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review 2018-06-07 04:02
Great surprise
There There - Tommy Orange

I loved this & wrote a review last night in the wee hours (I should look at the typing...)

 

Today I learned that I'm getting a SIGNED FIRST EDITION in the mail! I'd borrowed my copy from the library, and I seriously argued with myself about buying my own copy after loving it so much (I do this with books I love sometimes.) I was forcing myself to wait a year, then today I learned that I am getting a copy of it -- a signed copy too!

 

Yay

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review 2018-06-06 08:18
There There by Tommy Orange - Urban Indians and lost connections
There There - Tommy Orange

If this is what Tommy Orange writes for his debut, we have a major talent writing right now. My copy of There There arrived today. It's nearly 3 AM, and I just finished. No food, no sleep; I couldn't put this book down.

"This there there. He hadn’t read Gertrude Stein beyond the quote. But for Native people in this country, all over the Americas, it’s been developed over, buried ancestral land, glass and concrete and wire and steel, unreturnable covered memory. There is no there there."


That title gathers more meaning with every character, chapter and section. By the end the weight of not knowing exactly who you are or where you come from is a heavy weight even for a reader. All the characters have different experiences and difficulties, but they are all in search of connection to their own community, and none seem sure they belong to that community or if that community will allow them to belong to it. What is the character with an advanced degree in Native American Studies to do when he can't find a job? What about someone born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome who wears his face as a constant reminder? What about native peoples who have to learn all of their heritage and how to practice it from YouTube or Google searches? Beyond poverty, unemployment, far too much alcoholism, there is death, devastation and a lot of shame in these characters. While they don't rise above in Hollywood ways, getting through the day - learning and growing and putting one foot in front of the other - while continuing to strive for that connection is pretty triumphant. 

The characters are fully realized. We know why they do what they do, and we get a sense of how they feel about their current and past selves. It takes a minute but we understand their connections to each other better than they do by the end of the novel. We also get a sense of how these people came to be so broken from the proud nations that the Americas have systematically wiped out. What is most clear is that the bloodbath that came to America with the first settlers has left a never-ending trail of trauma. And in case we might miss it from just the stories, there's one of the best essays -- seemingly well-researched and certainly well-written that pulls no punches right in the beginning of the novel. While the characters don't escape unscathed, neither will a reader. In writing this so openly and leaving the sharp edges intact, Mr. Orange has held a mirror up to the Americas - whether the reader is indigenous or not.

There are many major characters in this novel, all in various stages of heading to the Oakland Powwow. While some have visited a Reservation, they are mostly urban or suburban and none seem fully connected to their native culture. This isn't a reservation story or a historical account. These indigenous people live in the here and now, in the cities (mostly Oakland) and do all of the things everyone else in the city does, including riding the subway and not dressing up (except maybe on the day of the Powwow.) At first they don't seem to be related, but as the chapters and parts of the book move along, their connections become clear and that broke my heart even more. Missed connections, searching out parents or grandchildren you've never known, searching for yourself - all of these are explored and there are no pat answers. In fact, the book ends on one of the most wistful non-answers in recent memory. I love a book that refuses to put a pretty bow on top, and had Mr. Orange packaged the ending that way, everything that came before would have been cheapened.

What you get here is a journey, good stories, interesting characters, but no perfect answers. How could there be perfect answers to such a long history of carnage and stolen identity?

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review 2018-04-13 15:58
A Crown of Bitter Orange (La Vie en Roses Book 3) - Laura Florand

Tristan is the youngest of the Rosiers and he is known as the fun loving guy, always ready with a smile and to brighten people's day. Malorie is from a rival perfume family that is almost extinct and she has come back to France to handle her recently deceased grandmother's property. Malorie and Tristan have known each other since they were in grade school together. Tristan has had feelings for her his whole life but when she up and disappeared after graduation he wasn’t sure he would ever see her again. She has made something of her life and has tried to put her family’s shame behind her but now being home is bringing back dreams she didn’t realize she had - to resurrect her family’s legacy in the perfume world. When Tristan walks back into her life things are a bit rocky but Tristan sees it as the opportunity to finally win her. She finds it hard to believe Tristan’s sincerity because of her family’s history, but he is persistent and works his way back into her heart. The problem lies with the fact that he is keeping a pretty big secret from her and when she finds out she can’t help but think of how her father treated her mother. I enjoyed their story a lot, it was sweet and romantic, steady, and well-developed.  Tristan is such an easy kind of guy to like; his personality really jumps off the page. The cousins are such fun male-leads and the setting is romance personified. Great books, easy to get engrossed in, and I like that there are more in the series. So delicious.

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review 2018-03-12 02:58
ARC Review: Orange by B.G. Thomas
Orange - B.G. Thomas
I'm going to first talk about the book, the story, the two MCs, and the writing. The author's typical writing style is within the pages, and its familiarity (I have read almost all of this author's books) was soothing. I also liked the plot of two very different people meeting and finding each other, finding what they needed from each other, forging a path together that will surely lead them to their happy ever after. and experiencing personal growth. Both Frank and Roy are flawed and complex, both keep others at arm's length - Frank because of what he was taught by his father Glen (more on him soon), and Roy because of shame and fear. Because he was in jail, and because he's only recently figured out that he might be gay. 

I liked Harry and Cody, and Roy's grandmother as supporting characters, who all brought something the the table, and in some instances served as catalysts to further the plot. While we don't find out a lot about Harry and Cody in this book, there are some revelations about Roy's granny that really moved the plot forward. 

I loved how the romance unfolded, how Frank was blindsided by his feelings for Roy, how he tried to deny them, and how he failed. I loved how Roy began questioning his sexuality, and how his reflections of his actions in the past helped him get a clearer picture and overcome his fear. Obviously, there's angst in this book, as the two men approach the budding relationship from two very different angles, and neither is certain early on that a pursuit of the relationship is advisable or desirable. There are missteps, there is fear, there is shame, and there is anger. But ultimately, this book is about two very different men falling and being in love, perhaps for the very first time in their lives. Their path to real love was a bit rough and had a few sharp turns, but they stayed the course.

And now, let's talk about Glen, Frank's father. Massive mother bear rant ahead. You'll want to skip to the end if that sort of thing bothers you. Since it's also slighly spoilerish, there be some tags around some of it. 


Glen made me ragey. Here we have a man who decided to do a huge fuck-you to his ex-wife, the mother of his child, and basically city-hopped with their son from age 5 until Frank had enough of the nomadic lifestyle and forged his own path in KC. Sure, Frank's life with Glen wasn't entirely horrible, and he sure got to see some awesome places, but Glen's endless womanizing and the constant moving, really screwed with Frank's sense of self, knowing his place in the world, and his views on love and finding a life partner. I was already pissed at Glen fairly early on, when I found out about the constant moving and introducing woman after woman into the life of his impressionable son and seeming to be PROUD of that shit, but when the real truth comes out
and Frank's mother contacts him, tearfully confessing that she's been looking for him for 20 years, and that Glen kept eluding her, and then hearing from Glen that one particular woman he was romancing, with whom Frank had developed a strong relationship, was dropped because she was pregnant and subsequently had an abortion, pretty much as Glen's behest
(spoiler show)
  - well, that took the fucking cake. My status update at that point, around 60% or so (I wasn't keeping track, really, because I was so ANGRY) was fueled by RAGE and TEARS. Fuck you, Glen. You narcissistic, sociopathic, selfish asshole. 



So. There you have it. Any book that can bring out such strong emotions - it certainly deserves to have its rating rounded up. I also want to make clear that while I wanted to punch Glen on more than one occasion (and I'm not a violent person at all), I also very much appreciated how the author chose to finalize things for this character's involvement in Frank's life. Justice in this case was very sweet indeed.

As always, the author's writing style is distinctive, which may not work for everyone, but it certainly works for me. 

I don't usually comment on covers. I'm not enamored with this one, but please don't let that turn you off giving this book a chance. What's behind the cover is worth your time.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. **

 

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review 2018-01-19 14:34
Words fail me
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

Alright, there is a lot going on in this little piece of poison dripping, mind-fuck of a story, and I don't know that I'm up to the task.

 

First of all, because it's the immediate, I call bullshit on that end (I'm talking of the 21th chapter that was cut-out of the USA version; if you've not read it, this paragraph will make little sense). I read the author's introduction and explanation, and I more or less agree that our empathy and sympathy tends to grow as we mature (and we are more or less savages as kids and teens), but having read the book, I don't believe this level of inner cruelty and utter disregard for other people, or the length it was self-indulged and brought out onto the world can be called "a folly of youth" and hand-waived like that. I do not believe that level of monstrosity is something that can be redeemed, worked out, grow bored out of, and the person just go on to be some well adjusted adult.

 

I also do not know what is to be done with such a person to be honest, even if my knee-jerk reaction if I was the victim would be to kill them. Brain-washing into effectively loosing their free will does not seem to be the answer though.

 

Next: There is a very strong undercurrent of the battle of the generations going on here. The way money is treated, those articles in the diary, and the mention of day hour and night ours, and whom the street belongs to, and even, who has the power in the first part vs. the second, and what it consist on.

 

Actually, the three parts are distillate poison on abuse of power: young hooligans for first, then the police and other punishing/correctional institutions for second, politicians in the third. Everyone screws everyone over, and in the end I hated the lot, little Alex, and his little followers, and the police, and the jailers, and the priests, and the doctors, and the politicians, and the social fighters, and even his victims.

 

Shit, I wouldn't recommend this one, even if I found it oddly compelling *shudder*. It is interesting, and effective, but a vicious way to provoke thought, maybe unnecessarily.

 

Done. Onto "I am Pusheen the Cat", ice-cream and a helping of crack fics for the soul.

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