TLC Book Tours: Spot 12

 

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Spot 12 is a story that takes place mostly in a hospital. The title is taken from the location of the baby’s spot in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
When Asa was born her condition was unstable. She was whisked away to the NICU and Jaeckel was unable to hold her or even see her for long. The next time she saw Asa was before Asa’s surgery. It later turns out that Asa was born with a malformed esophagus (TEF) which occurs only in one in 3000-4000 live births, rarer than heart defects. This meant that Asa’s esophagus didn’t continue on to her stomach. Instead part of her esophagus was attached to her trachea.

Much like Maus, this graphic memoir uses small animals (mice, dogs) as the characters. But unlike most graphic memoirs/novels, speech bubbles aren’t used much. Instead a lot of the story takes place in a box above the image, even though it’s told from the author’s perspective. It was a different style and it also made me wonder, maybe it should just have been written as a text-only book instead? There is so much text going on that it seems to defeat the purpose of all those graphic sometimes. Often, I felt that the text and the illustrations were very disconnected, perhaps because the text was all situated in a box above the illustration, like they were very separate.


That said, there were some moments where the illustrations really stood out and spoke for themselves, especially when she plays with lots of black in the panels.

Spot 12 fills the reader with emotion. Sadness at the pain this young child had to go through. Gratitude for my own healthy children. It’s a tragic and painful story that this family had to go through, and the strongest moments of the book are when Jaeckel writes and draws about those dark and difficult thoughts she has, as a mother with a baby going through all this pain. But as a graphic memoir, this style didn’t really worked for me.

 

jenny-jaeckelJenny Jaeckel holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and a Master of Arts in Hispanic Literatures from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is a certified interpreter and translator (Spanish) and teaches illustration. She lives in Victoria, Vancouver Island in British Columbia with her husband and daughter.

Jaeckel is the author and illustrator of three graphic memoirs: Spot 12: Five Months in the Neonatal ICU, which won a 2008 Xeric Grant (printed in Canada, to be released in the US in 2016 in both English and Spanish), Siberiak: My Cold War Adventure on the River Ob (published in 2014), and Odd Pieces: Memoir of a Childhood(to be published in 2017). For the Love of Meat: Nine Illustrated Stories is her first collected fiction (2016).

Find out more about Jaeckel at her website, and connect with her on Twitter.

 

 

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You can buy Spot 12 on Amazon or Barnes & Noble
 

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I received this book for review from its publisher as part of a TLC Book Tour

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour stops

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Pleasantville by Attica Locke

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Jay Porter is back.

He was the star of Attica Locke’s intense Black Water Rising, published in 2009.

But I didn’t know Jay Porter until I signed up for this Pleasantville tour. I just jumped onto the tour bandwagon because  I saw Attica Locke’s name and decided, yes, I have to get on this tour. Because her Cutting Season was a great read. Not an easy read. But it was a little dark and twisty and as a result quite intriguing.

I didn’t know that Pleasantville takes place fifteen years after Black Water Rising. You don’t necessarily have to read Black Water Rising before Pleasantville although I would highly recommend it. It took me just a few days to read Black Water Rising. It startled me with its intensity and its complexity. And I couldn’t wait to read Pleasantville – or really, anything else by Attica Locke!

Here’s the synopsis of Pleasantville:

In this sophisticated thriller, lawyer Jay Porter, hero of Attica Locke’s bestseller Black Water Rising, returns to fight one last case, only to become embroiled once again in a dangerous game of shadowy politics and a witness to how far those in power are willing to go to win.

Fifteen years after the events of Black Water Rising, Jay Porter is struggling to cope with catastrophic changes in his personal life and the disintegration of his environmental law practice. His victory against Cole Oil is still the crown jewel of his career, even if he hasn’t yet seen a dime thanks to appeals. But time has taken its toll. Tired and restless, he’s ready to quit.

When a girl goes missing on Election Night, 1996, in the neighborhood of Pleasantville—a hamlet for upwardly mobile blacks on the north side of Houston—Jay, a single father, is deeply disturbed. He’s been representing Pleasantville in the wake of a chemical fire, and the case is dragging on, raising doubts about his ability.

The missing girl was a volunteer for one of the local mayoral candidates, and her disappearance complicates an already heated campaign. When the nephew of one of the candidates, a Pleasantville local, is arrested, Jay reluctantly finds himself serving as a defense attorney. With a man’s life and his own reputation on the line, Jay is about to try his first murder in a case that will also put an electoral process on trial, exposing the dark side of power and those determined to keep it.

It is marketed as a thriller and it is indeed, thrilling.

And like Black Water Rising, there is far more to the story than just the murder.

There are high stakes here, not just because a young girl has been killed, but because of who has been accused of her murder. There is much manipulation going on, deep and dark family secrets, money under the table, skeletons in the closet, and not to mention all that politicking. Jay is reluctant to be a part of this at first, he is recently widowed and struggling to raise his children. But he reluctantly steps into the courtroom, becomes entangled in this major mess and finds a target on his back.

When I finished Black Water Rising and started on Pleasantville, there was a big part of me that was hoping for things to have gone well for Jay Porter. I had felt very invested in his life after finishing the first book and just wanted the best for him. I’m sure I’m not the only reader who feels that way about characters! So it was a little sad to learn that things aren’t going so well for him. But I like how Locke doesn’t just give in to her characters – or her readers. It’s not about “and they lived happily ever after” here. This is life, and life is hard.

Locke is truly a master at weaving an intriguing web of murder-mystery, the campaign drama of local politics, social commentary, community and more into an intelligent, complex story. It is an intense read, but wonderfully so.

 

Attica LockeAttica Locke is the author of the widely acclaimed debut novel Black Water Rising, which was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, an Edgar Award, and an NAACP Image Award, and was shortlisted for the UK’s Orange Prize. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

Find out more about Attica at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I received this book for review from its publisher and TLC Book Tours

Check out the tour schedule:

Tuesday, April 14th: Bibliophiliac

Tuesday, April 14th: Crime Fiction Lover

Wednesday, April 15th: Jen’s Book Thoughts

Friday, April 17th: Olduvai Reads

Monday, April 20th: Much Madness is Divinest Sense

Tuesday, April 21st: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, April 22nd: Book Loving Hippo

Monday, April 27th: FictionZeal

Tuesday, April 28th: Living in the Kitchen with Puppies

Wednesday, April 29th: M. Denise Costello

Thursday, April 30th: A Bookworm’s World

Monday, May 4th: My Bookish Ways

Tuesday, May 5th: Reading Reality

Thursday, May 7th: Kritters Ramblings

Friday, May 8th: Drey’s Library

Tuesday, May 12th: Tina Says …

TLC Book Tours: Last Night at the Blue Angel

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“Mother is a singer. I live in her dark margin.

For the first ten years of my life, I watch her from the wings.”

Sophia Hill, 10, often spends her evenings watching her mother Naomi perform, “singing us through all our feelings”, at the Blue Angel, a Chicago nightclub, sharing her mother with the audience but waiting for “those tiny moments that are just between us”.

It is the 1960s and it is a time of transformation and tension. Even more so for a young girl whose mother is far from conventional.

Told from the alternating perspectives of Sophia and Naomi, Last Night at the Blue Angel is a heartfelt, well-written tale of family and growing up, as well as chasing those traces of stardom. Naomi’s tale reaches back into her childhood in small town Kansas where her relationship with another girl causes her to be more or less run out of town by that girl’s family. She escapes to Kansas City and eventually finds her way onto the stage, where her voice captures and enraptures.

Naomi’s struggle for fame doesn’t make life easy for her daughter who is wise beyond her years, the caretaker, the one who tends to her mother, but who is still a 10-year-old girl, teased at school, wanting a friend of her own.

Then there’s Jim, a photographer who has devoted his time to the two of them, helping look after Sophia, taking photos of Naomi, hopelessly infatuated with her.

It’s a moving story of love and devotion – to family, to art, to passion and to one’s own self.

The soulful music of Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday playing in the background helped set the mood for my read.

And it’s a book I really enjoyed reading. It might have been Naomi’s story and rise to stardom but Sophia’s voice rang pure and clear. She hasn’t had the easiest of childhoods, having to pick her mother up time and again, so it is sometimes easy to forget that she is still very young. Her fears of a nuclear fallout, her lack of friends at school, her devotion to Jim and her mother’s friends, all these little bits and pieces of Sophia’s life are pulled expertly together by Rotert to create this amazing girl, an unforgettable character. I imagined Naomi’s voice as low and a bit raspy and wondered what it would be like to listen to her sing. I kept thinking of Grace Potter although she’s more of a blues rock style.

While thinking about this book and what to write about it, I recalled my own first tentative experiences with live jazz in Singapore. A jazz bar called Somerset’s was where we used to go listen to Eldee Young and his band when we were in university. Young was from Chicago but played mostly in Asia. He passed away in 2007. Young often played with Singaporean jazz pianist Jeremy Monteiro whom we also saw perform a few times, but never together. It’s odd that I don’t really listen to much jazz music – then and now – although it was something I enjoyed watching perform live. I think it was about the being together with my girlfriends, sipping a cocktail (the legal drinking age in Singapore is 18) and marveling at these people playing in front of us.

It was kind of fun to reminisce about those times – they seem so very long ago now.

Rebecca RotertRebecca Rotert received an M.A. in Literature from Hollins College, where she was the recipient of the Academy of American Poets prize. Her poetry and essays have appeared in a range of magazines and journals. She’s an experienced singer and songwriter, who has performed with several bands, and a teacher with the Nebraska Writers Collective. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska. This is her first novel.

Follow Rebecca on Twitter: @RebeccaRotert.

tlc logoI received this book for review from its publisher and TLC Book Tours

Check out the other stops on the book tour

Tuesday, July 1st: Drey’s Library

Thursday, July 3rd: Kritters Ramblings

Friday, July 4th: Sweet Southern Home

Monday, July 7th: Book-alicious Mama

Tuesday, July 8th: Books in the Burbs

Thursday, July 10th: Books à la Mode

Monday, July 14th: Becca Rowan

Tuesday, July 15th: BookNAround

Wednesday, July 16th: Olduvai Reads

Thursday, July 17th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

TBD: The Written World

 

TLC Book Tours: Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes

It is always so sad to read in the newspapers of people who die alone in their homes, their bodies lying undiscovered for weeks or even months. They may have lost touch with their families or have run away or perhaps lost their own loved ones. But what if there is someone behind these deaths?

Human Remains
Police intelligence analyst Annabel discovers the body of her neighbor, “horrifically distorted out of shape”, the stomach a mass of maggots, and in the course of her work, begins to realise that there has been an unusually high number of similar deaths in Briarstone. But as these deaths are not technically crimes, they have not been flagged by the police and no one is really interested in pursuing them, until journalist Sam Everett comes nosing his way in.

And then there is Colin.

Colin is perhaps one of the creepiest characters I’ve ever come across. He comes across as mild-mannered and relatively ordinary (if a bit socially inept), but his inner dialogue is just so disturbing and twisted. He has this ability to manipulate the emotionally vulnerable, such as those who are depressed or who have recently had a death in the family, for instance. He is quite convinced that he is helping them, easing them towards their inevitable fate. Yet he derives a sort of sexual pleasure from it all. Creepy? Disturbing? Unsettling? Yes, yes and yes.

“That was when I knew I had her. She’s mine now, all mine, to do with as I choose. We had a lot to talk about, Leah and I. I wanted to hear her story, I wanted her to tell me all about her woes and her fears and her lack of hope. And now I know how to help her.”

Annabel is the sort of person who could potentially be one of these victims: single, living home alone with her cat, seldom mixing with colleagues or meeting friends.

“If I died, here, now, would I be missed? Surely work would notice? Surely Mum would phone the police, if she couldn’t get hold of me? Someone might come by. What if I didn’t answer the door? How long would it be before someone kicked the door in? Days? Weeks? What state would I be in, by then?”

A terrifying thought.

And as such, it is inevitable that the two of them meet….

I can’t seem to get away from the word ‘creepy’ in this review. Because it is undoubtedly so, with its roots in reality. Human Remains is a dark thriller, written by a someone who knows how to provoke strong emotions from her readers.

It was fascinating to read that Haynes got her writing start in 2005 after taking part in National Novel Writing Month. The result was that her first book Into the Darkest Corner won Amazon UK’s Best Book of 2011 (added to my TBR list of course!)

In case you’re interested, she details the five books that changed her life in Crimespree Magazine.
Elizabeth HaynesElizabeth Haynes is a police intelligence analyst, a civilian role that involves determining patterns in offending and criminal behavior. She is also the New York Times bestselling author of Into the Darkest Corner and Dark Tide. She lives in England in a village near Maidstone, Kent, with her husband and son.

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I received this book for review from TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins

Check out the rest of the tour:

Tuesday, August 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, August 21st: BoundByWords

Friday, August 23rd: A Bookish Way of Life

Tuesday, August 27th: Book-alicious Mama

Tuesday, August 27th: Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, August 28th: Booksie’s Blog

Thursday, August 29th: Books in the Burbs

Tuesday, September 3rd: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Tuesday, September 3rd: A Bookworm’s World

Wednesday, September 4th: Kritters Ramblings

Thursday, September 5th: Lectus

Friday, September 6th: Olduvai Reads

Friday, September 6th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, September 10th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf

Wednesday, September 11th: Peppermint PhD

Thursday, September 12th: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, September 13th: Drey’s Library