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review 2018-06-24 19:45
Reeve of Veils (Inheritance #4)
Reeve of Veils (Inheritance) (Volume 4) - Amelia Faulkner

Hmmm, not sure what to make of this one. 

 

First, this goes back to Knight of Flames timeline and gives us Freddy's POV, so there's a lot that's repeated. Pretty much the first and last quarter of the book, in fact, and I ended up skimming the bulk of those parts, looking only for new details. About the only new thing we learn during those parts is that Freddy's a bigger jerk than I originally thought he was. We get confirmation of his powers, which are more extensive than hinted at prior to this.

 

As for the new stuff in the middle, well... Freddy's a jerk and I prefer not to read POVs of jerks. Mikey's somewhat better, but he's been a victim for so long that he (and Freddy) actually deludes himself into believing he's left that behind even as he willingly becomes Freddy's literal plaything. Which brings me to the second thing.

 

Second, there's just no way to see Freddy and Mikey's relationship as anything other than D/s, which is a dynamic I don't enjoy. Just because Freddy thinks he's doing good by Mikey and Mikey's getting out of the ghetto doesn't erase that. Freddy might want to see themselves as equals for whatever reasons he needs to, but they're really not.

 

Plus, Freddy's just not that good of a guy. He's not a complete bastard, but he's barely one sidestep away from Kane - and even that's only until he succeeds in his plan to off dear old daddy, which I assume is the next book, and then he will be exactly like Kane. (Actually, I'd argue that he's worse than Kane, since at least Kane's victims know they're victims. Freddy's don't.) Morals and ethics mean nothing to this guy. Or to Mikey. So I guess they are perfect for each other in that respect, but they're certainly not a couple I'm rooting for or care about, and the insta-love here is just completely unbelievable given that Freddy's practically a sociopath.

 

Ok, I give Freddy credit for not violating Mikey's sexual consent (or so he claims). But since he violates consent in every single other respect with everyone around him, that credit doesn't get him very far. It gets him a crumb. A crumb ground into dust.

 

The good news is you don't actually have to read this book. The last two books made it perfectly plain that Freddy's manipulating Laurence and how, and that he's trying to line up Quentin to kill their dad. So this book ends at pretty much the same point as the previous book, just with a bit more info than we had before. 

 

Two more little nitpicks:

 

Mikey's a drug dealer and a high school dropout who's never been outside San Diego. He's not going to measure distances by kilometers. This same thing happened with Laurence in the last book. We use feet and miles in the USA. There are various conversion charts and calculators available online. This sort of error shouldn't happen, and it pulled me out of the story both times.

 

And lastly, mailbox flags work the exact opposite of how they're used here. When you have outgoing mail, you raise the flag. When the mailman comes, he lowers the flag and leaves the incoming mail. If the flag is up, that means the mail hasn't been delivered yet, not that it has been.

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review 2018-06-23 19:11
The Valley of Amazement
The Valley of Amazement - Amy Tan

I did something while reading this book that I have never done before: I flipped to the last page to see if it had a happy ending. Because good lord does Violet get put through the ringer.

 

This is often a difficult read, so I'll say upfront: if sexual exploitation makes you squeamish, you may want to skip this book. I'm usually one who wouldn't touch this with a ten-foot pole, but while the tone was unflinching, the details when divulged were detached enough to not affect me too much. Everyone has different tolerance levels and triggers, though, so it's something to consider.

 

This is set in the first half of the 1900s in China in the culture of the courtesan houses. It resembles Memoirs of a Geisha in that respect and it doesn't shy away from how young girls were sold and stolen into this life, but beyond the inner workings of the courtesan houses, this is a much different story with a different focus. 

 

As with all of Tan's work, this story is about the relationship between mothers and daughters, but unlike her other stories, this one is told primarily through Violet's POV. We follow her from a young, conceited girl growing up in her mother's courtesan house - not as a courtesan though, just to be clear on that point. She can only see how things effect her, how her mother is distant and aloof, and how she doesn't feel like she's loved enough. After they're separated by a ne'er-do-well and Violet is sold to another house, she must use her fierceness and determination to survive her new life and come to terms with the many twists and turns that her life makes. 

 

It's not all dire. She has a friend in the courtesan house to help her and protect her as much as possible, and she knows how to navigate this world better than most, though she makes many foolish decisions along the way. There are good moments as well, and Violet learns how to appreciate others, the depths of love and sacrifices that we make for each other along the way, all of which helps her to better understand the choices her own mother had made. But every time she takes a step forward, she's knocked twenty steps back. It's a long hard road, but there is a hopeful ending.

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review 2018-06-01 19:00
A character you won't soon forget
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

There is a reason that this debut novel has been on hold for many, many months and why it continues to be difficult to get in a hurry. Gail Honeyman has managed to create a character so unique and delightful that I found myself instantly enamored of her. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of a woman who the reader learns from the outset is completely aloof to the social mores of society and is pretty content to remain so...until she sees the man of her dreams. It seems fairly obvious to the reader that this 'relationship' is doomed to fail. (Like my romance with Brian Littrell when I was in middle school.) However, having this foreknowledge does not detract from the story because the love story is between the reader and Eleanor and Eleanor with herself. She is a fragile woman who has built up a rather thick wall between herself and the entire world...and she's had plenty of time to reinforce that wall. Her past is nothing if not murky and it doesn't get cleared up until almost the very end of the novel. (And it's a doozy, ya'll.) It's exceedingly difficult for me not to spill some essential facts while writing up this review because they're the things that make this a truly gripping piece of realistic fiction. Eleanor is a character that seems to live and breathe beyond the page. Her bucking of social 'norms' coupled with her frankly hilarious inner dialogue about what is and isn't 'polite' had me laughing out loud on several occasions and made me feel so connected to her. I truly rooted for her and became emotionally invested as if I was reading an autobiography or memoir instead of a work of fiction. (Gail, you've made it into my list of top 20 authors of all time. I'm excited to see what you come up with next!) 10/10 highly recommend

 

A/N: The author discusses child abuse, disfigurement, bullying (from all ages), and mental illness. If these are triggering to you in any way, shape, or form then you should steer clear. Everyone else, I think Gail handled these topics very well (having dealt with 2 of the 4 personally) and I see no reason why you should give this book a pass. Eleanor will grab you by the heartstrings and refuse to let go.

 

What's Up Next: Grace & Style: The Art of Pretending You Have It by Grace Helbig

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The Outsider by Stephen King

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-05-06 00:29
Lord of Ravens (Inheritance #3)
Lord of Ravens (Inheritance Book 3) - Amelia Faulkner

CW: Child abuse, drugs:

Laurence sees back in time to the first time Quentin's father beats him. The scene cuts out as his father is preparing to rape him. It's brought up a few times afterward, but no further details are given. :( Seeing this also causes Laurence to try to score heroin later, thankfully unsuccessfully.

(spoiler show)

 

Well, this certainly didn't go in the direction I thought it would, at least in regards to Laurence and Quentin's relationship, which is a good thing. They only deepen their relationship here, and grow more intimate with each other, and after the last two books of patience and hard work to get to this point, I was happy for the guys getting some happiness. They deserve it.

 

We do finally learn what Quentin's father did to him as a child, which is exactly what I thought it was going to be (see CW above). The reason for why he did it was more messed up than I thought it'd be though, and I'm dreading when Quentin remembers or finds out. He's getting stronger and more sure of himself all the time, but his father has a way of reducing him to a scared little kid again.

 

We get to see Neil again, and he's a riot as always, and I love that he just accepts Quentin and clearly understands him as well as Laurence has come to. I wish we'd seen more of Ethan, Aiden and Maryam, but the story didn't allow much time for that, what with the introduction of Amy and Rufus - and we don't even really get a whole lot of time either, but what we do get looks promising.

 

In a book titled Lord of Ravens, I was expecting ravens to be a little more prominent and important to the central plot but that didn't really happen. Instead, Laurence gets a baby raven that he has to raise, and as with babies everywhere it does nothing but eat and poop the whole story.

 

I feel like this book was just a little disjointed, or more accurately that it served more as a bridge to the next book. There is a beginning, middle and end, but the main conflict is still ongoing, so nothing really feels resolved. I do like that Laurence and Quentin actually communicate with each other (though there is a brief Big Misunderstanding), and that real life considerations are taken into account when weird mystical things happen.

 

And lastly, I suppose it had to happen eventually: the geography fail. :P
-No matter what time of the year it is, the sun never sets as early as 4 PM or as late as 9 PM in San Diego. It certainly would never be setting at 4 and fully set after 9. Most people I know wouldn't say the sun is setting until it's within a half-hour of the sundown. (There are websites that'll give you sunset/sunrise times for any location on any date you could wish to know about.)
-Americans don't use meters to measure distance (unless they're scientists). We use feet and yards. Dating a Brit isn't going to change that.

 

There were also more typos in this one than I recall in the previous installments. The most distracting one was the constant use of "noone" instead of "no one." Hopefully this doesn't remain an issue going forward.

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review 2018-04-25 21:07
Compelling WWII historical fiction, coming-of-age and M/M love story, and a fascinating backdrop.
The Artist and the Soldier. A Novel - Angelle Petta

When I was approached about the possibility of reviewing this book, I was fascinated by the historical background behind it, which I was not familiar with. A book combining World War II, Nazi summer camps in the US, the filming of a movie by Vittorio De Sicca in Rome during the war, and a love story, had to be a winner.

The author manages to combine a coming-of-age (both male protagonists, Max and Bastian, are very young at the beginning of the book) and love story with a fascinating historical background. The two youths meet at a Nazi summer camp in New York. Both their fathers are German and want them to grow up aware of their heritage. Max and Bastian are, in many ways, mirror images of each other, opposites that, indeed, attract. Bastian looks German (blond, tall, strong), is impulsive and always excels when it comes to sports, and outdoor activities, whilst Max takes after his Italian mother, is quiet, and has the soul of an artist. They both suffer trauma and have difficult childhoods, although in different ways. The unlikely pair becomes close and Bastian supports Max when tragedy strikes, although things take a bad turn, and they end up separated by life and circumstances.

They go their separate ways, and we keep waiting, convinced they will meet again. Bastian is still daring, impulsive, and is plagued by self-hatred and doubt. Max, who has always been more accepting of his own identity and has become stronger and more determined, has been living in Italy, has studied film, and finds a great opportunity to help Italian Jews. He takes part in the project of filming a movie under the protection of the Vatican and comes up with the idea of offering them contracts there. De Sica is determined to keep filming for as long as he can to keep all those people safe, and this historical fact provides a fascinating backdrop to the story of the two lovers.

The story, told in the third person, follows the point of view of the two male characters first, and later we also get to read about the adventures of Ilsa, Bastian’s sister, a fantastic character, from her point of view. She is strong, a fighter, and is determined to find her brother, no matter how far she has to go and what she has to do. Her experiences as a nurse during the war are gripping, and she keeps working despite terrible personal loss, hardship, and deprivation. Her character allows us to see things from a different perspective and also provides us more background into Bastian’s character, that is, perhaps, the most complex of the book, at least in my opinion.

Although the love story is central to the book, this is not a light and easy book to read. Apart from the tragedy and the terrible events that happen during the war, there is child abuse, mental illness, bullying, and the novel does not shy away from the unsavoury aspects of life. The characters are not all good and perfect either, and they sometimes do things that are questionable, while at others they can behave like true heroes.

The writing beautifully conveys the emotions of the characters, the setting (Rome as an open city provides a great backdrop), and the relationships, without going over the top with the descriptions, and ensuring the story keeps moving at a good pace. Being a big movie fan, I would have liked to read more about the filming of the movie, but the author refrains from getting sidetracked, and the guest appearances by the actors of the film and the interventions by De Sica are all the more enjoyable for being kept under control and not overwhelming the main story.

I wanted to share a couple of quotes from the book:

“Travel safely, signora. It is a dangerous world we are living in.” Her world had always been a dangerous one. A gun instead of a fist, a war instead of an irate father, her present didn’t feel so different from her past.” (This reflection belongs to Ilsa, Bastian’s sister).

Did something as inconsequential as film belong in this new world? It was De Sica who’d helped him see his misconception. “We need film, and music, and art, more than ever now,” De Sica had said. “These mediums help us remember that we are humans living in a world filled with monsters. What we are doing here is not frivolous. It is saving us, our humanity.” (Max questions his vocation, but De Sica comes to the rescue).

The ending feels appropriate and fits in well with a love story. It shows that both characters have grown and learned to accept who they are and what their relationship means. Other issues are resolved as well, and although some of the coincidences and the way the characters always seem to be in the right place at the right time require some suspension of disbelief, this does not go beyond the expectations for the genre.

In an end note, the author explains the conception of the story and clarifies that although Max, Bastian, and Ilsa are creations of her own imagination, the historical events and backdrop are accurate, and she has used her fictional characters as a conduit to tell the story. I believe this would be a great selection for book clubs, as there is much to discuss and many interesting aspects that will attract readers of different types of stories.

I recommend this book to readers of historical fiction, especially those interested in WWII, Italian cinema, and love stories with complex protagonists. I look forward to following the author’s career in the future.

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