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stories, poems, and essays by angel hench

The Epiphany Machine – a book review in 200 words

The Epiphany Machine

by

David Burr Gerrard

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What would my epiphany tattoo be? What would yours be?

“The worst possible thing you could think of to say about someone will almost certainly be your epiphany.”

The epiphany machine tattoos on the forearm a one-sentence “truth” about the person receiving the tattoo. You know, that one thing about someone that everyone knows – except the person themselves.

“Everyone else knows the truth about you, now you can know it, too”

Venter Lowood is the POV character in this book. His fascination with the epiphany machine starts young; his mother abandoned him as a baby to work with Adam Lyon, the man who runs the epiphany machine. We follow Venter from childhood to middle age, and as the world changes around him, so does the public opinion of epiphany tattoos. John Lennon gets a tattoo, as does a 9/11 terrorist. The tattoos can be bought with $100 or with no monetary exchange and then commercialized epiphany tattoos are the norm. In the beginning, one tattooed person says of their unflattering epiphany:

“You should only feel shame before you feel shame. Once you feel shame, you know that you have to change. When you feel shame, you should really feel relief. You should say: ‘Hurray! Now I know that I have to change.”

By the end, another says,

“Shame is basically hypocrisy redirected against yourself-it’s holding yourself to a higher standard than you’re capable of meeting, rather than holding other people to a higher standard than you’re capable of meeting.”

This book is beautifully written in many distinct voices – the main narrative, short stories from a book about the epiphany machine, and accounts by those who have received epiphany tattoos.

As this is only Gerrard’s second novel, I predict you should expect further great reads from this writer!

Now – I want an epiphany tattoo.

 

Rating: 92/100

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Find it local at Indie Bound

The Witches of New York – a book review in 200 (and a few) words

The Witches of New York

by

Ami McKay

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If you are intrigued by any of the following:  mysticism, spiritualism, witches, demons, opium, absinthe, crazed clergy, surviving civil war soldiers with missing limbs, Egyptian obelisks, the djinn, fairy tales, spells, ghosts, the Fae, talking animals, insane asylums, fortunetelling, scrying, herbal remedies, the Salem witch trials, women suffragists, mediums and/or folk magic – then this is the book for you.

The Witches of New York tells the story of three witches in New York City in 1880. Eleanor comes from a long line of witches, absorbing her folksy magic from her mother. Adelaide learned fortune-telling while working for a side-show and quickly found she had a real knack for it. The too-smart and restless Beatrice moves to the City and learns that she’s a new kind of witch.

There is so much history and magic contained in the pages of this book, that it is difficult to describe it exactly. McKay blends the real 1880’s New York with her fictional characters and circumstances so effortlessly that I found it difficult to discern the difference. Her descriptions are spot-on as well; when her characters walk down the street, you walk with them – you can hear the newsboys, smell the roasted peanuts, feel the cold on a sleigh ride through Central Park in January.

Hopefully, this book is the first of a series or I will be sorely disappointed; many storylines were left unresolved at the end of the novel. Plus I would love to spend more time with these three witches of New York.

Rating:85/100

Buy this book July 11, 2017. Pre-order at:

Barnes and Noble

Amazon

Vector (Joe Rush #4) – a book review

Vector

(Joe Rush #4)

by

James Abel

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“Mutation is, by definition, always a surprise.”

If you are not already scared into agoraphobia by the threat of the Zika virus, Lyme disease, and skin cancer, James Abel’s book will make you afraid to leave your house or at least make you clothe yourself from head to toe and top that off with a couple layers of bug spray.

Vector is a chilling exercise that imagines the results of a terror organization’s ability to weaponize an everyday annoyance we barely notice here in the United States. It is terrifying how easy Abel makes it seem to create, distribute and disperse such a weapon.

The book starts with Joe Rush and his partner, Eddie, travelling the Amazon. Except that Eddie is missing, Joe is being followed, his guide is less than trustworthy and a large number of malaria-stricken individuals have disappeared from their homes.

Things go terribly wrong for Joe at the same time that events are going awry quietly and steadily in the United States. A terrorist’s threat is delivered, the government is blackmailed, hard decisions are made. (Some of the most terrifying moments in the book stem from the decisions of people in power and the reasoning behind those decisions.)

“Presidents say they will not make deals with enemies, but they do. Kennedy faced down the Russians during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But behind the scenes he pulled U.S. missiles from Turkey. Nixon said he’d never talk to North Vietnam. He sent a rep there at the same time.”

When the two story lines intersect, the action comes quick and fast.

The pacing of this book is just what you want in a thriller. The science was written in a believable and easy to understand way. And the ending does not disappoint.

I will definitely be going back to read the first in the Joe Rush series, White Plague.

(A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.)

Rating: 87/100

Buy it July 25, 2017.

Lost Boy – a book review in 200 words

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook

by Christina Henry

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A plethora of books on the market now retell old fairytales. Skip all of these – read Lost Boy by Christina Henry instead!

Lost Boy is Jamie’s story. Jamie is the first boy that Peter Pan brought to his island. He is also the defacto father-figure for the other boys, but only because he is the “oldest” and realizes that they still need to eat and, occasionally, bathe. And given that their lives consist of roughhousing, battle simulations, fighting off the Many-Eyed, and ransacking the pirates’ camp, he is also the closest thing to a doctor the boys have.

Everything changes when Peter brings back a boy who is younger than usual. Charlie is only five years old, and takes much of Jamie’s time and attention. Much of the book deals with Peter’s jealousy over Charlie and Jamie’s relationship and the schemes of Peter to separate Jamie from the young boy.

The addition of Nip and Sal bring further complications, of which you will need to read yourself.

And then after many crying jags (mine) – Captain Hook.

Suffice it to say, I will never look at Peter Pan the same again. I am now and forever a Captain Hook fan.

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. (A huge thank you to Berkley Publishing Group!)

Rating: 95/100

Buy this book July 4th!

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – a book review in 200 words

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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I ended up grabbing this Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from work because no one else took it. I don’t read romance (usually), and the cover just screamed the word at me. To my great surprise and unending delight, Seven Husbands by Taylor Jenkins Reid, is one of the finest books I have read so far this year.

The story follows the reclusive movie star, Evelyn Hugo, as she plucks an unknown journalist out of obscurity and gives her the scoop of her career. Hugo is nearing the end of her career and, clearly, her life, and has decided to finally let the public in on her secrets. Her seven marriages act as a clever literary device, a way to discover Hugo’s relationships that range from old Hollywood marriages as the beard to gay leading man to the affair with the love of her life,

Not to be forgotten is the mystery that unfolds around the journalist, Monique Grant, as Hugo’s choice to write her story. The discovery of who Grant is started me on my first crying jag.

My second jag – ugly-crying through the entire last few chapters, but in a good way.

Go out and buy this book today!

(A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.)

Rating: 90/100

Buy this book:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

 

The History of Bees – a book review in 200 words

The History of Bees
by Maja Lunde

The History of Bees

The History of Bees follows three distinct characters in three wildly disparate timelines:  

  • The whiny but lovable William, England (1852). A scientist with a large family and a seeds shop – he has been bedridden for an undetermined amount of time.
  • George, a taciturn and stoic beekeeper, Ohio (2007). He hopes his son will join the family business after graduating college. The son has other plans.
  • Tao’s job is to pollinate flowers, individually, China (2098). This work leaves little time for her to enjoy her son, Wei-Wen.

Honestly, I expected this book to be a three-prong diatribe on colony collapse disorder. Happily, Lunde weaves together three very human stories with amazing characters, writes about real relationship issues that affect everyone, and has such a light touch when including information on the honeybee decline that I barely noticed.

Though there are three story lines carried throughout the book, each individual story could have been unrelated and I still would have enjoyed it. The fact that all of the characters and story lines relate to each other in a beautiful, uncomplicated, completely natural way was an unexpected pleasure.

This book does not go on sale until August. Please put this on your to-buy, to-read list!

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Rating: 90/100

Buy in August 2017.

The CallThe Call by Peadar Ó Guilín

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I actually listened to the audiobook, which I’m sure has colored my feelings about this story a bit. The narrator on the audiobook does not do a very good job of differentiating between the POV characters so I feel like I was semi-lost for most of the first half of the book. I may actually go back and read this again in paper format so I get the complete story arc. That being said, the last half of the book is truly fantastic. Once there are fewer characters to keep track of, the story really gets moving, and I gasped aloud a couple of times at important plot points.

It’s a pretty simple story, really – the Sidhe (pronounced “shee”), or fairies, have decided that they need to take revenge upon the humans who took away their rights to reside in Ireland. They do this by stealing teenagers and doing terrible things to them while they are in the Sidhe lands. Each teen is taken by surprise and is in the Sidhe lands for a little over 3 minutes in human time. But they are in the Sidhe lands for long enough to be played with, taunted, tortured and killed in terrible ways. The few who survive their time with the Sidhe and return home are maimed and horribly disfigured for life (in fun and entertaining ways if you are a horror fan!). By the end, you understand why some are returned home and what the Sidhe’s real game is.

Because this book deals with teens, you have the usual teen angst, cliques, and crushes. But, because of the time they live in, you also get some truly terrifying situations that will make your skin crawl. My favorite parts of the book happened while the teens were “called” – descriptions of humans shaped into horses and screaming overcoats made out of human mouths anyone? So, if you like your horror with some high fantasy thrown in, you could definitely do worse than this book. Just don’t try to listen to the audiobook unless you are able to solely focus on it to the exclusion of everything else.

View all my reviews

Since We FellSince We Fell by Dennis Lehane

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second book I’ve read by Lehane (the other being Shutter Island a ways back). I’d forgotten what a smart, smart writer he is. Very seldom is there a book that makes me read every single word. I’m a skimmer when I can be. With Lehane you must read every word, or you will miss something. Even something big.

Since We Fell is a great read! Starts out as a book about a sort of troubled young women trying to figure out who her father is. She ends up becoming a TV news reporter until she covers Haiti after the earthquake (2010); and, her life is never the same again. Then some bad things happen, some good, some terrible, and then…I can’t tell you any more. Just when you think you know what this book is about, there’s another twist – and it’s another type of book altogether. In the end, what you think is going to be a story about a crazy girl’s search for belonging ends up being a crazy good book about betrayal, your sense of self, trust, and belief. Oh, and murder.

You should read it while I go pick out my next Dennis Lehane book!

View all my reviews

love, from the author

Interactions with my favorite authors? Yes, please!

So smart that authors watch their social media and take the time to respond. I work in a bookstore and find that I often recommend books by authors who interact with readers. Just another level to consider when writing your own book!

Natasha pulley tweet
Natasha Pulley payed attention to a couple of my tweets regarding her book, The Bedlam Stacks. Read it if you get a chance. It comes out in August 2017.

 

Touchstone Books Tweet
Even publishers are getting in the game! Touchstone Books liked my tweet about The History of Bees coming to bookstores in August 2017.

 

One of my favorite authors, Jennifer McMahon, commented on my Instagram.

 

My tweet about her book, Alice, was liked by the author, Christina Henry.

This is the full Instagram post for the tweet above.

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