Book Review | Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

Aki and Christa are high schoolers who fall in like at first sight when their church groups join up in a small town to help with the construction of a new church. The girls sneak off in the evenings to make out with each other and deal with trying to hide their relationship by day. The book mainly addresses a teen coming to terms with her (bi)sexuality while on a summer youth group trip to Mexico, but also includes broader social issues within the context.

Our Own Private Universe keeps a decent pace and tells a story that holds the reader’s intrest. Some sections, especially that narrator’s internal monologue, are a bit repetitive. As a YA novel, it’s successful in its inclusion of diversity, budding sexuality, and melodrama. Adult readers may be put off by all of the characters lying to each other or the narrator’s tendency to blow things out of proportion. The book could serve as a good introduction to teens trying to orient themselves on the LGBTQIA spectrum. Check it out from a library near you.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

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Book Review | Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik

shelter in place coverA man in the Pacific Northwest falls in love with a woman. Over the years, they live in a hotel in Cannon Beach, OR, a rental house in White Pine, WA, an apartment in Seattle and a house they build in the country. Joey works in bars and deals with bipolar disorder, which he suspects his mother also has. Tess works with Joey and becomes passionate about taking a stand against violence directed at women. Sometimes Joey and Tess spend a few years apart, but they are together when he receives word that his mother has beaten a man to death with a hammer. Before too long, Tess and Joey have joined his father, in moving to the prison town where Mom is serving her sentence. Shelter in Place is a beautiful story of love and family.

I chose this book after having enjoyed Maksik’s previous novel, A Marker to Measure the Drift, and I found it even better. The characters are very realistic and the writing style is beautiful. Though the story is not told in a completely linear manner, I found the narrative choices enhancing and easily understandable. Maksik renders a touching story of love and life. Certainly one of my favorite reads this year. This novel would appeal to fans of epic love stories, those with bipolar disorder, or those hoping to better understand bipolar loved ones. Short chapters make the book fairly quick to read. Check it out from a library near you!

*Fans of Shelter in Place, may be interested in Oola by Brittany Newell (2017).

Book Review | Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love

lola cover.jpgLola heads up a small gang in South Central Los Angeles. From the outside, people think her boyfriend Garcia is in charge and she flies mostly under the radar. After a mid-level cartel boss demands the gang intervene in a two million dollar heroin deal, it becomes clear that Lola may be in over her head. Addicts, murders and kidnappings spice up this slow burning tale.

Lola is a clearly written debut novel. The plot is easy to follow and the characters can be kept straight with no issue. It’s billed as a crime thriller, with no shortage of crime, but may not be so thrilling for some readers. Sweeping generalizations and swearing are prevalent and some readers may find sensitive issues in the story, though they’re handled tastefully. While I did enjoy the book at times, I was mostly hoping to quickly finish it. Fans of crime fiction, “badass” women’s fiction, or drug/gang violence may appreciate this novel more. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance reader’s edition of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

*Fans of Lola, may be interested in Mexico : Stories by Josh Barkan (2017).

Book Review | The King is Always Above the People: Stories by Daniel Alarcón

king is always above the people coverSet to be released this halloween, The King is Always Above the People is a well-written collection of ten short stories. They introduce the reader to various characters dealing with some sort of problem. One piece describes a man inheriting the house of his blind uncle upon his death from walking off a bridge. Another follows a boy who gets a job as a blind beggar’s assistant. A gang member is the focus of another story.

Alarcón’s voice and writing style are very appealing. Coupled with stories that flowed at a decent pace, they provided a readable book. On the other hand, I found some of the stories and/or characters to be somewhat average, flat and/or unmemorable. This said, I would certainly read more of Alarcón’s works because the writing itself was such a draw. The physical volume is also nice, with a smooth jacket and pages that stay open for you. Watch for this book to come out at a library near you!

I received an advance copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading The King is Always Above the People, you may be interested in Mexico: Stories by Josh Barkan (2017).

Book Review | A Fortune Foretold by Agneta Pleijel

fortune foretold coverA Fortune Foretold is an autobiographical novel that relays a story of Neta growing up in Sweden, mostly during the 1950’s. She and her two younger sisters progress through grade and high school as their parents strained relationship is tested and matters at home are a struggle. Family members also enter in various off-shoots over the course of the story.

The book begins in a challenging manner as the protagonist refers to herself mostly in the third person. Fragments of memories are revealed transporting the reader through the years of feelings and interactions Neta has with her family and friends. The second half of the novel is easier to follow than the first and the level of emotional involvement increases considerably. Not recommended for those looking for a pick-me-up novel, this would be more enjoyable for those interested in tumultuous family affairs, depression or coming of age timepiece novels. Overall, the text is well written and thought provoking. Check it out from a library near you!

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading A Fortune Foretold, you may be interested in A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe (2017).

Book Review | Twig by Madelon Phillips

twig_coverProtagonist Mattie is 18 years old at Twig‘s beginning and about to enter her third marriage. She has cold feet about marrying a man old enough to be her father, but is hopeful that love will grow between them. Mattie’s dead-set on becoming a mother, having already suffered a miscarriage during one of her previous marriages. During the novel, Mattie deals with the ups and downs of marriage and moves with her husband Glen to California. Flashback chapters offer background story that help the reader understand her strong character.

Phillips has crafted a very fine novel in Twig. The story jumps right in and grabs the reader’s attention from the beginning. Her writing style is very easy to read and maintains a good pace. The book is a coming of age tale and women’s fiction novel told as historical fiction, which keeps things interesting. Phillips does a good job balancing her themes, allowing focus to shift to different points of interest for many readers. This book would appeal to fans of women’s fiction, historical fiction and those interested in novels about family or conception problems. Unfortunately, this book isn’t yet in libraries, so you’ll have to purchase a copy to read, ebook available on Amazon.com for $2.99.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Twig, you may be interested in The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansky (2017).

Book Review | A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe

loving faithful animalSet in Australia, A Loving, Faithful Animal shares the stories of a members in a disjointed family dealing with issues. Sisters Ruby and Lani spend a good deal of time outside the home. Their father, a sometimes abusive, Vietnam Veteran lives there, but often leaves for indeterminate lengths of time. Sometimes bruised, when not tracking down her husband in seedy bars and motels, their mother prefers an escape that involves living in her memories. Lani’s promiscuous habits and other poor decision making mean young Ru is often fending for herself.

The writing in this book is impressive, but clarity is sometimes lacking. Rowe’s use of the informal “you” in addressing Ruby made the story easy to jump into. However, coupled with chapters devoted to alternating family members, it created an additional layer to process. Each character’s section emphasized different aspects of the family’s shared story and all the sections came together well to make a whole. Readers who want the whole story spelled out will find problems with this format because there are several gaps left in the narrative. This book would appeal to fans of artful or raw fiction, especially those interested in reading about dysfunctional families. It is set to be released in mid-September, soon you should be able to place a hold on it a library near you.

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading A Loving, Faithful Animal, you may be interested in Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh (2017).