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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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text 2018-05-15 09:45
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review 2018-02-03 22:07
Lap Dog (Shelter #2)
Lap Dog: Book Two of the Shelter Series - Kate Sherwood

Dang you, Sherwood! I was supposed to quit this book halfway through in a boiling rage, ready to rip Simon a new one. Instead, I grudgingly liked him by 25% and was rooting for him about halfway through and just hoping everything would work out. 

 

 

This still isn't perfect. Simom Yeung is the first prominent main character who is Chinese-American in any of Sherwood's books that I've read, and he's in a crime family. Really? And just because the characters call this out doesn't really take away from the problems of this, just as having them call out the old school family honor/respect stereotypes doesn't really mean she's not using those stereotypes. 

 

Yet despite that, this was a great story. I don't know if I'd categorize it Romance (™) but Simon and Tristan do come to first respect each other, then kind of like each other, then warily admire each other and finally care for each other. I didn't think it was possible from the initial set up that opens the story, but their journeys and getting to know each other were well-paced and given the time to really breathe, despite all the chaos going on around them. The resolution was perhaps too easy and convenient, but I honestly don't care because I wanted these two to get their HEAs - not just with each other but for themselves as well. They still have things to figure out about their new lives though, so there's more room to tell more stories about them later. (And hopefully resolve a few more of those dangling threads that didn't get addressed here.) 

 

It was also great seeing Shane and Noah again, and seeing glimpses of their relationship throughout. They even get a short story interlude at the end of the main story. It felt more like it was there to explain why Shane doesn't label himself asexual (though he is clearly on the spectrum) but whatever label someone wants to use or not use is up to them.

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review 2017-11-09 02:31
Infected: Undertow (Infected #7)
Infected: Undertow - Andrea Speed

Hm, not sure what to say about this one. It more or less starts off where the last one ended, but then it kind of meanders from there. Roan's condition keeps changing and no one knows what it means - which has been par for the course throughout the series. There's some repetition that could have been edited out to provide a tighter story, and at this point in the series, it really doesn't add anything to keep going over the same ground. It feels like Ms. Speed is treading water, more than anything, and I'm getting rather tired of how impressed everyone is with themselves. Let's just say, I'm glad there's only one left.

 

Once again, the characters themselves are the best part. Holden and Scott are the special treat here, since their not-exactly-a-relationship-but-it's-totally-a-relationship relationship allows us to see different facets of Holden and actually see him have no clue what he's doing for once. :D I wish we'd seen more of Fiona, Seb, Dropkick and the other side characters, but they were mostly shunted to the side. Even Dylan wasn't as prominent in this one.

 

The cases were more hodgepodge than usual and not even worth mentioning, really. At least Roan solves one.

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review 2017-09-19 03:51
Infected: Lesser Evils (Infected #6)
Infected: Lesser Evils - Andrea Speed

I just can't seem to stay in love with this series, but I am at least saying in like with it. Once again, there are lots of things I really like here, mostly with the characterizations and the relationship building. Holden and Scott were especially a nice surprise. But, and this is a big but, Ms. Speed just can't seem to decide where to take this story. The overall arc is well done - Roan's continued evolution/downslide as a virus child and how the virus is changing/being changed by him and vice versa. Other than that though, there are a lot of things that are introduced and then just sort of get shoved aside, forgotten or rushed at the end so at least something's kind of resolved. 

 

Still, I'm glad I'm reading these after they've all been released, because that cliffhanger is just cruel. CRUEL I SAY! 

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