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Euphoria Dysphoria

Euphoria/Dysphoria - Michelle Browne, Nic Wilson

I'm a bit torn about the review of this book, as I couldn't motivate myself to finish it. The circumstances the main characters find themselves in, running for their lives, through tangled streets, in a futuristic landscape, was exciting and pulled me right in. The world-building was stunning from the start, and the characterizations were mysterious enough to keep me wanting more.

 

However, approximately halfway through the narrative the tone of the story completely shifted. It was almost as though I started reading a completely different book and I just couldn't wrap my head around it. The character voices sounded different, their reactions were unfamiliar, and I ceased wanting to find out what happened with them. 

Thrall by Barbara Ann Wright at Curve Magazine

Thrall: Beyond Gold and Glory - Barbara Ann Wright

Lady Vikings, monsters and magic. What’s not to like?

 

I don't often go for fantasy novels, but I'm certainly glad I gave this one a shot. Wright did a phenomenal job with her world-building and character development, even if towards the end the massive amount of conflict became a bit jumbled and overwhelming.

 

My favorite part of the book was the blood witch Laret, whose soul didn’t match the body she was given at birth. She was complicated and conflicted and I wanted more of her. This is a story of finding one’s path where you would least expect it, with alliances being forged and broken. Also there are cool monsters and blood-thirsty battles, which are always nice.

 

Calling all lovers of lady Vikings!

 

Click the title to head over to Curve Magazine for the comprehensive review

 

Copy provided by Net Galley

 

Curve Review-Lilies of the Bowery

 

My review of Lilies of the Bowery

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel - Anthony Doerr

I'm a bit torn about this book and my opinion on it. The craft of the writing was delectable, and his descriptions of the cities and sounds from the POV of the blind girl were impressive, to say the least. The research was top-notch, and the emotions it evoked stayed with me and I was always irritated when I had to stop reading it, it pulled me in so.

However, it feels like the story was going toward this crescendo, all these characters playing their parts surrounding this mysterious diamond, coming together slowly over time toward the bombing of Saint Malo, but then it keeps going, and I can't say I quite understood the point of doing so after this. Saying this, I'm sure if it had stopped right then in the battle-strewn streets of Saint Malo, I would have said "BUT THEN WHAT HAPPENS." So, take that for what it's worth.

Overall I did love reading this book.I love books that live in the gray area between "what is right" and "what is wrong," and the many conflicts that arise from this juxtaposition. I still highly recommend it, for those interested in such a read.

Reviewed at C-Spot

All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr I'm a bit torn about this book and my opinion on it. The craft of the writing was delectable, and his descriptions of the cities and sounds from the POV of the blind girl were impressive, to say the least. The research was top-notch, and the emotions it evoked stayed with me and I was always irritated when I had to stop reading it, it pulled me in so.

However, it feels like the story was going toward this crescendo, all these characters playing their parts surrounding this mysterious diamond, coming together slowly over time toward the bombing of Saint Malo, but then it keeps going, and I can't say I quite understood the point of doing so after this. Saying this, I'm sure if it had stopped right then in the battle-strewn streets of Saint Malo, I would have said "BUT THEN WHAT HAPPENS." So, take that for what it's worth.

Overall I did love reading this book.I love books that live in the gray area between "what is right" and "what is wrong," and the many conflicts that arise from this juxtaposition. I still highly recommend it, for those interested in such a read.

Reviewed at C-Spot

Go Set a Watchman: A Novel

Go Set a Watchman: A Novel - Lee Harper

After reading and loving so very much about it, I have come to the conclusion they made the right choice in rejecting this book originally, forcing Harper Lee to delve into Scout’s past. Through that, we were given the Atticus Finch we needed, a paragon of virtue in a volatile time. But I also think this is the Atticus Finch we need now, serving as a painful reminder there is still so much to fight for, and we need to see in ourselves the prejudices we have always had, but never see clearly enough.

 

Reviewed at C-Spot.

Lilies of the Bowery

Lilies of the Bowery - Lily R. Mason I was a bit torn about this one, as it starts so strong, with a tumultuous journey to the New World with a family searching for a better life. However, the middle third of this book gets bogged down with overly repetitive descriptions of daily life with mysterious clientele without it building to anything particularly substantial.

I see a lot of potential in the author, as she engaged all five senses admirably, and developed good chemistry between Joan and Paloma. But the family members that started being such strong characters became cardboard cutouts of their former selves, which was unfortunate.

A Little Bit of Spice

A Little Bit of Spice - Georgia Beers

Holy chemistry, batman!

That is all.

No Good Reason

No Good Reason - Cari Hunter I just really enjoyed these characters so much.

At the Water's Edge

At the Water's Edge - Harper Bliss This is a tricky one to rate because I enjoyed so much of the emotional growth and relationship building in the story, but I feel there were some pretty big problems with some of the execution. The story is told from first-person POV, which I think ended up being a great choice, as I got to see some the depth of Ella's responses and personality that I wouldn't have had access to otherwise.

However, I think it acted as a hindrance at the start primarily due to the 'big reveal' that occurs later on. Ella keeps eluding to an incident that just happened, but then puts it aside to be described later. Which, if done in third person where we are picking up hints along with the secondary characters, it would have been more effective. It just didn't really make as much sense to me, since we are in the protagonist's brain, to keep this dangling carrot when she would already know what the carrot was. Now I kind of want a carrot.

Additionally, the sex scenes felt completely out of place. You're riding along, watching someone going through a truly emotionally devastating time, and then BAM you're in an erotica novel with really graphic descriptions. Which would be completely fine in another context, but didn't feel right for these characters and their journey. It almost felt like I was reading two different books because of it, and I ended up skipping through some of them because it just ripped me too much out of the story due to it's imbalance.

Aside from that, I am glad I read it, and think the author can really go places with her ability to write complex characters that have a lot of work to do and are self aware enough to recognize that. This is my first Harper Bliss book, and I'll probably read another one at some point to see where she decides to go next.

Anansi Boys

Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman Such an absolutely delightful tale this was. I fell in love with American Gods long after most of the book world had been telling me for years 'YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK.' And they were right, of course. I should listen more. When I found out Anansi Boys was along a similar vein, I was so excited! Because for me, it's very difficult to find books that are exactly like this, with characters so flawed and complex, who screw up a lot, but are also brave and find themselves through the course of a magical fairy tale. That is exactly my very favorite kind of book, and I never knew it was until I discovered this author. This one is much less dense than American Gods, but not in a bad way. Less characters and intertwining plots, but I found that to be an advantage, as I very much liked who lived among these pages. I think that's really the core of what I like so much; so much life is given to everyone and everything. An entire world is unwrapped for you to explore, some of it dark and violent (he always has that) but also beautiful and always highlighting the resilience of the human spirit. And that is such a nice thing to celebrate.

Sometimes I will go a long time without reading something like this, and I'll read several sub-par books in a row, and then I'll remember that there is magic in the book world and I run to it.

Sometimes you just don't know how much you need to read Neil Gaiman until you read Neil Gaiman. You probably need to, and this is an excellent choice.

The Paths of Marriage

The Paths of Marriage - Mala  Kumar This is a story that delves deeply into the evolving gender identity of women in India and Indian American families. We follow Lakshmi from her turbulent struggles belonging to a poor caste in India, but with a loving family, to her daughter Pooja. Pooja has a difficult relationship with her mother, but you can understand so much of their struggles because of the depth the author gives do various circumstances that formed their personalities. Pooja serves as a transitional character that has the freedom of living in America while still being tied to the traditions maintained by her brusque mother. This tumultuous relationship serves as a catalyst for Pooja's determination to form a much closer dynamic with her daughter Deepa, our third narrator.

This is an ambitious story and it is LONG, and there were times where the editing suffered (missing words, an incorrect article, etc.). However, I was fairly invested in the story throughout, so that didn't bother me as much as it usually does. It's told in four parts, each from the POV of a different generation of women in this Indian family, the fourth as told by an all-seeing narrator. Although focused on one family, it is really more about the evolution of gender roles and the clash of American influence against Indian cultural expectations. I found myself at times frustrated with the character choices but I always sympathized with the difficulties they faced and the prevailing shadow of judgment each women experienced. It was a fascinating and sometimes difficult read, even if I wished it could have been 100 pages shorter. I'm sure there were places that could have been trimmed, but I believe shrinking any of the women's roles in the narrative would have been a disservice. Without the depth, I wouldn't have been able to understand so much about why these women made the choices they did.

The author's knowledge and attention to detail made it feel personal to me, even with my limited personal experience with the intricacies of Indian culture. It may not be a story for everyone, but I very much enjoyed this peek into acculturation and emergence of women's independence, as told through this family's journey.

The War Within

The War Within - Yolanda Wallace Meredith (a Vietnam medical vet) is a grandmother to Jordan, who is an outspoken opponent of war and student at Berkeley. They are preparing to go on a road trip together which is what they do yearly over the summer to live and work in a new place of Jordan's choosing. I thought it was an interesting concept and really liked their interactions from the start, though it seemed highly unlikely Jordan would pick out the town where Meredith's former flame lived. It's possible I missed a reference in the narrative as to why she picked that place in particular, but I don't recall it. I could be wrong about that though.

Really well-developed story with Meredith's past that is told to her granddaughter during their travels. You learn about Meredith's evolving relationships with her future husband George as well as a woman she considers the love of her life. However, this book is primarily about the acceptance of yourself as well as learning to live with the judgment of others. The second half is more focused on Jordan and her need to determine if she is capable of living with people's perceptions and her ability to be satisfied living with a disabled veteran and the challenges associated with that. There's a lot of growth exhibited by the main and secondary characters, although I would have been happier with a little more transition for Jordan, in particular. She started the story being very gung ho about being anti-war and very outspoken then quickly changed course after moving to this new town with her grandmother and meeting Tatum, a local veteran. I genuinely liked the person she became during this summer, but I would have liked witnessing more of an arc. Aside from that, very well done with believable characterizations and conflicts.

This is a story of love and loss. However, it is more about the decisions we make in life and how those decisions involve not just our happiness but our fear of recrimination. It's about our ability to be self-aware enough to see our own shortcomings, and what we are prepared to live with in the face of imperfect circumstances. I've only read one other Yolanda Wallace book at this point, but I will definitely be picking up another one, as I enjoyed what she was able to accomplish with this one.

Out Of Retirement

Out Of Retirement - Erica Lawson A really sweet story about a woman trying her very best to care for 5 elderly women that are a handful, but have made a loving family even with their highly variable personalities. New relationships are formed, both romantic and platonic, as we learn about the serious and sometimes hilarious repercussions that go along with getting older.

The dialogue was really quite good. Lots of humorous interactions that kept me enthralled. However, there were a lot of times that I couldn't quite tell which character was speaking. I think that's the problem with having so many characters speaking over each other. In order to capture the back-and-forth, I think the author lost out on being able to differentiate which 'she' was speaking at any given moment. Aside from that, it was very enjoyable through to the end.

There were a lot of really funny incidents throughout the story that made me laugh, and it was a pleasure to read for the most part. At some points it came close to crossing the line of being too slapstick, but I think there were enough serious themes to maintain that dynamic fairly well. Interestingly enough, my favorite characters were not the "main characters" of Caitlin and the doctor Melanie Stokes. My favorites were Doris, Phillis, Isabel and Alice, as they were the most interesting to read about and try to figure out. They also had much more depth to them that made them likable as well as complex. There was much more hiding beneath the surface of these women, and I was excited to learn more about them when given the opportunity.

There really wasn't much that wasn't resolved at the end of the narrative, but it showed there was hope for everyone I came to care for, and I was happy not knowing exactly how it would all go for them. I did have a couple questions, such as being a bit confused about how far in the grips of dementia Alice was. At times the writing suggested she was doing a lot of it out of fun, but then there were more serious times when it seemed genuine. I'm not sure I ever really grasped how much was going on with her and I wish I could have. The only character that felt fairly one-dimensional was the daughter of Doris, new resident of the retirement home. She was a very manipulative uncaring person that I could not relate to, but that was the source of an important subplot so I get the need for that. Mostly, all the characters are well-developed aside from that, and it's here that the author excels. They each had their own little quirks and well-developed personalities, and I liked most of them quite a bit, even when they were being obnoxious.

This was my first Erika Lawson book, and I doubt it will be my last. Although there were some problems with it, I very much enjoyed the lighthearted banter and quirky characters throughout. I flew through it in just a couple settings, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a book that shows women don't stop being fascinating and ridiculous, just because they have gotten older.

Barring Complications

Barring Complications - Blythe Rippon I've got to say I really enjoyed the writing and overall story of this book. It was well-edited, polished and impressively researched, which I hugely appreciate. The story surrounds the attempted defeat of DOMA by the presentation of a case to the Supreme Court, which holds Victoria (Tori) Willoughby as one of the newest Justices to take the high court. She is a closeted lesbian, although many have suspect her homosexuality for years. Things get a bit complicated with the introduction of the prosecution, a flame from Tori's past named Genevieve (Vee) Fornier. They parted as they took two different courses in their lives. Genevieve chose to be open about her sexuality from the start, fighting for LGBT rights throughout her career. Tori chose to reject their relationship (and her feelings) in order to stay on course with her lofty career goals. Both women got the careers they wanted, but at the expense of something that "might have been."

As I stated, the research on this book is top notch. So much attention to detail gave me quite an outlook on the judicial system in a believable way, and the author should be applauded for her ability to educate the reader without boring them with legal jargon. The characterizations were excellent, and I really cared about the protagonists, wanting them to be successful both in their careers and out of them. The last third of the book dragged a bit for me, but it wasn't because it was uninteresting, I just found it to be a bit unbelievable. So much attention is paid to the two women's feelings in the past, and their yearning for each other, that the resolution of their relationship (and any associated scandal) feels kind of hurried and under-developed. It didn't make me dislike the book at all, it just left me a little bit disappointed.

However, the secondary characters (who are DELIGHTFULLY snarky and adorable) really made me fall in love with them. The humorous interactions gave me insight into Tori and Vee's personalities and were a breath of fresh air.

So overall, if you're looking for a romance that focuses primarily on the getting together of two women, you might be disappointed in this one. However, if you're looking for a really interesting take on the judicial system with a little bit of love on the side and likable characters, you'd do well to pick this one up.

Loved and Lost

Loved and Lost - Stephanie Kusiak This is the story of a woman that loses the love of her life but gets the chance to do things all over again to try and make a better life for both of them. You get some glimpses into their former life while Blake is experiencing this new life for the bulk of the story. It is emotionally charged from the onset, with lots of angst throughout, if you're in the mood for that. I really did get pulled into the narrative of this and the writing is really really well done, but there are some problems I had with it that never stopped nagging me.

There are so many time (and life) jumps that it was difficult to tell throughout when (or in what life) these things were happening. Is this a high school flash back? A new life flash forward? A former life flash forward/backward? There were a lot of times I had to read quite a bit of the italics sections before I could tell. And a couple sections that I honestly couldn't tell if they were supposed to be in italics at all!

The emotions in this story really are key to the enjoyment. However, there are a lot of relationships from the former life that just disappear completely in the second half of the story. These are relationships that are described as being important friendships, and although you would expect things to change with what Blake's doing in THIS life, it makes no sense that these friends are never mentioned again. Additionally, there is a big reveal between Blake and Rachel that is hyped up quite a bit (I kept waiting for it to happen then assumed it never would) but it was glossed over to the extent of being anti-climactic. I believe it would have made the narrative (and ending) much more effective if this had been handled with more finesse. The second half overall really dragged for me. I feel like the narrative was unbalanced with so much focus on their loving relationship, that it took away a lot of what was good about the first half (the tension, the what-ifs).

I also have a difficult time when I can tell a story is fanfic. Don't get me wrong, I totally read fanfic. However, when a book is so obviously set in a world that already exists, it makes me feel a little bit cheated. The characters have already been created, the circumstances don't change much, and the high school is the same as in a tv show. Which is completely fine for casual reading, but it sticks in my brain when I can picture Rachel Barry so clearly and aren't given the chance to create a world in my own mind.

So, overall, I'm glad I read it. It was emotional and tugged my heart strings, but it was frustrating because I really do think it could have been an amazing book.