“Unsanctioned Eyes” was like watching an action movie, but you know, reading. It’s got flavors that reminded me of “The Bourne Identity” but also solid military drama. Except from the “wrong” side of the aisle. Our main character, Quinn, does not work for the good guys. She is, in fact, a terrorist. She has reasons (which are kind of teased at towards the end of the novel) but the first book in the Dragonfly series is about Quinn’s character arc. The synopsis doesn’t really give a great idea of what you’re stepping into when you pick up Merritt’s book, so humor me as I try to elaborate, while staying far away from spoilers. You see “Unsanctioned Eyes” is the story of how Quinn, a top assassin working for a radical organization, finds herself in the precarious position of no longer being able to trust her handlers and the series of events that lead to that distrust. It’s how when one bad mission has her taking a hostage she wasn’t meant to keep has her questioning if the people she works for actually care about her life, and if she can continue on in the organization once she starts remembering the person she was before she became the Dragonfly.
“The Point of Me” is definitely one of those reads you have to be in the right mood for given it’s rather heavy subject matter. The story follows James, a young teenager who is diagnosed with cancer. What follows is in part a tale of how such a devastating diagnosis affects him and his family, and is in part a purple-prose spirit journey that delves into a metaphysical fantasy realm, that could, theoretically, be interpreted as a sick young man’s fevered dreams while the various cancer treatments course through his veins. Davidson pens an incredibly beautiful story, one that covers a devastating topic, while trying to offer some hope to both her characters, and those who may be dealing with what James and his family are experiencing. But for as important of a topic as this is, it is a pretty slow read.
What kind of secrets do families keep from one another? Are there truly some that should never be revealed? What is family actually worth? These are some of the very hard, and often times uncomfortable, questions that Goodson brings up in her debut novella. Nothing is as it seems when family members come together to make good on their grandfather/father’s last wish in order to get their inheritance: they all must work together to clean out the old family home. What transpired was such an emotional roller coaster I was completely unprepared for it, but I so loved the ride!
Let’s get a couple things straight right off the bat: I wanted to love this book. I really did! In a day and age (still!) where it is unfortunately common to belittle a woman’s intellect, deny her the same accolades freely offered to a man, a woman’s work in ANY field to be viewed as lackluster compared to a male counterpart, I wanted to love this book HARD. But I didn’t. Even with stories of women being passed over for men being so common, I felt that this particular story was forced. A huge assumption was made in something that is supposed to be historical fiction, and in order to lift a woman up, someone else had to be torn down. In this case, another very real person: Einstein.
First and foremost, I feel it necessary to give every trigger imaginable for rape, sexual assault and just assault in general for this beautifully dark book. “Drowning Above Water” is about a woman who first finds herself as a child prostitute when her addiction to pain medication drives her to do anything for her next fix, and then a victim of sex trafficking as her own mother pushes her into the arms of someone who whisks Teckla—now Malina—to the states from Poland where she stays for years. That is until she decides she will not be forced into having another abortion. She’s going to keep this baby, and do whatever is necessary to ensure its survival. “Drowning Above Water” is a seriously heavy read, and yet I couldn’t put it down. I devoured this book; I ached alongside Malina, Petyr, and Guin, and I was transfixed by Malina’s journey through the underbelly of the sex “industry”. This book is heavy, dark, and beautifully written, and it’s an important story that is, unfortunately, not fiction for many across the world.
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