Book Review: General Fiction

Book Review: Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

Posted on

Eva LunaEva Luna by Isabel Allende
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Earlier this year, my friend Nina and I were discussing internationally written literature, specifically from Latin America. We both had a connection to it for a few reasons, which prompted her to suggest a buddy read. We settled on Isabel Allende, and she selected Eva Luna. We spent the last week reading the book and discussing some of the key points and will continue to do so, I’m sure. For now, I’m sharing some of the highlights of my thoughts.

Let’s set the stage. Early to mid 20th century. Somewhere in South America (Nina and I saw a few options) but ultimately settled on it purposely being generalist in some areas given there were different cultures involved. Eva’s mother lived a tragic life. Let’s not even discuss her father. Once we learn about the past, we’re ready for Eva Luna, a storyteller who doesn’t know she is one until much later on, despite what everyone once told her. She lives in a string of homes, all difficult places. Yet in each, she finds someone to lean on, and develops a life-long relationship with them.. that is, until they are cruelly killed or die of natural causes. Eva has lived a life full of loss. But there are some beautiful moments too, it’s not all sad!

The story chronicles Eva’s life and relationships. Going into the book, I had little understanding of the detailed theme. If there was one thing I found a bit disappointing, it was the lack of a formal structure in how we learn about Eva’s life. It’s chronological, but we’re not quite sure of her age or role at the time. It’s not purposely unclear, just not as important as what’s happening to her. I generally prefer a deeper structure, perhaps a timeline or chapter description to showcase what part of her life we are about to explore. Then again, life is messy and often repeats itself, so this was very realistic in other ways. Nonetheless, I’m an orderly guy, so I would’ve loved just a bit more to make that part of the book come together. Nina had a great theory on this, so go read her review to find out more.

The imagery and language are astounding. It was compelling and beautiful, sad and disheartening… but through it all, stunning! I found the way in which Allende shows us how Eva is haunted and impacted by everything around her to be the star of this book. You clearly see and feel everything, yet you know the true horrors are purposefully left out. Eva suffers. We suffer for her. But it’s rarely graphic or detailed to the point you can’t read it. You know what’s going on, and that’s enough. Some of the pain occurs when she is a young girl and a teenager. It’s insane to accept what once happened to children, specifically female ones. Let’s not even discuss the current situation!

Another part of the book I found most forward-thinking was the character of Mimi, my favorite. At some points a man, at others a woman, perhaps shades in between, what Allende discusses ~30 years ago when this was written is fully apropos for today, and it appears so much more for ~75 years ago when some of this took place in the book. I’m truly shocked at the way people react to others. If the person isn’t hurting you/someone else/animals, let them do what they want. There are far better things to focus on that something that doesn’t truly involve the jerk with the issue! Walk away. Off soapbox as this isn’t that kind of novel. It’s more about an overall theme of what happened in many similar countries to people who didn’t have a lot of money or advancement opportunities.

I will definitely read more Allende, perhaps the short stories by Eva Luna herself (thanks, Nina). Overall, I give this 4.5 stars but I rounded down because of the missing pieces I felt would’ve made this an absolute stand-out. I still highly recommend it, and this translation in particular was phenomenal. I learned a few new vocabulary words, and when it results from a translation, and the original language was stunning, you know it’s a solid book. Thanks for making this a fun read together, Nina.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Advertisements

Book Review: In the Best Interest of the Child by Felicia Denise

Posted on

In The Best Interest of the ChildIn The Best Interest of the Child by Felicia Denise
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a surprising book! I knew it would be good because I’ve read author Felicia Denise’s reviews of other novels, interacted with her on social media, and visited her blog; however, there were so many different levels and components in the story, I really connected with it beyond expectations. And that’s saying a lot because I am very far removed from the primary topics and experiences it covers. Kudos to the author for capturing this reader’s attention and making my flight across the country quite entertaining and heartwarming.

Olivia was victimized in foster care ~25 years ago. Her father was killed, her mother’s memory practically erased in an accident. Despite everything that happened to her, Olivia pushed herself to become a successful lawyer who helped other children in similar situations. The only issue… her emotional confidence and ability to open up to others never fully developed. She threw herself into work and closed the doors to many things in life. But then life throws her a curveball with a case about a young girl in a very similar situation who needs help. Olivia agrees to take the case, but it’s far worse than she imagined: corruption, evil, family, secrets, and theft. On the flip side, the temporary family who is looking out for the young girl’s interest is amazing, and there’s a sexy uncle with a crush on Olivia. What’s a girl to do?

My favorite aspect of this book is the writing style Felicia Denise has chosen to employ. After much build-up regarding the awful side of the family who is trying to gain custody / oversee the case (hard to explain, but I don’t want to give anything away), readers will feel anger and frustration over the lengths selfish people go to steal from others. At the same time, we watch Olivia assemble information to protect the child, but we don’t necessarily know what facts she’s learning from all her meetings. We see her interact with others but through summaries while she’s getting to know the temporary family. It’s a wonderful approach because when the case goes to court to make the decision, EVERYTHING comes out and Olivia looks AMAZING. I had this jittery excited moment where I’m thinking… “Go Olivia, go!” I loved this approach and commend the author on igniting my passion for her story.

At some point, Olivia decides to give in to her feelings for the girl’s uncle whom she’s met and gone on a few dates with. The book completely changes in this chapter when we see Olivia’s barriers removed, and readers are treated to a passionate, vivid physical encounter, what I imagine is along the lines of a romance novel. I’m not a huge reader in that genre, so I can’t really compare… but it was quite strong and had a lot of contrast to the emotional tugging over what was happening to the young girl and Olivia’s heartbreak. I didn’t expect it and was like… wait… did I change books? All good tho, as it was tightly written, showcased the author’s range, and made me thoroughly excited for Olivia.

Well-written, tons of heart, lots of pain (in a good way), and provides proof that readers should chance reading different styles. I look forward to my next book by this author, as I hear there may be a sequel coming!

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: One Step Closer – #1 by Lisa Reynolds

Posted on

One Step CloserOne Step Closer by Lisa Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lisa Reynolds is an Irish blogger I follow. I read one of her books last year and was entertained by the wit and character relationships she created. Before continuing with that series, I wanted to try another one of her series to see which I preferred. While on vacation last week, I read the first book in the One Step Closer collection. Although the same tone and style were present in both books, this is a vastly different type of story but also one I enjoyed very much. I think I like this one slightly more…

One Step Closer is a televised music competition along the lines of American Idol and The Voice. It takes place in the UK and puts the contestants and the judges much closer together than I thought ever happened (could just be my ignorance of reality). When that happens, the plot becomes ripe with conflict and tension — both emotional and sexual. Wow, what a crazy dynamic went on behind the scenes and during the competition’s live performances.

We get to know all 5 judges and about 10 of the contestants, some more than others, as we get glimpses of those who fall out of the competition early and details of those who make it to the top 5. A few of the judges were monsters, of course, and Reynolds does a wonderful job making us dislike them. Near the end, a few have minor redemption points, but overall, the characterizations are strong and keep you interested in the action.

Relationships were key. Judges slept with contestants. Contestants slept with each other. Fights broke out. Contracts were signed. Blackmail happened. Secrets were unearthed. So much drama in such a short time period — I wouldn’t have survived, as if the producers asked me to spice it up for TV, I would’ve said ‘No thanks, this is me. Take it or leave it.’ Luckily, one contestant did just that, and so, Gavin was my favorite. That said, he made far too many snap judgments about the people around him, as did some of the others. Oddly enough, that’s probably a very accurate depiction of people despite my inclination to think it was too much to handle.

What it did was make for fantastic drama! Reynolds draws you in with the smoldering tensions and silly crushes until you can’t help but start to pair off characters. There are a lot to keep track of (each one has a voice and tells their story in alternating chapters), all with different personalities, but it’s a great start to the series. In the first 1/3, I struggled to keep everyone clear / straight, but Reynolds manages them well as the chapters unfold and we see which are the important ones to truly pay attention to. I’m very curious to see if the next book in the series focuses on a different group of contestants or the same group of people post contest. I could see it going in both directions, or even a combo.

I’d recommend this for anyone looking for a fun and indulgent read where you can get all angst-ridden about whether things like this really happen or not. I’m confident they do, but being removed from the industry, it feels shocking. Good drama – exactly what I like to read among my mysteries. Kudos to the author for showing such range in her writing style and genres.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Alice by K. L. Loveley

Posted on

AliceAlice by K.L. Loveley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alice is a novel written by K. L. Loveley and published in 2017. I read another work by this author last year and enjoyed her writing style, plot, and character creation, prompting me to pick up one of her earlier books. Prior to the book’s opening, Alice’s husband cheated on her and left her quite unhappy. She put herself through school, raised their two children, and kept her focus on the future. A few years passed before she remarried and joined her family with his 4 teenage children. His wife had died, leaving a broken and disjointed family who never healed properly. Alice chose not to be the wicked stepmother, but unfortunately, their father wasn’t very strong at parenting. The stage is set for us as readers, and we can’t help but feel compassion for Alice.

In the first part of the book, Alice tries to handle everything that goes on in their new home, caring for both their aging parents, and being a mother to her own grown children who at times need her support but for the most part have become wonderful human beings. By the middle of the book, Alice can’t take the stepchildren’s awful behavior and leaves for 6 months to see if she needs a more permanent break. By the third part of the book, Alice’s life has fallen apart and she’s drinking daily to cope on her own. Except… she’s possibly gone too far in trying to remove herself from her surroundings.

For me, Loveley excels at creating emotional connections with characters. She knows exactly how to warm a reader’s heart or to anger their spirit. Alice was amazing and too understanding. Her husband was a weak fool; while he stepped up sometimes, he ultimately was afraid to hurt his children and therefore, he never disciplined them properly. All 4 of his children were monsters, especially when they were in their 20s and still living at home without jobs or paying anything to support the home. I wouldn’t have lasted as long as Alice, and if they were my stepchildren or children, they would’ve been given enough time to change their behavior, or they’d be kicked out WAY sooner. One interesting question the book poses: should teenagers / young adults be working while in school and if they do, should parents take a portion of their wages to teach them how to manage money, et al. Great concepts to address!

Lovely also shows the deep spiral one can fall under if they allow substances to make the day go by more easily. We watch Alice go from a glass of wine to a half-bottle to an entire bottle, and finally to shots and hard liquor multiple times per day. When she’s hospitalized, it’s awful to know the damage she’s caused to herself, especially through the alienation from everyone who loves her. Thankfully, she’s saved for a small time by someone new, and it’s this friendship which closes the book in a way that satisfied this reader. I really enjoy Loveley’s work and will definitely read her next book when it’s released.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Penniless Souls by Eve Gaal

Posted on

Penniless Souls (Lost Compass Love Book 2)Penniless Souls by Eve Gaal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Penniless Souls is the second book in the Lost Compass Love series written by Eve Gaal. Although the novels are connected, you do not have to read them in order as they are standalone stories focusing on common characters. Although the series title might suggest this is a romance, I wouldn’t classify it that way. To me, this was an adventure story where readers were treated to a few months in the life of Penny and her family. The plot ranges from potential murder to dangerous prostitution rings and back again!

When the book opens, we learn that Penny and her husband have had some financial troubles due to loss of jobs and the general financial situation in the country. They’ve moved around a few times to find better employment and raise their 19-year-old daughter, Lani, in a solid place. When Penny visits Las Vegas with her husband to help him find a new job, she unexpectedly meets a famed artist she admires and gets a job painting murals for him. She also gets a call from someone about a possible inheritance, which leaves her confused about next steps. Lani stays behind with an aunt and meets a potentially troublesome guy in the park, and then she begins her own adventure. Through misinformation, unintentional confusion, and lots of twists, everything collides and results in near-death for a few of them.

Gaal presents characters who are definitely complex. At times, I was angry by the way they treated one another (over debt, leaving home, past mistakes), and I saw evidence in their daughter that she was shaped by her parents’ rough edges. Maybe it’s just me, but they were all rude to one another when they communicated. That said, they also do things to show their human and sentimental sides, which made me feel bad for them when they encountered such horrible trouble. The exploitation of young girls for prostitution is a difficult topic, but Gaal is careful not to get explicit or vulgar — we know it’s happening, but the details aren’t important. This is a story about how parents try to save their daughter, and how a girl falls in love despite everything going on around her. Not about what actually happens in the brothels, although we do get a few necessary facts about the 48-hour rule! You’ll have to read up on that yourself…

Gaal’s writing style is easy to digest and interpret. She offers tons of shocks and surprises, as well as several low-key moments to let us ponder the situation for ourselves. This was partially based on something real-life, so it makes you scared to know it could happen… but then it gets quite explosive in the last third — to the point, I honestly had no idea how it might end. I could’ve seen many culminations that would’ve worked, but of course, the author leaves a nice little twist in the end about the change in Penny’s financial situation. Did she get the money? Was she going to be killed for it? What will happen next? I’m curious to know if there will be more… thanks for a fun read, Eve Gaal.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: A Charm of Finches by Suanne Laqueur

Posted on Updated on

A Charm of Finches (Venery, #2)A Charm of Finches by Suanne Laqueur
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If there were ever a review that I found difficult to write, it would be for a book written by Suanne Laqueur… simply because she is such a phenomenal writer, and I know I will never do it justice. A Charm of Finches is the second in the Venery series, and the second book I’ve read from the author to date. While nothing will ever surpass the first one, this comes very close. This is not a book for everyone. It addresses many topics which will be awkward, painful, invasive, and too raw for those who prefer something lighthearted. But at the same time, Laqueur is such an intense and powerful writer, every moment is packed with beauty and emotion that will make any and all readers cry. If you do not bawl while reading this, you need to speak with someone about getting your tear ducts repaired.

Okay, the facts: a multi-day gang rape of a young teenage boy, death of someone’s family, survival after Auschwitz, divorce, suicide attempts, new love, discovery of homosexuality, addressing fears head on, psychology / art therapy for the truly physically and mentally abused… BUT, forget what the story deals with and focus on the path that our beautiful and tragic characters take to climb deep into a hole and thrust themselves through the pain to find the one ray of shining hope. It doesn’t come easily. It doesn’t always happen. But when it does, your heart will feel such an immensity of relief, you don’t ever want to put the book down.

But you have to. Not because it’s not a page-turner. It absolutely is. But you can only handle so much reality at once. I might never complain about anything again after seeing what others have gone through. While some of this is fiction, there is a huge component of truth. This has happened to people. Probably people you’ve met. But you never knew. And now, an amazing author can deliver it, and while what Laqueur has dropped in our laps, though some of the best writing I’ve read in years, is probably minor compared to what victims truly experienced. Laqueur has given us gift in this series… a way to understand people we might not know in person.

It’s not all emotionally-wrecking behavior. There are moments of levity. Laqueur captures those early new relationship feelings when we don’t trust ourselves that someone can love us. She highlights what we do wrong and what we do right when trying to share our love through both physical and mental methods. Whether she’s comparing fellow members of a rape-survival group to the Easter Island statues protecting us from anyone getting in or out, to the flight of a finch or a lark, you will connect with this author.

The only reason someone shouldn’t read the book, or doesn’t like it, is if he or she can’t handle the topics. Other than that, this is a finely crafted, must-read book for true literary fiction fans who can immerse themselves in the world of people you will grow to love like family. But do it the right way… buddy read it with a friend, like I did. Nina and I carried each other through this book for a few days. Almost chatting like two awkward teenagers who share a language no one else understands. It was the words we didn’t say that explained our mutual feelings… and that’s exactly what happens in the book, too… it’s what the author purposely doesn’t say that shows how awesome she is and how she should be on the top of the charts for all to see. I don’t often praise this highly, but this is a series that I will never forget, and I will always recommend.

View all my reviews

BTW, thank you to Sophie @ Beware of the Reader for recommending this book — she has changed my life!

Check out The Cozy Pages review to see what Nina thought of our buddy read!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: What’s in a Name? (Volume 2) by Sally Cronin

Posted on Updated on

What's in a Name? Volume 2: Stories of Life and RomanceWhat’s in a Name? Volume 2: Stories of Life and Romance by Sally Cronin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes the second book in a series or multi-volume collection of short stories doesn’t live up to the first. I can say with certainty that’s not the case with volume 2 of ‘What’s in a Name?’ by Sally Cronin. In this collection of stories of life and romance, following names that start with the letters K through Z, Cronin delivers a plethora of immersive, delightful, and intense characters.

I truly don’t know how she manages to pack such distinct and complex drama in a story that’s usually under ten pages. From the first few lines to the closing words, I was drawn in by each of the tales in this collection. There is something about the power an author chooses in certain words which helps create the proper ambiance for a setting, draw out the intrigue in the plot, and ignite a reader’s passions.

From the descriptions to the connections between a few of the stories (not in terms of characters but themes and approaches to decisions), Cronin provides us with a bevy of situations to consider… how would we react if such a problem found its way into our lives? Would we get revenge? What kind of sacrifices could we live with? What does love mean when it comes with strings?

I highly recommend both collections, as you’ll see some growth and evolution from volume one to two. Now I’ll have to look over her canon of other books to see what might be something else I want to read.

View all my reviews

In case you missed last week’s review of volume 1, check it out here.

ABOUT SALLY CRONIN -- Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.
My name is Sally Cronin and I am doing what I love.. Writing. Books, short stories, Haiku and blog posts. My previous jobs are only relevant in as much as they have gifted me with a wonderful filing cabinet of memories and experiences which are very useful when putting pen to paper. I move between non-fiction health books and posts and fairy stories, romance and humour. I love variety which is why I called my blog Smorgasbord Invitation and you will find a wide range of subjects. You can find the whole story here. Find out more at https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/about-me/

Her Latest book: Tales from the Irish Garden
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2
Blog: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com
LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sallycronin1
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sgc58
MeWe: mewe.com/i/sallycronin