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review 2017-11-22 12:43
Ordinary People ★★★★★
Ordinary People - Judith Guest

I wish I had the skill to truly analyze what makes the difference between a book where the author tries to manipulate the reader’s emotions and only gets an “hmm how sad” from me, or worse, eyerolls, and a book that has me glued to the pages and leaking tears. All I know is that this is one of the latter.

 

In spite of a story that is almost all character, with almost all events taking place within those characters’ thoughts and emotions and in their interactions with one another, and in spite of a present-tense, stream of consciousness writing style that might have annoyed me in another author’s hands, this story of a family fragmenting and reforming in the aftermath of tragedy absorbed me completely and wrung my emotions inside out. It’s been a while since I had a good cry over a book, and it was deeply satisfying.

 

Vintage paperback, picked up from my public library’s gimme shelves, where they make unusable donated books and culled books available to the public in return for a suggested monetary donation.

 

I read this for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season, square 4: Book themes for Penance Day: Read a book that has a monk, nun, pastor / preacher or priest as a protagonist, or where someone is struggling with feelings of guilt or with their conscience (regardless over what). In this book, members of a family are struggling with their sense of guilt or failed responsibility in the aftermath of tragedy

(Con over surviving when his stronger brother drowned and Cal over somehow failing his son when he attempted suicide).

(spoiler show)

 

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review 2017-10-07 17:13
The Hospital ★★★★☆
The Hospital - Keith C. Blackmore,R. C. Bray

Zombies are my least favorite horror sub-genre. Ridiculous as this sounds, I just can’t suspend disbelief with all the biological impossibilities. But this short story was really good in spite of that, mostly for its unusual twist, and for the little flash of post-apocalyptic humor when the protagonist comes across a supply room full of toilet paper.

 

Audiobook, which I picked up as a freebie on Audible ages ago and am just now getting around to. RC Bray’s performance was okay, using a sort of classic noir deadpan approach.

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review 2017-09-26 20:10
Red Light Special (Gimme That Green Light}
Red Light Special (Gimme that Green Light) - Mis Dee

Title:  Red Light Special

Author:  Mis Dee

Publisher:  Pen Bullies LLC

Reviewed By:  Arlena Dean

Rating: Four

Review:

 

"Red Light Special" by Mis Dee

 

My Thoughts....

 

If you like day dreaming about erotic fantasies then this author give the reader quite a hot "Red Light Special" story that will leave you saying Wow!  will Neva get to really live out her fantasies.  With that friend of hers all I can say is REALLY!  I guess with Rocky turning her friend on to PUSH[sex club], it looks like she had a reason for doing this and you will just have to pick up this novel to see just what she did to her so call friend.  With Neva wanting more from her husband...so bad there didn't seem to be any communication between them and well... I will just say that we will have to get the rest of this story to see how this will this all turn out.  Now that we have the "Red Light Special" I will definitely want to see what the 'Green Light' holds for Neva, Rocky and that husband Benjamin.

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review 2017-09-15 11:00
ARC Review: Be My Best Man by Con Riley
Be My Best Man - Con Riley

Con Riley never disappoints, and this author just keeps getting better and better.

 

In Be My Best Man, Con not only gives us a beautiful romance, but also head-on tackles one of the big current social issues.

 

Vanya, early 20s, has fled his home country of Russia nearly eight months ago when he was found out as being gay and violently beaten because of his sexuality. Now in Britain, still traumatized and scared, his dreams of becoming a teacher dashed, he is waiting to get this asylum request approved so he can be granted the ability to have a job and earn an income. In his current limbo, though finally safe from persecution for his sexuality, he lives in a run-down hostel where he has befriended a young man and woman from Estonia, who are both in Britain legally as EU citizens but whose status under Brexit is also uncertain. The hostel is not really safe either, though Vanya shares a room with his friend Kaspar. Theft is rampant. Rooms are broken into. Women fear being assaulted.

The author created a character that I immediately connected with. Vanya struggles to learn English, practicing whenever and wherever he can, and his struggles were authentic and realistic. His loneliness was evident, and I felt for him right away.

 

Jason is a man in his early forties, who's recently had a falling out with his foster brother Andrew over the brother's recent engagement and wedding plans. See, it's the 3rd wedding, and Jason, without even meeting the girl in question, has already decided that this is just another mistake. He too felt lonely to me, when he was first introduced, despite being rather successful in his business, and it was fairly clear to me that he was shaped by his childhood experiences and didn't really trust anyone, other than his late foster mother and foster brother.

 

The meet-cute happens in the department store where Kaspar works and Vanya is visiting after his latest asylum appointment and Jason is hiding to wait for a call or text from Andrew. Jason thinks Vanya works in the store, and Vanya wants to practice his English. And get to know the hunky older man.

 

Jason's wrong assumption leads to him hiring Vanya as his personal shopper, and the two begin spending time together. This is where the story really begins to take shape.


Con Riley combined the sweet yet complicated romance that develops between these two men with the social issue of asylum seekers who have no legal standing, are usually running from persecution, scared to death, having to learn the customs of a country so foreign to them, and being generally looked down upon by many people. Vanya's plight, his uncertain status before asylum is granted, his internalized shame, was heart-breaking, and I wanted to reach into the book and hug him and protect him. He keeps a huge secret from Jason, and this secret nearly breaks them.

 

Jason on the other hand is oblivious to Vanya's struggles for a long time, not intentionally of course, but he doesn't realize how traumatized the young man is. He also doesn't realize for a long time how much he's hurting Andrew and his future wife, and how his distrust of Andrew knowing his own heart is jeopardizing the remaining piece of family he has. But he learns. Under Vanya's attention, Jason begins to question decisions he's made, and how wrong he might have been. With Vanya in his life, Jason starts to believe that love might be real after all. He goes to finally meet Andrew's lovely young fiancee, and he begins to see how much they are truly in love, to the point where he even steps in to... well, no, you read this yourself.

 

The author has an extraordinary talent in giving life to the characters and making them feel real. Vanya's skittishness, Jason's irrational anger (born out of heartache), the social circumstances, Vanya making huge mistakes born out of fear - everything in this book was absolutely realistic and relatable.

 

This book (and the romance) flows slowly, and it needs to. Trauma such as Vanya's takes time to overcome. Jason's disbelief in lasting love can't just suddenly disappear. They are both shaped by their experiences, and since neither feels safe to talk freely and openly about their fears, they don't have an easy path to their HEA.

 

Writing their story in the third person present tense was also a stroke of genius, because this reader felt even more connected to the characters this way. Read every word carefully - this isn't a book you can speed-read. You must savor every carefully crafted sentence, every brilliant paragraph, and let the story unfold in real time to get the full impact. Vanya's English is heavily accented, and it's written in such a way, that I could easily "hear" him speaking the words.

 

I cried a few times. I wanted Jason to pull his head out of his ass. I wanted to shield Vanya from the big, bad world and give him shelter. I loved these characters, I loved this story, and I absolutely highly recommend that you read it.

 

Get to it.

 


** I received a free copy of this book from Signal Boost Promotions as part of the review tour for an honest and fair review. **

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review 2017-06-23 16:00
On Canaan’s Side ★★★☆☆
On Canaan's Side - Sebastian Barry

I had a lot I wanted to say about this book, as I had just finished it, but then I got into a long, work-related conversation with a colleague, and now I find my brain mostly empty of thoughts where this book is concerned. That, perhaps, is a good indicator of how deeply affected I was by it. Mostly how I felt, by the end, was as though I was covered in a heavy smothering blanket of depression. Perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps that was the author’s goal in writing this book. When I read “literary” novels, this seems to be how I most often feel, with the second most common emotion being impatient annoyance. The latter is most common in the ones that I’m not even able to finish reading.

 

On Canaan’s Side seems to be about grief and loss and the pointlessness of actually making human connections in life, when at the end everybody you loved is gone or has betrayed you in some way. There is some beautiful language and gorgeous descriptions of setting and emotions. The author chose to express some of these in stream-of-consciousness style of run-on sentences that literally went on as long as 1 ½ pages of text. Fortunately, these were mostly confined to the first and last few chapters, with the middle third of the book written in a snappier style that moved the plot and story (such as it was) along in a more tolerable fashion.

 

When I was a teenager, we had a saying that encompassed all the angst of that age: “Life’s a bitch, and then you die”. That’s pretty much how I felt by the end of this book.

 

Hardcover version, purchased as a circulation discard from a Friends of the Library sale. I read this for the 2017 Booklikes-opoloy challenge, for the square Trains, Planes, & Automobiles 14: Read a book that involves overseas travel, or that has a suitcase on the cover.  There is a brief description of the main character’s overseas journey from Ireland to America, and two other characters journey overseas for the Vietnam and Gulf wars.

 

Previous Updates:

6/29/17 182/272 pg

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