with, I didn’t know it was a sequel until I went to Goodreads to review it, after finishing it. So, now I wonder what I missed, having not read book one. One the upside, the fact that I never felt I was missing anything until I knew there was a previous book means it stands alone just fine.

Secondly, I liked Bobbi. I loved her relationship to her ex-wife. I thought it was one of the sweetest things I’ve read in a while. It wasn’t perfect, they had some issues to work through. But work through them they did and made a family of sorts and I LOVED that. I liked that Bobbi had close platonic friends and that generational differences within communities was addressed. Not to mention that she was a tad older than the average heroine.

I disliked the detective, but appreciate the transformative journey he went through. I liked the possible love interest and that the book doesn’t end with an unrealistic perfect Happily Ever After. It might get there, but wasn’t at the end of this novel.

I liked that this book isn’t just a murder mystery with a transgendered main character. In a very real way, it’s about being a transgendered woman around whom there is a mystery. It’s why I picked the book up in fact.

Having said that (and here is my complication because I don’t want to sound like I’m saying, ‘the trans book was just too trans’), I felt bludgeoned by Bobbi’s transgenderism. Trans/transsexual/transgender/transwoman/transwomen/tranny is used 197 times in the 320 page book, not counting that the charity is called TransRising and any time it’s talked about but not named. Now, my issue isn’t with the individual words or subject that I felt bludgeoned by, but that I felt bludgeoned at all.

I don’t want to take away from the importance of Bobbi’s real world experiences. They are important. I rather just mean the writing was heavy-handed at times and the constant emphasis on one aspect of the character, even an important one that would be expected to effect every area of her life, blotted out some others that in a mystery novel needed more page-time to develop.

Other than the occasionally heavy-handed writing and the fact that I thought the book was slow at times, I mostly really enjoyed it (even having not read the first book). I’d be more than happy to read another story by James.