‘Migrations’ by Charlotte McConaghy

A thrilling expedition to the literal ends of the Earth, Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy is a novel that aims to do more than tell a story. Instead, McConaghy forces the reader to dig deep into the darkest pits of emotionality, something few authors can pull off. 

Migrations follows Franny Lynch, a recluse of a woman looking to trail a flock of artic terns from Greenland to the Antarctic. The only problem is that no boat will have her. In this near-apocalyptic version of Earth, over 80% of wildlife is dead. The terns are the last of their kind, and any vessel in the Artic is on the hunt for fish and fundamentally at odds with Franny’s mission.

At the outset of the novel, Franny meets Ennis Malone in a freezing fjord and, seemingly miraculously, they end up on his vessel, the Sanghani, with the hatched plan to follow the terns south. As the journey of the Sanghani’s crew unfolds, so does Franny’s tormented past. The deeper we delve into her memories, the more we get the feeling that something awful – or a lot of something awfuls — are haunting her past.

Poetic and rhythmic and twisting as the ocean they sail, McConaghy’s novel is a riveting masterpiece that tears through to a deeply held place – a place we often don’t want to go to, a place that will leave you ruined.

While McConaghy asks the reader to suspend belief again and again to get from plot point to plot point, it is well worth the effort. Migrations is a work of metaphor and almost dips into elements of magical realism with its far-fetched happenings. But when you step back to see that the book is not at all about terns or global warming, but about home, relationships, trauma, fear, and the migration that every soul makes from birth to death, you will see that the novel holds more than the need for plausibility.

Published by Flatiron Books in August of 2020, you can purchase a copy of Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy at your local independent bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

‘The Book of Old Ladies’ by Ruth O. Saxton

What does it mean to age? To be old? Particularly, what does it mean to confront old age as a woman? How have the peculiarities and challenges faced by women changed (if at all) over time? 

The Book of Old Ladies: Celebrating Women of a Certain Age In Fiction by Dr. Ruth O. Saxton seeks to answer these questions and rectify the, somehow, universally held ideas about women, and more specifically older women. Namely that women are defined by their romantic relationships; that they inherently seek to be wives, mothers, and caregivers; and that their artistic or personal passions are second to their roles as women.

Saxton takes a look at thirty different novels and short stories with older women as the central characters to analyze how the writers of these works handle aging and end of life issues. In each section, Sexton provides an in-depth analysis of a story, parsing out the characters’ motives, how their lives differ (or not) from the given stereotypes about aging women, and how the stories and characters fit into the larger, collective narrative of women as we know it. 

An essential piece of non-fiction, The Book of Old Ladies draws attention not only to the works highlighted, but to the overarching issue of our society’s provincial view of women in old age. Saxton brings to life characters who are so far from the narrow-minded perception of the old bag, the lonely widower, and the crazy old lady to name a few. Further, Saxton creates a sense of urgency to both read the fiction she features and to champion the older women of our generation who are living these fictions daily.

Even if you haven’t read the books and stories Saxton focuses on, each chapter and section is still captivating and, by the end, almost makes you feel as if you have read the book or story discussed. That being said, reading the analyses of the works I had read was by far the more enjoyable reading experience of the book. If anything, Saxton creates a reading list for every reader!

Eye opening, heartbreaking, and thoroughly thought-provoking, The Book of Old Ladies by Ruth O. Saxton comes highly recommended to all readers no matter their age, gender, or beliefs.

Slated for release from She Writes Press in September 2020, you can preorder a copy of The Book of Old Ladies: Celebrating Women of a Certain Age In Fiction at your local independent bookstore.

Read more non-fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

’13 Billion to One’ by Randy Rush

13 Billion to One is $50 million-dollar lottery winner Randy Rush’s memoir detailing his life before and after his tax-free Canadian lottery win.

Born and raised in Canada, Rush lived a less than luxurious life as a child often moving between apartments, growing up with a single parent who was emotionally absent, and later battling with substance abuse and depression. In his later adulthood, Rush went on to live an upper-class lifestyle as a sales representative for Hertz but made it big with his 2015 $50 million-dollar lottery win.

Once Rush was a millionaire, the distinction between friends and those who wanted to use Rush for his money blurred. Caught in a multi-million-dollar scandal that resulted in the unearthing of years of fraud, Rush decides to fight back against white collar crime. 

A quick moving memoir that keeps you reading, 13 Billion to One is a harrowing yet often lighthearted read that dips into deeper themes of selflessness, emotional health, and spirituality.

Scheduled for release by Rantanna Media on June 24, 2020, you can preorder a copy of 13 Billion to One by Randy Rush at your local independent bookstore.

Read more non-fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘Copy Boy’ by Shelley Blanton-Stroud

Part noir, part historical fiction, Copy Boy by Shelley Blanton-Stroud is a fast-paced, non-stop debut novel.

Jane has lived her life mostly on campsites, or in other makeshift homes, with her abusive father and neglectful mother. Things change though when Jane’s father tries to beat her mother and Jane steps in to stop him. A crowbar and a ditch later, Jane finds herself in San Francisco at the doorstep of her mother’s lover’s daughter. Set on leaving the past behind her, Jane assumes the identity of Benjamin Hopper and determines to become a copy boy for a local newspaper.

Things get messy when a woman is murdered, and Jane’s father gets somehow pulled back onto the scene. Fighting to make a name for herself at a paper that doesn’t respect her as a man or a woman while also struggling to both leave behind and reconcile her past, Jane comes up against enemies both internal and external.

Copy Boy investigates issues of psychology, sexism, justice, and social welfare by means of a mystery and a thriller. While the reader is not always left with answers to the questions asked in the novel, Blanton-Stroud certainly sets the scene for the reader to challenge and examine the issues presented.

A quick and easy read, Copy Boy is slated for release from She Writes Press in June of 2020. You can preorder Copy Boy by Shelley Blanton-Stroud from your local independent bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘The Hilarious World of Depression’ by John Moe

tHWoD-MoeThe Hilarious World of Depression by John Moe is the radio personality’s first foray into writing. Part memoir, part self-help, Moe’s book combines real-life experience with a sort of analysis of the knowledge gained from that experience.

Moe tells not only his own story in The Hilarious World of Depression, but the stories of his family and a slew of famous people who have been featured on his podcast by the same title. Moe delves into the topic of depression and how it has affected him, his family, and others head-on with comedy as his sidekick. One of the repeated themes in the memoir is how humor has been used for generations to combat trauma. Moe interviews a variety of comedians who have suffered from depression and finds solace in the traits, ideas, and experiences that they all share.

Aside from the relationship between humor and depression, The Hilarious World of Depression also covers topics of intergenerational trauma, micro-traumas, suicide, and more. Reading the book, one gets the sense that for much of his life, Moe was actually fairly well off. But that’s part of his point: depression doesn’t care if your life is middle-class, mediocre, or actually going pretty well. Later, when Moe’s own brother is claimed by suicide, Moe delves into the effect external circumstances can have on an already inherently challenged mindset.

The Hilarious World of Depression is a book that explores important, often undiscussed topics with ease and a healthy dose of humor.

Slated for release by St. Martin’s Press on May 5, 2020, you can preorder a copy of The Hilarious World of Depression by John Moe from your local independent bookstore.

Read more non-fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘Grown Ups’ by Emma Jane Unsworth

grown-ups-unsworthIn an age where social media rules, where life is monopolized by screens and the identities we create behind those screens, Grown Ups by Emma Jane Unsworth addresses the effects of media on our lives with gusto.

Written in the style of Candice Carty-William’s Queenie, Grown Ups has all the elements of a millennial melodrama. Jenny, our main character and our narrator, is a columnist for a local paper and a social media addict. We meet Jenny in the throes of a break-up, a reunion, and a falling apart. Jenny felt like she had it all until she split up with her boyfriend Art. From there, her whole life seems to unravel in her hands. People stop following her on social media, she has so much anxiety about her posts that she can’t put them up without sending them to friends to double and triple check, not to mention that her friendships are falling apart. On top of all that, she has her mother and her job to deal with.

Jenny’s problems are all too familiar in our technology-driven, screen-burdened age. The relationship and familial issues, the technological obsession, and the perseverance on social media are only a few of the things Jenny deals with in Grown Ups. When it comes to her social media accounts, Jenny is constantly questioning herself, reading into the imagined (or not imagined) subtext of every like and comment, feeling unending anxiety as she watches her number of likes grow. While Jenny’s feelings towards social media border on the obsessive, her anxieties won’t be unfamiliar to many users. Jenny, like innumerable others in our society, is being swallowed by the immediacy and inescapability of the internet and communication.

Readers sit back helplessly as Jenny tears her own life apart with her fixation. In the process though, she comes to be closer with herself and farther from those who have never served her as friends or loved ones.

A journey of self-discovery and meaning making, Grown Ups by Emma Jane Unsworth is a quick, fun, and often hilarious read that dips into the edges of the grave and urgent while remaining light and engaging.

Slated for release from Scout Press in May of 2020, you can preorder a copy of Grown Ups by Emma Jane Unsworth from your local independent bookstore.

Please remember during these tough times for our economy to still order your books from your local independent bookstore! Help support local businesses during covid-19!

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘Chosen Ones’ by Veronica Roth

chosen-ones-rothVeronica Roth, author of the famed Divergent triology, is ramping up to release her latest novel, an adult adventure story entitled Chosen Ones.

In Chosen Ones, four teenage superheroes reunite after they’ve vanquished their enemy almost ten years ago. The main characters are battling trauma and still trying to adjust to the new normal of a peaceful world when the reader meets them.

While marketed as a novel for adults, Chosen Ones has all the elements of a YA narrative with a bit more edge and darkness. The premise of the book takes a little bit of Harry Potter while the form borrows some of The Handmaid’s Tale and mixes the two together for something utterly other.

Roth engages readers with her quick-paced writing and a new almost multimedia style in Chosen Ones. While the book is geared towards adults, elements of Roth’s YA style definitely sneak through. If you are a die hard fan of Roth, the book holds up to her previous series in many ways and will likely not disappoint.

Slated for released from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on April 7 2020, you can preorder a copy of Chosen Ones from your local independent bookstore.

Please remember during these tough times for our economy to still order your books from your local independent bookstore! Help support local businesses during covid-19!

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘Navigate Your Stars’ by Jesmyn Ward

navigate-your-stars-wardJesmyn Ward, two-time winner of the National Book Award, is releasing a print version of a commencement speech she gave at Tulane University in 2018. Illustrated by Gina Triplett, Navigate Your Stars is a lush and moving piece of work.

The speech, now in book form, traces Ward’s own life back to her roots in a rural, black community. Ward shares the judgements she passed on, what she saw as, her apathetic family and begins to unravel the narrative of her history. Leading readers through her own struggles with what it means to be someone who does their best and still doesn’t get anywhere, Ward sets up a situation with which many will be familiar.

If you grew up anywhere in the Gen X to Millennial generation, you’ve probably been given the spiel of how important it is to go to college. Like many, Ward believed college to be the end all and be all of her life. If only she could go to college, then…she would be a success, she would have a good job, she would be happy. As many postgraduates can attest, this is not the reality that is experienced first-hand.

Ward takes the time in Navigate Your Stars to remind readers that life is about more than making a single good choice. It’s about hard work, perseverance, and doing the best you can with what you have. In the end, Ward reflects back on her previous judgements of her family and realizes how unfair they were. As people of color living within the confines of systemic poverty and institutionalized racism, she realizes they did the best they could with what they had, and really that’s all anyone can do.

A deeply poignant work, Navigate Your Stars is both comforting and rousing. Ward reveals the most vulnerable parts of herself, admitting failure and showing readers that even (most) famous writers don’t get to where they end up easily.

Navigate Your Stars by Jesmyn Ward is slated for release from Scribner in April 2020. Preorder a copy from your local independent bookstore today.

Please remember during these tough times for our economy to still order your books from your local independent bookstore! Help support local businesses during covid-19!

Read more non-fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘Beginning With Cannonballs’ by Jill McCroskey Coupe

beginning-with-cannonballs-coupeBeginning with Cannonballs by Jill McCroskey Coupe tells the story of two childhood friends growing up together. Divisions of race, class, and ideology deign to keep Hanna and Gail apart, but they keep finding their way back to one another. Across the expanse of time, the two main characters fight to both reunite and divide themselves as they grow from girls into women with husbands and children of their own. Each finds out things about one another, their parents, and their own children as they live and learn together.

The book takes on important and timeless issues of race, racism, and cultural shifts in America.

Slated for release by She Writes Press in May of 2020, you can preorder a copy of Beginning with Cannonballs by Jill McCroskey Coupe at your local independent bookstore.

Please remember during these tough times for our economy to still order your books from your local independent bookstore! Help support local businesses during covid-19!

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘After the Hunger’ by MaryEllen Beveridge

after-the-hunger-beveridgeAfter the Hunger is the latest short story collection from MaryEllen Beveridge. In this collection, Beveridge explores a myriad of questions relating to the experience of being human. Chief among these is where do we belong and how does belief shape our lives?

Beveridge looks at these questions through the lens of characters who have all lost something. Whether it’s the life they once knew, a loved one, or the idea of a loved one that’s been shattered, all of Beveridge’s characters are grappling with these fundamental questions of place and faith.

One of my favorite stories in the collection is entitled The Sisters. In this story, the two main characters, Mac and Jet, are career estate sale groupies. They hunt down estate sales and buy all that’s valuable – and some things that aren’t. Facing the realities of mortality and Jet’s own aging parent, the characters in The Sisters grapple with all sorts of challenges related to their own involvement in this dismantling of people’s lives. Jet sees both the emptiness of the houses she leaves behind and the mystery of the fullness that was once there.

A well-written, detailed collection of short stories, After the Hunger is a book for readers who love detail and sensory descriptions. Beveridge masterfully describes people, characters, and places in After the Hunger.

Released by Fomite Press in February of 2020, you can order a copy of After the Hunger by MaryEllen Beveridge from your local independent bookstore.

Please remember during these tough times for our economy to still order your books from your local independent bookstore! Help support local businesses during covid-19!

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.