Mini-reviews: Romance that won’t make you cringe and YA apocalyptic fic that will make you read til the end.

Morning all! It’s time for my Thursday round up and there are few books I read this week that you need to get into your hands, so let’s get cracking!

Book100The Bollywood Bride, by Sonali Dev (Kensington, 2015, 352 pages, ebook). This was the BookRiot deal of the day not too long ago (and guess who tipped them off), so I grabbed it for just $2.99 because how could you not at that price?! Also because I had already read the first chapter and it was high on my list. Bride tells the story of Ria Parkar, Bollywood’s favorite daughter, who has earned the reputation as being an Ice Princess. No attachments, no scandals, nothing. What no one knows is that it’s come at a price: her mama went mad when Ria was young, and traumatic events happened at 17, forcing her to sell herself to a producer in order to earn money for her family. She left behind her childhood friend who had grown into her true love in order to due it, devastating his heart. And guess who she’s run into at her cousin’s wedding? It’s a romance, so no, there aren’t any plot surprises here. Basically you’re around because you want a nice steamy book with a happy ending, not a Booker Prize winner. I was caught from the first page, and love that I found good romance writing featuring characters of color. Be warned: there were still a few places I cringed, but not so many that I couldn’t get past them. If you like romances, GO READ THIS. If you’re trying to find one you’d like to try, THIS IS YOUR BOOK. 3 of 5 stars.

Book99Crazy, by Benjamin Lebert (Vintage, 2001, 199 pages, paperback). My sister gave this to me for Christmas? Or let me borrow it right after? I need to check to see if I’m supposed to send it back now. In any case, Crazy is the story of a young, half-paralyzed boy’s coming of age while in his umpteenth boarding school. It’s in translation, and you can see that in a few places, but overall I was pleased by the unfolding and thought it had a bit of a Separate Peace meets Looking for Alaska feel to it. If boarding school, coming-of-age stories are your jam, add this to your list. 3 of 5 stars.

Book98When I Was a Child, I Read Books, by Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012, 224 pages, library ebook). I was so disappointed by this book. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood, but I don’t think that was the case. I adore books about books and reading and language. I love memoirs steeped in nostalgia. And that’s what I thought I was dipping into. I wasn’t expecting a grown-up discourse on philosophy from obscure books I haven’t the pleasure of reading yet. I muddled through, but in poor spirits. I can’t say I recommend. 2 of 5 stars.

Book97Lessons in French, by Hilary Reyl (Simon & Schuster, 2013, 352 pages, library ebook). This is a coming of age tale of a different kind. Our protagonist has just graduated Yale with an art degree, it’s 1989, and she’s off to France with a prestigious job assisting a famous photographer just in time to see the Berlin wall come down. You can see why I added it to my TBR even though art-themed stories aren’t usually my thing. I liked a lot of the coming of age pieces, and much of story, as it was moving. The problem is that the story kept getting snagged on rotten characters and dizzying romantic intrigue. Our protag, who is rather unfortunately named Kate, is a dizzy, breathy thing whom I rather despised after awhile, character growth or not, and the rest of the characters weren’t much better. I was so glad to step out of this one, come the end. Still, there’s a solid story there, for those who are better paired with it. 3 of 5 stars.

Book96After Birth, by Elisa Albert (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015m 198 pages, ebook). Another deal of the day this week, and I’m glad I paid so little. It’s a story about postpartum blues and anxiety, triggers for me, and I can’t say I recommend because the writing was so stiff. Either the author wanted the writing to sound disjointed and stiff, or a better editor could have helped soften the writing and the edges just a bit. I couldn’t feel any empathy for the main character, and I’ve been her! Nope, can’t recommend. 1 of 5 stars.

Book95The Listener, by Rachel Basch (Pegasus, 2015, 336 pages, library ebook). Another story that came into my life at an appropriate time, with North Carolina and Mississippi and too many other places in the news. The Listener tells the tale of Noah/Leah, our protag exploring gender identity. Leah reveals herself to his college therapist, someone he’s visited before, as Noah. They both – who are locals, though they attend and work at the university – explore what this means to them, this previous failure to identify and successfully process issues, and how they plan to move forward, in spite of that. It’s a solid read, though it has its wobbly bits, though I might recommend borrowing over buying. 3 of 5 stars.

Book94Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi (Harper, 2011, 338 pages, library ebook). I wasn’t sure about this story when I started. It’s the story of a teenager/young woman trapped in a cell in an insane asylum, though the world has gone nuts and it’s clear we’re dealing with an apocalyptic tale, so for all intents and purposes, our girl – Juliette – is in a cell. Her deal? Her touch is lethal, hurting (like a taser, perhaps?) anyone who touches her. And The Reestablishment that is keeping her safehostage says it’s trying to restore order and keep the public safe, but are they? And why is their leader so singularly focused on keeping Juliette his prisoner? I was a bit wary going in. The writing wasn’t knocking it out of the park, but it was good enough, and the voice was a bit compulsive. The feel of it reminded me of The Fifth Wave. I got a bit curious and had to find out what happened, and then things did happen and I was devouring it before I knew what was happening. The ending was a bit convenient and didn’t really tie up any loose ends or, say, end the story so much as it set up the next book in the series. That bugged. Oh, and one other thing to mention – as I turned the page and was surprised to find only the About the Author section, I read a bit of it and was intrigued by the first sentence: “Tahereh Mafi is a girl.” That’s it. The very first thing they want us to know. Why? Because Tahereh isn’t a name most are familiar with? Because she’s run into confusion so often? But you guys – why does it matter? It shouldn’t. It might to her, but what message does that send? That there’s no room for confusion. It says we should all know and the answers should be definite, if not readily apparent. That everyone should know. And with everything going on right now in this country, I don’t like that message. Gender can be fluid. Gender identity isn’t always concrete. It’s Tahereh’s business if she wants us to know her gender expression, but I wish there was a bit more explanation to it than “I’m a girl and that’s the most important thing I want you to know about me.” Okay. Off soapbox. 3 of 5 stars.

So there you go, Fellow Readers. Go grab Bollywood Bride, The Listener, and Shatter Me and let me know what you think!

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